So the lead story on last night’s evening news was all about the confession of New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. Yes, he did Tweet that photo and yes, it was a photo of himself. As I watched Weiner’s tearful press conference my heart ached, not only for Weiner, but for the rest of us. I tried to imagine his journey to that podium, when it started, and the combination of factors that led to his choices. To be honest, there was once a time when I would have reacted to the story by lobbing self-righteous verbal stones in Weiner’s direction. Life, knowledge, insight into self, and a load of people I know who march together with Weiner in this growing parade of consequences and self-induced shame . . . well. . . when we look into the face of Anthony Weiner and listen to his words, we should see and hear ourselves. None of us is above any of this, and we’re all one bad choice away from having to stand behind that podium ourselves. And so, there are lessons to be learned from Anthony Weiner.
One of the most striking and insightful thoughts came from the lips of NBC’s Brian Williams as he read the lead-in to the story. Williams talked about how we live in an “age of over-sharing.” That little phrase is really worth pondering. No, technology is not a bad thing in and of itself. It’s the human heart and how our hearts choose to use to use technology that’s the issue. Do we use it in ways that bring honor and glory to the kingdoms of the world, the flesh and the devil? Or, do we endeavor and choose to use technology in redemptive ways that bring honor and glory to God?
I thought about this last night after watching the news. I jotted some thoughts sparked by Weiner’s actions and Williams’ words.
-Technology and Twitter. . . we waste so much of our time and so much of other people’s time on this stuff. We make noise, we need noise, we choose noise, and we can’t escape the noise. That’s what all this stuff has done to us. But what we really need from time to time is some peace and quiet. What we really need is a disconnect from distraction so that we can start paying attention to the things that really matter.
-The age of over-sharing. . . we show and say far, far too much. Prudence, wisdom, discretion. . . those are all character traits that are disappearing. Using technology in redemptive ways requires them all to be cultivated and exhibited in increased measure. Without them, we become like the person described in Proverbs 25:28 – “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”
-Technology. . . if not harnessed in our lives and managed with strict parameters. . . it will feed the monster of pride and self-idolatry that lives in us all. We begin to believe that we’re above things . . like ethical boundaries or the dangers of entertaining that which is tempting. We begin to believe that people care about every one of our trivial Tweets, status updates, and posts. We not only believe that people care, but that people are actually waiting with great expectation for them. And if they are. . . well. . . shame on them. When this happens, the really important stuff gets lost in the clutter and noise.
-Narcissism is fed. . . leading us to think that we’re at the center of the universe and everything revolves around me. I got to thinking about this yesterday while reading Erik Larson’s current best-selling book, “In the Garden of Beasts.” The book documents the ambassadorship of William Dodd, the U.S. envoy to Germany during Hitler’s rise. In the book, Larson talks about how Hitler rose to the status of a god among the German people. At one rally in Nuremberg during 1936, Hitler worked the crowd into a frenzy then said, “That you have found me. . . among so many millions is the miracle of our time! And that I have found you, that is Germany’s fortune!” As our “following” grows, we must be careful to see ourselves as we really are and to keep looking at ourselves from the proper perspective.
-The most beneficial awareness of self is not the kind that says “I’m important and people like me.” The most beneficial self-awareness is the kind that reminds us of our deep and dire need for mercy, grace, and a Savior.
-Finally, the Weiner story is one that will be used, I’m sure, for partisan causes. However, we must remember that sin is no respecter of political affiliation.
Any other lessons in this?