Christians, Let’s Get Back to Basics

You know, sometimes I wonder how often Christ rolled his eyes at his followers while he was here on Earth. I imagine that he was imminently patient with the frustrations of dealing with people who had spent three solid years with him, listening to everything he said, but were still just not getting it. But there is no sin in a sigh as you have to restate the same things over and over, an occasional head shake, maybe pinching the bridge of the nose, or even an eye roll. He was, after all, human.

He tried repeatedly to simplify things for them (and for us). He used parables in the hopes that the important things would click, and because he knew people have a tendency to remember stories far better than lectures. And he tried to break things down to basics. Probably the best example is this: love God, love your neighbor. Three of the four gospels have a version of this quote (John is a little different from the other three, but I’m not gonna get into that–it’s for Biblical scholars). Bear with me as I give you three copies of the same fundamental idea.

First, a little background for the passage. A teacher of the law asked Jesus which commandment was the greatest. Now we don’t know much about this guy other than that he was a Bible scholar (which for him, would have been the Pentateuch (the first five books of our Old Testament) and the books of the prophets). It says that he “tested” Jesus with his question. We don’t really know what his motivation was; it could be that he was a true seeker, and wanted to know if Jesus measured up to the hype, or that he was trying to trick Jesus into some objectionable offense (this was a pretty common occurrence). But it doesn’t really matter why he asked the question. Jesus used it as a teachable moment, one I’d dare say was one of his most important. Here are the three versions of his response, in the NIV (please don’t be upset if I didn’t use your favorite translation–I’ve read lots, and they really do come out the same; you can read yours if you prefer). Note that in the Luke quote, Jesus turned the question back to the enquirer, and the words are his, but then Jesus said he answered correctly.

Matthew 22:37-40

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Mark 12:30-31

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Luke 10:25-27

27 He {the scholar} answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

Both of these quotes come from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5[a] and Leviticus 19:18[b], if you want to look them up). While we modern day people think of the commandments as “the big ten”, he was talking about far more than that. There was a huge list of laws, some applicable to the entire nation of Israel, some specifically for the Levites (who were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the nation), and some even more specifically for the Levite priests. But with all those rules to choose from, Jesus felt these two were the most important, and they even managed to capture the essence of all those other laws.

Basically, Jesus said, “There is too much, let me sum up.”

If you boiled everything down to its most basic roots, you’d have two categories in which all the other laws fit. Loving God involves not worshiping other gods (even things or people we treat as gods). It also includes a desire to please God by behaving as he wants us to behave. And the most important of those behaviours, what Jesus said was the biggest thing in all of the laws and guidelines God set out, was “love your neighbor as yourself”.

And what happens next? The scholar asks what all of us want to know: Who is my neighbor?  That’s right, I want to know exactly whom I have to be nice to. Jesus follows up with one of the most recognizable parables in scripture, the story of the Good Samaritan. The point he’s trying to get across to the people is this: everyone is your neighbor.

Wait, do you mean the meth addict in the line at the pharmacy? The gay couple sitting together at the coffee shop? The single mom on welfare who’s pregnant again? The girl with tattoos and facial piercings who visited the church last weekend? The unemployed man begging for change at the entrance to the shopping plaza?

Yep. All of the above. And everyone else too.

But don’t I get to decide whether they’re worthy?

Sorry, nope. That’s not your job.

There is absolutely no encouragement to do so. In fact, one of the primary points of the good Samaritan story is how lowly the Israelites thought Samaritans were (for cultural reasons), but HE was the only one who was a good neighbor.

Read the next part of the passage: (from the account in Luke)

Luke 10:29-37

29 But he {the scholar} wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

I think it’s kinda funny that Luke added “the scholar wanted to justify himself”. Common disease of the human race.

And after the story, Jesus asked him who he thought was the neighbor. The (potentially imperious) student of the scriptures knew the right answer. Even if he didn’t like it, it was glaringly obvious. And Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus said, Don’t be like the priest, who was supposed to be one of the highest spiritual leaders of all Israel. Don’t be like the Levite (the tribe from which the priests were selected) who were in charge of being support staff for the priests, and caring for the temple and the other spiritual needs of the nation. Pause and think on that for a second. Don’t be like the “spiritual” people, but instead be like one of the lowliest outcasts, and put someone else before yourself. Because the “spiritual” people refused to do so.

