Monday, December 27, 2010

Respect is NOT earned. It is DIS-respect that should be earned.

There's a lot of confusion over the word "respect." It can mean two things: courtesy and honor. What is honor? How does it differ from courtesy? Well, let me tell you.

I realized some time ago that there are 3 levels of respect.
  • Courtesy - How you treat everyone, stranger or best friend. You are polite to them. You don't insult them. You don't talk badly about them behind their back. You don't argue with them in public. You don't try to make them look bad. It's mostly about what you don't do. You don't disrespect them.
  • Disrespect - There are two kinds:
    • Feeling of disrespect - How you think about people who prove that they are not worthy of courtesy.
    • Action of disrespect - You might also sometimes "disrespect" someone, by doing the negative things listed under courtesy, even if you respect them. When you do this, you are likely to change their opinion of you and they are likely to start to disrespect you, both in feeling and in action.
  • Honor - How you think about someone who is wise. It's deeper than just treating them with courtesy. Your thoughts about them have grown. How you treat them is related to how you feel about them. You are much more likely to be obedient towards someone you honor than someone you are just courteous towards. You think higher of someone you honor than you think of yourself. But you might still disrespect them (action) from time to time.

You know, you hear this a lot:

"Respect must be earned."

And in the same paragraph the same person will say:

"I treat everyone with respect."

Here is where the confusion between courtesy and honor really surfaces. If, when you say "respect must be earned," you describe courtesy, you have it backwards. We must by default treat everyone respectfully... with courtesy... until they have demonstrated that they don't deserve it. It's only until you think about respect in terms of honor that you are right to say "respect must be earned."

I see a lot of people do this. They are clearly thinking one thing: courtesy. But they are describing honor.

Is this important? You BETCHA!!! If you are thinking and describing courtesy when you say "respect must be earned" then you are advocating treating every stranger you meet with disrespect until they have proven that they are worthy of courtesy. Maybe this is why people treat each other so badly. They buy into the "respect must be earned" philosophy and treat each other with dis-respect until that person proves they deserve respect. It's backwards. How is someone going to earn this courtesy if you are treating them with disrespect? Are YOU going to treat someone courteously if they are treating you disrespectfully? If they don't treat you courteously, are you going to start to respect them? No. So you must understand how important this issue is.

Of course in general we do often "treat everyone with respect." But the effect of "respect must be earned" still manifests itself quite a lot too. Far too often I feel.

So I think it's time we recognize the difference between courtesy and honor and we start to treat EVERYONE with courtesy, irrespective of our beliefs on the phrase "respect must be earned."

Indeed. We really must treat everyone with respect.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Closed mindedness is the fear of truth.

Open mindedness isn't just about listening to the other side. It's considering the idea that they might be right and you might be wrong.

It isn't just about expanding your worldview. It's also a willingness to let your worldview contract. It isn't just about additive: I now believe that Noah was a real person and the remnants of his Ark are somewhere in the mountains of Ararat. It's also reductive: I used to believe in aliens but now I don't.

If you are a witch or you practice other unGodly activities, receiving salvation can deeply contract your worldview. If Satan has deceived you with twisted logic and your understanding of scripture is flawed, it can be especially difficult to have an open mind, especially when you believe you are being a good Christian and change will contract your worldview.

It is always good to have an open mind because the only thing that can conquer truth is closed mindedness. Truth will always conquer deceit if the mind is open but deception will not conquer truth if the mind is open. Having a closed mind is evidence that something isn't quite right with your belief because deceit fears truth and its only defense is blindness and pride. Truth does not fear deception so it doesn't mind hearing other points of view.

Open your hearts and your minds to God's truth. Allow His wisdom to enter. When a believer challenges your faith, do not react with fear, pride, or a closed mind. They might be right. They might have received a revelation from God to instruct you. You don't want to be closed off from God's wisdom do you? Open your mind to allow God's truth in.

Of course the other person might be wrong and you might be right. When that happens, if your heart with God is good, you will know who speaks the truth. Hopefully the other person has an open mind too and is willing to allow God's truth into their heart as well.

But if they are right, then you need to have an open mind to allow God's truth inside. Determining what is truth can be difficult, but we have a power that Satan does not: The Holy Spirit. God will protect you. If what the other person says is false, God will let you know. Trust God. But examine yourself in the process. When you disagree with what they are saying, is it the Holy Spirit guarding you, or do you disagree because of closed mindedness? Be honest with yourself. Accept change if God wills it. It can be difficult and quite often receiving truth can take time. Always be aware of the little seeds God is planting in your heart. Nurture them. Water them. Feed them. Harvest them when they ripen.

