Angry About Anger

An honest confession:

I struggle a lot with anger.

I’ve also been told that anger is wrong, so I tend to stuff it down. Eventually there’s a breaking point where it flies out like twice a year. I look pretty laidback and congenial until I have my semi-annual blow-up. It’s ugly. Embarrassing. Enough to make people leave forever.

Anger, of course, can be scary. I have thrown things. I have punched a wall. I have yelled uncontrollably. There’s no excuse for that sort of behavior and I deserve every consequence. People have a right to leave.

But I never knew there was a healthy kind of anger. That anger is pointing to something true, real, and valid. That it means something is very wrong around us or inside us, and it needs healing. At the very least, it needs to be heard.

No, we should never use anger as an excuse to hurt someone. It’s never okay to say, “I only did that because I was angry.” Nothing justifies abuse. Ever. We must be held accountable regardless of how we felt at the time.

I just wonder how we can talk about this in an honest way without totally writing off the angry person.

I’ve found that underneath rage is usually pain. Grief. A kind of hurt that has left us powerless.

The hard part is venting our anger in a way that’s constructive instead of explosive. The even harder part is to talk about it without people judging.

The common response is always condemning: “I knew he was terrible. His life is so good, he has no reason to be mad.” And maybe that’s true. But how can we correct this unless we talk about it? Aren’t there sometimes real reasons a person is mad? There must be a safe venue for an angry person to say, “I’m bitter, I’m resentful, I can’t forgive, and I don’t know what to do with this.”

My fear is that no one will make room for it. You can usually tell someone you’re insecure, sad, or lonely, and they’ll hear you. Tell someone you’re angry and they assume you’re a “bad person.” Sometimes angry people are also “bad people,” sure. But I wish we could find help for our rage without immediately being crushed and cast out. I wish we could talk through the stigma.

I think, in the end, that anger must have a place. You can be angry for instead of against. It can be motivated by justice. There are legitimate reasons to be righteously mad. A call for reparations. A proper outrage when someone is oppressed, exploited, abused. I wish I had known this sooner. I want to be angry for you, not at you. I hope there’s grace enough to learn how.

— J.S.


A Relationship Is Not a Wishlist

Look, a romantic wishlist is a nice thought, but it’s also creepy and unfair. It’s setting up an impossible monstrosity of expectations and you’ll be disappointed for no other reason than you played yourself.

I don’t mean lowering your standards. I mean setting real ones, for actual people who exist. For people who are just people and not a customized Frankenstein creature.

The person you’ll end up with is going to be their own personwith their own hopes, dreams, goals, anxieties, and weird little habits. They’re not a checklist trophy that will meet your every size or quota.

They’re going to be way different and in fact way more interesting than the stitched up hologram made from half-baked movie cliches and choir-preaching memes.

Relationships are about compromise. Not compromising yourself, no. But about two weird people making it work. It’s a wild mix of chemistry, compatibility, non-negotiables, history and trauma, highs and lows, disagreements and pushback and feedback, augmenting goals, and lifelong change.

“Get you a guy/girl who” only works if you see yourself as a main character-savior-hero and you see others as a secondary prop to fulfill your romantic comedy narrative. In that case, you have other issues and you can wait.

And waiting in the meantime is a really good time for growth, for self-discovery, and for becoming the kind of person you never knew you were looking for. Singleness, really, isn’t waiting. It’s being.


Photo from Unsplash

The Truths and Myths of Christian Dating and Relationships


Hello wonderful friends! Here’s a seminar that I gave in San Jose, CA about the truths and myths of dating & relationships within both the church-culture & pop-culture. Stream below or download directly here.

Some things I talk about are: “The time I overheard a couple have their final knock-down drag-out fight, my absolutely favorite type of scene in the movies, what everyone really wants in the hospital, dating theology from Taylor Swift, when God looks at you through the ceiling, and Christianity according to a cologne sample.”

I also did a follow-up Q&A which you can stream below or download here.

Some of the content is from my book on relationships.
Be immensely blessed! — J.S.

Photo from my engagement shoot, by Angel He Photography

3 Habits Every Married Couple Needs to Know | Marriage & Faith

Marriage can be extremely difficult work. Here are three daily habits which I strive to practice (imperfectly with much stumbling) in marriage. Also, how Christian faith becomes practical in our relationships.

