Do we live in an age without self-awareness?

As an author I feel it is my job to pay attention to cultural leanings and norms.  I’ve written before about the politically charged climate we live in.  People have adapted an “us verses them” mentality not just with politics but faith, lack of faith, and even mundane things like movies.  Yes, movies, I’ve seen some impassioned arguments about them on the internet.  With these discussions one primary accusation comes up; the other person or side is a hypocrite.

The truth is, no one likes a hypocrite and we can smell hypocrisy a million miles away in another person or group but struggle to see it in ourselves.  It’s undoubtful that everyone has been a hypocrite before.  I certainly have, everyone I know has been.  That is an inevitable part of being human.  There is a problem when hypocrisy is a pattern or even a lifestyle.

Hypocrisy can evolve to a point where a person is utterly lacking self-awareness.  The problem compounds when such lack of self-awareness spreads throughout a culture like a cancer.  Perhaps I’m cynical but from my perspective this seems to be where we are at in western society.  We see this especially in politics.  If someone from our “team” is guilty of something we look the other way and justify their actions.  However, if the “other side” does the same thing we lose our minds and catastrophize the situation.  The same thing is with religious verses irreligious folks.  The common attitude is that people can have their faith and believe what they will, but they must keep it to themselves.  However, irreligious folks, sometimes flood the internet with comments about how people who believe differently than them are delusional idiots.

There is a surface celebration of diversity in our culture, but rarely are diverse ideas met with approval.  It is the norm to shout down, belittle, and attack those who think differently.  Maybe we should try to understand why someone believes differently instead?  That is much harder.  It also goes against human nature.  It requires an immense amount of empathy, but it is not impossible.  I’m directing these comments as much to myself as anyone reading this.  This is how we become self-aware and do not become what we hate in others.

Don’t judge me!

No one wants to be judged.  There are few absolute statements that are true, and that is one of them.  It is our nature to want to be seen and heard as people, not viewed through the lens of our mistakes or differences.  We all know mistakes and bad things are a part of the human experience.  There is a difference though between judging a person in a condemning way, and noticing a destructive behavior and mentioning it to that person. As much as we don’t like to be judged, people also don’t like seeing their loved ones commit to destructive behaviors.

Ever notice that those who complain about certain behaviors in others are often guilty of it themselves?  I can certainly raise my hand for that one.  After all, this post is directed at me as much as anyone.  The same thing applies to “Don’t judge me!” How many times have we spouted that or complained about judging someone when we are judging others in the same breath.

To compound this issue, constructive criticism of behavioral choices are often confused with judging.  You think I’m posting too much political stuff on social media? Judging. You think I shouldn’t smoke as I drive with my kids in the back seat of the car? Judging. You think I should let go of the past because I’m letting bitterness poison my life? Judging. None of these examples are truly judging if the other person said it in gentleness and kindness, with your best interest at heart. To judge someone is no calling out destructive, immature, or unbecoming behavior. Judging someone is to condemn them, to see them as defined by their behavior and that behavior makes them less than you are, or at worst worthy of Hell.

Anymore, it seems that people cannot take criticism without blowing it off as “you are just judging me!” Certainly, people can be judgmental over the examples I listed above, and context must always be considered. The issue I take is that most people are all too ready to assume intent or get defensive when we can all learn something. If a loved one mentions we should maybe try a different approach, it isn’t necessarily a judgement, it might just be what we need to hear.

Just because everyone believes…

We all undoubtedly have memories of doing something stupid and our parents saying something like “if all your friends jumped off a bridge would you do that too?” The point, just because other people are doing something doesn’t mean we should do it too.  This is one of the major themes in my latest short story.

Most of us know intellectually that following the crowd and believing what others believe just because it’s popular is not healthy.  However, most people are still guilty of this.  I know I have been.  It is hard being the odd person out.  Humans desire to have belonging among other people because we are social creatures so it becomes easier than we like to compromise our beliefs, or at best downplay them.  How many kids swear they will never smoke, but do that exact same thing when they are a little older because their friends are doing it?

It is easy to spew platitudes about thinking for ourselves and doing our own thing, but in practice it is far more difficult.  This is the inspiration for my latest book The Cursed Forest.  There are many odd beliefs circulating lately that I would wager most people who adhere to them don’t really know why they believe it.  Look no further than our current political climate.  How many people vote simply because there is a “D” or an “R” after a candidate’s name?  His desire to fit in, I believe, is the driving factor behind the tribalism in our culture.

