What people think matters; how people see us matters. We anchor ourselves to the opinions and values of others. Men and women latch their value to the people we see as giving us value. Our worth is then neatly packaged into the confined space of that other person’s thoughts and whims. This is all okay up to a point. Humans were built for community, we need good government and organisation; men and women, living in fellowship, not in isolation, are human together.[i]
However, people tethering themselves to the thoughts of others without caution, spells potential disaster. For example, when we get down to the bottom line of Social Media, unless a person is selling something, the heartbeat of those platforms is either genuine sharing, or sharing because of a lack of belonging and self-acceptance; fear of loneliness and isolation. What makes these platforms thrive is the role they play in anchoring one person to a community, whereby that person gains some form of self-worth, validation and completeness as a human. If none of this were true, there would be no rhyme or reason for social media.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not the foundation of that self-worth, validation and completeness is at its core faulty and dysfunctional. If a person gets the feeling that they are accepted and wanted, that’s all that matters. Questions like, “What if that anchor isn’t locked in the right place? What if that anchor only has the appearance of providing safety and isn’t actually safe?” aren’t considered.
What doesn’t seem to matter is whether or not the opinions and values of others are valid, just or holy. These factors seem to be rarely considered. Questioning those who cross-examine us in such a way, is something very few are brave enough to do. Most people would still agree that in all relationships, honesty is still the best policy. Better a wound from a friend, than honey from an enemy. As Solomon put it: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)
Few want to be a source of healthy conflict. Few want to cut loose an anchor for fear of getting tossed on to rocks and being carried away by violent seas. Even when deep down they know that the anchor is dragging them down into the abyss, most don’t see it, or want to see it, for fear of losing the very thing that they think grounds them to a sense of worth, purpose, community and inclusion. Even if it’s toxic. Oblivious to the false security the anchor provides, when the storm hits, the ship goes down or gets carried away regardless of how they or others feel. If the harbour isn’t safe, it’s best to head for deep water. Finding ourselves stuck in the wrong port can be dangerous.
The reality is that people set standards and draw opinions about us behind our backs. People talk. We are looked at, measured, weighed, judged and then valued. Our position in any community is just as good as our appearance, and our last great performance. Our worth in those communities is just as good as our silence, compliance and applause for those in positions of power. Sometimes this is done willingly. We want to appease those in power because they have the ability to thrust us into power.
The reality is this: the ambitious, conform. The covetous, charm. The selfish, betray. The prideful play power games; the greedy, lie, and the jealous, manipulate in order to gain. Social media platforms can be just another tool for anyone like this to gain superiority over others. If you can be used as a pawn in this process, you will be.
As stated by Jeremiah, the “weeping” prophet, who had a firsthand experience with rejection and abuse from within his community, the heart is deceitful above all things…who can understand it?’ (Jer. 17:9)
In a recent post to their Facebook wall, Sanctuary International Matrix posted the question:
“Dear Pastor Bob Beeman: I’m tired of trying to be a good Christian. As hard as I try, I still get criticized for what I do wrong. My Christian friends keep reminding me that I’m not a very good example. I’m considering leaving the faith. I’m just too miserable.”
Beeman’s response was on point:
“Sometimes the best examples to me, have been the people who fight the hardest. That fall down the most and get up every time. Because I identify with them, and I want the hope that they have. That’s what the Bible says: First Peter 3:15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
It’s worth stopping to think about what anchors us. It’s worth asking what our anchor is secured to; investigating to see whether or not our anchor is secure, or if our anchor only has the appearance of being secured. If it doesn’t, or the harbour isn’t as safe as it looks, best to pull the anchor up and relocate. Sometimes pulling up anchor and moving the ship, although hard, may be exactly what God is calling for [ii]. We serve whatever our hearts are tethered to.
If I measured, or tethered my membership criteria in the Church by the standards of others, and not by what God had set for us all, in Jesus Christ, I’d have quit a long, long time ago.
‘Be attentive to God’s Word…Guard your heart diligently, for from it flows the well-spring of life’ – Proverbs 4:23
The struggles are real, but keep both eyes on the prize because inhaled grace ignites.[iii]
‘…Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.’ (Hebrews 6:18-19)
[i] ‘With the creation of woman God expected man to confirm and maintain his true humanity by the exclusion of every other possibility [of a partner].’ (Karl Barth CD. 3:1 p.294)
[ii] “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:21, ESV)
[iii] ‘there is no more intimate friend of sound human understanding than the Holy Spirit’
(Karl Barth C.D. IV.4:28).
Photo credit: Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash