Posts Tagged ‘Failure’

Why Bad News Sells

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News travels fast in our world these days. And bad news travels fastest of all. And as quickly as we hear the bad news we’re ready to anathematize whoever is responsible!

It’s handy, you know. We can look at the perpetrator of some heinous crime and say how horrible he or she is, advocate for the most strict penalty, and go back to our regularly scheduled lives feeling better about ourselves.

“I would never do that!” we insist, whatever “that” may be.

Another white person unleashes unspeakable harm against a person of color? “We’re past racism in America.” “It’s an isolated incident.” “I have plenty of friends of other races than my own.”

Another celebrity pastor ‘falls from grace’ in an affair? “Those Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites anyway.” “I never trusted a word that preacher said.”

There’s always something about the ‘newsworthy’ cases that makes the villain clearly in another whole category–perhaps having mental problems, maybe less than human, or maybe evil incarnate.

But none of the evil-doing in our world happens in a vacuum.

An act of racial terrorism doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere. Somebody doesn’t just wake up one day and suddenly decide that people of a certain color need to be eliminated. There’s a history in how the person’s ideas about race have been shaped over time in both conscious and unconscious ways.

A marriage doesn’t get broken in a day. Clothes don’t just fall off by surprise, and people don’t just happen to wind up in bed together. There can be any number of vulnerabilities in a person’s life or in a marriage that contribute to the ease with which a partner becomes unfaithful.

In a way, I wish that categories of “good” and “evil” could be so simple as just to say “I’m good and that guy over there who did that heinous thing is evil.”

I mean, I spit-shine my halo every day. Don’t you see how good I am?

But it’s a lie.

The people of our world aren’t so easily divided into good and bad.

You know the country that raised up that racial terrorist? I live there too and so do 315-million or so other people.

The vulnerabilities that contribute to the temptation to look in the wrong places for love? I am not exempt from those. Nobody is.

Any other evil you want to mention? It would be folly for any of us to say we wouldn’t, couldn’t ever even so much as think about it.

But it’s worse than folly. It’s actually counter-productive, potentially destructive even.

If I claimed to be above anything even remotely racist, then I would be absolved from ever taking responsibility to bridge racial divides. If I pretended to be holier than thou with respect to marriage, I would not see the need to take the very concrete steps I do take to protect my marriage.

When we distance ourselves from evil, as if we’re above it, and we anathemetize those we think of as “evil-doers” we give evil greater chance to take root in our hearts and minds.

But looking more squarely at subtler forms of evil and recognizing a downward spiral before it starts can be tremendous opportunities for growth for ourselves, our relationships, and the communities of which we are a part.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to just pretend to be good. I want to submit myself to scrutiny so that I can confess what in me is not affirming love and life. It is only in that honesty that I am truly open to becoming more fully loving.

It’s risky to have that kind of honesty–to admit that I’m not all good, that I don’t actually have a halo. But to me it is a far better thing to examine what in me is amiss rather than look to anathematize that guy on the news. Maybe then, I can be part of the solutions for our world rather than contribute to the problems.

It may not make the headline news to live this way. But being in the news is a precarious place anyway.

Editor’s note: This post was previously titled “The Measure by Which We Anathematize”

Heeding the Signs

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Oh, there are signs. We see them. We know what they say, what they mean. We even know they’re right and helpful. But do we heed them?

There has been some road construction on the highway that goes by our house. I drove through it a number of days ago.

There were signs up that warned of “Loose Gravel.” And indeed, when I drove through the construction on the first day, I had to drive very slowly on account of said loose gravel.

On the second day of construction, I got in my car to drive into town. As I was driving down the driveway toward the road, I noticed one of those “Loose Gravel” signs. I recalled how loose the gravel had been the day before.

I drove right up to the road and paused in my driveway to wait for a break in traffic.

Once I finally had my chance, I did as I’m used to doing and I pounced on the accelerator. You see, our driveway is not level with the roadway; we have a steep climb right at the end of our driveway to get up onto the road. I have to really give it the gas to get up and out.

But only, this time, when I gunned it, my tires didn’t grip right…because they had gotten caught up on some…loose gravel.

And I thought, gee, I sure wish someone would’ve warned me about that gravel being all loose like that. And all at once I remembered the construction and I looked up and noticed that “Loose Gravel” sign once again.

Oh, someone had warned me. But I forgot. I knew there was loose gravel. I had even seen that sign just minutes before my tires spun out.

The same type of thing happens in my spiritual life more often than I’d like to admit.

Just today something a friend wrote reminded me of a lesson that the Lord has been trying to impart to me repeatedly over the last several months. And every time I get these kinds of reminders about that particular lesson, I say, “Yes, Lord. I remember you telling me that before.”

I know the lesson pretty well on one level. I get what the Lord is trying to tell me. I know it is right and it is for my own good.

I hear the reminders and I know they’re true.

But then? Then, I forget.

All at once I forget and I revert back to my old ways, to what I’m used to doing instead of heeding the Lord’s message to me.

The old ways are so ingrained and it’s hard not to do it those ways. I mean, like putting the pedal to the metal to get out of my driveway, I do what I’ve always done in my life as well. I do what has worked for me in the past even when God has showed me clear signs to do it a new way.

I know I’m not perfect at heeding the signs Lord, but I thank you for providing them so generously. I do see them; I need your strength to obey.

How Fretting Works Against Me

One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.

–“Master Oogway” in Kung Fu Panda

I’m gleaning wisdom on my travels. Today I’m reflecting on how fretting rarely gets me what I want and often gets me the total opposite.

