I do not have Facebook.
Most people, now that Facebook is no longer a trendy cool thing that college students do but a mostly normal everyday thing that everyone and their mother does, tell me I made the correct decision. But sometimes – once every blue moon – I get a pang. I wonder what so-and-so is doing now, I think. Or you know, I never did hear if that one person I knew from that one church wound up getting the job they wanted. Facebook, I know, would give me the answers.
But I continue to avoid it, and here’s one big reason why: avoiding Facebook helps me love people better. Actually, it helps me love people, period, because I’m pretty sure that if I used it, I’d struggle.
That’s because even though I don’t have Facebook, I’ve seen its worst: threads cluttered with nasty language, incoherent rage-filled screeds, half-informed rumors and wild conspiracy theories masquerading as truth, a COME-AT-ME-BRO attitude that’s always looking for a fight.
And here is the honest truth: I can’t handle that. When I read things that are lies, those lies irritate me and make me angry. When I read incoherent screeds or nasty comments or hateful, vicious things, – or sometimes even blatant half-truths touted as gospel – it makes me lose respect and concern for the people who write them. It makes me roll my eyes. On occasion, it feels me with contempt and, if I am in a particularly bad place, a sense of superiority.
None of that is godly.
Unfortunately, I have yet to achieve the Christian state of mind that would let me look at all of those things and still be full of peace and love and care for those who propagate them. So now, as I permit God to work on my heart in the meantime, I just don’t look. I’ve taken Jesus’ advice to cut off the limb that might cause me to sin, and I simply choose not to engage. Recently, this has extended to me avoiding most comment sections as well. Why look at what makes me angry? Why make it even harder for me to love and serve people I already know I’m going to struggle with?
This is a lot harder to do than it seems.
I’m convinced the same urge that leads us to chew on hangnails or pick at scabs also prompts us to seek out the irritating, annoying, and frustrating behaviors of those we already struggle to serve and love. It’s a comforting sort of confirmation: I knew I had a reason to dislike them! And with that confirmation, our dislike grows sharper, our preferences more entrenched, and an attitude of servanthood even more distant.
The cycle is simple: we dislike someone –> we seek out all their irritating/upsetting behaviors that bother us as confirmation of why we dislike them –> we dislike them even more and eventually forget our godly mandates for behavior toward them
“For a good man,” Paul points out in Romans 5:7, “someone might possibly dare to die.” We are apt to sacrifice and serve the people we consider worthy…sometimes, anyway. But it’s Jesus we are to emulate, and it was Jesus who died not for the good but “for the ungodly.” If we are going to sacrificially love the ungodly around us – including, yes, those people we dislike – then we need the Holy Spirit to enable us and we also need to get out of our own way.
And sometimes that means avoiding Facebook. Or refraining from asking Carol about her spending habits when you know the answers will make you angry. Or choosing to go to coffee with Jim instead of lunch since something about the way Jim chews food with his mouth open provokes an unholy resentment in you. If you know that there is something standing between you and your ability to love and serve someone, and it’s in your power to get rid of it, then do.
It’s a small sacrifice on the path to a greater love, and sacrificial service is precisely what we are called to do.