A Culture of Fear

I generally take Tuesdays off. I might log into my classroom to answer any questions that students have posted, but beyond that I don’t touch it. On my days off I generally do a fair amount of reading. Grading papers all day, every day is not conducive to reading (either scholarly or otherwise), and so on days when I am working I generally have to do what reading I intend to actually complete before I start working. However, on Tuesdays, I can read all day if I want to (every so often I actually do). As part of my reading today I found this article. While I agree with the post as a whole (though I do keep a facebook album of my nephew’s baby pictures, I’ll probably take it down (or at least make it unviewable) when they turn five or so. However, there is one specific point that she makes in the middle of her article that I think is particularly important to keep in mind.

We live in a culture that promotes fear. Every day we are told by various news outlets that crime rates are rising exponentially. Friends, churches, various celebrities, and recognized national speakers all warn us that we are in danger, or our children are in danger, or our homes are in danger. Commercials actually play a big part in this now. Security companies sell their services by warning us that, without their protection, our homes will be broken into (of course, I could just buy an ADT sticker, put it in my front window, and achieve much the same effect as actually hiring the company). Drug companies warn us that if we don’t take their new phramaceutical miracle we will inevitably die of a heart attack (of course, the warning that their drug might actually cause said heart attack is rushed to the point of being unintelligable). Facebook news feeds  and twitter are commonly filled with claims and articles (many of them easily falsifiable) that both infuriate and terrify us, such as the ‘scandal‘ a week or two ago concerning Costco’s ‘attack on Christianity‘ and the outrage from fearful Christians, which then sparked outrage in response from equally fearful liberals. Of course, when someone actually bothered to ask Caleb Kaltenbach (the pastor in question) what he thought, his response wasn’t directed at Costco. All of that hubub over a labeling error… it boggles the mind. Whether our response is to be outraged or to quail in the corner, the response is inspired by our fear of what the reported situation means.

However, much of this fear is utterly without any realistic foundation. Jennifer Doverspike (author of the article I mentioned at the beginning of this post) isn’t technically correct that our children are ‘safer than they’ve ever been’. Children in the mid-1950s enjoyed one of the lowest violent crime rates in US history, and they probably were a little bit safer (at least from criminals), but the intent of her message is perfectly accurate. We are fairly safe, our children are fairly safe. In the last 100 years the homicide rate (the near-universally recognized best indicator for violent crime rates) has remained fairly steady. At it’s lowest (the mid to late ’50s) the homicide rate was four murders per 100,000 citizens. At it’s highest (the early ’80s) it was a markedly increased 10 murders per 100,000 citizens. That’s right, in 1980, the most dangerous year in the past century, you had a 0.0001 chance of being murdered. Personally, I can see how that would terrify everyone. Really, I mean, the idea that I might be selected out of a crowd of 100,000 people is utterly terrifying. If you can’t tell, I’m being sarcastic.

Since the early ’80s violent crime rates have actually fallen drastically. They stayed high through the ’80s and early ’90s, then dropped in the mid ’90s, only to rise again. Then, in the early 2000s violent crime rates plummeted to a mere 6 murders per 100,000 citizens. Needless to say, this isn’t something that any of us should be overly terrified about. Now, obviously, local crime rates differ. At the moment, if you live in inner city Chicago, IL then you certainly have more reason to be cautious than people who live in Wake Forest, NC. However, in general our culture pushes us to an utter and abstract terror of everything that is not even remotely justified. Doverspike’s points about how we have let this fear affect our children are well founded (and, as I said above, I agree that we need to treat their online lives with a little less fear and a little more respect).

Instead of being sucked into a culture of fear, we should be exploring the nation we live in. (Oh, and by the way, I have actually lived in close proximity to drug dealers for an extended period of time. Sometimes they wanted to shoot each other, but I never found one who wanted to shoot me. This isn’t to say that drug dealers aren’t dangerous, but they don’t generally go around willy-nilly shooting potential clientele.) We should be exploring our neighborhoods, getting to know our neighbors, meeting people at local venues, and enjoying our lives. If we weren’t so busy being scared and then mad and then scared again, we might actually succeed in both finding meaning in life and sharing our faith with friends who don’t know much about it, rather than trying to ram it down the throats of strangers.

