This is a continuation of a recent series, 10 Things I Hate About Facebook. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series.
As I continue on with this series—which has addressed the many ways we abuse Facebook for our own selfish ends—I’ve also reflected on something I heard in a course at grad school. It was in a counseling class, and the professor was talking about maturing as a spouse.
Addressing the issue of “personal preferences,” he said we often face a misconception—as we get older, we think it is only right that we become more preferential. Our tastes are more refined, we’re more sure about what we like and don’t like, and we have a more pronounced opinion about what matters to us. As a result, we tend to voice that opinion louder and clearer.
Look at a lot of elderly folks and this fact becomes plain (though they are certainly not alone). They’re often crotchety, grouchy and unbearable to be around because everything has to be exactly the way they want it. I only eat at this restaurant, I only like this news channel, I only like this kind of tea, and so on. So we roll our eyes and count down the hours to our departure; we return only when it is painfully obligatory.
But as the professor pointed out, this is the opposite of Christ-like love. As we grow and mature as Christians, we ought to have fewer and fewer personal preferences. Instead, we ought to prefer the other person above ourselves. Like Jesus, who left well-deserved royalty for the squalor of a stable and a life of disrespect and disgrace, so we ought to be willing in love to lay down our preferences for the good of others (Philippians 2).
In case it isn’t obvious, being an uber-picky person with 10,000 preference points on every issue under the sun—and making sure everyone on Facebook knows exactly where you stand on each of them—makes you unbearable to be around. An important reminder as we move on with the list.
7. When you use Facebook to relentlessly hound others with your opinions about home birth, cloth diapers, breast feeding, pacifiers, homemade baby food, or vaccinations, you’re acting in contradiction to the spirit of the gospel, which is love.
I am always amazed how seriously some people take their personal preferences that they find a way to fit them into nearly every status update or comment on Facebook. At those times I feel like an unsuspecting passerby getting mugged as he walks down the sidewalk, or like you do in that awkward moment when a dinner invite turns into a pyramid scheme pitch over a glass of wine and a wink of the eye.
There’s a photo of somebody’s kid and a status update:
Little Fifi enjoying some 100 percent organic, hand-picked, hand-peeled, pesticide-free, homemade apple sauce that doesn’t have any harmful sugars or cancer-causing hormones in it.
Isn’t she adorable in her handmade cloth diaper that won’t destroy the environment like the ones you’re using? See those ruddy cheeks? Fifi, now six, has been breastfed her entire life, which is why she doesn’t need any mercury-filled death shots, a.k.a. vaccinations. You see the look in her eyes? We connect more than most parents and their children because she came into this world with nothing but the dew of the universe and an all-natural home birth.
Does she look sick? That’s because she’s not. We go to the chiropractor and medicate with the extracted oil of the phoenix, so sickness isn’t really a problem in our house.
The point here is simple—you are free to form your own opinions about all these things, but you are not free to elevate those opinions to the status of doctrines (Matt. 15:9) or to use those opinions to tear your brothers apart (Galatians 5:13-15).
The real test of love and maturity is the ability and willingness to do a Jesus thing—to set our preferences aside for the sake of others, even to prefer their needs over our own. This is especially true when we know the personal agendas we’re endorsing are often divisive, controversial and extra biblical.
Are you strong enough to let the preferential little things go if they get in the way of your relationship with your brother? What’s more important—your opinion about cloth diapers and vaccinations, or your brother?
Instead of being the kind of people on Facebook—and in every area of our lives, for that matter—who have to let people know where we stand on every single issue every time we open our mouths, we should be the kind of people who intentionally restrain our comments about personal preferences so as not to unnecessarily give offense.
Spend your time figuring out what other people are interested in, and use your freedom to serve them and meet those needs. Take your freedom in Christ, wrap it around your waist like an apron, and get to serving.
Lastly, we should consider the short-lived nature of many of our extra biblical “convictions.” Today you’re low carb, tomorrow you’re all about the Zone Diet. The first child came during your natural home birth fixation, but by number four your war cry was “Give me drugs or give me death!”
I am still the source of many laughs for my family because of all the crazy phases I’ve gone through—the Lance Armstrong induced “I’m-gonna-be-in-the-Tour-de-France phase,” the one where I wanted to be a boxer (after watching Cinderella Man), or the one where I was convinced I’d replace Roger Federer on the ATP Tour. Somewhere in the mix there was a road bike obsession, professional tennis attire and boxing gloves. All ended badly.
It’s okay—even humorous—if we go through these kinds of phases with our personal interests. Some things stick and others don’t. But when we press our interests on others dogmatically and relentlessly, I think it makes us less credible when we’re talking about eternal truths that never change, i.e. the gospel.
Ponder: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:28).