On 12/29/11 a member was suspended from our group for the first time. Many of you may be confused about the line he crossed. The last thing we need is unarticulated anxiety that inhibits members from contributing, because they're unsure what Matt Rugar did wrong.

Groups need a safe emotional environment. When a member shares a painful personal experience, doubts, fears, or other personal vulnerabilities, he/she is giving all of us a precious gift. When another member uses that information to insult, ridicule, or attack the giving member, it's not just a betrayal of trust toward the individual. It's an attack on the group itself. If such betrayal goes unanswered, security shatters in the group. Members are reduced to superficialities, with no possibility for mutual validation. It sends a painful message, "nobody is safe here."

Matt Rugar didn't just attack Joan, when he said this, he betrayed the trust of the entire group.

Joan is still whinning about some thing that happened 4 decades ago and attacks who ever does not join her in her pity party. She goes from group to group to be martyerd.

So how does one give negative feedback without betraying trust and making others feel unsafe?


1. Qualify your criticism as your opinion or perception.


Example: (where X is an offending sexist remark)

Instead of saying "You're sexist." say,

            "That sounds sexist to me."

            "When he said X, I  heard a sexist remark."

            "To my ears that smacks of sexism." or

            "I perceive X as sexist."


By qualifying what we say as our judgment, we show respect for the person. We imply that he/she could do better. We present the behavior as a mistake. We imply that we too make mistakes, from time to time,  that we are equal adults. This is called making the person/behavior distinction.

When we label an offender, we imply that this bad behavior is a defining trait, that he/she is not capable of doing better, and that he/she is therefore inferior.


2. Avoid "Mind Reading", i.e. claiming to know the intent of others. Nobody knows what  goes on inside the head of other people. In the example above, Matt claimed to know what goes on in Joan's head. Here again, this is easily avoided by qualifying what you say as your interpretation, your reaction, your judgment. You can say you "feel as if", or "get the impression that."

Views: 1843

Replies to This Discussion

VICTIM - RESCUER - PERSECUTOR - Mind Games..........

Just because a person promotes such a dialogue using the above three (3) words - everyone jumps on the bandwagon like sheep. Does anyone challenge such a simplistic categorization? No, they vote 'yes'....thus boxing themselves into a 'nice safe place'.

I see 'congenitally conservative' - 'change resistant' responses. It's like worshipping the status quo - what you've always done you'll continue to do - even if  someone slightly challenged you. You're not going to even consider the possibility of a dialogue - what you're going to say is: " I do such and such - and if you don't like it - deal with it". Then up steps the resident 'doctorate of words' and begins using words such as 'mind games' - victim, rescuer, and persecutor. You see exactly what you want to see like a dying victim in the desert when in fact - there is nothing there. You think every moving thing is out to get YOU personally. Wake up - it just ain't so!

That's status quo - and most likely part and parcel of the Christian religion we all adore. Christians can verify/justify their actions - moral or immoral - why can't atheists? Christian's use GAWD to justify everything and the only answers some atheists can come up with is: I don't have to justify what I do in this society - it's not against the law - so there. (Slavery wasn't 'against the law' so justify that)

Everyone understands who/what/where/when this subject is about. There are actually atheists out there that do not react in such a way. They don't always play it safe...and they never feel the need to call names. Yes, using such language as persecutor, victim, and rescuer is also name calling.

"Yes, using such language as persecutor, victim, and rescuer is also name calling."

I disagree, it's just identifying a rather cowardly form of bullying. 

Steven, I feel very sad that you receive information that could be helpful and useful to you to get your messages across. Your concerns are valid. We don't pay enough attention to all those problems you brought up and we should.
I, personally, feel attacked, accused, blamed, criticized, bullied, put-down, discounted, trivialized and unappreciated when I read your messages. 
Yes, I can assure everyone your data on family violence is valid;

Yes, I know first hand your description of treatment of farm animals and they can easily be demonstrated;

Yes, I value your contribution to raising public awareness of very important issues;

Yes, I feel bullied, I don't like the feeling, I want to get on to solutions, I know about the problems, I want to start some conversation about how we can make changes. Right now I feel so defensive I just want to shut down the computer and go to some place where I can feel good and proud, and effective and efficient. I even feel rebellious, I am going to cook up a nice beef steak and eat it with gusto. I will deal with my feelings of guilt when I experience gas from all the red meat and I will remember that delicious beef steak was a sentient creature, and I don't believe in causing another pain. 

