Online Safety and Wisdom: 5 Practices to Resist Self-Glorification on Social Media
For naturally self-serving humans, social media presents the potential temptation to seek our own glory, which is in direct conflict with Scripture’s repeated commands to humble ourselves (see our blog post on this here). It’s important to curb the craving for glory, not only for our own sakes, but also to set an example for the next generation, most of whom are even more deeply entrenched in social media than their parents are. Adults who understand and challenge themselves in this area can help today’s students walk through the same challenges with wisdom.
Should Christians Quit Social Media?
It may be easier to avoid stumbling into pride by completely cutting out social media, and for some adults and students alike, this may indeed be the best option. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). In this passage, Jesus is calling his followers to get rid of anything in their lives that causes them to sin, knowing that it’s not worth the long-term damage it will do, and certainly not worth their very salvation.
Yet, when total abstinence does not seem like a feasible option, Christians must employ wisdom and discipline to avoid stumbling into sin, which can certainly be achieved in the realm of social media. As 1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” With full dependence on Christ, several practices can reinforce a journey toward a spiritually healthy relationship with social media.
Repentance is a biblical starting place for any spiritual change because it’s more than just saying “sorry.” It is turning away from sin and toward Christ, letting go of the control that sin has had and surrendering to him.
The word “repentance” gets a little bit of a bad rap in modern society, often conjuring doomsday caricatures of crazed evangelists in the streets yelling at passersby to “repent before it’s too
late!” But repentance should be a common practice for any Christian who follows the conviction of the Holy Spirit. In his book My Name is Hope, author John Mark Comer distinguishes repentance from mere guilt or self-punishment.
Healing starts with repentance. Now pay attention. It would be really easy to get off track right here; to slip into some sadistic, self-deprecating mantra of guilt, shame, defeat, and then depression. Do not misunderstand the true nature of repentance. Most people think of it as a heavy, somber, religious duty. In reality, authentic Biblical repentance is a life-giving art, renewing the entire soul.
He goes on to point out that in Hebrew (the original language of the Bible), the very word “repentance” can be directly translated as “return home.” Before we can expect to see any behavior change, including on social media, we first need a heart change, and that comes only when we let go of the idols to which we’ve been clinging and “return home” to the Father.
2. Ask Yourself Whose Glory You Seek
In Psalm 115, the psalmist addresses God saying, “Not to me, not to me, but to your name be the glory!” Imagine what your social media feed would look like if everyone had this framework. Instead of selfies, pictures of people’s cool stuff and statuses that seek to grab attention, I imagine we’d see Bible passages, words of wisdom, and comments of encouragement. Unfortunately, this image may never be a reality, but Christians can choose to approach social media through the lens of seeking God’s glory rather than our own, and perhaps it simply starts with asking “Whose glory am I seeking in this post?”
3. Seek Accountability
Scripture encourages us to seek accountability in the ongoing fight against temptation. James 5:16 states “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working,” and Paul repeatedly encouraged church members to rebuke, counsel, and encourage one another.
As with any temptation, seeking biblical accountability from someone of the same sex may prove helpful in resisting sin on social media, and as iron sharpens iron, it may improve your own discernment and ability to honor your convictions.
4. Set Limitations
The more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to be influenced by it.
In another of his books, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer urges his readers to be intentional about how they spend their time and to what they give their attention.
...[W]hat you give your attention to is the person you become. Put another way: the mind is the portal to the soul, and what you fill your mind with will shape the trajectory of your character. In the end, your life is no more than the sum of what you gave your attention to.
Putting limitations on the amount of time spent ingesting this content also limits (to some extent) the power we allow it to have in our lives.
5. Find Fulfillment in Christ Alone
The truth is, any longing of our hearts needs to be met in Jesus, because nothing in this world can satisfy us. According to the writer of Ecclesiastes, all striving for earthly glory is in vain. “All are from the dust, and to dust all return” (Ecclesiastes 3:20). These yearnings are meant to point past ourselves toward something (or rather, someone) much greater. These pangs of desire for glory and admiration are misplaced yearnings to be known and loved by our Creator, so the more we lean into him and his Word, the more we begin to find satisfaction in him. As we do, the desire to fill that void with the things of this world begins to diminish, and that sin or temptation that held us hostage for so long begins to lose its grip on our hearts.
This very sentiment is echoed in the words of the hymn: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”
Christians are called to be in the world but not of it. Because social media can be used as a means for sin all around us, we ought to take seriously the temptation it causes and rely on Christ’s help to resist that temptation, whether by getting rid of it entirely, or employing wise strategies to avoid stumbling. Either way, just like with any sin struggle, the answer is ultimately found in seeking Christ above all else, and seeking his glory above our own.
About the Author
Jo Wilbur is a Communications Specialist at TCS and proud JMU grad who loves writing, shopping, and making new friends. She and her husband live in Purcellville and spend time together cooking plant-based meals, singing worship songs, and volunteering as Young Life leaders in their community.