Perception and Bias

Under my post "Attention to Accuracy" there has been a discussion of whether or not I can make the claim that my book is 100% truthful, since it is subjective. Because the person challenging my representation of the truth is someone who has been harshly judmental of me and has claimed to know my motives and agendas in the past, it would be extremely easy for me to simply dismiss anything she has to say. But I don't want to do that.

I always take to heart the criticisms of others, whether they realize it or not. I always think about what is said to me and I often pray about it, asking God to allow me to see the truth even if it will be uncomfortable.

As a result of the recent discussion, I got a copy of my book out this morning and reread certain chapters in which I imagined that this person might have objections. I tried to reread them from her perspective and with her criticisms in the front of my mind.

I do not see any misrepresentations of the truth in my book. When it comes to facts and events, I struggled mightily to be completely accurate. But the book IS my perception of these events. It DOES give my opinion in many instances. I tried to make that clear by frequently using the words, "I believe" or "I could only assume" or "It seemed to me...." I did the same when sharing the views of others.

There were a few occasions when I said that something was an obvious attempt to manipulate or do damage control. I thought it was fairly reasonable to conclude that the reader would take this as being my perception of the obvious, as the author. However, while the book IS my perspective, it is certainly not mine alone. The same perspective is shared by many. And I have the written corroboration of many to back that up.

I just want to make it clear that when I say my book is truthful, I am referring to the facts in the book. It is fair to say that my opinions are not shared by all in many cases. I think that is also fairly obvious. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect anyone who remains in CGT to agree with my conclusions. They are MY conclusions. But I truly did attempt to write without making harsh judgments. And even when it came to the drastic changes in standards immediately following the lawsuits, I very intentionally questioned rather than judged the motivation behind those sudden changes because I did not want to be guilty of assuming I absolutely knew someone else's heart or motives.

I do not ever want to simply take a knee-jerk, defensive posture when challenged by anyone; even someone who has been unkind and hurtful toward me. I tried not to do that when I initially read Libby's comments. I tried to limit my response and communicate privately with her about my trust issues. However, as she pursued the dialogue openly, I wound up reminding her publicly of some of my specific reasons for feeling guarded with her personally. My response was so long that I had to use two comment boxes because the character count exceeded the limit. So I obviously stopped trying to limit myself.

I just want to acknolwedge that the book is absolutely written from my perspective. My perspective is not necessarily everyone else's perspective. And it is certainly not Libby's. But it is very easy to verify the factual accuracy of the book. Take my opinions or leave them when it comes to my ultimate conclusions. But in every instance, I attempted to meticulously substantiate the basis for my opinions. If a reader feels that I failed to do that; though I may disagree, I acknowledge their right to hold a different view.

In rereading my account of the 2004 meeting this morning, I could not help but reflect on how easy it would have been to establish the truth by simply offering the DVD. But only an edited version was even offered in legal proceedings. It was claimed that this was because of respect for victims' privacy. Yet everything I said in that meeting was edited out. And everything Danny said was edited out. We didn't share anything private about any victims. Neither did we ask for privacy or protection. Now, my conclusion about why the DVD was so carefully guarded IS my opinion. But in fairness, is the conclusion completely without basis?

I would ask any critic of my book to read it with that question in mind. Are my conclusions so far fetched or without basis? I don't think so. I think I was extremely fair in the book and very careful with my words. I had no desire to hurt people. I refrained from using people's names whenever it wasn't absolutely necessary to name them. I cared about people's privacy. And I tried to help readers understand that there were many good people in that group, which was why I had such a hard time completely detaching myself from some.

I realize no author can please everyone with the content of a book; especially such a personal book. Some readers thought I was WAY too kind. One person even told me she threw the book across the room because I was so kind and there was such a lack of anger (when she thought it would have been more appropriate to be angry). And that was not Jennifer, by the way. Others, like Libby, are critical of the book for much different reasons. And I think both reactions are understandable.

I like this Flannery O'Connor quote and I have adopted it since publishing my testimony.

"When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God's business." ~ Flannery O' Connor

Comments

Libby said…
I was unkind and hurtful to you. I shunned you at the courhouse...I should not have even gone. I publicly apologize to you for that and I truly mean it.

Initially in the past few years' events, I reacted to you thinking I knew the whole story...which I didn't. I became fueled by emotion and I couldn't see beyond my own reactions.

