Like many readers I spend some time on Facebook—enough to have seen it at its best and worst. It isn’t a big part of my life, but when kept in its place, it can be good and healthy. If I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t have a Facebook page, and I wouldn’t ever look at anyone else’s.
However, like nearly every good thing, Facebook can become a source of temptation and can both express and feed a critical spirit. Our daughter Angela Stump is women’s ministry director at nearby Gresham Bible Church, a Christ-centered Bible-teaching fellowship I HIGHLY recommend. (Here’s a picture of her and her husband Dan and sons Jake and Ty.) Ang recently sent this note to the women of her church. It applies as much to men as women. And it also applies to other social media besides Facebook. I encourage you to listen to Angela, who is one of the wisest young women I know.
I, maybe like some of you, have a serious love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love to reconnect with old friends, to keep up relationships with people who live far away, and to see worlds collide when someone from my work is friends with someone I went to high school with. Love it!
And then I hate it. Sometimes I see people, often not realizing it, post something that really rubs me the wrong way. Should I comment or keep my mouth shut? I also hate it because checking it "for a few minutes" often turns into 45 minutes...or more. And I hate it because sometimes I see all the wonderful things people are doing and feel like a failure.
Over the last few months I've heard from a whole lot of women who have various struggles with Facebook. I just wanted to share a few thoughts to encourage and challenge each of us (yes, I'm preaching to myself, too!) Oh, and these points don't just apply to Facebook, but to real life friendships too.
First, when you post something on Facebook, please check your motives. Always ask yourself, "Why am I posting this?" Are you posting something for the sole purpose of getting comments to boost your ego or to have people add fuel to a fiery rant you're getting off your chest? I think it's fine to want to share a cute picture, or even be honest about a struggle you're having. As long as you're not doing it just to get a pat on the back, or to give the impression that you have a perfect life, or to seek encouragement for a poor attitude.
Secondly, when you post on Facebook, please remember your audience. Not everyone is single, or married, or has kids. Not everyone who IS single is either A. desperately looking for a man, or B. not praying hard enough for one. Not everyone who IS married is living happily ever after. Not everyone who HAS children is loving being a mom every second of the day. Not every woman works, and not every woman stays at home. Not everyone has money to go out to dinner every week...or at all. Not everyone who has money spends it in the same way that you do. Not everyone loves Jesus. And this one is huge: Not everyone who loves Jesus is at the same place in their spiritual walk as you are. Be sensitive. Be gracious. Be kind. Be an example to those who don't love Jesus, or who are really struggling with their faith.
Thirdly, choose to believe the best about people. Believe that the mom being honest about the difficulties of raising kids isn't trying to hurt the women desperately trying to get pregnant, or who have just miscarried. Also remember that you don't know the story behind every post. The brand new car might have been a gift, not an unwise financial decision. The woman posting about her "awesome husband" might be praising the one positive quality she can think of because she's fighting to save her marriage.
Fourth: PLEASE don't compare. Just because so and so is doing such and such doesn't mean that you're a failure if you're not doing the same thing. God has a unique plan for each of us and has given us different gifts and abilities. We're not all the same, nor should we be! And on the other end of the spectrum, just because someone is (or isn't) doing something doesn't mean you're better than they are. Remember the log and the speck? Be careful not to judge others before you've examined yourself!
This last one is really convicting to me personally. Be happy for each other. When someone talks about buying a new house, or celebrating an anniversary in the tropics, or the fun girls' weekend they just had, whether or not it's your first reaction, make a conscious thought to be excited for them. Satan wants us to be focused on ourselves, but God wants us to love others more than ourselves. If a sister has a moment of delight, rejoice with her! Just as we should bear each other’s' burdens, we should share in each other’s joys.
It really all comes down to giving each other grace because of the grace that we have received in Christ. It's about loving others because of the love the Father gives to us. It's about living out the gospel, and putting Jesus on display in everything we do.
If you feel like you're having trouble with one or more of these, I encourage you to take a Facebook break for a while, even if it's just for a day or two. It's amazing how Satan can use a seemingly innocent thing like Facebook to hold us back from growing in our relationships with God and with each other.
Praying that we all will represent God well to our fellow sisters in Christ, our families, our friends outside of the church...and even Facebook.
Photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.