Stir It Up

These days it’s easier than ever to stir things up.  While it’s always been possible to start an argument with someone, today’s social media and interactive news sites are particularly well-suited for flamethrowers and pot stirrers and seem to draw them in like flies to you-know-what.

I’ve been sucked into the fray myself a few times, but I’ve found that I can usually eliminate the temptation by not reading comments on news sites and by blocking or ignoring provocateurs on social media.

That’s not to say I don’t ever want to do some stirring of my own.  I hope sometimes to stir up some things on this blog for example.  But I try not to be unkind or obnoxious when I do.

An ancient writer urged folks to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”  That’s good advice I think and something I need to work harder on.

Don’t neglect meeting together and encouraging one another, the writer continued, especially in anxious times.

Saturday night we hosted our monthly gathering of the group we call “Piedmont Sustainable Living.”  We had an excellent pot luck supper followed by a fun and interesting discussion of natural and home remedies. A lot of wisdom and good advice was shared.

We also discussed our county’s plan to try to attract over 500 chicken CAFOs and a monstrous processing plant to our community.  On that subject, I think it’s fair to say we were stirring up one another.

It seems to me that when a group of people gather in friendship to help and encourage one another, the stirring they do will be good. On the other hand, it seems to me that the stirring that happens when angry people bang out insults on their keyboards is just a pointless waste of energy and passion.


19 comments on “Stir It Up

  1. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, stirring up in things of agreement can be encouraging but stirring up things in disagreement usually always causing friction. Is the CAFO and processing plant an issue that the community can put on a voting ballot or is it decided by a group of board members? In our state of Nebraska the people can get things put on a voting ballet by registered voters signing a petition. I forget how many signatures are needed but almost every election here there are issues we vote on because of petitions.

    Social media has provided an environment where things can be said without consequence. Harsh remarks can be hurled at unknown people without any danger of witnessing emotion from those that read the comments. People seem to think that blurting out any hurtful remark is OK. I won’t engage in a conversation that is jaded with inappropriate remarks. Nothing that’s said will change any one’s mind because argument level discussions never do. I just try to say on social media what I would say to the person if I was standing right in front of them.

    Have a great positive stirring up day.


    • Bill says:

      You’re right about arguments not changing minds. There was a study done a few years ago that tested how people with strongly held political opinions react to data that refutes their beliefs. What the study found was that not only did the data not cause people to change their minds, it actually resulted in them becoming more entrenched in their belief.

      Recently I put up a post on facebook asking the people who regularly post their political opinions there whether doing so had ever changed the mind of even one person. It ended up triggering an argument (not involving me) so I had to delete it. Sigh. But one of my friends responded by pointing out that I often post about food issues, presumably in the hope of influencing peoples’ opinions, which is a variation of the same thing. I suppose that’s true.


  2. bobraxton says:

    I thought there was enough chicken processing in or near Siler City (NC) – Chatham County


    • Bill says:

      Americans are eating more chicken than ever. But even more significant is the booming export business to China. If we end up with a chicken factory here, every part of the chicken other than the breast will be sent by rail to Norfolk then floated across 4 oceans to China.


  3. avwalters says:

    The difference may be in how one defines community. Certainly, a meeting like the one you describe would usually be a beneficial stirring. If like minded folk meet to discuss and explore plans of action–especially face-to-face–it builds community. This can also be done with a face-to-face meeting (especially with breaking bread) with the other side, if both sides have a community objective in the outcome of the discussion. Though I frequently engage in online discussions and politics, the lack of real community there often reduces to the effort to just so much noise.


  4. associatedluke says:

    I love the idea of “spurring one another one.” But when it just becomes an ideological flame war with no want of a relationship, I’m out.

    I recently stopped visiting a site that kept going that route. Great people, I’ll miss them, but I don’t have time or the energy to try to bend that site toward blessing. I’d rather invest that time to real time church stuff than online ones. Which is why I like coming here so much. We don’t have to agree, but we are respectful and looking to understand. At least… i think we are?


