“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” ~Philippians 2:3~
Ouch. Although I read it two days late, the timing of this devotional entry was just a bit … convicting. For on April 11th, I discovered I had hurt someone. Since (I’m assuming) most of my blog readers are also friends on Facebook, chances are you know that when I’m bored, I have a bad habit of posting either my opinion on a controversial subject or a link to an article on one (generally married to a leading question). I realize some people do this out of a desire simply to create controversy. For the record, I do not. Unfortunately, the best of intentions are generally the fodder of folly.
I know I can be a know-it-all. I don’t know how it started. I know I’ve always had a desperate need to be heard. To have someone acknowledge that I have offered a legit original thought. And when it was finally validated (by someone other than my mother) in college, I found a powerful sense of identity. It came to my attention that I perceived things differently from everyone I interacted with. And when conversations went well (which they generally did at school), I learned something of how a peer thought even as they learned about my thought process. Despite our completely opposite opinions, we were truly interested in where the other was coming from: this meeting of minds was mutually beneficial. But there was always a common denominator amongst the students in Artzen Hall: we were all truth-seekers. Never satisfied with face-value expressions of belief (including our own), we always sought the root of where those beliefs and ideals came from.
I miss school. I miss those deep dialogues with friends who came from completely different experiences and worldviews. The problem is, I thought I could use Facebook as a substitute for what had been such a powerful and invigorating experience at school. I quickly learned that most others who posted their opinions weren’t interested in dialogues, so after a couple of misunderstandings I decided that it might be best to keep my thoughts to myself (unless the poster asked a question or encouraged dialogue). I did, however, hope that everyone subscribed to my feed would be on the “same page”: I was interested in hearing other perspectives and the experiences behind them. I am never interested in arguing or having my perspective rebuttled. But as another blogging friend recently posted, “Facebook is a minefield.” And frankly, I really shouldn’t have expected to step into a minefield without causing harm to self or someone else.
It’s been said that since we are biologically animals, humans will respond to aggression with a fight or flight response. I am a fighter when I think it counts. The thing is, it’s not that I hold my opinions in such high esteem. It’s that recently, life has me so spun about that any time someone counters my thoughts or tells me I’m wrong, I feel as though my entire identity is under attack. Instead of perceiving that they are only trying to defend their experiences, I lash out as if my entire sense of self-worth is at stake. And the more impassioned I become, the loftier I wield the English language.
The next thing I know, I realize someone has unfriended me. And when I reach out to offer an apology for whatever it is I’ve done to offend said individual, I learn that I have conducted myself in a manner wholly inappropriate for a servant of God. My ego has gotten in the way. I have left another person feeling belittled. And for that, I am deeply, desperately sorry. Not just for betraying my Witness by sowing a seed of bitterness in another heart, but also because I know all too well how it feels to be talked down to, belittled, made to feel like an idiot … and it’s tearing me apart to realize that I have done the same to someone else.
I have asked this person’s forgiveness, but the whole incident has made me brutally, painfully aware of the dangers of social media to the Christian walk. Now, more than ever, “Every Man” (or woman) has an opportunity to make themselves heard. This can be a good thing as Evangelism is concerned. But like the tongue, the fingers are a double-edged sword. Is building the Kingdom of God our motivation, or have we become lost in our own crusades? Are we motivated by a desire to ultimately bring people closer to God? “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” If the heart is wounded, or seeking affirmation, the words that flow from agitated hands are just as likely to be driven by ego as they are by Truth. This is my Achilles heel. I am a Truth-seeker, and when God is at my helm, a Truth-sayer. However, if I do not actively give my mind, tongue, and hands to God each moment, all three can quickly be used as devastating weapons for the Enemy. Mind you, I don’t expect to win any popularity contests even when I am operating in God’s will. But that’s no excuse to inflict pain on others with absent-minded “intellectual gymnastics.”
So if I have ever made you feel belittled, please forgive me. Understand this has never been my intent. And please, keep a short account with me if you feel I have spoken out of turn. We are called to be a united Body. I cannot allow my ego to be used as a tool of the Enemy.
“It’s not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves.” ~Sir Edmund Hillary~