So often, (please forgive me) I have been frustrated by the commenters who take my posts out of context, pulling out this or that sentence or point and trying, it seems to make my post about something it is not. Much of this failure is mine; often I am not clear, often it is a difficult thing, and sometimes it is something that can only be understood by someone who is going through the same thing I am while I write about it.
Sometimes I try to address within the post what I know will become a stumbling block for this or that type of reader, but it seems, always, that my most introspective posts manage to invite comments by those who simply cannot grasp where I am coming from or where I am going. It's impossible and unwieldy to even TRY to make ever commenter happy in catering to their needs. Thus, in the end, the frustration is with myself, in my inability to be all things to all people.
Some time ago, while trying to keep my frustration under wraps, I found a way to express it by writing a humorous post about what would happen if St. Augustine had blogged "Confessions." I didn't pick on any commenters in particular, but admittedly went for reality to include the rational and annoying both. You can find that post here. Any blogger could relate and add to the commentary.
This is where I circle around to bring in my actual subject matter for this post: I have come to realize the speaker I was forced to listen to that day had a point, and truly, there are three types of people in the world, and all of them have commented at my blog at one time or another.
Understanding the types of people (therefore readers/commenters) can go a very long way towards responding to them according to who they are, and this leads to blog success. More specifically, it leads to success in evangelization THROUGH the blog - or any other medium, for that matter.
(Yes, I'm shameless. Why are you shocked?)
Without further ado, I introduce you to the three types of people found everywhere in the world through every single medium, including blog com boxes:
These are the people who just want to know WHAT the problem is if there is one, or if not, WHAT the subject is about and therefore, WHAT they should do. These are the same people who want short blog posts and who are looking for the fine points in any given published article or online post. They favor bullet points over paragraphs and wouldn't be able to survive without printers and highlighters
In some sense, I think that they might be the most likely to take longer posts out of context, just because of their inherent nature to ask "What the hell are you talking about so I can respond and get it over with?" These are the people who look to the Passion of Christ as a necessary business, but would prefer not to emote too much over it.
The "What" people are pragmatic, practical, to-the-point, realistic, logical, and want to prioritize. They don't have time for trivialities and quickly tap their feet when confronted by both the "Why" people and the "How" people, whom they see as being extremists and polar opposites.
To evangelize them one must focus mainly on who Jesus is and the fittingness arguments as to the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection. The challenge in formation for the "What" people is often to bring in both doctrinal and mystical theology to make sure they do not focus only on outcome, i.e., "getting the job done."
Many "What" people are most probably Thomists or Scholastics.
These are the people who are the most empathetic among us. They tend to be the most optimistic, the ones who most desperately flee any semblance of suffering in favor of "looking to the good things", often to the degree of outright denial of the necessity of obstacles. In their empathy they are looking for the same empathy they offer out of their own inherent virtue, and are often bitterly disappointed, but to be fair, are honestly confused when others aren't as "Resurrection-oriented" as they are. They suffer greatly in this area and struggle to maintain their optimism.
The "Why" people tend to be the ones who are most offended and have the thinnest skin when it comes to the reality of sin in the world, wanting both to deny it in general and for themselves, focusing so desperately on the "positive" that they willfully deny the very important positive point of redemptive suffering.
This group is the most difficult to evangelize; they are emotionally driven to the deprivation of the intellectual. It is therefore important, when evangelizing a "Why" person, to find points of identification, such as that provided by the Saints. Find a Saint that most resembles the individual, build the points while you build the relationship of friendship and support with that individual.
Keep in mind that with a "Why" it isn't about facts or history or doctrine...it is all about whether they like you or not, and whether you can transfer their affection for you to affection for Christ so that He reigns. It's a long-term project, and it means that you're going to become family members and best friends long before the "Why" finally accepts the teaching of Christ. Why? Because it's all about emotion and trust. It's entirely possible for a Why to adapt to a more realistic approach, but it takes time and patience. When it happens, though, get out of the way for the Why can easily become a How when they recognize the importance of their mission, and NOTHING stops them!
You'll find a lot of "Why" people focusing on Catholic Social Teaching, but the challenge in forming them tends towards the emphasis of the doctrinal teachings and why they are important. They are excellent in the field of encouragement and intercessory prayer (you'll never find someone more dedicated to intercession!), make great motivational speakers, and are often found peddling politics and special causes.
These are the "doers" of society who keep things running.
The "Why" people are the ones most likely to find a philosophical basis in conceptualism and/or relativism. They can be guided towards Scholasticism and may adopt other philosophies according to their formation and emotional approach to spirituality.
Oh, this is probably the most complicated of all. They are perhaps the bane of my existence.
The "Hows" are the concrete-numbers-only-literalists among us. They tend to be engineers and mathmeticians, or even worse, actuaries. They might even be librarians (although most librarians are more flexible and personable.) Most likely, they work for the IRS, the KGB, or the CIA. Or maybe the DMV.
These are the people who, upon being notified of a meeting, demand to know the topic, the content, what they should bring, and then prepare spreadsheets with all sorts of complicated figures so that they will be certain to know each and every detail and be able to contribute to influencing it.
You'll never find a politician among this group. The "How" people are far too intelligent to ever condescend to mere politics. They make up the backbone of any organization, the unsung heroes in the dingy basement office of the highest skyscraper, spending their days with numbers, printouts and ever-changing computer code.
Evangelizing a "How" is quite difficult. If they are not already faithful, they tend towards the atheistic spectrum, although do have a special love of logic. The only people who can really evangelize a "How" have a deep grasp of philosophy, a love of concrete facts, and only bring in the mystical when it is absolutely necessary AND when the How is ready to go to the next level. It's a very tricky task, but once a How has converted...get out of the way!
"Hows" make the best Scripture Scholars and Systematic Theologians.
The challenge in the formation of a How is in the realm of true pastoral relations and divine pedagogy; making sure that the person receiving the message is actually prepared to receive it.
Philosophically speaking, the "How" people tend to cross the spectrum; but once converted, tend towards Thomism, Scholasticism, Moral Ethics, and Natural Law.
I have detailed above the three types of people, and having had a year or so to consider it, have come to the conclusion that the speaker was correct. I work with all three types of people and their combinations.
Most people belong to a combination of categories. For myself, I am a What-Why, only rarely tapping into How.
It is no surprise that I sometimes become frustrated when I am not understood through this medium, and probably, my readers likewise are not understood.
Although I've taken a (dry) humorous approach on this, I invite my readers to look at the categories (What, Why, How), suggest your own take on philosophy, evangelization, and characteristics, and post them in the com box.
Keep it light, keep it fun, and keep it real.
It might be Lent, but that doesn't mean we have to give up being geeks!