I always wonder about people who keep picking a fight.
It seems they’re not interested in discussion, but only saying the contrarian opposite thing just to stir up a heated moment. That’s a one-way monologue, never a two-way street. It’s usually disguised as, “You can’t handle my truth” or “I keep it real.” They begin with the assumption that everyone else needs to be taught and they’re the teacher. “Wisdom perishes with me” and all that. There’s backpedaling and deflecting and doubling down and twisting words to appear like they were always right even when they’re proven wrong.
I don’t know why. Compulsion, maybe, or an addiction to drama, or the desperate urge to protect a fragile ego. Or maybe they never learned how to disagree with compromise, but everyone only catered to them and they always got their way. And despite trying to correct everyone all the time, they can’t stand to be corrected. They physically act out and justify and defend themselves to death, clawing at every straw to win. Win what? I wish I knew. In the end it only loses all of us.
I’m that guy sometimes, too. But I want to be teachable. I want to assume I’m never the smartest guy in the room. That’s okay. I always want to learn, to be able to say, “I’m wrong, and I’m sorry, and I need your help.” To be teachable is freeing. It means we can actually have a conversation. It matters less that we agree, but more that we build a bridge between you and me, that we can see how we got to where we are and how we can keep going. I hope we stay connected—because I cannot see with my own eyes alone.
Photo by Mariyan Dimitrov, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Hey friends, I’m featured on the very front page of WordPress.com!
I was interviewed among several writers & bloggers, and mine is the final one about learning how to rest.
One of the problems with circular echo chambers like Tumblr, Facebook, WordPress, or Twitter is that we mostly follow the voices that confirm our own preconceived beliefs while shutting down the evidence that runs counter to our bias. We’ve locked ourselves up in self-preaching choirs and impregnable ivory towers. Our life philosophy is then reinforced by the buzzwords and bloggers we want to hear, and we demonize a phantom enemy that isn’t anything close to a real person or idea, neglecting to engage with the real world and the very real issues at hand.
On a long enough timeline, you and I become radicalized into a new kind of fanaticism, devoted to our out-of-touch, fact-devoid, isolated cages. With so many actual injustices abounding that need solutions, our faceless debating hijacks the limelight and resources from the deficit of the people we claim to be rooting for.
This is a vicious cycle that continually perpetuates misinformation disguised in pieces of truth. Some of these truths are necessary, which is all the more reason it’s a travesty that they’re buried under a blind clicking frenzy. We buy into an aggregated “fringe platform” of like-minded ideologies that only feeds itself, like the mythical dragon ouroboros that chokes on its own tail, which only attracts people who already agree and don’t want to be challenged. This common delusion appeals to our basest urge for socialization and vicariously victimizing ourselves on behalf of someone else’s “inspirational tragedy.” Never mind that it’s the other person’s everyday life and only your two second click of a like button.
It gives us a self-righteous tingle to think, “I have the insider knowledge and you don’t.” It’s a shiny trophy of “online education” that will swell your ego and high-five the hive-mind, but it does nothing and goes nowhere and has no real chance of dialogue.
If this makes you mad, then it might be too late for you. I understand though: we hate the possibility of being on the “wrong side” and “losing face.” Being rejected by your group of yes-men or criticized by the opposite side feels like death, and we either self-destruct or destroy others. And to actually work to understand the issue? It’s too hard. We’re in love with trying to change the world by looking like we’re trying to change it, with pretty text on a screen.
Continue reading “Self-Affirming Blog Bias: The Danger of Reinforcing Misinformation & Inaction from Isolated Viral Awareness”
There’s something you need to know.
The people you follow online are not everything they present themselves to be. Including me. We don’t have it together, and the more it seems like we do, the less likely it’s true.
I’ve met bloggers in real life who are nothing like the idealized hologram that they vicariously present in pretty quotes and shiny pictures and inspirational passive-aggressive monologues. Some are cranky jerks. Some are just surviving. Some do it for the likes. Some are still in middle school. Some do it because they can’t do anything else, and they’re telling others to do what they only dream of doing.
I have nothing against them. I’m them. I only wish they were honest about their emptiness and their heartache. I wish they would say how they actually feel instead of preaching the ideal. I wish they wouldn’t talk from a pedestal. I wish the same for me, too.
This is the space where I want to be, where I tell you I’m not any better than you and I’m still learning, and it’s not to look humble in reverse or to find some easy excuse, but because we’re both in this fight together, and we’re seeing only a few feet ahead of us at a time, like halfway headlights in a harsh fog, just like everyone else. I’m putting away my soap-box. I’m rolling up me sleeves and getting knee-deep in the trenches. I’m eye to eye, side by side. I’m with you, and I’m for you. I hope you’re for me, too.
