Sticks and Stones
I hate the word “controversy.”
It’s not that people use it incorrectly, unlike, for instance, the word “literally” (no need to break out Princess Bride memes).
Rather, I hate the word “controversy” because of the way people use it to manipulate a conversation. To say “controversy” suggests something sinister and appalling – it’s in the connotation (just like with the connotation of the word “cult,” which I also discuss on this blog). Don’t get me wrong – controversy absolutely, legitimately exists – but too often the word “controversy” is used to color a conversation and predispose us to a certain point of view.
It works, too. Be on the wrong side of a controversy, and folks are ready to literally burn you at the stake.
(See what I did there? With “literally”? Using it incorrectly? Irony is humorous!)
I bring this up because, sometimes, people vocally disagree with me. They may suggest that what I’m saying is controversial, using the loaded connotation in the interest of dismissing my ideas outright or predisposing others to disagree with me as well.
Actually, I don’t blame them. I have some very firm ideas, and I’m not always tactful in the ways I need to be.
Don’t stop there, though! I’m not always accurate or valid in the ways I need to be either! It’s not intentional, nor even something I’ll be aware of every time, but I’m humble enough to admit that my views don’t represent the end-all-be-all Truth. I’m human, and like other humans, I’m imperfect.
So, if I say something with which you disagree, or which you find – *gasp!* – controversial, call me out. Let’s talk. Maybe you’ll be enlightened. Maybe I’ll be enlightened. Hopefully we’ll both be enlightened. Whatever the outcome, the potential for positive results should keep us open to dialogue.
A Missed Opportunity
I used Google the other day to find an old post of mine, and came upon a short thread that cited one of my posts. The conversation went like this:
Lincoln: This blogger referenced the MTA as an example of Mormon diversity. [link]
Doe: That makes my whole day! My faith in what is possible increases.
Carl: That post wasn’t bad. I hope he is becoming more open-minded. But in most of his other posts he seems to me to be quite judgmental of other less-orthodox Mormons and quite unreasonable in the way he represents mainstream portrayals of our faith. He still has a huge persecution complex.
Yikes! Luckily enough, Carl (unprompted) followed up with:
Carl: OK, maybe I was being a little too hasty. After further review, I think his blog is pretty good, overall. He is perhaps least charitable when discussing other Mormons of differing opinions, but otherwise he is pretty fair and patient when considering others’ views.
So he backtracked a little, which makes his comments sting less, but even if he hadn’t, I can still learn something and become better.
Can I become more open-minded? Absolutely.
Can I come across as judgmental? Yep.
Am I unreasonable? I hope not, but you never know.
Do I have a persecution complex? Uh… maybe? I’d sincerely like to know what he’s read that suggests that – I’ve never really thought about it.
That last point gets at why this story is important. There are simply things that I’ll never think of on my own until I read something that someone else has said or written. That’s why I comment on real-world ideas, events, and people – things happen, and that sparks thought.
But it’s possible (maybe probable) that what I write is completely off base. I’m not in a position to be a credible authority (or see here as well). I’m just a guy, and there will always be things I haven’t thought of. I’m not going to stop thinking about issues until I have all available information. I’m not going to hold off forming a preliminary belief until I know absolutely everything. I’m not going to stop writing until I’ve become, effectively, a subject matter expert.
I will, though, recognize that I have room to grow, evolve, and open my mind.
Had I the chance to hear Carl’s specific concerns, maybe I’d have come out of that discussion better, or with different ideas. Who knows? At this point I never will, and I’m a little sad about that.
If you disagree with what I’m saying, let’s talk about it. I’m open to it. Let’s bang something out, and worst-case-scenario, we leave with the opinions we came to the table with in the first place.
There will always be people who leave feeling that I’m controversial jerk (a judgment in itself, by the way. Talk about irony – how come the “judge not” folks never see that?). And there’s a good chance that they’re right. I implore you to not be one of them. Don’t be afraid to object.