I’m a Lover, Not a Fighter

By Posted in - General on September 24th, 2012 34 Comments

When I first started blogging, a friend told me that the internet is the wild west, and because it’s relatively new and ungoverned, there are no rules. Each person has to make up their own rules, and then stick to them.

I have a few rules, and chief among them is the one:

I’m a lover not a fighter.

I’m surprised how often people ask me to weigh in on this or that small scandal in faith-related happenings or the church world or Christian publishing, when this pastor says that thing about that other pastor, when so and so slams so and so on his blog, when this author writes negatively about that church or other author.

I’m not surprised that these questions are getting asked. In my most negative moments, I think that the internet is a lot like cable news: yelling and drawing lines in the sand, drumming up controversy for the sake of ratings. There are a lot of bloggers who jump on every single slightly controversial aspect of Christian culture and church life.  

The fact that people are asking these questions doesn’t surprise me—but the fact that they’re asking me does surprise me, because I never bite, and unless something unforeseeable and dramatic changes in the future, I never will.   

This is my rule: I’m a lover, not a fighter.

Some people use their online voices and platforms to highlight the differences between us. Some people use their voices to police the highways and byways of world wide web—that’s wrong! That’s bad! That’s not what I think! There are open letters and link ups, shout outs and name drops. 

I don’t have anything against those bloggers. But I’m not going to be one. I’d imagine they believe that’s how lasting change in our communities will get made, or that opening those conversations brings into the light some ways that our community needs to grow. Maybe it does. I don’t know.

What I do know is that as far as the interwebs are concerned, I’m on the lookout for good—things that are beautiful and wise and helpful, things that connect us, books I think you should read, meals I think you could serve to the people you love.

You won’t find me taking shots at this or that public person ever, not because I don’t have strong opinions—I do, and anyone who knows me well knows that there’s no shortage of those strong opinions…but that’s the point: I share those strong opinions in the context of relationship, because I think that’s the healthiest place for them to be. And because I always think to myself, what if that person has a daughter? 

In the last few years, I’ve been hurt by careless and unkind words about me & my books online. But way before all that, I was a pastor’s kid, and I heard people say terrible things about my parents and their friends, people who had given everything they had to do what they believed God was calling them to do. Sometimes reporters were unkind. Sometimes authors and professors were unkind. But the pastors were the worst.

I burned through my willingness to argue the rights and wrongs about how to do church when I was about eleven. I got sick of pastors taking shots at one another publicly when I was about thirteen. These days I will physically get up from a table of pastors or bloggers or anyone at all when the conversation turns to other pastors or people in public life. I had more than enough of that conversation before I could even drive. 

And then the internet came along, and anyone with a laptop can insert themselves into a conversation that isn’t about them, where relationships aren’t present, and pretty soon we’re just all flinging uninformed opinions around the internet, name-calling and drawing lines in sand, hurtling arrows through cyberspace, telling ourselves that this is an important conversation.

But is it a conversation? Or is it a really easy way to air opinions you never have to back up or explain about real people with real lives and feelings and families?

Again, I have no shortage of strong opinions on the topics of the day. But I don’t think that it helps anyone for me to scream them through the bullhorn that is the internet.

Around our table we have all sorts of conversations and disagreements and differences of opinion. But we can hear each other’s voices, and we know one another’s stories. We can create a loving, kind framework to hold all the differing voices.

It’s near impossible to do that online. And so I’ve made it a policy that I don’t.

I read a book that enraged me last month. I hated it, and I would love to blab all about it. But that author is a person. And a daughter. And a friend. So I’ll use my voice to talk about the books that I do love, because there are so many of them.

There are pastors that make me bonkers. Plenty. Also politicians and musicians and writers. But again, I remind myself how it feels as a daughter or a wife or a friend when I’ve seen name of someone I love attached to someone else’s opinion about them on the internet. I think about how my stomach has dropped when I’ve seen my own name on someone else’s blog, someone telling a story that isn’t theirs to boost their traffic.

When I’ve regretting saying something on the internet, it’s never been about love. I’ve never regretting loving or encouraging or celebrating something. I have often regretted slamming or dismissing or criticizing something, because when I do that online, it’s outside of relationship, outside of shared understanding, outside of context.

I know what generates loads of blog hits. I know that controversy is currency. But I think it’s worth asking about who you’re taking down, in the hopes that your snark and wit will go viral. I think it’s worth asking about what happens over time to your insides when you decide to be a hater, when you decide to be the police of the internet, crusading for something or other.

There are enough haters. There always will be.

And right at the same time, there will always be enough beauty, enough hope, enough good, if we decide to be people who are always on the lookout for it. I want to use my voice to bring light and hope and beauty. I want to search for what’s good, and shout about that.