Always question your doubt. Is it closed-mindedness or is it really the Holy Spirit?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An unpopular notion: Unhappily married ever after.

Oh this is going to be unpopular. I wonder if I should even put this out there. It might immediately turn some people off, especially before they learn about me. If you don't know me, and you are reading this, just put it on the back burner. It might be better if you don't read this until after you get to know who I am. If you do end up reading it, and are appalled, please put your immediate instinct on the back burner. Keep an eye on me. Doubt me. But please don't just write me off as a lunatic.

Wow! Did I entice you or what? The topic is about divorce so don't get too excited. It's not about an uber-controversial subject like same sex marriage or abortion. It's "just" about divorce. But I am advocating an extreme position. A very unpopular position, even among many Christians. I'd refrain from posting it but this topic is too important to ignore. So let's get into it.

Divorce is far too common today. It's accepted. Is that okay? People say it is. But it's really not. Why? Because it's going to get worse. The acceptance of divorce as a way out creates a sort of feedback effect that makes people more likely to divorce. It is getting worse, so much that it has transformed marriage. People fear divorce so much they choose to eliminate marriage altogether and become life partners. I don't mean same sex partners. I mean heterosexual domestic partners. That's got a whole different set of problems associated with it. I'll ponder those and report on them later but for now let's focus on divorce.

What I realized is the acceptance of divorce allows people to take their pre-marital relationships too casually. In many Christian circles, divorce is not an option. Even in the case of infidelity. I know that can be difficult but forgiveness wouldn't be meaningful if it was easy. When forgiveness is easy you dismiss the apology, saying "think nothing of it." But a spouse who cheats can't apologize enough. We can't apologize enough for our rebellion against God either, but God forgives. Not because it's easy. He forgives us because we are that important to Him. This kind of forgiveness is meaningful. So too is the forgiveness for infidelity. Your spouse is so important to you that you are willing to forgive him or her for anything, even infidelity. That is unconditional love. Anything less would be conditional.

Most cases of divorce do not happen because of infidelity though. They occur because of "irreconcilable differences." Well, if you find that you're irreconcilably different from your spouse, you didn't do your homework before you were married, did you? Is Divorce okay for you? Absolutely not. If your marriage suffers from bickering or backbiting or differing perspectives on life or name your sin, then you missed something in the courting process. You didn't test one another enough before you said your vows. Now your punishment is to remain married and unhappy.

Wow! Really Alex? You really believe this? Absolutely. Yes. You made your bed. It's your fault. If you divorce you only reinforce the idea that marriages are disposable. This isn't to say that divorce is a picnic. It's terrible, sure. But ripping the bandage off is nothing like keeping the bandage on for the rest of your life. If you are mature and accept your punishment, your unhappy marriage can now serve a purpose: teaching other people that they must make sure they are marrying the right person. And your bad marriage will be well known. People will gossip about it. And the longer the awful marriage lasts the longer the lesson can be taught. I know it's harsh, but if life's lessons were easy then we wouldn't learn anything.

Holey cow! Now you can see why this is unpopular. Even many Christians have a hard time with it. But if you are a Christian you must accept the infallible word of God. And God tells you that you must not divorce. There is one single case in the new testament (Matthew 19:9) where Jesus (in a roundabout way) gives permission to divorce in the case of infidelity. But we already covered infidelity. It can be overcome. And I believe that Jesus' apparent permission had something more to do with the attitudes of the time. Things are different today. So I think it's clear in no way should a Christian couple get a divorce. EVER!!

Of course the proper solution is to fix your marriage. Come to terms with your differences. Accept them. Learn to live with them. Change your perspective. Meet in the middle. Compromise. Or outright change. Ask for advice at the church. Or from your friends and family. See a marriage counselor. But if all of those things fail, then it is still not okay to divorce. You should have done your homework and you should let your unhappy marriage be an example that tells the world, "this is what happens if you don't court properly."

