There is something exceedingly frustrating knowing both sides of a story. Watching a conflict is already heartbreaking enough without knowing all the gory details, but when you see one side and then the other, and both are guilty, it just rips out your soul.
Mediation is vital, but most don’t seek it. One side or the other refuses reconciliation, convinced that “their truth” is “the truth”. Meanwhile I stand by shaking my head at the complete fabrications I’m hearing.
Worse is when one party drops off the face of the planet, while the other lives their “best life now”. Both are secretly suffering, but neither are honest.
I’m growing weary of people. People lie. People mislead. People manipulate. People don’t forgive. All regard themselves higher than the rest. But all are fallen and disgraced. No one is above reproach, no one is innocent.
If you ever find yourself listening to one side of a conflict, stop and consider the other party. They will have their own perspective on the situation, and likely the truth is something down the middle.
And never ever ever validate someone on “their truth”. Acknowledge that they have a perspective, but understand that they have a bias.
Recently I was given a stack of writings which my great-grandfather wrote for my grandma. I love them so much I thought I would share.
This one is titled “The Punk”. I remember this being read to me as a young man of 13 or so, after I had been caught with some friends doing some non-gentlemanly things of which I will refrain from detailing. Needless to say I needed to hear this.
It’s definitely not politically correct, so if you are easily offended you might want to leave. Keep in mind that his was a different time, don’t project your modern sensitivities onto former times.
Let us begin with a sort of syllogism:
The pig is an animal. The pig is without ideals. Man is an animal. Without ideals, man is a pig.
The few ideals I have come to me from my father. He was imperfect, as we all are, but not nearly as much so as he would have been without these ideals. They were “fixed” ideas, and gave stability to his character. I learned while yet very young–without quite knowing what it was that I was learning–that, right or wrong, I could depend on my father. Nothing else could have meant quite as much to a boy. He gave me many a light thrashing, but never one I didn’t deserve. Nor were the thrashings as severe as they might have been. These thrashings were given more for the “impression” than for punishment. “Mercy is greater than justice, ” he thought. Possibly he believed that the way to make an “impression” on a boy’s mind was by way of the seat of his pants. About that I wouldn’t know, but that idea has very often occurred to me. I believe he felt that too often and severe whipping of children was a dangerous practice. Young children are creatures of impulse and learn to reason as they go along. To raise a decent child is, at best, a full-time job and but very few people are properly fitted for it. And too, it is an individual task. Production-line methods will not do, for children are individuals and require individual training. In our modern world children are much influenced by people who never give them a serious thought. I have often been surprised at some of the silliness children bring home from school. And much of this silliness does not come from other children, but from supposedly mature people–their teachers.
My father, for some reason unknown to me, seemed to be prejudiced against the word “gentleman,” and rarely used it. Possibly he wished to avoid the narrow sense in which this word is so often used–particularly by the English. Gentlemanliness was a thing not of birth or wealth, but of behavior. The blackest and most ignorant negro was a gentleman, and worthy of all respect, if he behaved like one. For your amusement I will tell a tale he told us.
Henry Clay visited my grandfather once or twice. One day while taking Clay for a tour of the field, they came to a slave working alone. As they passed, the slave lifted his palmetto hat, and my grandfather lifted his (not palmetto) in return. As they rode on Clay expressed a little surprise at this. “I will never allow so humble a man to surpass me in courtesy,” said my grandfather. As I have run across this same tale, dressed differently, in a dozen altogether places, I haven’t the slightest doubt that it was the purest “malarkey.” Somehow how this courtesy mixed with the word “slave” does not go down well. If the tale was true, I fear that my grandfather was “showing off” before this Kentuckian.
My father’s ideals were–as it appears most worthwhile ideals must be–social. Aside from earning a living, and not entirely aside even from that, the most important things were our relations with the people around us. As I set some of these ideals down, I realize that to many people of today they will appear to have been impractical, or illusory, or Quixotic, or to many young men and women, downright Sir Galahadish. But times change and so do ideas; whether for the better or the worse, each of us must decide for ourselves. Gentlemen, as my father defined the word, are fast disappearing, and it looks as though in a few years they will be museum pieces, like mummies.
