Deal with It

  • Randy Karlberg
iphone screen

I got a call from one of my sons several weeks ago and he said, “Hey Dad you know how you say you hate social media?”  I did not need to be reminded.  I have seen these incredible tools commonly referred to as social media used in some pretty terrible ways.  Just last year I took a class on “sexting and cyber-bullying”, both of which are considered Crimes—and rightfully so—as they have brought a massive amount of pain and suffering to people.  We all are very aware of the unchecked gossip that runs rampant on any number of social media platforms.  So, when I answered my son in the affirmative, he proceeded to tell me how a media outlet misunderstood a tweet one of his friends had made. The media person made a quick wrong assumption and then ran a story that was blatantly false. Even after being personally contacted by the individual who tweeted, the media person refused to believe him and instead, accused him of lying! Even credible proof that the story was false could not halt the tantalizing tale from being fabricated and published.

I am not going to write about my personal disdain for the use (more accurately I would call abuse) of cyber media in our modern society.  Each of us can come up with our own examples of how social media has negatively impacted our lives.  I am fully aware of the positive aspect of social media, but in my opinion the benefits rarely outweigh the detriments.  On my mind are the deeper spiritual trials that have resulted due to the misuse of social media.  The content on these platforms can tempt us to become dissatisfied with our own lives or lure us to provide an aggressive opinion without considering the impact. We can critically examine other people’s issues with ease without being willing to examine our own. And these are but a few examples of the negative potential of cyber-technology misuse that give me angst.  It does not matter how impressive you have dressed up your communication.  It still is incorrect if you do not consider the Biblical parameters given for functioning in relationships with people.

The Bible has such wonderful instructions for conducting our lives in relationship with other people.  One lesson is we are told not to covet. We are commanded in Exodus 20:17 not to covet our neighbor’s house, wife, or property.  The reason for this is elementary as we see how this longing for other people’s spouses or things can bring a great deal of resentment and sinful behavior.  Have you ever been online having no idea that you needed something until you saw someone else expounding upon an amazing new gizmo that you now cannot live without? This really is lusting after something.  It is all wrapped up in discontentment and idol worship.  We are called to remember how God has blessed each one of us and to not focus on someone else’s situation.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, you will NEVER be satisfied if you habitually compare yourself with others.  And the cyber-world provides endless possibilities to go down this sinful trail.

Issues will always be a part of living in community with others.  God gives us some simple but profound steps to positively navigate these issues.  In Matthew 5 we are given instructions on how to deal with someone who is angry with us.  We are told that even if you are making a sacrifice to the Lord and you remember that your brother has something against you, you are to leave your sacrifice and go make things right with your brother.  This is actively seeking out personal interaction with one another with the intent of listening, seeking forgiveness, and offering forgiveness.  I believe God’s design for us is to sit down with those whom we are  in conflict and speak face-to-face.  This in-person communication is so helpful for at least two reasons.  One, much of communication between people is non-verbal.  When you communicate digitally you are missing out on a vast amount of communication.  Second, if you are personally with someone, your selection of words and inclusion of elements is greatly refined.  When there is the vast chasm of the cyber-world separating two individuals, the inhibitions, which we have for a very good reason, are easily rejected.  In my opinion, digital socializing leads to improper boldness and often includes foolhardiness.  Take the time to personally engage with those that you need to reckon with.  The growth for relationships and social reconciliation are so worth the challenge.

Finally, Jesus is very clear as to how we are to go about judging other people.  In Matthew 7, He gives the comical example of when you are going to judge someone else, you are to take the massive log out of your own eye before you help remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  But truly there is nothing funny about this.  Often we as people cannot see clearly to help someone else because we have such a massive issue ourselves that obscures our vision.  Jesus calls us to examine ourselves first before we are able to help another.  We need to be about dealing with our own issues before we expound on the deficits of others.  In each of these three God is telling us as people to consider our own condition rather than focus on those around us.

The counsel that I need to continually give myself is to focus on what God has done and desires to do in my own life.  I need to ask God to start with me, and then hopefully I will have enough clarity and empathy to beneficially come alongside others.  The Internet in general and social media specifically has the power to exponentially propagate our personal issues to the negative, and as with all “good internet access,” through lightning speed.  We must return to God’s instruction manual and begin to deal with our own heart issues.  God will change us and use us for His purposes and glory if we will only humble ourselves and seek the life that He has for us to live.  My prayer in this life is found in Psalm 115:1, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of our steadfast love and your faithfulness!”