Thursday, July 9, 2009

Trueman's Second Law

In a recent article on Reformation 21 by Carl Trueman, titled Is Hurt Mail the New Hate Mail, he lays out a principle that I, for one, know is true from personal experience. He calls this principle "Trueman's Second Law," which "would be formulated something like this: in any exchange of views, sooner or later one or more of the participants will describe themselves as hurt or in pain as a result of somebody else's comment; and at that point it is clear that they have lost the real debate."

He then goes on to expound his views on "pain" and "hurt."
I confess that I have a serious problem with all this alleged pain and suffering because these terms and associated words are, by and large, being used in vacuous and trivial ways. What, for example, should I do when I receive a note from someone who claims to be "hurt" by something I have written which she described as a "personal attack," despite the fact that I have never heard of her and was completely unaware of her existence until she chose to contact me? Now, I am no philosopher, but it would seem to be logically necessary for me to know of the actual existence of somebody before I can launch a personal attack upon them. Thus, to respond as this person did would seem to point to one of two possible explanations: she was a narcissist and thus incapable of understanding that articles written by another could possibly not be aimed at her; or (and frankly, more likely), she was clueless about controversial discourse and unable to separate critique of a particular viewpoint from a malicious attack on any person who might hold to said viewpoint.

After further discussion on the nature of "pain" and "hurt," he closes his article this this paragraph.
Expressions of hurt are too often really something else: cowardly attempts by representatives of a cosseted and self-obsessed culture to make themselves uniquely important or, worse still, to bully and cajole somebody they dislike to stop saying things they don't want to hear or which they find distasteful. My advice to such is akin to that of the counselor in the Bob Newhart sketch: Stop it! If somebody's writing or speaking hurts you, ask yourself "Why?", don't whine about the discomfort. Get a grip, get yourself some trousers, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and please, please, please, don't hide behind the aesthetic pietisms of the tiresome and clich├ęd `feel my pain while I process my hurt' posse. Have the backbone, have the decency - nay, have the honesty - to take your licks and move on, either to addressing the substance of the argument or to some area of endeavour that is, well, perhaps less painful and hurtful for you.

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