So, my point? Isn’t it obvious? Plato set out four virtues: Courage, Wisdom, Justice, and Temperance. As a culture we encourage none of these. Personally, I think it’s time to man-up.

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Assertiveness or Courage

I can’t say that I read a lot of blogs. I don’t actually read any religiously. However, I do read occasional posts from a variety of relatively random authors. A lot of the posts I do read then to be about dating and relationships (big surprise there), and I never quite know what to make of them. Everyone has an opinion. Period. Everyone has an opinion. Some people say one thing and some people say something completely different, and someone else says a third thing that has nothing to do with the other two. For instance, some people say that ‘a real man is assertive and he goes for what he wants’, other people say ‘a real man understands that no means no and he knows when to leave things alone’. I’m three-quarters of the way through a series of posts on what it means to be a ‘real’ man, and you may have noticed that I have said nothing about assertiveness or aggressiveness. This is because I am convinced that it doesn’t matter.

We often confuse assertiveness with courage, and they are not the same thing. When I finally get around to writing a post on character’s involvement in manhood (and I will), I’m going to point out that courage is one of the characteristics a man has. A man does not run from what scares him. He doesn’t hide in the corner, he doesn’t beg someone else to do it for him. However, this doesn’t mean that he is ‘assertive’ necessarily. Assertiveness is often essentially selfish. Today I read a post that said: ‘A real man knows what he wants and he goes for it’. This is a good example of assertiveness. However, this example also only takes into account the emotions and desires of the man himself.

A man is not free from fear, nor is he above fear. At the moment I have set the goal to have my application to Southeastern submitted by the end of the month. This is utterly and completely terrifying to me. I honestly can’t express how frightened I am. Simply in filling out the main application I almost broke down three separate times, overwhelmed by fear and doubt. I was convinced that I would be rejected, and that even if I wasn’t rejected that I’d fail miserably, and that even if I didn’t fail miserably that it wouldn’t matter in the long run. This process is more than uncomfortable. It is more than frightening. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure that I can do it again. However, I’m going to.

However, this does not mean that a man (that I) simply ‘know what I want and go for it’. Assertiveness on it’s own is not a good quality. War is assertive, rape is assertive, burglary is assertive, in fact there are many assertive actions that are fundamentally bad. A man can be assertive when it is necessary. He is not bound by fear and cowardice. However, a man is also respectful. Rudyard Kipling’s poem If here also has an excellent passage that is very helpful:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools

And see the things you gave your life to broken

And stoop, and build’em up with worn out tools

And also:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it all on one turn of pitch and toss

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breath a word about your loss

One of the most important aspects of real manhood is the willingness to persevere. This is not an insane, reckless optimism that simply says ‘it’ll work, it’ll work, it’ll work’. This is not a pestering or stalkish nature that says ‘maybe if I just ask her one more time’. A man knows when to stop, when to let well enough alone, and when to walk away (and when to run :P). However, a man holds within himself the enduring will to keep going. A man does not give up on the things that are truly important, but at the same time he lets those things that are not important fall to the wayside.

A man is wise and courageous. He may be assertive when it is needed, but he is also able to tell when assertiveness is not needed. That’s something I’m still working on.

Flowers

So… I may have done something stupid today. Of course, it could also be something awesome. It’s all kind of up in the air. Remember that young lady I mentioned (yesterday, I think… I don’t remember what I write in these things)… well, I sent her flowers today. Anonymously, of course… I’m still worried about making things awkward for her, and I’m worried about getting my heart broken again. I’m really not a fan of getting my heart broken. Here’s the thing, every time I pray about this lady (and I’ve prayed about her a few times) God tells me to ‘just love her’. He tells me not to worry about whether a relationship will come out of it, or whether she’ll like me, or whether my heart will get broken, but to just love her. In keeping with that idea, the flowers were anonymous, and I’m trying to keep in mind that I’m nothing more than her friend until she says differently. I’m not trying to win her heart. I’m not trying to seduce her. All I’m going to do is do my best to make her life better. I’m trying very heard to guard my own heart through all of this, not to get my hopes up or to fall in love or… anything like that really.

Honestly, I find the entire thing both exhilarating and terrifying in the extreme. I have no idea what she thinks of me, and I’m not sure that I’m really comfortable putting myself out there again. That honestly makes me wonder if I need to spend more time being intentionally single. Nonetheless, she’ll get the flowers in a couple of days, along with an encouraging note, and hopefully it will make her day a little bit better. Seriously though, flowers are expensive! I’m not going to say how much I dropped on this, but man… expensive.

