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Adrienne Spiritual Growth

I Want Only Positive Comments

Internet-Surfing-300x199

I’ve cast a lot of words out onto waves of the internet, and mostly have reeled in positive comments (“So cute!”, “I completely agree!”, “Looks delicious!” <- I actually don’t receive that one), and of course innumerable likey thumbs. There have been plenty of times I’ve cast out some words, or shared an article and have reeled in absolutely no feedback. There I am, out on my pier, all alone with my religious article, pretending to be cool about it. On occasion I’ve reeled in some negative feedback. And, I deem negative feedback as unwarranted, unfair, and uncharitable of the person from whence the smelly fish of a comment came. Even a mere comment of disagreement has no comfortable place in my combox. If you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all. Keep your smelly fish to yourself. Since nothing I write is of any interest to people outside of my immediate family and friends, I receive lots of positive feedback, a good lonely helping of no feedback, and only a little negative feedback.

Evidence bears out that once a blogger reaches an audience base filled with strangers, the negative comments come trolling in, no matter the topic. But most internet contributors I know, via their personal blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook statuses fall into the same category as me – receiving lots of positive feedback.

The internet provides all of us an unusually large daily audience, even for us friends and family only folks. Everyday has an opportunity to share something already emotionally sufficient in our lives and garner even more emotion from it. Enjoying snow cones with the fam? That’s already a pretty great hour spent. Post it on Facebook, and enjoy the high of 34 “likes” rolling over the next several hours. Downtrodden with the stomach bug going around? Post “Ugh. Sick again” and soothe yourself with the sympathies of ten “I’m so sorry, get better soon!” replies. Well, maybe it won’t be soothing, but at least a little entertaining while you’re stuck in bed. Share a deep theological article, and people will let you know how much it convicted them or how much they agree with you and your deep theological self. Maybe it was just a good thought provoking meme. Same response of affirmation from them, same response of feel goods from you – or, more specifically, me.

Auguste Toulmouche, 1890
Vanity, Auguste Toulmouche, 1890

In the last few weeks it dawned on me how self-centered and self-affirming my approach to internet response is. I could receive thirty positive responses to an article I’d written here at CS, but only one negative response and that negative response would make me feel like a failure. To be fair, I don’t think this only applies to internet correspondence, but I think the internet both exaggerates and inflates the condition. I realized that if my expectation when posting something to the internet is that it will only be well received, that I am, in effect, reveling in vanity.

Furthermore, this made me realize how much I need to expect and even embrace the negative feedback. Afterall, I’m not perfect. And, even if I were, Jesus and Mary already taught me that perfection is no defense against sorrow, disagreement, or even alienation in this world. Mary is pregnant with the Savior of the world, and yet she and Joseph are turned down, inn after inn, after inn. Jesus feeds thousands of people, then proclaims that He is the Bread of Life, and all but twelve leave him. He is beaten, spat upon, and nailed to a cross, all for proclaiming the Good News.

As someone who is neither Jesus nor Mary, I need to be ready for negative feedback for three reasons.

A) We’ve been warned by Jesus, “You will be hated by all because of my name.” Lk 21:17 – As Jesus and Mary exemplified for us, evil will combat me no matter how close to God and Truth I may be. Such is the nature of living in this world. Charity and honesty are needed, but also the realization that even Christ didn’t badger people into believing his teachings. He simply stated the truth once and let them follow or leave.

B) We’ve been instructed “in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another.” Col 3:17 –  – I mess up a lot. Plenty of times I need to be admonished, and of some of those times, someone might actually do so. It’s not evil. It is, however, uncomfortable. And it’s biblical. I need to be ready to accept the admonishment, especially without transferring the blame.

C) When someone disagrees with me, it’s okay. It’s not necessarily hatred or mean spirited, someone can just simply disagree with me. Sometimes it’s easy to take this personally when it doesn’t have to be. It may be more personal than the interlocutor may admit, but maybe not personal at all. Above all, I need to remember that my ideas and preferences can be disagreed with.

D) Sometimes, yes, I will receive unwarranted negative feedback, of the type that may be a personal attack or simply unfair. I need to remember to not dismiss all negative feedback to this category, but to see first if it may fall into the first three. On the occasion that the confrontation is of this category, I need to be ready to forgive immediately, because God knows how many times I have said things in this category to others. I don’t need to hold others to a higher standard than I wish for them to hold me to. And in this case I need to respond to them the way I would genuinely want to be responded to when I am in the wrong – which may be to just let it slide without recognition.

While I know it’s honest that I still want only positive feedback, I can see that this desire in me is neither good nor healthy. It’ll be a long time, if ever, before I can receive negative feedback well, not matter how warranted or unwarranted such remarks may be. My humility, however, will demand I learn to do so.

 

 The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)

From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat after each line)
That others may be esteemed more than I ,
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.
In the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Apologetics Ecumenism Evangelization Faith Formation Motherhood Uncategorized Vocations Year of Faith

Just A Mom and Her Internet

Do you ever ask yourself whether it is alright to stay plugged-in to the internet?