When I get all wound up–when someone trashes someone I love and I want to get into the fight, when I disagree so vehemently that I want to use all caps to illustrate my point, when someone’s political views make me insane, I remember my rule, that I’ve committed to love, to being a voice for love and goodness.

It’s especially hard work during election season, but if we’re going to make it through the fall with relationships intact, maybe we should all think about being lovers instead of fighters. 

I’m not telling you what to do, but this is what I’ve decided: when it comes to the internet, I’m a lover, not a fighter.

 

(34) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • angela - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Love this, Shauna. Well said.

  • Tina/@teenbug - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    I'm a lover not a fighter (too)!

    The snark online has been killing me lately. Thank you for putting into words the chaos I've been feeling inside.

    I love you and can't wait for your next book! [insert high-pitched girly screams here] AAHHHHH.

    xoxo,
    Teen

  • Donna - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Shauna – I agree 1000%! At a retreat I attended this last weekend, Rhea Briscoe said "Speak life. Don't speak death". When we speak love, we speak life!

  • Nancy Austin - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Yes, yes, yes! So happy to see someone put words to my thoughts! I totally agree. Let's choose to be about grace.

  • annedurhamwilson@gmail.com - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I have been feeling all the things you described lately, but couldn't put it into words.

  • Lore Ferguson - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you so much, Shauna. This is my perspective as well. Grateful God gifts some with the ability to mince words in a peaceful way =)

  • Gillian Marchenko - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    What a great post, shauna! I agree.

    Thank you.

  • Britt Sutton - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Amen. Instead of complaining about what others do wrong, let us all do more right by adding love and kindness to this world.

  • KariAnn - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    My heart echos your words… Thank you.

  • trace dicocco - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    thank you Shauna. thank you.

  • Hillary - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    I've been feeling this, too. Not as long as you have, but definitely over the past five or six years. It seems that we're in good company. Do you think that if we — you and I and your readers and other people who are lovers instead of fighters — communicate in ways that build people up instead of tearing people down…maybe, just maybe we can make a change? We need it. People around us need it. People we don't know need it. Our country needs more grace and less screaming. Thank you for leading the way.

  • April - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    i agree! (not that you're looking for an agreement/disagreement with your POV). Personally my rule on the net is i don't type and send anything i wouldn't say in person. I've seen this prez political campaign and CPS strike in Chicago just bring out the ugly in many loved ones. I love a healthy debate, but there's ways of doing it with love and respect for one another.

  • Dedra - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Well done. Well written. Well said.

    THIS:: "When I get all wound up–when someone trashes someone I love and I want to get into the fight, when I disagree so vehemently that I want to use all caps to illustrate my point, when someone's political views make me insane, I remember my rule, that I've committed to love, to being a voice for love and goodness."

  • Tori - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Outside of the whole internet-specific argument, I love what you wrote..

    "There are enough haters. There always will be.
    And right at the same time, there will always be enough beauty, enough hope, enough good, if we decide to be people who are always on the lookout for it."

    Replacing the word "haters" with pain or hurt (I hope you don't mind!), this encouraged me so much. Thank you for this reminder, it's exactly what I needed in this season of my life. No matter how much pain and hurt I may be experiencing, there is always just as much beauty, hope, and good, if I keep my eyes open for it.

  • Dana - Reply

    September 24, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Well said. Love this.

  • Stephanie - Reply

    September 25, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Shauna, this is a lovely post. From the very beginning, I've felt an affinity to you and your writing because I also grew up as the daughter of a relatively well-known pastor (within a certain ethnic community), and what you say here really resonates with me.

    At the same time, it is my fervent hope that there's a place for voices in the public sphere to share opinions without being haters, to ask for accountability without drawing lines in the sand, to speak out without being a snarky crusader. I know it's tricky on the internet, which is why your policy makes so much sense. But I'm also coming at this topic as someone working in human rights advocacy–and I guess there are times when it really does feel like the most loving thing to do is to speak out against a public figure's words or actions. Not in rage or unkindness or with a desire to generate controversy. But to be exactly what you say: a voice for love and goodness?

    Eek. I don't know. I hope it's possible. But in the meantime, thanks for your example as you choose to speak love and life into the internet.

  • Caroline - Reply

    September 25, 2012 at 1:21 am

    Thank you thank you thank you.

  • Michelle Perez - Reply

    September 25, 2012 at 1:52 am

    I couldn't agree with you more. Growing up as a pastor's kid and now working in a Christian organization I'm surprised at how often other people's words and maybe mine too have caused hurt and pain. I like what you said "because I always think to myself, what if that person has a daughter?" so good. thank you, Shauna..

