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.
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.
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.
Anyone who is an adult knows that with maturity comes more responsibilities. If you are a typical adult living on your own with a family you’re raising, this is particularly true. On top of work, raising children, and maintaining a relationship adulthood affords far less spare time than when we were younger. As a result, friendships fall apart and hobbies such as reading become neglected. Are we really so busy? If so, then is it necessary?
Western culture is notorious for cramming our lives with as much stuff and activities as possible. Children and work are huge commitments that take up most of our daily hours. Yet how much of this lack of time is due to having too many obligations instead of poor time management skills? After all, if you really want to read or spend time with a person you would. Sure, there are a plethora of good examples of things that could separate someone from a friend for a prolonged period or their reading hobby.
I have come across many people who say, “I would love to_____ but I just don’t have the time!” Here is my counter to that. The things I really love to do I still manage to do. Things I enjoy but aren’t as passionate about are the ones that get neglected due to “busyness.” Those we love and desire a real relationship with we reach out to even if we our personal lives have little room to work with. As a writer, when I read the statistic that roughly 80% of Americans do not read, I cannot help but wonder if the excuse of busyness is the reason. Then the next question that comes to mind is how can we writers come to terms with this and help American adults effectively rediscover the magic of reading?
Perhaps the answer lies in each and everyone of us contemplating what is our priorities in life. If we enjoy watching television, we will watch it. We all need to take an honest assessment of ourselves and discover our true priorities. If there is someone you think of as your friend but haven’t called him/her for years perhaps deep down, you may love or respect them but they are not really as close to your heart as you believe. The same goes for the more trivial things such as our hobbies. The point is that we all, myself included, need to reassess ourselves sometimes. If something needs to me more of a priority we need to make it so, otherwise we don’t care as much as we claim.
When Harry Potter became popular, there was debate amongst Christian circles whether it was healthy for children to be exposed to or not. After all, Scripture condemns sorcery, and that in Harry Potter, children go to school to learn magic. As a Christian who enjoys fantasy of all kinds, this was a struggle for me growing up.
As a young man who attended an extremely conservative Christian college, my hobby of writing and reading fantasy became a point of contention in some conversations. Later, in my college career, something happened to me which caused an existential crisis of faith. For a few years I questioned everything, researched everything, learned varying perspectives on all matters in order to find out what I believe and why. Ultimately, I learned that obsessively researching online only leads to confusion and depression, but I digress.
In the end my faith remained intact, and I came to a few conclusions on important matters, one of which is that being a Christian doesn’t mean I have to be against it, but the opposite. Deciding to condemn fantasy and avoid it is a personal conviction, not a Biblical truth. For me, the genre is not mere fun, but a part of me, it reflects important timeless truths. If you are one who believes reading or watching fantasy is wrong, that is your choice and conviction. However, it is far from Scriptural to condemn stories simply because they have magic. The words of Jesus seem aptly appropriate for this, “Beware the yolk of the Pharisees.” I know, that doesn’t give us a pass to do whatever we want, but Paul makes it clear that some people have more sensitive consciences than other. That is okay, however do you like Football? The argument could be made that its evil if Scripture is twisted to say that due to scantily clad cheerleaders that football is evil. I know that sounds silly. So are most arguments against enjoying fantasy.
In the end a walk with Christ is more important than fiction choices, and those who enjoy stories different than what you like do not deserve condemnation. So much more could be said on this topic, which is why I will continue this in my next post.