Natalina and the Nice Police

Yes, you guessed correctly. “Natalina and the Nice Police” is the name of my new band! We’ll be bringing you some uptempo jams that can best be described as an edgy amalgam of 80’s power ballads and Broadway showtunes. I already made the t-shirts!

Oh, how I wish that were true. The reality is, Natalina IS the nice police… at least that’s the position she’s elevated herself to in the social media realm. It is a self-bestowed title and there is no oversight committee.

I have a problem. Well, perhaps it is not so much of a problem as it is a compulsion. As I make my way through the daily news feed on my social media platform of choice (Starts with an F and rhymes with Space Cook), I find myself greeted with an odd combination of encouraging scripture, engaging insights, engrossing news posts, and infuriatingly mean spirited, snarky, and/or abrasive comments. It is the latter which triggers my inner police siren, and causes me to spring into action.

Meanies. So. Many. Meanies.

And as if it weren’t enough, most of these meanies are my brothers and sisters in Christ. As I analyze their objectionable comments, I become convinced that they are not ACTUALLY meanies…. they are simply ignorant of the meanness that they are exhibiting, and perhaps all they need is a gentle reminder to be nice.

*Weee oooo weeee ooooo weeee oooo* Attention, citizen! You have been targeted as being in violation of Article One, Section One of Natalia’s Nice Code. Take your hands away from the keyboard and surrender your word weapons!

Here’s the worst part: Most mean comments come in clusters and from more than one source. They generally center around a specific trending topic, and it is difficult to police all of these offenders individually. Unlike the solitary life of the Nice Police (I mostly work this beat alone), meanies seem to travel in groups.

The tickets I write for these kindness violations come in two forms. Sometimes, I will address the offender directly in the comment section of their original post. However, if the offenses are widespread and there is more than one culprit, I often find that a soliloquous post on my own wall outlining all of the ways in which the Nice Code has been violated will suffice. Essentially casting a large net to bust as many meanies at one time as I can.

Being solely responsible for ensuring that the Christian content of social media is always tasteful and kind is hard work, and it is draining, and is an endless, thankless task. I often find myself frustrated and disheartened. Often my pleas for people to be kind fall on deaf ears, or are met with antagonistic replies that accuse me of being lukewarm, naive, obnoxious, or all of the above. At times it has forced me into social media hibernation, wherein I forcibly remove myself from daily activity online, simply to protect my sanity. As a highly sensitive person, you might presume that I would cease my engagement with meanies altogether, lest I be caught in their crosshairs. Alas, I simply cannot help myself, which leads to an occasional retreat during which I can recharge and lick my wounds.

Now then, I present much of this in jest, but my viscerally wounded reaction to the negativity and unkindness online is a problem. Trust me, it isn’t sparked by any desire to present myself as better than or above anyone else. It isn’t false bravado, it isn’t even particularly satisfying to me. I can tell you with 100% honesty that when I post about how disappointed I am in the meanness of my fellow Christians, it is coming from a place of real hurt. I have shed tears over some of the things I’ve seen. I become indignant. And I react.

You see, when you are someone who has been targeted by undeserved meanness yourself, you tend to react empathically when you see the same directed at others. It’s almost like a form of PTSD. I suppose it might be too much to ask that people write *Trigger Warning* before their mean spirited rants, but they do trigger me.

And I am being sincere when I say that most of the mean comments and memes that are lobbed about are not indicative of the overall heart condition of the person commenting or posting. Usually they are very nice people, I’m sure. It’s just that, I think social media and the relative anonymity that it provides leads to people saying things that they would probably never say in a face to face meeting or gathering. In person, there are certain rules of decorum. Online, people feel much more free to speak publicly whatever thoughts pass through their minds privately.

I especially find the rise of the meme to be disturbing. I’m fairly certain that at least 95% of memes are designed to shame those who disagree. They are couched in sarcastic humor, as if this makes the meanness acceptable. I just find that they are mostly unbecoming of the people who share them, even if they do occasionally elicit a chuckle.

Memes are the most useful tool for those who want to express a viewpoint in an abrasive manner without appearing to be abrasive. It’s like, “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to offend overweight people by posting this meme of a fat girl falling down… but I simply couldn’t help myself because it was funny.” As if the level of funny is directly related to how acceptable the meme is. If enough people laugh WITH you, it is ok that you are all laughing AT someone else.

