Does Our Technology Feed Self-Centered Control?

In yesterday’s post I told you that I would finish up my comments on The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by telling you what I think is the best page in the book and then relate it to a significant issue in counseling.

In Chapter 5, Life in the Real World (Mediation/Identity), Tim Challies contrasts “mediated” communication through devices with “immediate,” real-time, face-to-face communication. Wrapping up the chapter with an application section he points out three reasons mediated communication is appealing to us as self-centered sinners. I will simply list the first two reasons and then quote much of the third since it exposes a common counseling issue—idolatry. I will then finish up by exhorting each of us to ask ourselves 8 idol-shattering questions.

We sometimes prefer mediated communication because:

  1. It is easy and safe.
  2. It requires less focus and time.
  3. It gives us greater control.

Ultimately, many of the issues related to mediation come down to control. Much of what appeals to us in digital life is the illusion of control it gives us. Life online tends to be much less messy, much more predictable, than life in the world of flesh and blood. Digital technology offers us a life we can take or leave on our own terms and according to our own criteria. It lets us personalize our lives and relationships, to respond to what we want when we want to….By giving us control, our new technologies tend to enhance existing idols in our lives. Instead of becoming more like Christ through the forming and shaping influence of a church community, we form and shape and personalize our community to make it more like us. We take control of things that are not ours to control.

But God never calls us to a life of ease, a life in which we maintain control and do things on our terms. He puts us in marriage relationships, in friendships, in church communities, for his own reasons; he puts us in such relationships to teach us how to love one another and more and more resemble him in his great love. Could it be that our desire for control is short-circuiting the process of change and transformation God wants us to experience through the mess of real-world, flesh-and-blood, face-to-face relationships? [p. 112]

Let’s counsel ourselves by asking 8 idol-shattering questions about the love of control:

  1. Am I drawn to an increased amount of mediated communication for selfish reasons? Because it makes my life easier, and safer? Because I can maintain a safe distance from people whose needs are a bother to me? Consider Luke 10:25-37.
  2. Do I choose mediated communication because it allows me to keep more and more of my time for myself (a concept foreign to previous generations)? Or do I consciously choose immediate communication over mediated—even though it requires more time and effort—in order to focus my love and attention on others whose needs never seem to appear according to my master schedule? Consider Galatians 5:13.
  3. Do I carefully select whom I will have relationships with based on whether or not they make me feel good? Do I selfishly choose to spend time only with people who affirm me? Or do I accept from God’s sovereign hand the people whom He puts into my life for my own growth toward maturity in Christ even if I think they are “difficult” or they say things that I don’t want to hear? Consider Ephesians 4:14-16.
  4. Do I maintain a very small, tight group of “friends” (flatterers?) who always make me feel safe, but who do not qualify as biblical friends because they are unwilling to faithfully wound me? Consider Proverbs 27:6.
  5. Am I content with spiritual immaturity knowing that it is relationships that force me to love and ultimately fuel my growth in Christlikeness (love, not Bible knowledge, is the measure of spiritual maturity)? Consider 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.
  6. Do I stubbornly refuse to trust God—completely—because I simply like being in control, being my own master? Consider Proverbs 3:5-6 and Hebrews 11:1.
  7. Since “control freaks” live with fear as their primary motivator what is it that I deep-down really fear, which I must confess to God as the object of misplaced trust or the sin of unbelief? (Hint: we usually fear the loss of what we worship). Let’s ask the Lord to show us what He sees in our hearts, our hidden fears. Consider Matthew 10:28; 6:24-34; Ps 139:23.
  8. Since “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4:18), what specific actions must I take this week to intentionally love the persons whom I fear?
Only when we are brave enough to ask ourselves these kind of hard questions will we begin to be set free from our microscopic world of self-love.

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