Gracious speech is easy enough to recognize when folks are face to face. However, when our conversations occur in writing, as is the case with blogging, then gracious speech can become difficult to recognize. A visitor to this blog asked me to explain how someone can recognizably “offer grace” when blogging. After mulling this over for a bit, I think I’m ready to attempt an answer.
Before I get started, I need to say the following: when I use the word “blog” as a verb, I’ll be referring to both posting and commenting. I think that most people simply mean posting. Additionally, I’m not always a gracious person, either in speech or in writing. Consequently, I’m a bit embarrassed and uncomfortable advising folks on how to blog graciously. I suppose I could take comfort in the fact that, judging by the number of hits so far, I’m writing mostly to myself.
In order to communicate grace when blogging, I think we need to be mindful of the obvious. Bloggers are writers. Every writer has a voice and every voice has a tone which communicates an attitude. Grace is a “heart-attitude”. When the attitude of the heart is not gracious, the writer is unable to offer grace through his words. Said another way, “Out of the overflow of the heart…” the blogger blogs.
Grace is widely defined as “unmerited favor”. Favor can be understood as “friendly or well-disposed regard, goodwill”. Often we express our goodwill toward someone or something by saying that we are “for” them. Consequently, a gracious attitude can be characterized as being “for” someone without that person giving you a reason. To offer grace through our blogging, we have to be “for” the reader.
When we blog, it’s a good idea to check our attitude to see if we are “for” our reader, keeping in mind the following: It is possible to disagree without disdain. Expressing confusion over some point or issue is not ungracious but expressing contempt for the reader is. Disapproving of a method, a mode of reasoning, a conclusion or even the poor expression of a position or point is not ungracious. However, disapproving of some one because of these things is ungracious, especially among Christians. To blog graciously, we have to strive to communicate that we are “for” the reader even though we may be against his methodology, reason and / or position.
The Bible says that “wholesome speech” builds up the listener. I think this applies to gracious speech, (spoken and written) as well. Since gracious blogging builds up the reader, we ought to ask ourselves “Does what I write build my reader up?” There are many ways to build up one’s reader. The following are a few that I’ve thought of thus far.
One way to build up the reader is by using appropriate language. An expert edifies his amateur/novice readers by avoiding unnecessary jargon and providing lots of explanations. He doesn’t expect the reader to rise to his level of expertise and writes accordingly. A gracious blogger expresses understanding of why the novice (erroneously) thinks the way he does, and then explains why his understanding is erroneous. If a blogger presents himself as being knowledgeable and obviously isn’t, we are not justified in using the language of our expertise to pummel him into silence or shame. Sure, lofty egos need to be torn down but we must pause and ask if we really are the ones to do it. When we catch our fellow blogger in the sin of pretense and fallacious argumentation, we must remember what Paul said to the Galatians .
Another way to build up the reader is by avoiding sarcasm. As a teacher, I’ve seen how sarcasm not only shames a student but also creates an obstacle to communication, effectively shutting down the learning process. While it may be fun to write and entertaining to read (when not aimed at us), sarcasm tends to tear down, not build up. Jesus never used it against is disciples, and neither should we.
As I said earlier, offense is unavoidable. Despite our good intentions, we’re bound to offend someone at sometime and so gracious blogging is apologetic, without being defensive. When we become aware that we have unintentionally offended someone, we ought to be quick to apologize for the offense, not to defend our words. When we go on the defensive, we demonstrate that we are “for” ourselves more than we are “for” the offended. However, a timely and genuine apology (followed by a clarification of point if necessary or beneficial) shows that we are “for” the reader and builds him up. Sometimes, when my little sons are playing they accidentally hurt one another. When they do, my wife and I make them apologize immediately. Their instinctual response is to defend their actions/egos by crying out “But I didn’t mean to! It was an accident!”. It’s as if they’re saying “I didn’t do anything wrong, so I don’t need to apologize!” We then explain that the apology is a way of accepting responsibility for our actions and showing genuine care for the hurt person. Caring about the physical and emotional hurts of others is gracious.
Bloggers, especially God-bloggers, tend to be passionate about their subjects. Consequently, our emotions tend to run high. The Bible affirms both zeal and anger in their proper places, not that these are our only two emotions. However, above these two and all other passions (and virtues for that matter), the Bible exalts love, so when we blog graciously, we love.
Certainly, there are others who have blogged about this more succinctly and more eloquently than I have. Even so, just working through this has been good for me. Hopefully, if you’ve also worked your way through my prose, it’s been good for you too.