Yesterday while browsing the bargain bookshelves at Barnes & Nobles I ran across a book titled, “More Than Coincidence” (2015), by the Editors of Guideposts. The book contains eighty stories that “will astonish, comfort, and inspire” readers from the pages of Mysterious Ways, a magazine born of the most popular feature in Guideposts” (quote source from the back cover of the book). The “Introduction” to the book opens with the following paragraphs:
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV). Time and again we see evidence that reveals God’s involvement in our everyday lives. Sometimes the heaven-sent guidance is overlooked when we brush it off as coincidence. Other times, we can think of it as nothing less than a miracle.
Van Varner, the former editor of “Guideposts” magazine, wrote: “Faith is made of mystery and awe; it is not in knowing the tangible but in believing in the intangible that our faith flourishes. The hidden hand of God moves silently, leaving behind evidence of things unseen.”
This is the very idea this book explores: it is in those moments, when we see God’s mysterious touch in our lives, that our faith is the strongest. Though we can’t always understand His methods, we know that He is directing us toward the right path or helping us through the tough times. (Quote source: Introduction to “More Than Coincidence.”)
As I was reading over a few stories in the book last night, a memory from over four decades ago in my own life came to mind. I was 22 years old and I had just completed Basic Training and AIT (advanced individual training) in the United States Army, and I had received orders to be stationed in South Korea. I first arrived in Seoul, South Korea, to be “processed” before going to my duty station which was located just outside of Pusan (Busan), South Korea, the second largest city located on the southern coast of South Korea. However, my first stop was to be at a U.S. Army base just north of Taegu (Daegu), about three quarters of the way down between Seoul and Pusan. After I was “processed” in Seoul, a Sergeant took me to the train station in Seoul to board a train heading south to the southern coast of South Korea with many stops in between. I was told to get off the train at Waegwan, South Korea, a small town where Camp Carroll Army Depot was located. When I asked how I would know when to get off the train, the sergeant just laughed and said to get off “in about twelve stops.” There were no signs in English for me to read to have any idea when I was approaching Waegwan.
I boarded the train and quickly discovered that I was the only American in the section of the train where I was seated. I was dressed in a “Class A” U.S. Army uniform and my light blonde hair and tall frame really made me stand out among the rest of the passengers who were all Korean. I put my duffel bag on the overhead storage area above my head and took my seat between two Korean passengers. I knew no Korean and they knew no English, so the ride was a quiet one. I started counting the stops as it was the only way I had any idea of when I might be getting close to the town where I needed to get off. As we traveled south periodically I noticed towers outside the window with guards stationed at the top of the towers. At each stop the train would slow down to let passengers off, but it quickly started back up again and moved on. All signs were in Korean so I had no idea what towns I had passed as we traveled south.
When we came to the 12th stop I remembered that the sergeant told me it would be “about” 12 stops but the 12th stop came and went and I had no idea exactly when to get off. As we were approaching another town the train started to slow down again to let passengers off. From out of nowhere an older Korean woman dressed in traditional Korean attire (not a staff person on the train) appeared standing in the aisle facing me and motioned to my duffel bag in the luggage rack over my head. She didn’t speak English but I could tell she wanted me to take it down, so I got out of my seat and took it down. As the train came to a stop, the exit door to the cabin located close to my seat opened, and she picked up my duffel bag and threw it out the door onto the ground, and I got off the train. The train quickly started up again and was soon gone, and I was left standing there with my duffel bag wondering what I should do now. There was no one else around me, and as I looked around (the stop was in an area that looked like it was in the middle of a field), in the distance I could see a vehicle coming in my direction. It turned out to be a jeep with a man dressed in Army fatigues seated behind the steering wheel, and he stopped and asked me if I was PFC (my last name). I concurred that I was, so he picked up my duffel bag and we drove a couple of miles to the Army depot I was scheduled to stop at on my way to Pusan.
When I look back at that experience several decades ago, there was no doubt a bit of “divine intervention” helped me get to that U.S. Army depot since my instructions were very sketchy at best, and I had no idea when I was supposed to get off that train. As it turned out, I ended up being stationed at that Army depot instead of going on to Pusan, so I remained there for my tour of duty in South Korea.
No doubt my story could fit in the pages of “More Than Coincidence.” I liked the very first story in the book as when I read the story, it reminded me of my own story. This story is titled, “Lost and Found in Paris,” by Aminda Parafinik on pp. 1-3: Here is her story:
Lost And Found in Paris
by Aminda Parafinik
My heart pounded. My hands were clammy. I was on the verge of panic. The tangle of multicolored lines on the Paris Metro map made my head spin. I asked a ticket-booth attendant for help. He shot me a dismissive look. How could I have been so careless? The world never felt so big, and I never felt so small, so lost. I’d come to Paris in hopes of finding myself. Now I couldn’t even find my way back to my hostel.
