How does this change the way you live?

Standard

Most everyone I’ve known growing up is probably going to think I’ve lost my mind or that I’ve been corrupted by the world or something like that. But it’s really the complete opposite. My mind has been opened. They might not like it or me anymore. But so be it. I guess I’m making waves. I can find new friends.

At this time, I do not claim to be a Christian. I am still not at all certain what I believe anymore about God and such but I do still have the experience of being raised in a strict fundamentalist baptist home and attending schools that espouse a rigid set of beliefs and standards that I do not live by. A set of beliefs that have had supposed Christians saying incredibly cruel and ignorant things. When you have no room in your head or your heart for anything other than a harsh set of rules and the idea that anyone who doesn’t believe exactly like you do is a reprobate, then I imagine it probably isn’t that hard to say cruel, ignorant, and unloving things.

But I choose not to be that. I choose not to repeat ignorant, cruel things just because it’s what I’ve been told was right my whole life. I am proud that this country has finally legalized same-sex marriage. There. I said it. I am proud. And I want to tell you that the reason I am proud is because it is just another step towards kindness. It is another step towards actually seeing and treating every single human being as just that… a human being. And that means that no matter how opposed you may be to how someone else lives their life, they are no less deserving of the rights that you yourself enjoy. One of which being the legal right to marry the person that you love.

I do have to mention that I find it very odd and somewhat disconcerting that so many Christians seem to be so incredibly preoccupied with and worried about other people’s sex lives. You may find it immoral or disgusting or whatever, and if that’s part of your belief system then fine, but it doesn’t actually affect you in any way. Giving someone else a right that they’ve never had before doesn’t mean that you are having any rights taken away. That’s like saying that when women got the right to vote, it somehow made it so that men were losing some kind of right. No. Women just got a chance to have a voice in the same way men did. Because they are also human and every bit as capable of making decisions (any decision) as men are.

You see I think it’s quite simple. You can disagree all you want with how someone else goes about living their life, but they are exactly the same as you. They live and breath and work and eat and sleep and love and live on this planet with you, and who they choose to spend their days doing that with doesn’t affect you. At all. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you are better than them and that they are now going to take over the world and destroy all that is good. It’s just not true. This ruling by the Supreme Court does not mean the demise of our nation. It means equality.

At one point I liked politics. But it is so full of drama and childishness that it is almost unbearable. My politics have changed a lot in the past year or so but I absolutely despise the extremism of far left liberals and far right conservatives. I am a person who wants to make a difference. I want to do something. I want to change the world somehow. And I do know that doing something cannot begin with hate. It can begin with anger. Anger over injustice. Anger over pain. Anger over the mistreatment of human beings the world round. But it simply cannot begin with hate and disgust in your heart towards any certain group of people, no matter how wrong you think their way of living is.

There are so many things to disagree on. But disagreement doesn’t equal hate, cruelty, or insensitivity. Every person is deserving of some kind of respect because of the simple fact that they are another being with a soul. They really are just like you. Don’t ever forget that.

Stop pretending that happiness is the most important thing

Standard

I saw the new movie Inside Out last night and I highly, highly recommend it. I laughed, I cried. It was perfect. And it lead to a discussion at dinner with my brother and sister-in-law. A discussion that I think is incredibly important.

A huge concept that I took away from the movie is that all emotions are important and necessary. They are necessary to growing up and maturing. Whoever wrote the script for this movie is both an excellent writer and very clearly emotionally mature and intelligent. Most notable was the theme that the movie focused on, that sadness is necessary. It is necessary for happiness. It’s a step. And as you grow older it is often a precursor to happiness and joy and other pleasant feelings. Honestly how could you know joy or happiness or contentment without also and even first knowing sadness, pain, and regret.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the whole idea of happiness and what it means in people’s lives. It seems to be the primary goal of most people, but why? I wonder if it is really the ultimate thing to strive for. Does “achieving” happiness a majority of the time mean that you’ve succeeded? Does it mean that you’ve somehow made it in life? Does it mean there is nothing else to strive for? If you are always happy, is that the end? Happiness is it?