The video is slightly adapted from my viral post “3 Lessons I Learned Instantly In My First Week of Marriage (That I’ll Need For Life)

This is part of a series of videos called “Where Faith Meets Life,” covering topics like politics, abuse, marriage, and mental illness.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel here:

Be blessed and love y’all, friends!
— J.S.

I Never Knew I Was at a Toxic Workplace—Until I Went to a Healthy One.

I love my current workplace. I mean, the work itself is incredibly difficult: grief counseling at a hospital, notifying family members of an accident, bringing up end-of-life decisions. But it makes a difference to have co-workers who are more than faceless employees. We are fellow sojourners on a mission together.

One of my previous workplaces was not like this. There was bullying, nepotism, high suspicion, and hateful gossip. The people were just mean. No one cared about seeing the best in each other. Every call or email from the higher-ups would throw me into a panic. Of course, I had my issues too. But I walked through them alone, alienated, with constant dread.

I recognize now that I’m lucky. At my current job, we’re all on the same page, we pause and listen, we clarify our communication without fear of retaliation. We deeply care about each other and the work we do.

The thing is, I didn’t know how awful my previous job was until I landed where I am.

My guess is that most of us will tolerate an abusive, toxic, punishing work environment because “I’m paying my dues” or “This is all I can get right now.” And that’s true. We often have to do things we don’t like to get where we want to be. We can still thrive in those places. Sometimes it’s the best we can do, and we can still be our best there.

Continue reading “I Never Knew I Was at a Toxic Workplace—Until I Went to a Healthy One.”

“I Did This to Me” — The Lie That Abuses the Abused

Whenever I was abused or have worked with the abused, there’s always the narrative, “I did something to attract this. It confirms my worst fears about me. There’s something so sick about me that I brought this on myself.” And culture at large does nothing to counter this lie.

The reason it’s scary to tell someone “I’ve been abused” is because it literally feels like saying “I let myself be degraded” or “I did something wrong” somehow. I might as well paint a target on my back that says “weak and desperate for any attention, especially if it’s abuse.”

I also hate this whole notion of romanticized forgiveness for your abuser. It’s a Hollywood hologram. “You have to forgive or it’ll kill you.” No: abuse can kill you. Self-care and boundaries need to be championed first. Forgiveness doesn’t ever have to mean friendship.

I do believe that abusers are molded by systemic unseen forces of trauma and class damage. But I’m afraid we offer too many explanations for the abuser rather than compassion for the wounded. We want our villains to have nuance because we elevate sensationalism over the hurting.

And for the abused: People find you suspect if you’re out smiling, laughing, enjoying yourself, as if being abused makes you permanently somber. Don’t listen. Pain can coincide with joy. We need joy to break through the pain. Your journey is yours. Laugh, cry, nap, dream, defy.


Photo from Unsplash

The Call That No One Wants

Part of my hospital chaplaincy duties is to write a reflection on how it’s going. Identities and identifying factors are altered for privacy. All the writings are here.

“Are you Angela, the wife of Tyrone Simmons?”

“Yes,” she said, voice rising, searing through the phone in my ear. “Yes, chaplain, why?”

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but Tyrone is here at the hospital.”

I hate this part. He’s here at the hospital. I’ve made this call so many times. Are you able to be here? Will you be with anyone? Please drive safely. 

Tyrone had been driving to work and he was struck by a truck driver. Most likely died instantly. He probably never knew.

I had found Angela’s number by going through her husband’s wallet. It’s a crazy thing, to look inside the wallet of a dead man. You learn a lot from a person’s valuables.  With disposable gloves, I had laid out Tyrone’s belongings on a sheet of paper, each item caked in blood. It’s a clinical process. I feel terrible every time.

The phone number wasn’t written on anything: I had to play detective for a while. This is one of the chaplain’s tasks, to find next-of-kin, to look through every piece of the deceased’s belongings until we had a lead. I chase stories, and underneath them are more stories.

Continue reading “The Call That No One Wants”

How Hard It Really Is: A Short, Honest Book About Depression

**Edit January 2018** My book on fighting depression has been revised with a new a cover and about a 10% change in content. If you’ve already purchased the book, please email me at and I’ll send a digital copy of the updated version.

Hello lovely friends! After a year and a half of painstaking work, my book on fighting depression is here. It’s called: How How Hard It Really Is: A Short, Honest Book About Depression.

The book covers:
• The science behind depression
• The helpful (and unhelpful) dialogue around mental illness
• The debate between seeing it as a choice or disease
• Stories of survivors
• A secret culture of suicide worship
• An interview with a depressed doctor
• The problem with finding a “cure”
• My own attempt at suicide
• A myriad of voices from nearly two-hundred surveys conducted over a year

The paperback is here. The ebook is here.

