Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Generosity













This week, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. In addition to being an excellent opportunity to spend time with relatives, eat oneself into a carb coma and watch a lot of football on TV, Thanksgiving is ostensibly a time for gratitude. It's a time to reflect on the things we are grateful for and thankful for. Sometimes we are grateful for things that are not the result of anyone else's tangible goodwill - we're grateful we still have a good job in these perilous economic times, or we're grateful that our loved ones are healthy. Often, though, our gratitude is in response to others' generosity. We're grateful for the friend who talked us through a tough break-up or the relative who loaned us money when the car broke down.

Without the generosity of others, we would all have a lot less to be grateful for. Much is made of the Gosselins' gratitude or lack thereof for the donations of time, money, goods and services they received after the birth of their sextuplets. I don't want to focus on that, because it's an endless and negative argument about whether they are thankful enough (as if we can know what is in their hearts) or whether they've given enough back. I'd like to focus inward, on those of us who make up this blogging community. Are we generous enough? I'm speaking specifically of emotional generosity, of that quality we sometimes refer to as "giving the benefit of the doubt". A lot of my issue with anti-Gosselin bloggers and posters can be encapsulated in this one point: that they do not show any emotional generosity towards the Gosselins. I'm not talking about liking the Gosselins - to a degree, we like who we like and we dislike who we dislike, and we don't always have a lot of control over those feelings. But we do have control over whether we choose to be critical and negative or to be generous and positive.

I don't mean to sound like a goody-two-shoes. I'm as capable of unkindness and lack of generosity as the next person. But I do wish people would take a step back and look - really look - at how hard they are on a couple that they don't even know and who have never done anything to them. I'm not talking about being okay with the concept of the show or with how the Gosselins parent. I agree that those are valid discussion topics, given that the Gosselins have "put it out there" by appearing on TV. I'm talking about how we choose to view individual actions. Do we look at a positive action (a contribution to charity, or kindness towards one of the children) and judge it at face value, or do we put the worst possible spin on it? Do we criticize actions that from a rational perspective are morally neutral? Do we look at negative behavior (seeming to feel entitled rather than grateful; unkindness towards the children) and consider each instance of it another nail in the coffin, further proof that the Gosselins are irredeemably awful people? Or do we look at in context, try to understand (not excuse) the behavior? Remember our own instances of being less-than-perfect and try to soften the harshness of our judgments?

I'm not talking about being judgmental. I think that's human nature. But I think you can have judgment without having so much anger; I think you can temper the judgment with goodwill and generosity.

I admit, I struggle with this myself. Obviously, I make judgments about "the other side" - their motives and characters. I try to remind myself that most of us are more or less normal, average people - not saints (except for Saint!) and not monsters. We are who we are as the result of our experiences and our innate characteristics. It can be hard, though, not to see the hostility in some posts, here or other places, whether it's directed at me or not, and not feel hostility in return.

There is no reason for other peoples' anger to necessarily make me angry, but that's the thing with emotions - you put stuff out there and people pick it up. You put hostility out there, you will get hostility in return. You put kindness and generosity out there - you might just get that in return. And wouldn't that be something to be truly thankful for?

15 comments:

Tricia said...

Good post!
Honestly, I find myself getting angry not at the show or what's on it, but at the ridiculous anger others exhibit! Now how sad it that? I am very grateful that I have found a way to see both sides of an issue, and to make sure I have the facts straight about something before I make a hateful judgement on it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Anya said...

Well, I am thankful for this site. The vast majority of the posts I have seen contain a generosity of spirit, a willingness to look at things from more than one angle and acknowledgement that none of us is perfect.

Yes, we get annoyed by things we read or come across in the blogosphere and we may vent about them, but I agree it comes down to degrees and how angry or upset we allow ourselves to get over this stuff no matter which "side" you are on....

And I know most people on both sides are decent, productive citizens. As with anything, there are a few bad apples and unfortunately, on the Internet, their willingness to keep hammering out nasty comment after nasty comment under several different i.d.'s can make them appear to be larger in number than they really are.

Saint said...

I try to remind myself that most of us are more or less normal, average people - not saints (except for Saint!) and not monsters.

LOL!
I wonder, does anyone ever wish they had a different screen name?
It's so hard to keep the halo shiny, ya know...

Saint said...