The Samaritan didn’t say, “He shouldn’t have been walking through such a rough neighborhood.”

He didn’t say, “He must have been up to no good, or he wouldn’t have been here.”

He didn’t say, “He doesn’t deserve my help. He’s probably in this predicament because of bad choices, and now he’s suffering the consequences.”

There was no victim blaming anywhere to be found in this story.

He didn’t even say what I think might have been most understandable: “His people and my people have hated each other for a long time, and I doubt one of them would help one of us. Why should I?”

It just says, when he saw him, he took pity on him. I think an even better translation of that word, in the context of the passage, is that he had compassion.

At that moment, it didn’t matter how or why the man was in the condition he was in. It didn’t matter what his race, upbringing, or fundamental beliefs might have been. All that mattered was that the Samaritan saw a need and did everything he could to help. He had compassion. In fact, he went above and beyond. He not only lifted the guy out of the disastrous situation he was in, he made sure there was enough money to help him recover fully and get back on his feet. He didn’t offer his help based on whether the man deserved it, or earned it after the fact, or groveled at his feet in thanks for his marvelous generosity. He also didn’t let the innkeeper bear the expense of a decision that he had made. He offered to cover any additional expenses the next time he was around. He lived out his convictions to the fullest. He put his money where his heart was.

So I ask you: Is this how Christians behave? Is this what the rest of the world sees when they look at people who claim Christ’s name as part of their identity? Sadly, it has been far too often not the case. We definitely have a tendency to be more like the priest and the Levite, turning our heads to people in need. And it seems to have gotten even worse lately. This is something that desperately needs to change. If the majority of non-Christians see the majority of Christians acting in ways that are the exact opposite of what Christ called us to do, in fact, the opposite of what he said was one of the most important concepts of all, it’s no wonder there is animosity towards us.

So how can we turn this around? I truly believe it starts with each individual. If I claim that Christ is important to me, then my behaviour should reflect that. I should be willing to reach out to those in need, regardless of whether their need is a result of their own mistakes, or whether their beliefs align with mine. All of the people. I should be prayerfully considering how God can use my own special gifts and abilities to show his love to a hurting world. I should be working on me, not dictating how others should be spending their own money and gifts. I’ll ponder on this, and I ask that you do as well, and next time we’ll delve a little more deeply into specific instances, because there are so many people in need in this world.

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The Search for Truth

If you haven’t given up on me after the last post, I’m hoping that means the truth is important to you as well. I do not for even a split second claim to have all the answers, or to have a monopoly on the truth. You may not agree with me on the best ways to discover the truth, but I’d like to make some suggestions.

First, let’s get something out of the way: all newscasting is biased. Humans are biased. It’s virtually unavoidable. Everyone has their own unique set of deeply held personal beliefs, and it’s nearly impossible for that to not affect how we respond to certain news. Some sources are notorious for being exceptionally biased. But there are plenty of sources that try as much as possible to present the news or fact check without overtly skewing the facts toward their own bias.

I know there’s been a story going around about how “Snopes got snoped”. There’s actually a really great review of that dilemma here. The thing is, people have been claiming for years that Snopes is “too liberal”, while others have been claiming they’re “too conservative”. The truth of the matter is that they’ve done a particularly good job of remaining as neutral as it is possible to be, on a wide variety of stories on both sides of the divide, which as I said is very difficult. But here’s the most important part: they always cite their sources. If you think they’ve said something hinky, it’s super easy to follow up on the story, just by clicking on the links throughout the article. That is exactly why Snopes.com has remained a highly respected, tremendous resource for fact-checking for so many years. Snopes even has their own response to this claim that they’re biased, stating that the direction of the supposed bias changes depending on which political party is in control at the time, and whether an article fits the claimant’s preconceived notions.

And therein lies the problem.  As I said, everyone has their own beliefs, and those beliefs affect our personal bias. But we should never cling so desperately to our personal worldview that we don’t allow ourselves to remain open-minded to the truth. There will be times when we don’t like the truth. But truth can withstand any amount of intense scrutiny. We should not fear our beliefs being challenged; if they are based on truth, they will endure. It may occasionally happen that we will discover something we believe in is not based on truth, and we will need to be willing to adjust our beliefs accordingly.

