My generation was all about privacy. With the advent of social media, things have drastically changed. Many people, particularly those who have grown up with social media, are putting their lives totally on public display.
This brings transparency to friendships, family relationships, and our own faults and foibles. It has been interesting to watch the transformation. With this newfound transparency comes a great deal of responsibility.
A few years back people began posting their diet and exercise program publicly. I was amazed at the bravery of it all. They were hoping for accountability, but opened themselves up to criticism and bullying if they failed in their attempts. While I admire their openness, I personally could not set myself up for that kind of possible public ridicule.
This brings me to the latest trend I’ve been watching. I’ve seen a number of inactive/less active (I’m not fond of either term) members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) posting on social media their attempts to reactivate, or come back to Church.
Many of them have personal issues or habits which they are trying to change in order to feel comfortable receiving the sacrament again, or become worthy of attending the temple. I am in total awe of their honest hearts. When I began my own personal journey to come back after a 20-year hiatus (not the best term either), I didn’t even tell my own siblings until after my family had been sealed for time and eternity in the temple.
I can’t imagine what it would have been like if my daily struggle had been on public display with commentary from all who scrolled through their feed.
My concern today is the responsibility of all of us as we watch these transformations happen on social media. Are we being encouraging? Are we judging? Do our prayers include those who are making this brave attempt? Do we criticize when they stumble or falter, or do we pick them up and help them along the way?
Social media advice is as prolific as a swarm of mosquitoes after a rainy winter. We offer unsolicited advice about everything. This is a cause for concern when considering the worth of a soul. Having taken that very difficult personal journey to reactivity in the Church, I know the heart can be very fragile.
These people are taking very real steps to change their lives, and I know from personal experience that it bugs Satan. They are fighting him every minute of every day—whether through the process of breaking personal habits, or keeping Satan from convincing them they aren’t worth the effort. Satan is constantly trying to undermine their sense of self esteem.
He doesn’t want them to remember what it feels like to be in the company of the Holy Ghost. He tries to convince them they are worthless in the sight of God. So, those of us on social media need to be very careful not to feed Satan’s lies. Save the advice column for another forum, and think before you post.
Unsolicited advice can really rub someone the wrong way. It’s like rubbing salt in an open wound. On the other hand, encouraging words such as, “I’m thinking about you,” “I’m here for you,” “You can do this,” “You are in my prayers,” (and then actually pray), and “Heavenly Father loves you,” can make a huge difference in the outcome of someone’s day, their life—and possibly change their eternal outcome.
The prayer roll in the temple should include the names of individuals who are making the journey back. Don’t assume that someone else has attended to that matter.
The name of my LDS Blogs column this year is “Strengthening Our Faith.” As I try to strengthen my own faith, I share what I’m learning through my writing in the hopes of strengthening your faith, as well. As you see others around you, hopefully, you will help strengthen their faith. So when someone posts on social media about their very private journey back to Heavenly Father, be the strength; not the criticism.
Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” He didn’t say, “You’ve got so many things that need fixing. Fix this problem, this problem, and this problem, and then—if you meet all my criteria—I may let you follow me.” No, He simply said, “Come, follow me.” We follow Him by taking baby steps, one at a time.
As we walk, we learn line upon line, precept upon precept, (2 Nephi 28:30) until our foibles and bad habits are swallowed up in the atonement. We are already forgiven; we just have to learn to walk. That walk is a lot easier when done with supportive friends. We can strengthen our faith together.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.