Posts Tagged ‘sin’

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”

I Don’t Drink, Don’t Smoke…but Not Why You Think

I’m not a big drinker and I’ve never tried so much as a puff of a cigarette. I haven’t said much about all this because what I have come to see is that my Position on drinking and smoking is less about Principle and more about Propensities.

To put it another way, I don’t drink much or smoke at all because I think if I did more of the one and even tried the other, well, I think I’d like it. Too much.

What I share here as to my reasons is very personal and not meant to point a finger at anyone else. For all I know, I’m the only person who’s had such little experience with substances yet craves them something fierce.

Somehow though, I keep feeling like it is something I need (want?) to share. And, you know, I’m on the internet now and my life is an open book anyway.

Over time I have had Good Reasons not to Do Substances. When I was underage, both were, of course, Illegal. As I dabbled in fundamentalist Christian thought, it was rather convenient to forego these substances because I was taught they were Sinful. And regardless of one’s age there are certainly Risks involved.

But those Reasons have faded over time. I’m old enough now that they are Legal, I no longer universally see their use as a Sin Issue, and I know plenty of people who are relatively Responsible about occasional enjoyment of these substances from time to time.

What remains for me personally a Stumbling Block about drinking and smoking though is the Addictive Nature of alcohol and tobacco because I sense in my body the very real and present possibility of Getting Hooked.

I have just enough sorrows that are just enough exacerbated by my stupid depression that I want to Drown Them All. Alcohol especially would be soooo easy…so easy.

My husband picked up a case of beer the other day and he put a few bottles in the fridge.

High Life?

Every time I so much as see the bottles there when I open the fridge, I feel a rush, a craving, a longing…a desire to Drown All The Everything. I want to grab a bottle and feel it course through me.

But I know me…and I know that times I’ve given into that a little, I’ve wanted to keep giving into it.

In this one area of my life, my tendency to Think Too Much has been a benefit to me. My self-awareness of how much I want to indulge has always nagged me enough to stop drinking before I’ve had too many and not even try smoking.

This part is delicate, so I want to tread lightly here, but I also have family history that stands as a warning sign to me. I know that these Propensities can run in families, so I have been especially Vigilant in my own life.

I don’t claim some moral high ground for my choices in these matters. If anything, I feel somehow weaker than others that I can’t just have one drink without Overthinking Every Sip.

But knowledge is power, and I do indeed know myself on this matter which is why I don’t drink and I don’t smoke.

How I am Fallen, Yet Bold to Stand

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My mind is cluttered today with a burning issue. A clever thought would be to write about what is burning on my mind, right?

Except, no.

You see, I keep putting myself out here online and I try to be honest and vulnerable, but there are still things I hold back.

Dear internet, I don’t tell you everything, but I hope we can still be friends.

Maybe I could trust you with this but I’m not ready yet.

And maybe one day I will tell you more.

Then again, maybe I won’t.

You see, there is this thorn in my side, my besetting sin, my great downfall in life, that I don’t dare bring to the bright lights of the big internet. I don’t dare.

I alluded to it in my The Home of the Brave post at Life & Liberty. And, as noted there, I have people in my life that I can talk to about it. So, I am not alone in facing this demon.

But this is an awfully ugly demon. I would say it is even uglier than my pride, about which, dear internet, you were very gracious when I admitted to it.

But the costs of sharing about this one are too great. I find it wisest and best to keep this one more guarded.

And it all sounds so horrifying to say it like this. Oh internet, there’s this one thing that I won’t tell you because it’s so awful—because I’m so awful.

And I do often feel like if people really knew this about me then I would lose a lot of respect.

But here’s the thing, even this, my greatest failing, this does not define me.

I don’t say that cavalierly, as if, hey, it’s no big deal, I’m not that bad.

Because I am that bad.

It’s just that I know, I trust, I believe that my God is bigger and better than all the bad I am.

One of the times I come back to again and again in my spiritual life as proof that God is bigger than my mess is the time God was with me in the muck. I was waste-deep in my own folly, but God was there when no one else could hear. God got me out of the muck when no one else could help me.

And I know, I trust, I believe that his goodness in and through me is my true destiny.

And so, I talk with my God and those trusted others about this great struggle. And with God’s help, I work through it, sometimes around it, and I hope to grow from it over time.

Meanwhile, I yield to God’s love for me, I receive his goodness, and I live into my belovedness. I come to him, feeling flawed and fallen, and I let him lift me up.

He sets me on my feet, bold to stand, bold to speak and write and serve and show his love to others.

And I pray this for you too, that whatever drags you down in life, makes you feel scared to even mention, I pray that you will experience God’s bigness and goodness and your forgiveness and belovedness in him.

3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed

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When you’re facing a challenge and are ready to talk about it with a trusted friend, it can help to be clear about the kind of challenge you’re facing. Identifying the type of challenge can also help you be clear about the kind of help you’d like.

A classic dilemma in my life has been when I’m dealing with a disappointment and what I really need is just a listening ear. But if I’m not careful, all of a sudden I will get unsolicited advice from a well-intentioned friend who is in problem-solving mode.

I’ve identified at least three different major categories of challenges that we may face and the types of responses that are most likely to be helpful for each. I will deal with each of these in more detail in future posts, but briefly these are:

  1. Situations beyond our control: This can include anything from a major crisis (like the loss of a loved one) to an everyday emotional blow (like getting overlooked for something we really wanted to do). When things happen that we cannot control, oftentimes our emotions are high. Because we may not even know what all we’re feeling or why we’re feeling it, it is not a time for decisions. When we share about these types of situations, we most need someone who will engage with us in active listening mode.
  2. Sin issues: Unfortunately, sin is real and we’re all guilty of it more often than we like to admit. But sins that we hide have a way of compounding, increasing temptation and causing even more harm. When something we have done or something we have failed to do is holding us captive, we can always talk directly with God about it in prayer. Still, talking about it with a fellow Christian can help us unburden our hearts and minds. When we need to share in this way, it is most helpful to have someone who is willing to fully hear our confession and remind us of God’s love and grace.
  3. Practical dilemmas:If a challenge doesn’t fit the other two types above, it may be something for which advice is appropriate. Sometimes the challenges that we face in life are “nuts and bolts” issues that we cannot seem to resolve on our own. Sometimes we’re too close to a project or task and we need a second opinion. When we share these kinds of concerns what we most need is a friend with experience or expertise in that area who can enter problem-solving mode with us.

The more aware we are of the kind of challenge we’re facing, the better we can get the kind of help we need when we share. Hopefully these descriptions can help you direct how and with whom you share about particular challenges.

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.)

4 Simple Reasons Talking About Hard Stuff Can Enhance Your Life

Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend
What an Active Listener Does & Doesn’t Do

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