My issues, online

Friday, August 9, 2019

The digital market place has always been a place of honesty. Openness is celebrated and practiced daily. How much should you share online? Opinions abound.

I started blogging in 2003. I've seen people use every digital platform in existence to share their issues. They have different goals. Some want to break stigmas. Others, just want to share. If and when their motive is questioned, the reality of free speech is quickly remembered.

Journalism and higher education taught me to appreciate and celebrate free speech. The thing is, I'm a Christian. My speech and what I share online are determined by my faith in the God of the Bible.

I want to share my general decision-making process when it comes to what I share online. I consider these three things:

Lesson learned • I've always said that if I learn a lesson, I should be able to share it with others so they too can have hope. Before I post something, I often ask if I have learned something Godly from the situation. If I'm still angry, I probably don't need to share it online. I also understand that God created the feeling of anger. the Bible says in Ephesians 4:26 "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger." Ask yourself: "have I learned the lesson God wants me to learn?"

No character assassination • I was sitting at a job interviewer's conference room when the person in charge said "I combed through your blog and I couldn't find your opinion on the current political scene." I told the person "you probably won't find anything there. If you really want to know, I'll take you out for coffee and we can have a conversation." I don't believe in character assassination or defamation. No matter how ugly the behavior of the person is, I prefer not to comment. My goal online is to spread hope. Bad mouthing people does not help me accomplish this goal at all. Ephesians 4:29 says "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." My goal is to build up through my words. Yes, I've been asked my opinion on challenging people. I've tried to speak the truth in love in such occasions.

Beware of rants • I know you won't be surprised that we are starting to see academic research on the subject of online rants. While I don't have those results, I can tell you that the rant writer wants a specific reaction from the reader as they want to feel a certain way about themselves. When people rant online, they have a specific concern. Most people don't rant online when they're having the best day of their lives. Usually something has to set them off. Let's call that "suffering." Here is some biblical advice:

"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit." James 5:13-18 (ESV)

I believe that instead of going from suffering directly to a rant, we should pray. I'm not going to say that God is going to prohibit you from typing with anger. I am saying that prayer will offer you heavenly perspective of your situation. The next time you feel like writing a rant, turn off your screen and pray. Read your Bible. Call one Spirit-filled friend. You will find that there are fruitful ways to resolve the feelings that result in online rants.

I know God wants me to be transparent. It is through transparency that the light shines brighter.  I also know that God's ways are better than the ways of our current culture. God's ways lead to abundance in life, not temporary relief for bad feelings.