Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Unprovocative

on June 20, 2012

Today in the Great Writers Series I am being told that Great Writers Provoke Us.  I think this is true.  As Jeff says:

Writing is an art. And all good art pushes buttons. It pokes and prods, makes people uncomfortable.

The kind of provocation I enjoy reading is the kind which is passionately believed in by the writer.  Even if I can’t be convinced by an argument, it’s good to hear what people feel strongly about.  So I agree with Jeff’s exhortation to write something which challenges people and may even upset them:

Not for the sake of being being contentious or intentionally provocative, but for the sake of being honest.

I think that honesty is very difficult.  Some would say it’s more difficult nowadays than ever, and I don’t know if that’s true, but certainly I find that if you believe in any kind of absolute – moral, religious, whatever – it’s hard to say what you really think without someone telling you that your views are unacceptable and you shouldn’t really be holding them, let alone expressing them to other people.  Tolerance is a buzz-word used by many, but in fact for some people it isn’t sufficient to tolerate their view or behaviour – we have to accept it, support it, align our stance with theirs (interestingly, I find that the people who press most strongly for “tolerance” are the most intolerant of views which are different from their own).

In many cases, unless we’re among close friends, complete honesty isn’t possible – we have to adopt some sort of mask or persona, play down or conceal an interest or a view, in order to get on with those around us.  Some might call this deception, others might choose the word diplomacy.  The fact is, we all do it.

It’s difficult to be honest, even here, where the majority of you don’t know me, or who I am, but I do try to say what I think – when I have something to say.

Now, it’s not a surprise that the habits are becoming more challenging as it is, after all, Day 12 of 15.  And I don’t want my final few posts to be daily descriptions of why I can’t or won’t meet the challenge that’s been laid down for me.  But the fact is I’m not very good at provocation.  I’m really not political (I have very little interest in current affairs) and I hate confrontation to the point that it makes me feel ill.  I was once in a local department store, queuing to book an appointment at the in-store beauty salon, and had to leave because someone ahead of me in the queue had a complaint and was starting to make a scene, and if I had stayed I would have started to cry.

As a Christian, I’ve been taught many times that the opinion of my peers is not something which should affect my behaviour and certainly not something by which I should define myself, but instead to find contentment in God’s love for me and the work he’s doing in me.  I hope that I’m growing in that respect and finding more of my identity in being a follower of Jesus, but too much of the time I still find that I want people to like me!  So I behave accordingly, either by avoiding conflict or by choosing my words carefully so as not to inflame.  I seem to be a natural diplomat (there has been an issue at my children’s school which has prompted many parents to write letters of complaint; when I showed my letter to another mother she said “I love that – it’s so much softer and kinder than mine!”) and can find the right words to address a situation, usually getting my point across but not at the expense of the other party’s respect or temper!

Ultimately I’m well-versed in the art of not provoking, even when I have something bothering me.

And today is the most beautiful day.  It’s been sunny and warm all day, I have done countless loads of washing and got it all dry.  I’ve baked scones for my Bible study group (hardly anyone could make it but it was still a lovely time).  I’ve done all the washing up, because when the weather is like this I am so much more energised and able to work.  And to top it all off, we made a mistake when reading the recipe for the dinner we were going to have tonight and now don’t have time to make it, which means Southern Daddy is going to get fish and chips on his way home, even though it’s not the weekend!  I am not in the least bit disgruntled about anything.  In fact, to paraphrase P.G. Wodehouse, I am pretty much gruntled today, and really quite content.  Not a good day for writing any kind of polemic.  So instead, can I draw your attention to the last time I had a moan?  It’s kind of contentious – a little bit, anyway! – and I do still stand by what I said.

And tomorrow I promise I’ll try to do better at following the instructions!

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2 responses to “Unprovocative

  1. Cozziscorner says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that we all put on some sort of persona. I believe this to be true. I noticed when I started a blog that my writing changed because I had a lot of family and friends who followed my post. There are days where I would like to cross over and give my view of certain subjects or things that I feel differently about but I never do in fear of what others might think. Great subject here, thanks for sharing!

    • northmum says:

      Thank you for such a lovely comment 🙂 That’s exactly it, there’s always certain things we don’t want certain people to know we’re thinking! I’m always torn between wanting to be honest and wondering if the most loving thing is to tell people the truth or spare their offence! Maybe we should try being brave once in a while and see where it takes us!

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