Yes, I feel guilt. Is that what you want? Is that all you want? Is what you are doing working?

Then instead of writing how 'guilty' you feel (why is that?) why didn't you simply offer up all the solutions you've spoken about? Why didn't anyone? Because they simply do not care. That was stated loud and clear and I'm really Ok with that.

Joan, by manipulation you've been silenced. In essence they've put a very large muffler on you. Now, you can't (hardly) be heard coming or going anymore. They like it this way.

Where is that V-8 roaring engine named 'JOAN' I once knew?

They just attempted to neuter me - with name calling. They tried to cut off my testicles so I too would be just like you - more 'silent.' Don't ever bring up any subject that they might not appreciate - might not understand - might not be able to respond to. They want respect but give none - not a single word posted was directed at any single person - it was always a wide open forum...yet direct attacks occurred. Look in the mirror everyone.

Using playful words such as memes, victim, persecutor, rescuer, and mind games was an attempt to put a silencer on this engine. Any subject 'they' don't feel comfortable with they do this sort of thing. They 'take it personal instead of just answering the questions. I spot such things easily. This little engine that can will not be silenced, toned down or disrespected.

I want my 'JOAN Engine' that roars back.

I also feel rebellious but I don't hurt myself or other beings to satisfy my 'feelings'.  You would not feel any 'guilt' if you didn't think you were doing wrong - and only you can decide that. Kill the messenger...that's what you've done. Congratulations.

There are so many ideas in our Western society that need to be examined. I presented a couple and everyone (mostly) flipped out. The 'status quo' is alive and well.

Steven, My "JOAN Engine that roars" is not gone, and has evolved, I hope. Yes, I still have anger but my focus is on finding ways to empower women and men to start thinking critically about interpersonal relationships and the many processes available to help facilitate those changes. 

We, I mean all of us living today, face tremendous stressors and changes: 1) economic failures  spreading around the globe; 2) political disputes with one side seeing the purpose of government to protect property, another side to protect and empower the weak and look at the whole picture for the benefit of the whole; 3) spiritual disputes with some people believing god answers prayers and rewards and punishes, another group believing no god exists and humans must find solutions that will meet the needs of all our members.

Our culture needs the sentinel at the bell tower to warn of disasters coming, and it needs those who recognizes pending risks and mobilize to take action.  There is a word for this kind of union, "praexis", which means thought and action. If there is only thought and no action, problems have a low probability of being solved. If there is only action and no thought, chaos may prevent a solution. By blending thought and action, the probability of successful outcomes increase.

We need the sentinel and the mobilizer. We each have a part if we want to participate and there is no "right" or "wrong" way, there is just being able and willing to participate to the best of each one's abilities.

Unfortunately, my response to you was misinterpreted, I did not cook a beef steak, I felt like cooking a beef steak as a childish way of expressing my feelings. I am trying to convey to you the many reactions I experienced in response to your actions. My reactions are not bad or wrong, they exist.

Steven, is what you are doing working to reach your goals? If yes, then continue, if no, then try another strategy. Your strategies are not wrong or bad; are they effective and efficient?

The general public will not realize the many factors working together to make society so dysfunctional and chaotic. Many will not understand until and unless we have a total and complete economic breakdown. Your job and mine is to be aware of the risks facing us, articulate them as clearly as we can, do what we can to solve problems knowing that we cannot solve such big challenges alone. Hopefully, our society will not collapse before enough awaken to the real barriers. I may not live to see this present financial crisis resolved; I will think and act as effectively and efficiently as I possibly can until my last breath is drawn.

I hope I see an end to hunger, homelessness, unemployment, diseases, unresolved conflicts and the reality is, I will not. Therefore, I shall live in the now with gratitude, compassion, and internal peace.     

Joan, I'm certain when priests and preachers speak to their audience's sitting in those pews - everyone believes the modern priest 'has evolved'. They believe this because the priests and pastors have basically told them it is so. If you feel you 'new way' is evolving - go for it. I wish you much success.

If your new evolved way actually works (if you believe it) then I say go for it. Most people I know simply ignore such platitudes - they don't learn a damn thing unless hit right between the eyes. You've got to get their blood pressure up high enough to finally speak out..ask questions...something...anything. Most have never been challenged - even many atheists have never been challenged. How many reading this have ever spoken with those Jehovah Witness' and/or Mormon missionaries when they come knocking/ I do every single time. My wife runs to her kitchen and I grab my notes!