It really breaks my heart to see bloggers write things that are not true in their own lives. They write way too far ahead of themselves, or sort of make up nice-sounding theoretical things to get reblogged, but it falls apart when you start thinking about it.
I only know this because I personally know a few of these bloggers, and really, it would be so much more sincere to admit we don’t have it together. That we’re not there yet. That we struggle with the stuff that we call out on others. Is it so hard to admit that?
It’s okay to say we suck at this right now. It’s okay to include ourselves in our preachiness. Because without recognizing your failure, you’re leaving a very bad taste in my mouth. I don’t mean to sound cruel; I seriously take no pleasure in it. I say that because I love you and I know you could be so much more than your pedestal.
We are not above the things we write. You cannot ask from others what you’re not attempting yourself first. We’re all getting by on the grace of God here.
Please don’t say “Confront each other” if you can’t handle rebuke yet.
Please don’t say “Love each other” without acknowledging you’re not good at it either.
Please don’t give “spiritual tips” that aren’t field-tested and life-approved. It’s cool to say you just don’t know.
This is not to look humble in reverse. This is to say we’re in the same boat and that I am working on this the same as you are. A beautiful thing happens when we meet in our brokenness and get to eye-level — a sort of dance that invites others instead of flaunting a desperate perfection.
It’s also not just enough to be honest and stay there. It doesn’t do any good to tell a man you’re robbing his house tonight. Change is a process, but that means there is a process. It means we can start today, where we are, this moment. But it begins with honesty.
God has grace for us on this, even for the times that we don’t.
I’m really tired of pastors (including myself) talking trash about other pastors, and Christians about other Christians. I’m tired of pastors saying, “This isn’t gossip if we’re discussing people in ministry.” Even if that were true, we smuggle in all our petty bitterness under the disguise of caring about someone when we really don’t. That’s more reason to be careful, not less. It doesn’t matter if you only gossip with people you “trust” or with just one other person: you are still feeding your inner-troll.
I don’t believe your church and my church exist within their buildings. They don’t end at your back door or my front lawn. They co-exist in the global body of Christ. We are one. So when you talk bad about another pastor or another Christian down the street — any fellow human being — you are undermining the work of God in their lives. Even suggesting that another pastor is “unworthy” of his position (which is already true) will kill a local ministry. All for what? To satisfy our desperate attention-seeking ego for two seconds? To claim we got the secret-sauce of the “right” methodology? You can’t possibly know the extent of damage you’re doing to OUR church, which is also your body. We effectively bite our own fingers and toes. We eat our own. No one is impressed by this, especially not the world. And I’m tired of that sick feeling in my stomach when I leave a room knowing I just spit on Jesus’s face.
If you’ve been brainwashed into thinking your church is the only one doing it right: you’ve fallen for a tribal, cult-like, isolated, nationalistic paradigm which Jesus came to destroy. If you think a pastor is a false teacher, you are not “protecting” people by publicly shaming him. Instead of using your energy to blast the guy, we could be on our knees praying in sweat and tears for God to rend their hearts open and to have mercy on us all. Most likely though, this guy isn’t a false teacher but he simply does ministry differently than you, and you’re butt-hurt for reasons that won’t matter when you stand before God’s face-melting glory at the end of your one short life. If you have to call out a false teacher, point at yourself first.
I know that no matter how much we divide our own church, God still has grace and He will still work in His sovereignty. But it will be in spite of us and not through us. I would much rather God work through me than past me. It’s better. It is how we will not just survive, but thrive.
I have defended crappy terrible pastors for years now. I have also talked my share of trash. I’m done with both. I will say nothing less than to point to Jesus. I beg of you: celebrate people, because God loves them too. Pray for them, because they need it. And pray for yourself, to let go of excuses and let go of your pride. Gossip is gossip, regardless of what else you call it. I plead with you: please join me in stopping the stream of crap that so quickly emerges from our mouths, which have the potential for greater than this.
About a year ago, I blasted a dude named Jefferson Bethke who made a video called “Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus,” which currently has over 23 million views and attracted all kinds of criticism and praise — and I was one of the guys who hated on him.
I left a mean comment on YouTube, went wild about it on my blog, and accused him of “thin doctrine” and a “poor choice of words” about the Christian faith.
Only a couple weeks later, I came to my senses and snapped out of it with a semi-apology.
I don’t know Mr. Bethke or anything about his faith and life — but in my arrogant selfishness and a subconscious attempt to piggyback off his success, I called him out on stupid secondary nitpicks that only made me look like an insecure moron.
Plainly speaking, I looked like an ass.
Continue reading “How Jefferson Bethke Showed Me I Was A Jerk”