Civility and Criticism

It has been ages since I’ve written on here, and to my adoring public (all 3 of you), I do apologise. You’ve probably suffered many a restless night in my absence, wondering what had become of me.

Marcus and I have been revamping the Lārhūs Fyrnsida website and working on a corresponding curriculum, hence my relative inactivity here and elsewhere.

Now, onto the topic at hand.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of civility and proselytisation  lately. If there is one thing that reconstructionists, like myself, are regularly accused of , it’s incivility. We correct, criticise and are generally argumentative folks. While I agree that civility is good and is sometimes (read: often)  lacking in Heathen discourse, I think it’s important to understand the why of civility. In a Heathen context, incivility puts undue stress on the Hearth, the Sibbe, the Folc and colours your reputation and those associated with you accordingly. To be Heathen is to remember you do not act alone.

But there is a fine line between incivility and perceived incivility. One of the most frequent retorts I’ve seen to criticism is “you can’t judge me,” or that judgement is in some way an uncivil thing to do. Heathens judge people, we judge people based on their actions and practices using accepted ritual action and tradition as a metric. We rely heavily on reputation and the judgement calls associated with a person’s or group’s reputation. If a person’s luck seems bad, or their practices are completely at odds with ideas of purity, sacrality, whatever, does it not make sense to make a judgement and distance yourself accordingly?

The second common statement I see is, “if you criticise people, they will leave Heathenry.” I have very mixed feelings about a statement like this one. As Heathens, we aren’t really out there on a mission to save souls and preach the gospel according to the Gods, or something. Yes, I want to see better Heathens appear and grow, but I think a part of growth is accepting that you don’t know everything and that others might know more than you. As the Yogi, Sadhguru said in one of his lectures, “You will know your guru because he will not agree with you and push you into places that make you uncomfortable.” I’m paraphrasing there, but that was the general idea, anyway and I wholeheartedly agree with it. It’s quality over quantity with regard to new Heathens, at least in my mind.

So where am I going with this? I guess I’m saying that civility is good and cohesion and order are good, but criticism and judgement are not what I’d consider uncivil. Quite the contrary, really. Criticism and judgement are both inherent to Heathen ideas of reputation and educational growth respectively.

But hey, you don’t need to listen to me, maybe I’m not your Guru.


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