I want to confess the sins of jumping to conclusions and posting on Facebook. Are these actual sins? Yes, they can certainly fall under the category of bearing false witness.
On Saturday evening, I read the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky’s apology for the behavior of some students who had attended the March for Life. I then went to five different news sources (Huffington Post and New York Times were among them) and read bits of disturbing information. It was enough to convince me that some wrong had been committed by boys from a Catholic high school. I posted the diocese’s apology letter, along with my thoughts that the boys’ behavior had been uncalled for.
By the time I woke up the next day, the dynamics of the story had already started to expand and change, and the chain of events seemed less clear, but the cyclone that is Facebook had already spun out of control. And it wasn’t just the alleged actions of the boys from Covington that caused people to become angry. In less than an hour, I read posts that frowned upon the right to life movement, Catholicism and all-boys’ schools.
Hey, wait a minute! I support the right to life movement, I’m Catholic and my son attends an all-boys’ school. Without realizing it, and in an attempt to point out offenses committed to other groups, people had offended me.
It just went downhill from there. By this morning, I felt lousy. Somewhere in the middle of Mass today, it finally hit me. We (and I’m using the pronoun broadly, so please don’t take offense if this doesn’t pertain to you) are just one big judgy society. We judge events, actions and people we don’t know. Man, we love to judge people we don’t know. Social media gives us this platform to say things that we ordinarily would only share with our closest confidantes.
It’s true! Sometimes I get involved in a heated discussion on social media and I think, “Hold on. I’ve never even met you!” It’s quite possible we have absolutely nothing in common, and yet I’m chattering at you like we’re sitting next to each other at the local bar. Why am I doing this to myself–and to you?
I had to take a few steps back this morning and realize that even posting the article and commenting on the situation without knowing everything that happened amounted to bearing false witness. And that false witness grows stronger as we feel more empowered by social media. We look at a hat or a smirk on someone’s face and we decide that person is a hate-mongering, privileged, smug, misogynistic teenager who clearly will grow into a really, really bad man. But do we stop to think, this kid is someone’s child? Do we consider that, even if he was being disrespectful, he doesn’t deserve to have celebrities on Twitter insist that his name and location be released to the public? Do we realize that using foul language to describe a 16-year-old boy (there were some pretty nasty memes out there less than 24 hours after the story broke) only perpetuates the hate we claim to shun?
These words have been echoing in my ears all day: Judge not, lest ye be judged. Social media makes it easy for us to be judgy. We can say what we want as we hide behind a computer screen. But that’s no excuse.
Maybe this is the positive message I can take away from the last 72 hours. Judge not. Wait for the information to unfold. If it looks like a situation you want to call out, do so in a teachable way without hatred. And, for heaven’s sake, keep your finger off the “share” button.