The Problem with Virtual Communities

Have you ever scrolled through Facebook and come across a post that stopped you dead in your tracks? A post that made you wonder “Why in the world would you be asking Facebook this question?”

Not too long agoI came across such a post. The beginning of the post read “Pretty sure I’m going to leave my husband…”

I’m sure we have all seen worse, but it was posted to the wall of a Christian Moms group, so it wasn’t anything I was expecting to find.

A momma and wife, desperately looking for advice. She had recently found out her husband had been lying about their financial situation that had cost them thousands of dollars. They had tried counseling but it hadn’t worked. Essentially he lied, and lied, and lied some more. She was desperate for advice. 

What do I do now?” She asked. Advice poured in for her to the tune of over 100 comments. 

Many people told her to lawyer up. Others empathized with her, sharing similar stories. Some told her to leave. To seek a divorce. And some offered up the “No advice, just prayers.”

As the comments continued, momma updated the post. Now family was involved. Their opinion – stick it out for the sake of your child. 

She continued to seek advice from these ladies she had never met and the comments got uglier and uglier. I was shocked to see very little advice that even referenced the Bible, prayer, or God. My heart broke for this woman. 

Others were quick to tell her to leave. To gratify her desires. To do what was best for her and her child (which meant to leave the liar). I saw no grace, no mercy, no compassion, and no Jesus. 

How could women, who called themselves Christian, offer advice of this nature without the very mention of the Creator of marriage? How could they leave out the very thing that was supposed to unite the group? Please, don’t take this as self-righteous indignation. If anything, this made me realize how guilty I am in omitting God out of my advice. I had to pause and reflect on how I would respond. I was quick to judge the ladies who commented on what I believe to be poor advice, BUT what was the appropriate advice? 

How easy it was to classify ourselves as Christians… Jesus followers, and yet fall into the trap of modern day society that tells us our happiness is the ultimate goal in our life. If it doesn’t make us happy, then we need to let it go. 

I knew the answer wasn’t to pursue personal happiness over His holiness; what I didn’t know was the answer to this momma’s situation. I don’t know if she should have left her husband or stayed with him. I didn’t know enough about her, or her husband, or their history, or marriage. 

Despite my better judgement, I commented on the post. I empathized with her, letting her know how sorry I was she was going through this. Then, I told her that I had no idea what the best decision would be for her and her family, but I believed that finding a Christian counselor would ideally help her determine the best way forward. Quickly. the keyboard warriors jumped at the chance to remind me that they had pursued counseling before and it hadn’t worked, that he was clearly not going to change. I decided to stop posted, and prayed for her privately. 

Ultimately, a group of stranger women wouldn’t be able to offer the advice she needed, only the advice she wanted.

The Problem with Virtual Communities

This is the problem with virtual communities. We have community at our fingertips and yet it’s all superficial. No one really knows anyone and we can spin any story to justify what we want. Do we want to justify divorce? Well, tell them he’s a dirtbag. Do we want encouragement to make it work? Well, let’s leave out the hairy details. 

It’s easy to tell someone we don’t know to destroy a marriage (or stay in a toxic marriage) when we have no ties to the relationship. No skin off our bones one way or the other

God’s community should be different. It needs to be different. Any time the devil wins it should hurt our hearts, yet when everything is just over a screen, we miss out on the emotional repercussions. The compassion.

My heart hurts for every marriage that did not make it, but could have. What if we were a community that surpassed the shallow groups and instead held each other accountable? What if we encouraged a kind of love that God requires of us.  A kind of love that glorifies His name and showcases His love for us rather than a kind of love we see on TV. A kind of love that isn’t about our happiness, but instead is about showing others how God loves us. An undeserving sacrificial kind of love. 

Finding Your Community

This kind of encouragement is found in actual community circles rather than FB groups or online forums. We all need it. Yes, even you introverted friends! If you don’t have a community, I encourage you to get plugged in. Find a community of godly women who strive for His glory rather than earthly glory. 

Step 1 - Get plugged into a church or Christian community. Your church should have small groups or community groups that meet on a regular basis. Take a faithful step and join one. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and you will be surprised at what you will find. If, for whatever reason this is not feasible, find a way to take your virtual community to the next level. Create a smaller (2-4 women) virtual group and meet regularly for skype or Marco Polo dates. The goal is to meet like minded Christian women who care just as much about your salvation as you do. 

Step 2 - Commit to that group. Give it a few tries and actually commit to going and being present/vulnerable. It isn’t always easy to feel like you fit in, but if you put in the work, then at least you can say you tried. 

Step 3 - Ensure you share the same values. When I first got plugged into a small group, we discussed important beliefs and rules/boundaries. For military communities, we created a rule that rank was left outside of the group. We were adamant that gossiping would not be allowed and we were all in agreement that what was said at bible study stayed at bible study. When sin came into play, we held each other accountable (lovingly, of course). We had a sacred group. 

If this does not work, process to step 4. 

Step 4 - If you can’t find this kind of community, create it. Open your door and invite that stranger you just met at church. Or ask to go out to coffee or lunch. Send out an email and express an interest in starting a group that would meet regularly. You could even send a few FB invites to those women in the virtual communities and take those friendship from online to in person. All it takes is one invitation and one person at a time. 

With time, you will find yourself surrounded by a community of women that you can seek advice when it comes to marital issues (or anything else that’s going on). A group of women whose heart will hurt alongside yours, but will cling to God’s word over the worlds. And a group of women who will walk through the journey with you and ensure you make it through. 

Be encouraged, dear friend, you can take that artificial virtual community to the next level. You don’t have to do this life alone. But please, please, please, find your safe space.