“If you’re lost in Paris, just look for the Eiffel Tower,” another traveler told me when I arrived from Arizona. If only there were a guidepost to help me find my way in life! Two months earlier, I’d been downsized from my job as an editorial assistant, my second job since graduating from college with a degree in communications. I’d thought I would be climbing the ranks by twenty-five. Instead, I was out of work. I felt like a loser.
I dreamed of getting away. That’s when I got the idea for this trip. I’d been fascinated by “the City of Light” ever since I was a little girl. I had some money saved up. What better place was there to be inspired again?
I took in the awesome views from the top of the Eiffel Tower, gawked at the luxury shops along the Champs-Elysees, saw the magnificent Palace of Versailles. Today, though, after exploring exhibits at the Louvre and visiting the gargoyles at Notre Dame, I’d taken a wrong turn. The narrow streets surrounding the cathedral were like a maze. In the spirit of adventure, I kept going . . . until it got dark. I could see the Eiffel Tower, a finger of light, impossibly distant. I searched for more than an hour until I found what I thought was the right Metro stop, but it was for a different line then the one that let off near my hostel.
I turned away from the ticket booth and the reality of my situation hit me. I’d been crazy to spend my savings on this trip, trying to “find myself.” When–or if–I got home, then what? “Lord,” I whispered, “please help me. I am so lost.”
“Excusez moi.” A tall, brown-haired man startled me. A little older than me, clean-cut, dressed like a businessmen. “Can I help you?” he asked, with just a hint of a French accent.
“I need to get to Felix Faure,” I said, trying to keep my voice from quivering.
“Follow me,” he said. Normally, I wouldn’t but there was something about him. He seemed trustworthy. Confident. Besides, did I have a choice?
Striding through the dark streets, we made small talk. “Where are you from?” he asked. “The United States, obviously,” he added, smiling. “But where?”
“Phoenix,” I said, “It’s in Arizona, the Southwest . . .”
“Really?” he interrupted. “Have you heard of The Thunderbird School of Global Management?”
I vaguely remembered that name from a billboard near my freeway exit. Of all the things in Phoenix to ask about. “I don’t really know much about it,” I said.
He paused, then looked at me quizzically as if he wanted to continue. But by then we’d reached the Metro line I needed. “Hurry, you don’t want to miss your train,” he said. I thanked him, then dashed down the stairs. Before long, I was back at the hostel. The rest of my time in Paris was uneventful, even restful. Something about that encounter seemed to calm me.
Okay, time to get back to my life. My first week home, I sent out more resumes. Nothing.
That weekend, I was scanning the want ads when a position caught my eye. They needed someone with a communications degree, and the responsibilities matched what I’d done in the past. Program assistant for an executive MBA program. I liked the sound of that.
I liked the sound of the employer, too. The Thunderbird School of Global Management. Suddenly, the world seemed very small. I applied and was called in for an interview.
Guess who got the job? (Quote source, “More Than Coincidence,” pp. 1-3.)
The book is filled with stories like this one. Albert Einstein once stated, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous” (quote source here). I’m of the mind that “coincidences” happen to remind us of God and just how much He guides our steps.
In a response to the question, “Are there such things as coincidences?” GotQuestions.org gives us the biblical perspective to that question:
The word “coincidence” is used only once in the New Testament, and it was by Jesus Himself in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In Luke 10:31, Jesus said, “And by a coincidence a certain priest was going down in that way, and having seen him, he passed over on the opposite side.” The word “coincidence” is translated from the Greek word “synkyrian,” which is a combination of two words: “sun” and “kurios.” “Sun” means “together with,” and “kurious” means “supreme in authority.” So a biblical definition of “coincidence” would be “what occurs together by God’s providential arrangement of circumstances.”
What appears to us as random chance is in fact overseen by a sovereign God who knows the number of hairs on every head (Luke 12:7). Jesus said that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father’s notice (Matthew 10:29). In Isaiah 46:9–11, God states unequivocally that He is in charge of everything: “I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.”
When we consider life events, we tend to classify them as “important” or “unimportant.” Many people have no problem believing that God is in charge of the “big things” but assume that such a big God would not trouble Himself with the seemingly miniscule events of our everyday lives. However, that understanding is colored by our human limitations and not supported by Scripture. For God, there are no unimportant events. He does not need to conserve His strength because His power is limitless. His attention is never divided. If the Lord God tracks every sparrow (Matthew 10:29), then nothing is too small for His attention. He is often referred to as the Almighty (Genesis 17:1; Exodus 6:3; Job 13:3), a name denoting unrestricted power and absolute dominion.
