Rules of Engagement

May Saint Isidore of Seville guide us as we surf the internet.

As our world becomes more complex and new ways of communicating happen along we need to try to keep in mind that there are real flesh and blood people on the other end of the internet with whom we are trying to engage. It’s a challenge to translate our new modes of communication into our old understanding and often something is lost in the translation.

Several years ago I put together a list of “ground rules” to help us communicate on various church egroups et cetera. While it was developed to help our interaction in an egroup or elist setting, this list of “rules” is a great thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to communicate with another child of God in cyberspace. This is certainly not my wisdom but the wisdom of saints and wise men, both past and present.

Here are the ground rules I gathered together. I hope this helpful to you in some small way as you navigate cyberspace developing and deepening relationships with other children of God:

1. Our guiding rule as we post:

“Let the tongue have it’s rein firmly in the heart.” –St. Columbanus

2. A good thing to remember when companioning our brothers and sisters:

“Oppression is not only evil, it is blasphemous because it makes a child of God doubt that s/he is a child of God.” –Archbishop Desmond Tutu

3. A good thing to practice with our brothers and sisters during disagreement:

“He [the monk] should not speak evil of, or harshly reproach, another, nor should he put anyone to the blush. Never should he violently rebuke anyone or carry on a conversation with a boorish person, and his speech at all times should be noted for its lack of boastfulness.” –Monastic rule of St. Ailbe

4. When we take ourselves too seriously remember:

“Pious humbug is an invention of the devil.” –St. Comgal

5. When you’re feeling a little full of yourself and tempted to speak down to a companion think on this:

“Do not ever think yourselves better than the rest of your companions who share the same faith.” –St. Cuthbert

6. When someone new comes to the list seeking fellowship keep in mind:

“Do not despise those faithful who come to you seeking hospitality. Receive them, put them up, and set them on their way with kindness, treating them as one of yourselves.” –St. Cuthbert

7. In the haste of irritation be mindful of your free will and your choice of posts:

“The freedom to choose makes us like God: if we choose evil, that freedom becomes a curse;if we choose good, it becomes our greatest blessing.” –Pelagius

8. And when you interact try your best to see Christ present in the other person:

“See in each herb and small animal, every bird and beast, and in each man and woman, the eternal Word of God.” –St. Ninian