I don’t think so. I think growing up means that you recognize that happiness is not the most acceptable or desirable emotion. Because really all emotions are acceptable. They just are. How can something that you feel inside you that you have no control over be unacceptable. It hurts my heart to think of children growing up and learning that they should always be happy. They should always strive for happiness. They should always try to make themselves and everyone around them happy.

inside_out___disney_pixar-t2

It actually isn’t your responsibility to make anyone feel anything. Emotions are complicated. Having a “negative” (I hate to use that term) emotion does not mean that you have some kind of evilness inside of you or that you are sinning or that you are a bad person. Anger is a state of being. Sadness is a state of being. Envy is a state of being. Happiness is a state of being. But we can’t ever stay in just one of those places. Well, maybe you can, but it probably means that you are stifling a part of you that is vital to growing up and you developing into a complex, well-balanced, healthy adult.

For some people this never ever happens. They get stuck. Something traumatic or highly influential happens at a certain time in their life and they live there for the rest of their days. They never grow. They never change. They never recognize that remaining in a perpetual state of any kind of emotion is immature and isolating.

Emotions are fleeting. They are constantly changing. They come and they go. We can control what we say, and what we do, and to a certain extent what we think, but we cannot control what we feel. What we feel is what it is. I think that being in a perpetual state of happiness and optimism is somewhat abnormal and not very healthy.

I do not want to be forever happy. I want to be strong. I want to fight for people who matter to me. I want to be compassionate. I want to be able to empathize with people and the hard things they go through because I am not afraid to experience and sit with any and all emotions that come along. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it. As they come along. Emotions come and go and change constantly. To only ever want happiness actually seems a bit odd. To try to run away from or hide or ignore or suppress any kind of emotion will make you sick. Your body, and mind, and spirit will be out of wack and it will be almost impossible to find balance in your life. That is not a picture of the person I want to be.

Part of what makes us human is that we all experience the same emotions. There are so many different emotions, but everyone experiences them all at some point in their life and they aren’t something to be ashamed of, afraid of, ridiculed for, or forced to change for no other reason than to make someone else happy or satisfied. I know it’s often meant as a source of encouragement but I don’t like it when people say things like “I want to make you happy” or “I want you to be happy.” It’s a lovely sentiment and it’s all well and good when you are happy. But when you are feeling something else, that isn’t a cue for those around you to start springing into action or dishing out advice about how to get happy again. It just means your feeling something else and you have to deal with it.

I am still struggling with a lot of things but I have noticed that I’ve come to a place where I don’t hate any emotion that I have. I am actually enjoying the opportunity to finally really sit down and feel things. To be human. To let go of having to put on a face for people. Christina Perri has a song called Human and I love it. It shows how easily we can get caught up in putting on a face and pretending to be something or feel something that we think is going to make someone else like us better. I don’t want to do that either. When someone in my life comes to me with a crushed spirit and awful feelings inside because something terrible happened, I want to be able to be a rock. I know from my own personal experience that in situations like that, what people really want is someone to listen. Someone to empathize. Someone to show they care just by being there.

I want friends who still want to be my friend when I’m sad, and hurt, and angry and ready to curse the world. I want friends who still want to be my friend when I’m sad, and hurt, and angry for a long time. And I don’t want to feel like I have to apologize or be ashamed of the fact that I am not in a constant state of happiness and optimism. I don’t want to have friends who make me afraid to speak up when something awful is going on because they don’t want to hear anything from me that might possibly touch on sadness or loneliness or emptiness. I don’t want friends that I have to put on a face for.

It’s simple really. When I’m happy, I’m happy. And when I’m sad, I’m sad. Let it be. And just be there.

Do you expect people to give you happiness?