A Gentleman will not:
Bully, insult, or in any way impose on those unable to defend themselves
Make a clothes-horse of himself and attract attention by strangely cut and flashily colored clothes, lest he be called a fop or a peacock. Personal adornment should be left to the ladies, with whom it is proper. Man and their clothes are like books–wise words are seldom found in rose colored bindings.
Men are physically stronger than women. This strength carries with it an obligation. The obligation is that this strength be used to aid and defend the weaker. By the weaker is meant men as well as women and children; and by strength is meant mental as well as physical strength. Women, although weaker than men, are the mothers of men. Generally, they suffer more than men, and those who raise families work harder than men. It is the duty of man to make woman’s life as easy and as pleasant as possible. It will be hard enough at best. All women should be treated with respect at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances. There are proper times and places for all things. Men must be very careful of their behavior toward women, especially in public. Anything that bears even the slightest resemblance to familiarity must be avoided. When in public with ladies, men must never speak in a loud voice or indulge in loud laughter. To do so will attract unfavorable attention to the lady. Ladies must never by spoken to across the width of a street. Unless absolutely necessary they must never be spoken to at any distance that exceeds fifteen feet. Only three things are expected of a gentleman meeting a lady on the street–to lift his hat, bow, and keep moving. The first two are not nearly as important as the last. It is the duty of a gentleman, in the absence of a lady’s own friends or relatives, to defend her against insult and injury. This rule applies to children and other weaklings as well.
When a caller comes, welcome him and see that he has a good chair. Then look around for something to offer him. The best you have will not be too good, or the least you have, too little. On a hot day, if there is nothing else, a glass of cool water will be pleasant. This small offering will add to the caller’s feelings of welcome and will help put him at ease. This is an ancient custom and, when done and received with the proper spirit, one of the finest.
The visitor under your roof is sacred, as you will be under his. We are not permitted to insult a man in our house, nor his own.
But, “Alas, how are the mighty fallen.” We go from one extreme to another. My father did not live to see what I have seen–a respectable young lady walking down the street being whistled at, barked at, howled at, and hooted at by every punk within half a mile. My father, had he lived to see this, would have done one of two things; either dropped dead with rage, or hurried after his shotgun. He would have been very certain that the young lady resented all this public sex-inspired hullabaloo, and would have regarded each whistle and cat-call as a separate insult, to be separately taken care of. But I am not nearly as certain of things as he was, for I have once or twice seen young ladies, in the midst of such din, smile, as if pleased or complimented by such a demonstration. I consider: Either this young lady is not as fine a creature as we have believed her, or she does not realize the true meaning of the bedlam created by this pack of more or less sexual degenerates. This demonstration reminds me of another I have seen. It was that of a pack of ten or a dozen male dogs following after and fighting over a female. The male dogs were certain the female was in heat. Apparently this pack of punks assume that the young lady is in the same condition.
Surely these men are not normal. Certainly no group of sane, civilized men would be thrown into such a convulsion by the mere sight of a young lady passing along the street. But–such is the punk.
We have compared the man without ideals to the pig. But we will not compare the pig with the punk. After all, the behavior of the pig is not too bad if we keep him penned up and away from the garden. We are not allowed to pen up the punk–unfortunately. For to be a punk is not a crime–only a tragedy.
I have exaggerated purpsely. I am not through with the punk, nor am I serious. Let us close on a pleasant note:
“The emblem of man should be the axe. For each man always carries one concealed somewhere about his person, and is ever seeking a chance to grind it.”
What we may perceive as small is actually an illusion created by our relative position to the object. This kind of illusion applies to many places in life, not just visually. Sometimes when we are distant from a person we tend to underestimate the big affairs going on in his or her life.
Sure, we may see the problems, clearly even. But because of our distance from the situation we may interpret what we see as a small issue. We may even think “we could handle that, why don’t they seem able to?”
But we don’t see how big the problem truly is to the person standing right under its power.