Honestly, there is a part of me (a small part) who wants to ‘make sure I get my money’s worth’ here… whatever that actually means. The thought has crossed my mind that I spent all this money and I deserve something in return. It’s ridiculous, of course, she doesn’t owe me anything, and I honestly feel ashamed that the idea ever entered my head. I did this to make her life a little better, not to get something for myself. However, there is that selfish part of me that wants to get something for myself anyway. Honestly… that part of myself is pretty disgusting, and extremely exhausting. I’m really tired of him making everything about me, and that is one of the reasons that I’m trying very hard to keep my focus here on God. I keep telling myself, ‘just love her, don’t look for anything in return, just love her’. It’s harder than it sounds, which is kind of strange.

I have a number of friends who I care for deeply (heck, I was going to drive one of them to a town an hour away so that she could pick up a new ID), and with them I don’t have any trouble with expecting a return. It’s just not an issue. However, with a woman for whom I have feelings… it’s far too easy to do things in order to get things, and I don’t want to do that. I have no interest in manipulating the people that I care about, and that makes me wonder why it’s so easy for me to want to do exactly that.

Honestly, God still has a lot of work to do in me.

Lies, All Lies!

This afternoon I was overwhelmed by the crushing certainty that I am always going to be alone. I am old (well, comparatively to many of my friends) and still somewhat overweight, even though I exercise regularly and work hard not to overeat. I don’t make much money, and a lot of the time I still feel like I don’t have much to offer. I understand that it’s unlikely that I will ever marry a young, beautiful woman. Sometimes that hurts, and sometimes I’m honestly not sure that I want to. However, this emotional certainty that I would always be alone filled a part of my day with pain. It passed quickly enough, much like the majority of such lies, but left behind desires that I would rather not entertain, also much like the majority of such lies.

Life is often painful. We all have lies that we’ve built up over the years, lies that are buried deep in our psyche and help to form our fundamental self-image. These lies might come from old pains, from rejections, from childhood traumas… whatever. The lies that we believe can spring from any number of sources and none of them make those lies valid or true (they are two different things). I’ve often believed the lie that I have nothing to offer women, that I’m just not what women want, by citing the many rejections that I have under my belt. Honestly, this often seems like a valid defense for this lie, but sometimes I have to wonder. There have been times that this challenged my trust… honestly there are still times that it challenges my trust. Rejection can be very difficult to deal with. It can tear you apart quickly and easily, and sometimes that leaves you with little to hold on to. Enough rejection and it’s easy to start assuming that you will be rejected. This isn’t just true with women, but with every aspect of life. It’s easy to assume that you’ll be rejected at everything you do.

Honestly, I can count the number of times someone has tried to set me up on one hand. Heh, I used to ask some of my closer friends to set me up. I had one friend who used to tell me repeatedly that she ‘didn’t know anyone good enough for me’… I quickly took this to mean ‘I don’t know anyone on whom I’d inflict you’. The thing is this has more to do with me than it ever did with her… well, a little… honestly I’ve never been very sure that this particular friend likes me very much. I know that she loves me, but I’m not sure that she actually likes me. Still, it’s probably likely that this is more me than her also.

As I said, all of this has challenged by trust for God in the past, and it continues to challenge that trust. I still wonder if I’m going to be alone forever. I’m still not comfortable with that thought. I know that God should be sufficient. That I should be joyful in the midst of my doubt and in my loneliness. It’s still a challenge though. I am getting much better at rejoicing in the midst of pain, but this is still something of which I’m terrified. I even pointed out the other day that God told me to wait, that it wasn’t time yet for him to bring the right woman into my life. Of course, this all implies that there is actually reason to hope. Still, there are days when I trust and hope, and then there are days when I’m thoroughly terrified of being eternally alone.

I’m also just afraid of rejection in general. I finally started my application to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (for next fall) and, halfway through, was thoroughly convinced that there is no way they will let me in. I’m too old, I don’t do enough in the church, I don’t read enough, my grades are too low, I’m in too much debt, etc, etc, etc. I think about a hundred reasons why they would reject me ran through my head. Needless to say, I didn’t quite finish the application, though I got through more than half of it. Nonetheless, I knew that starting it would be difficult, this is why I started a full year before I hope to start. My goal is to have the application done my the end of the month, and then go from there. I’m terrified, and fairly certain that I won’t be able to hack it even if, by some miracle, they do let me in.

