Steve Kneale has written an excellent article here about how you can come under pressure on social media to give your opinion on a whole host of issues and why he has not given his opinion on a range of issues. His reasons include, that he doesn’t know enough about the issue and that he isn’t actually that interested, the second arising out of another of his reasons, that we are finite, we cannot be involved in everything.
I agree with Steve, now once you have even a slight reputation as someone who thinks and says stuff, such as through a blog, that pressure comes but actually, this can be true of any of us in any walk of life, though I think there are particular pressures on leaders. I don’t want to take away from Steve’s reasons but I would like to add one more.
Sometimes, there will be something that you will be interested in and you will know something about it. You may even know more than what is being shared publicly. However, your public intervention may not be helpful. This perhaps relates a little to Steve’s example of “because if I said it, then it would upset people.” Sometimes, it is right to say things even when they will cause upset and sometimes you may not particularly consider your views upsetting to your own hearers but yo will still not want to say anything. Why? Well, because you may conclude that it isn’t helpful for you to comment.
This may relate at times to the two questions I have suggested previously that it is important to ask. Do I have competency and do I have jurisdiction. Competency means that not only do I know stuff about something but that I have a level of expertise, training and experience that enables me to verify and prioritise what I say. It’s worth noting at this point that I may know quite a lot about something but if I don’t have competency then I won’t be able to asses the “what I still don’t know” apect. I may know 50%, 75% or even 99% about what is going on but the 1% I don’t know might completely reshape the story and my telling the 99% may distort perceptions.
The other question is about jurisdiction. Is it my responsibility to speak about something? Do the people who really need to hear stuff recognise me as someone who has something to contribute? This also means that by talking about something outside of my jurisdiction may well affect my role where I do have jurisdiction. For example, you may want to know my opinion about what is rumoured to be going on at church x. Now, it could be that I know quite a bit about what is happening there, I may have strong personal opinions about whether or not they are using the right music, whether the pastor’s preaching is any good, whether they handled a pastoral issue well. However, quite frankly, it is none of my business or your business if we are not part of that church. We aren’t in a position to shape what happens there, we don’t know the whole picture and so our thoughts aren’t going to help. But more than that if I get involved as a busy body in the business of another church, then that may affect my ability to serve well and lead well as an elder in the church where I have got responsibilities.
Timing is another factor. Sometimes, this simply isn’t the right time to comment because there are other things happening that may help to resolve an issue and it might be that my intervention will disrupt that. An obvious example of this is that when there are legal proceedings then you should not comment in a way that could disrupt them.
There may also be times when you don’t tell me stuff because you rightly conclude that it is unhelpful for me to know . You recognise that I’m being tempted by gossip. There may be times when what I know is not for me to say, it is another person’s story to tell, even though I know it well. There may be times when talking about this or that thing might distract from what we need to talk about.
Finally, it may not be helpful because I’ve been asked not to comment on it. For example, the elders of a church may agree that none of them should comment on party political issues. It shows respect and accountability when you refrain even if you disagree with that approach. It may be that I know my wife would prefer me not to get involved in certain debates. There have also been times when I’ve been ready to comment and I’ve had a strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s inner prompting, that this isn’t for me to say right now.
So, it is important to ask, before commenting whether or not my comments (and yours) will actually be helpful or a hindrance.