The only way to truly see how big the troubles are in someone’s life is to get closer to them. Spend time with them, talk to them, maybe share some of your big struggles with them to encourage them to bring up theirs.
Remind them that with time and distance problems always seem to shrink. What seemed big last week is now a tiny speck on the horizon of memory.
Of course this also should remind us all that what appears to be a little problem way out there in the future may end up quite large by the time we confront it. Small problems grow to big ones if not taken care of.
Don’t let your perceptions fool you. “Small” is not always small.
I know I said I wanted intimacy, but maybe not that much!
If you follow me at all you probably know I write about all kinds of subjects (how to be a Butthole Wife, abortion, art, music, modesty, sex, politics, you name it). Sometimes I get really personal. I don’t have much of a filter on how much I share. This might get in me in trouble one day!
My post last week got a Facebook like from none other than my pastor. The post where I called out pastors and elders for not being out there in homes. Yeah. That one.
The thing is, I’m not sure I really want what I called for in that post.
Right now my wife and I are working 90 hours a week between the two of us. That means that our time is extremely limited. When we are home we are either sleeping, cleaning, cooking, eating, or catching the kids up on school.
I say cleaning, but what I really mean is we are trying to keep up with just that day’s mess. Not the previous mess from yesterday (and before), just today’s.
We are juggling. And when you juggle you drop things. When you drop things you make a mess. And you’re too busy keeping the rest of your life in the air to clean up every mess.
So messes pile up. Real messes, metaphorical messes, mental messes.
From all outside appearances my life is falling apart. I have nothing together.
Outside appearances are often all that anyone who bothers to peak in sees. Which is precisely why I am terrified of someone suddenly becoming interested in my life. What if they see the messes? What if they see my juggling and my dropping? What if they judge my entire character on the circumstances surrounding this terrifically tumultuous season of my life?
I have to be careful what I say. Someone might take me up on my challenges. Someone my try to get to know the real me, not the mumbly me that most people know. They might see the silly me, the sloppy me, the me that loses his temper way too easily, the anxious me, the passionate me. They may see the ugly side of me. The side of me that struggles with all types of temptations and often fails.
They might get to know me intimately as a friend, only to find out that I can be a disappointment as a friend. I am selfish and miserly. I am far too busy with my own life to take on the weight of others. I can’t invite you to my messy house and I’m too broke to go out for a drink. My texts are all somber and I breathe on the phone. I take far more than I could ever give in return.
I may speak a big game when it comes to intimacy, but ultimately I am too ashamed of myself to let you in.
Except when I blog. I’ll lay it all out for you here.
There’s a new craze going on. People are going “KonMari” on their homes and tidying them up. Lives are changing, with every cymbal flourish and Marie Kondo Coo, rooms are being magically transformed from dumps to habitable spaces.
I knew nothing of this show until it started appearing in my newsfeed. Then my wife watched it…
My wife has spent literally the last ten years trying to KonMari our house without knowing she was doing it. She has emptied her closet onto the bed several times and whittled down the clothes to a manageable number. She has sought to create spaces for the objects that she loves to be on display to bring joy to her house. She emptied and rearranged kitchen cabinets, she disposed of piles of things that no longer meant anything to anyone (and a lot that she still loved).
But because of me, this labor was in vain. I am a hoarder, or at least a recovering one. I have held onto papers and books and random objects from my youth for odd and unhealthy reasons. It’s been a process, slow and painful (yet cathartic), to get rid of my stuff and only keep what really makes me happy.
So seeing the craze, and hearing my wife’s reviews, I decided I should watch a few episodes myself and see what it was all about.
First off, skip the first episode unless you want to know why the rest of the world dislikes Americans. Stereotypes exist for a reason, sadly. The one upside to the episode is that it normalizes breastfeeding.
But episode three was great (we accidentally skipped episode two), especially for us, because we live in a smallish house with seven people in it. Seeing another family downsize from a huge space to a tiny space was uplifting and gave me some hope for this household. Plus they were just so dern wholesome. The kids were polite and the parents well spoken. They seemed like normal people trying to get by, just like most of us.
