23 August, 2016

140 Characters of Envy

I’ve been struck lately by how mean the Internet is. It seems our ability to post any thought at any time on fourteen different platforms has led to the exposure of an inner monologue that might be better kept to ourselves.

We take critical aim at everyone. Celebrities, random people we see in gyms or at a restaurant. We criticize people at church, our bosses, and other parents. We mock people’s clothes, appearance, life choices, etc. and weight in on other people’s pain like it is our place to speak cruelly about their situation.


Why do we feel this need to put our hateful thoughts out there? Why do we use 140 characters to spew hatred and ugliness on someone who never asked for it? And would we ever really be this hurtful to someone’s face (I hope not)?

Need some examples:
·      A picture comes out of Kim K. on the beach with her kids. Someone writes she is pimping them out.
·      People get upset because Gabby Douglas does not put her hand over her heart during the national anthem (not to mention people’s disparaging remarks towards her since the finals this summer).
·      People accuse Kristin Cavallari wife of starving her kids after a photo surfaces of her boys on the beach.
·      Look at the cover of any entertainment magazine. How many of the cover stories are focused on tearing a celebrity down because of a poor choice or selling a rumored downfall?

But let’s go closer to home.

How do we gossip about that woman at church? How about that mother who never “has it together” at MOPS or in the pick up line, or worse, the one who does? How often do we read our newsfeed and make snarky comments as we pass by other people’s pictures or posts?

And again, WHY?

Maybe our rampant judgment has more to do with our envy and insecurity than how Kim K. is raising her kids.

Take a step back and think about the last critical comment you made about someone. Was it because of their fashion? A parenting decision? Who they’re voting for?

Why did their choice create a visceral response in you? It might only be 140 characters, but it was enough for you to stop what you are doing, pull out your phone and comment.

Anger (and I’d say snarkiness, which is all our critical posts on social media are) is a masking emotion, meaning we are avoiding another emotion when we do it.

·      Are you jealous of the skinny mom who can wear the jeans you can’t?

·      Are you mad that after two kids Kim K. has that body and you don’t?

·      Are you mad that Kim K. and her entire clan are famous for doing nothing and you envy their money and luxury?

·      Do you relate to that mother’s overwhelmed state, but just do a better job of hiding it?

·      Have you disengaged from those closest to you and are jealous that person is still in the arena?

·      Are you tired of being single and so nitpick couple photos to make yourself feel better?

·      Are you in a loveless marriage and are jealous a friend is not?

·      Are you jealous that someone’s years of hard work landed them at the Olympics while you are at home eating a pizza?

·      You are mad your friend is chasing a dream outside the office while you can’t acknowledge the voice telling you to try? 

It’s not about them – it’s about US, our hearts and how something is not right within us. Instead of slowing down to address it, we go full steam ahead and like a bull in a china shop tear others down with our words.

Jesus taught that the tongue is a window to the soul (Mt. 15:18, Luke 6:45). The Bible is full of verses about why we need to be mindful of what we say (Pr. 12:18, 13:3, 18:12, 21:13, Mt. 12:37, James 1:26, 3:9-12, 1 Cor. 13:1).

Someone I know has a visceral response when he sees someone wearing leggings as pants. To the point he will snap photos of random strangers in restaurants, post them online, and write “WHYYYYYYYYY!?!?!??!” He gets dozens of comments of people making fun of this person wearing leggings as pants.

My question: why?!?! Why do you care if she, in all her 400 lb glory, wants to wear leggings to dinner? If she is that comfortable in her skin, why not congratulate her on being assured in who she is? What effect does her decision have on your life (except that you are choosing to get riled up about it)?

And that is my question to you – why do you care? 

Why do you care that Kim K. is vacationing with her two kids and what her swimsuit looks like? Why did you feel the need to comment on Gabby’s actions during a medal ceremony (which, by the way most the athletes did not put their hands on their hearts) or her attitude in the weeks leading up to it?

Why are you spending so much energy choosing to get riled up about the decisions of others?

What effect does her decision have on your life really? Why are you are choosing to turn it into an earth shattering deal? Could that energy be better spent elsewhere?

It’s been said that we compare our lives to other people’s feeds. But the thing is people get to pick what they post out there. And instead of being envious about what they have, why not get out there and change whatever is causing you to hate on them so much?

·      You want a better marriage – being on Facebook will not fix it.
·      You want a better relationship with your kids, take them out to dinner without your cell phone.
·      You want to chase your dream of being a writer, baker, making clothes – start small, buy one piece of equipment and try.
·      You feel like so and so has a faith you wish you could get to. Get off your phone, take your Bible, go sit at the park and let God speak to you.

Nothing we want comes by sitting online. 

We cannot face and deal with whatever envy, jealously and pain pushes us to be so critical of other people until we can first admit what about their situation makes us jealous and then turn the lens inward and let God in.

Ultimately, it is not our place to judge other people. And that is all our critical, snarky, mean comments are - judgment.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:3.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be judged for taking a stand against what matters: rights for victims of sexual violence, dictators behind wars and genocide, perversion of the Word be “religious leaders,” not caring for and loving the poor, widow, orphan.

So, instead of posting that mean Facebook post, take a step back, address the why and then move forward doing some positive. Why not tell that person how good they look, schedule a play date with the overwhelmed mom and listen, go for a walk with your kids and get away from the screen?

Do something positive with the visceral response that starts somewhere so negative. Slowly your first response won’t be to be critical and mean, but to be loving and full of grace. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45b).”

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© Amanda Lunday