Thinking Out Loud in Public

Sean Lucas
When I was a little bit younger, I used to have the habit of talking to myself. Out loud. In public. 

I was never really loud. But I would often have a conversation with myself--sometimes it was as I was working out something, like directions when I was lost; sometimes it was when I did something silly or foolish ("Drive much, Lucas? No, not much" as I rolled over the curb); sometimes it when I didn't have much going on and I felt lonely.

But I noticed that as I did this, people around me would sort of look at me funny. I took their looks to be criticism that they would express (hopefully, not out loud to themselves, which would make them hypocritical) if they had the chance. And after having this same experience repeatedly, I largely stopped talking to myself. At least, not out loud. Or at least, not in public.

In some ways, blogging is a form of thinking out loud in public. In fact, all social media has this element--thoughts are tried out whether in long form (like a blog post) or in short form (like a tweet or Facebook post), but often it is an exercise of talking to one's self. In the sense that these ideas are expressed in ways that make sense to ourselves, but can often draw funny looks from others, if not outright criticism.

I've thought about this quite a bit over the past few weeks as I've made my way around the blogosphere and twitterverse. On blogs and tweets written by Reformed evangelicals, thoughts and comments that would make perfect sense to ourselves, written in a tone or form that makes complete sense to ourselves, have received intense criticism. Sometimes the content has been helpful; at other times, not so much. Sometimes the tone has been Gospel-filled; most of the time, not so much.

But the thing that has struck me is this: while we often think about blogs and tweets and Facebook posts as "thinking out loud in public," we really don't expect and we really are surprised when the public reacts with a tilt of the head, a squint of the eye, a caustic word. And it is then that it occurs to us, "Oh, maybe these words that I am putting out in public really are in public. And maybe this conversation that made so much sense to me as I talked to myself doesn't make so much sense after all."

And maybe we need to remember these words of wisdom: "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways" (James 3:1-2). In other words, when we begin thinking out loud in public, we need to be careful what we say and how we say it. Because those around us--the public--will judge us with great strictness, with more than a titled head. And they should: because the cause of Jesus is at stake.