Last week I felt grieved by the news. This is not uncommon and is why I often prefer to ignore the headlines—as though my ignorance somehow cancels out the stories. What often adds to the weight is the public frenzy: the hateful posts and editorials, the name-calling in comments sections, and even the capitalizing on a story for personal gain. We saw that this weekend and we have seen it before and we will see it again.
As I sat behind my computer feeling sad and mad and wondering where God was in all this and where he might want us to be, I had a few thoughts about how we might respond to these things. I want to share a few thoughts on turning a bad news story into good.
News Stories Are STORIES.
We don’t read a Truthpaper or Truth Articles. The stories we read in the newspaper (both the paper and the online variety) are just that: stories. They are constructs of a writer, taken from facts, opinions, and the best knowledge available (we hope). These then pass through that writer’s own biases and emotions and then also that of the larger company’s biases and opinions. We do not get truth when we read the news; we get an interpretation of events. This is important to remember when we respond to the stories. Whether you watch Fox News or CNN, you are getting a construct, not a truth. So as you respond, do so with some measure of restraint, understanding that we are likely not getting the TRUE story, but A story.
Our Reactions Result from Our Stories.
I have read so many comments from people who are reacting because a story touched a chord with them. In some way large or small, the story connected with their history or their reality. This adds empathy, which is a good thing, but can also stir up the bottom of the pond where the silt of emotions not yet healed lie still until such a time. We should be so gracious with those people who are and have similarly struggled. And if that is YOUR story, I hope that the stirring up of the bottom may reveal a need for healing that you address. Perhaps sharing this online can be a way to promote healing for yourself and others. (I loved the way Dayna from Lemon Lime Adventures responded to a very sad new story.) But perhaps if you find yourself venting in the comments section, you may need to consider if that is the best outlet or if you still need to seek other healing. (And if that is you, I am SO very sorry for whatever hurt that is!)
Venting about Our Opinions Does Not Change the Opinions of Others.
Speaking of the comments section: how often do we see someone’s mind changed by a blog post? People are often affected by posts and stories, but rarely are they changed. We might read:
“I totally agree!”
“How could you think that!”
But rarely (if ever) see:
“Wow! You had great points and really helped me see this in a new light.”
Honestly? I’ve NEVER seen that. Ever. Not once. So as we post and comment and respond, let us do so with the understanding that we are not going to change someone’s mind. We will find out the people who agree with us and also probably those who don’t. If this is true, then we have to ask ourselves what we add when we speak into the fray. If we really will not change someone’s mind, why ARE we writing?
We CAN Do Good.
I have seen some posts that really smell like someone exploiting a tragedy for pageviews. And I have also seen some amazing good come out of people reading a story and acting quickly to reach an audience. Ann Voskamp wrote a post about some of the darkest realities I hate having to face. I wept as I read and I wanted to kill people. I did. (And I still do, a little.) But she used the pageviews and shares on her post to DO GOOD. She piggy-backed on that not to make her name great, but to raise awareness. Not to change minds, but to wake them up to action. Act they did: almost a million dollars poured in over the last few days to Preemptive Love to help educate and empower women.
When we do good with the bad news, it elevates us all. It lifts us from the name calling and the miry muck of blame and hatred and evil and letting the bad guys win. It reminds me of one of the worst stories of all: when an innocent man carried the weight of all the evil we can think of in this entire world. He carried it for his enemies. He carried it for those who spit upon him and who beat him. He carried it for those who taunted and jeered and despised. That story is the reason for real HOPE. It carries with it redemption.
And when we respond to evil with good and with faith and with hope, we bring light into dark places. Not when we ignore (as I am wont to do) or when we cast blame (as we are quick to do) or when we shout from our pulpits or blog posts or Facebook statuses (as we often and too easily do). But when we face the bad news and we respond with love and faith and hope and ACTION, we are part of redemption.
So I ask you and I ask myself in this week of bad news or the next or the next: Are you sliding into the mire or are you bold in sharing the light?
The photos in this post are from my best friend Ginny, taken during her time in Iraq.