No matter how often it happens, I am always in awe of the way that God speaks to me–drawing my awareness to the exact conversation, or memory, or quote or song lyric that I need in the moment. I can’t speak for anyone else but I have found myself growing increasingly irritable and disillusioned the last several months, particularly when I scroll my social media feeds online.
I try to refrain myself from commenting on posts that I find triggering, but it certainly doesn’t stop me from reading them, and the more that I read the more that I find my reserves of grace–to extend to the people around me–are dry. A natural empath, I simultaneously find that I feel more and more disillusioned with our community and humanity as a whole when I read the way that people–people I know, sometimes even people I consider friends–speak to and about each other. The callousness and insensitivity, the lack of love in their refusal to acknowledge each others needs and struggles, is painful–verging on detrimental–to witness.
I am old enough that I have had social media accounts, in some form or another, for more than half of my lifetime. As such, I have developed a love-hate relationship with the reality of online communities and periodically take self-mandated breaks from using my accounts. I do this for a plethora of reasons, the biggest of which is that I don’t think that viewing the carefully curated highlight reels of other people’s lives is good for my mental health.
However, I recently decided to take a self-imposed hiatus after giving an interview on how the current restraining order against our school district violates the rights of vulnerable students, both those with immunodeficiencies as well as learning and social disabilities, to an equal education. The latter of which are federally protected under the IDEA act–the special needs mom in me has to add.
I have been a special needs parent for seven years, and as such am well versed in the ways that people can be insensitive and hurtful regarding my child. Whether it is insurance representatives trying to deny services or the lady behind us in line at the grocery store making snarky comments, I have experienced enough of other people’s callousness that it bounces off pretty easily at this point, rarely sticking and sinking into my subconscious. I took a break from social media because I didn’t want to read or see something written by someone that I know and for that to change how I see or interact with them. The highest calling in my faith is to love those around me, both friends and “enemies,” and I was worried that knowing what other people, with differing viewpoints, thought would affect my ability to do so.
I started off well. I woke up on Monday and wrangled the boys out of bed and off to school. I enjoyed a morning coffee and reading my devotional, praying and prepping for my Bible Study the next day. I went off to clean at my Grammy’s house, something I normally do on my off days. I was feeling pretty good about the day and my own willpower in staying offline and then I got a phone call from a friend.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have answered the phone.
The friend wanted to tell me about a negative comment, and even though I laughed it off and said that it was expected and I was going to let any negative comments go.
Except, I didn’t. I intended to. I really did. But it stuck. I replayed it over and over in my head as I vacuumed and washed dishes. The longer I ruminated the more encompassing my anger grew. I carried it throughout the day and into the next. I allowed the haze of my own making to envelope me in a torrent of sharp blacks and scalding reds, releasing it into the environment around me in small angry spurts–venting and making snippy comments about it to trusted friends.
I was so mad that I carried my rage into my Bible Study Group the next night. As I was sitting in our Women’s Bible Study, petulant and full of anger at the words of a person I barely even know rather than being uplifted and filled by the words of the women God has placed beside me in my walk with him, one of the women, Alli, made a comment that snapped me right back into reality and fully into humility.
A self-proclaimed lover of quotes, she stated that she really admired how our pastor, Breck Nelson, is always reminding that God calls us to be fully aware of the atmosphere that we are creating around us.
Without even being aware of it she penetrated the storm of animosity that was raging around me. Just like that a pin-prick of light shined though. My thoughts shifted, less angry about the comment and more disappointed in myself for allowing my focus to be so easily shifted by the world.
The short-tempers and frustration that so many of us are feeling could be easily remedied, not by trying to force the people around us to conform to our points of view but by stepping back and taking stock of what we are allowing into our lives–what kind of atmosphere we are creating and enveloping our children, and friends and neighbors in. I think that no matter what we believe on any number of the social issues that seem to be battling down upon us, one after the other, none of us wants to live in an atmosphere of animosity or anger. We don’t want our children to grow up in bitterness or hate.
So, before you hit send on that bitingly pithy reply to the comment that sent you over the edge, pause. Put down your phone, or tablet, or roll away from your desktop and grab a snack, take a walk, read one of the books that have been collecting dust on your night stand, call a close friend and vent out your frustration and then laugh at the fragility of your own ego telling you that “snapping back” on social media is in any way a healthy coping mechanism, because the reality is that the people you are arguing with are the same people you have to live among, who will rally around you in time of need, who will lift you up and encourage you without a moments hesitation, and I would wager that none of the issues we are outraged about are going to be solved through social media interactions.
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