Can you hear me now?
Friends, something is bothering me. Last week I posted something on my personal FaceBook page about being a safe person for members of a certain minority group. It was a re-post of something that’s going around. I got a comment on the post from someone making a disparaging comment about that group. I answered the person with this question: Why would you choose to post that comment on a post about supporting other people? I left the question up for 24 hours. When the person didn’t respond, I deleted the post, and re-posted the graphic with the following caveat: Supportive comments only.
While I have dealt with the offending comment, my discomfort with it remains. I have been thinking a lot about the question I asked. I really am trying to figure out the person’s motivation. Did the post make the person question their own values? Were they so offended by the topic that they felt they had to speak up? It’s almost a week later, and I’m still not sure. I seriously doubt they thought they were going to change my mind. In fact, anyone who knows me at all knows that I am going to speak up for the minority group.
The one thing that I am pretty sure of is that the person needed to be heard. They needed to be understood. I think that’s a very common need. If you recall Maslow’s hierarchy, our need for belongingness and love comes right above safety. Intellectually it doesn’t make much sense to go to someone else’s Facebook page and post a disparaging comment. But in doing so, the person making the comment probably felt stronger in their own role in their own group. I can understand that. Maybe they thought they were doing the right thing? I believe it is extremely rare for someone to do something with the sole motivation being cruelty. An action may cause harm, but the person might say that the ends justified the means.
I am disappointed that the person chose not to talk to me about why they posted the comment. I did not ask my question to antagonize, but to understand. Don’t get me wrong, I was still going to delete the comment, or even the whole post. I’m more than willing to listen, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to leave something up that could be harmful to people I love and care about. I’m left feeling sad about the whole situation. I know that someone saw the comment who could have really been harmed by it. That scares me. Fortunately the person also saw me stand up for the group of people and ultimately delete the post, but what if they hadn’t? I would be mortified if someone in my own group thought that I agreed with what the commenter wrote. The comment really went against everything I stand for.
I am all for debate and discussion. It’s how we learn and grow. How can I learn to adapt my point of view to incorporate other ideas if I never hear any? But how we have that discussion is what’s important, probably even more so than the content. I need to be heard too. Before I sign off, let me just say one quick thing about censorship and the first amendment: The first amendment protects us from laws which abridge our freedom of speech. It doesn’t mean you get to say what you want when you want how you want. Your right to extend your fist ends where my nose begins. It's the same thing with our words. Even in a context like an online forum where you can type pretty much anything you’re not free from the consequences of what you say because of free speech. We all have a great responsibility to one another in order to live all together in society the way we do. As for me, I endeavor to use my words to educate, counsel, comfort, and understand. How do you want to use yours?