So why do I believe this? Today's attitude about divorce increases the likelihood that you will divorce. By accepting the notion that you can get divorced as a last resort, you can take your pre-marital relationships more casually. You don't do your homework. You don't test. You don't prove. Oh, you might live with each other before you marry to test the waters, but that creates a completely different set of marital problems. I'm gettin' sick and tired of frikkin' 'splainin' to people that they shouldn't live together before they get married. The statistics don't lie. If you live together first, you have an 80% chance of splitting!! So living together is not testing the right way. Testing takes time and a different perspective than just falling in love, or more likely, lust. (After all, what cohabiting unmarried couple doesn't have sex too?) When you walk down the aisle, you need to know at the bottom of your heart that you will be with this person until death. Not because you are against divorce, but instead because you have proven it to each other. If you don't do this, then you don't deserve to be married. And if you do get married, and find that you are incompatible, then you deserve your punishment. You must stay unhappily married so you can be an example for others.

It seems that we aren't learning anything any more. We are in fact going backwards. People are living together because they are afraid of divorce. That's not right. The answer isn't to fear marriage. It's to make sure you are compatible. Not by living together, But instead by spending time together. By asking questions. By watching them live their life. If divorce wasn't an option, more people would be doing this, and the result would be a greater number of happy marriages.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Give up control when things get out of control.

So I'm thinking about certain things while I'm driving back home after helping Micah move and I'm thinking about prayer and mostly about giving God control. You know letting him be the driver in my life. It occurs to me that this issue of control comes up. How do you give control to God, without laying like a lump in bed all day long? You have to actually get out and do stuff. You aren't a puppet. And God doesn't want you to be. So I'm pondering this issue.

We hear this a lot in Christian circles. "You have to give God control." I think that "control" though is not the problem. I don't think the problem is that people try to control their lives. Controlling our own life isn't all that bad. If you want to be a veterinarian, you have to be proactive and go to school, educate yourself, meet the right people, and find a job. You know, actually make the dream happen. So control isn't really a problem.

I think generally speaking people should still be allowed to have some control over their lives but there can still be a problem. God sometimes does need to step in from time to time to remind us, to keep us on His path. So I think the problem is GIVING UP control when things get OUT OF control. We don't want to give up control when it seems that God takes the most control, when things start to go awry.

What I think is really being said in this Christian advice is that people are too married or attached to a certain outcome or a particular plan. I suffer from this A LOT. Because I like to plan things. I like to see things work a certain way. I'm a designer at heart. I want things to work right. Things working according to their designed intent goes straight to my heart. The stinking iPhone's battery is SUPPOSED to last all day long! Why do these programs crash so much? That person shouldn't be in the right lane. That person shouldn't be in the left lane. So I find it extremely difficult to let things go when things aren't happening according to "what's right."

When this happens I feel things are out of control, and my reaction is to try to seize control. So I think THIS goes directly in line with what a lot of Christian advisers say. I think what they are really saying is go with the flow when things start to veer off course. When things don't go according to plan... to YOUR plan, maybe thing aren't supposed to go according to your plan. Maybe God's plan is better and you need to just accept it. When you react, rather than try to steer everything back towards your plan, react towards the new direction.

It's like you are on a rafting trip and approaching a fork in the river. You want to go right but the current is pulling you left. And you fight it and try to force yourself to go right when the river wants you to go left. If you would just accept the left fork, maybe it's a better trip. God is the current. The problem isn't the control. You are still in the raft paddling and steering. The problem is that you aren't letting go when you have to.

When I have a plan that isn't working, I pray to God. I say things like, "God why isn't this working? What am I doing wrong? What is getting in the way? What is going wrong? Why can't I do this? Why can't I have this one thing?" All of those are bound up by... me. They are a reaction to my plan. Well, what about God's plan?

So I've decided to try to think about this when things start to go awry. Make little adjustments to see if they "take." But if they don't, then accept the new direction. If I want to plan a date with a girl and traffic is preventing me from meeting her on time, don't fight it. Call her calmly. Let her know I'm running late. React. Don't try to force things by rushing through rush hour traffic and risk dying. Accept the path God put me on. Maybe we won't see the movie. Maybe something better will come up. Whatever happens, I'm sure God's plan for the date is better than mine.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why even think about evil?

If you've been following my blog, you know that I like to think about good and evil. Especially evil. I question evil. What it means. Does it exist?

But what does it matter? This question in my mind? Is it all semantic? Does it matter that the guy who abuses his wife is not technically evil? What use is it to say that Hitler was just mentally derranged instead of evil? He still did evil acts. Isn't that what matters? Don't they just need to stop doing evil things? Who cares if someone is evil or just crazy? They did evil! Right? Is my thinking about all of this just mental masturbation? Unproductive thought?

