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.

My Thoughts on the Erotica Genre

As far as personal tastes go, I understand that everyone is different. Most people are into sports and that is something I couldn’t care less about.  There are people who feel the same way about my books and the fantasy genre as a whole. I respect there are different hobbies and different points of view.  That is what makes us human.  However, there is one thing in the literary world that particularly bothers me, the attempt to claim that erotica is not pornography.

The last sentence of the previous paragraph undoubtedly raised the ire of a few.  Questions such as “how can you claim to be respectful of other people’s interests and make that claim?” For me it’s simple. I am a logical person.  As the old saying goes if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. On twitter especially I have seen erotica authors (which seem to be a dime a dozen on there) make various impassioned arguments that erotica isn’t porn at all.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines porn as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” That sounds a lot like erotica.  After all, what is the point of a story that primarily centers around sex if not for the soul purpose of arousal?  Sex by itself is not a plot, other plot elements may be intertwined with the story, but if that was the focus it would cease to be erotica.

I bring this up because all other genres may not be enjoyed by all people.  I don’t particularly fancy romance, but at the end of the day it is still art.  That is what sets erotica apart from all other genres.  Strictly speaking, erotica isn’t art, it’s porn.  A quick search into the definitions of the two clearly makes a distinction.  This isn’t about me pushing my morality onto others or to insult those who read erotica, but I want us to drop the pretense that it is some sort of extreme romance and not functionally a literary version of late night Pay-Per-View.

I believe this is an important topic to discuss.  Especially considering the popularity of the genre and recent scientific findings of what porn does to the human brain.  As always though, anyone reading this is welcome to disagree.  I encourage everyone to research it themselves.  Especially the effects of porn and the differences between porn and art.  From my point of view the evidence is undeniable, but of course there are those who feel passionately that I’m wrong.

Too Busy!

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.