Writing is not warfare

We should distinguish between the qualities which differentiate men from women, and the need for both men and women to shape those qualities into virtues. Perhaps men are born strong-willed, but that shouldn’t be celebrated for its own sake; some men form it into courage, others into foolhardiness. A woman’s natural caution can develop into either prudence or timidity.

I think on balance men tend to be born less soft-hearted than women. It could be that the path to godliness will require men to actively cultivate certain kinds of soft-heartedness, while women will need to toughen up in certain ways.

I have both the skills and the natural inclination to destroy my rhetorical opponents, and at one time I used them freely. But at some point I understood that vanquishing someone who disagreed with me is hardly the same as persuading them, and in fact works against it.  What does it profit you to win your point while losing your brother?

It took awhile before I learned to prefer edifying my brother to exhibiting my superior knowledge. It took even longer before I was able to act on that. I had to learn to shut up, listen, think more highly of my brother than myself, figure out the one thing I could say that might move his thinking forward, say it as kindly and irenically as possible, and leave him to think it over. A lot of natural inclinations needed to be choked back before I could do that!

This made my manner in discussions much softer, but still not nearly as soft as it could be. In fact, I read what women have to say online but I rarely chime in, because even though I’ve smoothed many of the rough edges off my writing, what’s left is still what a man has to say, written in a non-womanly manner, and it often breaks the flow of discussion among women because it is jarring. I’ve joked with Cindy Rollins  that whenever I comment on her blog I feel like a "thread killer", because mine is often the last comment in the thread. But I think the real reason is that my comments by their nature just break the mood.

It probably wouldn’t hurt me to learn to write even more gently. I’ve seen writers get away with roughness—many readers will tolerate it for the sake of the message, some will take a naughty delight in it—but I’ve never seen it make writing more effective. More often it is there to cover up weaknesses in what the writer is saying. When difficult truths need to be spoken, they don’t need rhetorical assistance to penetrate more deeply. They will reach as far into the heart as they need to, provided the writer stays out of their way.

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One thought on “Writing is not warfare

  1. I appreciate your cultivation of gentleness in your writting. It is why I read what you have to say over other people who write on similar issues. I never go away from here feeling drained from having the truth spoken offinsively, if that makes any sense.

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