To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
BY Matthew Warner
So you just received this amazing link to a great, new Catholic resource. It explains one particular point of our faith absolutely perfectly…and it totally slams the dissenters. Made you feel really good, especially after reading it 3 times in a row.
But now what? Do you share it with others? If so, who do you share it with? And in what way do you share it?
In the online world of Catholic evangelization, this situation happens more and more often. It happens to me many times a day. To share? Or not to share? That is the question.
We have many excellent ways of sharing these great resources these days. We can share it privately with an individual. Or we can share it with a mass of people. We can do it the old fashioned way and put it into an “email forward.” We can retweet it on Twitter. We can make one click (of the “Share” or “Like” button) and have it posted to our Facebook walls. There are many, many other ways as well.
And the more advanced these technologies get, the greater variety of ways we have to share information. Even within Facebook we have almost endless ways to share things with people. Some methods are private and personal. Some are public and in-your-face, such as posting something directly to somebody’s wall. Others are more subtle, such as posting something to your own wall. And still others are more subtle than that, like simply “liking” or becoming a “fan” of something. Each have a certain volume, appropriateness, reach, and ability.
The important questions for us are which ways do we share and with whom do we share. Or do we even share at all at this time?
Being able to broadcast such great, Catholic links to everyone we know is a powerful thing. But we must exercise it responsibly. We can do a lot of good. But we can also do a lot of damage.
While the message you are sharing may be just what one person needs to hear, it may actually make somebody else angry or turn them off to what you are saying. Or maybe they are just tired of the endless Catholic links they keep getting from you. Evangelism often requires a personal touch. And we need to be sensitive to how our message is being received. After all, that’s the most important part. This doesn’t mean we water down the faith at all. That is the last thing we should do. It just means we need to meet people where they’re at. Who is your audience?
Additionally, too often our sharing of information subconsciously turns into another way to tell people off. To reinforce “see? I’m right and you’re wrong.” And we justify it by reassuring ourselves that “this is the truth. People need to hear it even if they don’t like it.” And while people do need to hear the truth, the way we share it often serves ourselves more than it serves our neighbors and lovingly convincing them of the truth.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. Things we wouldn’t normally bring up in normal conversation with a person (but we are just itching to tell, show or prove to them) we can brazenly blast out on Facebook or in an email forward while hiding behind the technology. That can be helpful. But it can also be abused. When it becomes about me being right, and not about loving the person, I know I’m abusing it.
We also need to respect our relationships. Many of our friends and family gave us their email addresses and connected with us on Facebook, etc. because they care about us. Because they want to build a better relationship with us. If we abuse that trust by bombarding them with things that ultimately annoy them, the relationship can suffer. You can lose them as a friend. And you also lose real opportunities to effectively share the truth with them at the right time.
I used to be guilty of all of this far too often. And I’m sure I still am sometimes. Most of the time it springs from good intention. But I have come to realize that such tactics are often ineffective. This doesn’t mean not being ourselves. We have to be ourselves. I’m going to stand up for truth and injustice wherever I am able. And naturally, that means I’m going to share things other people will disagree with. That’s life. That’s any relationship. But it’s important to be thoughtful and to keep our motivations in check.
There are no hard and fast rules here. Every situation is unique. The truth must be proclaimed. But the goal is not to just proclaim it, it’s to truly change hearts with it. That takes building meaningful personal relationships with people built on substance. It takes the prudence not to proselytize at every point the topic comes up. It takes the patience to wait for the opportunity God will give you to do what needs to be done - which may be one day or twenty years into the relationship. It takes the humility of knowing that you don’t know everything and that the other person may know a thing or two you don’t. And more often than not, it takes getting out of the way so the Holy Spirit can work. God can do a lot with the little we have to offer. Ultimately, it takes genuine love.
We have a lot of outstanding, Catholic content out there. And I’m the biggest proponent of sharing it and spreading it around. It’s an important and necessary task! But if we’re going to be effective with it, we need to do it wisely and lovingly.
Your thoughts? Any rules or principles you use when deciding when/if/with whom to share something?