filters for our words, part two

This forum is so immediate. Not like the “old days” when reaching an audience of more than a couple of friends was a very big deal and took time.

Social media has been kind of a gift to me. You, too?

I ride the fence of introvert/extrovert, so it’s the perfect blend of safe and risky. I get to ponder my words, instead of self-consciously searching and stumbling over my imperfect mouth . . .

No, I don’t always think through what I post on social media — I can be just as reactionary or impulsive as anyone — so I don’t want you to think every word is calculated and weighed, because . . . frankly . . . well . . . It isn’t.

But here, on this blog, I have to take time to process and pray. Because I could inflict a lot of damage on my home.

I started blogging two and a half years ago, and I visit this question every time I post: where is the line between what is helpful for the reader and harmful for my family? Which might explain a little of why I blog so infrequently . . . it’s a pretty effective filter.

But over and over, God makes it clear to me that people need to know that drug addiction isn’t just for dark alleys and crack shacks, that drug addiction is as possible for a pastor as it is for a prostitute, AND that it’s possible for a family to be ripped to shreds by the nightmare of drug addiction and yet make it out the other side intact.

The problem is, though, so much of this is really Dave’s story to tell.

So, I show Dave the things I write about him and let him decide if it’s too much. Because if it were reversed, if I was the pill addict who dragged him through hell over and over until one day I was done with that life forever — I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to read the ugly past through his eyes. I think everything in me would just shrivel and hide.

And yet . . . it was the secrets that had us buried in shame. When the closet door was opened and the skeleton fell out, relief of release came in waves concurrent with the pain. It wasn’t long before we wanted to share this freedom, give warnings about the pitfalls of pills, AND hope of recovery and grace.

God has used Dave already to reach so many people — many because he was willing for me to write about the hard things here.

However, being so vocal, even guardedly, isn’t for every relationship. It definitely wasn’t always like this for us.  He had a few years of recovery before we put our story out into cyberspace.

In “real life,” I made it a practice long ago not to talk negatively about Dave to people. Not because he’s faultless, but simply because it’s how I want him to treat me — as  person who makes mistakes. It’s a good rule of love.

But I want to make an important distinction here, though, because I erred on the side of silence for too many years.

I had to find balance. Hiding your pain and suffering alone, and airing your grievances with your husband to everyone you know are two extremes of the openness spectrum. If your husband is an addict or abusive, you need to get help.  Tell a friend, counselor, recovery group, sister, police officer, lawyer — keep asking until you get actual help. Venting to your 300 “closest” friends on Facebook, on the other hand, can be extremely destructive and defeating. Maybe not for you, but definitely for an addict in recovery. It’s just not a safe place to share. Not remotely.

I do believe there is nothing more powerful than hearing/reading how someone else gets it and you are not alone. But if you value your loved one’s recovery and want them to succeed, caution is critical.

If Dave is uncomfortable with the amount of “my truth” I share on the stage of life, filtering my words about him, through him, is the most loving thing, and the least I can do with the story that is just as much about him as it is about me. Words can wait.

Some writers can do truth-telling without tearing down their home. They’ve calculated the cost and are carefully walking the tightrope of saying enough to help others while protecting their family. I respect that. My short time in this forum is showing me it takes great discipline to walk that line. Discipline & restraint — things I’m not so good at with a keyboard in front of me.

Over the last month, as I’ve worked on our story, I’ve really had to sift. And sift. And weigh. And sift. And even invite a few people — including Dave — into the writing to help me weed out not just words destructive to Dave, but others as well.

This forum is so immediate. Not like the “old days” when reaching an audience of more than a couple of friends was a very big deal and took time. To actually send words off to someone you had to care enough — and care long enough — to grab a pen, paper, envelope, call and get an address, drive to the post office, buy a stamp and mail it. Time. Time to consider and weigh. And to share with the world? Getting published took years — and editors. Filters, filter, filters.

We have to make our own filters today. There is so much power in words.

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint. Proverbs 17:27

[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  I Corinthians 13:7

The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  Proverbs 14:1

filters for our words, part one

Love your children by filtering what you post.

Especially your teenagers.

Sometimes, we forget, in the middle of them being so grown up, they aren’t fully grown-up . . . with the tough shells we who are really grown up have.

Oh, there are moments! Aren’t there?

Please tell me I am not the only parent of teenagers (I have three + an almost) who has been sorely — and I do mean sorely — tempted to post a thing — on Facebook, on Twitter, in a blog — and get the world’s affirmation.  Child dearest, I’m bigger, I’m faster. I will always beat you!

No? It’s just me, then?

That bedroom three feet deep in clothes-and-who-knows-what-else . . . you don’t threaten to grab a camera and post their foolishness on Facebook?

