Don’t give it attention.

I had already decided on one of my New Year’s goals when I experienced a couple of confirmations.

My goal: To give as little attention as possible to hateful, thoughtless, or ridiculous things I see, read, or receive from others.

The first two confirmations I am on the right track came when I saw two different leaders tweet out something they had received from someone else that fit all three of my criteria above. I do not mean to criticize either of them for sharing what was sent to them. I’m sure they thought things out before posting. Having been in the same position, however, my current goal and the convictions behind it were reinforced.

While it was somewhat entertaining to see the hateful, thoughtless, and ridiculous behavior of the senders jumped on by the wolves of incredulity, in the end I believe it would have been better to have given no credence to the content whatsoever. Had the two leaders not tweeted the content, the garbage they received would have been seen by almost no one.

My go-to move for such things — USUALLY – is to delete (if possible), block, hide, or ignore. I’m all for the First Amendment, free speech, and such. At the same time, I am in no way obligated to broadcast nonsense or meanness. People are free to post, share, comment, or email whatever they like. Thankfully, if it comes to one of my personal accounts or to my inbox, I am also free to rid myself of it.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am certainly not above criticism, nor receiving criticism. But, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I prefer to have difficult conversations in person, as opposed to digitally, unless the latter is the only or best option. If the situation is a no-win, or has proven to be nothing but vitriolic in the past, I may not engage in the conversation or even respond at all. I’m not saying my way is best, but simply pointing out that my current goal flows in the same stream as my current practice.

I might also add two caveats. First, I have failed at doing these things right many times. Second, just because I deem something to be hateful, thoughtless, or ridiculous does not mean that it is. My measure for such things is not perfect, and digital communications are perhaps the easiest to misinterpret. 

Today, I had a third confirmation from someone I greatly respect: social psychologist, public theologian, author, and professor Christena Cleveland. She shared this post this morning and I thought it was excellent. It is a short read, and very worth your time. 

Here is a snippet: 

“Regardless of whether I’m the target of injustice, I tend to notice it and care about it. My first instinct is to speak up, to advocate for the oppressed, to make things right.

However, more recently I’m learning that while protesting injustice is often the good and right thing to do, perhaps it isn’t always the wisest thing to do.  Maybe – and this is counterintuitive and just plain weird – the best way to protest is by not protesting at all.

Don’t get me wrong.  Oppression and injustice are grave realities in our world that must be addressed. But that said, sometimes we give silly people too much power when we dignify their oppressive comments with protest.”

FULL POST: “The art of NOT protesting” by Christena Cleveland

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