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July 29, 2008

Wrestling My Inner E-Thug

Earlier this summer, my husband, Rafi, was the target of a series of blog "attacks" (Is there a word for this? Blattack? Blogack?). The raging blogger was a woman who wasn't thrilled that Rafi had written letters to the editors (yes, he is one of those people) of some local papers offering a version of a presidential candidate's closed-door event (which they both attended) that differed drastically from the one she had shared with the press.

While I understand that no one likes to be called a liar (although he never used those words), this woman got angry and mean in a hurry. All of a sudden, we were getting emails from friends and acquaintances who had stumbled upon her off-color put-downs, name-calling, and taunts in various blogs across the web.

Rafi was nonplussed, finding it all mildly amusing. But while he was able to laugh it off (like when she misspelled words in the midst of "accusing" him of not being able to read or speak English as the reason he was so clueless), I had a harder time. After all, this was my husband she was trashing. When people go after my family, I get very mama bear.

I'd rehearse in my head the mean things I wanted to post on her blog - the clever retaliations that would put her in her place. The more I stewed and dreamed of stomping her with my words, the more satisfied I felt. Victory would be mine. I'd teach her to mess with the Rivadeneiras!

When I emailed a friend to share the hub-bub with her, she emailed back: "Let me know when you plan to pay this woman a little visit. I'm in."

I laughed at her response - she's not exactly thug material - but her joke pointed me toward something more serious. I mean, I'm not exactly thug material myself! It would never occur to me to pay someone a "little visit" for writing some garbage. In fact, were I to meet this raging blogger in person, I can all but guarantee I'd be as nice as nice can be.

Sure, I might ask her what she meant from all the stuff (particularly why she thought my husband - born in Chicago to Cuban parents - should "go back to Mexico like a real man?") but I wouldn't try to beat her down, put her in her place. And yet as I imagined the acerbic comments I'd leave in this woman's wake, I was all about the thug. And what's with that?

This isn't the first time I've had to confront my inner e-thug. This time last year I posted an article here called, "Bringing Harry Potter to Church." You'd have thought I wrote about converting to Satanism from the responses that elicited - both here and on other sites. Believe me, I spent some time dreaming of thuggish replies then too.

And I've had the same longings when I've seen the contributors to this site come under attack. Sometimes I read people's comments and think, Would you say this to her face? To your SISTER IN CHRIST? Is this what you want her to remember you by when you meet in the Sweet Bye and Bye?

But the truth is, in this virtual world of the "printed" word, it's easy to get carried away. Don't get me wrong: I'm all for written debates, sparring with sentences. I'm a writer and I much prefer typing to speaking - especially if I've got something difficult or controversial to say. But sometimes, I think, we need to ask ourselves some questions first: Of course, we could ask, What would Jesus post? Or how about simply, Would I say this to this person's face? If I were to pay this person a little visit, are these the words I'd use?

What do you think? Do you wrestle with an inner e-thug?

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The anonymity of writing on blogs, even if one uses one's name, makes it much easier to speak freely. For example, if we were in a class together and you asked this question, you wouldn't hear a response from me. So, yes, it is easy to fall into being a thug. But it's also easier for me to gush over someone or boldly express my faith in that form as well.

It's always a good idea to let a strongly worded email or comment sit with itself for a day. Rereading it may cause further, more palpable edits. Or send it to a trusted, unbiased friend who can tell you how it really reads.

Never put anything in email or on a blog that you wouldn't mind the world reading. You never know where it will end up.

Oh, how the bells rang when I read your post Caryn. I think there's a touch of the E-Thug in us all. Wise words from Kristi, too- sleeping on a strongly worded communication of any sort is advisable.
I'm a member of a non- Christian forum (here, in the UK) and I've been learning to ignore or act gracefully to some fellow forum members. (Acting gracefully is much more difficult!) In our electronic world it's all too easy to hammer out the abuse in a matter of seconds and with little thought for other's feelings and it's also easy for the written word to be misconstrued.
If I wouldn't say it in a face-to-face situation I try to resist 'saying' it electronically.

I remember the "Bringing Harry Potter to Church" post from last year, especially some of the comments. This was a great post. I definitely struggle with my inner e-thug. Some of the first comments I'd posted on various articles were not loving in any way, shape or form. Thankfully, I have learned to control myself--well, sort of.

Enjoyed your article. Totally relate! I have a hard time correctly responding to abusive rhetoric. One thing I have learned though is that remaining silent can hurt more than one might think. Poisonous verbiage can engender unjustified hostility from people whose only source of information about you is from one who dislikes you. As a pastor, I often hear of whisper campaigns being waged against me behind my back. I think such actions speak loudly concerning the character, intelligence and maturity of those who participate in them. Sometimes the only way to bring it up short is with confrontation. Christians need to be reminded that speech can be either helpful or harmful and that ours should be the former.

Preach it sister!

Proverbs 12:18

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

comes to mind. As those who are good with words, most of us know that we have a powerful gift which can be used for God or evil. Let's keep on keeping on in the wisdom direction, people.

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