There was another episode with a couple just like us, the wife (in our case, me) just couldn’t bear to get rid of her clothes, books, and miscellaneous items. We had to laugh because if we didn’t laugh we would cry. This woman said many of the things I do. It was humbling to see someone else do it. She kept things for various reasons, usually utilitarian in her mind. I completely understood what she was saying. And her husband? The words he spoke could have been stolen from my wife’s mouth.
So what do I think of Marie Kondo?
Well, first off, she seems like an absolute sweetheart. She doesn’t come into her client’s home like a wrecking ball, deriding them for having stuff. Instead, she sweetly reminds them of some pretty common sense stuff like you’re all in this household together, so you have to work as a team to keep it tidy and only keep what brings you joy. Common sense frequently escapes me, so her reminders were well needed.
Other shows of this genre show you “horrible” people and build up drama around their horrible addiction to materials. They literally guilt you into cleaning up your house, because only “horrible” people live in messy houses. Not “Tidying Up”, this show shows you average people who are just trying to get themselves out from a completely relate-able situation. It’s feel good TV.
People will mock Marie because of her Shinto beliefs, saying she does odd things like “waking up books” and greeting the house. Sure, there is a bit of superstition involved, but that doesn’t make everything she does incorrect. Watching her talk about her beliefs got me to thinking, what is the correct way for Christians to think about the objects in their house?
So many Christians in America just go along with the materialism of our culture. We buy stuff we don’t need, we collect things with no intrinsic value, we hoard and take pride in our displays of wealth and blessings. Most of us are able to keep our material possessions manageable, but there are more than just a few of us that are drowning in them.
Wealth is not bad. Having material possessions isn’t sinful. Buying stuff you don’t need or having collections are not intrinsically bad behaviors. But, like all things we do, we should examine our motives and the effects the behaviors have on our lives and the lives of those around us.
Watching the show encouraged me to ask myself a few questions:
Does my home or the objects in it hinder my ability to share the Gospel?
I can’t share the Gospel when I can’t invite anyone in to my home. My home is an extension of my life, and the best way to spread the Gospel is to let others into it. But I am too embarrassed by my chaos to let others in.
Does my home reveal a lack of self-control, a Fruit of the Spirit?
My home definitely reveals some lack of self-control. There are places for things, but things are not put away. Clothes are not put in hampers, dishes are lost in far corners, the tables are used as catch-alls. Habits are not maintained.
Is there peace in my home, or is it chaos?
There is no peace. While training to be a bus driver I was told that having a clean bus actually encourages good student behavior. This is obvious even in my home. My kids aren’t bad, but clutter stresses them out and can lead to grumpiness, sloppiness, and laziness. How much more relaxed would they be if they knew where their stuff was? How much more willing would they be to keep up with their chores if they didn’t have to shift around mounds of stuff?
What does my mountain of stuff and my inability to get rid of it say about what me and what’s important to me?
What’s more important to me: this stuff that I’ve been dragging around for years, or the health and well being of my family? Stuff, or my ability to have friends over to share my life? Stuff, or my ability to do the things I love instead of wasting my time moving sand dunes of clothes and papers around?
Do these objects rob me or members of my family of joy, also one of the Fruits of the Spirit?
Joy is the one thing that Marie brings up more often than her love of tidying. Objects can rob us of our joy. Mountains of material possessions can drag us into depressing and awful places.
We should only keep what brings us joy. We should not hold on to the stuff that robs us of joy or inhibits our ability to share the Gospel. We should use our home to bring joy to others. Keeping a house full of clutter often means keeping a home empty of friends.
Go check out the show, then go KonMari on your house, you won’t be disappointed.
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Ever see a peacock strut around thinking he’s hot sh-tuff? Ever see a man doing the same thing?
Much of our culture is posturing. I don’t know why I never noticed it before. From rappers to politicians to kids on the playground, we put a lot of value in posture.
The problem is, it’s all a facade. I act tough to make the middle schoolers I drive around behave, but honestly I’m not the ogre I pretend to be. But when you’re getting stared down by three 13 year old girls, you have to out-mean-mug them to gain any semblance of respect.
