I live my life pretty publicly and have for a while now. Granted, compared to a lot of other folks, it’s a lot less public but still with an easily googlable name, some press surrounding my ordination and other work, and an active online presence through social media my stuff is pretty much all out there.
One of the things that I have had to learn (and that frankly took me a lot longer than it should have) is that I don’t owe everyone a response.
When I first started blogging and being on twitter I felt like I needed to respond to every person who tweeted at me, every person who commented on a Facebook post, everyone who sent an email. I would rush to respond. I would explain. I would educate. I would answer. I would do so much work. And it was exhausting and stressful.
I would hear the ping and rush to my phone and then stress until I could post my response.
But what I have learned is that not everyone deserves a response. Some people are just shit talkers. For instance we recently got a comment on a post of mine on the Queer Theology Tumblr. I started to stress and write a response until I went to this person’s tumblr and saw that their entire thing is literally commenting on posts about queer Christians and being an ass. So why would I indulge their comment?
Or there are the people who ask a “question” that’s not really a question. You know those people. Or the ones who clearly read the title of the post but not the post itself. Or the folks who want to engage in long drawn out email discussions but who refuse to read the links to the articles where I have already answered their questions.
I don’t owe everyone a response. Even on a public post. I can delete hateful comments, I can let questions go unanswered.
Now, I try to respond to as many people as I can. And if someone is asking in good faith I can usually tell. But now if someone says something snarky I can also walk away from it without justifying myself. It’s led me to a more calm and thoughtful approach to my online use.
I share all of that to say this:
If you are a marginalized person, you don’t owe everyone a response either. Not online. Not in person. Not in your church. Not even in your family. You don’t owe someone an answer, an explanation, an education. There will always be people who demand your time and your energy. There will be folks who demand it in good faith and folks who demand it in bad. The key is to figure out where your boundaries are and to stick to them.
Sometimes those boundaries might shift depending on the day. Some days I have more energy and patience to educate folks. In some contexts I am more willing to do that work (in a paid workshop for instance). Other days I might be too busy dealing with other stuff and need to say “No” or “Not right now”. And the people who are coming to you in good faith and with respect will honor those boundaries. The people who get mad at you for having boundaries? Those are people to watch out for and stay away from.
Especially as the news comes fast and furious, the newest statement from Evangelicals demonizes more people, the arguing gets louder and louder: it’s okay to say No. I will not respond to this. I need to care for my own well-being. That doesn’t mean that I don’t call out injustice. It doesn’t mean that I don’t accept well thought out and offered pushback from people I trust. But it also doesn’t mean that I have to respond to every comment on Twitter. And neither do you.
Set those boundaries and keep them. Your health and well-being will be much better for it.