If you can’t let go of the idea that Snopes is biased, though, there are plenty of other resources. Factcheck.org, Politifact, and Fact Checker are just a few. Media Bias Fact Check has a list of 10 of their favorite sites, which includes the ones I’ve mentioned. I particularly like that they use many different resources at the same site. But here’s the biggest thing: If you read a news story that seems outrageous, chances are high that the reporting is biased. If we only rely on one source for our news, we are likely to be overwhelmed by that bias, and we will become increasingly unwilling to make sure that our beliefs are in line with the truth.

I know what I’m asking. I know how deeply ingrained some beliefs can be. But if truth is more important to us than our personal bias, there are potentially times when we will have to be willing to put our beliefs through extreme investigation in our pursuit of that truth. As painful as it might be, we might be occasionally required to reevaluate our opinions. I hope that we as individuals, and as a country, have the strength of character to do exactly that.

 

How Important is the Truth?

I have an announcement to make: We have allowed ourselves to be manipulated. Used. Taken advantage of for the purpose of money and/or power. Does this make anyone else angry? It should–we should be furious! But instead we have allowed inflammatory headlines and an addiction to outrage dictate our behavior and drive a wedge between us. We have let other people use our emotions to control us.

Since apparently we need a reminder, listen up. Internet sites get their money from page visits. They don’t care in the least if their headline is remotely truthful. Incendiary, flagrantly offensive headlines get TONS more clicks than calm, metered, truthful language. Their primary goal is to get us incensed enough to think, ‘OMG can you believe so-and-so said such-and-such?’ They know we will click ‘share’ within seconds, and before our heads have had a chance to spin a full 360 degrees, the page has had hundreds of thousands of visits. Flash lesson on internet ad revenue: In most cases, you don’t have to click on the ad to earn money for the page designer. Every single page visit brings revenue.

This post may make some people angry on both sides of the political divide, and probably some who don’t like either side. But I think considering this topic is crucial to healing the rift in our country. I think this is a very grave subject that had a dramatic impact on the process of the election as well as the country’s response to its outcome. I think it’s still having a dramatic effect on the divisiveness and bitterness that continues to linger. So I’ll repeat the question: How important is the truth, to you specifically?

Is the truth important enough to you to take just a few seconds to check and make sure an article is legitimate? Is truth important enough to you to make sure that you read an entire article before sharing? Is it important enough to avoid passing on articles that have deliberately misleading headlines, even if there is a kernel of truth in the article? Is it worth it to find the original story, so that statements or actions are not taken out of context?

I have seen this on all sides (that means you too, third party voters).

Hillary is evil, the devil, the antichrist, the second coming of Hitler. Vote for Trump because he’s not Hillary.

Trump is evil, the devil, the antichrist, the second coming of Hitler. Vote for Hillary because she’s not Trump.

They’re both evil, the devil, the antichrist, the second coming of Hitler. Vote third party, or not at all, because you can’t vote for either one of them.

And I’ve seen all the garbage about all the candidates, ad nauseum. It doesn’t seem to matter how fantastical, how implausible a claim is, you just think to yourself, ‘I wouldn’t put it past them’ and blindly pass it on. And unfortunately it has continued past the election. Can you believe what that group of people is doing, or trying to do? Can you believe Trump appointed this person and they want to try to pass this law? Can you believe Obama/Clinton are trying to undermine Trump? If a headline makes you think, ‘Can you believe…?’ maybe that should be a major clue that you shouldn’t believe it without checking it out.

If you value truth at all, please take the time to make sure you’re proclaiming truth and stop lending legitimacy to lies.

Stop it.

Please, I beg of you, America.

JUST STOP IT.

 

The Quest for Enough

The idea of minimalism really resonates with me.  I’m not sure why I find it so appealing, except that I’ve never really been a big one for “stuff”, and it seems to generally cause more trouble than it’s worth.  But here’s the deal: it’s not the stuff itself that’s the problem.  It’s the attitude that the stuff is necessary for happiness.  That we have to own as much stuff as the next guy in order to prove that we’re as successful.  And sometimes we adopt the same attitude with other things in our lives as well.  I need to have not just the stuff, but the prestige, the house, the location, perfect body, the whatever.  And we even compare ourselves to others in completely abstract ways.  I need to be the most minimalist minimalist, the most eco-minded eco-warrior, the most successful, the most surviviest, whatever draws you.

