Digital technology with all the benefits it brings us also has unintended consequences–such as the tendency to share posts that turn out to be Fake News uncritically and to call out and shame others. We need to discern how this valuable tool impacts our lives and manage our use of it so that we shield ourselves from these undesirable consequences, or at least minimize them.
Another undesirable consequence–one that results from the widespread phenomenon of social media shaming–is digital timidity. The fear of getting bashed keeps many people from speaking the truth if it means going against the viral mob.
Theodore Roosevelt has this famous quote popularly referred to as “The Man in the Arena.” The quote comes from a 1910 speech, but it is even more relevant today. It goes:
He is right to say that it is not the critic who counts, and the credit indeed belongs to the one who is in the arena, the one who is trying to do the work.
But it’s not easy to subscribe to that today because with digital technology, the critics sitting in the bleachers watching you in the arena–and waiting for you to make one false move–have multiplied a thousandfold, and that mob’s cruelty has too often reared its ugly head. As a result, it feels much safer to remain timid.
But if you want to be a disciple of the Lord, we must, like Him, not be afraid to speak the truth and to do what’s good–even if it goes against the majority. Can we pray that we can retrieve this audacity? Such an audacity will require us to go beyond our usual comfort zone.
One of my favorite authors, Seth Godin, observes that people are reluctant to go beyond their comfort zones because they don’t want to stray into the danger zone. Who does?
But he reminds us that between our comfort zone and the danger zone, there still lies a safety zone. In other words, there is a way of venturing out of our comfort zone but still remain within the safety zone without unnecessarily trespassing into the danger zone.
The key is to discern where the safety zone beyond our comfort zone can be found, a space that is uncomfortable, but still safe.
When you think about it, that is absolutely the least that we can do. After all, in order to redeem us, the Lord Jesus went not only beyond his comfort zone, but also way beyond his safety zone.
There are occasions in our lives when we may be called to do the same, to make sacrifices in order to do the greater good. But how can we do that if we’re not even willing to get out of our comfort zones?
This Good Friday, our Lord models for us an audacity that is fueled by love. This audacious love challenges us.
What about us? Have we grown so timid that we have lost the audacity to do the right thing, to speak the truth, and–when it is appropriate and not only when it is fashionable–to call out those who are wrong?
The digital culture has bred an aversion to risk, to transparency, to committing mistakes. But all that has also resulted in an aversion to growth, which is possible only with risk, transparency, and mistakes.
What about you? Can you take the first step to turn yourself from a timid disciple to a more audacious one? What would that mean?