Monday, April 28, 2014

Builder or Destroyer?

            Recently, I was visiting the blog of a celebrity who is currently in the news because she is going through a hard, personal time.  I do not visit celebrity websites.  Nor do I buy those trash magazines to keep up with the lives of celebrities.  (But I do read them in the waiting rooms.  Just being honest!)  I stopped supporting those magazines a decade ago after I saw a show where a celebrity was trying to take their young kid sight-seeing.  And the paparazzi were pushing in on them so badly that they had to turn around and go back to their hotel.  And I thought, What are we doing to these celebrities?  Imposing on their lives so badly, all for the sake of our entertainment?  And I felt a personal responsibility to not support that kind of stuff anymore.  Personally, the whole “celebrity worship” thing disgusts me.  But I really wanted to try to leave a word of encouragement for this one celeb going through a hard time.  I mean, why not?  She’s a person, too. 
And what surprised me most when I went to the comments section of this person’s blog was how many other people seem to forget that she is a real person, too.  I was horrified by the mean, vicious comments that some people leave.  Heartless and cruel.  (I think I’ve been a little sheltered visiting only Christian websites where most people leave thoughtful, respectful comments.)  It’s as though because this person is in the public eye, people feel that they have the right to take any kind of shot at her that they want to, from her mothering ability to her career choices to her past failures to her worth as a human being, etc.  It was disgusting.  And I felt ashamed for the human race.
            Seriously, when is it ever okay to treat other people that way, especially when they did not ask for our opinions on their lives?  Of course, there are plenty of celebs who demand attention by purposely pursuing the spotlight with all sorts of bad behavior and choices.  But there are plenty of others who just want to act and who do not want other people picking apart every aspect of their personal lives or invading their privacy.  (I applaud Kristin Bell and Dax Shepard, among others, for fighting against the paparazzi who are exploiting the children of celebrities.)
            But it’s not just celebrities that we do this to.  There are the many, many times that we gossip about others that we know.  For some reason, we think it’s okay to use other people’s lives, looks, or mistakes as a conversational centerpiece, to entertain ourselves or someone else or to make ourselves feel better about our own lives. 
            And it’s heartbreaking to hear about some adolescent who committed suicide because of all the hurtful things that other students posted about them on-line.  And how many others don’t commit suicide yet still have their heart and spirit destroyed by something someone says?  How about all the bullying that goes on, on-line or in real life?  No child should think their life isn’t worth living.  No child should ever have to feel like they are no good.  It breaks my heart!  (And for some kids, it’s not their peers that are saying the hurtful, damaging things; it’s their parents.)  It’s a tragedy of the worst kind when a young person feels that they shouldn’t be alive anymore because of the meanness of other people. 
            I tell ya, with social media and the ability to put whatever we want on-line for the world to see, kids have it way harder today than I did when I was younger.  From the trash they can run across so easily to the hurtful things that are posted about them personally to the “popularity contest” that personal websites have become.  And with the ability to post things anonymously, people are saying meaner things than they would ever say to someone’s face.  And adults are just as bad, if not worse.  
            It’s a cruel, cruel world - this World Wide Web.  Not to mention the real, physical world, too.  The mean things people say to someone’s face or behind their backs.  The way we use others for our own gain.  The way people are overlooked, rejected, abandoned, or hurting for some kind of love or acceptance.  When will we learn?  What can we do about it?
            Seriously . . . what can we do about it?  Unfortunately, the social media trend shows no sign of slowing.  And we can’t control what other people say and do.  So maybe the only real hope that we have rests with those of us who really do have a heart for people.  Those who would rather build people up than destroy them.  We Builders need to be speaking up more and sharing positive things, encouraging others, and complimenting people.  There is so much discouraging negativity out there that we need people to rise up and be positive encouragers. 
