Don’t feed the animals

Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed the growth of a hidden monster that has always lurked in the closets of people’s hearts and minds. This monster, “have to know”, or HTK, has always existed, but his growth has been fueled by the ready availability of social networking. While I actively participate in social networking in all of its various forms (texting, Facebook, Twitter, iPhone apps, etc.), I am finding it increasingly difficult to distance myself from HTK. This monster pops up on my newsfeed in all variety of forms and I’m longing for the day that my friend “Need to Know” or NTK will knock him out. This monster infects both speaker and listener. For whatever reason, lots of people feel you HTK about all details of their existence, and other people are ready and willing to listen because they HTK all about you. Lately a phrase my dad passed down to me and reiterated numerous times in my formative years is “I’d rather be naïve than cynical.” What dad knew all along and that he wanted me to grasp was that while gossip and HTK are attractive in the moment, the end result is cynicism and negativity. It’s so refreshing when you don’t have to carry the burden of everyone else’s failures, shortcomings, speculations, and bad attitudes.

I’ve always said I’m the last to know everything. This used to frustrate me until I realized what a virtue that was. Why would I want to carry someone else’s heavy burden if I wasn’t intended to carry it? My Christian background teaches me to take my burdens, and everyone else’s, to the Lord and leave them there. There are enough issues plaguing society from poverty to hunger to spiritual anorexia and atheism that the last thing I need on my plate is a daily diet of someone “speaking their mind”. I find that the whole topic of self-control is on the bottom of everybody’s list. Just because something is true doesn’t mean that it has to be said. If you look fat in a shirt, I’m not going to tell you that voluntarily without provocation. People that feel the need to speak all things are very contrary.

What causes this stalker to come out in us that we feel that we “have to know” every detail of everyone’s life or share every little opinion that runs through our head? The HTK monster loves this obsession that we have been feeding every hour of every single day. This obsession doesn’t even require the internet. Lots of gossips and HTK monsters have been adequately fed throughout the years in the form of “prayer requests”, conference calls, and cups of coffee shared. My personal favorite is when someone is veiling gossip by calling it a prayer request. Oftentimes you can tell in the spirit of that moment that no request for prayer is actually being made, they just wanted to share juicy information.

At times I have been guilty of oversharing. My personality is such that I’m an open book. I really have no secrets to hide. In a day and age where authenticity is the buzz word, I feel that I was authentic before it was even popular. I’m horrible at putting up fronts. What you see is what you get. I have embraced this part of myself wholeheartedly and in the maturity of adulthood have honed in on the more positive aspects of this personality trait and learned to successfully set aside the more crass and off putting parts of this personality. Another thing my dad always told me was to put a guard on my mouth because it would get me in trouble. I’m the type of person that thinks something and says it before I have even had a chance to process the end result of my commentaries. Thankfully, something called maturity, wisdom, and growth haven’t eluded me and I have grown in this area of my life. I’m still very real, authentic, and transparent, but I’ve allowed my brain and God to aid me in what things need to be broadcast and what things don’t. Trust me, these weren’t the easiest of lessons for me, but I’m so thankful I have learned them. I groan when certain explicit things show up on Facebook and mourn for marital relationships that are publically sabotaged via social networking. My heart aches for children who are the source of their parent’s consistent and vicious complaints and my soul grows weary watching people so proudly and so publically cast off restraint on the internet. At times I feel guilty of feeding the HTK monster because even I get sucked into the reality soap opera show that is people’s very public personal life.

I have adopted the approach in my life that I will only feed information that is NTK or “need to know”. As a pastor’s wife and Family/Marriage Education professional, I all too often know intimate details of people’s lives. I cherish being a confidante, friend, and confidential counselor to people who have invited me into the deep part of their lives. I count it an honor and a blessing to carry their burdens to the Lord with them and for them. It is a sacred task to stand in the gap for people who are too weak to continue to hold their own banner high. I wouldn’t trade my role as a go to person for anything. God has given me a NTK, but with the God given NTK comes an outlet, prayer and fasting. I also have confidential accountability partners in my life. Too many people are letting the voices of negativity and cynicism invade the private parts of their hearts and mind with no outlet for escape. I’m convinced this is why depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders, and many other mental and physical problems weight heavily on the world today.

I encourage you to rid your life of HTK. You really don’t Have To Know everything about everyone else’s life. Social networking, the internet, cell phones, and email are amazing, especially when you have many loved ones and friends that live far distances away and sharing with them what you ate for lunch, that your child’s tooth is loose, and that your kid is potty training is loads of fun and laughter. Posting pictures of dates, exercise logs, and commentary on politics is engaging. I enjoy all of these things as you’ve noticed if you follow me on social networking. I love to post encouraging quotes and scriptures as well, but what I won’t burden you with are the emotional weights of spiritual struggles, marital struggles, or child rearing difficulties. If God has placed you in my life as my NTK, I’m going to call you, email you, or meet you for coffee. It is not good to live alone, but to live in relationship. I will not cease to be transparent or authentic, but I do pledge to not feed HTK. He is the strength of gossipers.

Philippians 4:8 (King James Version) 8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

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