(linking up with Coffee and Conversation this week)
We all have experienced the meaningful connection but also the crazy chaos of Facebook. When we get a “friend request” from someone in a past season of life, it’s cool to see where they are now, photos of their family, and the journey they have taken. We have also read (and maybe taken part in?) heated arguments, reactive statements, and passive-aggressive comments. We are our best and worst selves in social media.
Recently I read a friend’s status update that was bemoaning all the trials their family has been going through. It had been a long road and she was tired. It seemed that she was looking for kindness, empathy, and maybe a “yeah, that stinks.” We have all been in her shoes for that is part of our shared humanity. Challenges, sickness, loneliness.
At first, I was surprised at the responses she received. Well-meaning friends offered up a myriad of “magic bullets” to cure the pain. Essential oils! Juice Plus! Diets! All the things! And then I wasn’t so surprised. I know I have done the same thing. As an Enneagram 2, I take pride in helping others and fixing their problems. I don’t like to see others suffer and will readily come up with a game-plan. I rush ahead not realizing that what the friend may need is simply presence, being listened to, and quiet comfort.
When we are down, struggling, and confused, well-meaning advice can feel like judgment. Mothers seem especially vulnerable to criticism that they aren’t doing enough, are wise enough, or making the right choices. When we jump in with magic bullets, we affirm ourselves that we have the answers to health, wellness, and right living and that if our friend would do “x, y, and z”, then her life would be great too.
Here’s the thing. There are no magic bullets. We aren’t going to escape the brokenness of the Fall. Kids get sick, trauma happens, suffering comes. Magic bullets tempt us to believe that we can control our way out of harm, disease, and challenges. We won’t outrun death, unexpected hardship, and shattering pain. We can live as wisely as possible using the knowledge and resources God gives us, but none of those are a magical guarantee of health and life.
So how can we be a good Facebook friend without offering Magic Bullets?
Listen with our eyes. When we read the struggles and trials of others, listen and nod. Notice the suffering. Acknowledge our shared humanity and offer kindness. Keep the words simple and meaningful.
Keep our passions in perspective. Stop prescribing. There is no right solution for each person for their bodies, marriage, and parenting. If she needs ideas and products, she knows where to find you. We need to be careful that we aren’t making promises and preying on people’s fears in order to validate our own lifestyle, “be helpful”, make money, or gain influence.
Pray. Does that sound too simplistic? It’s not. The best way to love someone is to pray for them. Right then, right there. Pray for their comfort, their fortitude, their body and spirit to be strengthened.
Help in reality, not virtually. It’s easy to throw out some quick advice, but if someone is suffering and we have the means, then show up. Offer to bring them some groceries, fold their laundry, or pick up some medications. Mail a card. Order dinner for them. Ask them, “How can I serve you today?” Real, tangible help is a visual of God’s love and care for them.
We are well-intentioned friends. We want to love, serve, and inform others. Let us do that in ways that are gentle, life-giving, and humble. Facebook has enough drama, pride, scolding, and weirdness as it is. Let’s show up in that virtual space as kind servants who listen, love, and encourage with grace and compassion. Let’s make our Facebook presence a safe one, making our little Internet corners lovely and healing, soft and light.