• Dana L. Butler

Why I Was Afraid of Online Friendships [and why I’m not anymore]

So guys, if you’ve hung around my Facebook page much recently, you know this series hasn’t been easy for me to write.  I’ve even asked for prayer a couple of times from my Facebook followers– something I hadn’t done before.

Writing this series has taken me to places that are new for me– levels of processing with the Lord as I’ve written, of wrestling and wrangling and trying to wrap words around the deep things He’s done in my heart in recent months.  He is profoundly changing me and I didn’t realize the depths of the transformation until I began trying to write it out.

My goodness.

And due to the intensity and time-consuming-ness of this writing experience [and the fact that my life is QUITE busy these days, on which I’ll have to fill y’all in soon– Holy COW], I’m finding that I’m only able to pump out about 1 installment to this series per week right now.

If you’ve missed pieces of this series, you can find the rest of it here.

SO.  For this week, I bring you– my guts.


Navigating relationships and politics within the blogosphere has always been confusing to me.

I know.  I just said politics.

It sounds terrible, and I don’t love that I just wrote that word.

But, my fellow Jesus-following bloggers, we can’t deny that there are thousands of us out there.

Most of us are writing because we feel called to do it.  We want our messages heard because we genuinely desire to see people impacted by God through reading our stories.  We want to see Jesus encounter and transform hearts.

Some of us are expanding our circles of influence because maybe we feel God’s put a book inside us, and in today’s publishing industry, what you’ve gotta do to get published– is have an already-developed audience.  [Sigh.]

Or maybe our goal is to earn the attention of advertisers and bring in a little extra income.

So we’re after attention and readership.

And in and of itself, that’s not bad.

But whatever our personal goals, in all the clamor and networking and navigating relationships, heart-motives can grow really, really fuzzy.  

Genuine Generosity:  Is there such a thing?

Jeff Goins is always talking about being generous.  [Side note: Jeff blogs mainly for writers and he’s great at it.  I recommend him.]

He says it’s serving people that builds our influence.  Giving and helping with no strings attached.

Until very recently, every time I’ve heard him say that, my thought process has gone something like this:

“But in “helping” each other, how is our underlying heart-motive not still political?

Don’t we all want to climb the relationship-ladders built by this or that online community?  To increase our exposure and our followings in hopes that someday, some advertisers or a publisher will “want” us?”

How do we move beyond politics and ambition to genuinely serve– pure-hearted, no-strings attached– in this crazy-confusing blogosphere?

Please hear my heart, friends.  I know we’re all blogging primarily to encourage, to share our stories, to proclaim Truth.

But I also know this:

For me, as one with future books in my heart?  It’s been incredibly difficult to distinguish the lines between my passion to see people encounter Jesus through my writing, and my corresponding desire to grow my sphere of influence.

Ambition can go from harnessed and surrendered, to wild and unchecked in a mere blink.

It’s the nature of this journey many of us are on.

And while it is good and necessary to expand our reach, it’s sometimes tempting to be inauthentic in going about it.

But ambition and the resulting inauthenticity– they’re signs we’re not trusting God’s plan to fulfill the dreams He’s planted in our hearts.

Commence Fear of Hidden Motives

Back when I felt invited by God to take my blogging up a few notches, I had no idea the heart-battle that would ensue when I said “yes.”

I quickly became aware of my tendency to quit trusting God’s plan and moving at His pace.  Aware of how quickly, and subtly, I can begin to take matters into my own hands.

Unbelief creeps in, wants to drag us ahead of God’s timing and outside His ways as we navigate this twisty path toward our dreams.

And I’m not even always aware right away when my heart starts to move in those directions.

Y’all, it freaked. me. out.

So on hard days, I found myself double- and triple-checking every motive for every blog post- and every comment on other blogs.  Overthinking my heart-motives in every. single. interaction.

Was I being authentic?  Or ambitious?

Did I care about this person’s story, their heart?  Or was I interested because of the connections they seemed to have?

And, till fairly recently, when I detected a bit of comparison or ambition in my heart?  I tended to stay away.  Because I’d rather keep people at a distance than engage them with impure motives or a less-than-genuine heart.

Now.  Some of this introspection and motive-checking is a good thing.  I want my heart to be open to the Holy Spirit’s conviction when it comes to keeping my heart-motives pure.

But I’ve let my fear of my own dark places keep me from discovering real friendships with the very people who might best understand big pieces of my heart.  My passions.  My struggles.  My fears.

I’ve let the fear of my weakness rob me of the very thing that could have set me free.

How Fear Is Finally Falling Away

Till now.

Everything’s changing these days.

And actually, one of the main things that’s brought change in the last 5 weeks or so– is #FMFParty.

This precious, beautiful, often-silly group of writer-gals who meet every Thursday night to hang out and encourage each other.  Via Twitter.  

Twitter?!

Who’da thunk?  2 months ago I had no clue how to even use Twitter.  But just in the last handful of weeks, I’ve figured it out enough to attend a Twitter party.

Go. me.

I’ve participated in Five Minute Fridays fairly consistently over the last year, but the timing of my learning the Twitter ropes has, interestingly, corresponded with God’s timing in beginning to set my heart free from comparison and ambition.

Free enough to want to develop real friendships with other bloggers.

And as I’ve reached out and engaged?  As I’ve read blogs more often with a desire to get to know, and less often viewing them as potential competition?  The most incredible things have begun to happen inside me:

I’m beginning to read beyond lines on computer screens. To dig deeper than numbers and levels of influence. To discover hearts.  

I’m trusting God with my heart and my journey, looking beyond my insecurities, beyond comparison and ambition, and I’m seeing people.

Seeing them as real.  Normal.  Human.  People with stories.  People with hurts and joys and journeys with God worth knowing.

And I now see what Jeff means when he talks about helping people, being generous, making connections with pure motives.

Because when people become my friends, when I begin to know their hearts? Ambition and politics are zapped right outa my heart.

Bam.

And I find I’m no longer paralyzed by the fear of my own capacity for wrong motives.

I’m stepping over my fear, and into genuine friendships.  Into uninhibited love.  

And which each heart-connection, fear falls away a little more.

Y’all, it feels so. good.

<3

Related:  How the Gospel (and living out of our Gospel Identity) Changes Our Experience of the Blogosphere.

PS.  I always welcome and value your feedback.  Whether I’m able to respond to your comment or not, please know I read and deeply appreciate every single one.

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