Charity Online

There is an article in the National Catholic Registrar titled Facebook, Aquinas and the Sins Of Free Speech

I’ve written about this many times. One other thing I’d add. This kind of sin is really insidious because it works in the exact opposite way of most sin. Generally, we don’t exactly go around sharing our sins with other people. “Hey Tom, I totally lied under oath the other day!” “Hey, did I tell you I was drunk Saturday and had a hit and run?” “Boss, look at what I stole from work!” Put simply, with most sins, we tend to hide the fact that we have committed them. We try to keep them hidden, either because we are ashamed of them in themselves, or because we would be ashamed by what people would think if they knew. Slander, detraction, gossip, and so on are by definition not hidden from others though. The entire purpose of those acts is we want others to see those actions. Consider how incredibly dangerous this kind of sin is. Consider how difficult it is to feel remorse at, or restraint toward, a sin that by its very nature is pleasurable to us precisely because we find others eagerly desiring this behavior from us. Social media exacerbates this problem 100-fold of course. Others can quite literally “share” and “love” our lack of public charity. This naturally begets a vicious cycle. We like the public affirmation by others, so we compose more uncharitable words, which get more likes, which spurs us to compose more. Rinse. Repeat. Well, repeat anyway. I think there’s a distinct lack of rinsing going on. I for one am certainly guilty of rolling around in the muck of uncharity.

Perhaps the only way to break the vicious cycle is with a virtuous cycle.

  • Replace the desire to criticize anything about anyone with the virtue of speaking charitably about someone.

  • Resist “Liking” posts and comments that are simply oh-so-clever takedowns of other people. Pro-tip: any tagline of the form: “John says ABC to Mary. Instantly regrets it” is not about sharing the truth in charity. It’s pure schadenfreude and our desire to see Mary get her comeuppance; let’s not pretend otherwise. No one, no one, has ever been converted to the truth of something by being cleverly insulted with the truth.

  • Finally, the most difficult suggestion: if someone whose judgement you normally trust calls you out on your behavior, be willing to take correction. If you are tempted to snap back at the person who calls you out, consider what I mentioned above about how others desire this behavior for us. It takes true courage to publicly stand up, admonish the sinner, and say: “I know you’re better than this.” Why courage? Because everyone else “Liked” the behavior. The person who stands against it can reasonably be expected to also be mocked. Of all the people “Liking” and “Commenting” that person was the true friend. Publicly admitting that your friend is right, and you’re wrong, that is also true courage. That is what will encourage others to their own virtue. Virtue begets virtue begets more virtue. That’s how we start the virtuous cycle. So let’s go.