Pat on the Back

pat-on-backBe careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)

It’s difficult to walk the line of being an example for others without calling attention to yourself. We want to encourage and challenge others, but we need to do so humbly. And that’s difficult in today’s social media-saturated culture. There are so many voices screaming for everyone’s attention.

But maybe that’s not all that different from the past. Sure, the method of delivery, speed, and availability might be different, but the inundation of voices have probably been challenging in different ways through the years.

And no matter the specific challenges, humility will always be in style. Well, perhaps not in style, but a good goal to have.

The Share Approval Process

007b8ae266d2a977ac0157e273dcdacbI created a video for a nonprofit organization, and because it featured a minor’s story, it had to go through the proper channels for approval.

The first round didn’t take long. A couple minor changes were requested, and after quickly making those, I resubmitted it, thinking the approval process would be much shorter.

Wrong.

Two months later, the video was approved. It was still usable, but it wasn’t as timely as I had hoped.

I understand the lengthy process. It was for a person’s protection. I am grateful for that.

I wonder if we all had to go through such a lengthy process when considering what to share via social media. It might be beneficial for everyone involved, the sharer and the sharees. It would require perseverance and patience, two things with which many of us struggle. One of the things we like most about social media is the immediacy and accessibility of it. But that’s not always a good thing.

Put a share approval process in place. You will likely thank yourself years from now when Timehop reports what you posted in the past, and I’m certain many who are reading your posts will thank you, too.

In The (K)Now

In-The-KnowIs a readily-accessible social media presence feeding an obsession to be “in the know…in the now”?

How immediately do you expect or want to see someone’s photos when you know they are at a special event? Where do you look for more information about someone’s medical condition or update? How quickly are you to assume one person’s perspective is the only side of the story because it’s all you can see and read? What do you assume about a person’s life because of their posts? Are you willing to readily accept something as truth when it affirms what you want to hear or if it gets shared by one or more people in your feed? How much fact-checking do you do?

Social media helps us get fast access to information, whether it’s about an international or national event or an individual’s life. But has that instant access made us spoiled and lazy? Do we believe everything we read or see? Do we try to manipulate truth by controlling our access to information?

We need to ask ourselves these questions and commit to an authentic, humble search for truth instead of taking the fast track toward something that easily satisfy our need to claim as truth. Social media can be a great tool of communicating and sharing, staying connected and reaching out for help. But it can retrain us to think we need to know more than we need to know more quickly than we need to know it. Careful searching is worth the time and effort.

The Achievement of Living in Light

Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; Yahweh, they walk in the light of Your presence. (Psalm 89:15)

Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Jesus answered, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.” Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them. (John 12:35-36)

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

static1.squarespace.comWalking in the light doesn’t mean we get it all right, that we always have the answers, or that the light shines on us. Living in the light isn’t the same as living in the limelight. Not that the two can’t cross paths from time to time, but it’s not our focus. That’s difficult to digest in an age where reality tv invites otherwise obscure people into widespread recognition. Or when we are evaluated by the number of social media contacts we have. Or when we think our names need to be attached to everything we do in order to build a brand and make an impact…all in the name of Jesus, of course.

In God’s economy, achievement is often anonymous and may not even seem like achievement except to God. Remember, according to Him,

So the last will be first, and the first last. (Matthew 20:16)

Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33)

Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. (Proverbs 3:34)

Why You Share What You Share

Why do you share what you share on social media? Think about it.

  • Do you want to prove your point?
  • Do you want to inform people? Of what?
  • Do you want to associate with someone, and sharing gives you the appearance of a relationship?
  • Do you want attention?
  • Do you want a good deal, even if it’s too good to be true?
  • Do you want to increase your following?
  • Do you want to push buttons, surprise or shock people?
  • Do you want to passive-aggressively hurt or offend someone?
  • Do you want to brag?
  • Do you want to encourage people?
  • Do you want to welcome accountability?

Are your intentions on social media different than sharing in person?

It’s important to know your motivation for sharing. It’s your heart issue, and you need to keep your intentions in check.

Sharing is an invitation.

You get to invite people into…whatever you choose. When you click the share button, you give a bit of yourself. You give a snapshot of who you are…or who you want others to believe you are, which still gives a glimpse of who you really are. If you deceive others, you deceive yourself. You can never be unaffected by the persona you project to others. It is still you. You click the share button. Your intentions affect you.

It seems like a lot of pressure, but really, you can accept it as an opportunity to take a deep breath. Inhale and consider your motivation. Filter it through God’s will. Is it share-worthy? If it is, it should also be God-worthy. Does it honor Him? If the answer is “yes,” then exhale. Share. Click the button. Love God. Love others.