Citing coincidence is how we humans explain unexpected events and surprise meetings. But just because we are taken by surprise does not mean that God is. Scripture is clear that God allows sinful humans to make mistakes and reap the consequences of those mistakes, but only a sovereign God could also promise that He will make “all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). In ways known only to God, He takes even our mistakes and unplanned events and weaves them together to fulfill His purposes.
In Old Testament times, God often used the Urim and Thummin, pieces of the high priest’s ephod, to help give guidance and instruction (Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; 1 Samuel 30:7–8). In the New Testament, we see the apostles trusting God’s sovereignty when they cast lots to choose a new disciple to replace Judas (Acts 1:26). Though each of these means of communication seems insignificant, God has shown throughout Scripture that He can use the smallest object or event for His purposes. God does not seem to allow for “coincidence.” The administration of the universe is not based on serendipity. The Bible says that God’s purposes will prevail and that He is in control of even the most random event (Proverbs 19:21). Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” What may seem insignificant to us may be in fact a result of God’s omniscient power working on our behalf to accomplish His will in our lives. (Quote source here.)
“The Bible says that God’s purposes will prevail and that He is in control of even the most random event.” If we truly believe that statement, then we can take comfort that God is always in control regardless of our circumstances and our coincidences. . . .
Many are the plans in a person’s heart . . .
But it is the Lord’s purpose . . .
That prevails . . . . (Proverb 19:21)
YouTube Video: “Coincidence? I Think NOT!” from the movie, The Incredibles (2012):
Fake news . . . It’s the latest buzzword that has surfaced in the past year to capture our attention. And it appears there is a lot of #fakenews going on today, too. Wikipedia describes #fakenews as follows:
Fake news is a type of yellow journalism that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via the traditional print, broadcasting news media, or via Internet-based social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention. As such, intentionally misleading and deceptive fake news is different from obviously satirical or parody articles or papers such as The Onion. Fake news often employs eye-catching headlines or entirely fabricated news stories in order to increase readership and, in the case of internet-based stories, online sharing and Internet click revenue. In the latter case, profit is made in a similar fashion to sensational online “clickbait” headlines and relies on advertising revenue generated from this activity, regardless of the veracity of the published stories.
Easy access to online advertisement revenue, increased political polarization between the left and right, and the ubiquity and popularity of online social media, primarily the Facebook newsfeed, have all been implicated in the spread of fake news. Anonymously-hosted fake news websites lacking known publishers have also been implicated, because they make it difficult to prosecute sources of fake news for libel or slander. The relevance of fake news has experienced greater growth in a post-truth political reality. (Quote source here.)
A few days ago I ran into an article published online in Politico Magazine by Jacob Soll titled, “The Long and Brutal History of Fake News.” The subtitle states, “Bogus news has been around a lot longer than real news. And it’s left a lot of destruction behind.”
Soll opens his article with a brief and grueling history lesson on the power of #fakenews dating back to 1475 regarding the disappearance of a 2 1/2-year-old-boy that ended up with fifteen members of a Jewish community being found guilty and burned at the stake. They had nothing to do with the boy’s disappearance, but the purveyors of #fakenews didn’t care about the actual facts. And Soll states, “The story inspired surrounding communities to commit similar atrocities” (quote source here). #fakenews is meant to inflict the greatest possible harm to its target in a way that obliterates the truth.
Fake news isn’t just the latest buzzword to be bantered about in newsrooms and on social media. It’s deadly and it’s the stuff of propaganda. Soll states:
. . . Amid all the media hand wringing about fake news and how to deal with it, one fact seems to have gotten lost: Fake news is not a new phenomenon. It has been around since news became a concept 500 years ago with the invention of print—a lot longer, in fact, than verified, “objective” news, which emerged in force a little more than a century ago. From the start, fake news has tended to be sensationalist and extreme, designed to inflame passions and prejudices. And it has often provoked violence. The Nazi propaganda machine relied on the same sorts of fake stories about ritual Jewish drinking of children’s blood that inspired Prince-Bishop Hinderbach in the 15th century [see article for background information]. Perhaps most dangerous is how terrifyingly persistent and powerful fake news has proved to be. As Pope Sixtus IV [see article for details] found out, wild fake stories with roots in popular prejudice often prove too much for responsible authorities to handle. With the decline of trusted news establishments around the country, who’s to stop them today?
Fake news took off at the same time that news began to circulate widely, after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439. “Real” news was hard to verify in that era. There were plenty of news sources—from official publications by political and religious authorities, to eyewitness accounts from sailors and merchants—but no concept of journalistic ethics or objectivity. Readers in search of fact had to pay close attention. In the 16th century, those who wanted real news believed that leaked secret government reports were reliable sources, such as Venetian government correspondence, known as relazioni. But it wasn’t long before leaked original documents were soon followed by fake relazioni leaks. By the 17th century, historians began to play a role in verifying the news by publishing their sources as verifiable footnotes. . . . (Quote source here.)