Here’s the thing though, with both woman and with seminary. I’ve been rejected… a lot… in both areas of my life, but God has grown me in the past seven years. Part of that growth has come through repeated rejections. Nonetheless, I know that if he wants me in seminary, then he will put me there, and I know that when he will put me there. It will probably take a miracle to get me back into school, and it will probably take a miracle for any woman to fall for me. However, God is in the business of miracles. It’s what he does, and he knows when best to perform them. So, all I can do is trust him and wait.

Fear

Fear is the mindkiller. I’ve always loved the prayer of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood from Frank Herbert’s Dune. It’s useful in many situations, but it is also a wonderful reminder that making decisions from fear is a bad idea, pure and simple. Nonetheless we make a lot of decisions based on fear. The fear of failing. The fear of rejection. The fear of being alone. The fear of dying. The fear of losing someone or something that we love. Rational fears, like a man standing in front of me holding a gun, and irrational fears, like toe-snipping crabs that fill the sand just under the incoming tide. We allow fear to rule our lives, and generally that fear is based on one thing: pain. Even the fear of loss (like the fear of a family member dying) is based on fear of the pain that loss will bring.

We fear known dangers such as drug-dealers, crazy snipers (I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers the DC sniper), terrorist attacks, rising living costs, and lower wages. We fear the unknown. Will the girl I want to ask out say yes or no? Will I get the job I want? Will anyone ever love me? Will I ever be able to pay off my student loans? We fear things that we have no real reason to fear like spiders (very few of which can actually do significant harm to an adult human), roaches, or rain. And we fear things that we have very real reason to fear. Nonetheless, it still comes back to fear. Will I allow myself to be ruled by fear, or will I exercise a little trust?

Admittedly, there is a valid argument that wisdom must at least listen to fear (the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord afterall). To live entirely without fear, without caution, and without reserve generally leads to an early grave. However, there is a difference between listening to fear and being ruled by fear. We are to display trust, and trusting God means following him even when I am afraid. This is not an easy thing to do in the best of times, it is certainly not easy when much of our culture (both left and right) is based on fear-mongering. If you want something new to be afraid of simply turn on the news. I promise some new threat is looming right around the corner. If that’s not enough, then start asking hard questions of yourself and find the very real fear that lies in challenging your beliefs. There is always an argument that can make you question even the most deeply held beliefs, and these are the arguments that we should face head on and explore until we have found understanding.

We can always find something to be afraid of and, if we allow it, that fear will rule our hearts like a tyrannical despot rules his nation. It will crush us, drive us to rash action, to foolish choices, and eventually either to destruction, to madness, or to both. There is a famous saying that the only thing we have to fear is this very fear that threatens to overwhelm us. I would wager that few of us know who to attribute this saying to (before I did a little research I would have mistakenly attributed it to John F. Kennedy), and I would wager much more that even fewer could tell where the quote come from or recite the entire quote itself.

In his first inaugural address in 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt (still one of my favorite presidents) said, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Roosevelt uttered these words in the midst of the greatest economic crisis that this nation has ever faced, and a humane crisis that one could argue rivaled the Civil War. Roosevelt called to a people, many of whom were jobless, homeless, and starving. In a time when people had many very real fears, Roosevelt called them to cast those fears aside and march together into the future.

He also said this, “Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for.” During a time in which many people had nothing, Roosevelt reminded them what they did have. He did not berate them for their fear, nor did he encourage them to believe that everything was alright, or even that it would be alright. In fact, he even called out the ‘foolish optimists’ who did. Instead, he reminded them of what they still had, and encouraged them to endure, and not only to endure, but to fight for a better world. Roosevelt was far from a perfect man, and he certainly was not a perfect president, but his words hold within them a truth that applies to all people in all times.

The key to overcoming fear is not to foolishly assume that the reasons for our fears aren’t valid. It is to see what we still have, and what we will still have even if the worst should come to pass. Christ commanded us to lay our burdens on him, to rely on God for our very sustenance, to put our eyes on him, instead of on the things of this world, and it’s something that I’m getting better at as I practice. My hope and my life lie in the hands of the father, and even if none of the things that I desire come to pass, even if all of the things that I fear come to pass, this will still be true. Thus, I have nothing to fear but to be driven by fear. Fear is the mindkiller.

