Wednesday, March 30, 2011

love and loss in cyberspace: chrissy's facebook predicament

My friend Chrissy is in a conundrum. This is the best story I've heard in awhile (i.e., all, since yesterday) and she said I could tell it here.

The Cliff Notes version is that she and an acquaintance would routinely spar on Facebook when he would post fundamentalist status updates. Then suddenly a post came along that he had passed away. Here's the email that she sent me:

"Ok, so there's this guy who posts incredibly annoying status updates about Jesus all the time. I may have sent you guys some of his ridiculous posts in the past. He tends to be very manipulating, and kind of mean (but mostly dumb), so I challenge him frequently (or at least when I'm feeling feisty) because I don't believe Jesus is mean or manipulative (or dumb). Or else he makes attempts at jokes that never make me laugh, so he continues to get on my nerves as an offense to my sense of humor. I just found this status update and it got on my nerves because I thought he was failing to make a joke about having a bad night's sleep:
Basically, I thought it was his attempt at a joke, which is what inspired my comment. Even the comment before mine seemed like someone trying to play along with him, or something. I can't explain my thought processes thoroughly, but essentially, I "didn't get it." After perusing his page, I realized dude actually fucking died!!! (which was probably pretty fucking clear to ya'lls, but...) I'm sorry if I look extremely offensive, my friends, but I simply could not align my thoughts without my knowledge of his facebook presence effecting my judgement. Thankfully, less than a minute after my update, I realized that he actually died in real life, so I deleted it. Hopefully his family, or whoever posted the update, will never see it. Of course (maybe because I'm a bitch) I HAD (HAD! HAD!) to take a screen shot before deleting it. I just couldn't believe it! It's awful. It's wrong. But in a sense, it's still kinda hilarious. "Do you mean 'sleep apnea'?" I look like a god damn spelling Nazi! Hopefully, I'll see him in heaven. If not, see you all in hell! (Or maybe just on Failbook?)

Torn In Pieces,


Her second email to me said:

"'Torn in pieces' was a bit of an exaggeration, though I would have been completely mortified if I didn't realize he was dead until today. Good thing I did my research! It mostly gave me a good laugh at the dark, but innocent quality of the circumstances. I had to share it! As for my relationship with him, I didn't interact with him frequently but I DO have a recent example that is perfect:
As you can see, in this life, he and I would never have been on the same page. Especially since I got wasted on St. Patty's Day, or as I like to call it: A Thursday night."
After querying her further as to the cause of death, her third email was as follows:

"My theory? His last couple of updates were about some really intense workout he was starting. He died the night of day 4. Check it:
With a personal training background I can definitely say this would be extremely intense for someone who has health issues and is out of shape. Day ONE?! Fitness TEST??? Shit. That's an athlete's workout right there. 'Sleep anea' my ass! Not that I'm a doctor, it's just that I'm not a retarded person. 'Insanity Workout'? 'Suicide Jumps'? Exactly."
And there's the sordid tale.


reborn1995 said...


This reminds me of something. i was writing to a Christian mentor just yesterday asking for his advice.

Despite having "recovered" from a lot of evangelicalism, i still struggle with having a Christ-like attitude toward people i perceive to be wrong in their attitude or behavior. Like this story--i think i would've been tempted to write many of the same comments as she did to someone like this. But i also can't help but think i'm every bit as obligated to be compassionate or loving or kind, etc.--general behavior that engenders peace or unity or whatever--in the case of someone like this as in the case of someone toward whom it is easy.

How do you reach out to people without approving of what you genuinely believe to be sinful attitudes/behavior? Or put the other way round--how do you keep clear in your mind that what you genuinely believe is sinful actually is sinful without letting that motivate you to treat a person less well than you should?

i don't doubt for a second that i'm a psychologically effed-up individual and that has something to do with it. But it's a trait i particularly see Christ embody, it's a trait that seems particularly hard for me to imitate, and i want to work on it.

Do you have any thoughts or insights?


stephy said...

Hey Guy,

I think I understand what you're asking but if I didn't, let me know. When you said "How do you reach out to people without approving of what you believe to be sinful attitudes/behavior?" My response to that is that you know that you youself to have sinful attitudes/behavior. So why am I any better than someone else? The same Jesus who loves me loves that other person who's annoying me.