            Whether it is in your workplace, school, on someone’s blog, or just when you are out and about running errands, there is always someone who you can touch for the better.  Take a moment to smile at someone or compliment them on something.  Ask others how they are doing and really listen.  Help someone who is moving something heavy.  Share flowers or tomatoes from your yard with a neighbor.  Stand up and say something nice about someone who is being picked on.  Smile at every child you see and tell them what a cool kid you think they are.  Tell a girl with glasses that you think she is beautiful. 
            You never know who desperately needs to hear some word of encouragement.  You never know whose life may be forever touched by it.  (And don’t buy the trash mags that make a living on ripping apart celebrities.  When we buy them, we are part of the problem.  We encourage them to keep it up.  Vote against this kind of trash by refusing to pay for it.) 
            And for those of us who are believers, watch for every and any open door that comes your way to share the hope that we have in the Lord.  This is the only real eternal hope that we have, knowing that Jesus is eventually coming back (God-willing, it is soon) and that He will eventually make all things right. 
            But that is a sobering thought, too.  Because when we cross from this temporary life to the eternal one, we will all get what we wanted.  If we wanted a life with God (through salvation in Jesus), we will get it.  But if we didn’t want God in our lives, we will get it.  Eternally.  Someday, we will all face the eternal result of whatever decision we made about God and salvation and Jesus.  And we have this lifetime to impact others for eternity, to help them find the way to eternal life. 
            There are so many people who die every day without Jesus in their hearts.  There are so many people who don’t have someone shining light into their lives.  And that is why it is so important that Christians take whatever opportunity they have to shine Jesus’ light and love and forgiveness into someone else’s life.  People are watching.  People notice these kinds of life-giving, life-affirming actions and words.
            And I think people are hungry for it.  We may not be able to fix the world, but we can make a tiny difference in the lives of those we come across daily.  And it really does matter for that person.  So don’t chicken out.  Don’t hide the light.  Share it and let it warm others’ hearts, too.  Don’t be afraid to be a representative of God’s Love and Truth to others.  Be a builder, not a destroyer.  People will notice. 
            It doesn’t mean they always want it or appreciate it or that you’ll see rewards or positive results from it on this side of eternity.  But our job is just to shine, to share the Truth and Love.  God’s job is to work in other people’s hearts.  And we won’t know the impact we really had in others’ lives until eternity. 
            Trust me, I’ve had to learn this lesson myself.  I keep writing for a blog that basically no one reads.  It feels futile.  I wonder if I am wasting my time.  I get my hopes up when I share the website with someone, only to have them come crashing down again when that person chooses to never look it up.  (Thank you, thank you, to the few people who have checked it out.  It means a great deal to me.)  But I keep writing.  Why? 
            One of the reasons is because, even if no one reads, I want to make a small, positive, and encouraging contribution to the on-line world.  There is so much filth out there that I wanted to do what little part I could to add something good to it.  I never know who may be touched by it.  And so I keep writing, not knowing if it will make a difference in anyone’s life or not.  Not knowing if it matters or not.  But I am simply doing my part, trying to take a stand against a raging river of filth and discouragement. 
            And I’m calling on others to do their part to look for opportunities to do something good, something positive, and something eternally meaningful.  For God’s Kingdom, for His glory, and for the hearts and souls of hurting people.  You never know, maybe it will make a difference for one person.
            So what will it be for you:  building others up or destroying them?  Noticing or ignoring?  We face that choice every day.  With every person we meet.  Everything we say.  And our time here on this earth is so short.  Let’s not waste it. 
            Remember the story of the talents in Matthew 25.  Each servant was entrusted with a talent.  It was up to them to use them wisely, to make them profitable.  Failing to do any good with them was a disgrace and punishable.  And in a way, I imagine a talent to be our Christian witness of our salvation.  We’ve been given the Holy Spirit and the call to go out and witness to others - to reflect Christ more and more.  But how often do we hide this talent, the glorious gifts of salvation and God’s Love and Truth and Forgiveness?  How many times do we fail to multiply it by sharing it with others?  Don’t waste the life you’ve been given.  Don’t waste the talent that has been entrusted to you.  Make it count!  Be a Builder! 
            Ephesians 4:29:  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”