Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Social Media: The Platform for Modern Day Public Humiliation


I’m over it. Just thinking about this post makes my heart beat faster and my stomach clench up in knots. In fact, I’m on the verge of that kind of anger that makes my hands just a bit shaky because I’m so mad.

There have been several stories in the news lately that have subjected people to a good deal of public humiliation. People who made MISTAKES, and then are hung out to dry by people who weren’t even there.

Take for example the family of the poor 3-year-old boy who slipped into the gorilla habitat at the Cincinnati Zoo a couple of weeks ago. Luckily, the boy was rescued, but the poor gorilla had to lose his life as a result of  the horrific accident. I saw many comments berating the mother. My guess is none of them compare to the awful thoughts she’s having about herself right now. For most people who have been the parent to a child this age, or watched one for any length of time, they know just how slippery these tiny tots can be. I worked in a preschool for a few months, so between my own children and that experience, I am well aware of how quickly something can happen I didn’t see coming.

Then, there is the even more tragic story of the 2-year-old boy pulled into a lagoon at a Disney resort by an alligator last week. The dad tried to wrestle the child away from the gator, and the mom jumped in as well. The child had merely been wading in about a foot of water, only to have his life taken in the blink of an eye.

I cannot even imagine the terror of that moment. To be at the “happiest place on earth,” only to have to return home with one less family member. There are no words for the grief and horror. For anyone, especially people who weren’t there, to offer criticism is absolutely ridiculous to me. My family has stayed at a similar resort there, with a body of water like the one involved. I would never have dreamed something like that could happen.

Recently, the public made a huge outcry as an incredibly light sentence of 6 months was given to Stanford swimmer Brock Turner for three felony counts of sexual assault. The young man was caught in the act by two bicyclists passing by (the heroes of the story). The victim wrote a powerful letter about her experience after awaking from her unconscious state to find out what had happened to her (I’ll warn you, it’s tough to get through). She suffered in so many ways, yet there are people who point the finger at her because she was intoxicated and passed out at the time of the crime.

Is it ever a wise choice to get drunk, especially stone cold drunk? Absolutely not, in my opinion. However, is it ever okay to rape someone under any circumstances at all? No. Never. NO ONE EVER HAS A FREE TICKET TO COMMIT RAPE. End of story.

Have you ever made any kind of choice such that, if it came to light, it makes your skin crawl to even think about it? How would you feel if some of your deepest, darkest secrets were on public display? I cringe to think what that would be like. I would argue that we ALL have some of those moments in our lives.

I have written about this before, so I will spare all of the details (you can read them here if you want), but when our youngest son what just 2 and a half months old he was in a household accident that could easily have left him dead. Luckily, he got by with a few skull fractures, which completely healed. Even now, my eyes close and my head feels light and foggy as I reflect back to that day. The horror, regret, remorse, guilt. To have to meet with CPS and explain the story repeatedly was agonizing. It was truly an accident, but we felt like such failures. I shudder to think what it would have been like if the whole world had known our situation and had chimed in with their “should haves.”

They say hindsight is 20/20 for a reason. In looking back, we can almost always see what we should have done differently. The problem is, it’s too late at that point. Things happen we never see coming.

One time, when my oldest son was a toddler, I came home after being out for the evening. I had left Joshua in the care of his dad. When I walked into the kitchen from the garage, I saw a strange sight. My husband, Jason, was sitting outside of our sliding glass door with a maul in hand. Joshua was on the inside of the door looking out. My brain had a hard time connecting the dots on that one. What in the world was going on? Turns out, my husband had gone out the front door to chase a bunny out of the garden. The door locked behind him, leaving him stuck outside and Joshua inside. Luckily, I came home just in time before our door was shattered into a million pieces. Jason had been trying to coach him to get the door unlocked, to no avail. It’s funny now, but it sure wasn’t at the time.

What I learned from our time in the hospital with our youngest, was that everyone has a story. We all forget to buckle the car seat properly, let the child roll off of the changing table, lose our child in a store, etc.

And we all make decisions at times that cause us to fall short of the mark.

One of my favorite Bible stories appears in John 8. A woman, caught in an affair, is brought to Jesus by the religious leaders.  They want to stone her, and they want to know what Jesus thinks. He schools them with this one pharse: “Let the one who has never sinned cast the first stone.”

THUNK. THUNK. THUNK. Those stones begin to drop one by one, and all of her accusers slipped away. The passage says Jesus wrote something in the dirt. I’d love to know what it said. Was it some of the leaders’ sins? Or simply a reminder to love one another?

After reading a little bit about the history of public shaming and the use of things such as stocks, I’m even more convinced of the negative effects of this method. Wikipedia says this: “Public shaming can result in negative psychological effects and devastating consequences, no matter if it is rightly justified or wrongfully accused of. It could cause depression, suicidal thoughts and other severe mental problems. The humiliated individuals could become apathetic and paranoid. The rage and fury splashed outwards could create additional innocent victims as the people suffered from humiliation seek for revenge or simply venting out.” I don’t know about you, but it sounds like a pretty ineffective tool to me.

Friends, let’s put down our stones in the court of public opinion. The world carries enough shame without each of us adding to it. Let’s be champions for the brokenhearted, and not their accusers.

 “Pursue the things that make for peace and the building up of one another.” Romans 14:19

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  1. Victoria Wheeler

    June 20, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    I have said it several times before, but seeing the fingers pointed at these people makes me very afraid as a parent. Every time I hear a story like this, I think, “Oh, what if that was me? That could so be me!” and tears come to my eyes. And then I read all of the comments and accusations, and I feel more alone, because I think maybe other parents really do just have it all together and I am the only one who doesn’t.

    I know that is a lie. But I will never understand any reaction other than, “But for the grace of God go we.”


      June 20, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Exactly. We are all just a breath away. The good news is, I think the vast majority of people are supportive. It’s just the few that are like the clanging gong. And with my situation, I didn’t have anyone that shamed me. There are just too many trolls on the Internet.

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