Last week, I seriously considered giving up writing this blog. Facebook gave me a surprise I had never seen before or expected! It made me question everything about what I am doing and why I am doing it.
Last Wednesday, during my weekly Bible study, we discussed how easy it is to make social media an idol ( something or someone you worship other than God). The causes for this were varied: envy over what others are doing or have, shame about not doing it as well as others, comparing looks, getting caught up in the political fray, etc. It was a hot topic. However, I felt like I was navigating the whole social media thing without too much trouble. Ha!
I thought I went into this writing adventure with my “eyes wide open” I “knew” the dangers involved in putting my whole good, bad, and ugly self out there. Though I had never written a blog or posted much on social media before, I knew it would be hard, scary, and vulnerable. I was going to share my whole story (what?) with many people, including close friends who after many years only knew bits and pieces. While I have been thankful to every person who has commented or text me with kind words as I have posted, I knew there was every possibility that some people might hate what I have written as well. This is why I went into this escapade with the words from a powerful sermon planted deeply in my head. “You are never as GREAT as what people say you are AND you are never as TERRIBLE as what they say you are either.” I think of this every time I post and pray it keeps me grounded and focused on my objective for creating the blog in the first place.
My primary goal when I decided to write my story (with its many twists and turns, huge mistakes, and God-given successes) was to use my experiences and lesson to help others. Without this purpose, for me, there was no other reason to display something I created or expose previously private aspects of my life. In fact, I specifically just hoped (with the Lord’s help) to encourage “one woman” with my post, so that I did not get caught up in the pitfall of numbers! I was aware of the deceptive trap counting and comparing “likes” or “shares” can be. I was determined to not go down that rabbit hole. Just to encourage or comfort “one woman” and I can keep writing. This strategy has worked pretty well so far.
Then… the Facebook surprise! I don’t know if it is new or something I inadvertently turned on, but I was shocked at the level of emotion it evoked in me and the degree to which it filled me with questions and doubt.
Last Thursday, I posted my usual blog and within an hour received notification that 42 people had visited the site so far. I had not seen a notification like this before. I was fine with Facebook tracking the numbers like the website does, however, the freaky part was that the notification listed the names of everyone who had clicked on the blog-all 42 people! The list included: long-lost family members, former beloved students now adults, and/or respected parents whose children I had taught, valued work colleagues, wonderful church associates, and some really good friends.
While I am grateful for each person who takes a moment to read what I am writing (especially when faced with vast quantities of media vying for your attention) putting a face to the readers of this blog disturbed me for two very real and surprising reasons.
First, I have reached a pivotal moment in the writing of my life experiences. The new chapter has been especially poignant and emotionally taxing for me to write and could be hard for readers to read. This is my truth that gets dark before it gets joyously light -and then back and forth as true life goes. I take my responsibility to the readers seriously and some material I will write about is highly sensitive. I do not want anyone to inadvertently be hurt or upset by reading it without some warning and/or making that choice.
Second, for a brief time, I made an idol to the silence of the 40 people who had clicked on the blog and did not react to it in any way. Ironically, many Bible scholars attribute the number 40 to a testing of faith that reveals the condition of your heart. Wow! I was definitely shown the condition of mine! Let me explain. I know there are many reasons why someone would not comment on, “like”, or share a post. Most of these have NOTHING to do with the reader’s feelings about what they read one way or the other. Nevertheless, I was happy in my naive world of not even wondering who was or was not reading my blog. Therefore I was taken aback at how, when I saw this list of names, I let my fear, pride, and people pleasing tendencies make an idol out of this silence. I let it send me (no matter how irrational it may seem) into an abyss of negative and hurtful questions.
Did something I say offend these people somehow? Did I hurt them? Maybe I am just a terrible writer or this is the wrong platform? Is my opinion too strong? Do they feel I think I am perfect at following my own advice? Do they think I am discounting real emotions of anger and hurt? Do they think this is just a cry for attention? Am I doing or saying something wrong? Am I worried too much about making them happy?
I tried to give my concerns about it to the Lord, but still had trouble not seeing it as a reflection of what they thought or felt about what I had written. I worried that I would run into people on the street and not know if they had read it or not and how they might be perceiving me. I got in my head about it. I got into my pride about it. I got into my fear about it. Even though I had received several kind and encouraging comments, texts, likes, by the end of the day, I had created an idol to it and bowed down.
I was making their possible opinion more important than my goal- more important than the “one woman”. At that moment, I let my pride and fear become more important than my trust in God. I knew I had to change what I was doing. I had to proactively look to the Lord for help in banishing this idol.
Therefore, because of the sensitive and potentially upsetting nature of some of my story and because I need to know for my own well-being who is reading my personal online diary as I navigate this journey, I am going to ask those of you who are invested in the story so far and/or would like to read it entirely to please click on the website and sign up as an email follower. This invitation is open to anyone on my Facebook friend list and the followers on the website. I am not going to try and sell you anything. I am not going to say no to anyone who would like to read it. I just want to know who is following and reading my story. If you become or are already a follower, I will send you a link and password to this week’s blog post “Turning off the Failure Faucet” today. All you need to do is click on the link and type in the simple password provided. If you do not see this post until a later date or are unable to respond, I will catch you up. After much prayer, I feel this is a correct pivot for the way I am writing my story.
In addition to making the tough decision to ask this big favor of you, I had to take time to remember where I glean my identity and confidence. I had to commit to post additional blogs I feel inspired to share that are open for anyone to read. I have loved the writing and still hope to be a comfort and encouragement to the “one woman” out there. BUT… I also had to make some sincere promises to myself. I am not going to look at who visits the site. I am not going to count “likes” or care about shares. I will not get into my head about what the silence means. I am, as always, going to be thankful, motivated, and encouraged by each and every one of your comments and support. I know it costs you something to put it out there. However, with the Lord’s help, I am going to lay down at His feet this social media idol, as well as my pride, people pleasing, and fear.
As always and as I pivot, please know that I am so grateful for every one of you on this journey and the support and encouragement you have shown to me. If you do not choose to sign up, I “see the good” and know that there are many reasons you may not want or have time to read my personal blog that have nothing to do with how you feel about me. I love you and am thankful for each one of you in my life.
Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness and deliverance. Please help others who may be caught up in the worship and angst of social media. Please help young girls (and many of us) struggling with identity to know that we are not defined by what social media says. Please forgive me for taking my eyes off the prize of that “one woman” I could perhaps encourage through you and for forgetting even briefly that my worth is in You. Thank you< Lord, for clarity and peace. In Jesus name, Amen