“Perhaps most dangerous is how terrifyingly persistent and powerful fake news has proved to be.” That is, no doubt, why is it used so effectively and pervasively. Soll’s article is quite informative, and he ends it with the following statement:
The Pew Research Center’s “State of the Media 2016” paints a grim picture for most serious news organizations. Advertising revenue is down; staffs continue to get cut; the number of newspapers has declined by 100 since 2004. Between 2003 and 2014, with the decline of the printed press, the number of professional statehouse reporters dropped 35 percent. Professional local beat reporters are also a dying breed. These figures, trained in basic journalistic principles, were locally known and trusted. They could be found in bars and local schools and acted as the human link between statehouses, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. population. They were seen as local heroes. (Jimmy Stewart often played truth-obsessed newspaper reporters in films, like the 1948 thriller “Call Northside 777.”) But today, these popular role models and societal links are gone, and with them, a trusted filter within civil society—the sort of filter that can say with authority to fellow local citizens that fake news is not only fake, it is also potentially deadly.
Real news is not coming back in any tangible way on a competitive local level, or as a driver of opinion in a world where the majority of the population does not rely on professionally reported news sources and so much news is filtered via social media, and by governments. And as real news recedes, fake news will grow. We’ve seen the terrifying results this has had in the past—and our biggest challenge will be to find a new way to combat the rising tide. (Quote source here.)
In an article titled, “How to Spot Fake News,” by Eugene Kiely and Lori Robertson on FactCheck.org, a project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Kiely and Robertson state:
Fake news is nothing new. But bogus stories can reach more people more quickly via social media than what good old-fashioned viral emails could accomplish in years past.
Concern about the phenomenon led Facebook and Google to announce that they’ll crack down on fake news sites, restricting their ability to garner ad revenue. Perhaps that could dissipate the amount of malarkey online, though news consumers themselves are the best defense against the spread of misinformation.
Not all of the misinformation being passed along online is complete fiction, though some of it is. Snopes.com has been exposing false viral claims since the mid 1990s, whether that’s fabricated messages, distortions containing bits of truth and everything in between. Founder David Mikkelson warned in a Nov. 17, 2016 article not to lump everything into the “fake news” category. “The fictions and fabrications that comprise fake news are but a subset of the larger bad news phenomenon, which also encompasses many forms of shoddy, unresearched, error-filled, and deliberately misleading reporting that do a disservice to everyone,” he wrote.
A lot of these viral claims aren’t “news” at all, but fiction, satire and efforts to fool readers into thinking they’re for real . . . [Quote source here). Additional information on how to spot fake news in this article is available at this link.]
Scope.com (mentioned above) has a “fake news archive” with the latest, up-to-the-minute reporting of #fakenews at this link. Established in 1995, Snopes states that it has “all the latest rumors, urban legends, myths and misinformation gathered together in one nifty list” (quote source and list available here).
Today, we live in a world where information is readily at our fingertips and often behind a screen. Information online is easy to post, instant to view and can be shared quickly to a wide audience. While this can seem like a great advantage, there are also dangers that arise with the shift to online platforms. One of these dangers is the rise of fake news.
One of the reasons fake news is so dangerous is it often hides under the appearance of a legitimate news organization. Recently, Stanford researchers conducted an 18-month study which evaluated middle school, high school, and college students from 12 states and their ability to assess the information they see online. The results were in their words “bleak.” The researchers had hoped middle school students would be able to distinguish an advertisement from a news story, high school students would be able to recognize articles presented by a biased source, and college students would look at sources of articles which present only one side of an argument. “But in every case and at every level, we were taken aback by students’ lack of preparation,” said researchers. The data was so alarming that researches stated, “At present, we worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish”. . . .
The dangerous reality of fake news became apparent on December 4, 2016 when Edgar Maddison Welch shot a AR-15 assault rifle multiple times in Comet Ping Pong, a Washington D.C. pizzeria. Authorities reported that Welch’s actions were in response to a fake news article claiming a child sex-trafficking ring led by Hillary Clinton was hidden in the pizzeria. Thankfully no one was injured, but this incident gives rise to the question, in a situation like this who is responsible? Welch is now facing federal charges but should the person who wrote the fake news article be held accountable?
Not only is there real danger behind fake news but real money as well. The team at NPR’s Planet Money decided to track one popular fake news story titled “FBI Agents Suspected In Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide,” which reportedly got 1.6 million views in 10 days, to its source. The story was originally published on the Denver Guardian, a fake news site made to look incredibly professional. Planet Money was able to track the Denver Guardian and several other fake news sites to one person, Jestin Coler. Planet Money interviewed Coler and while he wouldn’t share the exact profits he was making from fake news, he did admit it was around $10,000 to $30,000 a month. The money is made through advertisements that are featured on the fake news sites. . . .
