When the positive thinking guild says, “If you don’t love yourself, no one else will,” I think they’re trying to motivate people to prioritize self care. I think they’re trying to emphasize the importance of self esteem and self love. It’s true that a lack of love for yourself will translate into a lack of love for others and you will eventually burn out no matter what you’re doing (as one who struggles deeply with self care, trust me on this). But this, much like the idea that “the world doesn’t owe you, you owe the world,”contains a grain of truth while perpetuating a damaging lie. “If you don’t love yourself, no one else will” twists the necessity of self love into a fear-based chore done to obtain something else, i.e., the love of others. It makes it seem like loving our selves is so that we can be loved by others, which is a recipe for protracted anxiety and transactional relationships centered on proportionality: if I love myself this much, then that is how much I can expect to be loved by others. Continue reading “If You Don’t Love Yourself, No One Else Will”
This phrase has deeply irritated and offended me for a long time and, with the beloved Robin Williams’ apparent suicide yesterday, it’s unfortunately made an appearance in every comments’ section of every article I’ve read about him (yes, I know it’s a bad idea to read the comments sections unless you’re looking to lose your faith in humanity). Apparently, he even said it while in character for the 2009 film World’s Best Dad. This post isn’t exactly a tribute to so many people’s favorite actor (there are several good ones already out there and there and many more to come I’m sure). It’s more that I’ve decided that I should actually say something about the destructive and hurtful though apparently all too common and easily recited idea that suicide is a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Continuing to remain silent contributes to the stigma of suicide and mental illness. After all, silence is not neutral; only speaking up for the least, the last and the lost is right and good. And we as the people of God, who are supposed to have the very life of Love beating in our own hearts, are, quite frankly, failing to be so right and good. The Church’s relationship to mental suffering is, as with everything else, varied; it’s not all horrible. But just last week, I overheard a conversation in which a woman was telling her friend that she left the Church because – and I quote – “Christians are the least compassionate when it comes to suicide, mental illness and addiction.” Sisters and brothers in Christ, we have some work to do. Continue reading “A Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem”
The idea that the world doesn’t owe you anything, you owe the world something is insidious. Not only is it everywhere, not only does it take on many forms, but it’s actually half true. These are the most dangerous kinds of lies. If I tell you that you have purple skin, you can easily refute that simply by looking at your hands or in a mirror. But if I tell you something that you’re afraid might be true and there’s no easy way to verify, you can quickly get taken out. “The world doesn’t owe you, you owe the world” is like that. It may sound harsh but it’s true, technically, that the world doesn’t owe you anything. It’s not that we don’t deserve love and nurture throughout our lives; it’s just that “the world” doesn’t “owe” it to us. But, the opposite is also true: we don’t actually owe the world anything, either. We didn’t ask to be here, for no one can will himself or herself into existence and we didn’t ask for this world that we have. To say the world doesn’t owe you, you owe the world is akin to saying “service is the rent you pay your being on this planet:” it names the motivation for serving others and giving of yourself as fear and makes such service transactional. Continue reading “The World Doesn’t Owe You, You Owe the World”
My ongoing struggle to figure out what to do with my life is worsened by seeing “so many others” around me do “amazing things.” There are people writing truly helpful books, running nonprofits, rescuing animals, educating children. One of my good friends even started her own nonprofit; another friend works tirelessly with homeless youth; my own mother was a special ed teacher for 27 years. My alma mater’s motto is “Engaging the Culture, Changing the World” and it publishes a quarterly magazine celebrating students and alumni who are doing just that all over our planet. Especially as a Christian, I feel obligated to do something – something big – about the problems that keep me up at night with worry…and have thus far been unable to affect or really commit to any major change. I’m not exactly sure why, but part of my hangup is likely that the problems are so huge, they’re paralyzing and I often myself rather alone in my desire to do something. Or maybe it’s just that I have a nearly impossible time recruiting help and asking for others to partner with me in my dreaming and scheming to save the world. Continue reading “Just Average”
