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.

Social Justice Bullies

Social pandering has gone over and beyond ridiculous.  We must be careful what we say and to whom, and even the most benign thing shared can cause outrage.  Why is that?  Words are hurtful, there is no doubt about that, but why must we walk on the proverbial eggshells anymore?

Bullies exist, they always have and always will.  It is a toxic part of humanity and a reality most people face sometime in their lives.  However, that doesn’t seem to be why people are so hurt by words lately.  It appears that large masses of people have thin skin and have an axe to grind against anyone who shares a different viewpoint or vocabulary.

Below is a screenshot of a reaction someone had to a tweet.  Keep in mind my wife runs my Twitter account and was the one that posted this, not me, which is massively ironic.  The not-too-subtle accusation of sexism.  The point isn’t to vent because I’m offended.  It is to point out just how thin-skinned, so many people of our culture are.  Why is something so innocent as my wife and I celebrating our teamwork in need of criticism?

Our culture is growing ever more sensitive to the point where it finds problems where there are none.  No matter how benign a statement, social media post, or thought is, someone is bound to get offended, but not just offended, that person may feel the need to “educate” you and put you in your place.  Offended people now are the social bullies.  Attempting to silence any voice that is different from their own in the name of “good.”  How do we fight this?  Call it out for what it is, bullying.  Us writers need to keep writing our thoughts and what’s on our mind.  Not cater or pander to anyone, no matter how loud and obnoxious their voice may be.  The irony is that it is typically those who speak of tolerance and acceptance that are guilty of the very things they claim to hate.  Perhaps this is a window into everyone’s psyche, we are often guilty of the things we hate the most.  Therefore, before getting sanctimonious over silly things on social media, let us examine ourselves and see if we live up to our own standards.  We all need this.  Certainly, there is a time and place to speak up, and that is where wisdom and discernment comes in, both qualities though seem to be sorely lacking in our society.

Hurt

I’ve said before that a big part of writing is observing the behavior of people.  This observation enables authors to be guided toward more realistic characters.  One observation that has become very apparent in recent years is hurt.  So many people appear to be defined by the past and the pain that was inflicted upon them.

We are emotional, sensitive beings, even people who care very little for others are still sensitive, particularly when it comes to their own feelings.  I do not pretend to know about every type of pain and how to overcome it.  I do not know what it is like to be a veteran with PTSD or to give birth to a child.  I have not felt the pain of going days without food, or the hurt of being divorced.  One thing I am certain of, if you are human you have been hurt.

Pain is as much of the human experience as pleasure.  We have all felt it, and not only have we all felt it, we have our own personalized version of it.  I know from my own experiences that there are things nearly impossible to get past.  My wife too has endured pain and suffering few know about, and she has shown such a level of grace that it seems inhuman to me.

We each know pain, but not all of us are familiar with the same type of pain that may plague another person.  That being said, no pain is too great to overcome.  Yes, there are hurts that are beyond what humans were ever meant to endure.  I do acknowledge that, but at what point do we become stuck and defined by our pain?  There seems to be so many people that this scenario applies to.  This is seen heavily in identity politics, groups of all shapes and sizes coming out of the woodwork screaming “What about me?!  I have been wronged!”  Yes, yes you have been.  You know what?  So have the people you think are against you.

If we identify ourselves only by pain and gather with those who shared similar hurt, then how can we grow?  If we continually shout, “what about me?” when someone voices a concern.  If we utilize a person’s race, religion, philosophy, or nationality to say they do not understand pain, what are we accomplishing?  Nothing, nothing but more hurt and more division.  There is no glory in victimhood, and ultimately it will lead to shallowness and loneliness.  If we think our pain to be so great that we can in turn shout down someone else then that reflects more on us than anyone else, even if our pain is legitimate.

Three Years of Blogging

It was November of 2013 when I first started blogging on WordPress.com.  Since then, I have learned much about myself and the whole blogging process.  What started out as a mission to let the readers gain insight into the worlds I built and the process of writing, became so much more.

Truth be told, blogging was something I despised.  I saw it as a way for people to sit from the safety of their homes and critique the world around them without having to get involved.  Around the time of started on WordPress, I knew of someone who used his blog to spew criticism at the culture.  Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to say about societal shortcomings, but I wanted a theme, something to tie my stuff together and that’s writing.

Writing was to be the topic and I resolved not to deviate from that.  In July of 2017 I finally moved on from WordPress.com and bought a domain.  Along with that came a new vision with my blog.  During the couple years I only wrote about writing, I struggled with topics, yet I did not want to be an armchair critic.  Blogging after all is something anyone can do, anything can be said, and facts largely become irrelevant.  That isn’t something I want to be a part of.  However, many authors use blogging to discuss life, social issues, and the world.

I realized that if a reader is going to take the time to read a blog they want to know more than the ins and outs of writing.  A variety of content is essential, especially if a blog is going to become monetized.  I began writing on more topics, and realized that I can do it in a way where I don’t have to offer sanctimonious platitudes without facts.  I can write about my observations in the world, sharing my thoughts and feelings while at the same time directing my own words back at myself.  I have a blog about refusing to get offended but instead pausing and taking time to formulate our thoughts instead.  This is something I need to do, especially in this crazy world that only seems to be getting more insane.  Now, the challenge is to not become what I dislike about blogging, and become a critic from behind a computer screen without living up to my own standard.