Some of you are laughing already. I can hear you. Stop it. Just because I’m still not a very nice person doesn’t mean blogging hasn’t helped. It just means that I would have been even worse without it.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on whether the last two years of blogging have been worth it. And, although it’s taken a lot of time, I’m convinced that the answer is yes. I’ve already commented on how I think blogging has made me a better writer and a better teacher. Today I’d like to explain why I think that blogging has made me a better person.
I’m a shameless introvert. You might not pick up on this if you saw me in a crowd since I inherited from my dad the ability to operate well in social settings, even as I eagerly anticipate a return to the warm embrace of my quiet office. It’s not that I don’t like people. I just like them better when they’re not around.
I really enjoy being alone.
Although I’ve come to see that it’s okay to be an introvert, I’m still aware that I need to be careful with this side of my personality. It would be easy for me to retreat within myself, allowing introversion to devolve into isolation.
Blogging helps draw me out of my shell, bringing me back into contact with these strange creatures that we call humans, creatures made in the image of God. Through blogging, I’ve developed relationships and engaged in conversations that would never have been possible otherwise. It’s a weird kind of community–one that should never replace the fleshy, messy, and beautiful community that we must enter into with the people around us–but it’s still community in a very real sense. And, since God created us to live in community, I think blogging has, in a very real sense, helped me be the kind of person God wants me to be.
I realize that charity is a bad word today. Charity is something that you get when you can’t take care of yourself. Charity is what strong, capable people give to weak, dependent people. At its worst, charity dehumanizes by stripping away responsibility and stifling growth.
But charity also has a different and far richer meaning: a “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity.” Here there is no notion of stronger/weaker, independent/dependent, giver/receiver. There is only goodwill: a desire to see everyone thrive.
It’s in this sense that I think blogging has been good for me. It’s easy for academia to have a restricted focus, sharing its resources with the small number of students and fellow academics blessed with the opportunity to enter its cloistered halls. It doesn’t have to be that way, but it’s a constant temptation.
Blogging presses in precisely the opposite direction, scattering its resources to the wind, trusting that somewhere they will take root, be fruitful, and multiply, recognizing as well that we have at least as much to receive as we have to give in the exchange. I am not just a charitable giver, but a needy receiver as well.
At its best, blogging is a form of goodwill.
Anyone familiar with the blogosphere might think this one a little odd. How can blogging foster humility? Isn’t blogging necessarily about putting yourself and your ideas on display, promoting yourself as someone worth hearing? And doesn’t the blogosphere thrive on arrogance, argument, and antagonism? Isn’t blogging the antithesis of humility?
To be honest, I resonate with these questions and the concerns they raise. Like the force, blogging has a dark side.
But so does any form of human expression.
Teaching, painting, writing, drawing, preaching, blogging: these are all ways of communicating what you think, believe, and feel. And, like all human endeavors in a broken world, they are liable to corruption. They express pride, anger, and hatred just as easily as they do beauty, humility, love, and wisdom. But that doesn’t mean we should avoid them. Far from it! But we use them with eyes wide open, checking daily to see that we are using them appropriately.
Blogging has helped me develop greater humility because it’s made me more sensitive to the fact that every act of self-communication can become an opportunity for self-glorification.
I live in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States of America. Although I travel quite a bit, I still spend most of my time locked away in one small portion of a much larger world. That’s both energizing and limiting: energizing in that location provides the context within which community flourishes, limiting in that it necessarily restricts your vision of the world.
Done well, the internet can be a great place for increasing vision, giving you a deeper sense of what people are like in different places, stretching and shaping you by their unique understanding of the world and their place in it. Granted, the internet also fosters superficial generalizations that can flatten your view of the world and merely confirm what you already believed. But that’s not necessary.
Blogging has been a great way of increasing my vision. This is particularly true of my vision of the church. I spend most of my time within a particular segment of Protestant evangelicalism. And I don’t mind. That’s my church home, and I love it. But blogging has given me a way of hearing directly from other parts of God’s people. I hear from those traditions indirectly all the time in the books and articles that I read. But blogging offers a kind of immediacy and engagement that is lacking in many other media.
Blogging stretches your vision.
I’m sure that I could come up with more if I got creative. But you get the point. Someday I hope to be a “good” person. God tells me that he’s working on it and that he’ll finish up down the road. Until then, I’ll just keep working on “better.” And, for now, blogging helps. If that ever changes, it will be time to stop.