Monday, October 4, 2010

Finding Fault, Finding Support

Not too long ago, I responded to someone's blog post. I'd always admired this blogger, and even looked up to them. It always seemed like this blogger had it mostly together, or at least more so than me, higher ideals, stronger principles, etc. It was easy for me to feel inferior to this blogger.

But not anymore.

In a friendly discussion, the blogger replied to me in a snobby manner. I don't think this blogger meant to and probably didn't even realize it, but it was significant for me.

In the modern world, it is very easy to compare yourself to others, especially when they all have their own blog and can edit their lives at will to the world. It was completely my fault I felt inferior to this blogger and compared myself to them. But it was their fault that they responded snobby. And I simply cannot thank them enough for it! It broke the spell. This blogger is not perfect. This blogger is not omniscient. This blogger does not have all the answers.

I do not mean bloggers should or need to find fault with each other. (In fact I think that happens far too often and for the silliest and stupidest things.) I mean that we should remember that all of us bloggers have our own faults and none of us are experts, or perfect, and, in the end, there is only one opinion that really matters.

No two sets of parents are the same. No two households are the same. All of us parent differently, maybe a little differently or maybe a lot differently, but it doesn't mean some are right and some are wrong. When it comes to the choices we make for our family, God calls each of us to listen to Him, not the internet, and He doesn't lead all of us to Himself by the same identical paths. Some households only eat organic farm-fresh foods, some don't watch any TV, some run on detailed schedules, some have live-in family to help out, some have experienced teachers, some have greater financial resources, some have beautiful big yards, some have nearby museums or parks or beaches, some have support groups, some cloth diaper, some sew their own clothes, some have a pet, etc. Every blog I read on the web has some wonderful attributes but none of them have all of them. It is easy when reading blog after blog, to see the wonderful attributes piled in front of you and feel as though you are failing one attribute at a time that you don't do or don't have or can't provide or are not yet ready to take on.

Really, if all we did was use blogs to compare each other, that is a pretty poor, and unChristian, reason for the blogosphere. If we aren't going to support each other, I think life would be better without the blogosphere. The important thing is not who wears pants or who uses which curriculum or who watches videos or who does whatever else but how we all need to support each other on God's path for us so that all of us give joy to the One whose opinion really does matter.


  1. Of course tone can be so hard to read online. What comes across as snobby might have no such intent and the person might be very distressed had they realized they caused you to feel that way.

    There are a few blogs I love whose writers I really admire; but I've decided that I can't read them just because they make me feel anxious and like I don't have it all together. I've just stopped reading them and it definitely improves my mood though I miss keeping up with what is going on in their lives. It's not worth the emotional toll it takes on my. And it's not anything they are doing deliberately or really anything they are doing wrong. It's mainly due to my own insecurities. I've discerned a pattern to the way those writers present things and have decided to try to avoid presenting things in that way myself; but I'd never suggest that these bloggers need to change.

    Oh blogs can be great tools when they inspire us and encourage us; but when comparing ourselves to others when we only see a small sliver of their lives causes us to doubt ourselves, then I think it's definitely time to step away and find a distance that is more healthy.

  2. It is true the internet is horrible for reading intention. As I say, the blogger probably didn't mean it that way but my interpretation of it served as an important reminder for me.

    I've stopped reading blogs that came across to me as whiney or complaining, especially if I found the posts to often be complaining about other moms but then specifically explaining how those same complaints couldn't apply to the blogger and how well the blogger responded to other moms, and the like. The way I read such blogs, they seem like outlets for egos and I have little patience for that or interest.

    I have not yet (and that "yet" is important as I would never say I wouldn't) stopped reading a blog because it made me feel like I "don't have it all together" because I do like how they can challenge me. I can fall into laziness so easily that frequent reminders to "step it up" can be very helpful to me. But, yes, when it drifts from inspiring or encouraging to discouraging and anxiety-ridden, it is time to either step back or take a strong dose of reminder, like the nice one I got, that every household is different, the internet is edited, no one is perfect, and God's opinion is the one that really matters.

  3. Katherine, I've just recently discovered that what often makes me feel more anxious when reading a blog is a blogger who deals with writing about crises in a certain way.

    Many bloggers use their writing to deal with a crisis when they are in the midst of it. They write the sort of post that says: "help! this is what's going on that has me all stressed!" I find that helpful to me. Even if the crisis is totally foreign to my own experience I can relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed.

