what's the point in all this screaming – no one's listening anyway

Last month, I was at a pastors’ conference with my lead pastor and her mom.  We walked into the building and up to the check in table, the two of them on either side of me.  Another woman approached the table and greeted the two of them, looked at me and said something to the effect of “You’re like the contrast in the middle.”  For half a second, my breath caught in my throat.  I was surprised by her comment, her lack of greeting to me and was trying to decide how to react.
I chose laughter, a shrug and “Something like that.”
Later that night I was reflecting on this comment.  It stuck with me long after a full evening of fellowship, worship and teaching.  If I was watching the scene unfold from the outside, devoid of a deep knowledge of anyone in the situation, her comment would have sounded odd, perhaps racially charged.
But I am not devoid of that knowledge.  The woman speaking is a former professor of mine.  I know her, I understand her heart.  Her observation was a simple one, my lead pastor and her mom are both tall blonde women.  I am shorter with dark brown hair.  I am sure that her comment was a literal comparison between our hair colors.   Knowing her character made it easier for me to laugh the comment off because I knew she didn’t mean offense by it.  There is a part of me that still kind of wishes she hadn’t said it because for me it was an arrow at all of my insecurities.  But that part of me, the part that believes the lies I’ve been told most of my life, that part could be reasoned with and told to shut up and sit down.
This time.
A couple of weeks ago I was listening to the Relevant Podcast.  It’s one of my favorite pastimes, I love the cast and they usually bring topics that really push me to grow.  One of the cast members brought a story about clergy salaries at churches.  The example the article was bringing was of a large church which meant the pastor’s salary was fairly high.  A conversation ensued on the podcast that rubbed me the wrong way.  I felt the anger of being misunderstood as a pastor rearing its ugly head.  The statements they were making were barely factual, in my opinion, in my circumstance.  I felt like I needed to stand up for all the pastors of small churches whose lives do not look like expensive cars, clothes and a life free of financial worries.
So I did something I never do.  I fired off a passive aggressive tweet.  I told myself I was just applauding one cast member for offering a different opinion.  For a few minutes I felt empowered, my voice had been heard.
Until they fired a tweet back at me.  Challenging my opinion with the classic, “we never said it like that.”
I was taken aback by the harshness in their tweet.  It didn’t seem to fit with the brand that I’ve fallen in love with over the last couple of years.  I replied with less sting and it was over.
Except I found myself still not sure how to listen to the podcast without remembering that interaction.  Until this last week’s episode, when they addressed internet interactions.  They referred back to that same episode that had rubbed me the wrong way – they had apparently gotten a lot of negative feedback.
In their discussion, one of their comments was that people often fire back when the article/discussion/post goes against their highly specified situation.  And I realized that was exactly what I had done.  Instead of taking the whole story and discussion into mind, I only thought of how my situation was different.
Their discussion was on a micro-situation and my micro-situation was different and that made me mad.  And I reacted from that anger.  I tried to use 140 characters to change their minds.  When in reality what they were saying about that specific context was correct.  Their minds didn’t need to be changed, my mind needed to be broadened.
Both of these situations have shed light on the world for me.  They seem different, but in reality they are similar.
In both situations something I held dear was challenged.
In both situations I was given an option to react.
In both situations I reacted.
In the first situation I was able to react in a tempered manner because of what I knew about the person on the other side of the equation.
In the second situation I reacted rashly because of my perception of knowing the people on the other side.  I’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, following each of the cast members on various social media platforms and that makes me think I know who they are on a deeper level.  But the truth is, I don’t know them, in reality.  Also, I tweeted it.  I didn’t respond to them directly, I put it out there in the world.
What I’m learning about the world these days is that the internet tricks us into thinking we know more than we do.  The perceived knowledge we have emboldens us to speak our opinions on all sorts of topics and people.
But sometimes I need to remind myself that no matter how much access social media gives me to the behind the scenes life of those I follow, I am a follower and not a friend.  Not all of my thoughts need to be said “out loud” on the internet.  Because no matter how long I take to craft the words in that tweet or comment, it will be read by people who don’t know me, by those who don’t know my heart or my experiences.  Misinterpretation is a vicious cycle that doesn’t end until we try and see the other person’s point of view.