Since I’ve been home I’ve been talking. Talking a lot. I’ve spent countless hours with my friends and we have not shut up. After the magical last year of my life most people assume that we have been chatting about all of my wild adventures. Those people are sweet and misguided. Boys. We have been talking about boys. To be fair we have also been talking about girls. Essentially the only thing on our minds is dating. Should we? Shouldn’t we? Does he like me? Should I ask for her number? These are the questions we are spending hours dissecting with more thoroughness than we ever did while diagraming sentences or analyzing our Shakespeare homework.
I have yet to regale the tale of me accidently plunging into a rocky pool in Thailand and pulling myself out because I was all alone. Or shared the joy that was giving a rescued elephant a bath at Elephant Nature Park. Or the time I rode a toboggan down the Great Wall of China or rode an ice bike on the river surrounding the Summer Palace. So many adventures. So many stories to share. Yet the other night at trivia, we spent more time analyzing the texting patterns of relative strangers than we did answering the actual trivia questions. On occasion we do talk about other things. For example all of the pop culture references that are beyond me because I simply missed them. I have no idea who Laurel or Yanny are. I was blissfully unaware of the horror men like Harvey Weinstenin had caused. I didn’t watch the royal wedding and I have no strong feelings about Avengers: Infinity War.
There is one in particular term that I keep chewing on. To complete this rambling circle l I have to admit it, it is about dating. Ghosting. Ghosting is a practice that I am horrified by. In case you were out of the country like me or simply missed this less than delightful memo on the latest dating trends, ghosting is when a person ceases all communication and contact with another person thus ending the relationship. In all reality this could probably happen with any relationship but I have primarily heard in reference to romantic ones. Apparently this has become a social norm.
And. I. Am. Horrified.
The biggest problem here is the blatant indifference to others. Perhaps I am taking too strong of a stance on this. There very well may be people out there who prefer things to end in a vacuum of silence. However, based on the conversations I have had with people of all sorts, those people are few and far between. Rejection is fun for no one. No one likes being told that they are not wanted. Obviously not everyone in the world is going to be attracted to us. We know this. But hearing it is not high on my list of things I like to do in my free time. That being said, I never ever want someone to simply disappear off of the face of the earth. You’re not into it? That’s ok. Tell me and then we can both move on. I’m not looking for perfect closure. I am well aware of how rarely endings are tied up in pretty little bows and honestly I’m annoyed by people who wait around for closure, those who demand life be gift wrapped. But that’s another blog entirely. All I’m saying is I don’t expect a promposal of an ending. If I’ve had coffee with you once in no way do I expect to talk for hours about our feelings in order to amicably come to conclusion that this just is not worth pursuing. I have zero issues with a text that literally says “Hey you are great. I’m great too. The thing is you are just not the kind of great that I’m looking for.” Boom. Over. On to the next great or maybe not so great thing.
Beyond rage, this scares me. Now that I know about this depressing phenomenon, I can clearly see how it is crossing over into other areas of life. I’ve even read articles about people ghosting from jobs. They simply stop showing up! What madness is this? When did accountability stop being an important character trait? Even more concerning is this same lack of care in the Church.
I recently accepted a new role as a Youth Minister and in that process I have become distinctly aware of how easy it is for people to ghost God. It’s heartbreaking. But then I need to remember, I also ghost God. Just last Sunday I was feeling overwhelmed by my anxiety and the struggles I am having adjusting to life back in Milwaukee so I chose to stay home from mass. I didn’t pray. I didn’t reflect. I just skipped it. I didn’t have a second thought. I ghosted God because my interests were more important than His.
Just one more thing in life that makes me a hypocrite. I was outraged by the lack of care and accountability in others and here I was exhibiting the same behavior. I’m going to make some broad generalizations here, but it’s the best I can do. I think we are so terrified of confrontation, so worried of hurting others, so lazy in our communications (a behavior enabled by social media) that we have decided that ghosting is acceptable in all relationships – even our relationship with God. Of course I’m not speaking in absolutes here, I know not everyone does or feels this way. However, I am seeing a whole lot of this behavior both in and outside of church. It’s gut-wrenching because this could not be further from how Jesus taught us to treat others, from how He taught us to love.
The challenge here is to break those social norms. To stop being lazy. People matter. Even if they are on the other end of a phone, tablet, or computer and you have never even met. They matter. Just as importantly, so does God. When I realized I had exhibited the same behavior that I’m mortified by in others I was devastated. God has given me so much. So many things that take my breath away. He has surrounded me with beautiful people and given me the courage to live out so many delightful adventures. When I look at all of the blessings in my life it is absolutely wild that I could not take the time to thank Him. To pray to Him. How selfish of me. How cold. How downright awful.
I can be lazy in my relationship with God. I need to hold myself accountable so that I can pay forward the blessings he has given me in the best way I can, be being a disciple. One way I can do that is by being kind to others. That means no ghosting. Perhaps the attractive but dull stranger sitting across from me on a first date hasn’t bestowed blessing upon blessing on me but does that mean they deserve any less care or effort? No. So now the challenge is to remember that. Even if it is easier to disappear I am going to be accountable to others. Because they matter. God matters. I matter.
Questions for Reflection
Where in your life do you lack social accountability?
What can you do to help yourself be more accountable to God?
If you could change one thing about how we communicate in your relationships today, what would it be?
Margaret Russell is an almost thirty something who has looked for God just about everywhere – even China. Nothing about her journey has been traditional and it turns out that is exactly how it was supposed to be. She thinks. Maybe. With a background in education, a self-awarded doctoral degree in tacos and a propensity for the ridiculous, Maggie hopes to spend the rest of her life loving as loudly as she laughs and sharing the joy that is her faith.