    Other bloggers respond to crises by not writing at all or simply writing a note that says they are having a hard time and will write more later. Then once they have passed through the crisis period and had time to reflect on their experience, they produce a beautifully written piece that tells the whole story. For some reason, I sometimes find this style of blogging less helpful to me. Even though the blogger includes all the messy details, because it is written in the tranquility after the fact and because they have worked their way through it, it can come across as seeming like the blogger has life all figured out. To me it somehow minimizes the mes and emphasizes the solution and emotionally I don't feel the struggle, I just see them as someone who has it together and to whom the answers just come more easily than they do to the rest of us.

    I struggled with this issue for a long time before I finally realized why certain blogs by writers who I very, very much admire who are wonderful writers and beautiful Christian women still leave me feeling a bit anxious. I'd read these posts that were inspirational and yes they did lift me up initially as I was reading but afterward I also felt a little bit let down. Even though intellectually I know these women's lives are just as messy and complicated as mine, somehow their blogging about the mess in the past tense has a different emotional impact on me. The chaos is contained and seems less messy when seen through the lens of the solution instead of in the middle when the author cannot see how she will possibly deal with it. Does that make sense?

    So there are a few blogs that I really admire that I quietly unsubscribed from in Google reader because they don't really lift me us as much as I hoped they would. I miss them because the authors had come to seem like friends and I feel bad and almost disloyal because they really haven't done anything wrong. But I realized it was an issue of spiritual health for me and being loyal despite the clear warning signs that it wasn't good for me was foolish.

  4. It makes perfect sense, actually. I can't say as I'd thought about it much before, but it does make sense. I guess I don't think of myself as having many crises, or at least nothing comparative to some of the crises I read about on other blogs. So, I think, for me, unless they are writing about how brilliantly they handled a crisis, I haven't really thought of any comparison that a) I'd be able to relate to in any great depth or b) that would make me feel bad by comparison. Of course, that is assuming we are defining "crisis" in the same way. I've had one of those days where I am ready to swear everyone is going to start wearing helmets and there will be no liquids outside of a sippy cup, but I wouldn't call it a crisis. ... maybe that is because I got a nap this afternoon though. lol.

  5. I just found your blos through the Farmer's Wife and I'm loving it so far. Comparing myself to other people never does me any good. I'm either discouraged or prideful so what's the point? I like to read blogs that I can relate too, that give helpful advice, and that are funny. I hope to get the chance to read more of your posts too :)

  6. Well by crisis I do sometimes mean little things. Really everything from the littlest to the biggest things: those days when you are tired and yell at the kids, those periods when you are pregnant and everything falls apart, having a new baby, deciding you need a new housekeeping routine because your old one isn't working. Just the general mess of life.

    But when you write about those things, I've noticed, it's often about how you realize things aren't working and you might mention what you are going to try to solve the problem; but you haven't worked it all out yet. But there are some bloggers who only seem to write about problems after they've been taken care of. And they write column-style blog posts, very composed with a neat solution at the end that ties up the loose ends. I appreciate the artistry; but sometimes it also is a little too tidy.

  7. I don't think I would have used the word "crisis" that way, but I'm glad you explained. I do better understand what you mean now. And yes, that would be annoying on a few levels.

    I'd have to wonder, if someone wrote about everything that way, why they did so. Why not write about it during the difficulty to vent, to get suggestions, to get support? Why not write about it when you think you might have the solution but aren't sure yet to see if anyone has any ideas for tweaking or even just to organize your own thoughts? Why only write after you've figured it all out and are back in happy land? I'm not sure if I've ever regularly read such a blog, but I'd have to wonder if the blogger was only using their blog to present themselves in a way better than they are. Of course knowing someone's intentions can be very difficult, but I have a hard time understanding why someone would write their blog that way.

    There are a few blogs that I do see of moms who I see as having it, well, at least more together than me, but they are also generally moms with older children and everyone has told me it is easier with older children. One friend of mine described my season of life (which would be yours as well) as "in the trenches." So, while, for example, it seems to me that Danielle Bean or Mary at Evlogia have it much more together than I do, they also have older children. Such blogs I find much more encouraging (I may one day yet get there!) than discouraging, but yes, if there was a blog of a mom "in the trenches" like me who had it all together, I'd be skeptical, but also become uninterested. I just don't think a mom in our season of life can have it "all" together. It simply is not possible to be all for several small children and be the perfect wife and homemaker all at the same time.

  8. You've commented over on my blog a few times so I panicked and did a dashboard search and read everything looking for potential snobbery because I can really come off wrong on the internet and I got all worried that I'd disrespected someone somehow then I read here and realized you were talking about a blogger who is competent, respectable, "together", seems to have perfection in her life, etc.

