I have a love/hate relationship with social media.
I have given up on most platforms.
Twitter seems like a savage wasteland to me.
People don’t really care about “linking up” with you on LinkedIn if you have had the same job title for almost ten years, never check your messages, and have no idea how to congratulate someone on their “work anniversary.”
If I am going to streak- it’s not going to be on Snapchat and do people even use Tumblr anymore?
However, I am an avid Instagram and Facebook user.
I love catching everyday, unposed pictures of my kids doing school work and silly obstacle courses through our house. I want them to be able to look back and fondly remember all the small cracks of our life that made it interesting and funny. I also love watching my friend’s children grow up- even those who live very far away.
But what social media has offered me in terms of connection and friendship has often been balanced out, if not sometimes completely tipped over, by negative feelings that are often centered around envy, regret, narcissism, and rejection.
Sometimes the feelings are simple to sort out.
Should I really be a part of this mom’s group or is it an occasion of sin because it leads me to gossip and exclude others?
Those questions, once asked clearly, are often pretty easy to answer.
But sometimes the feelings are more complicated.
Recently, I found myself in a hole.
It was the type of hole I fall into on sleepless 3am nights- endlessly scrolling through the social media account of an ex-best friend.
I know, it sounds really dramatic.
(No, I didn’t leave any snake emojis.)
In truth, I have come to accept that our falling out was the result of mutual poor choices and growth in separate directions. However, the loss of this friend felt like a marital divorce and it has taken a very long time for the pain to plateau into something manageable.
At the height of this friendship, I would have called this person my soul friend. We were this scary life force that moved in separate but highly coordinated patterns- calling out of the blue because the air suddenly began to crackle.
I told her everything.
And for an introvert with bookish tendencies- this is a big deal.
But, for both complicated and uncomplicated reasons, it ended.
It had to.
And I understand that now.
But here I was in the dead of night passing through highly curated pictures and this awful ugly feeling started to well up inside me. As I reached closer and closer towards the years of our friendship, I realized how carefully I had been cropped out of this person’s life.
Any photos of us together were gone.
Any reference to holidays that we used to spend together were negatively vague.
Things we used to enjoy together were now being enjoyed with others.
Friends we used to share are now sharing glasses of wine with a woman who wanted to make sure than any reference to our relationship was wiped from existence.
I was angry all over again.
I felt justified to hate her all over again.
And, if I let myself admit it, deep down inside, in my loneliest of places, I was just so uncontrollably sad.
And for the first time in a long time, I allowed myself to go into the shower, turn on the water, and weep. And it was freeing to just allow myself to be frustrated; to not have anyone in the room telling me that I should “just get over it” or list off all the reasons that this particular person was terrible. I didn’t have other voices deciding whether or not my “grieving process” was healthy.
I’m glad my heart is still soft.
I loved this person.
And sometimes, when a song comes on the radio that reminds me of a concert, or a birthday, or a funny car dancing moment, I want to know that my heart is still tender. It lets me know that I am not completely closed off to other relational possibilities.
That being said, the hardest part is knowing that I keep my heart insanely guarded- even from people that have more than proven themselves worthy of my friendship and vulnerability.
I mean, nothing can bond you to another mother quite like a phone conversation in which someone walks you through taking your infant’s rectal temperature, am I right?
I have found that any anger I hold onto grows hot in my hands and makes it impossible to reach out to others.
I needed to forgive this person.
When I thought all this was settled.
In these moments, I try to lean into scripture but I often feel like I am wading through murky waters. For example, up until the moment of the resurrection, Biblical forgiveness and punishment always seems pretty straightforward.
God asks for you to repent, you say you’re sorry or… the whole world might be flooded.
Hey Pharaoh- let those people go…
…or the angel of death might come knocking at your door.
Even as children we are given this ultimatum- say sorry for hitting your brother in the face or you have to sit in time out.
There’s a transaction. Someone has to be sorry and change or there is a punishment- natural or otherwise.
And then the Cross comes and the transaction changes- God is on both sides of the proverbial table.
God with the human mother who can speak on behalf of creation and God who is supernatural and can act as judge.
I have struggled with how to apply this concept to perennial pain- especially when I feel justified and the recipient could care less about my internal war with how to come to peace with them.
My biggest stride in this intellectual quandary has been coming to terms with the fact that Jesus walked the road of Calvary for me and for the person I am trying to forgive. In a sense, we are on the same side of the transaction.
I am not the judge and jury.
My job is to repent and to learn.
My job is to fairly recognize and identify my own pain and shortcomings.
My job is to grow in holiness.
My job is to trust that God knows what is fair.
God can set up the consequences.
Secondly, I have been told that time heals all wounds and hopefully, at the end of the end, that will be true.
But one look at the Sacred Heart of Jesus tells me that, even now, His heart is encased in a vine of thorns. My choice to recycle my forgiveness- to give it even when it isn’t asked of me, removes a thorn from that entrapment.
That is love.
That makes all of this worth it.
The last time I felt this way I floundered for a few weeks. I moped. I allowed my kids to watch too much TV while I meandered around cups of coffee and half-finished chores. My husband finally sent me to Mass by myself. I complained (mostly because I had to put on outside clothes) but he pushed my butt out the door and said, “Well, at least you can enjoy the silence.”
And then he locked me out because he can be dramatically right sometimes. (Don’t tell him I said that!)
As I sat in Mass I fumbled around an examination of conscious. I hadn’t been to confession in a couple of months. I finally made it in where I blew my nose into an entire box of Kleenex. After a few minutes of ugly crying, my confessor gently reminded me that feeling bad about the loss of a friendship was not, in fact, a mortal sin. I thanked him for his saintly patience, he allowed me a moment to pull myself together, and then I huddled in the back pew licking my wounds for the rest of Mass.
I took the long way back from church, cruising down Lake Shore Drive, looking at the city lights on the left and the lake on the right. Slowly, the realization dawned on me that the church never abandons us in times of trial. Standing right in front of me, in that confessional, was a path.
I can stand in line for the confession.
I can recognize that I have pain that needs healing.
I can confess my sins.
I can be honest with myself and with trusted others about my anger, resentment, and sadness. I can be honest about the ways in which I have contributed to the situation through action or inaction. I can forgive myself for those transgressions. I do not have to be okay all the time.
I can receive advice from my priests
I can receive advice from confidants who have my best interests at heart.
I can submit to the process of the reformation of my heart.
I can also submit to the process of rebuilding new relationships that lean on the wisdom of past mistakes.
I can accept God’s forgiveness.
I can remember that God can forgive both of our shortcomings. I can choose to view this person as someone who is loved by God and who has given me cause to reach for the higher fruits of virtue.
I can pray and do penance for both of us.
I can ask to be a friend of God’s and, in return, He will shape me into something beautiful