This past Friday my wife and I procured that labels of greedy, materialistic, super-consumerist, selfish, and un-Christian. This was a result of our choice of going out to do some shopping on Black Friday instead of indulging ourselves in another slothful day of gluttony at home (instead, I did that on Saturday!). Granted, these titles were not directed strictly at either one of us; rather, they came down upon us through blanket statements made on various social medias. Not once did I see something to the effect of, “If you are Black Friday shopping today, be safe, be patient, and remember to wear a smile!” Instead, most cyber-reflection seemed to come from a self-assumed authoritative position of Lording superiority over followers and friends.
Of course, there are some very ugly aspects to Black Friday. The media loves to showcase the herds of people standing in line for twelve hours to be first in line for a $299 42-inch, flat-screen television. Stories are spotlighted such as a person who uses pepper-spray to fend off other potential shoppers rushing for their item. In no way do I defend these actions or attitudes.
On the other hand, there are other facets to Black Friday than many simplistic blanket judgments offer. For starters, Black Friday has become a family event for my wife and me. Until I met my wife, I had never been Black Friday shopping. In her family, it is tradition. Being some of the most financially savvy people I know, her family loves it. And I have loved spending that time with them.
Black Friday is also good for the economy – something that cannot be ignored in the current climate of our country. I am not blind enough to say that Black Friday will solve all of our nation’s financial woes, but it doesn’t further the problems. And it does it in a way that is more helpful to my wallet.
For example, I do not do a lot of shopping for myself throughout the year. (That’s the kind of super-consumerist I am.) I don’t buy a lot of clothes. Most of what I have comes through birthday and Christmas gifts or is purchased by gift cards I receive. I am unwilling to pay $65 for a new dress-shirt. But when that dress shirt is 40% off on Black Friday and I have a $30 coupon I can use on top of that, I am very willing to pay $10 for a new dress shirt.
I have found that Black Friday helps me practice good stewardship. I am able to do a lot of Christmas shopping early and for much cheaper prices. This allows me to save more money and in turn use it to support missions, to buy gifts for underprivileged children, and to offer gas money to a friend struggling to find finances to get home for Christmas. The time spent shopping for gifts on this vacation day saves me time later that can then be dedicated to the ministry I do at church.
I was encouraged by this facebook post by a friend on Black Friday, pointing toward the benefit of stewardship on this day: “I am not usually a Black Friday shopper, but our Giving Tree kids requested a couple of items that were on sale. Saved more than enough to pay for the helmet to go with the scooter--I love it when shopping and stewardship collide!”
Another personal benefit I have found on Black Friday is that it teaches me patience and generosity. Sure, the lines can sometimes be long. Traffic can be bad. This gives me an opportunity to be patient with others. I often let others go in front of me in line or take the closer parking spot that would have made my walk much shorter. It also gives me a chance to offer some encouragement to workers who have been going since 12AM, 4AM, 6AM, etc. Here is an example of one conversation I had at a register this past Friday:
Me: Thanks for working today. How long have you been here?
Worker: Since 4AM. It’s been a long day!
Me: Yeah, I’m sure it has. I hope it goes quickly and you can get home and rest well.
Worker: Thanks! Yeah, I’ve got just a few more hours.
Me: Well, we really do appreciate you being here for us today, even though I know you’d probably rather be elsewhere. Thanks so much for what you are doing. May God bless you greatly over this Thanksgiving and Christmas season!
Worker: Thanks! You too!
Sure, it’s nothing big, but I feel like I was able to offer some encouragement to someone who would be out there working regardless of my presence or not.
Honestly, for the most part, I find most people to be jovial and encouraging on Black Friday. There are those bad apples that get all the attention, but by no means is that the vast majority. The friendliness often lends itself to good conversation while waiting in line. This past Friday I was able to ask a mother and her daughter if they had a church they attended. It turned out they were members of a Methodist church in town, so we were able to talk about some of the upcoming worship opportunities at our churches. That’s not a conversation I usually have with people at the mall.
Though these are all some of the benefits I have found for shopping on Black Friday, by no means is my purpose to make an apology of Black Friday, convincing everyone that they should participate in the day. I will admit that the day is full of consumerism and materialism, but so is every other day of the year.
My purpose is actually pretty simple and has nothing to do with Black Friday at all. The true point of my writing could be summed up in a simple four-word phrase – “Think before you tweet.” Or post. Or comment. Or whatever social media you use.
Many of my views on Black Friday could easily be erroneous. It is something I commit to keep in prayer. But I can honestly say that the judgment I saw on social media throughout Black Friday troubled my heart greater than anything I experienced while out in the consumerism of Black Friday. Perhaps as Christians we often approach social media as an opportunity to be prophetic. If so, exercise caution. I have found many of these “prophetic” statements to address superficial issues through generalized terms, causing the writer to appear as a self-proclaimed expert. There is often a much deeper-rooted problem to be addressed and, honestly, social media will not sufficiently do it.
Instead, I offer the suggestion to allow social media as a chance to enter the lives of others, and allow them to enter yours. I would have gladly welcomed a tweet on Black Friday that said, “Enjoying the time relaxing at home with family today. Praying that God will find good ways to bless those who cannot enjoy the day and have to work.” I think this is very different than saying, “Black Friday shows the evil consumerist heart of America.”
Maybe I’m wrong and being over-simplistic myself. Regardless, I pray that we can all take time to think through the multiple facets of whatever subject we approach through social media, addressing it with both careful insight and wisdom.