Oh man! Sometimes I get a little too big for my britches. I start to find myself on top of the world (albeit a totally weird little world) when BAM, I get a reminder that perhaps I have much to learn. I get served my humble pie.
Recently I met with a friend for coffee. Our conversation started innocuously enough–simple banter about the things that are good and bad about Facebook. Listen, I know no one will disagree that there is plenty of crappity crap to be found. Oh, I cringe when people I love post mean-spirited stuff that I find offensive. I wonder “why? Why with all the wonderful things going on around them do people not focus their energy elsewhere?” It’s so hard. There’s always one friend passive-aggressively public venting to one person (what’s it called–Vague-booking?) but all 356 other friends have to hear about it. For the love of humanity, WHY??? WHY??? Or the time drains of the many silly quizzes that are posted “Are you Brilliant?” “What Color Is your Brain?” Ok, who am I kidding? I’ve taken a few of these darn things (and I’ll never get those 5 minutes back!).
But the good stuff? What of that? Of friends sharing photos of their new, beautiful babies (or grand babies) or of gorgeous weddings. Or being able to lift someone up with an encouraging note or a prayer when they are having a rough day. What about the funny quip a friend shares about their kid that makes you appreciate their sense of humor even more? Or when someone posts a photo of their amazing balcony view over the ocean–a little eye candy and reprieve of the winter blanketing us here? Surely these joyous occasions shared are amazing ways for us to stay connected with friends and family both near and far.
But where my friend and I came to a disagreement was on how scripture dictates our interactions with friends on Facebook. For my friend, the struggle was with the vanity or self-promotion that litters our news feeds. Fair enough, I thought. There is plenty of horn tooting and boasting going on. Heck, I know I’m guilty of this from time to time. We brag about our kids and their accomplishments, our vacations, our work… (truly, the list is endless). In this way, I argue that Facebook is not unlike face-to-face conversations where these same topics come up. Oh, we are so vain sometimes, aren’t we?
Where we parted ways was over our interpretation of the idea or notion of friends sharing/posting their good deeds.
My friend framed her perspective with this scripture from Matthew 6:1-2:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.”
I felt a sting. Did she believe I fell into this category? Almost immediately, I found myself growing defensive. I argued that surely Facebook could be used as a vessel for good–to raise awareness for causes that we’d otherwise not be privy. If a friend shared his experience of helping another family in need, I saw that as positive–as a friend leading by example. I argued that perhaps that moment would spark a little fire under another family to say “gee, we should do something like that. I never knew about that organization” I acknowledged that certainly some people could use it as self-promotion and as a “look how awesome I am” mentality. However, my stance is that I choose to give my friends the benefit of the doubt. I further illustrated my viewpoint with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. If people hadn’t taken the challenge and mentioned their donation, perhaps it would not have had the same response. What worked, I reasoned, was seeing your friends participate and thinking “we could do that too.” Could God really be upset that millions of people were donating to a worthy cause or gaining awareness of a heavily under-funded and less talked about disease? What if, instead, he was beyond thrilled that one man used his tools (and God given creativity) to spark a movement of human compassion. What if technology could be used for the greater good? Could social media really be so awful?
My perspective comes from Matthew 5:16:
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
I’m sure we’re not the first to debate this topic and it certainly left me feeling a bit convicted. I had to go back and review some of the the stuff I’ve posted. We talked about how perhaps the things I post about helping others makes people feel bad. Did I inadvertently make someone feel small? Did I make a working mom feel inadequate because I was able to do something with my children on a snow day when she had to go to work? Do people believe I’m posting photos of helping at the Ronald McDonald House, for example, as me bragging? Did I make the post more about me than about the importance of being the hands and feet for others? The truth is, this line of thinking is what broke me.
In my heart of hearts, I really felt I was shining God’s light. This blog, my Facebook posts, my life mantra–all center around how He has lifted me. Me, a broken, messy person. Me, a grieving mother and scared cancer survivor. Me, the woman who did (and still does) make foolish decisions. Me, who from time to time is of little faith. I am and will always be a hot mess. But He gives me hope. He replenishes my cup of life. He guides me and reminds me of grace. He makes beauty out of my messes. Every day.
I’ve felt very led by God to share my story. If it’s been interpreted as anything other than encouraging others to love one another, then I am truly sorry and I have failed. If I’ve made you feel small, less than, or worthless with my words, I am sorry. It’s the complete antithesis of my purpose. I am humbled. As I told my friend, it was hard for me to hear but I am willing to grow through this experience.
My hope is that others feel empowered and inspired to see God’s work and to join me in shining His light. Can we make Facebook a community of hope? A place to lift one another? Can we all work a little harder to share His beauty and love one another? Can we think, maybe just a little more, before we post something whether or not we’re lifting people up?