It's true that having a blog is like having a platform on which to speak. As the youngest of ten kids -- one who didn't always get the microphone (for obvious reasons) -- this is a heady opportunity, and one not without its dangers. What use I will make of this platform? Will it simply become a place to assert myself? Will I slip into detraction? Will I be an instrument of communion or alienation? Will I help to make cyberspace a place that is more humane, or less so?
I'm most impressed by Clayton's attitude toward those hostile correspondents we all get:
Every so often, I get some angry e-mails and comments. I think this is perhaps one of the greatest benefits of having a blog: the opportunity for fraternal correction from my fellow bloggers. Day in and day out, my ideas are being exposed to an audience and are being challenged and (hopefully) refined by the process. I have this unrealistic fantasy that maybe I will shave off some time in purgatory because having a blog is a purification of sorts. I can dream, anyway.
I wish I could have such a mature outlook on things. For most of my life, I've been one of those types that always has to have the last word. There have been times when that hasn't necessarily been my most charming trait. When you're a writer, it can be downright dangerous. I look back on more than one occasion when I've made a real ass out of myself that way, and even though I'm horrified (and ashamed) at what I've done, and you might think I'd have learned something from the experience, it seems to be nothing more than a momentary reprieve. Maybe I don't make these mistakes as often or as egregiously as I once did, but at any given moment in time I'm still capable of being spectactularly stupid.
In a related post, David at The Seventh Age touches on another of my shortcomings, and if I didn't know better I'd think I was the one who had written it:
To put it more bluntly, I was not and am not a person who likes to admit I don't know something and will generally find some way of making it through a conversation without admitting I don't know at least as much if not more than the person I'm talking to. It's a dandy skill, but morally a killer.
Now, I don't want to suggest to any of you that that these are revelations, that I'm for the first time seeing some of my faults. ("You're telling us!" some of my friends are probably thinking.) But to a great extent these are what I think of as secret sins, ones that aren't readily apparent, and because they aren't always visible in day-to-day life they can tend to present to others a distorted picture of you, one that tends to be more flattering, and perhaps less truthful. When they do show themselves, it's almost always to your detriment, and oftentimes as well to those who depend on you in one way or another.
It's all part and parcel of that ego - the same ego that lets us think we know better than God, the ego that leads us away from Him toward an often disasterous self-reliance. Clayton reminds us of the words of Dietrich von Hildebrand, in Transformation in Christ:
A strong desire must fill us to become different beings, to mortify our old selves and rearise as new men in Christ. This desire, this readiness to decrease so that "He may grow in us," is the first elementary precondition for the transformation in Christ.
May this always be my prayer, that in the words of my patron St. John the Baptist, "He must increase and I must decrease." I ask for your prayers also, that I obtain the humility to decrease so that He may increase.