Thursday, February 6, 2014
A hypocrite's confessions
There are a number of things that I feel very strongly about, from silly to super important. The goodness of coke. The magic of the south. Our need for forgiveness. The joy of writing. The evil of man. The beauty of kindness. The way it heals you to be hiking in nature. The widespread need for justice. The importance of family. The love of Jesus. And also, the invasiveness of technology on relationships and priorities.
I wrote a piece a while back called “My beef with technology.” I wrote all about the various forms of technology, and their uses by people around me, that were getting on my nerves. That was when I had a flip phone. I had a beef with technology and I also did not have technology. I literally never answered my phone and was well known among friends for being very difficult to get a hold of. I hated phone calls in general. I was barely texting, while everyone I knew had a smart phone. I got stopped by a guy one day who laughed at my phone and said, “Do those things still exist?” When I got texts from other people it was more annoying than anything because half their message got cut off because of my memory space. I never, ever even conceived of checking my phone for texts. It was a miracle when I noticed one was there or if I got a call. I was very hands free with technology, just trying to stay close enough for Jason to be able to get a hold of me, since that was important to him.
I almost got a smart phone a couple of times. But each time I didn’t understand what the point was, so we waited. In the meantime, little flipper did me just fine. I had phonecalls and texting when I wanted them, scribbled out my directions from home, checked my emails when I got him once a day, and every once in a blue moon someone got a hold of me. The introvert’s perfect life.
One day Jason finally got a new phone for work, so I reluctantly got his hand me down. It bugged me at first because I went from having this nice little tiny thing to what felt like a heavy miniature suitcase for my ear. It felt like it would rip a hole in my back pocket or maybe swallow my face. My dislike only lasted so long, because I finally realized what sort of conveniences I had been missing. I think a lot of people sit down with their smart phones like the day they get them and spend hours on them, adding applications, getting to know all the in’s and out’s, and feel in general like they’ve adopted a perfect child. For me, it’s like every few weeks I’d notice something new and helpful. So at first I was just glad my texts weren’t cutting off. Then like a month later I found the search button for the internet, which was nice. Then I began to notice the little facebook tile spin when I had an update, which was kind of cheery and all. It was quite a day when I realized I could take notes on there and make folders with my little thoughts on different things. So I grew to kind of like it, though no matter how I put my mind to it, the maps still don’t make perfect sense to me and I still write them down before I leave. Don’t you feel like you pass a street before it tells you to turn? Probably just me.
I think I didn’t really want to admit I liked my new phone. I wanted to just hate it. Like only hate it. I still knew what I hated about devices in general, which made me not want to leave any room for liking them. No love-hate. Just hate. That would make it less confusing.
Admittedly, technology has been a blessing to the world in many regards and there is much to like. With every invention, much struggle has been alleviated from the backs of mankind, finally bringing about a certain relief and breakthrough on everyday work and obligation. To disparage it as a whole, despising its existance, would be foolishness and single minded in its argument. It is what it is, and depends on how it is used. It has either brought good or evil, beauty or pain, common grace or an open door to sin, depending on what sort of heart has made it an instrument. It is a tool and it is used by mankind for many purposes.
However, I feel discouraged that many are willing to overlook or belittle the consequences of such an open swinging door of technology in order to enjoy all of the benefits as an individual. Not to my credit at all, only because God made me this way, I have a gift of keen social awareness. This is a blessing in some regards and kind of a problem most other times. I can’t overlook what’s going on all around me, for good or bad. I see nonchalant glances. I see little reactions on kids’ faces. I see a small hand held. I see a woman being admired. I see what look comes over someone’s face when they are disappointed. I see that frozen hesitation before the tears come. I see the enjoyment of inclusion. And the discomfort and figeting of exlusion. Remember those activity pages in kids’ magazines that ask what’s wrong with this picture? That’s kind of my filter. If I need a job one day I’ll apply to make those.
From personal experience and observation, I have noticed that beyond the usefulness and benefits of technology, there has also come a struggle for boundaries, decency, and respect. I have been accutely aware of a prevalent lack of wisdom associated with the use of technology and an underlying tyranny of the urgent, pulling humanity away from priorities and the ability to have a contented present-ness where we are.
So I admit a personal struggle to notice the goodness, the helpfulness, the advances of technology, because I can’t help but feel the heavy weight of how it has come like a bulldozer through so many families and relationships. From laptops to smart phones to video games to television shows, I have experienced myself or witnessed on countless occasions many smaller stories in life where technology has brought a moment of pain, distance, hurt, rejection, or displaced priority. And these from loving family members, well meaning people, without an intention to slight or injure. And I grieve for that and all the worse, more ill meaning stories happening all around.
