When Roxanne Stone was editorial director for RELEVANT, a popular Christian magazine, she was inundated with story pitches detailing intimate accounts of abortions and abuse, death and depression. Stone rejected most of them.
“There is power in sharing one’s life online, but there is even more power in sharing it with those you love.” she says. “It is possible to be authentic online and inauthentic in your real life. I didn’t want to enable that.”
Having learned these lessons at RELEVANT, Stone decided not to publicly divulge the details of her painful divorce during the last three years.
“Maybe sharing would have benefitted a lot of people. Plenty of others have chosen to do that,” says Stone, now Vice President of Publishing for Barna Group, a national research and polling company. “It was hard enough to walk through it with a few friends and wrestle through it myself. When you live it, you understand it in a way that is different than when you read it.”
The choice to keep such a struggle largely private is uncommon in a moment when so many are willing to share their life’s most intimate details online. From confessions about substance abuse to blow-by-blow accounts of marital struggles to admissions about the frequency of sex with one’s spouse, almost anything can be found online. Those who are willing to tear down the barriers to their personal lives are heralded as noble and authentic.
Religious personalities may feel additional pressure to share their secrets. Vulnerability has almost become a Christian virtue, and it’s tempting to create “viral” content to get noticed and increase one’s platform.
Katelyn Beaty, managing editor of Christianity Today, has witnessed this impulse among her fellow believers.
“In the Christian blogging and writing world way, we are perfecting the art of the vulnerable, too. Many of us have done so to build community, offer healing to others, and attest to God’s goodness in our lives,” Beaty concluded. “But now it’s time to examine whether our vulnerability has a clear purpose. If it doesn’t, it’s probably best to put our clothes back on.”
But some Christians are taking Stone’s approach, opting to save some of their private lives for those who truly know them.