For the sake of fairness to me and in my defense I just want to say that I was shocked and emotionally distraught during the height of the past several years' events. The hurtful internet postings, the emails sent to anyone whose addresses could be found, to try to bash me and my friends, ..not a building, not an organization called CGT, but people. And the innocent children and young people, who became carelessly thrown into the chaos at their school.. its those "good people" that you mention, you have tried to affect and anull their faith. So yes, I have been angry.... and hurt too. Your own hurt and defense of family and friends does not make the hurt of others mutually exclusive.

Well...you are absolutely right. I have been very, very angry with you in the past. Taken in context, I can justify "some" of my anger but I don't want to justify any of it. I do not want to find a comfortable place where I can hide away and redefine it so that it can keep its abode in my heart.

My initial comment to you was about the book. You have said more than once that no one critical of the book had read it.
I knew it would cause a reaction from you...but my comment was to create a dialogue, not push a button. Although I knew there was a good chance that it would and maybe I should have left it alone but I am feeling like I did the right thing, however clumsily.

My comment about the book was not clear enough. I didn't read it just to see if I was in it, however that was a reason.

One last note...I have apologized to you in the past and I asked you for forgiveness, privately in an email, the last one I sent to you. You dismissed it and thanked me for writing. I have not saved any emails but perhaps you still have it.

So, I ask you publicly to forgive me for my anger, for being so quick to react against you. I am willing to stand up for truth, as much as the Lord gives me the wisdom to see it and live in it, to the best of my ability. I love the truth and I think I can prove that I do but I cannot prove that I have always acted in it.

I have not received any private emails from you in the last couple of days. I don't know what address you used. I still would like to see you and talk to you in person. .

Libby
Shari said…
Libby,

I sincerely accept your apology and I forgive you. I do have all of our emails saved and I will check to make sure my memory is correct, but I do not remember you asking forgiveness in any of your emails. I remember you saying you forgave me, but being surprised that you did not ask me to forgive you. I always took that to indicate you didn't feel any conviction about the way you had treated me. I reread every one of our emails as I was writing the book because I did not want to misrepresent our dialogue. My goal was to be precisely accurate.

I am not sure what you're talking about when you refer to emails sent to "anyone whose addresses could be found" to bash you and your friends. Are you insinuating I did that? Because I did not. And I am not responsible for the actions of others. I did post my convictions and experiences on a message board, which I explained in my book. I do not believe that I was taught the true gospel until after I left CGT. I believe the things I was taught were harmful to me and others. I'm sorry if the acknowledgment of that causes pain for you or others, but I don't have the power to annul anyone else's faith with my words. Just as you don't have that power in my life.

I did not set out to negatively affect others with my book and when you state that, you are making another misjudgment. But I understand why you feel the way you do.

You have every right to challenge my book - and so does anyone else. But I stand behind it.

If anything pushed my buttons, it was the way you expressed yourself. Your initial comment struck me as condescending and a bit sarcastic in places. You said later that your goal was reconciliation, but there was no hint of that in your initial comment.

I am not guilty of hurting innocent children and I am really surprised you would make such a remark considering that so much of this "chaos" was a result of innocent children not being protected in CGT. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you don't realize how you come across sometimes. But if my words provoke more anger from you than the reality of what has gone on and been covered up or a pastor lying under oath, then I don't even know how to respond to that. I don't understand those priorities.

I'm glad you openly criticized the book and I'm thankful for the opportunity to have this dialogue on my blog. I want to make it very clear that I do not have a problem with you going on record as having read the book and opposing it. But if you are going to suggest publicly that I have not told the truth about something, I think you should be willing to back that up with a specific example. However, if you simply disagree with my perception or how I feel or what I have concluded from the facts, then that is a difference of opinion.

Prior to your comments, all the feedback I have received from readers (even readers who are still IN the group and/or have family in the group) have acknowledged the truth of my book and the fairness in my representation of it. The words used most often by the majority have been "fair" and "factual." Even people who had mixed feelings about the book for other reasons communicated to me that it was obvious to them that I didn't want to hurt people and I tried to protect people's privacy in many cases where I could have chosen the opposite. Not one person, other than you, has accused me of not telling the truth. Now that you have gone on record (albeit vaguely) as disputing the integrity of the book, I will not make the claim that nobody who has read it has challenged it. But I still stand behind the integrity of my book.
Shari said…
I sent my email to your gmail address, which was the one attached to your Google profile in my email notification of your first comment. If that is not your current address, let me know and I will forward it to you.

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