It sounds simple. But really, it is. We can get tied up in our intentions, or keep them pure.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

Where Are They Now?

I’m not too distracted by the occasional posts that pop up on my Facebook stream, prompting me to click on a link to see the drastic changes of childhood actors who played in favorite family television series and movies. I may have known their characters well, but I don’t know the actors at all.

I’m a little more interested in the people I’ve lost contact with but can now access a quick update through social media. I don’t even need to have known them super well. For example, a high school friend posted a link to a news story about a kid (yes, I know he’s forty-something now, but he seems like a kid to me), who is a couple years younger than me and was always a goofball. I learned he’s apparently earned over two dozen Emmys and is kind of a big deal. Another kid around the same age, who had earned a perfect score on his ACT, was highlighted in a recent “Where Are They Now” column for his work associated with this year’s Peace Prize in physics. And then there are the posts that might seem less sensational but are just as important and fun to see: growing families, reaching personal landmarks, and overcoming burdens.

But the people I wonder about the most are the people I can’t possibly catch up with, people I don’t know where they are now, or in many cases, even their names! I often meet up with individuals as I travel. Like the time I got delayed in Chicago O’Hare on Super Bowl Sunday and ended up watching the game with a large, group, rowdy crowd, including the mom who was stressed about having left her college daughter in London despite not finding her an apartment. The couple across the aisle was from London and knew a friend renting in the same area. Problem solved. I wonder how they’re all doing.

Or the young woman beside me on my last flight to Israel, who was visiting her cousin, who was dying of cancer. She just wanted a few more memories and moments with her. After watching an in-flight movie with a character  battling cancer, she was a wreck, uncertain as to how she would be able to handle seeing her cousin.

Or the older couple my husband and I met on our last trip to Jamaica. We enjoyed their company at dinner, on the beach, and on a day trip.

Or the young couple we met in Cozumel. They were so eager to start their lives together, enjoying their trip, throwing caution to the wind.

Or the eighty-something Jewish man beside me the plane, who was preparing for his bar mitzvah this fall. I wonder how it went!

I love that God weaves people in and out of my life, but sometimes, I wish He’d give me a little more than a glimpse.

I need to be more appreciative. At least, I had that moment. That’s really all I need. I got an opportunity to listen to, learn from, and pour into someone. When someone comes to mind, I can do something much more meaningful than reading a newspaper article or Facebook update. I can pray.

And I can focus on who is in front of me right now, so I take the next opportunity to listen to, learn from, and pour into someone.

God continues to weave.

Should I Quit Social Media?

I want to quit Facebook. Can I do that?

My friend’s question was in response to the frustration of scrolling through her news feed and finding vague accusations and threats, gossip, and one-sided claims that blatantly disrespected people.

And…all those posts were by Christians.

Can you quit Facebook? Yes, you can.

Should you?

I don’t know.

Sometimes we feel victimized by social media, and we get frustrated, but what about the positive influences? What about the encouragement we give and receive? What about the support (the healthy kind, not the “I’m going to jump on your bandwagon and say, ‘You go, girl’ when I should actually be telling you, ‘Whoa! Take a breath and calm down.’”)? What about the opportunities to reach out to and catch up with people (again, healthy connections)?

Just like you have choices about who you hang out with on the weekend or who you call when you have a crisis or need an ear to listen, you have choices about social media.

  • You decide how often you check social media.
  • You decide who you connect with.
  • You decide what you look at the most, which determines, to some degree, what floats to the top of your news feed.
  • You decide what to post and how to engage others.

Maybe God is leading you away from social media. And maybe He’s leading you to be more discerning.

Apply some of the same lessons to your faith. You might complain about your church or specific people in it. You might get into inappropriate conversations with people, ask for affirmation when you really need accountability, or work behind the scenes to get support for yourself or against someone you’ve decided has crossed the line. You might be ready to give up on the faith community around you, because all you see are the shortcomings.

Can you quit? Yes, you can.

Should you?

Well…what if you applied some of the same choices available to you on social media? What if you made your connections–in church, your community, and social media–about honoring God instead of walking a tightrope strung across a fire pit? Why walk so close to the edge? Why not work on a secure relationship with God and let Him set the boundaries instead of trying to take control?

He knows what He’s doing. He wants you to trust Him, and that includes looking to Him to make each decision, no matter how large or small, online and in person. Maybe it’s not quite time to quit.