The loss of a baby is a distressing topic to broach at any time, and those who suffer through the experience know how hard it is. Recently, model Chrissy Teigen and John Legend posted heartbreaking images to social media in the aftermath of the miscarriage of their baby. There is a time to share the unseen pain of miscarriage, but Teigen’s decision to share such an event so publicly, prompted Frank Furedi to pen some insightful observations regarding our culture’s “ritual of disclosure.”
The flip side of the everyone-has-a-voice age of digital megaphones is the “devaluation of private life.” In the decades-long fashion for wearing your heart on your sleeve, the logic seems to be “better out than in,” regardless of the topic. Furedi suggests that the acceptance of voyeurism – and its corollary, exhibitionism, “stems from the cultivation of personal and emotional openness in contemporary Western culture. Openness is encouraged everywhere today. Children are instructed to share their private concerns and anxieties with their classmates and teachers. Adults are continually exhorted to ‘express themselves’, to ‘share’ and to ‘talk about it.’ Individuals who publicly air their private troubles are applauded for their bravery.”
Sharing details of your life can be lucrative: “Celebrities and cultural influencers now compete to see who can draw more followers into their inner lives.” But worse than the commercialization of personal lives, Furedi says that “it is through the act of public disclosure that many individuals now seek validation.” Furedi continues: “Sharing intimate details of one’s life in this way is often justified on the grounds that it challenges the ‘taboos’ and the ‘stigma’ surrounding a particular subject.”
Yet, mostly, it comes up empty: “A culture fascinated by the performance of revelation will always disappoint. When you look closely, you will discover that very little has been revealed. Even after you’ve seen the tears flow in the sharing of an intimate moment, you will realize that, in truth, very little of value or interest has been revealed. This exhibitionism is a mask – one that conceals the spiritual emptiness where a meaningful private existence used to be.” Ouch.
“Self-improvement” was once a popular way to work on “meaningful private existence”, and today “self-care” seems to occupy the same space. Learning languages or volunteering, or even a spa retreat or Netflix binge might be good for your sense of well-being. Posting your innermost thoughts on the ‘Gram might win you some likes, but Mad Christians have better tools to grow from the inside out.
There is a “time to keep silence and a time to speak” and feeding an inner life with the wisdom of the Word can help us know the difference. So set up your Psalms clock (see SMChill) and take time away from the white noise to reflect, read, think and pray. As Tony Stark might say it: “Put miles on your soul.”