human

Dear Sister: Response on Forgiveness

Dear sister,a

You have stated that the common view of forgiveness indicates that you are supposed to forgive the man who harmed you physically, psychologically, and perpetually as you go about your day. Though you are no longer under his control–thanks be to God–you still suffer the immense pain and agony by re-living those moments every time–or almost every time–someone uses certain language, when someone jokes about abuse, when someone sounds like an abuser, and when someone trivializes that abuse. So, you are told, suck it up! Live with it! Move on and forgive him.

My responses to these requests are meant to be brief, but to the point. Forgiveness is not a dispensing machine. An abuser cannot simply press a button and demand that you act accordingly. So, principle number one is that if the abuser demands forgiveness from you and acts as if he deserves it, tell him that you are a human being and that you will not be treated like a machine. Forgiveness, if you wish to be theological, is covenantal.

Forgiveness is complex at this level. Not all relationships are created equal. At the very least, this conversation between victim and abuser can only be initiated if said abuser has changed his ways, proven that he has suffered the consequences of his actions, has placed himself in a community where his sins are known, and if the case involves sexual abuse, that he not be working near any children. If those conditions are met, then by all means begin the conversation if you are prepared. But though he may be ready to proceed and though the conditions are met, make sure that you are surrounded by a safe community, with a pastor (s) that understand the severity of the damage done and have agreed to walk with you through this process.

Dismiss any comment from counselors who make you feel guilty for suffering such abuse. Better yet, run away from them.  You may think you have found an advocate, but you really are dealing with someone with little capacity to understand the depths of human pain. I pray you will find a voice of reason in a sea of miserable counsel.

Yours truly,

Uri Brito

  1. These names will remain anonymous  (back)
The Inhumanity of Facebook

The Inhumanity of Facebook

Facebooks users were in for a surprise as the year comes to an end. Facebook prepared a Year in Review photo album especially for you. It took all of the year’s most famous posts and put them together, put a bow on it, and gifted you with your very own special memories. While my photo album brought back some happy occasions, many could not share in the same happiness. In fact, many were forced to review some of the saddest parts of this year. In a recent blog post entitled “Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty,” Eric Meyer wrote about seeing a preview of his Year in Review that featured his six-year-old daughter who died of a brain tumor earlier this year.

“I didn’t go looking for grief this afternoon, but it found me anyway, and I have designers and programmers to thank for it … Where the human aspect fell short, at least with Facebook, was in not providing a way to opt out.”a

Eric Meyer highlights the inhumanity of facebook. The most popular social media on planet earth failed to bring happiness to one of its users who likely most needed it at this time of the year. Meyers observes:

“Where the human aspect fell short, at least with Facebook, was in not providing a way to opt out. The Year in Review ad keeps coming up in my feed, rotating through different fun-and-fabulous backgrounds, as if celebrating a death, and there is no obvious way to stop it,” he wrote. “The design is for the ideal user, the happy, upbeat, good-life user. It doesn’t take other user cases into account.”b

Is facebook at fault here? The Facebook algorithm did what it does. It takes your likes and translates it into success and happiness.

This raises the question of how much we are expecting from such an outlet. Should we expect that they read into our grief and respond accordingly? Should Zuckerberg provide a human review of our year through an inhuman outlet? These questions have simple answers. Still, we long for a reality where our grief is treated as grief by everyone and everything. In our hope to find comfort we have blamed a faceless mathematical tool that cannot understand our grief.

I grieve for Mr. Meyers and the many others who are re-living moments of utter pain by looking once again at the faces of loved ones who have died.

The truth is facebook could have given a way to opt out, but that would be to assume that facebook knows and understands grief. It does not. It is not human, it simply, mechanically, responds to your humanity. And they have already responded:

The feature has already been tweaked following feedback: it initially ended the slideshow with the words “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.” It now uses the more neutral language “See you next year!”c

Yes. Next year there will be an “opt out” option. But then there will be new frustrations. Our human expectations for an inhuman tool will continue to disappoint us.

  1. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/facebooks-inability-human-results-messy-year-review/  (back)
  2. http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/29/living/feat-facebook-year-in-review-tragedy-death/  (back)
  3. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/dec/29/facebook-apologises-over-cruel-year-in-review-clips  (back)