Pretty much all the “urban” culture I’m exposed to daily is about posturing. Renting a Lambo for your rap video is a cliche for a reason. Being boujee is a lifestyle to so many people you’re almost weird if you aren’t. Those who can’t afford the appearances resort to physical posturing to make themselves larger than the next kid.
Social media and the blogosphere are perfect examples of posture over reality. Nothing is real online. Every post is carefully crafted to give the best impression of the poster. Even humility isn’t real online, we are too good at the humble brag.
Politicians are masters of the practice of posturing. Party squabbles are nothing but posturing. Nationalism is itself the biggest peacock. Everything in politics is about the appearance of being the bigger, badder character on the block. Get the biggest bomb, have the biggest economy, have the biggest army, anything you can do to make your homeland the biggest.
But posturing is silly. You are not that big. In fact you’re probably just as shattered and broken as the next guy. Most of the time the more extravagant the peacock the more fragile the ego. The higher the mountain the harder they fall so to speak. This applies to bullies on the bus, to politicians, and even to nations.
Perhaps the better policy is less posturing and more honesty. Perhaps we should all start admitting our weaknesses and help each other with our strengths. Perhaps we could all posture a little less and be humble instead.
But that, to the world, is preposterous…
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How honest are you? In real life? In social media? Would the people who know you be surprised if you did something shocking?
Back in the day when someone went off and committed some horrid thing you would see the neighbors saying things like “He was always a little strange, but we never saw this coming.” Now that we have social media the circle of people who “never saw it coming” has grown.
And the ability to sugar coat has gotten easier.
Not only have we gotten better at hiding the bad, we have gotten better at exaggerating the good. When a man flies off the handle and kills his wife and children, we look back at their posts and say “but they had such a great marriage!” We look at smiling pictures of those who commit suicide and wonder where the problems were hiding.
So how honest are you? How much do you show the warts in your life? How much do you confide in real people? How much do you share with virtual people? How much do you exaggerate the good? Would your friends and neighbors on and offline be shocked if you did something tragic?
Why do people hide behind positive posts and perfectly filtered pictures? Are they afraid people might know their secrets? It’s easier to hide secrets now that we can bury them under a facade of beauty. It’s no longer just “he was a quiet guy”, now it’s “he really seemed to have it together.”
It is my goal here and elsewhere to be honest and open. I don’t ever want to sugarcoat my situation. If I ever seem too optimistic, call me out on it. If you ever need to confide something, I’m here.
The last thing we need is to be all over the news with our friends and neighbors surprised that our lives were really not so great.
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If you read Wednesday’s post, you might have also discovered that The Transformed Wife has many cringe worthy articles, way too many to respond to. But one post has got me particularly heated up.
It wasn’t the “risqué” image she chose, or the standard nonsense about how men are so visual and women are not. It wasn’t the usual “women need to be ashamed of their bodies and cover them completely so that men can’t be enticed by them” lines that got me riled.
That stuff is old hat. I have addressed the Modesty stuff before. The main points of the post were not at all shocking or new to me.
What was shocking was the very first comment:
“…Lori that picture for this blog post is one that could cause a brother to stumble. She is an example of what not to do. Would you please consider changing the image for one of a Godly-attired sister whose dress and shoes and pose will not lead a man who comes here seeking guidance for his wife astray? My husband Jeb is so thoughtful in finding materials that will help me grow (your book!) But he was a little shocked and surprised, and asked me to share his thoughts.”
If the image above gets you off, I sincerely hope you never leave your house or browse through any website. The amount of skin and shapeliness I see on a daily basis would send you running for the nearest restroom. Sorry to be a bit crude, but really dude?
If you can’t handle high heels and a little bit of calf, you probably aren’t taking every thought captive. You’re thinking with your penis, not your brain.
We need to stop this nonsense about how women are just a bunch of enticing objects that we can’t help but covet and lust after. We need to quit telling women that God made them a little too good and that we just can’t stop ogling them and making them into objects.
