Sometime in the 1970’s we entered the Information Age. The increase in access to information continued in an upward trend as we moved into a world of computers and the internet. I find it ironic, that so many people are concerned about technology “tracking” them, when in the next moment, they will ask the phone that never leaves their side, “Can cats eat pancakes?” But I digress.
As with most morally neutral things, there can be both wonderful attributes and horrific evils intertwined with technology. It’s our sinful or redeemed heart that affects the outcome. We are thankful for technology when the information suits us, and damning when the product isn’t to our taste. But, regardless of how you feel about technology, it is here and it is here to stay. Our access to information has become a way of life and something that we feel is deserved. If I can look up the most arbitrary facts with the tap of my fingertips or at the beckoning of a robotic device, why shouldn’t I be entitled to any and all information? Why shouldn’t I be privy to the details of someone else’s personal story?
Many people have asked me how Jane died out of pure curiosity. Many more people have asked my husband, our family and close friends. If prompted, most would claim concern or care. When pressed, the truth would be curiosity.
Unfortunately, with the influx of information, entertainment, constant stimulus and lack of face to face interaction, we struggle to read social cues or understand what information doesn’t belong to us. We have also become desensitized to death and the pain that surrounds it. I’ll go one further, we have become a society that is entertained by death.
We don’t want to talk about our own mortality but don’t mind casual entertainment provided by another’s death.
Don’t believe me? You can stream shows dedicated to the topic of death, listen to a number of “true crime” type podcasts and attend murder mystery parties. I’m not trying to bring down an industry, but I am trying to bring clarity to what is hiding in plain sight. We don’t want to talk about our own mortality but don’t mind casual entertainment provided by another’s death. Much like bringing light to certain situations of safety, I appreciate the brave parents that share truth surrounding their child’s death for the good of others. Do you wonder why gun control is an impassioned argument? Every time a civilian or public servant is senselessly killed in a shooting, a mother has lost a child. These are not just facts, statistics and news stories. These are people’s lives.
In the past few months I have spoken with parents that not only tragically lost their children, but also had to watch their children’s death flood the news. I won’t ask you to imagine what it is like to bury a child, because your imagination wouldn’t suffice. The pain associated with the death of a child is horrendous, paired with the nosiness of acquaintances, strangers and social media, it is unbearable. But the entitlement to every piece of information, whether relevant to us or not, is what the world has taught us to recognize as normal.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.Romans 12:2
Not all information seeking is wrong. Reading is one of my favorite pastimes and I also enjoy learning new things. Knowledge is a gift, but there have been times I have sacrificed the commands of Christ for the sake of knowledge. The world also loves knowledge and information, but are we supposed to look just like the world?
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.John 13:34-35
If you aren’t sure how this effects the way you talk to people and inquire of certain information, ask yourself these questions:
Why am I asking for this information?
If I paused to ask myself this question before inquiring of others, I would honestly ask less questions. If we are truthful and insightful enough to see our own motive, most of the time we will find our true intentions lie with curiosity, not loving concern.
Am I seeking this information for the person’s safety and well-being?
There are times that someone you know or love may be in a dangerous or harmful situation. There might be instances of abuse or addiction. These are times we may need to ask hard questions, in love. These questions are not fueled by curiosity, but genuine love.
Is this information that would be better shared with someone else?
Even in times of loss it’s important to be able to share our stories. I needed to and still at times need to talk about Jane’s death. I don’t need to share that information with everyone though. There were times that it would have caused less pain and demonstrated more love if a person had not asked how Jane died, but instead asked if I had a good support system. What if instead of asking people to talk to us specifically, we ask if there might be another trusted person they felt comfortable talking to instead?
Ultimately, we need to ask is this information that I need to know in order to love this person well?
It is possible to show care and concern without having every detail. I appreciate people that ask thoughtful questions. I will always be impressed by my sweet friends that not only ask well thought out questions, but genuinely listen to the answers. It is a true gift. Taking time to really know a person is taking time to really love a person. Sometimes it means letting a person offer information without requiring it. Sometimes it means asking a question and letting them know it’s ok if they don’t want to answer. And sometimes loving a person well means sitting in unknowing silence.
Note: I do not expect people to walk on egg shells around me. While things might be said by others to potentially cause hurt, it would be unrealistic for others to know and avoid all such possible conversations and topics. That being said, the above post is speaking specifically to direct questions of my loss (and perhaps relevant to the loss of others). Ultimately, be kind, think before you speak and show abundant grace. When in doubt, you can always just sincerely say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”