Christian Counseling: The Self Others See At Church And On Facebook

Most people live according to the principle of "Putting your best foot forward." Showing your shiny, polished shoe to onlookers rather than your scuffed one is believed to win more friends and influence people favorably. To some degree that is true, especially for those onlookers given to quick and simple evaluations of others.

The church and Facebook are two places this frequently happens. Over the years of counseling I have repeatedly heard clients say they believe other church goers are more spiritual and happier than they, based on smiles and brief conversations. Near the same can be said of those spending a lot of weekly time or having long used Facebook. According to a 2012 study, these users of Facebook believe other Facebook users are happier, have better lives, and feel less that life is fair.1 What can we glean from these examples?

The likely truth is that those believed to have better lives are probably thinking you have a better life. Many suffer from a lowering of self-esteem and wonder why others seem to have it better than they. Some may even ponder the idea that God has blessed others more, perhaps because He favors them. In the end, most decide to shore up their defenses so others don't see any sign of a scuffed shoe (bad side of themselves) and purpose to reveal more of a good-natured, happier self, even if it is embellished. Our self-esteem in some good measure rests in what we believe others believe about us. The better we pump ourselves up in the eyes of others, the better some will feel about themselves, even if it is only temporary. And it is.

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty wo... No, happiness is achieved by finding and developing relationships with those who really know the good, the bad and the ugly about you and accept and love you anyway. In that kind of open and honest relationship one does not have to pretend, only put their best foot forward and spend precious life energy defending and hiding oneself. They no longer live in fear wondering what would happen if others discovered the "real me." If others accept and love you only because of shallow, planned and limited, positive self-revelations, you will be forever working on your public image and never experience the joy, peace and freedom of knowing deep and abiding human acceptance and love. 

I firmly believe the world would eventually be a better place if all people lived their true selves out in the open, like most do with God. Eventually, we would stop finding fault, criticizing, bullying, gossiping and rejecting others because we would come to know and accept a new normal for being human and impactfully realize we all wear one scuffed shoe with a foot made from the same earth dust. I triple dare you to be real. 

1  Chou, H. and Edge, N. (2012). They are happier and having better lives than I am: The impact of using Facebook on perceptions of others' lives. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 15 (2), 117-120.

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