Growing and Learning

If you’ve been around in the community for what feels like some times for now, perhaps a year or even two, you can make the difference between the mass of newbies and you. You are probably familiar enough with the terminology, and when you are involved in forums you tend to post more thoughtful topics than newcomers. And, of course, you try to help others when you can. You give advices. And you tell people when they get things wrong.
Just listen a moment. I am not going to scold or mock you in a “I am an elder/ancient/greymuzzle®/what you want, because I am not, and that’s silly and useless. What I have to say is: I am not much more experienced than you, but I see you going through something I had gone through. I want to warn you so you don’t look like an idiot doing mistakes as I possibly did. My message is: you aren’t really a newbie anymore, but that doesn’t mean you get the bigger picture – and I guess it is the same for me. I’ve seen people who haven’t been around for very long, but who begin to spread their “experience” and “wisdom” in a manner that doesn’t just slightly irritate me, but which shocks me. You may be one of them, or maybe not, but what I can say may still be useful to you.
I am more shocked than irritated, because those people act as “know-it-all” or spread stupidities, and because they don’t realize it at all. Fine, you have been around enough to help people about basic and less basic stuff, and you know what you are – or if you’re still searching, as least you know how to soulsearch and you do it on your own instead of asking others what sort of therian you are. Okay. Does that mean you really are experienced? Does that mean you know everything? Does that mean you can start a revolution about labels just because? No. Does that mean you can post snarky comments about how wrong “other people” are? Please no.
Nobody should allow oneself to be harsh, to mock others, or to make them look like idiots. Nobody should make others feel they’re “just” newbies who should only listen to your judgments, by writing comments full of “good! good! GOOD!” or “Nooo! Bad!” (those are real quotes commenting someone’s intro details). Nobody should start giving advices about soulsearching when themselves can’t seem to follow their own advices. Nobody should explain things they don’t understand themselves. Nobody should turn a term that has sense into a label that has none just because they don’t understand it. The list goes on.
It worries me when I see people who want to help so much that they confuse their peers. An example I’ve seen recently is welcoming people who are unsure about the animal they are, and immediately starting suggesting they may be polyweres. Wow, slow down. Do you want these newcomers to jump on labels without thinking about it? We know it’s good to reassure them, to let them know it’s a possibility, but they will learn it on their own, and hopefully they will take their time to think about it. It’s the same for every label. Just don’t throw all these new terms to their face, you’re not going to help them at all, although they may swallow happily what you said – for those who didn’t get it: that’s what you want to avoid. Always be careful about what you say on forums, especially to confused people, you’re not always helpful to them.
That’s why you must be careful when posting in people’s introductions. Newcomers can be impressed or eager to be accepted, they may pay much attention to what they are told. It’s not just a matter of labels and advices, it is also a matter of the way you say things. Don’t talk to them as you would to a naive child who can’t see what is “right” from what is “wrong”. Sure, they may be confused. That doesn’t mean they are idiots. You shouldn’t allow yourself to make judgments on their therianthropy. It is ok to say things like “I don’t want to offend you, but I’m afraid this or that sounds more like roleplay than therianthropy to me”, or “I think many things you mentioned don’t sound like therianthropy” or “it seems to me you may be confusing totemism and therianthropy”. It is ok to tell people they have a good, interesting introduction, or that it’s short and besides the point. It is not OK to stroke people’s head and say “GOOD” when they act as good woofies, or to do the opposite when you think they did something silly. It is not OK to make definite judgments on them, not simply because you haven’t seen more from these newcomers than the intro they posted, but also because you may be unfair and make wrong judgments, because after all you aren’t so much more experienced.
And I don’t want to sound as a “know-it-all’ myself, but I have to say it; it makes everyone uncomfortable. Being in the community for some months doesn’t mean you are veteran or a fair one. I was involved on boards since October 2003, and I’m still discovering new things about the community and its people. And that’s why I can tell you you don’t know everything either so don’t be so sure of yourself.
Most people agree on the fact they are still learning, but they don’t really think about what it means, they don’t realize that their understanding of the werecommuntiy or of their therianthropy may be poor. They try to help others while they are still struggling themselves, and they sometimes build websites. When you are confused about your own therianthropy, do you think you are in the best position to mentor others? Sure, you can share a half-complete werecard and your personal therianthropy (although some may not have understood that it doesn’t consist in a simple biography with the list of shifts they experienced). But what then. This isn’t teaching, since people won’t learn much from it. Hell, I don’t even think I’m teaching anything here, and I’m not sure I want to. I simply think that when you haven’t constructive, personal things to say, sharing your views on therianthropy on boards is enough. Don’t take me wrong, I love websites, I love reading essays and personal experiences. The important word is personal.
I see many people who simply repeat over and over again what have been said by more experienced therians, and who just don’t fucking know what they’re talking about, because they never stopped to think about it and how it can (or cannot) relate to their own experience. “Nobody can tell you what you are!”, “we all experience therianthropy in a different way!”, “be yourself!”… How many times have you seen people saying this? Repeating “be yourself” like magic words won’t make you be yourself at all. Repeating wise words from other therians won’t make you wiser. Repeating others’ experiences won’t make you experience and understand these things. That doesn’t mean you can’t mention it, but it means if you have some experience, you should have more to say than that. If you do, please feel free to share, put it on your website and more. If you don’t, stop pretending you do. You, others. Most of people. When you realize you were spreading bullshit, you really look like an idiot. But that’s too late, and now you have taught two dozen of noobs what contherianthropy is not, or how you must be a shifter to be a therian, or how spiritual therianthropy is the only way, and that’s not easy to go back and say “wait! I was mistaking!”.
No matter how much you are convinced you are helping, you must thoroughly think about what you are “preaching”. You must be aware of the fact you are still learning and that one day you may very possibly learn that you were wrong.
That’s what is experiencing and learning and evolving. We all do. Try to stay humble, because we’re all humans, and we all do mistakes. I once tried to make everybody understand how much I knew what I was, whereas in fact I was mistaking. There is a moment when you have to say “sorry, I was wrong” instead of searching for excuses. An example of bad excuse is the whole “my therioside is changing” thing. While it may be possible, I’ve seen therianthropes claiming it happened withing weeks only, and I strongly doubt what you are can change so fast, unless you experience some drastic and serious event/issue IRL. Be honest. Animal sides don’t appear or disappear like that. Accept that you may be wrong sometimes, and accept that others can make mistakes too. No need to make them feel ridiculous about that, it happens to everyone.
Always keep in mind you may be mistaking about whatever you’re saying on forums and whatever you feel is related to therianthropy. You may not be a real newbie anymore, and your therianthropic experiences started far before you joined the community, but it doesn’t mean you are never wrong. It happens to everybody.