. . . At a news conference in Berlin on November 17, 2016, President Obama said “If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, and particularly in an age of social media when so many people are getting their information in sound bites and off their phones, if we cannot discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”
With seemingly professional fake news so readily available online it is up to the reader to make sure information is accurate before they accept it as the truth. Before passing on information to others, readers can check sources and explore an article to make sure it is truthful and non-biased. Even though an article may confirm an opinion, it does not necessarily make it true. Philosopher Michael Lynch said that the internet is “both the world’s best fact-checker and the world’s best bias confirmer -often at the same time.” Consumers must keep that in mind as we use the internet as a tool while searching for the truth. (Quote source here. Links in article have been added.)
Here’s one last article on the seedier side of #fakenews titled, “Why Does Fake News Exist? A Look Inside A Highly Lucrative Business,” by Financial Samurai. Financial Samurai has been highlighted in major publications such as Forbes, The Wall Street Journal Online, Business Insider, The Consumerist, The Sydney Herald, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times (source here). Financial Samurai states:
Everywhere I go people seem to be talking about fake news. It’s fascinating to witness the war between Donald Trump and the mass media, especially CNN. The rare press conferences he hosts truly are entertaining to watch if you’re stuck on the throne longer than normal one morning. [Comment not endorsed by this blogger.]
As an online media entrepreneur who types from San Francisco, plenty of people have been asking me why there’s been such a proliferation of fake, very fake, or overly biased news. To understand fake news, we must understand the cast of characters. . . .
There are two main creators of fake news. The most egregious creator comes from non-journalists who put out spammy garbage you see on the web that’s simply untrue. The second creator of fake news is not so much fake news, but biased news coming from journalists with an agenda. Biased news isn’t as egregious since we all have our biases that are hard to extricate from our actions. However, biased journalists can do greater damage due to their large platforms.
The main reason why fake news exists is simply due to the desire for MONEY, lots of it! Once you follow the money, everything becomes much clearer. The #1 goal of every fake news creator is to get as many impressionable readers to click on their fake news articles as possible. More clicks means more advertising revenue.
Clickbait titles are very important because fake news creators cannot compete on substance. None of their articles will ever rank well on search (Google, Bing, etc) because most of their content is very thin and filled with grammatical errors on topics that are very ephemeral, e.g., “Southern California Floods Sweep Away Neverland Ranch, Revealing Michael Jackson Is Still Alive!”
The average fake news article might contain 250 words of gibberish, whereas the average article on Financial Samurai tends to be more evergreen with well over 1,200 words, complemented with charts and graphs. Due to the way search engines work, a fake news article would unlikely ever rank above an article I write about on the same topic. If it did, the search engine would be discredited and eventually lose a ton of money themselves.
Fake news creators are paid generally in the range of $1 – $10 per 1,000 impressions. Therefore, if a fake news creator can get 1,000,000 impressions a month, his website stands to earn $1,000 – $10,000 a month. If you’re a fake news teen earning $10,000 a month living in Macedonia [see article at this link] you’re crushing it because the Macedonia GDP per capita is less than $5,000. That’s like making $960,000 a year here in the U.S.!
So how do spammy garbage sites exist on the web if they can’t rank well in search?
The first reason is due to low barriers to entry. Anybody can start a website for less than $50 a year nowadays and compete with the Yahoos, the Forbes, The New York Times, and the Googles of the world. WordPress and other platforms make it easy to create good looking sites that used to cost tens of thousands to create. Chances of creating a reputable website off of fake news are low, but so is the opportunity cost.
The second reason why fake news exists is due to the enablers. More specifically: Facebook. Facebook has almost two billion users each day who waste about an hour of their lives on their platform. Facebook is the largest, most engaged social media platform in the world. Fake news creators know that people who spend lots of time on Facebook are often lonely, highly impressionable people who are looking for validation and a way out of their misery. Since misery loves company, negative fake news does very well.
From the fake news creator’s perspective, if he can spend $1 on advertising to make $1.10 in advertising revenue off a bogus article, he’ll do it all day long until marginal cost exceeds marginal revenue. If you are a skilled fake news creator, sometimes you can spend $1 to make $2 in revenue, which is an absolute goldmine until arbitrage whittles away all profits.
Paying for clicks is what paid marketing is all about. Based on my experience consulting for various marketing departments who regularly spent $50,000 – $200,000 a month on online marketing, Facebook has the highest return on investment in paid marketing, much more so than Google Adwords, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
The reason? Facebook knows more about you than every other platform because you’re spending the most amount of time clicking and sharing on their platform. They track all your behavior and know everything you like and do. Therefore, an advertiser can target their ideal consumer much more granularly, e.g., a get rich quick scammer can target an insecure guy in massive credit card debt who constantly posts selfies of himself with things he cannot afford.