Did I answer your question? Lemme know....

reborn1995 said...

Stephanie (do you prefer Stephy? or Steph? or Stephanie?),

Well, my question was poorly presented. You've answered part of it. i think as a recovering-Pharisee, i do have a problem initially relating in just the way you mention. And what you say is sound advice, i need to remember "we all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross."

But even if i have an attitude of equality, it still feels more complicated than that. First, an attitude of equality isn't exactly the same as "being in the same boat." Why? Well, another person's struggles may just not be the same as mine. Second, even if i sincerely have a mind of humility, how do should i respond and interact in a way that is compassionate yet doesn't enable or approve of something sinful?

For instance, suppose someone is griping to you about something. Suppose in your heart of hearts, you really think they're just being selfish about some things, or maybe you think they're just being gossipy or maybe you even think they're just being judgmental in what they're saying. Yet they're venting to you as a friend.

What's the right thing to do? Just vent along with them as though gossip or judgmental-ness or selfishness is no big deal and is okay and should be affirmed? Or tell them you think they're just being selfish or gossipy in which case they don't feel related to or supported at all?

Isn't there some third way? i'm trying hard these days to find one.


stephy said...

Steph, Stephy, Stephanie, Stephanotis...I like them all. :)

When someone is sharing something with me that could be gossipy or 'sinful' or whatever, I don't think that's really my issue. I think that the fact that they're talking about it is the main thing. They're feeling something strongly. And they may not have the wherewithal (however you spell that) to deal with what the true issue is, so they're telling me about how they feel hurt or sad. (It often comes out as anger, but anger is never a primary emotion. Anger is always a secondary reaction to sadness or fear. And being angry isn't a sin.) And they need a compassionate ear. If I'm able to hear them and they know they are heard, that's huge to anyone. All we really want is to be heard and for someone to feel something along with us. I think that's what reaching out to people is at its core. You don't have to approve of their attitude or behavior (and good thing, because we have those attitudes and behaviors too). If someone is griping to me, I think I used to think that was sinful of them. But now I really don't. They're not really griping about the surface issue at hand, they're speaking from a place of feeling mistreated and neglected in some way. That's all it's about.

It's funny you mentioned being a recovering Pharisee, because the Pharisees kept asking Jesus "what's the right thing to do?" And Jesus always responded "that's the wrong question" and gave them something else to think about. This frustrated them because they wanted to have a formula so they could Be Right With God. They were used to the Jewish law being their pathway to rightness with God. But that's not what Jesus is about. At all. I'm in the middle of reading Blue Like Jazz for the first time and he said something in it like "I want to follow rules because I don't want to accept God's charity, or anyone's charity. I don't want to be a charity case. But that's what following Jesus is. You're admitting you need charity, and no one is above the charity of God." I just love that. (I'm not calling you a Pharisee or anything, I think that we all tend to want to Do Things and Avoid Relationship because of our human nature, me definitely included.)

And beyond all that, following Jesus isn't about doing things and feeling ashamed and browbeating yourself, it's about loving him because he first loved us and we act out of that love he has given us. He didn't mean for us to be walking on eggshells. Quite the opposite!

Anyway, read Blue Like Jazz if you feel like it, I'm liking it.

Thanks for asking questions too. I like chatting. :)

reborn1995 said...


What if you wanna follow the rules to be faithful and grateful for God's charity? Or because you want to honor your commitment to following Christ? Not as a means of earning or boasting. Surely that's okay, right?

How do you affirm the underlying feelings without affirming, say, the selfishness? For instance, what if some event is simply not about that person and yet that person is clearly trying to make it about him/her? If i try to sympathize (or empathize? i'm never clear when sym/em is appropriate) with them, won't i be reinforcing his/her attempt to 'steal the spotlight' and only think of self?


stephy said...

I don't know that there are rules to be grateful for God's charity. It's just something that you automatically are by virtue of belonging to him. So then that's gotta be okay. :)

They way I affirm underlying feelings without affirming self-involvement or whatever is by making it about their feelings and their experience and feeling it with them. It's so healing for me when I'm sharing something painful and the person I'm talking to says "That must be so painful for you. For someone to say that or to have done that must make you feel really marginalized and dismissed. I hate that for you."

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