Great post, Guin!
I have caught myself thinking poorly towards the Gosselins rather unfairly. Here's something I changed my mind about: Alexis sleeping in the basement. Not such a big deal anymore.

FIONA said...

Good post, good points.

I am very thankful for this site. I found when I posted on GWoP, my posts took on the tone of other posters. Hate fuels hate.

Here, I read both sides, which is absolutely essential for a discussion.

I would venture a guess that many posters on GWoP would like to post a dissenting opinion, but it isn't allowed.

Saint said...

I am thankful to the moderators for hosting this site. Thanks for allowing almost all comments through. Thank you for not allowing anonymous comments. Thanks for exposing the big blog fraud surrounding the Gosselins, and for taking a lot of personal hits for doing so. And thanks to the other commenters here for the disagreements and supporting opinions and general conversations I have engaged in or read. Happy Thanksgiving GDNNOP!

FIONA said...

Hey Alexis is no dummy! She got her own room. Pretty smart for a wee sprite!

Florida Mom said...

Great post! Sometimes we need to put things in perspective. We are a very blessed nation. It is telling how blessed we are, that people have time to be concerned about blessings that a family on t.v. receive.

Mom said...

Nice post Guin!

You know, a blog owner at another site painted me a bad person because of the peeps I "hang" with here at this blog. It couldn't be the furthest from the truth. I am thankful for the friends I have made through this blog. Ninabell, Guin, NMD, Anya, Fanny and Saint (to name a few) are an awesome bunch of peeps!

As far as the proverbial Gosselin fence goes (the one I sit atop sometimes), I would be much more willing to read (and listen) to an opinion that may be opposite of mine if it were said respectfully.

You know, I suspect there is much more common ground to be found no matter which side of the fence you are on.

I wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving weekend! Now, chow down!

marci said...

Nice post, Guin!

I'm very thankful for this blog as a little oasis in the nuttiness that is the Gosselin blogging world.

For months I felt the true meaning of "debate" in online blogging meant "banging one's head against cyber wall".

I think the discussions can still feel like that sometimes, but I'm glad to have found other posters who see the Gosselins from a general perspective of objectiveness and consideration...that the "human" factor hasn't been lost entirely.

So, thanks to the mods and my fellow posters (on both sides of the discussion)! If I haven't turned of my computer completely yet to the J & K discussion, it's only because of you all!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nina Bell said...

Great post Guin,

It is very easy to become upset when you read things that are directed towards you or your fellow bloggers. We do need to step back and take a big deep breath before we respond.

Also so important to realize that people on the other side of this issue could very well be someone you might become good friends with outside the blogging world.

Nina Bell said...

I also want to say that we have a really great group of people that participate here and I appreciate the way everyone discusses the issues.

Thank you to everyone who posts comments and writes posts for us. Thanks to the other mods for all of the work you put it. I really appreciate it.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING !

Lizabeth said...

Aww ya'll are awesome! I, too, am so grateful for a place to clear my head and see the facts amidst the bullshit. Many of my thoughts echo you guys, especially as most of us are not die hard Kate fanatics, but humans who acknowledge a mother who makes mistakes and does her best. This site really does allow open discussions on topics- it is about being honest with the situation though which I know many do not seek.

Fiona, your statement that "hate breeds hate" is so true! I had never thought of it that way before, but maybe here we can make an even more concerted effort to allow positivity and open mindedness to breed even more positivity and open mindedness!

Anya said...

Nina Bell said..."Also so important to realize that people on the other side of this issue could very well be someone you might become good friends with outside the blogging world."

Too true. It's kind of the same way with politics for me (another polarizing topic!). I am always amazed how much I can like and get along with people who have radically different opinions than me - even about some pretty important issues (hint: not Gosselin stuff!). There is almost always some common ground.

Debate can be very healthy when it's done in a respectful and trusting environment. That's why I appreciate the mods and posters here.

Joyce said...

I really enjoyed this post. I would have to say that I surf and lurk on a lot of different blogs and this is one of the best articles I have come across.

I don't really like Jon and Kate. I do like watching the kids. After reading what people have said on this blog, I have come to understand that Jon and Kate are people just like the rest of us. They have hopes, wishes and dreams like anyone else.They also have character flaws. I do also.

We just need to keep everything in perspective.