My friend Suzanne sent me a link to an excellent article that you should read. It is called “the Very Worst Trend Ever” (click those words to read the article) and it was very convicting. I linked to it on Facebook which led to a great little interchange about what Megan Hill may have been implying here in her challenge and a week ago I told one of my newer friends that I would extend the discussion here to my blog. This is my (very late) attempt to do so.
I loved the article, and I have really appreciated thinking through it for several days. My attached thoughts on the subject are not, in anyway, a disagreement with or objection to her post. They are meant to be some additional thoughts on the subject.
The first thing we need to define in this discussion is the difference between “Keeping it real” and being honest. Real honesty is humble. It seeks input and improvement. When we are honest about our failings we are saying that we don’t always want it to be the way it is now. “Keeping it Real”, on the other hand, is a catch phrase that seeks to deflect criticism in one of two ways. The first is to go for the laugh. Jen Hatmaker’s post which was linked in Hill’s article is a perfect example of this. It was hilarious, but it was an act of defense. It is that class clown technique of saying “if I laugh at me first, then you can’t.” The second way in which “keeping it real” shows up – and I think this is really the heart of Megan Hill’s concern – is an attempt to redefine our failures as success. “Just keeping it real” is often used to imply that everyone else is just being dishonest, or has their priorities in the wrong place. It defines “real” only in negative terms. No one has ever written, “Mopped the floor and finished all the laundry before 9 am. Just keeping it real.” The phrase itself implies that success in certain areas is, in fact, not real or true.
In reality, the “keeping it real” crowd can be committing the same error of which they accuse the “perfect picture” crowd: they are attempting to redefine righteousness. No matter what you are claiming to be true about your life, the very minute your choices (note my use of the word choices. I am not speaking of moral imperatives here.) become the mark of real, or good for everyone else you have defined righteousness by that choice, or series of choices. I don’t care if your choice is to only dress your children in clothing from flax you have grown, spun and woven yourself, or if you haven’t folded laundry in three weeks, the minute you say, or imply, that it is this thing which makes you a better mother, you are defining righteousness and imposing it on everyone else.
This leads to my second thought on the subject. Sometimes blog posts are about redefining righteousness, but some are just sharing a glimpse of their world. Why do we need a backlash against the “picture-perfect family” blogs, really? When a woman blogs that her children are three levels ahead in Latin and her husband just got promoted to head rocket scientist, she is not necessarily saying, “and so should yours.” We need to be okay with our lives being different from other people’s lives. We all have different skills and different abilities and different strengths and weaknesses. Another person experiencing success does not create failure in us. Sometimes God brings people into our lives who struggle differently to help us learn and improve and be more like Christ. Additionally, if what we want to see is real honesty in blogs, then the woman whose kids are three levels ahead in Latin and has the rocket scientist husband needs to have the freedom to be honest in her posts too.
However, my final thought on this subject is this: How much honesty should any of us really be doling out in our blogs and our facebook posts and our twitter feed and our . . . ? This is the internet, it is not church. Blogs and Facebook and twitter are social media, they are not a community. What I share here is what I choose to share. It would be neither prudent, nor healthy for me to discuss the deepest matters of my life here. I blog about the surface things and the public things and the social things because that is what this medium is for. We should all have a few women with whom we can share our greatest struggles, cry on their shoulders and offer our shoulders for their tears. We should not,however, find those women on the internet. True brokenness and repentance needs to be engaged within the context of the Church, because that is one of the reasons she exists.
Hill’s article was an excellent challenge to me about the ways that I sometimes celebrate my own failings – usually by going for the laugh – instead of honestly repenting of and seeking to remedy the slothfulness and selfishness and other besetting sins with which I struggle.