Sources of Satisfaction

It’s amazing how easily we can shift our focus, our reliance, onto such a wide variety of things. When I first started this blog a few months back I really, truly didn’t want any followers. Seriously, go read some of my early posts. I was honestly and truly angry every time a new person followed the blog. It just plain made me mad, and I expressed that a few times. eHarmony has not been great for my self-esteem. Note that I used the term self-esteem there, not confidence… though I’m not sure that it’s been great for my confidence either. So far, the women who seem interested in me, I have no interest in, and the one’s I’m interested in have no interest in me. That’s often the way it goes though, isn’t it? I also passed on the chance to try asking T’Amber out again this afternoon… I think I had a good reason (she was on her way to a funeral and it just didn’t feel right), but I also have a feeling that there was a little bit of cowardice involved. I’d feel better about it if I was more worried about her feelings, and less worried about being rejected again. In other words, I think it was probably the right choice, but I’m not sure that I made it for the right reasons. I’m also coming down with something… still pretty much physically broken (though I found some yoga that I can do), needing less work for my health, but more work for my wallet, and I can’t bring myself to do a half-job on the assignments my students turn in.

So, all in all, while I’m not completely in the pits, I’m not entirely doing great right now. I’m trying to keep up a good attitude, but things are a little rough. That being said, a few minutes ago (right before I started writing) I found myself looking to see if I had any new likes or followers… trying to make myself feel good. I think this is understandable to a degree. It isn’t exactly a terrible thing to look to things of value or things that you do well to give a little boost, and it doesn’t mean that I’m comparing myself to anyone. I just kind of want to feel wanted at the moment, and I really don’t. I even just completely failed to cheer up a friend who’s having a rough day, something that I’m usually pretty good at. Still, like I said, it’s amazing how easily something can go from ‘just a thing’ to ‘a source of comfort, desire, happiness, confidence, etc’. I don’t know when this blog went from being just a journal to something that I take pride in and want people to see, and I have to wonder if the desire for people to see it has affected how honest I am. I think that I’m still being forthright… at least I’m not consciously trying to present myself in ‘this’ way or in ‘that’ way. Anyone who reads what I’ve written here can tell that I spend a lot of time moaning about my lack of a love life, and I still can’t really figure out why people keep following in the first place.

Nonetheless, it’s been a rough week for me. Everything above is a part of that, and I’m still dealing with some of the struggles that plagued me last Thursday and Friday. Not to nearly as great a degree. I haven’t sought anything out, but there have been a couple of times when my thoughts have gone to less than desirable places and stayed. A while back I wrote a post that started with the phrase ‘sometimes I just want to fuck’, and this is true. However, right now that isn’t my problem. Thinking about it honestly, lately I’ve been putting myself out there a good bit. eHarmony is a part of that, asking out T’Amber is a part of that, there’re a couple of other rejections that I don’t think have made the blog, and then the whole thing with the girl at my martial arts school on Monday… suffice it to say that I’ve been rejected a good bit, and more than anything else, at the moment I want to feel like someone that I might want might actually want me in return. Right now, at my core, I feel profoundly unwanted, and I probably need to have a long conversation with God about that. I think anything else is probably just a temporary fix.

I’m not sure if I’m ready for that yet. As I write this I can see how everything over the past week has worked together to bring me to this point. This point of specific dissatisfaction, frustration, fear, and pain, and I know that what I need to do is run to God and beg him to make it better. However, I’m not actually sure that I can do that at the moment. I know that I should, there’s a part of me that even wants to, but there’s another part of me that is afraid… of losing something… of sacrificing something… that God won’t be there maybe… I’m not even really sure what I’m afraid of. I just know that I’m afraid.

So, I’m going to stop writing about it, and I’m going to take a long, hot shower and take some time to talk to God about all of this. Hopefully he’ll have a solution.

