Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Look Over the Wall (07/13/16)

"There are two sides to every story"

It's cliche. It's not something you want to think about. It's one of the snobby things people always try to push onto you. It's around to complicate matters.

But it's important.

Note: The following is not a blanket statement for what each side stands for. It is not a personal attack to either side. It's just to prove a point. It is realistic but complete fiction. Please excuse any poor word choices I use because I don't understand certain pieces of jargon.

Two parents stand on opposite sides of the room, glaring daggers at one another. The principal sits at her desk between them, trying to make peace. "Explain," she says.
"I refuse to let my child be excluded by her child because she doesn't identify with her biological gender!" says the first.
"You cannot force my child to work against his religion by playing with bad influences like her son!" says the second.
"She's not my son. She identifies as a female."
"He was born a male, so I will treat him as a male. As should you."
"You cannot force your ideas onto me! And she isn't a bad influence. She's just being expressive."
"He's seven. Your child is seven years old. He changes his favorite color every day. In a week he'll want to be a boy again."
"You don't know that. We've had long talks and she has shown genuine interest in identifying as a female now."
"You cannot force your ideas onto me either. Or my child. Your son cannot force my child to defy his religion to include your son."
The principal coughs. "Could we please take it down a notch? We're all adults here. Now what specifically happened?"
"Her son was playing with my daughter when...."

And so it continues. What should the principal say in a situation like that? Nothing can be said to the parents that will appease them. The spite between the parents is carried onto each child through muttered comments and stern conversations, and soon a good friendship is in ruins.

We trust authorities and judges to be able to decide who's the victim and who's the bully, but that isn't enough. Opposing sides build a wall to keep out the other side, and then they try to destroy each other through comments, lawsuits, and acts of hatred. Each side will only victimize themselves because they only see the chaos around them. They blame the people on the other side of the wall because they're unwilling to notice the chaos they've inflicted to evoke such a response. 

But what if we look over the wall? The truth is, most of the time that we argue over being forced into an action, we're being hypocritical. The parent above who is concerned about religion sees the other parent as infringing on her religion, not realizing that she's trying to force her views onto someone else. It's the very thing she's accusing the other parent of doing, and vice versa. 

And Christians, I don't believe we have to make the world Christian. We have to make a world of Christians. We don't do that by alienating others or treating them differently, but by love, mercy, and grace. When they see us not as the offenders but as people willing to listen and accept them, they see Christ at work within us and maybe they even decide to join us. That doesn't mean we should live like them. Romans 1 clearly shows God's disapproval of homosexuality for his people. 1st Corinthians 5 makes it clear that Christians should not invite wicked actions, but verses 12-13 remind us that it isn't our job to judge non-Christians for not being Christian. God is the one who judges, not us. (I highly recommend you look up both chapters and not just assume what I am saying is true.)

This isn't only true for just this issue. No one is obligated to live by another person's standards or rules. I believe every human's rights extend until right before they breach another's. You can own a car. You can own a house. You cannot steal someone else's car because they have the right to own their own car. Likewise, you have the right to let your child (or yourself for that matter) identify as someone against their biological orientation. You do not have the right to force others to go against their beliefs to accommodate you or your child. You also do not have the right to treat anyone negatively because they identify differently.

So try it. Look over the wall. Accept that both sides have faults, then identify them. Instead of relying on authorities to choose a victor and a victim, maybe try to make your own peace with the other side. If it works, it works. If not, realize you tried to make a difference. Let God do the rest. "If it is possible as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18, NIV)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Do you want to know? (07/06/16)

Think of the following like a Venn Diagram- I have two ideas that I want to connect, but I also think each has merit by itself. (Sorry I haven't been able to post recently. Summer scheduling is unreliable for me.)

Thought 1: We all have those memories we would erase if we could... Remember when you said something awkward in front of someone important? Or when you broke a bone or sprained an ankle doing something you admit was stupid? [Add your own moment of stupidity here] Why do we have to remember such painful memories?

