Friends, we walk through our lives often troubled and distressed. I know that I am not alone in this. Sometimes, when I am feeling this way, I imagine all of you out there feeling the exact same way. And I think, “Everyone probably feels they are alone in this, that everyone else has it together, that people’s happy postings on Facebook prove that they smile all the time, get along with their family members, have cute pets and always cook great meals for their families. All while they sit there in their car thinking what a failure or mess they turned out to be.” And I shake my head.
Could it be that people create a fake version of themselves on social media? That, despite all the pain they feel inside, they paste happiness all over their pages and speak unbelievable love about their husbands, children and home lives? I’m beginning to believe this is true. And it makes me so sad- and even a little mad.
I want to ask them, “Why do you do this? Don’t you realize how much you hurt others with these little white lies? In the effort to make yourself feel better with these posts, you harm others who are suffering. What are you trying to prove? Why not just be honest and connect with us in a real, human way?” I think these people are very selfish. It’s wrong. There is never anything good or redemptive in a lie.
I’m sure these people don’t see what they do as a lie. They are just trying to be ‘upbeat’ and ‘positive’ with their page. They might feel that they are ‘adding to the world’ with their postings. But if they don’t come from the truth from within, they are still lies. And lies come from satan, whose goal in life is to rend the human soul into a million bits of misery. Social media is his perfect instrument with which to accomplish his mission.
How many of you read the ‘Scarlet Letter’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne? That novel has impacted my look at the American character forever. In an early American colony, a pregnant adulteress, Hester, is forced to wear a large, red letter ‘A’ to shame her forever while the father, the town pastor, remains anonymous and unpunished by society. A major theme of the book is that Americans hide their true feelings behind a facade out of fear of rejection from their neighbors.
When we first came to this nation as puritans, the facade was morality. Everyone pretended to be perfectly moral. They did this because they were afraid of being kicked out of the the colony and forced out into the true wilderness of the time and worse, having to face the wild eyed, unknown, Native American. They felt their lives depended on this facade. I think that Hawthorne felt Americans never lost this fear and resulting protective facade- only that the facade of morality became the facade of ‘success and happiness’. He felt it was quintessentially American. No other nation was ‘born’ the way America was, this planting of ‘civilization among the wilderness’. His point: we are still in the colony, pretending to our neighbors to be better than we are for fear of being rejected. None of us want to be cast out and live in the wilderness, alone and terrified. Even if the wilderness no longer exists.
I’ve watched American society closely since I studied that book in college. And the more I watch, the more I come into agreement with Hawthorne. We do put up a facade. And it is a killer. Not only does it isolate and trap those who erect it, but it isolates and traps everyone else who then feels they must also erect theirs in order to compete. It is a sad, sad little bubble society- only now, it is carried out in skyscrapers and suburbs.
In the book, Hester, who was initially forced to wear the scarlet ‘A’ for shame, learned that she was far freer than the others who had to continually maintain their facade of moral perfection. She learned that they lived in constant terror of detection. Dimmesdale, the pastor and father of her child, demonstrated just how devastating this double life is. He died a mysterious death and they found a bloody ‘A’ emblazoned on the naked skin of his chest. He represented all the puritans. Since all sinned and pretended moral purity, all were liars. All were terrified of discovery and none were happy. Hester, already discovered, had found a good peace in her life- people had gotten used to her confession of sin and had moved on in their relationship with her. And now, she no longer needed to pretend perfection. Such freedom! Hawthorne showed us that truth really does set a person free while facades of perfection are the poisonous prisons of our own making.
How many people on social media wish they had Hester’s freedom? How many wish they could just admit their imperfections? That they are bored with their husbands, perhaps or fed up with their kids? That they feel guilty for working or hate being a stay at home mother? How many can’t stand the in-laws or wish they could sell the endlessly hairy dog? And God forbid, how many are tired of the stinking urine and feces of the cat litter box and want to get rid of Puffy? How many people feel trapped by their lives? How many wish things had turned out differently? How many struggle with their faith, don’t feel God and don’t love their neighbors? How many resent their best friend’s wealth? How many are depressed, angry or lonely- but would never, ever say so because others might think less of them somehow? Instead, they put up ever better images and statements about their lives to dispel such ugly thoughts! And in so doing, lock their prison doors & torment all the others around them.
Friends, take it from me. It is far better to let others know you are imperfect. That way, you can relax in your relationships. You can let your hair down. Those who love you will love you even more. Those who don’t love you might learn to like you a little better. And now, you can lean on us, your friends. You can ask for prayers and can vent any time you want. Sew on the scarlet letter, my friend. It is not a shame- it is freedom.