The word “pander” is only a few letters different from “pandemic.” Both represent disease in humans that can injure or worse. Here’s a definition obtained online for pander: gratify or indulge (an immoral or distasteful desire, need or habit, or a person with such a desire, etc.). The same source defines pandemic as meaning prevalent over a whole country or the world. We’re currently experiencing this latter one in significant ways. What about the other one?
I’ve felt it. And acted on it. You’ve likely felt it, and perhaps acted on it. It is that compulsion to express an opinion in a particular way. Our fingers hover over the keyboard, keypad, or mouse, ready to type, share, or retweet. A deep need swells inside us, the way yeast rises when exposed to a heat source. Whoever it was, whatever they said or did, They Deserve To Be Shamed Publicly. Humiliated. Set To Rights. And I-you-we feel morally obligated to do this. And when we do, people, especially who share our opinions, will see how right (or righteous) we are. They’ll back us. They’ll hop onto the Public Bandwagon of Shame we’ve set in motion, unless we’re the ones hopping onto theirs.
What is that heat source that incites the “yeast” of publicly shaming others to swell in our minds and spew forth from us? It can be summed up in one word: Offense. Wait a minute. That’s something for which we gave certain people of a certain age group the publicly shaming name of Snowflakes. You know, those people so easily triggered into offense that a flood of feelings erupts from them without discretion. Sound or feel familiar? If not so for you, perhaps for some people you know, or if you don’t know them, maybe share social-site(s) space with them. [FYI: Yeast/Leaven, in the Bible, represents sin.]
I just finished reading Dr. Kynan Bridges’ book, (click on cover image) It took longer than usual to get through this book because I was compelled to pause and let content passages sink in. Like when I read this: “How many things has God concealed about you? How many things have you said and done privately that God never exposed publicly? How, then, can you (or I!) have the audacity to operate in self-righteousness and pride and parade ourselves as judge, jury, and executioner? You might want to think twice before being so quick to speak.” Sorry if that stings you as it did me, but please keep reading.
Dr. Bridges reminds us that gossip is “. . . strictly prohibited in Scripture. Make no mistake—it is a sin! . . . . Many Christians have become septic in their thoughts, attitudes, and relationships. In other words, they are infected with hurt and bitterness and they are ‘overflowing’ into the lives of others. Every person they meet and speak with inevitably becomes contaminated by the pain and hurt that they carry. . . . The problem with gossip is that it often dehumanizes and devalues its victims.”
Dr. Bridges referred to gossip and slander as Spiritual Cannibalism. He reminded us of who our victims tend to be: “spouse, children, parents, siblings, church members, pastors, coworkers, neighbors, friends, local officials, national officials,” and others. Anyone we feel offended by, really. Can any of us name a human being who Christ Jesus did not represent on the cross the same as He represented each of us?
Why do we shame others so readily? You’ve seen, read, or heard that “Hurt people hurt people.” From Bridges’ book: “We can make an idol out of our hurt. . . . An idol is anything that we put in place of God. When we let our hurts dictate our actions, thoughts, and feelings, instead of letting God’s Word dictate our lives, then our hurt is our idol!” It’s the same for offenses. We’re basically a planet of walking-wounded individuals, acting out from our pain (which Satan instigated and uses over us and our generations). Rather than turning to and relying on our true Healer, Christ Jesus, we let ourselves be prompted by the enemy to contaminate others, along with our shaming.
Aren’t we doing God’s work when we speak up against true wrongs? Answer: There’s a difference between stating a fact that needs to be shared so as to benefit or protect ourselves and others and the act of shaming. But, “What about those (expletive) people in office?” Here’s what: God said to pray for them. Check His Handbook for Kingdom Living—the Bible (specifically David and King Saul). All of God’s instructions are in there. We’re confused because more of the world lives in us than our Lord does.
Bridges wrote, “We often judge other people based upon their actions and judge ourselves based upon our intentions.” God is not into shame, He’s into restoration, and expects (commands) the same from us. To do otherwise is a form of spiritual abuse. Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) advises, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Here’s a true story that fits this topic. A young boy at Pre-K school heard his friend say, “Oh my God.” He gently told her, “Say, ‘Oh my goodness.’” Throughout the day she continued to say, “Oh my God.” Each time, he gently corrected her with, “Please say, ‘Oh my goodness.’” By the end of the day, the little girl was saying, “Oh my goodness.” The boy had gently, patiently corrected from a place of love, which he’d obviously been taught from. What a lesson for all of us. In light of this story, pause and reflect: This is not how the majority of (anti-)social media posts go these days. Or our level of patience.
But, you may say, shame is what some of those people deserve! Peter denied Jesus three times during that fateful night and morning before the crucifixion. Jesus had warned Peter that was going to happen. And when it happened that third time, Peter looked at Jesus who looked back, not with anger, but with compassion and understanding, despite what He was going through and knew He must complete in order to save us. At no time, before or after His crucifixion and resurrection, did Jesus ever publicly shame Peter. In fact, after His resurrection, Jesus made it a point to include Peter by name in His instructions for what they were to do next. He did that so Peter would know he was forgiven and that God still had a great assignment He’d entrusted to him.
Does God want us to be passive? Not as such. Read His Bible, both Old and New Testaments, to get the full picture of how He wants us to behave, and when. If you’re still reading this, I’m taking it as a sign that God is speaking to you, asking you to deepen your relationship with Him so He can show you how to rest in Him as you live your days and fulfill His assignment(s) for you. We all need to pause and reflect on this: We struggle to forgive, but want to be forgiven. We rush to shame others, but don’t want the same done to us.
Next time you’re a second away from sharing a meme, tweet, or post, ask yourself why you feel compelled to share it. Is it verified facts? Will what you share shame or restore? “But what about that person or those people who deserve to be shamed?” That’s between them and God, which is one reason He commands us to pray for them. One more thing: God also considers the willing receiver of slander and gossip just as guilty as the purveyor. This is beginning to dramatically alter what I allow into my eye- and ear-gates via my television (tell-a-vision) and (more and more anti-) social site engagement. I’d rather work for God, Who restores, than for His enemy, who destroys. I need His help with this, but I choose to please God. What about you?