  • Kristen Strong - Reply

    September 25, 2012 at 4:19 am

    Brilliant post, Shauna. Truly brilliant. Thank you!

  • Rachel - Reply

    September 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    As with all things, seeking God's will seems important. There may be occasions when speaking out is necessary…

    First They Came For…
    First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
    because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
    because I was not a socialist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
    because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
    because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me–
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    –Martin Niemöller

    I really appreciate your message and overall intention on this subject – thank you for putting it forth so thoughtfully.

  • Kathy - Reply

    September 25, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    And just another reason why I think we could be BFF's.
    You love love, you speak love and you share love with those of us who get to read your words.
    Thank you for being a lover and not a fighter, it is a rarity.

  • Katie - Reply

    September 25, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Really great perspective, thanks for sharing this today.

  • Anita @ Dreaming Beneath the Spires - Reply

    September 25, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Wow. What a brilliant piece. Well worth re-reading, and remembering and branding on our keyboards!

  • Emily - Reply

    September 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    "I share those strong opinions in the context of relationship, because I think that’s the healthiest place for them to be."

    Agree. It's usually where they have the most impact, too. Not that strong opinions shared online among strangers can't be food for thought for some. But in my observation, rebukes without relationships (even those that are well-intended) are generally not very well-received.

  • Tricia (aka Mama Marchand) - Reply

    September 29, 2012 at 2:50 am

    Thank you for this post and I couldn't agree with you and your words more! I'm a pastor's wife and a blogger so I see how horrible negative and biting words can be daily. This: "I want to use my voice to bring light and hope and beauty. I want to search for what’s good, and shout about that." Exactly that. I want to do that, too. :)

  • J.D. - Reply

    September 29, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Shauna,
    I hear where you are coming from. I grew up in the church and saw/heard "those" conversations as a young girl as well, not a fond memory. My mother who was such a wise woman would not allow us to be a part of that as best she could. We had a large family and sitting around the dinner table was such an opportunity to "fellowship" with one another. The minute the conversation would take that turn of backbiting she would say, "none of that here, we are not having (so and so) for dinner. As a mother myself I passed on this nugget of wisdom to my own children . Not quite sure that it had fully taken hold until one day my daughter came home from school,she relayed to me that a friend's brother approach her and remarked how he heard she was horrible at math. Her words were, "I guess they must have had me for dinner last night." What's that verse in proverbs…? " the words of a gossip are like choice morsels". :)

  • J.D. - Reply

    September 29, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Shauna,
    I hear where you are coming from. I grew up in the church and saw/heard "those" conversations as a young girl as well, not a fond memory. My mother who was such a wise woman would not allow us to be a part of that as best she could. We had a large family and sitting around the dinner table was such an opportunity to "fellowship" with one another. The minute the conversation would take that turn of backbiting she would say, "none of that here, we are not having (so and so) for dinner. As a mother myself I passed on this nugget of wisdom to my own children . Not quite sure that it had fully taken hold until one day my daughter came home from school,she relayed to me that a friend's brother approach her and remarked how he heard she was horrible at math. Her words were, "I guess they must have had me for dinner last night." What's that verse in proverbs…? " the words of a gossip are like choice morsels". :)

  • Sarah Spezia - Reply

    October 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Thank you. Seriously, thank you. I've been trying to put to words how I feel about all of the stuff that is being said on the Internet the last couple of weeks/months, and you helped me clarify what I've been thinking. I, too, am going to take up this rule. And beyond the internet, in public space, I will keep this rule.

    Thank you for sharing and being honest.

    Sarah

  • Kaila - Reply

    October 13, 2012 at 12:11 am

    you are a beautiful human being … just thought you should know.

  • Roxanne Hammett - Reply

    October 13, 2012 at 12:55 am

    Love your heart in this, Shauna!

  • Laura W. - Reply

    March 25, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!!!!!

    PREACH IT, SISTER!!!! <3

  • Laura - Reply

    April 6, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    I thought I would also comment (always been a reader, not a commenter) and encourage you with just another name you can add to your list of “movement followers.” I will be taking up this rule as well.

    I am a lover, not a fighter.

    I had that realization last week, but wasn’t able to make it such a wonderful complete thought or rule as you did. How very encouraging. I will be sharing this new rule with my friends. Thank you for starting this movement.

  • Bethany - Reply

    April 7, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Good stuff. Really good. :)

  • Uilani Cordeiro - Reply

    April 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post. I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly and I respect you so much for putting it so graciously and for sharing your perspective. I am a pastor’s wife and my husband’s father is a pastor also. You said everything that I feel (In a much more eloquent way might I add!) and I am so grateful that the Lord has given you such a heart and the integrity to stand firm and use your voice to encourage and uplift rather than to tear down. Thank you for your encouragement and challenge!

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