Two weeks ago, I stopped writing.
I’d been working on a number of projects, including this blog, and although I didn’t know what I was doing, I was spitting out words at a pretty fair pace, and putting them where they could be read. I wasn’t unhappy… in fact, I was rather glad to be a bit depressed, since it gave me something to write about. I was in a comfortable rut, and one that I expected to continue, since my resume was getting few responses. I was growing very fond of spending day after day at home, yacking online about the minutiae of life after my forced retirement.
Most of what I was doing was being shared via Facebook, where I have been putting my life on display for a very long time. Somehow, the collection of posts, poems, memes, jokes and prayers on my page… not to mention the pictures of cats, costumes, children, classmates, cast mates, ancestors and spouse… conveyed a reasonably accurate profile of the person I wanted to be: loving, fiercely loyal, funny, faithful and faith-filled, reasonably truthful, and very nice, if somewhat shallow.
The 186 people in my family of Facebook friends have, for a very long time, been totally supportive of me and each other. It wasn’t always this way… there have been challengers and trolls along the way, and people who had to be culled because we disagreed ungraciously about faith or politics… but for a very long time, my page has been an open house party, where I was glad to see everyone in attendance, and no one’s presence could, in any way, shape or form, disquiet any other visitor.
Then, Facebook challenged me to make a moral decision. It forced me to think about my beliefs, about my actions, about my relationships with others, about my priorities. Yes, yes, yes! Social media put my social conscience to the test!
And spiritually, I’ve been blindsided.
This is what happened: I received a request to “friend” someone who’d been away from my life for a very long time.
Would I have described this person as a friend in my “real” offline life? He is certainly someone that I have loved dearly for many years, with whom I’ve shared many meaningful moments. He has always treated me and my family with absolute affection and kindness… in fact, he features prominently in many of our happiest memories. Based on the times and the experiences we’ve shared, he has every right to expect me to proudly acknowledge our friendship… and for most of my life, I would have considered it a privilege.
A while back, he moved away and we lost touch. Then, I heard he’d been tried and convicted of a truly heinous action, committing the ultimate act of disloyalty against another dear friend. Did I witness the action? No. Are there people I know who believe he didn’t do it? Yes. Do I know for a fact what happened? No.
Do I believe he did it?
It’s so disgusting I’d rather not think about it.
Is it any of my business whether he did it or not?
No… except that he really hurt someone else who is a very dear friend, and I can’t bear to see anyone hurt the people I love.
Was he punished for it?
Does he have the right to remake his life?
Yes. Everyone does.
Does he have the right to reach out to his friends, so he can rebuild the relationships that nurtured him for most of his life?
Yes, I think so.
Then why haven’t I “Friended” him?
I can’t. He hurt my friend. I don’t want the person he hurt to go to my page and see his face.
This isn’t fair to him. I know that. I also know how hypocritical it is to say, “I don’t allow anyone to hurt my friends.” Dammit, I’ve hurt them. My Facebook page is liberally populated with dear ones whom I have, at some time or another, treated like shit… all of whom have, thank God, forgiven me.
And God! He comes up in that disturbing phrase that makes me cringe a few times a day: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Hell, I’m not forgiving this guy, and he didn’t even trespass against me!
But I can’t… and every time I refuse to click on that frigging “friend request,” I have to wonder whether Jesus Himself is thinking about blocking my hypocritical soul.
It’s Jesus’ job to be forgiving.
It appears to be my job to be confused, and torn, and to refuse to make a decision.
I wish Facebook weren’t such an open forum. In real life, you don’t invite everyone you know to every one of your parties… you make sure NOT to invite people who shouldn’t see each other to the same affair. Real life is set up to handle social hypocrisy. You can hide your friends from each other. You can say things expecting them to be forgotten.
You can fool yourself into thinking you are always kind.
But I can’t do that anymore. My profile picture has been unpleasantly altered, and the woman that I see on my Facebook page is a bit of a bitch.