Why The Internet Can’t Validate Me (But I Try to Let it Anyway)

Writing an Internet post about how posting things on the Internet can strip away your joy is like writing a book about why people shouldn’t write books or singing a song about why we need to stop singing songs.

I’m aware of the irony. Bear with me, please.

I’ve shared that notifications can’t satisfy us. Unfortunately, that truth hasn’t sunk in yet.

Nevertheless, I continue to internally yell “Validate me!” with each post to the Internet.


I’d be lying if I didn’t have the same urge with this post. If I didn’t want you to tell me that you agree or that it was really inspiring.

Most of the time when I share something online, I want to help people or be encouraging. But underneath that well-intentioned shell, I long to hear other things.

Tell me my ideas are good.

Tell me my picture is beautiful.

Tell me my baby is adorable.

Tell me my life is awesome.

I hate that I don’t always share things to share joy or to be helpful, but instead to seek approval and find my sense of self-worth in likes and retweets and online praise.

I forget so easily that thumbs up and shares can’t satisfy me. No statistic can make me happier. No amount of kind comments will give me joy that only Jesus can bring.

Recently, I’ve been using Facebook and Twitter less often 1 . I still have an urge to open an app, check the notifications, and see who is mentioning or praising me.

I once heard that checking Facebook is the modern-day equivalent of opening the refrigerator when you’re bored. Sometimes I check social media and forget why I went there in the first place. It’s like taking a bite of cold pizza from the fridge when you weren’t hungry to begin with.

I don’t want to live for temporal status updates. I’m tired of unsatisfying nibbles at day-old deep dish.

  1. I don’t want to let a constant stream of non-vital information consume my life. The majority of posts will be completely irrelevant in a day or so and 99% will be irrelevant in a year, yet I return to it day in and day out because the habit is so ingrained.
  2. I don’t want want to let the amount of attention a post gets decide how proud or satisfied I am in that moment.

At the same time, I want to celebrate with people, congratulate those I care about, and share in the joy of others.

This is a tricky, fine line to walk. I’m grateful for people’s kind words. I’m thankful that people love me and my family and encourage our socks off regularly. But I don’t want those likes and comments to dictate my life or be the source of my joy, hope, or approval. I want to reserve that place for Jesus alone.

I don’t know your motives. I don’t know why you post the articles you do or share pictures of your vacation or your lunch or your baby or your baby eating lunch on vacation.

It’s totally possible that you have good intentions. Maybe you’ve never even considered why you post what you do.

For me, I know that I don’t always have the best intentions.

I know that I don’t always share things because I want other people to share in my joy but because instead because I want other people to bring me joy or to be jealous of my life.

One more like. One more comment. One more favorite or retweet. That’ll do it. That’ll scratch my itch.

It never does. It can’t.

I don’t know what the solution to this is. For now, I’m spending less time on social networks. I don’t do much to promote blog posts and I’ve turned off comments from this blog because I let them turn into tiny altars of praise to me.

I want to share ideas. I want to be helpful. I want others to share in my joy and see my gratitude. I just don’t want to share things as a means to a selfish end.

I want to combat the lie,

“If I share this and get enough attention for it, I will be happier.”

I don’t want to use my baby as a prop for praise. I don’t want to publicly share my gratitude for my wife so that people will be amazed at my gratitude. I want use social media to be a good tool instead of an unruly master.

I want my validation to flow from who Jesus is and his love for me, not from what other people think of me, whether it is incredibly kind and encouraging or rude and hurtful. Life isn’t more difficult in the digital age than in the thousands of years prior, but it sure has gotten more complicated.

Human nature hasn’t changed. We’re always trying to turn things–good or amoral–into something to worship or as tools to be worshipped with. That’s a heart problem, not a technical issue.


So what am I doing inlight of all of this? To start, when I have the urge to check social media, I (try to) do something else, like:

  1. writing down an idea or thought for a blog post2
  2. praying for something or someone
  3. texting a friend some encouragement.

I haven’t perfected doing these three things by any stretch, but, wow, the ideas have been flowing much easier when I give myself space to think instead of pacifying a split-second of boredom with tweets and posts.

I’ve also created a Workflow from the 39 things you can do instead of checking social media.

This is a tough battle to fight because I am the enemy. My nature is the problem, not the platforms or tools or other people at the water cooler. I’m not ready to call it quits, but something has to change.

  1. Which is to say, still entirely too much

  2. That’s how this post started.


Finding the Side Door to People’s Hearts

Some people simply aren’t interested in discussing spiritual things.

At least, that’s what it seems.

Last week I was chatting with a student who, from the outside, appeared completely apathetic about spiritual matters. I’d asked him a number of questions and it didn’t seem the conversation was going anywhere, but instead of trying to force something that wasn’t there, I kept asking questions to try to find an opportunity to genuinely connect with him about faith.

And then I asked him, “What do you think about when you’re alone?”

He said, “I’m probably not the guy you want to ask. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what happens after we die.”