For my video on depression, check here:

Be blessed and love y’all, friends. A reminder that if you’re in a dark place, I hope you’ll reach out. You are truly more loved than you know. 
— J.S.

“The Way Things Are” Is Not the Way Things Are

I am super extremely thankful for the many therapists, mentors, and more mature people I had in my life helping me through some deeply tough times.

But—I recognize that many of these people were middle-aged white American males. They truly did help me, really, and yet I knew their limitations, me being Asian-American and all (and I understand the reverse would be true, too).

The weird thing is: many of the white American males who had counseled me didn’t really think they had a cultural bias. They thought “My thoughts are just the way things are, and Asians / Latinos / Blacks have a culture.”

So I was being taught “the way things are,” as if my culture needed correction, without a recognition that white culture was also its own view of life and not “the way things are.”

I truly am thankful for many of these men who helped me through hard times. I was just confused and surprised that they mostly couldn’t see they were also working through a biased cultural lens. This severely limited their empathy and connection.

Every culture has something to cherish, something to be embarrassed about, something to work on and to learn from. I think we must first acknowledge that no culture is the default, we each have blind spots, and we each must enter into each other’s space with open hands.


Photo from Unsplash

What’s Up with the Bible Saying “Wives Submit to Husbands”?

the-pink-and-yellow-girl asked a question:

With the “wives submit to your husbands” verse, how do you understand this? My pastor has explained it to me before, but as a woman I often end up feeling kind of sad or frustrated by it when I don’t think that’s what I’m supposed to feel.

Hey dear friend, I wrote a pretty big post on this once before, I commend it to you hereOf course, please feel free to disagree or dialogue with me.

My short answer is this: The word “submit” in Ephesians 5:22 isn’t originally in that verse in the Greek language. Seriously. Check it out. It says, Wives to your husbands as to the Lord.The word “submit” is actually implied by the previous verse which says, Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. So first you need to know, there is mutual submission between husband and wife. Paul starts off by commanding both to submit to each other.

Here’s my longer answer:

Continue reading “What’s Up with the Bible Saying “Wives Submit to Husbands”?”

A Friendly Reminder: I Am Not Your Counselor and I Am Not a Journalist

I keep forgetting that most people on social media who act like authorities are young 20-somethings who haven’t seen much of the world and don’t know how it works. They want to change the world from their basement, or they’re just hungry to go viral. It doesn’t mean they can’t have an opinion. It means I need to double check theirs.

Bloggers are not your counselors or journalists. Most are just making up stuff with flowery words and “what I would do” sentiment. It’s not that we’re bad or wrong. But please keep in mind that most social media users care about your clicks, not your life.

I’m always asking, “Says who? By what authority? What makes it credible? Why do you believe it to be true? Why should I believe you? And how is it working out for you?”

Don’t trust me. Don’t believe me. Just because I have “followers” doesn’t mean a thing. Check the facts. For the love of God, triple check. Discern. Think for yourself. I can speak with authority on some things, but I won’t get it right every time. Trust with a closed grip.


Photo from Unsplash

How Do You Know You’re Persecuted or Just a Terrible Person?

illuminirk asked a question:

how do you differentiate when you’re being persecuted for christ and being slammed for… for lack of a better word, for being a shitty person? for instance, i see a lot of american christians claiming persecution when really people are mad that they’re racist or homophobic or etc. how do you navigate that? how do you know?

Perhaps the simplest way is this:

Look around. Do you live in the West? You’re probably free to express your faith. So most likely you’re not being persecuted, but you’ve picked the wrong battle.

Look around. Do you live in the East? You’re probably not free to express your faith. So most likely you’re being persecuted, because you’re in the battle at all.

The thing is, early first century Christians were being persecuted simply for existing. Their faith was not primarily about self-improvement (though that’s in there), but about enduring the suffering of a cruel world. They didn’t have much room for political rallies or fighting for moral issues. They were in survival mode. They saw Christianity as the good news of a God who walked with them, rather than some kind of behavioral improvement tool. So while they did care about self-improvement, their first priority was merely survival.

Many Christians in the West today don’t experience the same kind of cultural suffering. They’re not in survival mode, so they’re focused more on self-improvement. I include me in this. It’s not a bad thing. I actually have space to think about how to better my own life and live like Christ. So sometimes Christians have too much idle time and pick the wrong fights in a free society. 