I have struggled with this question since I was first drawn, overwhelmingly so, to this new form of communication six years ago. I already loved email, then I discovered Facebook and discussion forums. I could engage with people from all over the world with different perspectives. Having never been good at small talk, I loved the stimulation of discussing issues I am passionate about right from the helm of my desk at home, and I was obsessed.

I became convinced that every possible spare minute must be devoted to converting hearts and minds through this marvelous new channel, of which I was now Queen, and I began to ignore the daily mundane needs of my family – you know, things like meals, laundry, cleaning, whose birthday it is. I knew I’d hit an unacceptable low when I considered putting out buckets of dry cereal and juice in the kitchen so the kids could feed themselves breakfast, lunch, and dinner while I soldiered-up on the internet all day with the Battle Hymn of the Republic playing in the background. Glory, hallelujah, I had to fight!

In thinking through the problem, I realized I could not give it up though. In spite of my failings to manage online time, I still sensed there was something inherently good about this ability to communicate. So, like anything else we build in our lives, I decided to try to understand the motivation, and figure out how to grow in virtue and avoid vice, to establish a companionship with the internet, a mutually good relationship.

Why the desire to use the internet?

Let us get a bit theological for a moment. These are significant concepts to consider when we wonder why it is social media has been so successful.

1. Unity. God created the entire human race, we are all united. Christ came into the world to give new life to the entire human race and unify it. He prayed “that they all may be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…” So we seek unity, to communicate with others. The internet is proof that all people, Christians and non-Christians alike, have an innate longing to be united. That’s why we found a way to globally connect so readily.

2. Communication. God made us in His image and likeness which means in our soul we have the same desires that God Himself fulfills perfectly, eternally, and co-equally in His internal life, the Blessed Trinity. Theologians described the Trinity as “…three persons but one absolutely simple essence, substance or nature…consubstantial and coequal…” (Fourth Lateran Council) That means that the Trinity is perfect communication, perfect sharing, perfect relationship. Humans are made for the same, we long for it, we need to be in communion, to know and be known, to love and be loved, to belong.

3. Evangelization. We live in the age of the New Evangelization. We are commanded by Christ to be disciples. It is our duty to evangelize, and the internet is a global platform. Pope Paul VI said, “It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God’s mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame…we fail to preach it?” (Evangelii Nuntiandi) He saw the coming opportunities for internet evangelization, and today we have that opportunity at our fingertips.

In short, using the internet is a good way for a busy mom (or busy anyone) to fulfill the duty to evangelize, to answer the call to ecumenism and to dialogue with people she otherwise would not be able to dialogue with. Still, to avoid vice, internet use needs to be accompanied by prayer and discipline.

Pray for these things.

Like many of you, I have a crucifix, holy water, prayer cards, candles, and rosaries at my desk to remind me to strive for holiness as I pray.

1. Humility. Whether you run a blog or interact on Facebook and Twitter, or any other social media platform, there is a strong tendency to let pride make you think you can save the world. Remember, you need a Savior just like everyone else does. I struggle mightily with pride, I like to be right and I like to let big audiences know that I am right, so I pray often, “Lord, deliver me from pride. Knock me down hard when I need it. I want to do Your Holy Will.” Humility is good for growth.

2. Effectiveness. Do not despair if you do your best, and it seems to have no effect. We need to let God be God. I pray daily, “Lord, use me. Fill me with your words, grant me the peace of knowing that You are at work in the whole world.” We should strive for excellence, and use the opportunity to write to other people as an opportunity to improve our communication skills. Respect for language shows respect for human dignity, and that speaks louder than you might realize.

3. Others. Many of you reading this already know, there are so many opportunities to pray for others when you interact online. Pray daily for all whose paths you cross. “Lord, bless each person I communicated with today, bless my enemies, and grant me the vision to see them as You do.” I no longer try to avoid people who disagree with me. I strive to do better at communicating with them, and to speak the truth in love.

So what does my day look like?

Well, mostly like a frazzled mom’s life. There are still days when I fail to balance my internet companionship with everything else. In general, though, my internet time is woven into everything else, just like so many other things are, and I find that it is a good and enriching.

There’s a theological word that describes the perfect communication in the Holy Trinity and ever since I heard it, I think of internet communication among the human race as electrons and radiation continuously run around the planet and connect people. That word is “circuminsession.” It is a word that describes the perfect, eternal flowing of life and love between all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, perfect unity in perfect diversity. As imperfect as we are, we are kind of like that in cyberspace, a constant flow of life and love.

Approach internet time as a learning curve, as something to manage. I am much better at balancing it as a part of my life without letting it dominate me now. Sometimes, still, it takes much more to pry my fingers off the keyboard than it should, but I’m working on it. I wrote this piece with a baby standing behind my back in the chair running a Hot Wheels monster truck on my head until he lost it in his footie pajamas, while some little girls who were supposed to be working independently kept popping through the office door like a Whack-a-Moles.

I learned a long time ago that the most important part of motherhood is being there. We are all on a journey together. I do this because I am human, because there is a joy in sharing my life with others, one little notification, comment, and blog post at a time. Although I rarely leave my home, I’m united, communicating, and evangelizing more than ever through my internet window to the world.

~Just a mom and her internet.