I thought the men going to her site seeking guidance for their wives were the Godly ones? These are supposedly the most self-controlled, upright, and good men out there. These are no men of the streets. And yet apparently they crumble at the site of some legs.
I am not saying that men don’t stumble. Men stumble over all sorts of things, sexually and otherwise. Men can literally make anything into something sinful. If women knew what could possibly make a man stumble she would never leave her bed (although even that in some men’s imagination can be twisted into something depraved).
What I am saying is that men need to grow up. Men need to stop whining about every good looking woman being a stumbling block to them. We need to stop seeing women as objects and start seeing them as beautiful image-bearers of God. We need to stop the limp-wristed weaker brother nonsense and start holding ourselves and others to a higher standard. We should expect men not to lust instead of assuming that they just do. No man has to sin, he chooses it because of wickedness.
So, Jeb, stop being weak, stop thinking with your penis, take your thoughts captive, and kill your sins.
Sometimes when I read blogs or watch documentaries all I can think is “How do these hipsters make it look so easy?”
I don’t know what kind of world these people live in, they are always young, always attractive, frequently childless, and always seem to have an endless stream of money. They seem more like fictional characters than real people. You have to wonder what they do for a living, are they ever stressed? Do they get bored? Do they fight? Where is the ugly in their life?
Sure, sometimes the bus breaks down, the visa gets denied, or the cake in the oven falls. But these people always seem to handle it with a smile. Or at the very least they look gorgeous while crying.
Well, that ain’t my life.
I get sick. Nothing productive happens for days at a stretch. My kids make giant messes, animals get into my trash, my trailer sometimes smells like something died in it.
People thrive on positive. We love comedy and run from tragedy. We live vicariously through these adventurers and beautiful hipsters. We don’t like our conventional lives, so we read about theirs and forget our problems for a bit.
But who’s to say your conventional life is ugly? Who’s to say you aren’t living a beautiful life, even if it isn’t quite the adventure these people seem to have? Life is a gift, even with its warts and wrinkles. Life is beautiful even with the sickness and the smells.
You don’t have to read blogs or watch fru-fru documentaries (both of which I do. Too much.) to enjoy a beautiful life. All you have to do is start enjoying yours.
What does your style say about you? Can someone really tell much just by what you wear or what you listen to? What do the various decorations you put on say to the world around you?
I walked into a country western store the other day. Everything in there was country, from the boots to the hats to jeans and the accessories. They even had redneck wine glasses. There was a guy in there with his son and they were both dressed to the hilt with rodeo garb. Needless to say my sandals, t-shirt, and long hair didn’t exactly fit in.
My wife works with a guy covered in tatoos. If you didn’t know him you would probably make an assumption that he has spent a bit of time in prison. Nothing could be further from the truth. He’s a hard worker who loves his kids.
I crossed paths with two guys in Wal-Mart who could have been drug dealers, but the well put together type. They were nothing but cordial when one of them almost ran into me. Definitely not the kind of reaction I would have expected if I had been judging them by their looks.
Even in church you meet some wiley looking characters. I grew up in a fairly well-to-do area where people dress up for church, and our church at “home” is filled with good-looking, tan, well dressed folks. It was a bit of a culture shock attending a mountain church. Mountain people live in a rough area, and they look the part. People come to church in jeans and graphic tees. They have mullets and scruffy unshaven faces. Some of them even smoke (gasp) in the parking lot. Yet they worship with sincerity and love God with all their hearts.
I love all these folks, from the tatooed characters in Wal-Mart to the well dressed folks in my home church. I may feel very conspicuous around many of them, and they may not always know how to talk to me, but every one of them is a person, created in the image of God, and worthy of love.
When we start judging people or expecting people to be just like us we risk alienating those who most need love. Christians stop spreading the Gospel. Imagine if Christ had avoided some of the people we do.
Now, this doesn’t mean we embrace sin. We shouldn’t be “inclusive” for the sake of political correctness or trying to make our church bankrolls bigger. Outright unrepentant sin should not be accepted by any true church.
But judging people by how they look and by their style is something no one should do.