When I was a kid, I always got the advice to choose good friends. But I never knew exactly how to go about doing that. It’s not like all the kids in the middle school line up waiting to be chosen by me. It’s more like if you want friends at all, you’ll take what you get and be grateful. There are personalities that I just clicked with, and looking back now, they weren’t always what one might call “a good influence.”
I like the idea of choosing the influences you subject yourself too, but it can be easier said than done sometimes.
Choosing to go to church or whether to read the scriptures and whether to watch a particular movie all seem to have reachable answers. But choosing whether to read some particular website, or follow a particular blog, or have some particular friend takes trickier judgment. As an adult my attitude has leaned more and more toward preferring the straight dope, so to speak... give me the anti-Mormon arguments, the pot-shots, the sophistry, I'll take all comers and I'll spend the effort to assess them for what they are. But sometimes I think this is a mistake. A big one.
Some time ago I joined a discussion group that calls itself supportive but turned out to be a meeting place for (what seemed to be) a bunch of really nice folks to grind their axes, indulge their hatred, and reinforce their skewed views on life. The hypocrisy is palpable every time I open up a few threads. It's almost like they've created an incubator for spiritual insanity. Of course, most of these folks would (and have) said precisely the same thing about the LDS church. It seems we're all "brainwashing" ourselves, I'm told. And in a sense, after stripping out the negative connotation, we are. I think people choose affirming influences--whether members of the church, members of an insane online discussion group or whatever.
But, as Einstein said, "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." I'm not an advocate of spurning all negative influences; we couldn't be rational and informed if we did. I'm just an advocate of spurning the bad negative influences.
I read blogs I don't agree with, but not all of them. Some have demonstrated their ill effects on me, and that's enough. I don't read much of the discussion group I mentioned above either. I tried to respond to some of their stupidity, but wasn't rewarded much for it--they persisted in their delusions and I left thoroughly abused. Why go back after that? If someone walks their dog by my house and leaves some crap on the lawn, I can clean it up easily enough. But I don't walk barefoot through the dog park and I don't go outside when it's raining dog doodoo. It's the same with anti-Mormon writings--I've answered every issue I've come across to my satisfaction when I put in the time and effort... but I don't have enough time and effort for the mountains of stuff thrown at me by folks who are so "concerned" for me (that they tenderly take me in... and then start snarling if I put up any resistance).
I'd rather build my own mountains of faith than fill the holes somebody else has dug.
Just be aware of what influences you choose and why. That's my advice for the day to all comers to the growing queerosphere.