Actually, my friend, you’re exactly the person I wanted to ask.

side door

At times, in conversations with friends or family, it seems we have to latch onto any opportunity, no matter how small, because we believe these opportunities come once in a lifetime.

“This is it! This is my one and only chance to tell them that Jesus loves us and that he died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead and offers eternal life to those, and only those, who believe in him by faith!”

That approach, which I’ve taken plenty of times, is like trying to kick down a door at the moment someone opens it up just to peek around the corner and see who is knocking. It’s difficult to recover from the carnage that a kicked-in door brings.

But if God is at work in someone’s heart, I believe he’ll continue to work and move, like a prybar against a stubborn nail–twisting, turning, and loosening–until the tension releases and the board comes free.

Trying to rip up something in one fell swoop that’s been stuck a certain way for years or decades is a frustrating process. But intentionally working at it, easing, nudging, putting pressure in the right places, looking for gaps and opportunities? Well, that’s a process with a greater likelihood of success and a lower chance of frustration, injuries, and broken pieces.

Intentional questions with focused listening are the carpentry-equivalent of a hammer and nails in sharing our faith. Asking and listening are the keys to finding opportunities and side doors to people’s hearts. Often bad experiences and emotional barriers keep people from opening the front door of their hearts to the message of the gospel. Our genuine care and concern as we hear from can show us the path to the unlocked side door.

For some of us, we need patience as we explore alongside these friends, relatives, schoolmates and co-workers. Asking  more questions instead of jumping to sharing our perspective and opinions often reveals root of what they are thinking and feeling.

  • Why are you thinking about that?
  • When did you start asking that?
  • Have you come to any conclusions?
  • What keeps bringing you back to that question?
  • Have you always thought that way? What changed your mind?

We also need to have the courage and boldness to walk through the open door when we find it. When they ask us what we think or when we see a clear opportunity for the gospel, we cannot shy away.

This is an art, not a science. There’s no single formula for number of questions + time spent listening = gospel opportunity. Fortunately, as God has given all Christians his Holy Spirit, we don’t have to figure these things out on our own. As we listen to others, we need to listen to the Spirit and look for opportunities he opens up.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

God has set eternity into the heart of every single person. Innately, we all know there is a Creator, and there is a hole in our soul that only he can fill.

We have to live in the tension of life being short and fleeting, and knowing also that every person’s journey toward Jesus is a process–some much longer than others. We must pray and ask for wisdom, boldness, open hearts, and open door.

I’m finding that people are more spiritually open than they may appear at first. It’s just not the front door that’s unlocked.


Anonymity vs. Accountability

Don’t read the comments.

It’s the first rule of using the Internet. Nothing good happens there, and there’s a 99.9% chance you’ll be wishing you could get those precious few moments back that the comment section ripped from your fingers. Now you’re fuming because KoolGuy2596 said all (gender, faith, race, and / or nationality that describes you) are idiots.

It’s not the Internet alone that makes people say terrible things, but it sure helps.

And why is that?

Because it’s anonymous. 1


It’s the same reason that we wish the most horrible kinds of evil on that person who cut us off in traffic.

We lose sight of reality. The reality that crazy commentators and wild drivers are humans. We have no personal connection with them–only an emotional reaction to something they said or did.  Continue reading

  1. Ok, not really 100% anonymous, but anonymous enough to be the righthand man of foolishness.


Three Tiny Steps to Building Lasting Habits

Of the things we do each day, the majority are things we’ve done before–hundreds or thousands of times before.

Our subconscious is constantly processing things for us so we don’t have to think about how to brush our teeth or shower or the way to drive to work.

Or how to be impatient with people who frustrate us or how to sit on the couch and watch Netflix instead of exercising or how to waste money on frivolous purchases.


For the last year and a half, I’ve been thinking a lot about habits. I’ve written about developing new ones and recorded a podcast on habits, and I’ve encountered a number of books focusing on these tiny building blocks that dictate so much of what we do.

I’m convinced that habits are one of the most important things we can focus on if we want to live a life of purpose, because they are a powerful force that are constantly moving us further and further in a direction and becoming more deeply ingrained with each passing day.

Just think about the things you do each day.

How many of them are truly new things? You likely eat similar foods for breakfast, take a shower at a similar time, hang out with some of the same people, ask the same questions, do repetitive tasks at work. And we don’t seek out novel ways to do things when we already have a way. I’m not trying to find a unique route to commute to work–I’m going the way I always go because it’s the easiest.

The classic quote,

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”

emphasizes our habit for habits.

Good or bad, the more we do something the easier it is to do it again.

So how do we start making changes?  Continue reading


The Best Options for Starting Your Own Blog

Occasionally, someone asks me for a bit of advice on starting a blog. I’m always happy to share how to get started.

Choosing how and where you’ll host your blog online seems like the most important thing when you’re starting out.

The reality is, actually writing and consistently posting, no matter where you do it, is far and away the most critical aspect.

blog dashboard

Nevertheless, you have to put your blog somewhere, so here are your best options for where to call home on the Internet. Continue reading