Then I get a grip and remember what prompts these thoughts of mine to surface. The reason I concern myself with these issues is because other people don't. People don't make movies about the bad guy. Not trying to understand him anyway. It seems aside from the law enforcement and psychiatric communities no on wants to understand the evil mind. But I know that there is a PERSON inside that "evil" body. Someone who loves and fears and dreams and wants good! Yes! Even so called evil people want to do good! They may have a twisted idea of what good is. But they still want to do good. Everyone on Earth thinks it's good to do good. This I truly believe. (And it's something I feel is proof that God exists. C.S. Lewis gave me the idea.)

All of these thoughts and ponderings of the evil mind I do because when we start to think of these people as PEOPLE and stop thinking of them as demons, maybe we'll be able to, you know, help them and reduce the number of evil people in the world. Evil people are evil for a reason. Maybe it can be controlled, or handled differently, or the unstable person can be reached before he becomes maniacal dictator bent on genocide. I don't know. The point is we shouldn't just wash our hands of someone and resign them to hell just because they do evil. They are people too. Sure, they need to be punished. No doubt about that. But they are victims too. Hitler was a victim. Yes he was. His life didn't end well, did it? Do you think if he was sane he would have done everything he did? No. He was a deranged drug addict.

I know this is a hard pill to swallow. I know the real victims deserve justice. But don't confuse revenge for justice.

Would it not be fruitful to get into the mind of evil people and see what makes them tick? I don't think enough people consider the mind of bad people. They are "just bad" and need to "just stop being bad," right? But it's not that easy. You can't just "stop being bad" any more than you can just "stop being male." We are who we are and we do what we do for a reason and the more we study those reasons the better understanding we can have about these people. Maybe we can actually stop the next Hitler.

THAT is why it's important to consider the PERSON contained within the evil body. And THAT is why I think about evil. One day I would like to write a book taken from the perspective of an evil person. I wonder if I could do it. I'm not evil enough. I hope I'm not. Is my imagination good enough to compensate? Actually I really don't want to get into the mind of another Hitler. I really would like to get into the mind of a jerk though. What makes a jerk tick? That might be an interesting story to ponder.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Don't begin your prayers with "if."

I saw in a movie long ago a girl after a date said to herself about the boy walking away, "if he likes me he'll turn around and look at me." He turned around. "Yes!" she squealed to herself. Cute. But come on. How real is that? Did the guy actually like her or was he just being nice? He might have liked her but was him turning around the signal? She could have said, "if he likes me he'll stop and tie his shoelace." Ridiculous.

People will give you advice, say about a girl. They'll say "you have to be direct with her. Tell her your intentions right away before you enter the 'friend zone.' Most girls appreciate guys being direct." But what about the girl who likes to move slow? What about the girl you HAVE to befriend first? Well, the advice giver will say "if being direct doesn't work out, then she's not the girl for you." WHAT A COP OUT! How ridiculous is that? He's saying one of two things, either HIS ADVICE is what MADE her the right girl for you, or the 5% of girls that this "advice" doesn't work on aren't right for anyone, because, after all, his advice is supposed to work for every guy. He doesn't realize that if you had followed the advice her GIRL friend told you, to befriend the girl first and approach things slowly, she would have grown to realize how compatible the two of you really are. If you do that, all of a sudden she's the right girl for you? Just because you chose someone else's advice? The advice has no connection at all to her being the right girl. You are either compatible or you aren't. All you can do is be yourself and try to win her heart the best way you can.

How many people are we compatible with? A lot. A whole lot. I think we are compatible with a lot more people than we realize. But how many do we end up with? One. Ideally. Does that mean you aren't compatible with the other people? No. Compatibility is a constant. You are either compatible with someone or you aren't. Sure it changes over time, but generally speaking you either are compatible or you are not. So the reason you don't end up with someone, even though you are compatible, isn't because you are only compatible with just one person. It's because conditions weren't right when the opportunity was at its best. Opportunity wasn't good enough, no matter how compatible you two are.

I hate it when people say things like "if so and so then it wasn't meant to be." No. You don't get to dictate the terms of a cause and effect relationship. Nature does. God does. It's like praying for something. I read in Boy Meets Girl, how Joshua Harris's girl prayed to God, "please if it's your will that Joshua be the man for me, tell him NOT to call me tonight." She believed that if Joshua was strong enough in Christ that he would hear God's word and fight the temptation to call. Nice idea, but completely faulty. Sure, in this case God said yes, but what if God had said, "no?" What if Joshua prayed a contradictory prayer? Would she have known? What if God had bigger plans? What if His plan was BETTER than hers? What if God said "no" to this girl? If Joshua hadn't called, then maybe he just wasn't interested. Or worse, what if he DID call but God said NO to this girl's prayer because He wanted Joshua to be proactive and to chase after her. Now he calls her and she loses interest, all because she THOUGHT she had a bargain with God. She didn't necessarily have a bargain. God doesn't say yes to every prayer, and if you give him an ultimatum or a bargain, watch out.