On this road trip I’m sleeping in new places every night or two. Each place takes some getting used to–you know, figuring out where to place my duffle bag for easy access, keeping track of light switches, and, of course, making certain to have a good place to charge my cell phone.

The hotel we’re in now has a plug by my side of the bed, but no bedside table. I figured out though that I can plug the phone in and then balance it on the headboard.

This system was working fine for me. But at one point I wanted to take my phone off the charger to check messages. I thought to myself, “I better be careful not to let it slip behind the headboard.”

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Then with exaggerated care, I started to remove the phone from the charger. Somehow my ginger touch was just what it took to nudge the phone right behind the headboard. I grabbed for it and succeeded only in wedging it further down between the headboard and the wall to which it is attached.

The eventuality I was trying to avoid became my reality.

And really, isn’t that just the way of things?

It’s so annoying. Because really, it would be so much nicer if my excessive caution actually paid off. I mean, for all the energy I put into fretting, you would think it would have a better return on investment.

But that’s the thing with fretting–I can invest all I want in it, but it’s always a gamble and ultimately the house always wins.

I lose out on so much with a preoccupation on everything that can go wrong. I know I can take reasonable precautions, but fear-based control just doesn’t ever, ever pay off in the way I want it to.

Plus, as with my cellphone & headboard incident, all too often my fretting only makes my problems worse.

Maybe it’s what they call a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or the old “what you think about you bring about” adage applies. Or it’s a Murphy’s Law thing. I don’t know what you want to call it.

I just know that most of what’s good in my life has happened because I somehow got past my fretting to take a chance.

I can worry myself right into shutting down and end up shutting out the wonderful opportunities that await me. Or I can take a deep breath and relax into something beyond my wildest imagination.

I’m against the effects of fear and fretting in my life; I want more often to see how that breathing and relaxing bit can work for me instead.

The Fragile Bond of Mother & Son

My son had a fall today and it was a sobering moment.

We had been goofing off when he fell backwards and hit his head. All I could do in that moment was to completely freeze because if I had reached for him as he was falling, the shift of my body would have made him fall harder.

I just waited and pictured the worst in my mind.

You know how they talk about people having their whole lives flash before their eyes? Well, in that moment when my son was free-falling, his whole life flashed before my eyes.

And, of course, what that meant was my entire career as a mother flashed before my eyes. And I thought about all the ways that I have let my child down.

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I can never quite decide if this portrait my son drew of me is flattering or frightening.

I’m pretty sure he doesn’t see it that way. He got up and let me comfort him and we both vowed not to try that stunt again.

He was a bit stunned and his head was a little sore, but he was okay. Nothing was broken and he was still alive and able to speak, hear and all that.

The worst case that I imagined had not occurred, not even close.

He was okay.

But I sobbed, uncontrollably.

I sobbed over what might have happened–that I might have lost my child in a fall that I was partly responsible for.

I sobbed thinking about the time when he was a babe in arms and we both fell and I almost lost him then too.

I sobbed thinking about the times that I am cranky or cross with him even when he has done nothing to deserve my bad attitude.

And I sobbed thinking of all the times when I have put him off when he has wanted me to play with him because I just wanted to finish writing or reading whatever I was working on.

And I sobbed thinking about how hard it was for me to bond with him when he was first born because my postpartum depression put such a whammy on me.

And I sobbed worrying if my bond with my son will be healthy and strong as he gets older.

And I just wanted to hold him and pray and hope that we will be okay.

And now, he is waiting for me to finish writing this so we can spend some time together…I want to make it count, because I really do love that kid more than I can say.

4 Simple Reasons Talking About Hard Stuff Can Enhance Your Life

20131030-194041.jpgIf there’s one thing I’ve gotten a bit of a knack for it is admitting that I don’t have everything all figured out. I’ve become rather at ease identifying and discussing challenges in life.

These challenges can be anything from disheartening health concerns to outright sin. Sometimes challenges we face are beyond our control, and sometimes we bring them on ourselves.

I’ve tried to be honest about some of my challenges here on the blog. They’re part of my resume as someone who seeks to live with integrity and I think it is important to share about them as part of the total package of what it means to live out our faith.

I’m not saying everyone should get a blog to blab out their baggage and angst to the interwebs. But if that’s helpful to you, then go for it.

More importantly though, I believe firmly that we need people in our lives–people that we trust–with whom we share about our challenges.

Here are four reasons I think talking about challenges in life can be of great benefit:

  1. We’re not alone. The more I talk about my challenges, the more I find solidarity with others. While each person’s challenges may be unique to their situation, I find that the reality of hardship is universal.
  2. Sharing feels better. Denial of challenges can eat us up, steal our joy and keep us from experiencing all the fullness of life in Christ Jesus. By contrast, talking about challenges with someone trustworthy can be a great relief.
  3. Talking is a constructive outlet for concerns. Secrets have a way of festering and fueling negative thoughts and behaviors. Talking about challenges with someone trustworthy gives us a safe place to let it out.
  4. The truth sets us free. When we’re saddled under the weight of our challenges it is hard to be fully present with others. Sharing our burdens can free us up to see and respond to needs in the world around us.

This is why I continue to talk about hard things on my blog and in my personal relationships. I hope you too will find strength and hope by sharing about your challenges with someone you trust.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these other posts about “How Christian Community Helps us Face Challenges.” (Please click the titles below to go to the posts.)

 

Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend

3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed
What an Active Listener Does & Doesn’t Do