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How to Graciously Speak Truth in Love Online

How to Graciously Speak Truth in Love Online

"Oh, no," I thought, as a Christian friend's Facebook post showed up on my news feed. It was a cute photo of her baby that included a magazine sitting on her coffee table. The publication's inappropriate cover image was prominent in the photo, making it difficult to ignore and very distracting from her sweet baby.

I love my friend but didn't understand her posting the photo displaying two such different images. How did she not notice the contrast?

My first response is to pray for her and her family to take notice and either crop or remove the photo.

However, if she doesn't change it, the question becomes, what to do next? Making a public comment might embarrass her or ignite a Facebook discussion feud among her friends.

If I'm a true friend (not just a casual, ‘Facebook friend’), what's the most loving way to respond? Maybe she doesn't realize how it's coming across? What about sending a private message? Is it enough to just ignore it or not "like" it?

Am I My Brother's Keeper

Facebook is a place where an assortment of individuals meet, meshing family, long-time friends, new acquaintances, co-workers and more together from a range of backgrounds and beliefs. In the midst of this mish-mash of folks, an inappropriate post causes concern.

With such a range of people interacting online, the question arises of who else will see it and how might it effect them? Matthew 18:6-7 gives a strong warning about causing someone to stumble.

Flashbacks of my searching out grocery store managers, asking them to please remove, move, or cover up inappropriate magazine covers at check-out counters come to mind.

Also, the years of writing letters to corporate heads asking for risque interstate billboards to come down. As uncomfortable as it is to approach strangers, how much more so with a friend?

Yet it comes down to the same issues and questions, even if I'm able to look away, will it cause others to stumble? What is my responsibility?

Humility is Key

Bob Allen, who has served a number of widely-recognized Christian media entities, believes the key is to approach each situation with humility, recognizing we all make mistakes. He thinks friends can be a great "guardrail" in helping to keep us from spinning off the road of civility and propriety.

Allen recommends taking into consideration, "How would I want someone to approach me if I was the one who posted something without fully thinking things through?"

Like Luke 6:41 cautions me in calling out another's failing without first recognizing my own weaknesses, Allen cautions against blowing something up more than is warranted. He stresses checking to make sure I'm not just reacting to personal preferences rather than to things that are truly offensive to our Heavenly Father.

Loving Enough to Confront

Still Allen has learned that caring enough to confront brings an opportunity for lasting healing, while leaving it for "someone else" to do often ends up in greater decay. He believes in loving family and friends enough to let them know when they're approaching or crossing the line in an area that would grieve the Lord's heart.

Allen also suggests the principles of Matthew 18:15 may be applicable in response to a questionable Facebook post, even though it's not a direct personal offense.

With it, too, Allen emphasizes coming with the attitude that says: If you see me doing anything similar, please consider this an open invitation to gently confront and correct me, too.

Using Self-Control

Most of the time writer Cherie Groll uses the "hide post" option when she sees questionable stuff on her news feed, especially with non-Christian friends, understanding they probably don't have the same standards as she hopes her Christian friends do.

Groll admits, too, that even as a Christian, many risque things can appeal to her past sense of humor and tempt her to join in and post something really funny. In these situations, she chooses to scroll by and refrain from participating in the course banter. As a Christian she wants her reactions to reflect her changed life and is very careful about her presence on social media.

When it comes to addressing an inappropriate post, she pretty much limits her responses  to reacting to a few particular topics that bother her the most. Also, Groll makes sure to pray about what to say, checks her motives before responding, and seeks to speak truth in love.

Overall, she has had success private messaging friends with her concerns, choosing her words well and trying to "gift wrap" any comments that could be misunderstood.

And if a friend's posts are too rank, she just ends up unfollowing the individual.

Going the Extra Mile

More so than most, Groll takes her social media responsibility even further in considering what might be inappropriate to post, following Matthew 7:12 to do unto others as she would have them do to her. One way she does this is by putting herself in other's shoes and choosing to be sensitive to situations they are facing.

If a friend has lost a dog recently, she's careful to wait to post a photo of her dog. Or, if she knows a friend's child is struggling in an area, she delays a post about her own children's accomplishments, not wanting to cause anyone to feel discouraged.

Like Philippians 2:4 directs Christians to not just look after their own interests but also the interests of others, by taking into consideration the losses and weaknesses others are experiencing, Groll goes the extra mile (Galatians 6:2; Romans 15:1).

Loving Deeply

1 Peter 4:8 urges me to "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins."

In prayerfully seeking how to respond to my friend's post, I realize she is going through a difficult time that may be effecting her judgment in what she posts. If her situation was different, I would privately ask her about it.

In the meantime, I'm asking God to gently open her eyes to see what her post is conveying. Also, asking Him to give her wisdom in what she chooses to share in future posts on Facebook.

Image Credit: Unsplash.com

Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters.Her writing has been published in numerous publications including Focus on the Family Magazine, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, KirkCameron.com, Ungrind, Start Marriage Right, Growthrac, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and also serves as Soul Check TV's associate producer.