First of all, a Rule of Life is “a set of principles and practices we build into the rhythm of our daily lives, helping us to deepen our relationship with God and to serve more faithfully.”
A Rule of Life does not equal mere “rules,” in the sense that games have rules or your classroom has/had rules. I’m not talking about regulations. A Rule of Life is a structure that both shapes our understanding and motivates our action. I love the phrase “rhythm of our daily lives.” We don’t instantly integrate these, but grow into them, we build them into our daily thought-life and activities, with missteps and stumbles and the occasional about face. The purpose, the explicit and conscious motive for a Rule of Life, is to deepen our relationship with God.
A pressing question for me has become: How to decide–and communicate–what is and is not acceptable to say on my blog and Facebook page. That might sound incongruous with discussing a Rule of Life, a trivial matter for something spiritual and all-inclusive.
Quick review: I’ve spent the past year trying to figure out how to engage constructively on social media as a Jesus follower and writer. I had reached the tentative conclusion that I, like many others, would simply close my Facebook account and save my sanity. I fasted (imperfectly) from Facebook for Lent. Even abstaining inconsistently, I came out feeling much more sane and peaceful. But as a writer and pastor who wants to love and encourage people with the gifts and through the channels I have, I was not fully at peace with this decision.
(Not) Coincidentally, a bunch of people all let me know, at right about the same time, how my words and message and presence helps them. Weird how God speaks.
Then, just a week ago, Rachel Held Evans died. One of the voices that did for me what I hope to do for others went silent. Bad curse words here. Grief and anger and…renewed determination. NO. No, I’m not going to be quiet or retreat into the safety of avoiding confrontation because trolls and know-it-alls won’t stop shouting. Really, no.
While rereading a bunch of RHE’s grace and fire, I happened to read her blog’s guidelines for replying.
Comment Policy:Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.
Pop! went the lightbulb over my head. A tiny little epiphany for my humble little world.
I’m not going to stop writing, I’m not going to withdraw from places where I connect with people whom I’m trying to encourage, and I’m not going to suffer an ulcer and high blood pressure. I’m going to incorporate this framework into my online presence.
The idea grew, from a decision to continue into something bigger. No, I’m not merely going to make up some rules or borrow Rachel’s policy as rules. I’m going to take this, sculpt and embrace it as an online Rule of Life that shapes and directs how I approach this crazy virtual world we co-inhabit. Rachel Held Evans showed it’s possible to love people who will receive it and show grace to all while not getting dragged under. I desire a rule of life that will help me serve more faithfully like that.
My last post serves as my purpose statement, even a vision statement: Here is my voice–to the best of my understanding–and these (you!) are the beloved of God with whom I’m speaking–“with,” not “at.” With this, I’m addressing the question of “how.” How to create a constructive environment. How to help people feel connected instead of isolated. How to communicate in grace.
A friend for more years than I have memory told me recently: ” Mike, I love your posts. I read them. I reflect on them. I am sorry to say I will no longer reply to them. But wish you to know how much I value you as a person and friend.” She said this because she is “weary of being attacked.”
No, friend of mine for whom I’m writing, I’ll not have you silenced in my sphere because certain people choose not to use their words positively, constructively, or with grace. Thinking one is right does not give a license to bludgeon. To quote my beloved Opus from Bloom County, “Nope! Nope! Nopity nope nope!”
I will seek to live this into my daily rhythms. Imagine having all your self-talk weighed through this “rule.” Not sure how, if I insist on being a general ass to myself, I can enforce the ban. I will know I have stumbled/been led (how do you think being led feels?) into some truth if my Rule of Life for interacting as a writer on social media spreads into how I speak to Kim and our children, to my friends and acquaintances, and especially, especially if it impacts how I speak to myself.
The thing I love most about RHE’s policy is its simplicity. It doesn’t try to account for all possible situations. It neither apologizes nor offers conditionals. It’s elegant in its simple cause and effect: “If this, then that.” “If it is critical, please make it constructive.” Imagine if all online discussion followed that. I hear you laughing, Cynics. Here, Dear Reader, I will choose to be the change I want to see in the world. Join me.
Therefore, I’m establishing here an Online Rule of Life. I’m excited about this direction. I need it. I ask myself, easily twenty times a week, “Do I block him?”* I’ve struggled mightily not to block people because I don’t want to create an echo chamber for myself in which I hear only from those who share my views. I’ve wanted to continue to listen, to dialogue, to understand. And, of course, sometimes I just want to [deleted word suggesting a not-gracious response] them and I end up spending all day fixating on the rude or critical or troll-ass-hater things they’ve said. Twenty-six years of marriage with Kim finds me still trying to learn from her how to shrug things off.
For myself, I don’t need just a measuring stick to show me “I should delete this” or “this is bad enough.” I don’t need only to be calmer about the horrors going on in this country or people’s willingness to defend them. I won’t settle for writing and dialoguing in these spheres as long as it doesn’t damage my relationship with God. Survival isn’t enough. I don’t even need “merely” to have grace for everyone, though that is my lifetime’s journey to pursue.
I need to live this part of my life as a means of helping me deepen my relationship with God.
As always, I’ll be a messy, grace-dependent work-in-progress with this. I hope you’ll come along.
*Yes, so far, always “him.”