Monday, March 23, 2015

How An Innocent Remark About Sweatpants Can Set The Social Media World On Fire (Or Why We Love To See Others Fail)

In the past, most people did their best to remain quiet when others stumbled or failed, but that’s not the case anymore. Social media allows us to have an opinion and still stay miles away from the people involved. Anybody can be brave from far away. So, social media has added courage to our pettiness. Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere are packed with vicious attacks on people who have messed up. The comments are angry and vindictive. Sometimes they are even cloaked in religious talk, people taking the “moral high ground”. Those posts are the hardest of all to read.

Recently a well-known actress quipped that sweatpants are the leading cause of divorce in America. This statement wasn’t made as part of a prepared statement to reporters who had asked about the disheartening rate of divorce in America. It wasn’t an attack against the sweat pant industry. It wasn’t an attack against women and their choice of clothing. It was simply a bit of humor. A quick, light-hearted comment that was meant to make you smile for a second and then move on with your day. But from the response she received you would have thought that Benedict Arnold had come back from the dead to take over America, and had brought Adolf Hitler with him. The “righteous indignation” flooded computer screens and phones until she and her husband had to publicly respond to calm to storm.

So, why do we do this? Why are we so ready to jump on  anything or anyone who seems even a bit off? Every person who attacked the sweat pants comment has said and done things 10x worse at some point. I know I have. So, why do we attack? Because we love to see people fail. It’s ugly, but it’s true. But our attacks while leveled at others, are really saying a lot about us. The core of every nasty comment posted on the internet comes from this deeply held belief:

If everybody is messed up, then my mess won't seem so big.

We know we are messed up, but if everyone else is too, then it doesn’t feel like such a big deal. So we make sure that every misstep, blunder, and outright failure is documented, highlighted, and proclaimed for the world to see. We are overjoyed when someone says the wrong thing or does something inappropriate. In fact, they just need to appear to have messed up or been accused of wrong doing and Facebook will bust at the seams with cyber outrage. This sort of action doesn’t make us feel less broken as people. We are still broken, imperfect people, but we now become angry, judgmental, broken people. So, here are three thoughts to consider to help you address your mess and keep from becoming “that” angry person on social media:

God Always Forgives You

You won’t feel better about your mess after blasting other people about theirs. If you want to deal with your failure and mess it can happen, however. God will forgive you. While the consequences of our actions won’t always go away, our guilt will. God forgives. People who know and embrace forgiveness aren’t as likely to bash others on Twitter….

People Sometimes Forgive You

If your failures have hurt others it’s important to own it and apologize. Sometimes people forgive, sometimes they don’t. You can’t control that. What you can control is being honest with yourself and whomever you have hurt. Get it off your chest, avoid excuses, and go on with your life.

You Need To Forgive You

Sometimes that last part is hard, the “go on with your life” part. Sometimes our actions or words do incredible damage and it feels like we should hang on to our guilt and beat ourselves up. Living in your guilt doesn’t help anyone. Give yourself a break. Let your past go, and oftentimes, all of that pent up anger will go with it.

God has a better plan for your mess than you do. We want to cover it up or hide it behind someone else’s mess. God wants to forgive you, and He wants you to forgive yourself. Only then, can we show others grace instead of criticism, at home, work, and on the internet.

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