Or the sass — the sass, people!! — in the disagreement, but then you are proven right in some in-your-face way — there’s no I told you so right there on the tips of your fingers?

Or the really-stupid/life-ruining-thing-they-did and now you think everyone thinks you are a bad parent and so you must make it clear that it was their doing and none of yours? Perhaps just posted in a nebulous, passive-aggressive comment of frustration that’s about as subtle as a Taylor Swift song? As in, you may not have named names, but we all know who you’re talking about . . .

Still no? Then you, my friend, are a better parent than I.

But I’m inclined to think maybe you do get it.

Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that moms can get a little too comfy on the internet. 

Which means the potential for public humiliation of offspring is very, very real, making social media (drum roll, please) just

 “Another Way to Damage and Alienate Our Kids”

As if we needed more ways . . .

* * * * *

I’m pretty sure I’ve done my fair share of posting things that make my kids groan and possibly cry. But I try (really, I do try) not to post things that humiliate them.

I’ve got great accountability, though, which helps. For example . . .

  • Child-who-shall-remain-nameless:  MOM! What did you say on Twitter?? You know my friend so-and-so follows you! 
  • Other-child-who-shall-remain-nameless-who-is well past four, which is the age when ALL children say the most adorable things, but nonetheless, still says the most adorable things, stops me the moment I pick up my phone:  MOM!! Do NOT post that on Facebook!!
  • Other-child-plus-aforementioned-child-who-shall-remain-nameless-did awesome — and I mean awesome — dance for family video dance party night . . . child-with-whom-I-share-141-friends and I BEG them to let us post on Facebook. (No. Really. It’s just that awesome.) But the answer is:  Mom! No! Please don’t.

And I have to respect that.

I mean, which of us parents, in honesty, doesn’t recall that moment when our own parents said the thing we really hoped and prayed they would not say in front of our friends — our six friends — who came to pick us up to go see Footloose at the drive-in?

Think about it. We don’t just have the audience six friends . . . we (if our child has not blocked us) have access to ALL THE FRIENDS! at once. ALL OF THEM!!

Aren’t you thankful our parents didn’t have Facebook?

* * * * *

So, remember that video that went viral a few years back, featuring a dad disciplining his daughter by making her offenses public?  At first, I thought it was a clever . . . kind of like sitcom-parent-burns-child-with-witty-retort clever.

And then I thought, this is real life. What if my family had put my stupidity, my hormonal rage strokes, my ugly, my shame, out there for all the world to see? I don’t know . . . I think I would hate them.

Because shaming your kid on the internet is the 21st century equivalent of putting them in stocks and setting them in the town square for public ridicule.

You know. You’ve seen it: hold someone or someone’s actions up for derision, and the people will deride — and even go farther than you. Right there, for all to comment . . .

In real life, shaming and humiliating drive a wedge. And they inflict lifelong wounds.

So, I mark myself. Not always perfectly. I suppose it’s more of a filtering. Do I love my child More than my blog? More than my followers? More than entertaining my friends? More than this adorable thing that will get 50 likes but would embarrass them — even at four years old — if shared it with my 438 friends? Do I love my child more than myself?

Some stuff is just too costly — and truly isn’t necessary — for the world to know.

At least not right now when, for example, we are in the throes of parenting teens . . .

Which can be a whole lot like back labor . . . which, in my experience, involved a lot of yelling, blaming, crying, cursing, and falling to your knees — none of which, I am happy to say, was caught on camera or recorded for posterity. (Oh, honey. I how I could write the posts!)

I say this in love:

Save the pain of parenting for your journal, for your small group. The “mommy, I poop a rock” video for the box of home movies, for the photo album only a few will see years from now.

Love your children by filtering what you post.

Especially your teenagers.

Sometimes, we forget, in the middle of them being so grown up, they aren’t fully grown up with the tough shells we who are really grown up have. (And honestly, how tough is your shell these days when it comes to social media?)

Treating them the way you’d want to be treated — if not now, then when you were their age — may be the simplest filter of all.

* * * * *

So, last Monday was my oldest boy’s birthday. He’s 16 years old now.

I very carefully crafted a not-too-long, not-too-sappy, not-too-embarrassing Facebook post for his wall and debated about baby pictures . . . He’s adorable. But I didn’t. The end.

Because humiliation isn’t always intentional. Some of us don’t like being talked about — even if it’s good. (And by us, I mean me — I don’t want that. Let’s just leave me totally out of the discussion.) I’m guessing you might have a child like that, too. If you don’t know, ask them.

We just can’t expect to have a good relationship with or be loved by the people we publicly shame. 

(And not just kids . . . but that’s for the next post. And if any of you are regular readers of this blog, you know I have some ‘splainin to do on that score.)

Until then, I leave you with a writer’s prayer:

May the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Psalm 141:2-3