Children being abused is everyone’s business

Standard

I haven’t posted in a few weeks because I’ve been feeling like my brain and heart are about to explode. I needed a little break. But I do need to talk about some things now. 

With all of this attention in the media surrounding Josh Duggar, I think the thing that hurts me the most is that so many Christians–CHRISTIANS–are going on and on about how the Duggar family doesn’t deserve to have this plastered all over the media and that everyone but those personally involved should just mind their own business. Move on. Forgive and forget. I’m not really going to get into it too much here so much as I just want to point out that abused children are everyone’s business.

It makes me sick to my stomach that anyone would think otherwise. Children being abused in any way is everyone’s business. If you think that a child suffering from abuse (whether it was yesterday or 20 years ago) is none of your business because you don’t have a personal connection to them then I would dare say you are lacking in empathy. The welfare of children is everyone’s business. Calling attention to and demanding justice for an abused child is, in my opinion, the most important thing we can do to protect and care for all children.

I am so tired of the glossing over of such horrible acts against children in Christian fundamentalist circles, as if the abuser is somehow more worthy of acceptance and forgiveness. And as if the child has not been permanently damaged. Forgive, forgive, forgive. We must forgive because we are all sinners. That is bullshit. Forgiveness does not erase damage. Forgiveness does not change the abuser’s behavior. Stealing a candy bar from the convenience store is not an equal offense to sexually abusing a child. And if it happens more than once, it is abuse.

file0001171564092

One of the biggest problems with abuse in this country is that no one speaks out against it. People are too afraid. They don’t want to get involved. They don’t want to feel responsible. They don’t want to know about it. They don’t want to admit that that family that lived next door to them for 15 years was full of children being abused and neglected. They don’t want to believe that parents or a family that appears to be perfect are actually doing horrible things to their children. They don’t want to believe that a “godly, upstanding, wholesome” family parading their children around in front of everyone on television while at the same time railing against “pedophiles pretending to be transgender” could possibly have sexual abuse going on in their own home.

Sadly, I believe this is just the beginning of hearing about these kinds of things going on in religious circles. The stories that have come out in the past few years of sexual abuse involving very highly recognized leaders and public faces of evangelical protestant Christianity and the tightly intertwined homeschool community is heartbreaking, but in reality not all that shocking. I know all about the secrets and the reluctance to deal with the problem anywhere other than inside the church.

It is certainly not exclusive to protestant Christianity but more so to religion as a whole. And the sad part about that is that religious people hold themselves to a higher standard of behavior. They believe that they should be different from the rest of the world. Better. Separated. More capable of not doing these types of things because they have God. But it isn’t true. The abuse that takes place is just as bad as the rest of the world. Except to everyone else it is worse because they were supposed to be different. They were supposed to be holier.

When I was a teenager I went to summer camp with my church a few summers. I found out a while ago that there was someone who noticed specifically that me and my sister seemed off. She was one of the camp counselors and she inquired to someone from my church about us and was told that we were fine. We were just quiet and shy. Wrong. I don’t know if that’s what they really thought or if they just didn’t care.

When I worked in a first grade classroom as a teaching assistant in a public school a few years ago, there was a little boy in my class who always seemed a little off to me. He was abnormally quiet. The sweetest little kid you’ve ever met but he seemed troubled. One day he came to school with a black eye. Both the teacher and myself asked him about it and he told us he walked into a mailbox. It haunts me to this day that I didn’t question any further or find out what was going on at home. I can only hope that the teacher got a little more involved in that little boy’s home life.

Something else that has been on my mind constantly the past few weeks or so is that I do not think that there should be any statute of limitations for any kind of sexual assault or abuse anywhere. I think it’s something I actually really want to fight for and change. I believe there are a few states that do not have a statute of limitations but but I think it needs to be a national policy. Victims are blamed enough as it is. The added pressure of having to come forward about sexual abuse within a certain time period just makes things worse. I don’t see the need for a statute of limitations with these types of crimes. Victims need all the help and encouragement they can get.