Sympathy Shaming

Warning: I am getting up on my tree stump for a minute to voice an opinion.

People – you aren’t actually helping anyone when you try to shame others on the internet for not showing enough concern over a death or disaster. Any death or disaster. “You prayed for X but not for Y” is not helpful. Do you know why? Perhaps you haven’t seen the articles that are starting to appear about how that kind of behavior punishes expressions of sympathy and is beginning to foster corporate numbness among us. If you try to show kindness on the internet, someone will tell you that it isn’t enough. You should have shown kindness in dozens of other instances too. Burn out happens quickly – with the disaster and with the criticizers who want to control your response to it.

The internet has created a false sense of relevance for us. We think we are somehow involved in all the communities and contexts that we can read about 24-7-365, but the truth is, we aren’t. We aren’t even capable of that kind of involvement. Human beings are local. We are capable of understanding and implementing long-term planning that considers the consequences of our actions for ourselves and those we impact. But we are not capable of saving the world. Not the whole world. We aren’t capable even of helping the whole world, except in prayer. We are capable of grossly over-estimating our effect on the world, it seems.

So when you criticize someone’s expression of compassion, you have not helped the person they didn’t pray for/cry over/post about. You have discouraged someone from expressing compassion publicly again. That’s not a good outcome.