At the graduation party of a friend of mine, I encountered what I had only before heard tales of: a selfie stick.
With this amazing device, all of the children I brought could be in the same photo booth picture with me without the use of a non-pictured human.
Brilliant. Brilliant invention. It helps me fulfill the Facebook-article admonition to make sure that I am in pictures with my children so my daughter doesn’t grow up thinking she’s too imperfect of a mother to be in pictures with her kids (I have since pledged not to read anything with “should” in the title). It prevents one child having to be photoshopped into the family picture at the Colosseum. Basically solves all problems.
Imagine my horror when soon afterwards I read a Facebook article shaming those who use a selfie stick! It suggested that people who use them should spend less time documenting their more-awesome-than-you experiences and instead use their time making friends to take their picture. The article praised places that have banned selfie sticks, like Disney World (isn’t that the perfect place for them?) and art museums (are pictures allowed in art museums now? I guess I haven’t been to one in awhile. Like since the invention of the smart phone. I blame children). Why oh why do you destroy my dreams by telling me I will be a mockable human if I employ such a handy device!
Exposing others’ mock-ability is such a thing in our culture! Anything and everything that is done differently than we do it is fodder for self-righteous disgust.
From parenting choices to picture taking to how you unfriend on Facebook, we can feel superior over others.
Why do we do this! Seriously, folks, there is so much energy spent in getting angry over what strangers/acquaintances/friends/family members do! Why is there such need to fuel self-righteous indignation?
As my husband always says, anger is a secondary emotion- it always covers up a more primary emotion. If I am feeling self-righteous anger over how someone else parents, I am distracting myself from my basic feelings of fear or shame about how I am doing it. My anger will cover those more uncomfortable feelings. I feel less vulnerable when I am condemning someone else, and that feels good. My choices are basically okay because at least they aren’t as bad as this other person’s [insert picture of someone more worthy of shame than I am]. Traditionally, people would put a scarlet letter on someone’s chest so they felt less vulnerable, but nowadays those people are referred to as “judgmental haters”, which is like the worse insult ever. So since we are no longer permitted to be judgmental about actual sin, we will be judgmental of a woman over 30 who wears zebra print.
So what’s God’s take on selfie-stick shaming?
Romans 12 is the bomb-diggity on this topic. So after verse 1:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.
it hits us with verse 2:
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Our goal as Christians is basically the opposite of trying to think highly of ourselves. We are mandated against using any means necessary to get rid of the discomfort in knowing that other people do things differently than we do. Evidently God’s goal for us is not our comfort.
Where’s the danger, though? What’s wrong with just thinking we are superior to someone else?
When we exercise our abilities in self-righteousness, we inhibit our abilities to find value in them.
The following passage of Romans 12 talks about valuing the differences in people: Verse 6, We have different gifts. Then it talks about the mandate to do what God has called each individual to do. And spells out truths about love. In order to love others, we must value them. When we indulge our feelings of superiority in order to eliminate our discomfort, we devalue them and inhibit our ability to love them. We make it harder on ourselves to fulfill the direct commands of the rest of the chapter, like honor others above ourselves (10), rejoice with those who rejoice (15), live in harmony with one another (16), and be willing to associate with people of low position (16).
Unfortunately, our shaming culture persists. Equally regrettable, there is nothing I can do to make myself immune from the shame of others (as I write this over 30 in a zebra-print, hot pink shirt). However, when I refuse to protect myself from that disgrace by stirring up my self-righteous indignation, I will be better able to love. When I transform my mind away from thinking about how to please others, I will be able to discern God’s will. The way I interact with others will bring Glory to God.
And that’s really what I want to do.