…a reader asks: Dear Father John, With the social media we have today (Facebook, etc.), why do I feel hesitant to share God’s messages such as scripture, prayers, testimonies, etc. due to a concern of “negative ramifications.” Although there are few times I am moved by the Spirit to share without a concern, I am mainly too shy to share; when I do share I can’t help feeling my efforts were done in vain as if expecting positive reinforcement. I tell myself it’s my own vanity, pride and concerns of what people think about me that cause this and praying to our Lord to take this away. Father, do you have any words of wisdom or insights to help me? When coming across moving information, do I share only when I am moved by the Spirit, where I have no hesitations and is rare, or do I put effort to share against my shyness? I fear not being fruitful when an opportunity arrives and I want to make the best of my one little talent.
Discerning Where and How to Serve
Is everyone called to engage in all of these forms of apostolate in the same way and to the same degree? Absolutely not! Each one of us has a unique relationship with God, a unique experience and knowledge of God, a unique calling from God. And so, each one of us will engage in the apostolate in a highly personalized way. How can we find out how God wants us to do our part? This involves spiritual discernment, which is the fruit of a growing life of prayer, along with some wise guidance from trusted sources.
Discerning how God wants us to serve his Kingdom often involves taking stock of our natural talents, and of the passions we experience in our hearts. For example, when God called Blessed Mother Teresa to start her missionary order, he gave her a deep interior thirst to bring the light of God’s smile to the cast-offs and the abandoned of society, to the poorest of the poor. She felt a deep love and dedication towards them.
So, even before addressing the hesitancy you feel to share your faith, I would encourage you to reflect prayerfully on this question: Lord, how do you want me to help build your Kingdom? How do you want me to exercise my apostolate in the Church? If you are sincere in wanting to know that, he will surely lead you and show you! Once you discover, or deepen in your understanding and identification with what you have already discovered, with where and how God wants you to exercise your apostolate, I believe that you will feel less interior turbulence about when and how much and whether to share your faith through social networks on the Internet.
Grace Builds on Nature
And in the meantime, I would suggest that the tension you feel in that regard is probably not from the Holy Spirit. Someone who by natural temperament tends to be shy should not feel pressured to try and give themselves a different temperament! God’s grace doesn’t usually contradict our nature, but builds on it. I imagine that God will move you to engage in the apostolate of your words within your closer relationships, rather than through broadcasting your opinions far and wide. He will ask you to speak words of encouragement to people you know and interact with, to get to know them and to care for them, to be interested in them and to share with them in a simple and natural way, your own experience of God and his goodness. If you focus on serving and loving those with whom you have regular contact, the apostolate of the word will flow in a peaceful and natural way. You will find yourself overcoming your shyness without even thinking about it. Someone who is by temperament more outgoing might be moved to be a more vocal, broadcasting type of apostolate of the word. Again, God’s grace usually works in harmony with our nature, even while he purifies and elevates it.
This is a good topic for spiritual direction. Speak with your spiritual director about the manifestations and the causes of your shyness. Your director will help you be objective in your own self-evaluation, and give pointers about growing in love, so that the weak points of your natural temperament interfere less and less with your docility to the Holy Spirit.
I am afraid I didn’t give you a simple answer! But I hope and pray that these thoughts will provide at least a little bit of light as you continue “seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). God bless you!