Today I had an encounter that was both encouraging and convicting at the same time. After church, a good friend of mine gave me a big hug and told me how proud of me he was. He is much older than me (old enough to be my dad), and we’ve been following Christ together for about the same length of time (I think we were even baptized on the same day back in 2007). He went on to say how he loved seeing my Snapchat Stories and Facebook Posts, and how he was impressed with how I am always on the go and manage everything in my life to God’s glory.
He said, “one minute you’re playing with your kids and the next you’re lifting weights at the gym. You spend a lot of time with your wife, and you’re always posting scriptures, and I can see that your business is doing great! I’m really proud of you, and how far God has brought you because I know we both started following Christ around the same time, and I know the life that God pulled you out of…”
On the one hand my pride was stroked and I felt really great about myself… for about a millisecond. Pride was pretty much immediately followed by conviction as I started to correct my friend and let him know that on social media I tend to put my best face forward. I don’t often share the “behind-the-scenes footage” of my struggles and issues. I was convicted of the fact that I may be guilty of portraying a picture-perfect life on social media, while covering up the embarrassing aspects of my life that I don’t really want to let others in on.
As my friend was sharing with me how proud and impressed he was with my life, I was thinking on the inside, “but, if you only knew!”. If you only knew how conflicted I am about the amount and the quality of time I spend with my family. If you only knew how fearful I was that maybe I was missing God’s will for my life in certain areas. If only you knew how I’ve had to live off of financial miracles because business wasn’t as prosperous as I made it appear to be. If only you knew the arguments Candace and I have about stupid stuff, and how often I still let my pride get in between our marriage. If you only knew how vigorously I have to fight my lusts, doubts, anxieties, laziness, fickleness, and complacency.
Most of us subconsciously know (partly because we’re guilty of it ourselves) that no one really keeps it 100% on social media. However, for me, this is a big deal. When I came to Christ I vowed to never be fake. I grew up witnessing hypocrisy in the church, and I was resolved to not be a hypocrite. You know – the one who seems like they have it all together and they put on a front as if they’re perfect, yet they have skeletons in their closet that would make a heathen blush. I was determined to be genuine; to be real. What you see is what you get. Yet my friend’s praises indicated to me that maybe I’m not being all that honest… so I guess this post is me setting the record straight – YES! I have weaknesses, too. If I can boast about anything, I’ll boast in that…
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.; Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Here are a few potential dangers that I see can follow as a result of Christians sharing a superficial display of life as-seen-on-Facebook:
1) We can convey hopelessness to those who struggle
As a Christian, when we only share “the good stuff” without being open about the fact that we have struggles and weaknesses it can be very discouraging to those who feel like maybe they’re just inadequate. When they see how “all-together” some people have it, they can feel as if they’re uniquely without God’s favor. Conversely, being forthright about our struggles and letting others know that “what you’re going through is very common” can be very encouraging and instill hope in others who struggle with similar things.
“He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4
2) We can distract people from the gospel
Our seemingly perfect lives displayed on social media can become a distraction from the gospel. When all glory is deflected from Christ’s greatness onto our greatness, we become a hindrance to the gospel working in the lives of those we’re trying to impress.
3) We can give false expectations
If you follow Christ for any length of time, people will catch on. You can’t have a “personal relationship with God” in the sense that it’s so personal no one ever knows about it. It doesn’t work like that. If you’re a Christian, people will take notice, and often times pay attention (some for better, and some for worse). If as Christians all we post is the good, and never show the bad and the ugly, we may not be accurately representing scriptures like:
“In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3:12
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12
4) We can encourage false motivations
It’s often said, “what you win them with is what you win them too.” Yes, God has been good to me and my family. Though this post is about boasting in my weakness, I can’t lie – I’m blessed. I do have an unbelievably beautiful wife who loves me and is committed to me. I have three amazing sons who look up to me. I have a business that I love and has been able to provide a lifestyle that most people in the world couldn’t dream of (relatively speaking, since 51% of the world lives off of less than $2 per day). Yes, every one of those things I just listed has their fair share of difficulties and ups and downs; however, I’d be lying to say that God hasn’t blessed me abundantly.
However, people often times equate correlation with causation, and consequently make rash decisions. In other words, one might say “Sean is a Christian. Sean has a comparatively great life. I want a great life. Therefore I’ll give this Christianity thing a try.” Then when things don’t pan out the way they expected, they jump ship, exposing their false motives for following Christ in the first place.
As Christians, we need to not give the false impression to those we’re trying to win that following Jesus means a life of ease and financial prosperity. We need to be open about the weaknesses and trials we face as believers, while pointing to the source of our contentment in all things – Christ.
“I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13.
5) We miss out on opportunities to point to Jesus
The fact is we need Christ. Not only do we need Him for salvation, we also need Him for sanctification. When we paint pictures of ourselves as though we are in lesser need of Christ’s continual work to cleanse and heal us, then we miss out on opportunities to share the real ongoing, active work of Jesus in our lives.
“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion” Philippians 1:6
So, how then should we post?
Though this post is about being authentic on social media so as to not put on a false-front as if you have no struggles, I’m not therefore advocating that everyone should now take all filters off and share everything. I think we’ve seen that, too, and it’s probably worse. You know – the complaining griper who always posts negativity on their wall and usually shares way too much information in order to drum up sympathy from anyone who cares to comment. I’m definitely not saying we should resort to that.
I’m also not saying that we should post our deepest struggles and darkest secrets for the world to see. I believe there’s wisdom in having a close group of a trusted few who can speak into your life for those issues. In fact, I’m not saying that anyone should post a particular way at all. I happen to like the diversity I see in my News Feed, and it would be pretty boring if everyone posted the same way. This post was primarily a personal reflection for myself, so here are my personal takeaways:
- I’m going to continue posting the types of posts I have been (good food, great coffee, time with my family, updates with Butler, ministry outreaches, etc.). These are all real parts of my life, and I give glory to God for all of them.
- I’m going to periodically post things like this, hopefully giving a more balanced insight into who I really am.
- I’m also going to be more transparent (as wisdom would allow) with some of the things that I have struggled through and wrestled with, but always with a message of hope and victory through Christ… because what’s the point otherwise?
One thought on “Life, As Seen on Facebook”
Great writeup, Sean. I like your “how should we post?” section to sum it all up. It is a tricky balance to know how to reveal our imperfections… in what way, in what context, and to whom. Although it can feel risky, I’ve found that it generally invites community with others if its done in the right way and context. Thanks for sharing!