    • beeholdn says:

      Yes, associatedluke, that sounds about right to me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Discussion here has always been civil. My own practice (intent at least) is to make sure I never type anything I wouldn’t say to the person in a face to face conversation. The worst online conversations I’ve seen are those where the posters are totally anonymous. They are often flame wars and to no point. No real information is being exchanged, they’re just launching insults at one another.


  5. Joanna says:

    I like a good debate with a true thrashing out of opinions, but like everyone else I hate the flame throwing, as associatedluke puts it. Why can we not agree to disagree and metaphorically shake hands at the end of it? How are we supposed to learn if we all agree? I like this site too for the gentleness, so yes, let’s stir each other up to better ways of living


    • Bill says:

      For many years I made my living by arguing. I know it can be done well and effectively, with handshakes when it’s over. That was generally my experience. Of course it can be ugly too, but it takes two to make it so. I found that the best way to deal with an abrasive opponent who favors ad hominem arguments is to refuse to respond it kind. It often disarmed them.

      I don’t often post things that are likely to generate arguments. But I’m confident that if I did the arguments would be civil. This just isn’t a fun place for the flamethrowers to hang out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

        ” I found that the best way to deal with an abrasive opponent who favors ad hominem arguments is to refuse to respond it kind. It often disarmed them.”

        I learned that lesson not in law school but by my first marriage. ; )


  6. EllaDee says:

    Time and place… yesterday I attended a lunch hosted by my Firm where a prominent Australian scientist and climate change expert spoke. I felt he oversold the solutions linked to science, development, infrastructure, etc and undersold i.e.didn’t mention reducing the consumption that is placing demands on the world’s energy and resources. But no way was I going to put my hand up where I was and say so!


    • Bill says:

      It’s always good to use some discretion. I attended a couple of public meetings our county had on the chicken factory proposal. They were poorly publicized (intentionally I think) and at least 90% of the attendees were in favor (having received emailed invitations from the Ag Board). I considered just staying silent, keeping my powder dry for a better day, but in the end decided to speak up. I didn’t make any friends that night. Deciding which way to go in a situation like that is a judgment call. I hope I sowed a few seeds of doubt, but it’s possible all I did was waste my breath.

      By the way, we’ve seen the kind of thing you’re talking about frequently. People who think we can buy and recycle our way to sustainability. It can be maddening.


  7. pattisj says:

    I agree, the anonymous and/or unseen do like to stir it up, in a negative way. May we be able to offset it with kindness


  8. shoreacres says:

    First, a side note on chicken. At breakfast Saturday morning, we were in a local café and chatting with our waitress. She asked if we knew about Lou’s grocery in a nearby small town. She had stopped there and bought a roasting hen. She was amazed, almost beyond words, by how good it was. As she put it, it was a “real chicken” like her grandmother used to fix — small, and tasty, without that huge breast that always turns out dry. As she put it, “I guess that’s what they mean by that difference between factory chickens and good chickens.” One person at a time.

    As for stirring things up — don’t you think it’s inevitable, even when not intentional? Words are funny things. We’re never quite sure what they’re going to do when we send them out into the world, and different people can respond to them quite differently. My current post is pretty much nostalgia with a tiny bit of edge, but it pushed one commenter’s buttons, big time. When that happens, it takes effort to figure out what the other person’s real concern is, and how to respond without defensiveness or snark.

    The other thing to remember is that we never know who’s reading. I stumbled into the comment section of a blog I’ve read for years the other day, and was shocked by what I found there. I’m pretty sure the blogger wouldn’t have said to me directly what he said to someone else in the comment section, but I still read it. It was quite a lesson.


    • Bill says:

      I still have a cartoon you sent me a long time ago titled “internet argument.” I don’t know if you remember it, but it resonated with me.

      For a long time I didn’t use emoticons. Now I use them a lot. Maybe it’s because I’m too lazy to make sure I choose my words as carefully as I should but also it’s because in this kind of virtual conversation it’s easier (I think) to give offense than it is in face to face conversations, where meaning can be conveyed by more than just words.


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