This is the second part in a series about tone. You can read the first part of this series here.
I learned that the right thing said in the wrong way is the wrong thing. –Brad Lomenick, The Catalyst Leader
A while ago, in a private Facebook group to which I belong, I had a conversation with two women I know pretty much only through that group. The topic was safe places on blogs, blog comments, anger, abuse, etc. It was a fairly fluid conversation. One of the women I was a little familiar with before this group, and the other not at all. Prior to this group and conversation, my impression of one was semi-negative, due to the tone that I had sensed from reading at her website.
During part of the conversation, there was some disagreement between people, but I noticed that it was always done in a respectful and caring way. Nobody’s anger got the better of them. There were no temper-tantrums or fights. It was peaceful, loving disagreement, and there was more to it, too. In part of the conversation, I commented to one person that “When I periodically read [your website], I didn’t really care for it. BUT, I have really, really appreciated getting to know you in this group and knowing more the *person* you are rather than the you as [your website].” I was really scared to say that, because I didn’t want to come across as criticizing her or the tone of her website, and I didn’t want to come across as having some kind of arrogant or superior tone in saying it.
What I learned from participating in this group and conversation was that I had probably pre-judged her without really realizing what I was doing. I didn’t know her past. I didn’t know her present either, really. I just formed an opinion from what I read online, much of it due to tone, and assumed I had her figured out. But I didn’t.
Throughout the conversation, we engaged with each other and learned about each other and listened to each other.
And at the end, I was sitting at my computer with a smile on my face, and I felt like we should have a big group hug.
The conversation stood out to me because there is so much negativity online and it’s very easy to dismiss people when we dislike them, think we dislike them, or make assumptions about them or their writing. And that is exactly what didn’t happen in this conversation.
I’m not sure why in some places–yes, even Christian ones–the conversations turn towards anger and disdain and in some places, like this example of mine, they don’t. Perhaps it was just that in that particular moment in time, we all were willing to set aside our own potential agendas or pronouncements or egos and just listen to what each other had to say. We didn’t use angry or rude or sarcastic tones with each other.
I believe that part of the reason this conversation worked so well was because we were not using angry or dismissive tones with each other. I know that if we had, I would not have been as willing to listen. Maybe that is a fault on my part. Maybe I should be willing to dismiss tone. But when I think about it and how I want to present myself, I know that tone is important to me. I hope that I don’t ever default to writing in an angry tone, because for me, as a reader and writer, I find that the message is not as well-received. I still believe tone shouldn’t be dismissed as unimportant, because it does have an effect. But we can all try a little harder to think of the whole person behind the writing–as I have to often remind myself to do.
In that conversation, some of the fruits of the spirit that I wrote about in the first part of this series, were present in all of us. We were loving toward each other. We were patient with each other. We were kind and gentle with each other. We utilized self-control.
I can’t explain it, but the way our conversation went made me believe it was one of healing, redemption, and understanding. It made me realize that although we were in different physical locations around the country, we were still in one place together, and it reminded me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Whatever our backgrounds, whatever our present lives are like, whatever our theological or political thoughts are, whatever our futures hold, in that moment in time, Jesus was present with us. And that, I think, is what all of us in this Christian blogosphere should keep at the forefront of our minds and hearts. Is Jesus present when we are gathered together this way, or not?