I’ve spoken to many engineers at Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google about how easy it is to stop fake news from running on their platforms, and they all said it is very easy to do. All Facebook has to do is create a new screening algorithm and employ a team to randomly vet the output of these algorithms before articles are advertised on other people’s news feeds. Sure, they won’t catch all fake news, because “good” fake news almost seems like real news, but they’ll certainly reduce the number of fake news articles on their platform.
Ask yourself why there is no fake news on your LinkedIn feed compared to all the garbage on Facebook. The first reason is because LinkedIn doesn’t allow fake news. The second reason is because LinkedIn’s members won’t stand for fake news. They’ll actively report a fake news article and ruin the reputation of the fake news creator/poster. In other words, the quality of users is quite different.
Don’t think for one second a company with over $30 billion in revenues can’t do more to squash fake news on their platform. Even if you are worth millions or multi-billions, the desire for more money is often too strong to allow a person to do the right thing. . . .
Fake news is all about taking advantage of impressionable people in order to make more money. Thank goodness I’m not in the business of reporting the news because that is a never ending grind. But thank goodness there is fake news because it allows media people who build a brand based on substance to get ahead in the long run. . . .
The creators of fake news come from all over the world due to low barriers to entry. Geoarbitrage makes earning money online from a poorer country much more attractive. If all you have to do is make $417 a month in Macedonia ($5,000 per capita GDP) to replicate the $4,416 purchasing power a month in the United States ($53,000 per capita GDP), you’ll absolutely be drawn to the fake news business. Fake news headlines need to stir emotion, usually the negative kind that makes you rage.
I have to admit that I learned a whole lot more about #fakenews than I ever knew before I wrote this blog post. May we all take our online viewing a lot more seriously as there is a lot of #fakenews out there, and unscrupulous folks are not only manipulating us, but they are getting rich off of us, too. . . .
And you shall know the truth . . .
And the truth . . .
Shall make you free . . . (John 8:32)
YouTube video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:
I had to smile when I found the above picture to include on this blog post. People pleasing is an epidemic that nobody really likes, but many people are affected by it in varying degrees. Women especially tend to fall victim to it (see article titled, “How Women Can Overcome People-Pleasing and Perfectionism,” by Sharon Martin, LCSW, published in PsychCentral.com in November 2016). Another article titled, “Field Guide to the People Pleaser: May I Serve as Your Doormat?” by Elizabeth Svoboda, published in PsychologyToday.com, takes a closer look at what situations trigger our people pleasing behavior and why.
As a famous quote states, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” There are two authors attributed to that quote: (1) John Lydgate, (1370-1451) a Benedictine monk and a prolific writer of poems, allegories, fables and romances (source here); and (2) Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States (1861-1865), who paved the way for the abolition of slavery in America. When the briefer version of that quote came to my attention this afternoon (e.g., “you can’t please all of the people all of the time”), a song with a story behind it came to mind.
Back in 1974, Joni Mitchell, a Canadian singer/songwriter who settled in Southern California and wrote popular songs like “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Woodstock” (also sung by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), which became a counterculture anthem that helped define an era and a generation (source here), wrote a song titled “Free Man in Paris” (YouTube Video available at this link). Here are the opening lines to that song:
The way I see it, he said, you just can’t win it
Everybody’s in it for their own gain
You can’t please ’em all
There’s always somebody calling you down
The song is about a music agent/promoter who was a close friend of Mitchell’s in the early 1970s, and she describes him in the song during a trip the two made to Paris, France. While the music promoter is never mentioned by name, Mitchell describes how he worked hard creating hits and launching careers but finally finds some peace from it all while vacationing in Paris. Mitchell sings “I was a free man in Paris. I felt unfettered and alive. Nobody calling me up for favors. No one’s future to decide” (quote source here).
Granted, most of us will never be famous or find ourselves in the same shoes as that music agent/promoter, but we’ve all felt the stress of trying to please “all of the people all of the time” (which is impossible). Yet, some of the “them” out there often try to get us to conform at times and in various and sundry ways, but nobody usually ends up happy–not “them” and certainly not us, either. Well, the “them” might be happy if we keep catering to their wishes that disparage us.
I ran into a brief devotion titled, “People Pleasing Is Idolatry,” by Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, an evangelical megachurch in Lake Forest, California. Here is what he had to say on the subject of people pleasing:
In life, you only have to please one person. And that is your Creator. You only have to please the Lord, the one who made you and has a purpose for your life.
That simplifies life enormously! You only need one person’s approval: God’s.