Bovary Moments

I’ve started this post three different times in three different ways. I’ve been trying to think of something to write all day. I was going to write about the meaning of success, the pursuit of excellence, and the importance of being good enough. I was going to write about a book that I’m reading and the moderate depression that it’s thrown me into. And I was going to write (yet again) about how sometimes I still feel like I’m always going to be alone… and sometimes want to be… both of those have something to do with the book I’m reading. The book is Madame Bovary and it’s pretty much making me hate women. The entire book is about a spoiled, selfish, flighty woman who doesn’t know what she wants, doesn’t know what she has, and hurts everyone around here (especially her husband and daughter) because of it.

My body isn’t what it used to be. Well… I shouldn’t actually say that because I’m probably pretty close to the best shape of my life. I think last year was probably the best shape of my life, which is kind of sad. Still, I hiked about eight miles today and by the time I got home both my hips and my knees felt like they were going to give out. I really needed the hike though. It gave me time to think, and enough perspective to realize that, all to often, I am Bovary. I can be a moody bastard, and all too often I’m selfish and don’t think about others in the pursuit of whatever fancy takes me. I truly hope that I’m not as bad as Madame Bovary is in the novel, but I’m certainly no saint.

I tend to be prone to extremes. I was once about two days worth of sharpening away from cutting out my eyes with a sharp, sterilized spoon. I had a roommate at the time that inadvertently talked me out of that (thankfully). I’ve also given actual consideration to making myself a eunuch, and before I converted I made multiple suicide attempts. I liked to walk in front of cars on highways… only God knows how many accidents I caused. Needless to say, this very Bovarylike behavior is not the extent of my similarities with this fictional slattern for whom I am filled with loathing.

In my extremes I tend to flip back and forth between believing that only the best passes muster, and saying ‘fuck excellence! I just want to be good enough’. I will say that I don’t think we give enough credit to good enough. The vast majority of us never reach good enough in much of what we do, and it’s certainly evident that, in our quest for excellence, we as a nation have abysmally failed to reach good enough in many areas, welfare and education two of the most outstanding.

That being said, as long as the quest for excellence doesn’t end in a failure to be good enough, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Madame Bovary certainly doesn’t seem to seek excellence in anything she does. She isn’t even a very good adulteress, the one thing that she seems moderately passionate about in the novel. All to often we too set down our quest for excellence and settle for less than mediocre standards… of course, I deal daily with students do don’t actually manage to meet those less than mediocre standards… so I might be a bit jaded.

Then again, I have to say that one of the things that I love about my job is seeing a student start off the class with Ds and end it getting Bs and As. This is an excellent feeling. All to often few and far between, but a truly excellent feeling. Nonetheless, I feel like I’m failing the students who don’t improve. Some of them I probably am, but some of them I do my very best to help and they reject it at every possible opportunity. Some people seem to aim for sub-mediocre intentionally.

The thing is, sometimes I wonder if I’m not one of those people. I’m not particularly ambitious, and I don’t have a whole lot of pride left… though that’s something that God’s been systematically drilling out of me for a long time now. I’ve had many people tell me that they see great potential in me, and I have to wonder if I’m failing to live up to it.

Then I look at my friends, who consistently tell me that I’m a pretty amazing guy, a great teacher, a good friend, and that any woman would be lucky to have me. I’m not sure how much of this is simply friends telling me what they think I need to hear, and how much of it is honest, critical assessment. Still, there seems to be something to it.

I’m always hesitant to say anything positive about myself because I’m afraid that I’ll come off as prideful. All to often, I can’t tell the difference between pride and confidence, and I think that these are two of the easiest attitudes to confuse, both in yourself and in others. I haven’t managed to catch my post count up to the number of followers… which is still a mild source of annoyance to me, but I’m dealing with it. It makes me think that people find value in what I say… which I still don’t understand.

Here’s the thing that I’m consistently failing to do. I’ve said it before: In Romans 12 God tells us to see ourselves ‘rightly’. Throughout scripture he tells us to judge ourselves by his measure, which means two things: 1) to understand that I am in every way a sinner, fully deserving of eternity in hell, and 2) that when God looks at me, he not only sees someone of value, but someone who is filled with his son. I’m still struggling with to reconcile these concepts of myself.

I find this task equally as difficult as reconciling within myself both Christ’s extreme desire to see people follow him, and his extreme willingness to drive them away if they didn’t measure up to his rather harsh standards. In both tasks I tend to be able to do one or the other, but I can’t manage both simultaneously. Maybe someday…