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It takes little more than a moment on any social media site, be it Twitter, Facebook, or a host of others, before one comes across a range of opinions and emotions. Someone is angry! Someone is sad! Someone is happy! Someone is excited! Someone is downright outraged!
It can be overwhelming to say the least, can’t it? Those blank boxes with the blinking cursors invite us to share our thoughts with the world, or to reply to someone else’s thoughts, or to comment on someone else’s thoughts about another someone else’s thoughts, and before we know it, we’re contributing to the online cacophony with our opinions, ideas, perspectives, and certainty that what we have to say needed to be said, and all the more needs to be heard (and liked).
While a broad swath of human behavior can be quickly observed soon after logging into a social media site, one posture is more rarely seen—humility. In fact, some wonder if humility is even possible in the online space. Can one share her opinions in writing and quibble back and forth in comment threads with humility? Can one post pictures of a vacation, or critique an article, or share a new blog post with humility?
I believe the answer is yes. Why? Most simply, if the Internet is a place where we’re choosing to spend some of our time, then it’s a place where we are as obligated to obey Jesus’ words in Mark 12 just as much as we are anywhere else. In response to the question of which of God’s commandments was the most important, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these…”
We know intuitively but often ignore in practice this plain reality—God is not absent from Facebook or Twitter, nor are our earthly neighbors (hence “social” media, of course!). So, if we are determining to co-occupy a space where our neighbors dwell, then we must not check our virtues at the door. The fruit of the Spirit does not get to take a nap while we scroll through our news feed, nor should spiritual disciplines lose their effect when we type out a tweet. To be a Christian, a follower of The Way, is to rely on the grace of Jesus Christ in every circumstance, aware that we will continue to sin and to fail, but faithfully being quick to right wrongs and submit ourselves one to another.
This should not necessarily mean that we are afraid to post about touchy or even controversial topics on social media. Rarely has justice been served or love reached its full effect without clear, countercultural voices speaking a message that is not always well received. Yet we must keep in mind that to speak with strength and passion is not to speak without humility, nor is to listen well to a dissenting opinion to forego holding our ideological ground. The world is in desperate need of people willing to make peace in a myriad of ways, and for some of us, that looks like engaging some of the deep, hard things on social media with patience, charity, and tenacity.
I posed the question of humility on social media in the Facebook group for members of the Christ and Pop Culture community and am hopeful that these responses will be as helpful to you as they were to me:
“Staying humble on social media is just like staying humble offline-- it requires a relentless focus on God and His will. There's no reason why we can't love God and love our neighbors through our use of social media.” - Daniel Rothamel
“I try to always pause and ask myself why I am posting or commenting. If it's *solely* to bring attention to myself and not in any way to edify others, then I frequently don't comment or post.” - K. B. Hoyle
Ian Barrs mentioned keeping in mind who the audience is and that it’s likely comprised of people who have a range of opinions on whatever topic you’ve chosen to share about, so consider how you can write in such a way that does not merely fuel the fire of those who agree with you, but extends an invitation to those who don’t. Maggie Rapier raised the topic of posting pictures, prompting the need to ask ourselves if the choice to post is rooted in love or in self-gratification. Ian McLoud shared that sometimes, the best thing to do is to type out the post, re-type it, and then realize it’s simply not with sharing and delete it (something I personally do very often!). Scott Garbacz mentioned that it may not be pride that all social media users notice emerging from themselves, but rather anger, or jealousy, or another relationship damaging tendency. If so, take some time away from the screen to think through what evoked that temptation or sin and how you can better exhibit neighbor love by refusing to give way to it.
Social media is many things, but for the Christian, one thing it can not be is a place where we only think about ourselves, because of course, there’s nowhere that we are to think only of ourselves. Take the time to consider what types of situations cause your pride or temptation to sin in general to rear its head on social media, and consider if there are scenarios in your face-to-face life where that happens as well. If so, what would it look like to begin praying for that pride to give way to humility? Rather than indulging the flesh’s desires, let us engage the online space with a posture oriented toward listening, engaging in charitable discussion, celebrating others’ happiness, mourning their sadness, and considering what it means to treat our fellow posters, tweets, and commenters as more important than ourselves.
Image Credit: Unsplash.com
Abby Perry has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, Upwrite Magazine, and The Influence Network. She is the communications coordinator for a nonprofit organization and co-facilitates two community efforts—one promoting bridge-building racial reconciliation conversations and one supporting area foster and adoptive families. Abby graduated from Texas A&M University and currently attends Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her family live in College Station, Texas. Find her on Twitter.