Sunday, March 11, 2007

Choosing influences

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.


playasinmar said...

Hope I'm not one of the negative, bad influencers!

"I'm not an advocate of spurning all negative influences; we couldn't be rational and informed if we did."

I'm with you there. Watching the Discovery Channel's Tomb of Jesus special and the following rebuttal was easily the most intellectually stimulating experience of the last few years.

-L- said...

You're not a bad influence for me, don't you worry. ;-) One trick I didn't mention in the post is that one person's good influence is another person's bad one. It depends a lot on personal circumstances. My blog could be a bad influence for some people, I suppose. I try not to be so explicit that I'm a "trigger" for someone, but I've heard some complain that certain benign writings have been a bad influence for them.

But your comment does make me worry that people will wonder where I place them in the influences category. Rest assured, disagreeing with me or criticizing certain things doesn't make a person or blog a bad influence necessarily. Likely wrong, but not bad. hee ;-)

Mormon Enigma said...

I'd rather build my own mountains of faith than fill the holes somebody else has dug.

I like that analogy. I'll have to tuck that away to use in some future lesson or teaching moment.

I think there is a big difference between espousing a view that is different than mine and attacking my views and beliefs. I have no problem reading/listening to other views, even if I don't agree with them. Sometimes, after someone makes a logical argument on their views, I may even find myself adjusting my own views on the topic. But, I do have a problem with people who attack my views and beliefs.

That's how I filter the things I read. Tell me what you believe and I'm all ears. Tell me that what I believe is stupid and I'll just tune you out and/or ignore you.

SG said...

Like you, -L-, I sometimes worry that my posts may be a trigger for some.

But to your post, at different times in my life, I've chosen to be a blind follower of what I've always known to be true. I don't always have the energy to challenge another's incorrect assumptions or assertions about the gospel or the church. I'm just happy to hold on to my own simple faith.

Your posts are always thoughtful and appreciated, at least by me. Thank you.

Jason said...

Excellent post, L. Very, very well said, and very apt to the medium.

Scot said...

Heck, if I only stuck with affirming influence, my media time would be a tenth of what it is :-). Even getting most my media from the likes of Limbaugh, and Savage, and World Net Dailey, I’m better today. I used to frequent GodHatesF*beep*, and a couple other similarly hostile online locals. It’s a bad habit I have (or had; I’ve been clean for two months now :-)). When the marriage debate was heated here, I got hooked on listening to the local talk radio and about every other day back then it’d have someone advocating the Levitical death penalty be put into law, and the host would just agree with his silence. I still listen. I can become somewhat obsessed with those who want us dead :-); it feels important to understand them or at least how strong their numbers are. Though, sure, it’s hard on the mood.

By these experiences, though, I can see how such can both create really hostile mirror images of these folks, and be very unhealthy and pointless to debate either of them. It’s probably best to just leave them be, but I also think "know your enemy" can often be useful advice. So I still watch, only watch.

-L- said...

I don't want to choose only affirming influences. And it doesn't sound like the influences you're talking about are really much of an influence at all. I don't know the best way to define them, but there are bad influences to be avoided.

Marmoreal said...

I think the definition you might be looking for is within the word "influence". Some of the input we receive (from media and elsewhere)regardless of whether or not it corresponds to our own set of beliefs, opinions, ideas is more or less simply "information". While one can argue that everything influences us one way or the other, I think in some instances that influence is nearly non-existent. Whether something is a good/bad influence or just information is often dependent on individual characteristics. For example, the ad in the paper stating the local department store is having a 2 for 1 sale on summer shoes is merely information. However, if I have a shopping addiction and habit of running up credit cards, spending my time closely reviewing all the sales ads would be a bad influence. So being exposed to differing lines of thinking, opinions, etc can help gain understanding/knowledge and even aid in personal growth as we examine ourselves at deeper levels. Whether or not that information or more importantly that source of information is an influence (good or bad) can only be decided by the individual receiving said info. Gotta love agency.

Scot said...

I wasn’t saying you, L, only choose affirming influences; clearly you do not. I was responding to “I think people choose affirming influences.” I think many most often listen to the opposition and debate with their “allies”; take positive where they find it and leave negative where they find it, and often that’s in the same place.

And it doesn't sound like the influences you're talking about are really much of an influence at all.

As marmoreal points out this could be another vocabulary issue, but it seems just a matter of degree, as it certainly is an influence on me. Both sides have those who’ll tenderly take you in... and then start snarling if you put up any resistance. Some go far beyond snarling, though, advocating harm from that merely costs money to that that would cost lives, if you disobey them. I do believe you're right in your advice to avoid them due to their negative influence, for a large part… But there’s this nagging part of me that says I can’t just blow them off, for the improbable chance they can grow into power again. They make stakes so high, that not paying attention, however psychologically beneficial, seem reckless, though I know it may not be. I do keep it from my home, but I feel obligated to know about it. Does that make sense?