Whatever things or accomplishments we want, we’re never going to be satisfied until we’ve got enough.  The problem comes in when we inappropriately define “enough”.  If it’s always more than what we have, we’ll never reach it.  While I’m not sure I want to pledge to not buy new clothes for a year, this post from Becoming Minimalist really points out our difficulties with contentment.

It might seem like I post on contentment a lot, and I guess I do.  Part of it may be because I struggle with it myself.  But part of it is because I think this is one of the biggest problems in western society.  We are never satisfied with what we have, because instead of seeing how much more we have than others, we look at those who have more than us.  This applies to belongings, homes, cars, spouses, just about everything.  Even primarily internal things (like wanting to be more minimalist) can become an issue if we allow ourselves to become discontent with the level that we’ve reached.

Now I’m not encouraging a sense of complacency, either.  We should be striving to improve ourselves where we can.  The problem occurs when we start beating ourselves up about what we haven’t yet achieved, instead of seeing how far we’ve come.  This can happen in any endeavor.  We can’t be proud of the 10 lbs we’ve lost, because we have another X lbs we want to lose.  We can’t be pleased with the progress, because we haven’t reached the goal.  This is why it’s recommended to break a large goal down into multiple smaller ones, that way we can celebrate the little accomplishments on the way to the big one.

But here’s the crux of the matter, and I know I keep harping on this, but I think it bears repeating (because I know I need to hear it continually):  We need to stop comparing ourselves to others.  I can’t be the best you; I can only be the best me.  You can’t be the best me; you can only be the best you.  It has taken me about 40 years to realize the truth of this, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to constantly remind myself.  I have to be happy with the baby steps that I’m capable of taking today, knowing that even if I’m not speeding towards my goal, at least I’m making progress in the right direction.

So today I want to encourage you.  Don’t look around; look at yourself.  Don’t agonize about how much farther you have to go until you’ve achieved success (no matter what the goal is); look into your own past and see how much progress you’ve made.  If you feel like you’re not heading in the direction of your goals, make the necessary course corrections.  Go back to school, take on an apprenticeship, ask for on-the-job training, join a gym, find a co-conspirator working toward the same goal, whatever will help you reach the goals you’ve set for yourself.  And celebrate the tiniest successes.  No matter how slow your progress seems, it’s still progress.  Keep on keepin’ on.

A Commentary on the Changing Face of Christian Politics

At first I was just going to share this article on the Changing Face of Christian Politics, but I quickly realized I had more comments to make than I could reasonably place in a Facebook status.  I encourage you to read the entire article (yes, even non-Christians).  There are so many great points, not the least of which are:

1. “Surely we (Christians) want to be known for what we are FOR” (not what we are against).  In my experience, although the majority of non-Christians seem to assume that the confrontational zealots that keep getting handed a microphone are representative of ALL Christians, in reality most Christians are far more interested in peace.  Even those who are uncomfortable around homosexuals usually do not actively hate homosexuals, as is often portrayed.  Most Christians believe that it is possible to love people you don’t agree with, regardless of the point of contention.  Unfortunately, it is the combative, oppositional hard-liners that tend to get the most media coverage, because the media loves a conflict most of all.  Drama gets viewers.  And that fault lies with all of us, because WE’RE the viewers.

2.  “”Why,” he asked, “is our go-to political strategy for beating our opponents to silence them? Why do we dismiss, rather than engage them?”….ending a conversation is vastly different from winning an argument.”  We seem to want to silence or dismiss opposing views especially in instances when the opposition is speaking very loudly.  In some cases, it doesn’t matter if the opposition has some valid points (even if we don’t agree with them).  Let me ask you this question:  If you are so confident in your position, why are you so threatened by someone presenting an opposing view?  Ending a conversation by silencing it through censure or dismissing it with a shrug and a “well, they’re just ignorant, uneducated, delusional, etc is not at all the same thing as carrying on a productive discourse and finding common ground.  It is not at all the way to make any progress.