As a kid, the worst part is when Mom or Teacher comes up to you and asks, "Now what did we learn from that? Are we ever going to do that again?" The truth is, the lesson you learn is valuable. It's not okay to hit your brother or sister when they make you angry. You shouldn't climb trees in flip flops. Don't pour all the soap into the washing machine at once.

What's your least favorite subject in school? Math? Science? Or even [gasp] English? (Don't worry, I won't judge.) I would personally pay someone if they found a way to teach me everything I needed for U.S. History if I wouldn't have to experience the actual classroom learning. I've been taught from the Native Americans and Explorers to the Civil War so many times that I'd be happier learning four times as much world history as long as there isn't any U.S. History. (You are entitled to your own opinion... provided you don't deprive anyone of theirs.)

Long story short, life is full of things we want to know but don't want to actually experience. Only when we experience them do we truly understand the lessons they teach us, even if it's just to avoid the same thing happening again.

Thought 2: (edited later on 07/06/16) Here's a big subject of controversy: Is social media taking away how much we like ourselves? I would argue that it it does, but not entirely. (Feel free to disagree with me in the comments, as this is all speculation and not inherently accurate. I'm also using several blanket statements, so counterexamples are very welcome.)

First of all, we feel extra pressure to perfect our outer appearances. We raise our standards to find ourselves presentable to others, and then we judge ourselves by the convoluted and not necessarily accurate feedback we get from others. Our eyes are trained to spot our imperfections in the mirror rather than our own beauty.

More importantly, our phones and computers keep us always busy. Sometimes we almost mindlessly pass the time watching other people's creations that we miss time we should spend with ourselves, pondering the little things in life and waltzing through our thoughts. You could be improving one of your many skills, but it's so much easier to tune out and enjoy those of other people.

On the flip side, how much self harm did we give ourselves before social media? Human nature never changes, so what we did before isn't the pure result of our extra connections online. It may just be a little more distilled. Also, the internet is just a tool for how we want to use it- if we want to find good ideas and harness them, we can get to know ourselves better and engage our creativity. If we just want to connect with friends from far away, there's no shame in that. And does the positive reassurance and connection over common experience actually help us feel better?

Social media or not, we still have a problem with accepting ourselves. Right now, try to honestly answer yourself: How much do you really like being you? Could you spend an entire day without access to the outside world and truly enjoy your own company? Can you make fun of yourself and enjoy the laugh without the anxiety of taking what you say to heart? Are you comfortable in your own skin?

Thought 3 (somewhat combination of Thought 1 and Thought 2): I have a wish. It's a strange wish, and I don't think I would enjoy it if it really came true, yet I somehow still wish it.

I wish I could secretly videotape myself acting as a normal person so I could see what's really happening.

No, really! I want to know if I look like an idiot if I do something a certain way, and I want to see how people react when I can't see them as myself. Am I leaving someone out? Do I unknowingly bother someone who secretly hates me? Is it obvious if I try to hide something? How does what I'm doing match up with what I think it looks like? (Do I sound too paranoid to you? I think I'm asking too many questions.)

I want to know, but I don't want to learn. I want to know that I look like an idiot when I do something, but  it's painful to find out. How much can I handle learning about myself? Will I like myself better if I "fix" what I didn't realize was wrong? Or is it not worth the pain of knowing my own faults?

It's the age-old question: "Does this dress make me look fat?" The woman asking this question (or man, although much less often, so I'm just assuming the asker is a she) needs the self confidence of knowing she's beautiful. Protecting her now eases the momentary pain of hearing the harsh truth, especially in a fragile situation involving a mirror and her harsh self judgement. But what about in the long run? When she finally finds out the hard truth, she'll be crushed to know that everyone had to see her in a less flattering way. Does she want the pain now, or save it for later?

Again, social media may act as a catalyst for this. I could accidentally say something really embarrassing on this blog right now, and many more people would be able to see it. Some friendly reader may stop and tell me what I did wrong, but people can hide behind their screens and assume someone else can tell me or just laugh off my insecurities and move on. That's why I like constructive criticism so much- I'd rather know I look like an idiot and come to terms so I can better embrace my weird self and not have to worry about the aftereffects when I find out later.