I’ve been fretting about what to do with my life lately. I feel like most things I try turn into chores and I lose whatever passion I may have had that led me to them in the first place. This has actually happened my whole life and so now, I feel “behind” in the career department. They say that it’s much easier to turn a moving car than a parked one, but all that’s happened to me is that I’ve run out of fuel trying to figure out what my purpose (more than just my passion since I’ve got difficulties with the idea of following one’s passion) is here in life. I finally decided that this was not something to be done out of my own strength and started asking God to help me. “God, use me,” would be my fervent (read: hand-wringing, anxious) prayer each morning. Continue reading “God, Use Me”
I sometimes catch myself saying this to myself to encourage myself to do something hard or unpleasant or that I fear I’ll fail at. Submitting pieces of my writing to a prestigious publishing house, signing up for a class to learn a new skill, asking to hang out with a person who intimidates but intrigues me, even asking for time with a friend I know is busy…these are all things I have to psyche myself up for. “It never hurts to try,” I say. I’ll grow through this experience either way and learn from it for next time – how can that hurt? I almost believe it. I almost believe that it doesn’t hurt to try something new, ask someone to hang out, put pieces of your soul out there. Except that it does hurt. And it feels minimizing to pretend otherwise. Continue reading “It Never Hurts to Try”
When I first started intentionally following Christ – or trying to, at least – one of the first things my best friend taught me about the Christian life was, “If it doesn’t bring freedom, it’s not from the Lord.” This sounded too good to be true to me, who had grown up in a high-stacks, accomplishment-is-paramount culture where kids not only had to be involved in every possible extra-curricular activity, but they had to be the best at each, too, all while maintaining a perfect GPA. This set peers up to be competitors rather than cooperators and scares kids into believing that if they don’t start achieving now, they’ll never amount to anything in life. Matt Stone, co-creator of South Park, which is named after a neighborhood next to the one I grew up in, sums it up – albeit with some strong language – nicely in his interview with Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine. Whatever you think about the movie as a whole, Matt Stone’s explanation of Littleton is true to my experience of it. And none of this helped my already debilitating social anxiety any.
While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it, gave it to his disciples and said, “Take, eat, this is My body” (Matthew 26:26). This is My body. Not being Catholic, I’m not one for transubstantiation, but this phrase, this is My body, still is heavy with significance. Jesus is about to eat His last Passover meal (Matthew 26:17); Jesus is sharing a meal and fellowship with the 12 people closest to Him (Matthew 26:20); He is about to be betrayed by one of those people (Matthew 26:21). It is interesting to note how the different translations describe Judas: The NIV makes it seem like his act of betrayal is in the future (“one would who would betray Him”); the NASB makes it sound like a current action (“Judas, who was betraying Him”); the KJV makes it seem like a past action (“Judas, who betrayed Him.”) The point is that Jesus offers His own body, His very self, to even a through-and-through betrayer. This is My body…even for the sinner.
Continue reading “This is My Body”
A while ago, I wrote about my difficulty with the advice, “Let Go and Let God” and similar. When the pendulum doesn’t swing towards abdicating responsibility for our own lives in the name of God, it can swing too far in the other direction: taking all the responsibility for our lives as if God doesn’t exist or isn’t involved in the creation God so lovingly crafted. I have just as much trouble with this; it’s essentially functional atheism and it’s just under the surface of claims like “God helps those who help themselves,” though it may not seem like it. After all, it can sound like good advice – it’s got “God” in it, anyway! – to those who are prone to shoulder more than their fair share of responsibility. But it’s precisely the propensity towards legalism that I want to be wary of here (not to mention that the phrase isn’t found in Scripture – it has, however, been attributed to deist Ben Franklin). Continue reading “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves”
9/11 was already 13 years ago; Columbine was 15, the SPU shooting, just a little over a month. My grapplings with forgiving the perpetrators of these attacks have been delayed and are not nearly as in my face as they certainly are for the parents and families of those that were lost in those horrors; still, it has seemed impossible – an affront to my sense of justice, even – to “forgive” the murderers even as I grieve for all families who are now one member short. Beyond this, the present day is seeing unprecedented destruction of the beautiful world God wrought from nothing and sustains and I think…how can I “forgive” those who willfully damage the trees and skies and seas? On a much smaller scale, my friends and I inflict hurt on each other inadvertently but often. Continue reading “Forgive and Forget”