How many dangerous ideas spread quickly due to fear of what others might think?  Children’s television shows constantly teach “being your own person “but some adults don’t adhere to this logic though.  Take a look no further than the atrocities of the 20th century.  Sadly, history is replete with examples of group think and allowing or attributing to terrible things.  The best way to curb this is to know why we believe what we believe and to resist compromising our believers because an ideology is popular.

A Realization

I wrote a blog in late 2017 about another type of rare love, and that is friendship.  Good and trustworthy friends who desire to invest in you as much as you want to invest in them are hard to come by.  That is especially true in a culture that is busy and sometimes teaches that once you have a family friends are a luxury. Friendship doesn’t require two people to constantly be around one another, but if years go by is the term “friend” even accurate?  If during that time both people change considerably and are not happy how things turned out, then is it good to continue to call the relationship a “friendship?”

There have been more people than I would like that fall into this sort of category.  Not only has there been so much time between visits we don’t know each other, but a few people do not wish for that to change.  Others have been toxic for various reasons, something which I didn’t know while I was close with them, but as they say hindsight is always 20/20.

There are things I would love to say to all these people, but I am starting to realize that the most loving thing I can do is let some people go.  Some folks simply do not want to take the time or effort to invest in you.  Their definition of “friend” is in all actuality an acquaintance.  Someone they know, had a few good times, maybe even shared some deep things, but they ultimately don’t know you and you don’t know them.  I would argue that most people have very few true friends if any at all.  That is scary, especially since we are social creatures.

Do not misunderstand this, I’m not saying a long period of time between seeing each other necessarily means two people are not friends.  What I am saying is that if one or both parties put little to no effort into the friendship it ceases to be a friendship entirely.  Our emotions and sentimentality hinder us from making that realization.  We often cannot comprehend that it might be loving to let someone go.  Most of us would probably agree that we do not want a person feeling in bondage to us or an idea of us out of some sort of misguided sense of friendship.

Secular is not a Genre

I’m a Christian.  I love Jesus, and do my best to serve Him in what I do.  In this journey as a Christian though, I have heard secular come up in sermons and casual conversations as a genre.  Christian is a genre, Religion is a genre, but that doesn’t mean that is the case with Secular.  As a writer this drives me nuts.

When classifying everything that isn’t overtly Christian or religious as a part of the phantom “Secular” genre, it automatically implies that these stories are somehow sub-par or less godly.  In the Christian community there is a general consensus that Christian books, movies, and music should be number one, and other genres should be secondary.  While I love Jesus more than words can express, I rarely find a connection to the Lord through “Christian” entertainment.  Honestly, I find it subpar in quality.  Obviously, this isn’t true in all cases, but it is far too common and rarely admitted.  I have heard the argument that quality doesn’t matter, it’s the message.  Oh really?  Try telling that to any author that’s ever lived.  I connect with the Lord best through things that make me ponder, think, rejoice that He is the way He is and not some awful pagan god that was once worshiped.

Thinking anything that doesn’t wear the “Christian” label is necessarily “Secular” also opens the door to the possibility of the audience missing the messages present.  Just because something isn’t thrusting Christian ideas in the audience’s face doesn’t mean the artist isn’t any less valuable or godly.

Matthew 25:31-46 is the passage used by believers to justify condemning another person’s tastes.  Yes, it is true, we believers need to guard our hearts.  However, if you are going to apply this passage to entertainment choices, I would submit everyone in the west is guilty of consuming media that others would say is ungodly.  We say we use Scripture to determine what is an isn’t Godly.  However, when some are convicted that they shouldn’t read Lord of the Rings because it has magic, where does one draw the line of condemnation?  This is where the Christian genre comes in.  Some say Christians must only consume Christian media.  Many times, Christian movies and fictional books are lacking in quality.  I think this is because there is an argument within Christian culture that quality doesn’t matter the message does.  Well, quality impacts the message, so yes it does. Who are we to say that God cannot use “Secular” media?

Recently, I came across a blog post that gave ten signs you might be a lukewarm Christian. One of which was that you listen primarily to “secular” music. Secular music does not make a believer less faithful than Christian music.  As with everything, discernment must be used, but we also must consider everything effects people differently.  The words of Jesus come to mind when it comes to this logic, “Beware the yolk of the Pharisees.”