Behind the Screen

rainloveIt is really easy to see the internet as an abstract place. A place that isn’t really
real but we all seem to live on it. It sometimes feels like a place where there are no faces, no real people but just words and videos and pixels.

But it isn’t that simple. Behind every screen is a person. A real person. A person with feelings and dreams and fears and doubts. Behind every blog is someone living real life, trying to get through the daily grind. Behind every YouTube video is a real person going through a tragedy or clinging to hope or skipping in the sunshine. Behind every twitter account is flesh and blood, typing thoughts and ideas and their hopes and dreams.

I have been pondering this. Which may seem odd, but when we comment or tweet back we aren’t placing words into an abyss that swirls them around and sucks them in a black hole. No, those words which are dripped in meaning and language are going to be seen and processed by a real person. And depending on the words you use, they will either encourage or scar that person. They will either uplift or break down. 

I have friends with YouTube channels and blogs that sometimes get abuse from people, words flung onto the screen and sit there chewing away and they are hurt by them. They wonder if it is worth it? Does it outweigh the good stuff? One of my friends said that he get about 5% horrible comments and its often those comments that he remembers the most.

We need to recognise that the person behind the screen has real feelings. And then we ask ourselves…

Is what I’m saying encouraging, helpful, uplifting, truthful, humane?

Even if I disagree with someone, if I don’t think their theology is like mine, if I think their concepts and ideas are not what I agree with, the truth is that they are still a human being behind the screen. My ungracious words could knock their confidence and hurt them.

Would I say the same things to them if I was sitting at the table with them? Eating, looking into their eyes as we discuss theology, gaming, YouTube videos, music etc… What would drip off the tongue?

My friend recently wrote some thoughts of a book she was reading, she doesn’t agree with everything he wrote but her mini review was full of good and gracious thoughts. But the author of the book sent her a message saying he was glad she read the book and would interested in more of her thoughts on it. She shared this with me and it made us stop and think.

There is a real person behind this book and although we don’t agree with everything the book says, the person who wrote it is not abstract and not someone to simply disagree and argue with. It made her think about how she will engage with the rest of the book.

The person behind the screen is not abstract. They are real. Flesh and blood. Dreams and Imagination. Hurts and Fears. Someone you could sit down with and drink coffee with. It should change the way we comment, remark, review and write when we engage and disagree with people or dislike something.

Love should be in every keystroke.

*Image from Imadecode (Flickr: Creative Commons licence)

Lets Encourage our Leaders

It’s always easier to give criticism.

It’s easy to find the error in what someone does or says.

It’s easy to find the wrong in situations.

It’s easier to break down then to build up. I can break you down and pull you apart from the comfort of my own chair or whispers to a friend or at the tips of my fingertips. I don’t have to give anything away in my discouraging words, I can just sit behind a wall and cast over grenades that will explode around you. I do this because you don’t meet my expectations, you don’t say the right words and I am not at the center of all your decisions. I don’t want this ministry to be easy for you and I want to keep you humble. It’s too much effort to give you praise. If its done my way, perhaps I will throw you a bone, a small dish of encouragement – but don’t expect too much.

A critical spirit is ugly and its rooted in bitterness and pride. It’s easy to elevate ourselves above others and cast our opinions like bullets that wound our leaders and our family. But our leaders need encouragement. I have come to realise that in my 4 or so years in “ministry” as a student worker the worst times for me are not when numbers are down or when there is a big issue, the worst times for me is when I hear people say discouraging things about the CU or people in the CU or about me – because I need encouragement not to be torn down and I know my co-workers/friends/students do as well. I don’t mean people giving correction, I mean people gossiping and constantly saying discouraging things. I know that the Lord often uses this to keep me humble, a reminder of my identity being in Christ and being wonderfully wrapped up with him. I am not fishing for encouragement but it has made me realise that words matter. What I say matters and how I speak about others matter. Do I approach people with a critical spirit or with encouraging words? I resolved in my heart to find and give encouragement the best I can (my critical spirit lurks around though, its a battle).

Through these last 4 years in ministry it made me realise that our leaders need encouragement. Our pastors and speakers, our small group leaders and children’s workers need encouragement. I don’t mean they need their identity in our praise, I mean they need encouraging, words that will uplift and help them, as Ephesians 4:29:

” 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.”

And Hebrews 3:13

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Let our words give grace to those who hear! Let our words soften each others hearts.

When our leaders speak tell them what you found encouraging and lift their spirits because most often (from what I am told) they will feel a bit rubbish after speaking.

Encourage your elders, tell them that their care and love for you is invaluable and that the time they spend in study, praying and leading the church is so valuable for your walk with Christ.

Encourage your small group leader, tell them that they are leading you all well and opening their home to you is the most wonderful blessing.

Encourage your children/ youthworkers – the time they invest in your children is so important and a wonderful sacrifice.

Encourage your husband or wife who loves you, cares for you and gives themselves to you.

Encourage those who spend time-serving and loving you. Tell them that what they do is so valuable and such a blessing to you and without them there would be a real lack in the church and your life. Encourage until their hearts are filled with joy and smiles on their faces. It will mean giving something of yourself to them, it will mean making an effort but I tell you what, you will look more beautiful and know more of the heart of Christ the more you encourage. Because a critical and discouraging spirit is ugly and so un-Christ like.