Do We Mistake Our Families for Facebook?

Facebook

More than a billion people are on Facebook these days. And they’re all incredibly happy.

Don’t believe me? Just look at them. Click on practically any Facebook page you want — your son’s, your mother’s, your next-door-neighbor’s, your cable provider’s — and you’ll see more smiles than a car-full of clowns. Facebook pictures are filled with people having the time of their lives: They’re laughing at the beach. They’re chortling at parties. They’re staring at a sunset, a look of practiced tranquility plastering their faces.

No wonder it makes people so miserable.

Last year, the University of Copenhagen studied more than 1,000 people and their social media habits. They found that the more users engaged with sites like Facebook, and the more they looked at other people’s profiles, the sadder they got. They tended to be more dissatisfied with their own lives and more envious of others.

I get that. Facebook tells us that everyone else’s lives are great! Fantastic! Filled with sensational vacations and fun-loving people! But when we look at our own lives — our real lives — they never seem to measure up to what we see online. And so we ask ourselves, What’s wrong with us?

Sometimes, I wonder whether we look at our families the same way. We go to church and see smiling, happy moms and dads, toting their adorable, well-behaved children by the hand. Parents beam proudly and brag on their children’s achievements. Bobby’s already potty-trained! Suzi just got the lead in the school play! Brandon’s the team’s starting pitcher! Amanda just got into Stanford!

And all that’s great. Really, it is. But sometimes it makes us wonder, What’s wrong with us? My kid is a year older than Bobby and still has accidents. My kid tried to swipe a dollar from the offering plate. My kid brought home a pair of D’s. What happened? Where did we go wrong?

So you know what we do? We pretend. We smile for the public. We act like we’ve got it all together.

We make our lives look like… Facebook. Maybe if we do it well enough, our friends won’t know we’re dying inside.

Hey, I get it. I understand the pressure. I’m president of an organization called Focus on the Family, after all. People expect my wife Jean and I to have a picture-perfect family.

But do we? Nope.

Several years ago, I bought my sons (Trent and Troy) a cool science kit that came with a battery, a pair of tiny jumper cables and a match. It had something to do with extracting hydrogen from the atmosphere: Jean, the scientist of the family, could explain it better. But no matter: The boys and I had a great time playing with it one weekend afternoon. And then Jean and I went to a banquet, leaving the kit with the boys. Alone.

Well, a couple of hours later, right during the middle of the banquet, Jean’s phone beeped. It was a message from home.

“Hi Mommy!” Troy chirped on the message. “Trenton actually was dumb enough to get the battery that I licked with my tongue on the mini-jump cables — and actually plugged it in the DVD player, and it caused smoke! But don’t’ worry… it did not start a fire. This is Troy, and by the way, Trent did it — OK? OK.”

And then Troy added this:

“Oh, besides, don’t… go… easy… on… Trent!”

We all still laugh about that message. But sometimes, the messes we make in the Daly household aren’t very funny. We’ve struggled with grades and behavior. I know I’ve made cutting remarks to the boys when I should’ve hugged them. I’ve blamed people in my family for my own mistakes. As a dad, I’ve felt lost. Inadequate. Sometimes, I’ve felt like a failure.

But look at my Facebook page and what do you see? Smiles. Laughs. We’re a picture-perfect family.

On Facebook, we’ve all got it together, don’t we? Or at least we seem to.

I’ve heard a lot about how and why families go wrong. And there are a lot of valid explanations. But you know one of the biggest ways we fail? We try so hard to be perfect.

Sometimes I think that this is an especially big problem with Christian families, which I find strange. Our whole faith, after all, is based on the concept of grace:

We know we’re not perfect. We know we can’t be. Thank God that He sent Jesus to save us from our own sins, and imperfections.

But even though we all know how dependent we are on God’s grace and mercy, we sometimes forget to show it to our families. Our husbands; our wives; our kids; ourselves. We see these Facebook-perfect families around us and we imagine that we need to be the same.

We know that life is messy: We live in a fallen world, after all. We can’t expect creation to be clean.

But when we discover that one of our kids hasn’t cleaned his room? We might just come down like a ton of bricks.

I’m not saying that parents shouldn’t have expectations for their kids, or that they shouldn’t have rules to follow or chores to do. Of course they should. We’re training them to be responsible men and women, after all. We’ve got to teach them how to do it.

But so often, in the middle of all of our rules and expectations, we lose sight of what’s even more important: grace. Honesty. Laughter. Love. We can become so obsessed our Facebook façade that we forget to be real. Even to each other.

Families can be frustrating, sometimes heartbreaking and always, always messy. But you know what? I think that a family’s messes — and how those families deal with them — are far more important than what families are supposed to look like. In fact, I think there’s something beautiful about messes.

After all, everything worth doing is a little messy, isn’t it? Fixing a car is messy. Baking a cake is messy. Sex is messy. Birth is messy. Messes are part of creation. They’re part of life. And it’s only out of the mess that something beautiful can happen.

Give me a messy family over a clean, pretty Facebook picture every day.

Original post by Jim Daly, author of When Parenting Isn’t Perfect, copyright James Daly.

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Your Turn

All of us are guilty of showing our rosy-best on social media sometimes. Could it be that we’re guilty of feeling pained by the “perfection” we see in other families, too? Jesus never shied away from messy. He embraced the messes. So can we! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We’d love to hear from you about the beautiful mess in our families! ~ Devotionals Daily

Jim Daly

Jim Daly is the president and CEO of Focus on the Family. Daly has received the 2008 World Children's Center Humanitarian Award and the 2009 Children's Hunger Fund Children's Champion Award. He has appeared on such television programs as ABC “World News Tonight” and PBS’ “Religion and amp; Ethics”; and been featured in Time, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today and Newsweek, which named him one of the top 10 next-generation evangelical leaders of influence. Daly and his wife have two sons and reside in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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