There’s a new trend on Facebook (though it’s not a new idea or outlet) where someone will create a Facebook page for their city or school as a platform for people to anonymously make confessions or leave compliments. As a high school youth pastor both these have been filling up my Facebook newsfeed with students comments and my inbox from concerned parents. I have two thoughts about this all; one to high school students, who seem to be the primary demographic for both confession and compliment pages, and one to parents, who seem to be the most shocked and appalled by the confession pages.
To our teenagers: An anonymous confession is like jumping out of a sinking boat without a life raft. In one moment you’re relieved to have escaped the sinking boat only to find yourself now struggling by yourself to keep yourself afloat on your own strength. When we have the courage to bring people with us into our pain, shame, and insecurity that riddles all our lives (yes, everyone!) we become a people who keep each other afloat. There have been many times in my life where I have had anonymous notes complimenting me on something I’ve done or something that someone sees me to be. As much as I value these gestures, the compliments that have most impacted my life or shaped my view of myself are the ones spoken to me face-to-face or read in an email from someone who personally acknowledges what they appreciate about me.
Confessions and compliments are best done and received in relationship. Why? Because as humans we have this amazing, relentless desire to be known. When we confess something, whether its a shock-and-awe confession on a Facebook page or the last hope confession of a broken heart, we want to be recognized and seen as valuable. (“Wow, you’re the one who wrote that crazy post on the confession page! You’re hilarious!” or “I’m so sorry for the pain that you’re experiencing, I can imagine and will be with you while you heal.” Both are desired responses in attempts to be recognized.) This is why face-to-face compliments are so essential. Don’t steal an opportunity to potentially change the trajectory of a kid’s day because you’re afraid to publicly affirm them.
When I look at Jesus, he is always present to hear my confessions and speak affirmation in grace and sincerity. Read the Gospel. Jesus came not in anonymity, not as some far off deity that hides behind stone statues, monstrous cathedrals, or religious song and dance. He came to see us in our brokenness then walk us into transformation through his most public affirmation of his love for us, the cross. As the Church, can we be better at cultivating a community that can handle people’s confessions in grace and lead each other to Jesus through our constant public affirmations of each other? Be vulnerable in our confessions and bold in our compliments because you are a generation who values relationships and connection in profound ways. I want to argue that for teenagers in Lamorinda this is the greatest way you can make significant changes in your circle of friends, our school, and our city.
To Parents: These confession and compliment pages should be great news! Has there ever been an easier segway to connect with our kids and their friends in ways that lead to significant conversations? Teenagers in our town are creating PUBLIC PLATFORMS to air what can be very PRIVATE REALITIES! If you have spent any time browsing the confessions page, it can be disconcerting to say the least thinking about what our teens are thinking, writing, or even doing. Yet if we can keep a broader perspective of what is being posted we can begin asking some really awesome questions! “What do you think about the confessions page?” “How seriously do you take what is written?” “What are the benefits or drawbacks of anonymous confessions and compliments?” “If you have a big confession to make, who would you feel most comfortable talking to?”
Parents, let’s be aware and discerning in all that our kids and teenagers in our community are participating in. I pray that within that process we can see how, with a Kingdom of God redemptive perspective, we have great opportunities to build relationships, teach accountable confession, and affirm our teens in amazing ways!