I am not a Kardashian follower. I don’t get the point, but don’t fault others who are. I don’t buy magazines with celebrities on the cover, eager to discover the latest events in the lives of the rich and famous. I just don’t actually care. They are just people to me, I wouldn’t buy a magazine with your picture on it and hope to delve into your secrets either. Yet I know I have my own idols, albeit nerdy ones maybe, but still, folks I have put on a pedestal and give extra weight to their words. I wait for a new post, I devour their phrases. I find myself just enough in them to relate but know they are wiser, funnier, they never burn their own hair or wear mismatched socks. They are writers and women of substance, women who have it figured out and can help lead me along. It works great until I forget they are still human, women first. The fall off of the pedestal bruises us all.
Recently a woman I have followed and suggested to many others has taken a turn I cannot support, leading me to a place of choice. Baby with the bathwater? I read as her millions of followers fell over themselves to lay flowers at her feet, shout loudly about what a brave woman she was. I was looking for someone to say, “Hey, wait, I am a bit concerned. This doesn’t seem so healthy for you.” When you develop such a huge following built on relationship, don’t we have a responsibility to speak up or do we just take? I have wondered about all the stars who have gone astray, don’t they have anyone who tells them no? Where are the folks who’s heads go from right to left rather than always up and down? I was saddened to see no posts telling this woman the truth.
Truth tellers are gift givers, they are the best kind of friends to have. To have opened yourself up to someone enough that they can hold your soul so gently and reflect back honesty is holy. We serve no one by building idols of each other or those in entertainment, athletics, any position of high profile or power. We serve all by building relationships of trust, becoming truth tellers and hearers. Yes hearing is the necessary other piece of this. To that end, I wrote an email to my “idol,” sharing concerns that the path she was following was fraught with danger. I didn’t expect a reply nor have I received one. Yet my soul felt easier after hitting that send button, I knew she was no longer on the pedestal but I found room for her in my grace-filled world. I no longer devour her words, I know her choices are complicated right now. Still, I am better for it, softer for allowing her to be among us and not above us. The pressure to be perfect, by my definition or that of any of the millions who follow any idol have to be exhausting.
Maybe our idols aren’t the stars or great writers. The ones who follow are merely those in a congregation, lifting a pastor to a level not sustainable. Expectations of those who preach from a raised platform elevate with each step up. Remembering that these people have a calling, a gift, yes, but do indeed step back down to walk amongst us is critical in allowing them to remain human and not idols. They are walking with us: fallible, seeking, searching, stumbling. Maybe the ones we follow blindly are friends on social media, the ones we are sure have it all figured out. Comparing our real lives to what pops up in a picture, a newsfeed, makes it too easy to believe they are better at, well, just life. But who benefits from idolatry? Certainly not the idols. Certainly not us.
Telling the truth to ourselves, about ourselves, is that precious gift of humility so necessary to keep us focused on the One who IS perfect. Telling the truth to others is tricky, requires a level of trust and relationship, a respect for privacy. Prayer, though, for those we follow, requires nothing. I am deep in prayer for those I have elevated, beseeching God to put truth tellers in their paths and imploring God to open their hearts to hear. I pray also for my own soul, that I may always be wise enough to hear the truth from those who offer up this gift to me. After all, in the words of Ram Dass, “We’re all just walking each other home.”