This wasn’t the post I had intended to publish today, but amid a rash of hurtful comments around the blogosphere, both on this blog and others, and even in our normally positive & encouraging private LWSL Facebook group, there is something that has been weighing on my heart this week.
It’s about words.
I think sometimes we forget that what we say matters a whole lot.
The Internet is an amazing place, full of inspiration and ideas and useful information. It is also a scary place, full of people who will cut you down, just because they can, hidden safely behind the cover of their computer screen, people who will throw out criticism and judgment without giving a second thought to the people that are on the receiving end.
But words matter.
My oldest daughter is seven and in second grade, which is apparently the age at which girl drama appears. Last week she came home crying because her best friend at school had told her that they weren’t friends anymore. Did you have a fight? I asked, trying to understand. No mommy, she sniffed, she just said she didn’t like me anymore.
My overprotective mama heart broke as she sobbed in my arms, not understanding why her best friend would be so mean.
The next day at school the drama escalated. Harsh words were spoken, a favorite eraser was broken in half, tears were shed, and all five girls in the 2nd/3rd grade class spent their recess in detention, talking it out with the teacher. By the end of the day, all was forgotten and the girls were all friends once again.
But a part of me wonders if my little girl’s heart will ever be quite the same.
Because I know to well how it feels to be hurt by someone else’s callousness.
I’ve felt the sting of cruel words and I know how it can change you. How it makes you second guess you own self-worth and want to hold back in order to do whatever it takes to guard your fragile heart.
I am a blogger, which means I have chosen to put myself out there, for better or for worse. I share bits and pieces of my own life or ideas I’ve collected along the way in the hope that it will bring encouragement, insight, or assistance to others. But let me tell you friends, it is a scary job sometimes, this blogging business! Every time I push that “publish” button, I worry and wonder how that next post will be received.
Because the truth is that although I spend countless hours crafting each post, testing recipes, trying out new projects, creating printables, researching topics, and coming up with just the right words to say, it will never be good enough to please everyone. I know there will always be something wrong with every single post I write.
My recipes are too complicated. Or not complicated enough. Or too vegetarian. Or use processed ingredients. My cleaning tips are too unrealistic. Or too obvious. Or clean things the wrong way. My DIY projects are ugly. Or too expensive. Or too cheap. Or use the wrong materials. My money saving tips don’t save enough. Or save on the wrong things. Or save too much. My thoughts on life are too personal. Or too God-centered. Or not God-centered enough. And my parenting ideas are just downright crazy!
It’s not hard to find the flaws or mistakes or weaknesses in the things that I post here.
They are everywhere.
And you don’t have to tell me how inadequate I am.
I already know.
It is so very easy to criticize, especially from behind the safety of a computer screen. It is very easy to pass judgment and write people off or throw out a snarky remark without fully considering the lasting impact a few careless, critical, unkind words can have.
But words matter.
And I’d like to think that I am a big girl, that I can handle it, that sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, and for the most part, I can handle it. I’ve learned to hold my head high and go about my business and continue doing the work I was called to do while trying not to pay too much attention to the naysayers and the critics, the ones who have nothing nice to say. I put up my imaginary Superwoman wrist cuffs and try to let it bounce right off. Because I know I can’t please everyone, and I am so very far from perfect, and in the end, I am only playing for an audience of One.
But here’s the thing…..I’d also like to think that none of us are intentionally cruel or mean-spirited. Perhaps I’m being naïve, but I don’t think most of us wake up in the morning thinking, “whose spirit can I crush today?” I think life gets busy and hectic and things go wrong or we have a bad day and so we snarkily comment on a link our friend shared on Facebook or someone’s pin on Pinterest, not realizing that the comment we meant to be seen as funny by just a few can actually be seen by everyone, including the person who created that post. We say things we wouldn’t dare to say in person because we forget that behind every link is a real person.
It only seems anonymous.
Like many of you, I find inspiration online from a blogs and websites every single day, and I am incredibly grateful for this technology that not only allows me to have a job, but to benefit from the seemingly endless creativity and ideas of others as well. And despite the fact that there are also things I don’t really like or necessarily agree with, I still want all that creativity to keep flowing. I can’t say for sure, but I think the rest of us do too!
So let’s be gentle with our words, even the ones that are tossed into cyberspace–especially the ones that are tossed into cyberspace–because we never know just where they will land.
And if you are one of those people putting yourself out there, here is my advice to you: Keep going. Don’t give in to the critics’ math that makes you only see the one negative comment out of 100 positive ones. Hold your head up high and tell yourself again and again—as many times as it takes—that what you have to offer the world is valuable, no matter what anyone else says. Take comfort in the fact that YOU are one of the brave ones, and listen to the people who build you up, not the ones who tear you down. Life is too short for anything else.
* * *
Have you ever been hurt by someone else’s words online? How did you respond?