And really, when you have the chance to self-improve, it’s easier instead to stand up for some policy outside yourself. It’s a way to offload responsibility for your own actions: by trying to change laws or take the “moral high ground,” you then don’t have to look at changing yourself. Christians find it hard to follow Scripture, so they pick a path of lesser resistance (I include me here, too). It’s easier for Christians to shout really loudly in a free society than actually change their own self-destructive habits and live a useful, meaningful life.

I don’t mean that a person who experiences physical pain for their faith is necessarily a “real Christian.” Sometimes that’s just self-imposed martyrdom, and that’s selfish too. I mean that real persecution is about a cultural baseline of restricted freedom. If you’re free to express yourself, you’re not persecuted. If you express yourself and some people complain, you’re not persecuted. If you express yourself and some people call you mean names and avoid you at work, sorry, but you’re not persecuted.

Continue reading “How Do You Know You’re Persecuted or Just a Terrible Person?”

An Interview About Mental Health, Minority Stigma, and the Church Vs. Depression

I recently did an interview about mental health with a student filmmaker. My book on depression can be found here.

Disclaimer: I’m a hospital chaplain who does grief counseling and helps with end-of-life decisions, but I’m not qualified to offer medical advice. I’d recommend following @wayfaringmd, who is.

Continue reading “An Interview About Mental Health, Minority Stigma, and the Church Vs. Depression”

Real Dark Jesus

So my church showed this video of Jesus doing a bunch of miracles. Great production values. All non-whites, mostly authentic languages, culturally and ethnically reproduced to how it would look in the first century eastern world.

But — I was amazed and amused by the reaction of the church attendees (most of whom are classically westernized i.e. white). They were squirming like crazy the entire video. Like very, very bothered. It wasn’t hard to read.

I was smiling ear to ear that this video mostly got the “look and feel” of the actual first century east. But soon I became angry and sad that the church was so squirmy because they didn’t see western interpretations of white Jesus on the screen.

I’m sure this sounds silly and petty, but our preconceived ideas of Jesus, the east, and the grit of the first century plays a lot into how we view culture, faith, and “the foreigner.” Whitewashing is a big trigger word that’s overplayed, but it’s real.

And for evangelical Christians who are used to seeing a tall, handsome, blonde Jesus, this ain’t how it was. Not even close. By all biblical reports, he was ordinary, unattractive, unremarkable, and dark. Christianity is built on a guy that most of the west is scared of by default.

I’m super-glad my church risked an authentic interpretation of Jesus, and super-sad it bothered the church so much. I also had to wonder how many normative images I have in my head of beauty, truth, heroism, and villainy—and how these images have harmed how I see others.


Photo from Image Catalog, CC0 1.0

I Care Too Much What Other People Think About Me

undefeatedx asked a question:

how do i stop caring about what people think about me?? 😦

Hey dear friend, I really wrestle with this, too. I’ve discovered in therapy that I’m a people-pleaser, even codependent, and I often have this crazy conspiracy in my head of small-town backroom rumors, where everyone I know secretly dislikes me and laughs about me in some seedy, poorly lit poker room.

A few things about how to deal with what others think about you:

Continue reading “I Care Too Much What Other People Think About Me”

My Top Ten Posts of 2017

Here are the Top Ten Posts of 2017 from my blog, ranging from topics such as North Korea, the 2016 election, crazy hospital stories, when people can’t admit they’re wrong, dealing with a friend’s depression, and surviving the world as an ugly Asian male.

Continue reading “My Top Ten Posts of 2017”

Grinches, Scrooges, and Grieving Souls: Christmas Is For You, Too

I know that for many of us, the Christmas season is a painful time. The festive celebration is in stark contrast to your own history.

It could be a dysfunctional family. Grief from loss. A lonely time. The heartache of a hard year. Or it could just be you dislike the whole affair. You can’t stand the egg nog, mistletoes, and holiday radio.

But that’s okay. Please know: You are not obligated to pretend happiness just because a certain calendar date has fallen on you. You have permission to be a Scrooge, a Grinch, a “downer.” No one else has to live through what you’re going through, and they will be long gone after telling you how to feel.

I believe that God can handle that. He receives you. He validates your grief. No one else can, not fully. He does.

