Fake News Can Make You Crazy
We’ve all heard it, usually making fun, “If it’s on the internet, it must be true!” We laugh because we know that there are people who are not, shall we say, as skeptical as perhaps they should be of what they read online.
Last time we looked at how we can sometimes fall into that trap, even though we are usually skeptical. What gets us in trouble? Memes. You know those images that include words of wisdom? They’re often really, really funny. My favorites use pictures from hugely popular movies. Like the one picturing Boromir, from The Fellowship of the Ring, saying “One does not simply walk…” (which he does in the movie) “into Costco without buying a 70” TV” (which, of course, he doesn’t say in the movie).
We laugh because if we’ve been to Costco, we get the joke. It is hard not to come out of there with things we didn’t have on our list. So before we move on, let’s redeploy Boromir’s famous line: “One does not simply walk into…Costco without bringing a list.”
And…So Can Real News
Some memes don’t aim to be funny. Instead, their goal is to challenge us. Get us to think differently. Maybe it’s just on my Facebook news feed, but I expect you’ve seen them, too. Hundreds of memes that champion an idea similar to this: If there is a negative person in your life, you just need to move on!
And who hasn’t felt like doing that? Unless you live in a bubble, you’ve encountered a negative person.
Maybe they’re at home. Or they’re on the job. Possibly they’re even at church. But you know all too well what it’s like to run afoul of a negative person. And you’ve felt the powerful recoil: Whoa! This person isn’t any fun to be around.
I get it. There are difficult people in the world. It is a sure thing that we’ll encounter them. There’s no way around that. But do we have to just put up with them?
Our culture would say, “No. No, you don’t. Absolutely not. You should just walk away. You’ll be better for it.” There are loads of memes advocating this.
As I’ve seen more and more of them show up on the pages of Facebook and elsewhere, they’ve bothered me more and more. It took a while to finally discern why.
We too eagerly accept the meme’s statement as true.
There Is A Cost To Both Kinds of News
In my prior article, I shared the problems that come with accepting this common culturally-embraced belief that it’s perfectly OK to walk away from negative people. Here are just a few:
- We are those negative people sometimes if we’re being honest with ourselves. Probably more often than we care to admit.
- It’s pretentious and prideful to believe that we’re not. It’s also kind of silly.
- The implication underneath these memes is that we’re somehow wiser, even more mature, because we’ve “moved on.”
- The entire vibe is one of independence, striking out on one’s own, the captain of our soul. Which sounds great, but for which…
- There’s no Biblical basis for doing so.
And The People in Our Lives Can Bring Both
Imagine the poor guy that God called on to go up and meet with the most feared terrorist of his time, a religious fanatic named Saul. There was no person on earth that would have been seen as more “negative” than Saul. Except that God had just transformed him into the Apostle Paul. He went on to become the most influential disciple of Jesus, composing much of the New Testament, including 1 Cor. 13. Can you picture how many believers—especially those who had lost family members to Saul’s violent past—were challenged to not leave this negative person behind? But that’s exactly what they were called on to do. And they did.
As believers, we’re expected to work at being reconciled with others (2 Cor. 5:18), including non-believers. But especially with believers. Feeling justified for dumping someone else is just not there, even if they are “negative.” We get into really deep weeds, though, when we feel somehow more enlightened when doing so. That’s trouble.
What’s so strange about this is that there is another common cultural theme—a good one!—that often comes from the same people espousing dumping negative people in their lives: “Embrace thankfulness.” Another way it’s presented is to “Have an attitude of gratitude.”
I suggest these two themes are not mutually exclusive. Maybe the best way to maturely deal with negativity in our lives is to be grateful for all that we have…including those negative people. Perhaps instead of walking away from them, we’re actually called to walk towards them. Or are we so quick to think that the Lord wouldn’t place a negative person in our path? Ever ask for more patience? Could there be more fertile ground?
How To Counter Negative People and Fake News
Yes, let’s ask:
Are there times when it is appropriate to avoid people that are negative?
Sure there are. Just not as often as our impulses would have us believe. Let’s look at those times when it is essential to walk away:
- When someone in our life is “toxic” they are certainly toxic to themselves. Chronic behaviors like alcohol or drug abuse, physical or emotional abuse, often are perpetrated by people who have, themselves, experienced horrifying things in their lives. But believing that staying within their reach, literally, will somehow help them is sadly misplaced. Two very broken people together don’t help either. Removing yourself from this kind of “negative person” is crucial to one’s healing. And quite possibly the perpetrator’s.
- When someone is negative to someone else in your life, it’s time to walk away. Maybe even run. If an adult in your world is being negative, or worse, to your children, leave. Get some space between you immediately. Reconciling with someone is what we’re called to do as believers. Suffering at the hands of another is not. Never confuse them.
- When the leadership of your place of worship brings negativity to your world, it may be time to leave. If you are feeling attacked, emotionally or spiritually, then it is time to leave. As in the other situations mentioned, we don’t earn “High Pain-Tolerance” badges for putting up with negativity, abuse or withering toxicity.
But For The Grace of God…
Let’s recap. It can be appropriate to walk away from the negative people in our lives. But we do well to examine our impulse for doing so. There’s no free pass available to dump people. And, honestly, doesn’t leaving people behind sound pretty negative? Also, we must resist the urge to feel entitled or worse, enlightened, by leaving negative people behind us. However, we must leave when our safety is involved—or the safety of those we are responsible for, particularly children and the elderly. Efforts at reconciliation come later. Safety comes first.
The central point is that, as believers, we are still just as human, just as broken, just as imperfect as anyone else. Let’s keep our hearts soft and open, even as we keep our minds strong and alert. And let’s seek reconciliation, even though it can be hard. Remember, no one in our life is a negative as Saul was to his contemporaries. And that story turned out better than anyone could have guessed.
Engage here. What’s your experience of negative news, fake news, or negative people? Please share.