Killing Social Affirmation
[ By: Marissa Meyer ]
"Flattery is a silent killer. It creeps around ministers at times of great achievement and has driven some potentially great preachers to their spiritual deaths. #easywork" - Charlie Shamp.
I have noticed this so called 'silent killer' creep undetected into the feeds of many social media accounts and interpersonal relationships. It's no secret. We live in a world of selfie driven social media posts and best-foot-forward status updates. It's easy to let our thoughts, emotions and decision-making be influenced and driven by the need for social affirmation and approval. After all we are built for relationship and everyone is doing it, right?
Whether it's editing and adding filters to the perfect selfie, or meticulously crafting a humblebrag Facebook status about a recent personal achievement, we've all been guilty. The growing obsession with impression management has been studied and documented through many research and scientific papers over the years. One such study has shown that technology and social networking sites have given rise to a growing epidemic of selective self-presentation strategies in order to seek out social approval and positive feedback in the form of likes, hearts, retweets and comments; to name but a few forms of social media currencies now accepted world-wide (Chou & Edge, 2012; Manago, Graham, Greenfield, & Salimkhan, 2008).
Alongside the need and drive to craft our online image, comes another form of social media evolution especially among Christians: the self-promoting spiritual influencer. Now this is ironic you might say, because the very fact that I am typing this blog for more than my personal enjoyment and addressing believers for the most part, could be construed as a form of exactly that. Hear me out—while Christian blogging, online evangelism, preaching and the spreading of the gospel through social media is in no way wrong—to a large degree there is a form of these expressions existing purely for the benefit of self-promotion, social affirmation and self-value generation. This behaviour isn’t new, before social media existed, history is filled with people desperately seeking the praise and approval of man.
One such example I’d like to propose, is Simon the sorcerer:
While this story could be seen as mainly focussing on the perversion of power by means of a monetary trade, I would like to highlight why I believe Simon’s heart and intention was deceived. I believe the key lies in verse 10: “and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him...”
You see, through the progression of this account we see Simon getting all the attention, affirmation and approval of man. People literally followed him around, affirmed his identity with words saying "This man is what is called the Great Power of God” and gave him all their attention. When Philip arrives on the scene preaching salvation and walking in signs and great miracles, Simon curiously had to take a backseat as the power Philip was walking in clearly outweighed his own. Then when the apostles Peter and John arrived on the scene, Simon’s identity took another knock as these men seemed to walk in even greater power. By now—the crowds already astonished by the works of the Holy Spirit through Philip, and then the raw outpouring of the Spirit onto people through the hands of the apostles—the dark deceptive wolf in Simon had grown increasingly hungry for what was once his: the attention and affirmation of man. By all means necessary he had to get back his power so he could feed the attention seeking void again and have the eyes of men restored back onto his ‘ministry’.
I believe an increasing amount of Christians fall into this trap daily. What starts out as pure intentions with a burning desire to win the lost, encourage the broken-hearted and see the Kingdom of God break out, slowly over time turns into a self-powering machine of self-worth and identity generation built upon the trade of social affirmation currency. Charlie Shamp’s quote is so right in this respect, it’s a ‘silent killer’. Once you have been the beneficiary of social approval, there is this real deceptive drive that makes you crave the affirmation more and more if you're identity is not firmly rooted in sonship and belonging. Don't let the affirmation of man be the drive to make you feel you're enough. You have been purchased at at great price for the audience of ONE.