Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Oops, I Did It Again

There's a little something new on H-n-T: a disclaimer to let you know the opinions expressed herein are solely mine (with the "mine" referring to me, Holly Vicente Robaina) or of the guest authors who post. It'll remain under the "Affiliations" section of my profile.

Nobody asked me to add the disclaimer. But after seeking the advice of my buddy and fellow writer T (AKA Teeriffic, who's posted on H-n-T before), it seems like a good thing to include.

That's because I had another little "incident" this week, of the only-in-my-head nature. A few weeks ago, I'd written about my struggle with the c-word (the poo-related one). I'd long intended to post several times so that entry wouldn't be at the top of H-n-T. It's not that I wanted to hide my struggle with naughty words. Rather, I knew a new audience would soon be visiting H-n-T. I'd really wanted to put my better foot forward, especially because the last post opens with huge red letters that say, "Warning: The following blog entry contains language some may find offensive." But I never got around to covering up the poo entry with new, happier posts. So many of the new readers saw my foot that's covered in poo.

You see, I'm started to write a
blog column for Today's Christian Woman (TCW) online this month. I didn't know my page on TCW was already live, complete with a link to H-n-T. Several TCW readers have thus been introduced to me as "poo-mouthed girl."

Does it bother me? Honestly, a little. My buddy T says blog writing presents an interesting challenge for Christians because we struggle to balance authenticity and holiness. It's easy to go too far in one direction or the other.

That seems to be a struggle for many Christians in life, too. On the one hand, we Christians want to be real, particularly with folks who aren't Christians. We want others to see we have faults, shortcomings and pain, just the same as everyone does. On the other hand, we don't want our personal struggles to negatively affect others. For example, I'd never want the teens in my youth group to think I advocate using the c-word--thus, it would be wrong for me to use the c-word in front of them, then shrug it off as me "keepin' it real."

Keeping that balance can be especially hard when I feel I've got to perform for an audience. For me, that audience is you readers. T asked me, "Why are you writing this blog in the first place? Are you writing it to draw an audience of people who will like you and agree with you?" She compared this with an unknown artist who is signed to a record company--then suddenly, the artist loses everything unique about her music because she's trying to please others.

"Or are you trying to honestly share your experiences and your faith journey?" T asked.

Well, yeah, that second one. Above all, I want my words and this blog to be pleasing to God. I believe God moved me to start H-n-T last year with a mandate to make it straightforward, honest, and free. That meant I had to be careful not to use confusing church jargon, that I had to be forthright about my own struggles and doubts, and that I would offer my best writing (not secondhand reprints or castoffs) free of charge so my best stuff would be as accessible as possible.

But sometimes, I start wondering, Can God use someone as imperfect as me? A few months ago, I almost stopped writing H-n-T after posting a joke about
James Dobson. No one complained, but I wondered, Was the joke too mean? Am I mean? If I'm mean, should I be writing a blog about faith?

T reminded me the fears in my head can be good. They are a sign I'm concerned about holiness and staying balanced, even as I tell jokes in authentically silly Holly ways. Or this might just be purposeless fear, the kind that makes us freeze in our tracks, weighs us down with guilt, and prevents us from talking about God at all. (One of my pastors refers to this as the difference between conviction and condemnation. The first moves us to change; the second paralyzes.) Maybe I could have done without the Dobson joke. But it certainly shouldn't have stopped me from thinking and writing about God.

So hopefully, the disclaimer will help me out. It makes it clear: My statements--profound or trite, serious or silly, correct or totally off-base--are mine alone. That's kind of freeing. If we tried to make ourselves "right" for everyone in our lives, we wouldn't be ourselves anymore, would we? I'll probably still worry about what people think of me, though I promise to do my best to be real. And I'll do my best to stay focused on the reason I'm writing and you're reading: to think about God.

To ponder:
1) Do you find it difficult to be real with your friends and hold on to your faith, too?

2) Why is it such a challenge to balance authenticity and holiness? Which side do you tend to "err" on?

3) What are some of the perceptions your non-Christian friends have about Christians? How might your actions play into their ideas? How might your actions change their ideas?

4) Write a disclaimer or slogan about your faith (e.g. "Nobody's perfect--including me"; "Trying to be Christlike ... with emphasis on 'trying' "; "One day at a time").


R said...

I get this struggle for balance because it is my struggle too. When I blog, I want to blog about all of the dimensions of me. But I recognise that some of those are not so pretty and my instinct is to stash them in a closet far from sight. Plus, many of the visitors to my blog are not on Church rolls. But, I like to remind myself that my role is not to put an ideal person out there but rather to put myself, me, as I am, out there, warts and all, and give people the opportunity to see all that and Christ. So despite occasional misgivings, I plod on...

Holly said...

R, thanks so much for your comment. It can be so scary to be seen "warts and all." I'm glad you are blogging and letting others see real faith from a real person.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I missed your previous post on “poo poo talk.” Interesting topic. Now how about this clip of George W. Bush talking to Tony Blair not knowing that his mic was on? I’m sure you may remember this, but here we have the President of the United States, a self-proclaimed Christian, and darling of many Evangelicals, “slipping” and using some real potty language. So perhaps it is not just the younger generation that has sunk to using foul forms of talk.

By the way, I enjoyed your latest post as well. There is a difference between content or message and style when it comes to the use of language. I would hope you continue to be totally open and honest with your message while beings sensitive to come across in ways that are not offensive (you have never come remotely close to offending me). When we use language that is offensive, it often can become a barrier to some with whom we seek to communicate. I’m sure I’m guilty of this often. Your piece made me evaluate this aspect of communication. I think it is possible to be relevant without having to sound “cool.” Perhaps that youth pastor was simply trying to sound “hip” by hovering around the fringes of the youth/street language of today which happens to be quite crude.

By the way, “ass” is definitely a Biblical word, as in Balam’s ass. It also finds its home in the hymnology of the Church as in this famous Christmas carol; “Where ox and ass are sleeping.” On a serious note, one of these days we can have a talk about the crude and vulgar language of the Bible. The OT prophets loved harsh, shocking, sometimes even vulgar word pictures to make points about Israel’s idolatry. King James did a lot to clean that up for the English elite sensibilities. So some of what you address is cultural.