Jesus said it like this in John 5:30: “I don’t try to please myself, but I try to please the One who sent me” (NCV). He said, “I’m living for an audience of one.”
You may have never realized this, but people-pleasing is a form of idolatry. The first commandment in the Ten Commandments is, “Don’t have any gods before me.” Anything you put before God becomes a god. So a boat could be a god. A career could be a god. A girlfriend could be a god. Golf could be a god. Anything that becomes number one in your life that isn’t God becomes your god.
The second commandment is, “Don’t make any idols.” Anything that replaces God in your life is an idol. Success can be an idol. Money can be an idol. Sex can be an idol. A relationship can become an idol. If that relationship to your girlfriend, your wife, your boss, or your friend is more important than God, it’s an idol.
When you are a people-pleaser, you have allowed something other than God to take first place. All of a sudden it becomes god in your life, because you are allowing the opinion of others to matters more than God’s opinion. What they think of you matters more than what God thinks of you. You don’t want to tell them you’re a Christian because they might think less of you. For example, you don’t want them to know you go to church because they may not like you. At that point, you have another god in your life. You have an idol.
You only have to please one person. Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (NLT). (Quote source here.)
There is only one remedy I know of to avoid being a people pleaser and that is learning to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in all we do. That is one of the most exciting things about being a Christian.
As believers, the Holy Spirit lives inside us. He desires to lead us in everything we do, from how we handle our finances, to the type of job we have, to the house we live in, to what we do or don’t do for others. He does not want to just be involved with the spiritual side of our lives; He wants to be involved with the natural side of our lives too.
I love what Romans 7:6 says: “But now we are discharged from the Law and have terminated all intercourse with it, having died to what once restrained and held us captive. So now we serve not under [obedience to] the old code of written regulations, but [under obedience to the promptings] of the Spirit in newness [of life].” What Paul is saying is, when we follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit, we experience newness of life—peace, joy and contentment—that cannot be experienced when we live under the “shoulds,” the “oughts,” the obligations and the expectations of being a people pleaser.
It All Comes Down to One Thing…
Motives… Why are we doing (or not doing) something? Are we being motivated by fear, personal gain or a sense of obligation? Are we being motivated by a desire to be in control, accepted or seen? These are all the wrong reasons for doing something. Our motive for doing anything should always be because God has prompted us and we want to please Him. Following the leading of the Holy Spirit means we are motivated by the fruits of the Holy Spirit, such as love, kindness and goodness. What the Spirit leads us to do or not do, He will give us a peace about.
Remember, whatever you and I do, if we will do it as unto the Lord, our lives and the lives of others will be blessed. If you help a family member, do it as unto the Lord. If you visit with relatives, do it as unto the Lord. If you work in the nursery at church, do it as unto the Lord. If you are getting dressed, washing the dishes, driving to work, cutting the grass, or going to the grocery store, do it as unto the Lord.
In other words, with everything you do, do it with the motive of pleasing God. The result will be a new measure of joy and enthusiasm in your life—even in the everyday, ordinary things.
I encourage you to shake off the way people think or feel about you and just begin to do what you feel God wants you to do. If you need strength in this area, and I think we all do, pray and ask the Lord for His grace to follow after His voice instead of the pressures and demands of others. That you may walk (live and conduct yourselves) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things… (Colossians 1:10). (Quote source here.)
It’s human nature to want people to like us, and the need to be accepted can be a powerful force. We become acquainted with this at an early age, learning who the most popular kids are in school and trying to determine how they became that way. Some people take the need to be accepted one step further, and abandon their values and what they know is right just to please others. But the Bible warns against being a people-pleaser.
In our relationships, trying to please others instead of God can twist us into knots and lead us into places where we know we shouldn’t be. It can cause us to compromise, just to fit in with the crowd. We trap ourselves by fearing confrontation, or what others may think of us if we stand firm in our faith. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25, NIV). We can either cater to others and their whims, or please our heavenly Father by doing what we know is right in His eyes, but we must choose.
Seeking others’ approval is like being on a treadmill, running, running, running, but never going anywhere. It causes stress, anxiety, and tension. Letting fear of people’s opinions bully us into doing this makes us miserable, and that’s not what God wants. During Jesus’ ministry, a number of influential people fell into the trap of worrying about what others would say and do if they listened to Him. “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42, 43).
Nothing productive can come from placing people’s opinions before God’s. His children are bound to step on a few toes, because they do everything to please Him. The world’s standards aren’t His standards. When we live according to His spiritual laws, we can expect some people to withhold their approval. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10, NIV).
Realize, however, that Believers can still receive goodwill and approval from others, as long as we remember that God’s approval comes first. “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7, AMP). It pleases Him when we live according to His will, and His favor often manifests through other people. It happened with Esther when she went before the king (Esther 2:15), and it can happen with us.
