Social Media, Self-Righteousness, and Sanctification


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Last week I deleted my Twitter app. I'll probably re-install it in a couple weeks, but in a quick moment of frustration I made a judgment call to limit my exposure for a time. I mean, it's still easily accessible from my computer.  

See, I have a problem with Twitter, and Facebook to a lesser extent. Note that I am the one with the problem--there's nothing inherently wrong with social media. It can be a great tool. The problem is my heart.

In general I'm a pretty self-righteous person. I think I'm better than you--I'm convinced of it, actually. It's so deep in me that I don't even see it anymore most of the time.

But on Twitter, I see it. It usually works like this. I go through a pattern of reading a post, thinking a thought, and seeing my heart, such as:

  • Someone links to a post from an opinionated blogger
    • I think, That judgmental person thinks he's better than other people, but doesn't have the guts to say it so he's just letting someone else say it so he can feel good about himself.
  • Someone retweets or links to a compliment or positive book review
    • I think, That person thinks she needs to tell us all how great she is. Hello, if we follow you, you don't need to keep telling us how great your book is. We already know. I certainly wouldn't do that.
  • Someone tweets a picture of her clean, organized home or gourmet meal
    • I think, Well, yeah, I could do that too if I wasn't spending my time studying the Bible. You know your clean home won't win you points with God, right?
  • Someone tweets a picture of her dirty home or microwaved meal
    • I think, Why do you think you have to show us your messy home to be "real"? You know your messiness doesn't win you points with God, right?
  • Someone calls someone else out online and they proceed to argue in a public forum
    • I think, Haven't you learned you can't change anyone's mind via social media? You're just showing us all how highly you think of yourself and your opinions.

The list could go on and on. And, yeah, I know--the only pride really being revealed here is my own. Every time I scroll through my Twitter or Facebook feed, my self-righteousness is on full display. My head is filled with thoughts like "I wouldn't do that," "I'd say this instead," "Oh, that's ridiculous," "Why don't you log off and go serve someone?" or "We don't need a play by play."

So then I start thinking differently. I think,

"Catherine, you don't know that person's heart. Maybe he has a good reason for posting that."

"Maybe she's trying to break free of legalism and admitting her home is dirty is a big step."

"Maybe she hasn't cleaned her home in 2 years and this is a big day for her."

"Maybe there's something motivating this argument that you don't see."

So I fight to give people the benefit of the doubt. I try to place myself in others' shoes, or just generally assume the best.

But this actually isn't the solution. Sure, we can learn a lot from walking in someone else's shoes. But when I assume the best about someone else's motives, I'm really just still comparing them to my own standard of relative goodness. Or I'm holding them to a higher standard than myself.

The truth is that I have no idea what's in that person's heart. And I don't need to. I can love him or her whether motives are pure or prideful. And I can do this not because I'm above it all, but because the Holy Spirit is graciously showing me what's in my heart. It's obvious reading my thoughts in response to each situation above that my heart is full of blind pride. But God has used social media to reveal this to me more than any other thing in recent years. There may or may not be a 140-character sized speck in the eyes of the people I follow on Twitter; there is most definitely a War and Peace-sized plank in my own.

So the Lord is graciously using social media in my sanctification. I see my sin, and I cling to His righteousness. and I pray for grace to love Him, and others, more. I don't know if I'll continue on social media forever--I delete apps for a time because it's an exhausting battle in my heart some days. But I'm grateful for what He's doing. 

My pastor has been preaching through Romans, just finishing a series in Romans 2 on, of all things, self-righteousness. Christianity isn't about comparative righteousness. It's not about minimizing the sin of others to prevent judgmentalism in myself. It's about clinging so desperately to the righteousness of Another, seeing my sin and the greatness and grace of my Savior so that I barely notice the sin of others. And when I do see it, I'm pointed once again to my own, and to a God who, shockingly, delights and sings over those whom He has redeemed. Even those social media hypocrites. Like me.