Stop Using Facebook To Send A Message to People That You Won’t Confront Directly and Privately! (by Alan Cross)

by Guest Blogger on September 18, 2013 · 8 comments

Alan Cross blogs at Downshore Drift.

Christians who use Facebook to complain about people instead of confronting according to Matthew 18:15-35 are in error. Passive-aggresiveness is their forte. I see it all the time. Veiled complaints and accusations against people. General complaints about the church and being hurt and people treating you wrong and sinning against you. Yet, you do not speak directly to the people who hurt you. You just lash out at everyone and throw a blanket of blame, victimhood, and condemnation among everyone who scrolls down their newsfeed. We might pray for you or we might just move on and look for cute kitten pictures. Either way, your hurt/pain did not receive the attention and dignity and chance for healing that it deserved. You cheapened yourself and the rest of us along with you.

This is how it works: Someone who is obviously hurt makes some kind of general remark accusing or complaining about someone or some situation. It is obvious that they are talking about something specific, but no one knows what, exactly. There is no possibility for peace or reconciliation or for anyone to try and make things right. People reading the post wonder who is being talked about and some wonder if, perhaps, they are the ones being targeted. Speculation abounds. But, nothing can be said because to assume that the post is about you is considered vain and self-centered (Carly Simon would agree). To wonder who it is about if you know it could not be about you might fall into vain imaginings or gossip-induced speculation. Unless you are close to the person, you cannot ask. If you do, they will often say that they are just speaking generally or that they do not want to say because they don’t want to say someone’s name. But, they are hurt and they don’t want to deal with it biblically. So, they let the world know and no one can do a thing about it. Every once in a while, someone will confront the person on Facebook for this, but that is an awkward enterprise, to be sure, and one rife with pitfalls.

What is left is a pile of rubbish. It stinks. It spreads negativity. It spreads hurt. Pity is given and received and those who are hurt gather together and say how they understand, but the grace of God is not accessed. What makes it worse is when we dress it up with religious words and lingo and try to sound spiritual and forgiving and “above it all” so we can now talk about it on Facebook/Twitter. It is akin to sharing the prayer request in the prayer meeting about someone and their sin that is actually just a religious way of gossiping.

God gives us a means of grace about how to deal with someone when they sin against us or hurt us. Go to them and show them their fault. Talk to them. Give them a chance to hear you. Give them a chance to respond. Forgive. Seventy times seven. Maybe God will work on their heart. Maybe He will work on your heart. Maybe they had no idea they were hurting you and they would do whatever they could to make it right. Maybe you are wrong and you cannot see it. If the conflict cannot be resolved, get some others together and talk about it with the person. Maybe reconciliation will happen. Maybe you will be able to see what you could have done better. But, don’t give up. Fight for realized unity. Lay down your life to love enough to actually talk to someone. Or, if you don’t think you should do that – if there is no way to do that – then ask for prayer and give it to God and forgive the person as Christ forgave you and move on. Forgive anyway.

None of this involves general accusations and complaints on Facebook or Twitter or other social media venues. None of it. Don’t cheapen yourself. Don’t try to get people to feel sorry for you. Man up and do the Biblical thing of actually speaking to someone about what you are upset about or ask God for the grace to let it go. Please.

Facebook is not the place to air your dirty laundry or to throw out general accusations against other people or the Body of Christ. There is a means of grace available to you in confronting the person. Or, ask God for grace to forgive and let it go and move on. Passive-aggressive complaining and asking for pity on a social network by generally saying how hurt you are by people that you do not name (nor should you – ever in that kind of setting) is beneath you as a child of God.

You are worth more than that. So is the person that you are upset with.

And, one more thing. If you think I am talking about you, I am not. I am just speaking generally. :)

1 Ben Simpson September 18, 2013 at 9:30 am

Sadly, I’ve been guilty myself of doing through social media exactly what you are talking about. It really is a cowardly way to handle things and most likely doesn’t usually do what we thought it would do. Those whom we were aiming at may not even see it, or if they do, they may miss that it’s even about them. The Bible’s way is indeed much better!

Thank you, Alan, for your kind rebuke.

2 Tim Rogers (@Timothy_Rogers) September 18, 2013 at 9:53 am

Alan,

I know you referenced FaceBook but does that apply to blogs as well? If it does, do you think you may need to direct this to this blog owner?

3 Dave Miller September 18, 2013 at 10:22 am

It is possible that there is not a more annoying aspect of Facebook than that which you describe.

4 Tony Jones September 18, 2013 at 11:18 am

I always like the posts that use scripture to complain and injure the other person, or as a high handed way of rebutting the other person’s argument. We should be men and women who are not afraid to voice our opinions or lovingly confront.

5 Dave Miller September 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Yes. That is always a good strategy.

6 Mike September 18, 2013 at 11:19 am

Living in a small town, the general, vague complaint is usually known about by many people. Then when confronted about it, the person making the complaint denies it and blows up and accuses the other person of starting drama. It’s sad but for some reason you have to keep reading through the comments. Kinda like driving by a car wreck 5 times.

7 Jim Pemberton September 18, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Sounds like subtweeting. So it’s also pertinent to other forms of social media. Really, it’s just another form of good old-fashioned passive-aggressive conversation:

Q. How many passive-aggressive people does it take to change a light bulb?
A. “Don’t bother, I’ll just sit here in the dark.”

8 Bob Browning September 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Alan, overall I think there’s a lot of truth in what you’re saying. I would like to pose a couple of thoughts for further discussion though.

First, I know that it wasn’t your intent to give a full exposition of Matthew 18, but I would like to make sure we don’t emphasize “forgiveness” to the exclusion of the “tough love” called for in verses 16-17. Certainly it is helpful to see the 7 times 70 passage right on the heals of this text, which reminds us that the goal in seeking our brother is always reconciliation and not excommunication. But if we leap to forgiveness without following all of these steps then we still aren’t being biblical.

Second, I’m guessing you’re focus here is on personal-level gossip on Twitter and Facebook because I don’t see this applying to more global issues. I think you may want to consider fleshing that out a little more because I believe there are many things we may post/share that are related to social, political, economic, or church issues that may involve a particular person (with whom we may disagree) but I don’t think it’s fair to say that we’re wrong for sharing something (if done in a God-honoring fashion). Neither do I think you are bound to personally confront someone that you don’t know personally – how can you “win your brother” if you don’t know them?

Which lead to my third thought… there are different opinions on the appropriateness of applying Matthew 18:15-20 to disputes outside the local church. An Elder that I know and love and have a lot of respect for has argued that if a person is not a member of YOUR local church, then this passage cannot apply because there’s no local church for the process to climax in. Now he would concede that the general principal is still applicable, but he would still say that that’s not the primary point but that the primary point is for conflict within the local church.

These points are not meant as disagreements with what you said, but I think these are some points we should think more clearly about. I’d appreciate your thoughts on it and I definitely appreciate anyone trying to help bring reform to Facebook! :D

Grace and peace,

-Bob

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