My goals? I have had a few success's along the way. Ivan was one...and you must know the B & I owner's were rabid Christians. Foaming at-the-mouth fundamentalists to the core. They thought Ivan was perfectly 'happy' all alone in that concrete bunker. We asked them to PLEASE trade places with him.

I was one of many that picked The Bon Marche in downtown Seattle for years over their selling of fur coats. They stopped. Then Nordstrom's bought them out and that all went to hell.

Two (2) women and myself rescued hundreds of cats/dogs - sheep and even pigs and horses from terrible situations - re-habed them - and found proper homes for them. 'Prtoper homes' is a judgement call. We had specific lists of what a family MUST have before we'd even consider them. Sort of like Child adoption services would (should) have a mighty good list of qualifications before allowing adoption.

I used to get a lot of personal messages when Facebook had their forums - (like this one where you could talk openly). Most were public so theists could come in - and I always received private requests for private talks based on my postings. It was from these situations that I made friends with the author of 'Leaving Judaism' - and helped many young people that were on the fence about Jesus. To answer your question - YES - I've had my fair share of successes'...and I don't need fancy words nor do I need to be sweet and nice all the time. Again, many people really need a square shooter who actually speaks straight and solid. I ask the hard questions and give the hard answers. It's worked well for me - except maybe (no for certain) within the Friends forum. This situation is not completely new to me - but I find many posters who attack the messenger first without even addressing the questions posted. That is unique to an atheist forum.

I also have a missionary 'friend' now in Indonesia - been corresponding with him for 2 1/2 years now. He's there with translated Bibles to get those folks in line for Jesus. I'm the only atheist he's ever corresponded with. He sends me books and asks me to 'critique' them - and OH DO I! He is seeing exactly how bigoted and false many statements are within Christianity - that he was never taught in all his Bible classes. He's basically a good guy and he also thinks I am to.

I'm not for everyone - and if my postings cause you stress - just don't read. You can easily take a simpler easier pathway to get what you want. For myself, I was born to be in the trenches - up front fighting the good fight. My favorite atheist in the entire world and her children were murdered - Madelyn Murray O'Hair - son Jon and daughter Robyn. They were the most open atheists i've ever known...and they were 'WONDERFUL'. They told it like it is - no holds bared - straight talk about theists and 'what they've done'. I don't see anything much has changed - the beat goes on.

Steve, let me address your points out of order.

You think every moving thing is out to get YOU personally.

Please refer to suggestion 2 above, 2. Avoid "Mind Reading", i.e. claiming to know the intent of others.


Christians can verify/justify their actions - moral or immoral - why can't atheists?

Discussions of morality are the lest appropriate venue to take a tone of moral superiority. It doesn't advance mutual understanding. People are most open to admitting immoral actions and taking responsibility for them when everyone begins with mutual respect and an attitude than nobody is perfect.


You're not going to even consider the possibility of a dialogue - what you're going to say is: " I do such and such - and if you don't like it - deal with it".

Opening up the issue with the membership is initiating a dialogue about the standards of discourse we want in our group. By posting a reply you participate in it. Did you fail to notice that I didn't just close the offensive discussions without notice?


Everyone understands who/what/where/when this subject is about.

This is ambiguous to me.

If by "this subject" you mean the morality of eating meat, that topic was never an issue. The issue isn't what is discussed but how it's discussed.

If by "this subject" you mean the proposal to ban victim/rescuer/persecutor mind games, perhaps you don't quite understand it, since you dismissed it as "such a simplistic categorization." To avoid the idea that this is merely a simplistic categorization, as if I were disparaging your language by a put down, you might want to explore Games People Play more thoroughly. I apologize for the bad original link to my critique in the discussion on meat eating, where I give examples showing why I think your language fits Berne's mind games.


...using such language as persecutor, victim, and rescuer is also name calling.

Name calling means insulting a person, challenging his or her worth as a human being. If I have done that to you, please point out the example. Name calling is not the same as putting down behavior or actions. I propose to eliminate a pattern of language use which I see as harmful to the group. That's a criticism of language, which is a behavior. It was never a criticism of you as a person. I assume you are capable of respectful language use. You do often qualify your statements correctly. For example, "I see 'congenitally conservative' - 'change resistant' responses." Didn't I make it clear that the proposal wasn't about individuals when I said, "Third, let's distinguish unacceptable discourse from unacceptable people. Just because someone has slipped into using mind game language once or twice, doesn't mean he or she is incapable of respectful discussion."?