And more, God’s invitation to rejoice still stands. Always. He won’t stop inviting you to joy. Through tears, even for brief moments, laughter can still bubble up and surprise you. Jesus broke in the same way: through dirt, grief, a lonely manger, he was light pushing through the dark. A surprise.

Merry Christmas, to Scrooges and celebrators. However you spend this time and through all you’re going through, I hope you know: you are loved.

Photo from Images Catalog, CC0 1.0

How Do I “Let Go and Let God”? Does Working Hard Mean I’m Not Trusting God?

sunmoonandmyrtle asked a question:

Hi JS, I was wondering about the balance between trusting God and making your plans/taking action. I am a bit OCD about planning. My journey at the moment seems to be learning to let go of trying so hard and have faith in God to provide. On the other hand, I don’t want to be the kind of person who says God will bless them yet doesn’t work hard or look for ways to work smart. I’m not looking for a quick solution, but would be glad to just hear what you think. (I hope you’re having a nice day.)

Hey dear friend, I really wrestle with this too: When do I let go and “let God”? If I hustle and pursue, does that mean I’m not trusting Him?

Here are a few things I’ve learned about trusting God:

Continue reading “How Do I “Let Go and Let God”? Does Working Hard Mean I’m Not Trusting God?”

How Do I “Bring People to God” Without “Shoving My Religion Down Their Throat”?

caito8o asked a question:

How do you bring people to God without telling them that they are going to hell? Or “shoving my religion down their throat?” And how do you deal with people that tried Jesus and still don’t believe? I have issues with the way my church discuss these topics so I was wondering if you could bring some clarity. Thank you so much for your help!

Hey dear friend, I speak all this with absolute grace and love for you, and I’d like to go one further.

Hell is not a motivation for faith—but neither is heaven. If a punishment or a prize are the motivations for someone’s journey, then my assumption is that person hasn’t thought very far about why they’re on this journey at all. I’m reminded of that quote from True Detective:  “If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward, then brother, that person is a piece of s__.”

If my goal is to “bring people to God,” that actually won’t work either, because we shouldn’t be trying to make it work. I don’t mean to assume your motives, but evangelism isn’t a score-card where we win people by attendance. No one is a project or a charity case.

Christians might not think we do this, but it happens in all kinds of unseen ways: we attract people until they’re baptized, and then the pastor stops talking to them. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. God can only naturally flow out of who we are and how we interact with others. God flows from my art, my expression, my patience, my generosity, and what I do with my free time. It’s not primarily a conscious goal to say, “See, this is God!” It was C.S. Lewis who said we can’t try to make good art, but that we make art and it might turn out good. It’s the same way with expressing God to others: it happens or it doesn’t.

Continue reading “How Do I “Bring People to God” Without “Shoving My Religion Down Their Throat”?”

A Response to Roy Moore and the Bizarre Hypocrisy of Evangelicals

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty

birkinvibes asked a question:

What is you opinion on Roy Moore and his continuous appeal to various pastors and churches in the South, and his claim that the sexual allegations against him are stemmed from the persecution he receives as someone fighting a “cultural war?”

Honestly? I feel deep shame, embarrassment, and anger about the whole thing. I feel deep grief for the women he has assaulted. I’m so tired of the evangelical community right now and exhausted to the point of wanting to call it quits on faith, church, and westernized religion. Moore is a symptom of a way deeper problem.

Too many evangelical Christians double-down on their defenses instead of owning up to their problems. Remember when Mike Guglielmucci, songwriter of “Healer,” admitted that he faked cancer? He played onstage with an oxygen mask, then admitted he faked it while collecting donations, and then said it was his because of his “porn addiction.” He couldn’t just say, “I was selfish and I lied to you and I was deceitful and what I did was evil to people with cancer.” No, he blamed it on the more socially acceptable problem of porn addiction.

Evangelical pastors like Perry Noble, Mark Driscoll, Tullian Tchividjian, Paul Sheppard, and James MacDonald have all had moral failures in the recent past, and not a single one of them has genuinely said they’re sorry (don’t even get me started on Franklin Graham). Some of them have started a church franchise somewhere else, or they stubbornly stay and continue their craziness. Their apologies read like Lena Dunham’s Twitter feed. They blame it on “culture wars” and “persecution” and “haters,” but my guess is they just can’t look in the mirror.

Are they able to be redeemed? Yes. Should they continue to stay in positions of authority? No. Not until at least some good old fashioned repentance has been done.

Continue reading “A Response to Roy Moore and the Bizarre Hypocrisy of Evangelicals”