Political memes are the worst. For some reason, Christians seem to think that opposing political parties or people are fair game to some of the nastiest kinds of commentary. I cannot tell you how upsetting it has been to see the way Christians have handled the issue of Hillary Clinton and her apparent health issues. Mocking her and even applauding the illness are commonplace. Not that people were particularly nice before. It used to be that the memes were about her age and her weight. Now I’m seeing references to her illness calling her all kinds of names like Hacking Hillary and making light of her medical condition, as if it is ever funny when someone is seriously ill.

You see… I’m doing it again. This post is supposed to be about my desire to better manage my compulsion to police meanies for their mean behavior, but in the process, I’m policing the meanies again.

To cut my meandering monologue right to the chase, I am going to make an effort to pull pack from being the Nice Police. I’m taking off my badge, I’m taking a leave of absence. What this does not mean is that I am any less troubled by the bad behavior of my fellow Christians, but it does mean that I have recognized that perhaps I have become a bit too invested in monitoring the web for kindness infractions.

As I mentioned earlier, I am highly sensitive. I am easily hurt, and I can be easily hurt on behalf of other people. I know what it is like to be treated poorly, and this has caused me to have a knee jerk reaction when I witness that kind of behavior being lobbed at someone else. When I dedicated my life to Jesus Christ, my sensitivity to bullying and meanness intensified. I was shocked and disheartened to see that Christians are not just guilty of nastiness, but are very adept at trying to justify it.. sometimes even dipping into scripture to do so.

BUT…. my own desire to constantly point this out to people is not only a fruitless endeavor, but it takes away from what I actually feel called to do, which is to encourage the brethren and reach out to the lost. Shaking my finger and scolding people for being childish and unkind is a distraction, and I cannot play the role of Holy Spirit in anyone’s life. I have faith that those who are in Christ will be convicted for being mean, and it is up to them whether or not they choose to be obedient to that conviction, or to ignore it for a few laughs or vindictive comments. I cannot change anyone’s heart. Only Jesus can do that.

Meanwhile, I’m not their mommy. But I know something that all mommies know, which is that naughty behavior does not make someone naughty in general. And I fear that I have perhaps occasionally made people feel as if I think they are bad, when in reality I was merely reacting to a bad moment or a bad comment or a bad attitude at the time.

I believe with all of my heart that there is no room in the Christian heart for being mean. I think when people justify it by saying things like “Well that person started it!’ or “Well, I know it is kinda bad but it was also pretty funny” or “Maybe so, but that other person is more mean than me!” what they are really doing is justifying their flesh. And we are all guilty of doing this on occasion. I’m no exception. As Paul said, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) In this rhetorical question, Paul knows the answer as well as you and I do. Only Jesus Christ can save us and rescue us and deliver us and redeem us from this propensity to cater to our flesh. And only Jesus can forgive us when we give in to those fleshly desires.

So, while I will make a valiant effort to remove myself from the Fraternal Order of the Facebook Buzzkill Society, I will be behind the scenes praying for people to realize that this meanness isn’t just a momentary weakness that we give in to in an effort to make others laugh or to make ourselves feel superior… it is a horrible witness to a world that is hurting. Rather than using the devil’s devices of tearing people down, why don’t we model ourselves after Jesus, who expressed love and compassion to the lost and really only lost his temper and engaged in name calling (“You serpents, you brood of vipers…” Matthew 23:33) when He was chastising religious people, who through their own bad behavior (to put it mildly) were keeping people from Christ.

So let’s all try to be nice, shall we? And no.. this is NOT me saying that we should coddle those who are in error or that we should refrain from pointing out real offenses. People always seem to think that my calls for people to be kind are equal to me saying that we should hold people’s hands and help them sin or turn a blind eye. That is not and is never what I am saying. I believe there is a big difference between a genuine correction from one person to another, and the snarky mocking nasty elitist tomfoolery that passes as normal in the weird world of social media. Don’t take my word for it, look to THE Word, and decide for yourself if what I’m saying is true:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. – Proverbs 18:21

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. -Ephesians 4:29

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. – Matthew 15:18

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. – Matthew 12:36

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. – Proverbs 29:20

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1

I love you guys.

Over and out.

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. – Proverbs 16:24