With the abundance of social media we have seen the rise of what we perceive as perfectly polished portrayals of the lives of regular people. As I think about the way I portray my own life in social media I have come to the conclusion that there is a difference between someone who is hiding the negative aspects of their lives, and someone who is choosing not to focus on the negative parts of their lives. Since I am a lazy typist I will refer to those who are hiding the negative aspects of their lives as “hiders” and the people who are choosing not to focus on the negative as “choosers.”
The external differences between hiding and choosing may not be discernible to the outside observer. However, I have come to the conclusion that there are great differences internally. President Ezra Taft Benson in his fascinating talk “Beware of Pride” says “Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest.” What is the difference between a sin and a mistake? A sin is done with knowledge and intention, a mistake is just that, a mistake. The same act could be committed, but the consequences could be vastly different depending on the intent. Intent is very important to the Lord as evidenced by 1 Samuel 16:7 “For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
So, what are the internal differences? It is dangerous ground to try and guess at the motivation of others, so I can only speak to the differences I have seen in my own motivations as I have at times been a hider and at times, and hopefully more frequently, been a chooser.
Characteristics of a hider:
- Pride. Again, I refer to President Benson’s talk “Beware of Pride” (linked above). He explains to us that when pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world. We care more about what man things than what God thinks. We are competitive with our perceptions of others successes.
- A misunderstanding of guilt. Often we view guilt as a negative feeling, but I believe that guilt is a feeling that is given to us to keep us aware of the boundaries the Lord has set for us. Although it is not pleasant, it’s purpose is righteous. Similar to the way a bowling ball may bounce off the bumpers on the way down the lane. The impact when the ball hits the bumpers is hard, but it keeps the ball out of the gutters and traveling down the lane to its destination. When we do something wrong, we feel guilt as a way of letting us know we need repentance in our lives. We know the Savor is ready to help us when we repent and will push us back into the lane and safely traveling toward our eternal goals.
- Shame. Unlike guilt, shame is not a productive feeling or one of divine origin. When we misunderstand guilt Satan is there to quickly turn our guilt into shame. Shame keeps us from reaching out for help. Shame leads us to feel embarrassed about the un-glamorous parts of our lives. Shame is what whispers in our ear that we won’t have friends or people will find us disgusting if they knew our true self, or at least what Satan wants you to believe is your true self. Satan uses shame to keep us quiet about our struggles. He “stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations…and all manner of secret works of darkness.” (2 Nephi 9:9) “The Lord worketh not in secret combinations.” (Ether 8:19)
Characteristics of a chooser:
- Positivity. Life isn’t always perfect. There are rough edges to us, and there are things that we’ve done wrong, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! Choosers learn to recognize that although not perfect there are far more positives than negatives.
- Willing to share. Choosers use discretion and share with others when sharing their experiences can benefit others and/or when sharing is a part of a healthy healing process. Often, at least in my own life, there are things I’ve experienced that I have told the Lord that I am willing to share if my story can help accomplish his purposes. However, choosers try to distinguish the difference between when sharing is of genuine benefit to ourselves and others and sharing to gain sympathy and/or attention. Sharing our problems purely to satisfy our own desires is not a productive practice.
- Contentment. Choosers recognize the blessings they have and have a desire to share those blessings with others. A flower attracts others with it’s bloom, but must have a root to flourish. The blessings are the flower, but choosers know that the root of the plant is what enables the flower to bloom and we strengthen our roots as we overcome affliction, repent from sin, and are obedient to the Lord’s commandments.
I recognize that we can at times feel overwhelmed by the amount of what we perceive as perfectly polished portrayals of the people around us. I hope that as we recognize the differences between hiding and choosing we can begin to see that the people who often have the most positive view are those who have had the most difficult afflictions and recognize how precious the positive aspects of their lives are. We should not assume that everyone is “photoshopping” their lives. Personally I have found that if I feel that way the problem is more internal than external and I would benefit more of taking internal stock of myself (again I would strongly recommend everyone read Beware of Pride) rather than the knee jerk reaction that myself and others would benefit from talking about our problems more. (See the “willing to share” bullet point.) It’s one of Satan’s many contradictions that we can be deceived to either the extreme of hiding everything or the extreme of oversharing and be incorrect in either direction.
Obviously the amount and type of sharing of both positive and negative experiences is personal. What is comfortable and/or appropriate for one person may not be comfortable and/or appropriate for another. And of course we all vary between chooser or hider in various topics and at different times in our lives. However, I have found that as I analyze my own motivation for sharing things I can make better informed decisions in my eternal quest to righteousness.