    Phwew. That's a relief. ;)

    I really hate feeling slammed, I did my own version of that about six months back, thought I was contributing a kind post and wound up getting just blasted by the blog owner. I didn't handle it as gracefully as you clearly have. . . . good for you for your perspective and knowing what's important in your day.

  9. Another random thought --

    I've known people in my personal life, even with little kids, that seem remarkably "together" -- make their own cheese, teaching their kindergarteners algebra and quilting, all that. And, you know, they don't bug me and I can still find them interesting, because I interact with them and they are *kind* to me. They are interested in me, or my kids. They are human beings, they are compassionate, they are caring -- whatever. I think it's hard to see the human being beyond the page when the perfection is on a blog, seeing blemishes humanizes them. In person, a few rare people can get away with being incredible without being slap-worthy because they are also so good to the people around them.

  10. Marie, I'm not sure which blog is yours (I am terrible keeping names straight and for some reason your name isn't linked) but no. I've seen a lot of general lack of Christian charity on a few blogs from Faith and Family Live to another where another commenter called me a "jackass" when I told them there was no need to be rude and I was particularly disappointed the blog-owner seemed to have no problem with such behavior on their blog. This post was mostly an amalgam from poor behavior I've seen on various blogs and, to be honest, I've been getting a little tired of it. If you saw some of the posts that went up on a few blogs not too long ago on the simple subject of modest clothing or whether women should wear pants, even on such a subject as that, some people got very inconsiderate. I still don't understand why.

    I do think that was part of Melanie's point. When bloggers ONLY blog about the part of their life they have all figured out, organized and running smoothly, it puts up only one image and if that is all you see it is misleading and hence can be discouraging. I suspect, as you say, that if those same bloggers were known in person, it would be significantly harder to only show one side and would be much easier to see "the whole picture" presenting a very human person who is much more relatable.

  11. Yup to both.
    I do think that knowing how other people fall down (either in big or small things) helps us relate to them as people. But I also think that when we know them in person, even if we don't see their warts often we can still see a more rounded picture of them because of what they do and how they do it, not just what they say. Very hard on a blog.

    As for the lack of charity on some Christian blogs, that's a tough on. Personally, I'm very much not a cyberhugs gal (and I know you aren't much, either), and I think there's a lot of kick back on this idea that we have to "support" everything -- no, no, honey, you don't look fat in those jeans, you look better than you've ever looked before, you look better than Brittany, sort of stuff. But maybe people have forgotten how to disagree, how to criticize, how to oppose -- or, more importantly, maybe why. We try to win at any cost, use bad and tricky arguments, get personal, get mean, get bullying. It's rough to watch.
    Sorry about the ID, my blog (I'm the two ways of renouncing the devil gal) is pretty obscure and so I sometimes don't link because it just doesn't always seem to fit, didn't mean to make you feel like it was a guessing game!

  12. I do remember being snided at a couple years ago on a major blog by a guy with big Christian/Catholic/Orthodox rep. Actually got called names by the host. It was a bit of a shock, and what was bigger was reviewing the whole blog, which I had taken on face value, and realizing that it was really a money-making, business enterprise. As such, it really didn't benefit the author to keep things kind and open. When things got fired up, it kept people arguing and kept people watching to see what would happen, and that drove up page views. I don't think the author went this way on purpose, but I suspect it wasn't a trend that was good for his character and soul any more than it was good for mine. And looking back, I'm awfully glad I don't visit there anymore.

  13. Marie, oh sure, I know your blog. I just have a hard time sometimes remembering names with blog titles. I swear with each pregnancy I get worse. lol.

    I certainly don't want patronizing fluff on blogs, or as you called it, cyberhugs. I just meant being able to disagree or even just have different preferences without needing to cut the other person down. I just don't see why we can't support each other as long as we know we are all trying to find virtue and holiness on our own paths.

    I don't really have the patience to deal with blogs like the one you describe. If a blog gets me really worked up it is hard for me to just let it go and then I can end up taking it out on others who had nothing to do with it. It is best for everyone if I just drop blogs like that. I was sad to drop one yesterday I had liked for a while but a blog of a Christian who doesn't see why legal homosexual "marriages" even could be a problem just frustrated me to the point I had to walk away.

    "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run."

    Okay, I need to go listen to that song now. God Bless :)

  14. Yup.
    And my daughter loves that song. Go ahead, call CPS. . . ;)