 And we’ve got to stop letting people cry “free speech” for their own malicious words, but then call for censure of the opposing viewpoint (or that they lose their job).  It seems to be a knee-jerk reaction: I should be able to say ANYTHING I want, without repercussions, because of “free speech”. That’s a load of tripe.  Free speech only allows you to say what you want (specifically, against the government) without being arrested.  It was never intended to protect you from the consequences of your words.  Free speech does not protect you from losing your job if you are hateful and disrespectful to your boss, neither does it protect you from disdain if you choose to express your opinion in a vindictive manner. I’m not saying people who want to speak out against (perceived or real) wrongs should keep their mouths shut.  But many of the most passionate people seem to have completely lost the ability (or desire) to carefully choose their words. There is no need to sugar coat things, but neither is there a need to attack and condemn.  We MUST not appoint ourselves judge, jury, and executioner, regardless of the topic of discussion. .  I don’t care what the topic is, we should be able to express our beliefs without dehumanizing others.  If you are incapable of doing that, you should stay away from the microphone until you grow up a bit.  Or until your language skills improve.

3.  “A Christianity that seeks to unilaterally impose itself on the nation is unlikely be fruitful, but it is similarly unrealistic and unproductive to force a secular morality on believers.”  I believe that this is the fundamental flaw in the “right-wing” approach in recent years.  First of all, Christians need to realize that we are NOT the only ones who live in this country.  And the country belongs to all of those other people too.  To try to legislate our version of morality is not only wrong, it is completely counterproductive.  No true change is brought about by legislation alone.  You cannot force someone to believe in God, or it is not true faith.  But neither should non-believers try to force their beliefs (or lack thereof) upon Christians.  There has been such an intense backlash against Christianity recently that it is shocking sometimes the malice with which non-Christians speak of Christians.  Granted, the aforementioned heavy-handed bigots are deserving of the backlash, but do not assume that all Christians are just as vicious.  And do not assume that just because some Christians ARE hateful, that you must in turn be spiteful to every Christian you ever encounter.

4.  If gay people are to be afforded dignity as those made in the image of God, what does this require of our rhetoric? What does it require of our laws?  This applies not only to gay rights, but to every other moral debate going on in the political arena today.  Do the right-wing extremists take this concept into consideration when they are trying to force restrictive laws upon the American people?  Do run-of-the-mill Christians like me consider this statement when we interact with homosexuals, prostitutes, thieves, embezzlers, liars, or any other human who has ever done anything we don’t approve of (ie, all humans, including me)?

5.  “We need leaders, and people to support them, who recognize that the question for this century is not “how do I win?” but “how can we live together?””  This is really the crux of the matter.  If we cannot get past our desire to “win” and instead work towards finding common ground in this world we share, we will never be able to have a productive conversation, much less a peaceful nation.  Which one is more important to you?  Figure out which one you value more, and you will act accordingly.

Being “Right” at Any Cost

I had a really fascinating and enjoyable discussion with a small group of friends last night who have some differing opinions about God, and followed it up with a couple of other friends, and it struck me:  WHY is this such a rarity?  I think the biggest reason is that we are so intent on being RIGHT.

In discussions about religion, politics, sports, just about any topic imaginable, it seems we are far more concerned with being right and convincing the other person that we are, that we don’t really hear one another. We can’t set aside our absolute certainty that we know the right answer long enough to see where the other guy is coming from.

Why is this so difficult?  Maybe it’s our society’s obsession with intellectuality.  We have to present ourselves as having all the right answers to show that we’re “better than the apes”.  Or maybe it’s just to show that I’m better than you, never mind the rest of the apes.

I think another part of it is that when we’re confident that we DO have the right answer, we feel like it is our job to win the other guy over to our way of thinking.  Singlehandedly.  Sometimes forcefully.  It’s not enough to know that I have the right answer, I need to indoctrinate everyone I come into contact with so that the world is filled with my disciples.

Maybe the person who is disagreeing with you IS an idiot.  But maybe, just maybe, he is simply at a different point in his journey than you are.  And is calling him an idiot (possibly with a plethora of profanity) really going to help either of you along your journey?  I doubt it.  Chances are you’ve just ruined your chances at any productive discourse just because it was more important to you to assert your superiority.

And I’d just like to throw this in there:  Just because you run into some real jerk with a dissenting opinion doesn’t mean that the individual you’re currently speaking to who happens to share the opinion with that jerk is also a jerk themselves.  What I mean by that is that you shouldn’t decide to preemptively be hateful to this person just because they share a belief with someone who has been a jerk to you in the past.  Christians do this to atheists and vice versa.  Democrats do this to republicans and vice versa.  Stop assuming that everyone on the other side of the argument is a self-centered, hard-headed, tyrannical, ignorant schmuck just because some of them are.

