I received a comment about my “Who I Am” post written by Anonymous who did not agree with what I wrote. While I received backlash about the post, most of it was constructive and from people I know. The comment made logical sense, the writer explaining that he does not believe God has anything to do with how I am living my life. Anonymous wrote, “…If God was as present in everyday life as we say, then the world would be at peace…” When I first read this, I chuckled. It’s the quintessential argument that people use to deny the power of God. I appreciated the comment, and was grateful that I have a diverse set of readers. Before I pressed “approve”, I finished reading the comment and discovered a few aspects of the overall comment that bothered me, so I let it sit there. I didn’t approve the comment, but I also didn’t block it. At the time, I was on a family vacation and I didn’t want to deal with any comments, good or bad, while I was with my family for the last time before I head to college. In addition, I have committed to replying to every comment that I approve. I knew I wanted to be careful about how I replied to this anonymous comment, so I wanted to devote the time that reply would need. Thus, I didn’t want to approve it until I could sit down and reply to it. And I didn’t want to make time for that while on vacation. Well, I came home from vacation, starting packing up my stuff for college, wrote another blog post, and forgot about Anonymous’ comment. Until yesterday when Anonymous commented again:
“My comment was not angry i do not know why you dont have the courage to post it ms vulnerability. only posting positive replies? thats not how the rest of the internet works just this blog.”
I made a huge mistake. And Anonymous caught me on that mistake.
If I’m committing to this blog, that means I commit to it even when I’m at the beach, even when I’m tired, even when other commitments pile up. I stop what I’m doing and I do my job. I don’t let things sit. I don’t filter comments so that I only have to address the easy ones.
Anonymous, Your first comment wasn’t angry. In fact, it was very well articulated. And it’s incredibly hypocritical of me not to have the courage or the patience to address your thoughts. Who am I to tell people to be open about who they are and then not allow someone’s comment on who they are to be available on my blog?
Because of you, Anonymous, I have decided to approve all comments. Every comment written will be approved. (Unless they’re vulgar or death threats, in which case I have to report and delete those.) I can’t control what other people have to say about me/the blog, and I don’t want to control that, either. I made a mistake in thinking that I deserve control of someone else’s opinion of me. I most certainly do not.
But because of your second comment, Anonymous, I have something to say. The reason I didn’t want to address you immediately is because my blog is not a forum for religious debate, nor is it a space for me to prove that I am right or, worse, better than you. Instead, my blog is about vulnerability. And that’s why your second comment stung. Because I thought by waiting to address your comment I was staying true to the purpose of the blog. But what I was actually doing was forgetting vulnerability all together and not appreciating your courage to disagree with me. While I disagree with your first comment, I wholeheartedly agree with your second.
During the blogging conference, we heard from Gwyneth Paltrow. She discussed how she handles negative feedback. She said that when someone comments something absolutely ridiculous, like how she has a mental handicap or something that is so blatantly false, she lets it go. She forgets about it. But when someone comments something that she can’t seem to get out of her head, that keeps her up at night offended that someone would say such a horrible thing, she realizes that that comment must have been true. So yesterday, Anonymous, when I got your second comment, I cried a little. I vented about it to a few friends. And then realized that I couldn’t forget about it because, just like Gwyneth Paltrow, I realized your second comment was true.
So, Anonymous, I thank you. Thank you for allowing me to realize once again that I screw up. All the time. That I am so far from perfect (far from decent, really). And for reminding me that vulnerability is a journey. I’m figuring it out just like you guys are. And I appreciate all of you that recognize that I make huge mistakes. That we all make huge mistakes.
And, Anonymous, I apologize. I apologize for making you think I didn’t approve your comment. I apologize for not taking the time to reply to you immediately.
And, lastly, Anonymous, I am sad. I am sad about two particular aspects of your first comment. The first was when you wrote that my life is “apparently so awesome right now”. I am sad that that’s how you have interpreted my blog. Because that’s not at all what I want my readers to take from my writing. I want my readers to know that my life is broken. That I am really messed up. That I make mistakes, like not addressing your comment and being hypocritical and not staying true to myself. That I have struggles. I want people to read about the stupid things I do, the hard things I go through, the growth I’ve made, and I want people to breathe a sigh of relief that they are not alone. I want my readers to feel empowered to admit their brokenness and ask for help. I want my readers to embrace who they are and to embrace who others are, too. And so I am sad that you interpret my life as awesome.
My life is not awesome. But I am doing well. And those two statements are not interchangeable.
The second aspect of your comment that makes me sad is when you said, “do not downgrade what people do by saying God lead them there. THEY lead themselves there because they are intelligent human beings.” I am sad that you feel by me explaining who I am that I am somehow downgrading others. I want this blog to encourage you, not downgrade you. So I apologize to any and all of you who may have been misled by my wording. I never want to make you feel like you are any less than incredible. The Internet is flooded with negativity, with filtered realities that convince us we are not pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough, or just enough at all. I refuse to be part of that culture, and I apologize if I made any readers think that I belong in that culture.
So, hey, everyone?
I made a huge mistake. I’m disappointed in myself. I was super hypocritical. I didn’t appreciate someone’s vulnerability when I preach the importance of vulnerability. I stayed caught up in my own world, enjoying my family vacation, instead of taking the time to be there for my readers.
So I’m owning that. And apologizing. And asking for forgiveness in hopes that you’ll continue with me on this journey of vulnerability and self-discovery.
PS: speaking of comments, my friend Sydney has something she wanted me to share with you all….
“Chisala Mbale is a little Zambian boy fighting for his life. He was taken to the Beit CURE Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia by his mom; this is where we met. The day before I left to go back to the States, I kept seeing this little boy running around the hospital grounds pushing a toy car, sneaking in to our guest house, and playing with friends he made. Because of his vibrant spirit, I assumed Chisala was a patient’s brother, not a patient himself. It wasn’t until I got home that I learned of his condition.
A few months ago, a brain tumor was detected in this little boy. His mother has been told that there are treatment options out there, but they are only available in Europe, India, or the United States. Chisala’s family cannot afford to take him to these doctors, though it is the only shot at saving his life. His mother is devastated, believing there are no viable options.
I couldn’t let a child pass away because he was born in to a developing nation, while I was born surrounded by opportunity. Fortunately, one of those opportunities is the means to help him. I communicated further with CURE Zambia to learn that his care was being transferred over to the government hospital of Zambia, the University Teaching Hospital. In the mean time, I have been working with doctors around the globe to see where he needs to go to receive the best care. The costs we are looking at include travel for he and his mother, treatment, and room and board while abroad. My goal is to get the surgery done pro-bono or at a reduced cost, be it in the States or elsewhere, but this is a difficult feat and also does not remove the cost of airfare and living expenses while away from home. While working out the details, there is no time to waste.
My goal is to raise $5,000 to cover passports and plane tickets for Chisala and his mother. Funding is going well but we are still looking to get a hospital on board, though we have lots of interest peaked across the state. Continuing to share this story helps us to better get a hospital on board. We also have a bit more funding to go and every bit counts. Consider donating at http://www.gofundme.com/shanshachisala.”