(Originally posted on our former blog site 8/19/2014)
It used to be that you could hear something in passing or in deliberate conversation and be able to label such things as gossip. You knew in your gut that the person sharing stories of jealousy, offense, or humiliation would never dare to do so in front of the one they were speaking about. You knew in your heart that how it was being shared wasn’t an exact depiction of the real story… just their version. You knew they were exaggerating to fit their angle, to make themselves look better.
You knew it was wrong.
Then as time has crept on suddenly there were more voices with more stories to share. The topics of conversation have elevated from playground rumors to something that happened somewhere in the world to someone we don’t even know. “News” reports, talk shows, magazine articles, internet sites, bloggers, and social media have all taken their opportunity in throwing their hats in the ring for your attention. Throwing anyone they can under the bus of public opinion and suddenly it is ok to do so.
Suddenly we have a right to talk about it, to have an opinion, to be jealous, to be rude, to be unforgiving, to be unloving, and even to be judge and jury.
Suddenly it isn’t wrong anymore. It isn’t gossip, it's news.
We tend to jump on band wagons of opinions and assumptions and end up taking on feelings that were never ours to begin with. We see a picture of a “friend” whose parents have bought her a car and we assume she is spoiled or being showy about it and suddenly we are jealous. (I use quotations because there is no real way to keep a friendship with over 1,000 people at a time… sorry social media… ain’t nobody got time for that!) Now if it were my best friend then I would know just how hard she tried to get good grades to earn that car, and I would be happy for her. But we’re not BFFs… I just follow her on Instagram and have never really had a conversation face to face. So I am jealous.
Because I am "allowed" to be.
Or we see that one girl who has changed her relationship status a thousand times… last month… and we laugh at her. Make jokes about how desperate she is and how she can never be alone. She is crazy, we say. But I could guarantee if you were to sit down with her one on one you would find a lonely, sad girl who just wants to know what it feels like to be loved. Someone who has had her heart broken time and time again and now the shell of a girl that remains is barely strong enough to face another day, especially not one alone. But we don’t sit down with her. We are only Facebook friends after all. So we laugh.
Because we are "allowed" to.
Or we read about another politician, actor or actress, singer, musician, public servant, pastor, random man or woman, who has done something terrible and we decide they are a terrible person. How dare they make a mistake, do something wrong, or have the wrong view on something because we surely never do. They are truly terrible. Truly. And I can make such a judgement because they are famous and have put themselves in that spotlight. I can’t stand them.
Because I am "allowed" to.
Girls, can I ask you something? Who says you are allowed to? Who says it is right? I was once told that I had my own “haters club”. That girls would literally sit and talk about how much they hated my husband and I. And they felt they were righteous in doing so because they were justified… because we deserved it. My heart sank to my stomach when I heard about such a thing. Not because they didn’t have reason for ill-feelings, I am fallible after all. No, it hurt because they thought they were right in harboring such hate in their hearts. And not only in harboring it but spreading it amongst others who didn’t even know us.
So not only are we hated by some who have never accepted our sincere apologies, but we are also hated by those who are hearing about things we have “done” years and years ago.
I am sure reading this you are thinking how ridiculous it would be to take part in such a club but we unknowingly do it all the time. We talk about a singer's recent distasteful performance, the onslaught of ill news reports, or another actor in rehab as if we were allowed to have an opinion. I am not saying we need to stick our heads in the sand and ignore what is going on in the world around us. But I am saying we need to be better at guarding our hearts from things so far in the distance that we have no business being a part of them in the first place. Our society is suffering from a Distance Disorder that makes it seem acceptable to form opinions of others, most of which we don’t even know. Because they will never know.
We hide behind our phones and our computer screens, typing hateful speech that doesn’t glorify God and with that same keyboard type scriptures for our status updates.
That isn’t love my friends. That isn’t believing the best in others. And that isn’t what Jesus would do, because He didn’t.
These stories are being told for a reason, they are someone's reality. They are someone's struggles, someone's mistakes. How hurtful to be talking so flippantly about the worst day of someone's life as if it were a conversation filler. I do not think we would be so casual in our conversation if they were standing in front of us. If they were our friend. If we were trying to persuade them of Christ's love for them. We all know that tomorrow will bring another victim to talk about, another person to de-humanize, another story to keep the disorder running full cycle. But enough is enough.
Can we stop attacking people, using their names as if they symbolized their sins, and start praying for them instead? Can we learn to guard our hearts against assumptions and personal opinion? Can we learn to view others through the eyes of God and see a soul under all that flesh? Can we truly love our neighbor… and our enemy… like Jesus commanded us to?
Even if we don’t know them, or should I say especially if we don’t know them? Because if Christ loved us at our darkest (Romans 5:8), shouldn’t we love others also at theirs? I think we have suffered from this disorder for too long and it is time to take the blinders off. Because it is not ok. And it shouldn’t be allowed.
Luke 6:35-37 But love your enemies and be kind and do good [doing favors so that someone derives benefit from them] and lend, expecting and hoping for nothing in return but considering nothing as lost and despairing of no one; and then your recompense (your reward) will be great (rich, strong, intense, and abundant), and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind and charitable and good to the ungrateful and the selfish and wicked. So be merciful (sympathetic, tender, responsive, and compassionate) even as your Father is [all these]. Judge not [neither pronouncing judgment nor subjecting to censure], and you will not be judged; do not condemn and pronounce guilty, and you will not be condemned and pronounced guilty; acquit and forgive and release (give up resentment, let it drop), and you will be acquitted and forgiven and released.
Proverbs 4:23 Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.