Think about how ridiculous this prayer would be... "If you don't want me to be with this guy, let me win the lottery tonight." Wouldn't it be great if God worked that way? I'd get both. I'd get the girl of my dreams one day then the next day say, "Ok God, if you want me to be with her then can you confirm it by letting me win the lottery? Thanks." Riiiight. God's not a vending machine.

Don't dictate to God. Don't bargain. Ask? Sure. Pray? Definitely. Beg? I guess. Fast? Yes. But don't think a bargain is going to work.

In short, don't begin your prayers with "if." He might say "yes." But then again, He might say "no." You'll never know if he said "yes" or "no," even if your condition is met. Just because you prayed for a condition, and the condition was met, it doesn't mean He said "yes" to the prayer. Be very careful about these sorts of prayers.

I do believe Jesus told us not to test God. You tread on thin ice when asking these sorts of questions.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Quick Movie Review: Gran Torino

I didn't expect the ending of Gran Torino, but I wasn't surprised it ended the way it did. Clint Eastwood understands what it means to be a man: Strength, Responsibility, Doing the Right Thing, and most importantly Sacrifice.

If you want to see a man being a man, watch this movie. Clint portrays a vulgar abrasive racist old war veteran, but in the end he exhibits true manliness. The character might be a bit difficult for some Christian people to watch through most of the movie, but he more than makes up for it in the end.

Watch this movie.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Do you separate yourself from Christianity by denying the church?

What's wrong with Christianity today? The good Christians are leaving the religion.

Do you call yourself spiritual but not religious? Do you say you believe in Christ but you don't like the religion of Christianity?

I don't find it necessary to qualify my relationship with God with words like Spiritual or Anti-Religious Christian.  I am a Christian.  Protestant is the only qualification I need.  Okay, non-denominational Christian.  If people don't understand what it truly means to be Christian, my denying it and separating myself from the overall Christian community (dogmatic as they are) only supports the mistaken belief that all Christians are bad people.  I don't need to defend my faith from people who hate Christians.  If they even only dislike the judgmental hypocritical fair-weather Christians, they aren't much better.  I am Christian.  The Christian faith isn't the problem.  Bad Christians might give the rest of us a bad name, but denying the name Christian because of some bad apples is shameful.  The problem isn't the religion.  It's some people in the religion.  I'm not going to deny the religion because some people give it a bad name.

There are a lot of atheists, agnostics, new agers, witches, Muslims, Buddhists, even satanists who are genuinely nice people. You need to separate yourself from THEM, not Christians. When you say that you are a believer but not Christian, you join the crowd that includes nice atheist, good witch, and peaceful Muslim. Do you want to be one of them? Do you want people to associate you with atheist? Or witch?? Or SATANIST???? Or do you want people to think the reason you are special is the fact that you follow Christ? What do you want the world to think causes you to be so nice? Good genes? Good upbringing? Your pride? No. THAT isn't what it means to love God. You glorify God, not yourself. THAT is what will separate yourself from non-believers.

You aren't supposed to point the finger at yourself. "Yeah I'm a nice guy. I worship Jesus, but I'm not one of THOSE Christians." That statement glorifies YOU! Not God. Not Jesus. You are telling the other person that you are nice DESPITE the fact that Christ dwells in your heart. Are you kidding me???? That's not the way you communicate Christ's love. That only glorifies you. Stop it!

To clarify to non-believers that you aren't like those other bad Christians gives the bad Christians power.  Show your non-believing brethren what a true Christian is like.  If you exemplify Christ's love and the non-believer has heard you say that you don't affiliate yourself with the overall Christian religion, you only prove to him that the overall Christian faith is flawed.  But if you defend the Christian faith and you exemplify Christ's love, then the non-believer will more likely associate Christ's love with Christianity, not you. They aren't supposed to associate Christ's love with you. Not you exclusively. You aren't the only good person in the world. You aren't the only good believer. You are supposed to be just one of millions or billions of good Christians. To deny and separate yourself from the overall Christian community points the glory of being good back right at you. That is virtual blasphemy.

YOU aren't great. GOD is great.

Get over yourself. Defend your faith. Prove to the world what it means to be a good Christian.