Am I being defensive and trying to protect my vanity?Regarding the former question, no one likes to be attacked or called names. There's not much of that on my blog (thank heavens), but it pops up from time to time. Mainly I'm tempted to answer snark with snark. Regardless, these responses are being driven by my own ego. And that's not good for the soul. To help with this I'll often not look at the comments for most of the day. And sometimes I pray first to get my head and heart straight.
Does this seem like it would be a productive, mutually edifying and clarifying exchange or an exercise if futility?
Regarding the latter question, I think I'm a pretty good judge of who seems open to conversation and who does not. But I'm sure I make mistakes in this regard.
In light of these ruminations I was recently struck by this advice from Proverbs and how it might apply to blog conversations:
Proverbs 26.4-5The advice here is a bit paradoxical. First, don't answer a fool according to his folly. If you do you'll be the fool. This is good advice for not responding to certain comments. The key here, I think, is "according to his folly." What does that mean? I think it means accepting the terms of the fool, be those terms intellectual or social. The social part is easy. Try not to take the bait, be that bait snark, condensation, faux disappointment, hating, or name-calling.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.
(Faux disappointment is the worst for me. It's so passive aggressive. "This post sadness and disappointments me..." Whatever. Children starved to death today. Who cares if some stranger's blog post saddened or disappointed you?)
Intellectually I think this means spotting where undergirding assumptions differ, particularly if those assumptions are folly. Basically, if we don't agree on assumptions (and this can be spotted pretty easily in comments) then there is no way to answer your questions. It's worldviews colliding. It's sort of like trying to answer the question "When did you stop beating your wife?" To answer is to accept the folly of the framing.
So there are times to "not answer a fool." But the proverb goes on to say that there are times when we should answer the fool. Why? So that the fool won't be "wise in his own eyes." It might be helpful and therapeutic for the fool to know he or she is being a fool. Or at least not as smart as he thinks he is. A little self-awareness can go a long way.
And, finally, I must flip this around on myself. You, dear Reader, have to decide if you want to comment on any given blog post. Shall you refrain, refusing to answer this fool according to his folly? Or shall you comment to answer my folly so that I will not be wise in my own eyes?
Welcome, fools, one and all.