Francis de Sales on Christian bloggers

October 1, 2009 | 26 comments

A Three-Minute Book Club post

Well, OK, seeing as how he was writing in the 17th century I suppose Francis de Sales might not have been thinking of comboxes and weblogs in particular, but that’s what I immediately thought of when I read this in his excellent book Finding God’s Will for You:

God’s servants who have had the highest and most exalted inspirations have been the gentlest and most peaceable men in all the world. Such were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses is called “a man exceedingly meek above all men.” David is praised for his mildness.

On the contrary, the evil spirit is turbulent, bitter, and restless. Those who follow his hellish suggestions in the belief that they are heavenly inspirations can usually be recognized because they are unsettled, headstrong, haughty, and ready to undertake or meddle in affairs. Under the pretext of zeal, they subvert everything, criticize everyone, rebuke everyone, and find fault with everything. They are men without self-control and without consideration, who put up with nothing. In the name of zeal for God’s honor, they indulge in the passions of self-love.

Unfortunately, the kind of behavior that reflects a soul in tune with the Holy Spirit is rarely what brings large amounts of traffic to a blog. Being “unsettled, headstrong, haughty, and ready to undertake or meddle in affairs” while “subverting everything, criticizing everyone, rebuking everyone, and finding fault with everything” is pretty much a recipe for how to have a popular website.

Also, the internet gives us unprecedented opportunities to express our opinions in a relatively consequence-free environment — and, unlike face-to-face communication, it’s surprisingly easy to fall into self-indulgent, careless speech when the only repercussions you’ll face are words on a screen.

For example, yesterday I came across a blog post by an atheist who basically said that no intelligent person could be a Christian. With hardly a second thought I began typing up a scathing response full of passive aggressive insults and condescension, supposedly with the goal of defending God against such insults. Luckily I had just re-read this part of Finding God’s Will for You, and St. Francis’ words echoed in my mind as I asked myself: Is this about God’s honor…or self-love? Re-reading my own turbulent words, the answer was obvious.

In our age of 24/7 communication it’s especially important to remember: Just because we’re defending God, doesn’t mean we’re reflecting God.

26 Comments

  1. Camille

    Good for you. I all too often find this a difficult position to be in – defending our faith versus behaving in a way in tune with God's message. Turning the other cheek is very difficult when we are faced with a society that more and more often is disrespectful of God and human dignity. Thank you for leading by example on this one.

  2. Christian Soldier

    Love your book references! I'm currently reading 'The Shadow of His Wings'. Amazing story.

    I hate to say this, but the quote described my mother in law to a tee. Lord, make me meek.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Sibyl

    Multiple ouches. Thanks, I needed that. BIG TIME.

    This may the the Saint I need to read.

    BTW, I'm old enough to be your mother, but your writing has been a source of much-needed motherly wisdom for me after a series of childhood traumas followed by years of denial followed by a series of losses and crises have left me in a child (ish) state and needing a source of Godly wisdom and nurture. Your blog and writing, your earnest whole-hog love of God has fed me and nurtured me through a heap of pain.

    Thank you to both to Jennifer and to God for leading this lost sheep here to this source of rich spiritual forage!

  4. Kim

    Well said, well said! I've only been blogging for about a year-and-a-half now, and I've noticed so much "snark" that I come across almost constantly in blogs. I possess a sarcastic type of humor myself, but as a Christian, I'm continually checking myself against falling into mean-spirited writing.

  5. Jodi

    I was just thinking this morning after reading several comments on a Houston Chronicle blog that in general, I'm constantly amazed at the sheer nastiness of some blog comments – on any type of blog. What people are willing to say about another human being, knowing nothing more than what's written in a few paragraphs, is literaly distressing to me. The annonymity and lack of consequences of web/blog comments seems to create an utter lack of regard for people and NEVER ceases to amaze me.

  6. That Married Couple

    Wow. Your last sentence hits the nail on the head!

  7. Adoro

    Thanks. I have that book, should read it again if I ever get out of school.

    I used to do a lot of snarky posts (as opposed to the occasional one these days) and found that most, if not all of my early readers have disappeared.

    You're right in what attracts people to blogs and makes them popular. The snarkier they are, the more popular.

    Of course my favorite blogs…aren't snarky. Wish I could emulate them better.

  8. Debbie

    Thanks for the much needed reminder! It is far better to win a few souls for Christ than to have a large blog following.

    And oft times I am tempted to fire off an irate email to someone who annoys me, but how much better it would be to take the time to compose my thoughts in a loving, gentle manner, or even talk face to face if possible?

    St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!

  9. Dawn Farias

    That came at a good time for me. This week I am taking a break from posting on my blog. I've been thinking about it and realizing that the things I want to post about just aren't gonna bring a lot of traffic. But I get all caught up in "how to have a better blog" posts that I see online and really, who cares? I'm not trying to make money with my blog so why should I worry about traffic and SEO?

    (I just have a drive to do things the 'right' way.. it's sometimes a character flaw and a detriment to enjoying life…)

    I've been having more thoughts along similar lines to what you posted…so it was timely. Thanks.

