Should We Attack Personal Attacks?
Recently, I have been reading an open forum that is provided by my subdivision. The forum is on the website for the subdivision and gives the residents a place to report observations about the neighborhood, advertise items for sale, announce events and express concerns. For this post, I would like to discuss what I have observed lately when my neighbors made use of the latter, expressing or “airing-out” concerns.
Ok, so why am I wanting to discuss about how my neighbors having been “airing-out” on the website? You see, many of the posts regarding concerns about issues in the neighbor have become personal attacks on some of the people who have “aired” their concerns. Frankly, many of the posts are unfair, from my point of view. There has been a strong use of sarcasm by some and many have chosen to remain anonymous. I assume the ones who were anonymous didn’t want to be personally confronted. in other words, they were anonymous because they didn’t want to be personally attacked. There were even a few posts where the author explicitly stated that was the reason for the anonymity.
Regarding the use of sarcasm, I have often proclaimed that sarcasm is humor that always has a victim. I know that many times, when using sarcasm, irony and satire is involved. How ironic from a satirical point of view! :-) From my point of view, sarcasm, though sometimes extremely funny and entertaining, is not a form of humor that should be emphasized nor strived for. Now, I realize that I might be in the minority regarding the use of sarcasm, but, sarcastically speaking, what does the majority know? :-)
But, back to the “airing-out” concerns and the personal attacks often written in response to these concerns, I have noticed how some respond to the personal attacks by “attacking-back.” They express anger and hurt; they write long responses and sometimes hint at retaliation. On the other hand, there are others who either don’t respond to the personal attacks, or simply brush them off. This difference in the way the two groups handle the personal attacks is at least interesting, if not insightful.
How can some deal with personal attacks by simply brushing them off, while others seek revenge or retaliation? I think it has a lot to do with self-esteem. A person with high self-esteem will not be bothered by personal attacks as much as one who has low self-esteem. Usually low self-esteem reflects low self-worth. A person with low self-worth doesn’t see her/himself having great value. Such a person can feel incompetent, yet will often try to project an image of confidence by speaking/writing with bravado. This is what I think I’m observing while reading the responses of some of my neighbors’ airing-out concerns – a lot of bravado writing that does little more than make the writer feel good.
I once read about an encounter between President Abraham Lincoln and one of his commanders in the Civil War, General George McClellan. Lincoln visited McClellan in order to get a first-hand evaluation of how the war was going. When McClellan arrived to his headquarters from the battlefield, instead of greeting Lincoln, he went upstairs to clean-up. Later, McClellan sent his maid down to tell Lincoln that he was tired and was going to bed without seeing him. One of Lincoln’s aides said, “You’re not going to let him get away with treating you like that, are you? Won’t you relieve him of his command?” Supposedly, Lincoln thought about it for a few minutes and then said, “No, I’m not going to relieve him. McClellan wins battles and I would hold his horse and polish his shoes, if it would hasten the end of this bloodshed by one hour.” Lincoln, in my opinion, was demonstrating high self-esteem. He was secure enough with himself that humility was an easy response to insults. McClellan wasn’t a threat to his self-worth. Lincoln did not attack the implied personal attack! Instead, he was rational and humble.
So, should we attack personal attacks? Attack with insults, sarcasm, anonymity, anger, and/or revenge. NO! Attack with rationality and humility. YES!
Ron, you make several good points in your blog. Several years ago I worked with a pastor friend in New Orleans with the subject of conflict resoulution. Craig reminded me of something that I had read about along time ago called the Reptilian Mind. You are probably more aware of this than I was, however, a quick search of the web will bring you more reading that you may care to do.
From your description of the personal attacks I think that some folks are living/relating from their reptellian mind set.
Although, Matthew 18:15 and following, is not a complete solution to the reptellian mind set it does give a process for folks to follow in times of expressing concerns.
A. Linclon was a very focused president. In the instance that you quote he knew the purpose of his visit and was willing to “do whatever was required” to accomplish his vision. As a pastor and district superintendent I found the technique of refocusing folks to a common vision to be more helpful than just airing out complaints although there is some benefit to “venting feelings” in an appropriate environment.
Take care of your self as often I find that when one intevenes in a conflicted situation that they become the new target.