between-our-steps-04-04-18-doubleSome social media posts making the rounds suggest that we need to chose people to hang out with who bring out the best in us. The post talks about avoiding people who are negative, because they will bring us down. These posts, which are often words printed on a peaceful picture, get lots of "likes" and "shares."

As I scroll through posts, I often nod. I know there are people who, at times, chose friends and companions who trigger their fear, their anger, their anxiety. For them, choosing companions who see good in them and stimulate their best seems like good advice.

But this week, as I ponder the story that I will reflect on next Sunday, I became suspicious. So, I went looking for these "memes." One helped clarify my questions. It read, "Ignore people who threaten your joy. Literally. Ignore them. Say nothing. Don't invite any part of them into your space."

Ignore them? It is never respectful to ignore a person. And should we really shut them out of our lives, leaving them to their negativity? That may shield us from their destructive tendencies, but it leaves them in that deeply shadowed place charged with negative energy.

Let me tell you the story that prompted my suspicion. It is an Easter story that a man named John wrote.

The risen Jesus had appeared to some women, and the disciples had seen that the tomb was empty. As they tried to figure out what this meant, they hid together in an upper room, afraid of the authorities who had put him to death. Jesus came to them, showing them his new life and breathing peace into them.

One of the disciples, Thomas, wasn't there. We aren't told why he left the room. Maybe he just needed to take a walk, to get some space. Maybe they needed food, and he was the one with the courage to go out into the street and find bread for them all. When he came back, the others are really excited. They tell him they saw Jesus, that Jesus is alive, that things are great.

Thomas refuses to believe. Not until he sees with his own eyes will he accept this far-fetched story.

His refusal might have burst the bubble of the others excitement, but he holds to it. For eight days, he refuses to believe. I suspect his refusal may be tinged with anger, after all why did Jesus choose the moment he was out of the room to come. Surely, this risen powerful Jesus could have waited for him to come back, or known when everybody would be there. But no, Thomas was left out. So, he chose to doubt.

Thomas' stubborn insistence on doubt would have had a dampening effect on the other disciples' joy. It would have cast a shadow on their new faith. Maybe for the first day or two, the reality of what the others saw would have shone so brightly that they could hold to faith despite his questions. As time passed, as they struggled to figure out how to live in the light of the risen Jesus, Thomas' doubt might have dragged them down.

If those followers of Jesus had listened to the social media memes, they would have pushed Thomas aside. If they had heeded their own temptation to block his negativity, he would have been excluded from the group. And Thomas, who already felt left out because Jesus came when he was away, would have been left wallowing in negativity.

Instead, Thomas finds the courage to hang around these cheerful, excited friends whose emotion he does not share. And the others find a way to endure his negativity. They keep trying to draw him in. As a result, he is in the room when Jesus comes back. His negativity is banished, and he begins to deal with his questions and doubt in the light of this new reality.

His friends managed to respect and care for him enough to shield themselves from his negativity and help him find a new way. Not an easy model to follow, but perhaps a better one than the path social media memes suggest.

Cathy Hird lives near Walters Falls.

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