  10. Becky H.

    Wonderful post. Thank you. I have recommended your blog to SO many people, mainly because I characterize you with the words in the first paragraph, not the second. Also wanted to say that my husband and I are working through a difficult situation/decision right now and we are using your "burnout guide" as the primary tool to guide us through our process.

  11. Bethany Hudson

    Convicting, and so true. I have noticed this a lot with my own blog. It is hard for me (being an opinionated, hot-tempered person) to first of all compose posts that are God-honoring rather than ego-stroking and secondly to respond to ignorant and abrasive comments with grace and kindness. God has grown me a lot in blogging! But, hm…I wonder if this approach is why my blog is growing slowly…slowly, but steadily 🙂 I do find that my posts with the greatest number of hits tend to be those that are most controversial–though even these I try to keep in a spirit of grace, compassion, and gentleness.

  12. Roxane B. Salonen

    Jennifer, this is great, really. A short post but really important. I try to keep things light and inspiring on my blog, but every once in a while I post something more controversial because I feel strongly about it. I think that's okay, but sometimes the result is comments that are more venomous in tone than usual. I don't want to back off completely from healthy tension but it's not something I do habitually by any means, and this is a good reminder to me of why. After all, one of the virtues mentioned in your post of Godly men is "peaceable." With a blog name like Peace Garden Mama, it only stands to reason that I would try to draw that kind of energy and not the more hateful kind. So, this was perfectly timed for me. I know you are always speaking to yourself in your posts, but we are the lucky receivers of your wise thoughts.

  13. Marit

    that last sentence…. excellent!!

  14. Julie D.

    Hi Jen, a great point and one that I have to remind myself of also.

    Although I would have to take exception with the inclusion of Jacob, all due respect to St. Francis de Sales … Jacob was anything BUT peaceable. He was a born troublemaker. Literally! 😀

    Maybe he was thinking of Joseph and mis-wrote.

  15. Anonymous

    I was listening to some lectures on tape from a Roman History class recently. The professor explained that the various governors and prefects were intended to "make the Emperor present" in some sense, throughout the Empire. Partly for this reason, the offices turned over every couple of years. Emperors didn't want people to become so ensconced and complacent and powerful that they began to be rulers in their own right. They wanted dutiful emissaries who would reflect and make present the Emperor. It made me wonder, "When people look at me, do they see my Master? Or do they see me?"

  16. todustyoushallreturn

    This is a great reminder to bloggers everywhere. We should all re-think our motivation for blogging. Charity in all things. Thanks!

  17. Kristen Laurence

    So, so true Jennifer. I love St. Francis De Sales (Intro to the Devout Life is one of my favorite books), but I don't have this one. I will soon. 🙂

    And good for you for listening to His Word (perhaps your guardian angel?) before writing something you'd regret. You're blessed to be open and not to ignore that voice. It's a real gift.

  18. Anne

    Great post! I've been blogging for five months and was beginning to think that my blog was very bland because I usually only receive kind and complimentary comments, and rarely any roaring discussions on ethical issues. I guess I'm doing something right!

  19. Mrs. Parunak

    OUCH! OK, do I have to admit that I got pretty scathing in my "defense of God" just the other day when I left a comment on a piece that was lacerating the Duggar family for having another baby? Thankfully my husband toned me down a bit before I actually posted my comment. I need to remember that it's God who changes people's hearts.

    "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:24,25).

  20. Teri

    So needed to read this, Jennifer!
    I follow your blog but have only commented maybe once or twice.

    But, I had to say that this post, plus that last sentence was so needed.

    Actually the last sentence should be a refrigerator magnet or computer sticker for myself when I find myself frustrated and angry defending my Catholic faith.

    As a recent convert, it's easy to forget that I was blinded by my own pride not so long ago. It was God's grace that allowed me to let go of that pride to see the beauty and majesty of His Bride – The Church.

    Thank you for doing the hard things.
    May the peace of Christ be with you,
    Teri

  21. Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience

    Deeply compelling and stirring thoughts, Jen….

    Do we want hits?
    Or do we want holiness?

    And maybe, just maybe… if we pursue holiness… this reflects an irresistible Christ-beauty that attracts.

    Oh, to reflect Him more and more.

    You do, Jen….

    I send much love…
    All's grace,
    Ann

  22. blog nerd

    Such an excellent post. Thanks!

  23. monica_divineoffice.org

    Is only natural to fell the need to respond in an aggressive manner when defending God. Because we actually defend ourself and usually and sadly the immediate response is "an eye for an eye".

    Liturgy of the Hours

  24. Lenetta @ Nettacow

    This post was this week's "right between the eyes" message. I linked to it on my weekly roundup – post is here. Thanks!!

  25. Pam Elmore

    "Just because we're defending God doesn't mean we're reflecting God."
    Beautifully said. Thanks!

  26. Mann18Melinda

    That’s understandable that money can make people free. But what to do when somebody has no cash? The one way only is to get the mortgage loans and college loan.

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