Children are being ignored, not seen behind yet another dancing screen. Or else they themselves move from show to xbox to games on their parents’ phones. Entire evenings of entire years are being wasted on surfing mindless chatter while books dust. Youth are secretly enjoying pornography while their parents are busy watching some of their own in a different room. Stalking is now the hobby of the everyday housewife. Teenagers get to know everything posted about someone before they have to find the courage to meet someone in person. Marriages share a couch with dualing laptops. Dinners are interrupted by little clips of your favorite songs and distracting check-in’s under the table. And the waves of information have come over our heads and are drowning us all, because we weren’t made to carry the weight of the world and still have keen consciences. We read about a tsunami killing hundreds and then click on a celebrity update and send a little hello message to a friend on facebook. And with the lightspeed of updated information, truth is questionable as being the fastest to get it out there has taken priority, and apologies can be offered later for the slaughtering of plausability.
I came across a blogger a while back who shares my heart exactly. Her blog is called Hands Free Mama and she has a passion for being a wife and mother who is known for being present in her relationships and not torn in different directions by whatever is tugging for her attention at the time. She wants her children to remember her as a mom who was right there in the day with them, never saying “hold on a sec” and showing no self control over her use of technology, though it is so prevalent in our society. I “liked” her on facebook and have kept up with some of her posts. I considered myself a kindred spirit with her. With like minded encouragement, I was constantly bringing it up with other moms, praying about it, and watching boundaries in my own home with my screen time and priorities. It has become one of my social issues I am really concerned about and extremely burdened for in my particular mini-culture of stay at home moms who have a constant example day in and day out to the next generation of future adults, who will also be facing their own temptations and decision making one day very soon.
In the same breath that I write all of this, something in me changed recently. With an increasing measure of laziness, curiosity, and letting down of my guard, I have become a total hypocrite in an unrecognizable way to the woman who just wrote the rest of this blog. I’m not sure how it happened, but I know it was a slow progression and a constant dismissing of my seemingly small decisions. In the last six months I have allowed myself to completely slide into being what I hate.
I hate it when moms leave their laptops open and on all day in the middle of life and I do that now. I hate it when people check their phones everytime they get a new text and I do that now. I hate it when people talk to their kids while they still are looking at their phones and I do that now. I hate it when people use their down time in lines and waiting for school pick ups on their phone instead of talking to their other child in the back seat and I do that now. I hate it when moms use their kids’ quiet times or nap times to just doze out on tv shows, and I do that now. I hate it when spouses sit in front of the tv or beside each other on laptops, and I do that now. And I really, really hate it when people get their cell phones out while driving or at stop lights and I have totally been doing that now. I feel very strong hatred of the exact things I am doing.
I seriously feel like two people writing this blog. I totally agree with the me that wrote the last three pages and am super disgusted with the last paragraph I just wrote. Yet, what I just wrote and hate is what I do! That makes me a complete hypocrite, not living out what I say or think. I expose my heart’s true cracks and lack of will, as I live in a way inconsistent with my convictions and my true burdens for my family, my community, and our culture.
And I didn’t see it coming. It’s not like you feel like you can just stop either. It feels like a totally new lifestyle habit that will be hard to stop doing and being. Once you avail yourself to being that “present” to the demands of your phone and email and facebook and even knowing the very most updated information on the news, it becomes difficult to step back into the knowing of just your present life and not know what is continuing to happen in the rest of your community or world. We have an insatiable desire to pry into information and be updated continually and we feed it with our habits of checking in. And each new message or email is just feeding that little desire to be included. I don’t even have sounds or ringtones turned on because I hate them, but I pick up my phone constantly at various times, looking for that little number in the tile telling me I have something to check. And on really bad days I am checking it as each individual message is coming in, and once in between as well. I am on top of every email, every text, every facebook comment. And to be totally honest, with all of this indulging of extra and more information, my bedtime is later than ever, keeping me up past midnight most nights and keeping me from waking up for my morning quiet times.
I am absolutely feeling mastered by my phone. And I am so surprised this is where I am when I was so determined, so resistant, and honestly so disgusted by the behavior I know currently possess. It amazes me how I can think about the many times I looked over my piece of technology to interact with my child in one day and be sicked out by that, and then repeat the behavior the next day. I need humility that leads to repentance. My conviction is currently only leading to a guilty sense of feeling bad, but it has not fully culminated to laying this addicting habit down, repenting that I am needing my devices more than is healthy for me or my relationships, and asking for the Lord to show me how to surrender this to him in a continual way.
Going through this has definitely reminded me in a very clear way that even when I feel strongly about something, I can betray myself. I am capable of self-deception and choosing temptation over conviction. I am not invincible in my determination, so the way I wave a flag about my opinions on a matter should be done with a bent knee of humility. My character is flawed and my actions are carried out by the state of my heart, which is in constant need of refinement by the Holy Spirit.
I am going to slow down this week, create some temporary boundaries for myself, and take some good, hard, long looks at the faces of my children. And I am going to pray that my heart is refined, and renewed, and purified, pulled away from my reckless spinning desires and slowed to an intentional walk in the ways I feel true convictions to joyfully walk in. I want to be free to live in love, prioritizing the people I feel true gratitude for having in my life, getting the priveledge of displaying the kind of life I hope my children get to live one day. I’m thankful for this jolting look at what I believe set right beside what my behaviors have actually demonstrated so that I can wake up and live an honest life in line with true convictions. And the grace of God will free me from regret’s condemnation and give me a joyful hope in starting again.