So I challenge you, and myself, to keep this in mind next time we’re face to face with someone who has a differing opinion.  Try to agree to disagree.  You may not be able to persuade them to believe as you do, and they may not be able to persuade you, but you still may have something to learn from one another.

A Ray of Sunshine Instead of a Rain Cloud

Let’s talk about cooking for a bit, shall we?  Imagine a big pot of your favorite comfort food slowly simmering on the stove.  It might be stew, or chili, or potato soup, or gumbo, or veggie soup.  You’ve been working on it all day, and you just taste tested it; it may be your best batch ever.  Perfectly seasoned, perfect texture, perfect blend of ingredients.  You can’t wait to sit down and have a nice big serving, maybe two.  But then someone comes along and throws in a big chunk of rancid meat.  Or a tiny vial of poison.  Or a ladle of sewage.  Suddenly you’re not so apt on eating that perfect bowl of comfort food.

There are a lot of phrases we use to symbolize this idea:  one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel, a little yeast leavens the whole batch, etc.  While I’m not sure it’s quite as absolute as my above example (would you just scoop out the offending item and eat a bowl anyway?), I truly believe that even little bits of negative garbage can have a drastic effect on our lives.  And if it happens often, it becomes a real problem.

If we surround ourselves with people who put us down, put others down, or put themselves down, we’re going to end up being down.  That’s just how it works.  It’s even worse if WE’RE the person putting everyone down, including ourselves.  Think about the things that come out of your mouth (or end up as your Facebook status): I hate my boss; he/she is horrible.  I can’t stand so-and-so; they’re so intolerable.  I hate my body; I wish x-y-z was different/prettier/better.   The reason the country is being ruined is because of (insert least favorite politician here).  If you find that statements like these outweigh more positive statements, you may want to rethink that choice.

Do you really want to be the one who chucks poison or sewage in everyone else’s stew?  Do you want to continue to throw those things into your own stew?

Perhaps your boss IS horrible.  But if you do in fact have a boss, that means you’re employed.  And while circumstances are not an excuse for being horrible to another human being, you don’t know your boss’s back story.  There may be something going on that is consuming his life right now, or something in his past that has left him like that.

Maybe your body is not exactly how you’d like it to be.  Stop focusing on what you hate about it.  Change the things you can (and be patient because it doesn’t happen overnight), and stop whining about the things you can’t change.  Find something about your body that you really like, and think of that when another self-berating thought pops up.

I know everyone gets sick sometimes, and I don’t have the least bit of problem with the occasional, “Ugh, this illness is really kicking my butt” statement.  But if every single post is whining about every single ache and pain, people begin to wonder if anything good ever happens to you.

And I said I was pretty much going to avoid politics on this blog, but I have seen so much negative garbage lately, it makes me ill.  I have seriously considered “un-friending” some people just because their status updates are nothing but constant political poison.  Regardless of your political affiliations, there are two things you need to get through your skull:  one person cannot single-handedly destroy our nation, nor can one person single-handedly bring it out of the difficulties we’re in.  Nobody has that much power.  If you disagree, you were clearly not paying attention in government/economics in high school.  I invite you to educate yourself–there’s this really cool resource called the internet that’s great for that sort of thing.  I might recommend that you avoid sites that pat you on the back for spewing poison, though.  That’s not really going to help the issue.  Nor is it likely to educate you.

I’ll admit it’s not an easy habit to break.  You have to completely retrain your mind.  And hijack your mouth, most of the time.  And then you’ve got to nail those internal thoughts as well.  Like I’ve said before, you can’t control when a negative thought pops into your brain, but you CAN decide how long it gets to stay there, and whether it makes it out of your mouth (or onto your FB page).

While I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution (not really my thing), I do intend to continue working to improve myself in this area.  I have a ways to go yet, but I think progress has been made.  It’s very important to me that I am a source of positive input to my friends and family instead of being a constant rain cloud.  Excuse my Pollyanna moment for the day, but I’d rather be a ray of sunshine.

One of my favorite quotes from my favorite episode of Doctor Who:  

The Doctor, after Amy is heartbroken that they couldn’t save a friend: “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.  We definitely added to his pile of good things.”

May I always be mindful of whether I am adding to others’ piles of good things, and may I not add to their pile of bad things.