Christian friends on social media, let us normalise slowness to speak when we hear or read news from one spouse concerning a broken marriage. I am noticing a flurry of social media updates from hurting couples who seem bent to tell their side of the story directly or indirectly. One of the underlying effects is that the partner whose side we do not hear is disparaged as Satan’s deputy. What is worse is the online support from people who think they know what is going on and who have only heard one side of the story.
Friends, in my time ministering to couples, I have come to honour a golden truth from Proverbs 18:17 “Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.” (TLB)
I have had counselling sessions where one spouse decries their victimhood in the absence of their partner. They paint such a horrid picture of the other person and exclaim how badly they have been treated. The mistake for any counsellor to make is to believe that story without asking questions. When I get to hear the other side of the story, I often get shocked at how much deception, slander, misinformation and half-truths are given on social media and pampered by professing believers.
“I’m so sorry, dear! You deserve better.”
“That woman left a good man!”
“What a horrible husband! I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
“If I were married to a man like you, I would never do what your wife did.”
Tears and sad stories don’t necessarily mean sincerity; they could at times just mean good acting. And all the while, the other side of the story hasn’t been heard. And should you suggest that wisdom to our social media “counsellors”, you would hear responses like these:
“My aunt went through the same thing; there is no way this woman is lying.”
“That man is a Christian. Why would he lie about that?”
“If it is not true, why isn’t the spouse defending themselves? Why are they quiet?”
“I know them. We grew up together.”
“Women are suffering. How dare you suggest that she is lying?”
“Men suffer and nobody listens. But anyway!”
But God’s instruction remains. Proverbs 18:17 “Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.” (TLB). Let me give you a few instances that I have personally witnessed in helping couples.
One wife hit her husband and then turned around the story that he is the one who hit her. She even hurt her face to cause a mark so that there would be evidence. She did not know as she was doing that, the husband was recording a video. The woman wrote several untrue Facebook posts of how the man hit her and how she kept crying for help but nobody heard her. Our social media counsellors proceeded to insult the man. Some even gave him personal threats in his inbox. The man out of bitterness wanted to release the video. He sent it to the wife on WhatsApp. When she realised her entire act was about to be blown, she took down all the defamatory posts and wrote another one saying she had forgiven her husband. Meanwhile her profuse apologies to her estranged husband in the privacy of WhatsApp will never be seen by our online audience.
One husband opened a fake Facebook account and then sent porn to the wife’s inbox. He then logged into his wife’s Facebook account and responded to the porn as one who was enjoying it. He took a screenshot of the conversation and posted on social media of the kind of woman he married. The woman was shocked by the number of people that deserted her whom she called her friends.
Another woman coached her children to tell a counsellor that their dad almost raped them. She then posted the coached confessions from her kids on social media. A few skeptics called her out on her wall saying they disbelieved that kids could even say words like rape. Her loyal one-sided followers called them misogynistic and defenders of toxic masculinity.
Another husband filed a false police report that the wife was attempting suicide unless they got back together. He even posted the police report and the OB number on Facebook. People started inboxing the wife urging her not to kill herself. Others called her cheap. Meanwhile, this woman had never ever battled with mental health. But the husband’s social media tirade began it for her.
And these one-sided, seemingly-convincing pieces of evidence are evaluated by professing Christians on social media who have become judge, jury and executioner based on blind allegiance to a cute profile picture or the smile of an adonis. I can tell you that I have personally been slandered online by one-sided stories that seemed like Gospel truth. Last year a woman posted a fake chat of me and her on Kilimani Mums claiming that I was sending her nudes. You should have seen how many people said, “These pastors are just fake.” A few years ago an apparent friend littered my wall with “evidence” that I was a devil worshipper. And then people responded “I knew there was something fishy about him.” Another one recently accused me of building a career on the problems of young people. Friends, those statements hurt. And often the party who hasn’t spoken is already so defeated, bitter and crushed to even respond.
Allow me to share a few findings I have observed in my time with these one-sided stories that get social media likes.
1. Not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is one. For some people, Christ is a means to get social approval.
2. You cannot evaluate the true character of an individual based on their victimhood story.
3. You also cannot conclude on the true character of an individual based on the villain they have been painted to be.
4. There are many victimhood stories on social media from people who have refused personal accountability where the public is not seen.
5. Don’t believe a person is evil because they are unattractive on social media.
6. Don’t believe a person is virtuous because they are likeable on social media. I am more popular on social media than my wife. If I released a negative story about her, I’m sure many people would be inclined to me before they believe her. It’s wrong. Proverbs 18:17 “Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.” (TLB)
7. Championing for one spouse without hearing the other is tantamount to breaking God’s word in Matthew 19:6b: “What God has put together let no one put asunder.”
8. When we are quick to respond to things that have nothing to do with us, we are guilty of gossip. The reason the affairs of married people are attractive to us is that our hearts are sinful on account of the pleasure of gossip. Proverbs 18:8 “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.”
9. Not every victim story is a lie. Some villains need to be exposed for freedom’s and virtue’s sake. However, it is disingenuous and mean-spirited to rally people online against your spouse (subtly or overtly). The strategy reeks of bitterness. You can never get healing by making other people miserable.
10. I am of the belief system that airing your partner’s dirty linen in public says more about you than it does about the other person.
11. For social media onlookers, here is a tip from 1 Thessalonians 4:11: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and to mind your own business.”
While we may have no control over what people post about their spouses online, we have control over our own responses. Let them be seasoned responses, especially as members of the Body of Christ. Saying nothing is often better than chipping in, liking and commenting. If all fails you, heed to wisdom’s call. Proverbs 18:17 “Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.” (TLB)