As those following the comments may know, I was still wondering whether I should forward the Abusing the Story of Job post to my family or not. And so I continue wondering. If I do send it, I would include a cover letter that goes something like this:
With some hesitance, I attach a piece I wrote five weeks ago. I wrote it at a time when I was quite emotional, and did the writing in part for its therapeutic benefit. It sketches out my views with regards to our meeting that Sunday. Eventually I shared it with my pastor (Theo Geyser), who encouraged me to pass it on to you.
I share this now with you, not out of animosity, not out of wanting to start a debate or invoke a disagreement, but simply because I feel it necessary to be open about it. My beliefs encourage me to share my differing views, to stand up for what I believe.
We all have different perspectives. This really should not be a problem as long as we do not try to force everyone to believe exactly the same thing. I respect your beliefs, I respect your right to have a different take on things than I do, I just feel I owe it to you to give you the opportunity to respect my views as well, which requires that I actually share them with you in the first place.
With that in mind, you are welcome to read the attached text. If you choose to do so, please do not take anything in it personally. I wrote it in the middle of the night (all through the night, as we were waiting for my mother to go in for surgery for her cancer), in response to an emotionally charged event, and out of anguish with the potential unintended consequences and side-effects of certain beliefs.
The end of the text contains a particular “sting in the tail”, please don’t take it too seriously. It is there as a dramatic finale to leave the reader with a lasting thought, expressing how I felt during trying times. It is not, I repeat, not, addressed to you, I am not implying that you added stress. The sting merely expresses my defensive attitude towards my mother, passionately expressing my desire (but ultimate inability) to protect her from threats. It is like a swear word that sometimes slips out when you bang your head on a sharp cupboard corner… I trust you’ll understand.
I hope if there are any questions or comments about it, that we can sit down and talk them out. I realise how incredibly easy it is for misunderstandings to develop, and I would like to prevent that from happening. Please let me know.
What do you think of a letter like that?
I have sought the advice of a couple of people, and I still don’t know what to do. Some of the feedback suggests the post is too strongly worded. If I want to share my views, maybe I should do so with a more carefully written piece. I come across too strongly…
Understood in the context in which I wrote the piece, people should understand why I write strongly, or the dramatic effect of a “sting-in-the-tail”. However, especially in cases where people are very defensive about their beliefs and their choices, they won’t be looking at things in that context, they will see if the shoe fits, and if not, they will make it fit. Something like that post could end up driving in a permanent wedge, causing a complete breakdown of interpersonal relationships… On reading a post like that, people may feel strongly criticised and very hurt.
Sometimes, even in simply having different beliefs, explicitly, they could draw up a number of conclusions that I did not mean. The path of reasoning could run like this:
Hugo has different beliefs. Explicitly. -> Clearly he disagrees with our beliefs. -> He must think we are wrong. -> He criticises our beliefs, he thinks we are believing incorrect things. -> He must think we lack good judgement on these things.
Etcetera. It can go even further. And it would be wrong. It is particularly irritating when the above happens due to projection. In projection cases, the person thinking along those lines usually criticises other people’s lack of judgement for having “incorrect beliefs”. They then assume that when someone disagrees with them, that someone is doing the same. Beams and splinters. I’m sure Matthew 7:1-5 refers, amongst other things, to the projection phenomenon.
But I digress.
Why is the above train of thought incorrect? Well, we do not all believe the same thing, and we never will. No one ever knows everything. It is thus of the utmost importance that we learn to respect and understand differences of opinion and beliefs, and how to get along peacefully. (Also, only once we get to that point, can we start learning from each other in our diversity.) I’m well aware of this (that we don’t all believe the same thing and never will), and being aware of it breaks the above train of thought.
Getting back to the motivation of not sending it: maybe it is more worthwhile to protect and maintain good interpersonal relationships, and share and talk about our differences of opinion in a less emotionally charged way? I’m sure there will be many more opportunities…