One of the struggles of every blogger is finding the balance between privacy and honesty. It’s difficult to present an honest picture of self for others to relate to without occasionally breaching my own privacy or the privacy of others. Mostly, my philosophy has been to respect what anyone has told me about their privacy preferences, write mostly about myself and occasionally about others, and omit anything that doesn’t need to be revealed to achieve the purpose of any given post. Most of the time, this plan has been really effective; I currently only recall four posts in over a year of blogging that have offended anyone. It’s possible that there’ve been more offensive posts that haven’t been brought to my attention, but, overall, I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of protecting the privacy of others.
Before I get into why I’m writing this now, I think it’s important that we look at why privacy is such a delicate flower that even the best, most experienced bloggers struggle not to trample.
My take on the difficulty: people don’t live in isolation.
If I were a solitary person who never spoke to anyone, protecting privacy would be easy; I’d be able to blog about everything in my life because the only privacy preferences I’d need to consider would be my own. However, even the most extreme introverts live intertwined with other people. That means that I can’t possibly write about my life without also writing about other people or at least the situations and events that belong to other people as well as me.
It’s a strangely encouraging thing to me that I’m struggling with this, because I used to think of myself as that solitary introvert, but I’ve found over the past 4 or 5 years that I LOVE people and have true friends and family I didn’t think I had.
Now, take that statement I wrote above… “I’ve found over the past 4 or 5 years that I LOVE people and have true friends and family I didn’t think I had.”
Unfortunately, there are people who probably find that statement offensive. It’s possible that friends who were in my life longer than 5 years ago read that and believe I’m belittling their friendships.
It’s possible that my family will read into that statement and believe I’m belittling my relationships with them.
What I wrote up there is about joy and gratitude; it’s about God and what He’s done for me. Most of you get that and celebrate it with me. A few people, though, read my writing and, usually out of insecurity in my love for them, take offense at words that should bring joy.
The thing is, that I don’t know how to write this blog and grow in the ways God is directing me without writing those things. I don’t know how to be vulnerable and honest without writing things like that… and I don’t know how to value this blog if it’s not about vulnerability and honesty.
So… I don’t have the secret answer for finding that balance between privacy and honesty.
But I do know that this blog is something God has used in my life (and hopefully the lives of others) for good. I know that He’s blessed me with a larger readership than I expected to have this quickly. He’s built relationships. He’s been here.
A week or two ago, someone wrote me an email about our relationship in general, and specifically about how the blog has functioned within that relationship. It caught me off-guard a lot because this person is someone I’ve never been close with and the offending blog post went up more than a year ago. I didn’t realize that post had been a problem, and I didn’t realize there were such fiery emotions astir in a person I haven’t talked to for more than a few hours over the course of the past year.
The offending blog post is one that draws more people here than any other. It’s the one that comes up most on search engines. It’s one that still gets the occasional comment, in spite of the fact it’s been up for such a long time. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on that particular post, and nearly everyone has said really good things about the post.
I certainly never meant to hurt or offend the person I hurt with the post, but I did mean to help the people who’ve said it helped them, and am encouraged that people I don’t even know say it’s helping them too.
So… here’s the conflict: I believe that blog post is being used for good and that God put those words out on the internets to comfort, instruct and speak to specific people.
I also believe that post hurt the person who emailed me. I could take the post down… that’s a legit consideration. But here are some other legit considerations:
1. If I offend anyone with something I write, they really should come to me about it sooner than a year after it’s been posted.
2. I can’t avoid occasionally hurting people. I wish I could. I wish I could write things that matter without ever offending or hurting, but I also have to admit that I’m fallible… not in the I-must-say-that-because-I’m-a-Christian-who-must-be-humble sort of way, but because one of the things God has taught me through the blog is that life is too complex for anyone but Him. He masterfully intertwines people from all over the world, good and bad choices we all make, blog posts, and seemingly insignificant moments into something beautiful and crazy. I don’t do that. I can’t. All I can do is seek Him faithfully and trust His sovereignty. I mess up too frequently to expect that I’ll never be wrong in the things I write. I’m too much of an idiot to expect that I won’t ever hurt the people in my life.
3. The people who I love and trust the most in this world have given me primarilynpositive feedback. I’m confident that because I do not live in isolation, any truly horrible posts I write will quickly be followed by 5 or more phone calls full of concern and loving rebuke.
4. People are just as quick to judge writing as they are to judge real-world life. The ones who’ve spent years standing in judgement because I don’t live up to their standards are the ones who are quick to see the worst in what I write. They’re the ones who read a joyful statement about what God is teaching me as an insult to them. While I don’t want to hurt those people, I also don’t want to live my life for them rather than for God and for the other people out there.
So… where does that leave us? I don’t know.
Please, please… if I do offend you with something I write, talk to me about it. Let’s work it out. More often-than-not, I make quick revisions to offending posts and/or completely delete them. I’ll probably even let you (the person I’ve hurt) decide what the best course of action is. I can’t do anything much if you wait a year to talk to me.
I try to honor my Father with every word I write and will continue to do so, but I will also continue to write with honesty and vulnerability about things that matter. That’s going to put us into murky waters occasionally, but I suspect we’ll work through it just fine. I love all of you, my readers, SO MUCH. I love those of you who’ve supported me by reading the random thoughts as well as deep groanings of my heart for such a long time. I love those of you I’ve never met. I even love those of you I occasionally offend. STILL GROWING has been a complete blessing to me and I hope and pray that it blesses more often than it wounds.