12.22.2013

Indignation about Indignation

http://janepollak.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/finger-pointing.jpgI admit it: I look at my Facebook feed at least once a day.  Admit it: you do too.  It's a fun and time-efficient way to hear about good news, goo and gah over kid pics, chuckle over snarky remarks, roll eyes at the calamity that is our friends' lives sometimes, and every once in a while get a link to an article that either makes our day or informs our worldview. 

Another common entry into the feed is when people talk about or link to something that makes them indignant.  It could be a pop star acting like an idiot, a public figure demonstrating incompetence or insensitivity, or someone being out and out racist/sexist/ageist/homophobic/sociopathic/mean. (Wow, I just described Kanye West.) 

What is that makes us share these things that make us shake our heads in shame?  (Indeed, such posts often include the abbreviation "smh" for "shaking my head.")  Are we trying to remind our friends that there is still stupidity, ignorance, and hatred out there in the world?  Do we secretly delight in exposing someone as fraudulent, malicious, or uninformed?  Or are such posts ways that we signal (to ourselves and others) just how caring, progressive, and saintly we are?

I don't need to go back and look at my posts this year (although, helpfully, Facebook did give me my "Year in Review," which made going back pretty easy) to know that all three have been motives of mine.  I'd like to say that it's mostly the first, and to be sure there have been times I have honestly tried to shed light on an issue or a line of thinking that I feel is undeservedly under-examined.  But there's also been a lot of poking fun at others just to score some easy points, and there's been a lot of "look at how great I am and look at how good I feel when I point out how backwards this is." 

Well, that sounds like the musings of an unrepentant bully and an insecure megalomaniac.  It certainly doesn't sound like someone who adheres to the concept of sin and falling short and mercy and salvation and redemption and unmerited favor. I am feeling convicted.

Maybe there is a place for indignation.  Obviously we should never lose our sense of shame, and if something is shameful we should shame it.  But maybe we need to check ourselves, too, lest we puff ourselves up at the expense of others and become the very kind of thing that warrants indignation: oblivious, sanctimonious know-it-all's who get off on putting down others and don't take the time to think about the other side of things.
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