Grace, the Youth Worker and the Age of Social Media
Somehow, it happens. Those of us who are committed to keeping our ears to the social relevance track, can get run over by the Bieber train. I was looking through my twitter feed and discovered that I was getting updates from Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus and the band Big Time Rush. I suspected it has something to do with the three young teenage daughters I have.
It's a national pass-time to keep up with people who make news. I have a few friends who live very public lives in front of millions. Their lot is not one I want. I can barely keep from stepping on my own tongue in front of my own limited circle of friends and staff. The most familiar pattern I continue to repeat is to post or tweet an emotional response, only to realize that it would most likely be misunderstood by too many. Then I delete it.
One of my greatest fears is that as I get older, I may lose my filter. I am worried that as an elderly man I may let lose with all of the statements that I have held back over the years. My filter is held in place by only the smallest thread of concern for the perceptions of others. It's a pretty unsure mooring.
Maybe that is why I am so sensitive to the sin that comes directly from our involvement on the informational fast track. It is so simple to gossip now. It is a one click sin. It requires no premeditation. All we have to do is listen.
I have encountered it several times in the last few months. A friend will tell me about a tweet from a famous minister that is inappropriate, or even wrong. They know it's true because it was on their blog, twitter or Facebook account. I listen. Now I have to determine if the information is relevant. It may even be preachable.
It is also gossip. It brings big people down and brings common people up. It also makes me a judge of motivations, meanings and nuance. Dangerous stuff.
My simple word to the wise is this. In 2 Timothy 2:26, Paul states that his prayer is this, “that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
I have so much more information now with which to be discerning. It is a responsibility for me to demonstrate so much more discernment that ever before. As a leader of students, and many of them have very little else to worry about besides whether Tim and Taylor are dating, I need to show them how to have information with an equal douse of grace. Here is my simple recipe for being a grace-giver.
1. I don't read because I'm curious. That is the same thing as researching a rumor through my network of middle-schoolers. Social media is too vast to hold accountable. I'll wait until Kim Kardashian tells me herself before I react.
2. I cannot be the passer of information unless I am the solver of the crisis. The truth here is that a tweet is not a desperate cry for my evaluation of lifestyles. Justin will have to call me before I let him know whether he should stay single for a while after his break-up.
3. Consider the source. Anything designed to get me to gossip comes from a bad source. I would rather talk about something that matters.
4. I am not smart, perceptive or attentive enough to evaluate. Sometimes, I can misunderstand something that I heard, firsthand. I have had arguments over things that happen in my own home. I am going to have to be okay with the fact that I am not called to head the media police.
Lord, make me a grace giver in the information age. Let me be deaf to the noise that shapes my opinions. Let me be a hearer of truth.