How do you decide exactly what to reveal about your loved ones, friends or family, when you write about your own experiences online?
WEGO Health asks for their daily writing challenge “How do you choose to write about others in your blog?” Day #8.
I have asked this question, “How much should you reveal?” in past years to my writers groups. I have wondered, “How did you decide what to reveal, when, and why?” I read books of my writers friends where they share horror stories about a parent, a sibling, motherhood, and I think, “What did your mom think when she read that??”
When we write, we often cling to our own experiences. And as writers, we do not just live–we are aware of the little slivers of life. We may think “this is an emotion I need to expand on, look at, marinate in.” We once used to do all this processing on paper. We would write in a journal and put it aside. We may have written a letter–and never even sent it. However, many writers have taken their private journals and put them aside. Now, we write not only to come to our own conclusions and God’s insights–we write to reveal. We write to share. And we share it with the world.
. . . and sometimes. . . people are hurt. . .
And it is not their fault they are hurt. We cannot write off their emotions with a like-it-or-lump-it response. We can’t get snarky and tell them that they are “just too sensitive.” We can’t justify our words by telling them “You’re being selfish! Just think of the people we can reach for God because of your errors!”
I mean. . . we can. . . sometimes we do. But we are accountable to God –for what we speak–whether through our mouth, or through the tapping of the computer keys on the keyboard.“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
Our story involves others
As we write about our illness, it can so frequently be a topic which includes those around us. You may write about how someone responded to your diagnosis, how someone said something that hurt you, how you were disappointed. And yet, our intention is not to hurt the person back. My intention is to use it as an example of the “authentic leadership” I wrote about a few days ago.
My purpose is to share my weaknesses or mistakes, the times I jumped to conclusions. But sometimes there is also a sinful part of feeling justified in sharing my story. I always attempt to not allow anger to take over any post–and I don’t mention names, as you may have noticed in my article a few days ago, How to Take the High Road (When Your Doctor Is Mean).
Since I use writing as a tool to communicate with others about what living with illness is really like want my readers to know–I hurt too. I have people who say those painful things to me as well. I sit alone on my birthday because everyone is too busy. I cannot get a ride anywhere when I am unable to drive because of a recent surgery. I understand, and I hurt too. When I write to you encouraging you to ask for help from others, to stay strong, to not take things too personally, it comes from my place of experience–not textbook theories on how one should respond to these circumstances.
I have used personal examples in my writing– and people have been hurt. I will be accountable to God for these instances says Matthew 12:36 “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”
I have shared situations in my books that I hoped would not hurt someone I loved, and they were fine with it.
I have shared about friendships, without mentioning names.
I have written about the natural cycle of a close relationship and it opened up conversation. I never thought he would see it, but family members forwarded it to him. And he called.
I have also had “perfect examples” from my life to share with you–that I have not shared. Because, although it is a typical scenario of the life of one who is ill, I know someone would be hurt.
Watching our words. They have power.
I watch my words, as we all should when we decide how much to reveal about those we care about. A flippant remark on Facebook can give us 5 replies of “LOL” (Laughing Out Loud) and a few “likes” but the person we love the most may never recover from our sting. Scripture warns of us sharing in haste and while emotional: “Do you see a man who speaks in haste. There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 29:20)
Social media gives us the opportunity to post in haste our truest emotions. . . and sometimes people get hurt. We were never meant to give words to every thought we have! Proverbs 17:27 reminds me “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint. . . ” That means choosing our words carefully, understanding the consequences, and deciding if our post will glorify God or not. I have failed in this area as well, but I have asked for forgiveness and I have tried my best in the 16 years I have reached out to others online, to hold true to these standards.
Is it your story to tell? Or their story?
I am cautious about sharing the story of those I love. My husband and my son both are part of “my story”–but they own their stories. They are not mine to tell. Colossians 4:6 reminds us, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” If I share someone story that does not belong to me, without his or her permission, I will have to answer to that person. Am I prepared?
As I am working on my parenting book for moms with illness, I have shared many challenges my child has given me. He stretches me. Yet, with every word I remember that some day he may read the book and I want him to feel how much I love him–even through those struggles. I never want him to feel he was an inconvenience in my life, but that he was part of God’s plan to mold me into who He wants me to be. Even through the difficulties. I want him to know I am trying to give him my best. In fact, just minutes ago I posted this on Facebook:
My son is having another ROUGH day. I let his friend come over–and he is still grumpy. His friend said he would try to cheer him up, so I took him to Joshua’s room and told him “Sometimes we all just need a friend instead of a mom so why don’t you two just hang out a bit?” He said “YOU DON’T GET IT” I said, “I get that I don’t get it okay?” and I left the room. They are sitting in the bed now playing with their Nintendo DSes. Sigh. . .
Proverbs 25:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” The satisfaction of having the perfect example, a justifiable reason to explain our hasty response, the perfect story to top all stories, is never worth sacrificing the trust those around me have gifted me with.
How much should you reveal about your family, your colleagues, your friends? If it is good, be generous in sharing the blessing they have been in your life. If it points to their weaknesses, even just the fact that they don’t truly understand your life with illness, give grace, and think about the consequences and how it will be interpreted by them before you hit “publish.”