So today was our annual Teaching Touching Safety class, part of a program to prevent child sexual abuse and to ensure the safety of our youth. This, as always, was led by our VIRTUS certified instructor, Angela.
Today’s focus was on online behaviour, specifically being careful with the information that we give out on social media platforms and being aware that behaviours which might seem to us amusing and harmless at the time can have big consequences, including but not limited to being expelled from our school or fired from our job.
At this point, I felt the need to interrupt Angela’s flow and to reiterate the importance of what she had just instructed, and also to give a deeper explanation of why this is so. I explained that when we accept a place at an academic institution, or accept employment at a company, we are implicitly agreeing to certain codes of conduct. In some cases we agree explicitly, for example when we sign papers which spell out that fact, that in exchange for the education we are receiving, or the wages that we are receiving, we are choosing to subscribe to the values to which the organization subscribes. A high profile example I gave was of athletes or models who are paid millions by sportswear or cosmetics companies, but if they are caught in a scandal, they may no longer represent the image the brand wishes to portray, so their contracts may be rescinded.
So a photo posted, a comment made, even a hashtag appended, could have massive repercussions, even when we were not even aware that we had made an agreement with our school or employer to behave a certain way. We didn’t even know that we had made that promise! And yet we are liable to be thrown out of an establishment!
And this was when I thought about how ironic the situation was.
Because in church, we make promises all the time. We make them explicitly during prayer or during confession or at mass. We make them vocally and very publicly at our baptism (unless we were too young and our parents made them on our behalf), our first communion, our confirmation, our wedding. And we break these promises all the time too. We promised to be good, or to put God first, or to love and honour our spouse in sickness and in health, etc. but broke those promises in smaller ways or larger ways, all the time.
And yet the church continues to forgive us and to welcome us back with open arms. The irony is that we want so desperately to continue belonging to our school or workplace, places from which we may be unceremoniously dumped for a transgression, and yet we forget so often all those solemn promises we made to Jesus while He continues to forgive, always and forever.
And I shared this thought with the students, and thought I’d share it with you, too.