Ruth - "The issue isn't what is discussed but how it's discussed."

Exactly. The very first response wasn't a 'discussion' at all was it? "I like meat - get over it"....as personal and an attack on the subject matter. That person (I do not like to name names) was stating how annoyed they were at even the thought of having to even think for a second about what he/she was maybe involved in. It's better to dismiss it by being flippant.....and remaining ignorant of the subject by not promoting any discussion (get over it)....and if they actually knew a LOT about the subject - they weren't gonna share! "I don't care' is a nice safe place."

That didn't address the subject at hand...it was an off-the-cuff ignorant response. It set the entire subject on its head and it took pages of comments before someone finally addressed the subject.

YOU didn't step in did you? The thread subject was never addressed properly for pages - and yet any and all of my attempts to get someone to address all the many aspects of the subject failed...until finally one person actually posted intelligent thoughts besides - 'you're a big old bad bully for asking me such a question'. Providing some factual information proved fruitless - and YOU called it a 'sermon'. Kill the messenger Ruth. Good job.

I wanted to start a thread subject named: "BULLYING - A Christian Problem"...but dare not tread on this poisonous viper of a subject. Someone will certainly feel threatened and post something like: 'How dare you - I like bullying - get over it'.  Or, more likely they would begin apologizing for Christians saying it's not just their problem....never answering the obvious questions raised.

It would not be a 'nice safe place' subject would it? Our society is FULL of such toxic subjects that people avoid talking about. So I don't mind continuing with 2 to 5 responses per new thread subject.

After all, until they knock on your door - everyone wants to avoid conflict and live in 'a nice safe place'.

you seem to have selective memory (maybe a steak would help).  this was the very first response to your thread (it was mine, btw):

"i don't see any connection between not believing in God and dietary choices.  i'm certain this conversation will get ugly, as i've seen previous ones on this topic go that direction.

being a Vegan or Vegetarian are personal choices, as is eating meat.  i eat meat b/c it tastes good.  i'm not interesting in living life without the occasional burger or steak, or chicken cutlet sandwich.  so long as it's possible, that is."

is that what you're referring to when you say "i like meat, get over it"?  is that how my response sounds to you?  if so, perhaps you need to rethink how you perceive other people's words.  that is, unless you firmly believe that eating meat is not a personal choice and a strict vegan diet should be imposed on all. 

furthermore, i think this comment that you made on the thread in question speaks volumes:

"I had hoped for just a tad bit of compassion expressed towards all the problems this industry has caused. What we got was, 'I like meat - don't care about anything else - it's my way and I have tunnel vision and don't care about all that 'other' stuff'...OK...I get you! You've spoken loud and clear!"

you didn't get the response you were looking for, so you decided to go into attack mode.  if that is how you handle a discussion then i don't wish to engage you in one.  you paraphrased other people's opinions into hyperbole, while belittling said opinions and making an absolute moral judgement.  for shame.


I never suggested we avoid conflict here, only that we conduct ourselves with civility.

People do have a right to express how they feel without being accused of flippancy. Expressing how you feel, "I like meat",  isn't "an ignorant response." I take "Get over it" not as flippancy or ignorance but asserting the right to one's values without accepting negative judgments from others. When we say, "We're godless, get over it!" to theists, are we acting ignorant or flippant? That's not my take.

Sometimes people express their disike of a discussion by participating with the shortest possible response. While one could express flippancy with short answers. Not all short answers are flippant. That you take such hurt and offense from a noncommittal short response is not a result of the speaker's intent (which you are guessing), but, in my opinion, entrapment in a hurtful mind game. You appear, to me, to routinely interpret a disinclination to engage with you as a put down. I have much more faith in the good will of our members. We don't hate you, Steven.

You can like bullying, I might not agree, but as long as your language here is civil and not disguised verbal violence, you can be a useful member of our group.

This has never been about "toxic subjects" but dysfunctional modes of discussing subjects that ends up with members being subtly or not so subtly attacked.

...everyone wants to avoid conflict and live in 'a nice safe place'.

Not everyone wants a Honeymoon discourse, where conflict is suppressed. We just want to disagree with civility.

Ruth - Those so-called 'short' answers did not address the thread subject. Therefore, they were flippant and ignorant. I responded with MORE facts and figures and received even more flippant answers that also did not address the thread subject.




Update Your Membership :




Nexus on Social Media:


© 2018   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: Richard Haynes.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service