Relationships blossom when each person focuses on pleasing God, not others. He knows our need to be liked and accepted, so in addition to His liking and accepting us, He wants to bless each of our relationships. Who will you choose to please? (Quote source here.)
Dr. Henry Cloud, leadership expert, psychologist, and best-selling author, has devoted an entire chapter to the topic of people pleasing in his book, “Never Go Back: 10 Things You’ll Never Do Again” (2014). In an excerpt from Chapter 4 titled, “Never Again… Believe You Can Please Everyone,” he states (on pp. 65-68):
Reaching for the Possible, Not the Impossible
Successful people eventually go through a doorway that is essential to making their personal lives, as well as their professional lives, work: they realize that they do not have to please everyone or have everyone like them. In fact, part of what fuels that realization is the bigger realization that not only do we not have to please everyone, we can’t–even if we wanted to. It is impossible.
The reality is that everyone likes something different, has different agendas, tastes, interests, beliefs, and experiences. It is literally impossible to make everyone happy, even within your closest circle of friends. You are going to like and choose some things that some people won’t like or choose. That is reality. Basically the only way to avoid upsetting anyone is to believe, say, or do nothing at all. Not a good option. Once you realize that, and really, really get it, something happens.
You give up what is impossible,
and begin to focus on what is good.
Once you get that it truly is impossible to please everyone, you begin to live purposefully. You begin to play offense. You start spending your time and energy on things that bring meaningful results, rather than on the impossible goal of making everyone else happy. Spending energy to get results is “playing offense.” A nice thing about playing offense is that your fruitfulness will actually please people who allow you to be you, provided you are pursuing truly good and fruitful things. The ones who want you to be or do something other than what you are cut out for won’t always be pleased–but when we understand our end goal, to do good, this matters a little less.
And once you begin to play offense, you’ll discover the difference between playing offense and being offensive or offended. Some will take offense at your not doing what they like or want; but that’s the time you need to stand firm, knowing that you can’t please everyone. As we used to say on the golf course, “Every shot makes somebody happy.”
In a memorable movie scene, a son makes a life decision that his father does not like. His father says indignantly, “How could you do this to me?”
The son looks at him and says, “Dad, I am not doing this to you. I am doing this for me.” Big difference. He was not being offensive, he was playing offense, doing what he was called to do. He realized that he was not being offensive nor was he offended because his dad did not approve.
Choices Always Divide
Successful people realize that just because someone is unhappy with them does not require that they give up their purpose, fold their cards, or change. They realize that making some people unhappy is just part of the deal–and they keep going. I once heard Tony Blair say that when you realize that every decision divides, it really helps. It is just part of life. When you turn to the right, there will be some who want you to go to the left, and vice versa. It is the nature of making choices. When we accept that every decision divides, we quit trying to do the impossible, i.e., pleasing everyone, and we begin making the right choices, knowing that our choices will divide.
Psychological research and experience tell us that people-pleasing is not a formula for happiness or success. Happy people do not compare themselves to others or overly concern themselves with others’ opinions of them. They are directed from the inside–their personal values and convictions and staying true to themselves is an inner compass they will not violate. Research shows that people with intrinsic motivations–motivations that come from their own hearts–are the successful ones. The people who reach goals are the ones who do what they themselves have decided to do, from their own hearts, not because of pressure from others. The Bible agrees with the research when it says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, HCSB). Our hearts and God guide us, not the opinions of others.
This does not mean that successful people ignore correction and input from others. Far from it… The most internally directed people are the most open to feedback. Why? Because they do not fear it. They welcome it and use it to become better directed–internally. When it is good, they make the feedback part of them, which is way different from trying to live up to the expectations of others. As they make changes based on feedback, they are not trying to please the ones who provided the feedback; they are trying to become better versions of themselves.
It turns out that seeking people’s approval is one of the things that God warns us about over and over. Proverbs 29:25 says that “the fear of man is a snare.” Paul says that if he were seeking the approval of men, he would no longer be a servant of Christ (see Galatians 1:10). Jesus unpacks this further and gives us a stronger warning, in the strongest language: “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you.” (Luke 6:26a, NIV). (Quote source: “Never Go Back,” Chapter 4, pp. 65-68.)
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, people pleasing is epidemic, and we all tend to do it for whatever reasons; however, as we can see from the articles above, it is very detrimental not only to us but to others, too. So the next time we are tempted to try to please someone out of fear or just to get along, stop and think about what God would have us do in that situation, and remember . . .
Fearing people is a dangerous trap . . .
But trusting the Lord . . .
Means safety . . . . (Prov. 29:25 NLT)
YouTube Video: “Warrior” by Steven Curtis Chapman: