Why I Gave up on Politics

You might not know it by looking at me, but I used to be really into politics.

I grew up in a household where politics were a constant. My dad was always watching the news, giving his own commentary on the events of the day. I remember when I was four years old and would run into my dad’s room and jump on him to wake up him, only to end up lying in bed listening to Rush Limbaugh. I was raised to be interested in politics.

So when Twitter became a thing, and political commentators and activists took to it to make their points known, so did I. I started a blog and started listening to radio shows online. I began to show up to meetings in my area and went to protests. I made signs, showed up, and walked around to try and make a point. I put in a lot of time and effort to educate myself on the issues, and did my best not to feel hurt when people hurled insults at me.

I met some amazing people who are still my friends to this day and are people I consider to be family. I got to experience a lot of cool things (including meeting a US Congressman). All in all, I don’t regret the time spent engaging in politics because it gave me a lot of experience and a lot of perspective.

However, there came a point where I just stopped. Somewhere along the way I realized that all of the energy I was putting into political dialogue wasn’t doing any good. Instead, it was doing a lot of harm in my everyday relationships. At some point I had begun to put “being right” over being in relationship and noticed some people had backed away from our friendship. When I saw that a couple people I’d been trying to reach out to and establish a relationship with had unfriended me on Facebook and didn’t seem interested in engaging with me anymore, I knew I’d stepped over a line.

That began the slow process of learning that relationships come first, even when I disagree with someone.

Today, I still engage in political discourse when it is appropriate. My friends and I will get into lively discussions about what we think and why we think it, but we do it in such a way that relationship comes first. If someone feels attacked we will stop and move on to something else. We give up the right to be right, for the sake of maintaining a friendship.

This makes the most sense to me because thus far I’ve come to one conclusion about politics: Everyone is wrong and no one wins. Why? Because in American politics it is about crushing your opponent, not working to understand them. It is about opinions, not facts. Both sides, all sides, only care about one thing and unfortunately that thing is not what they should be caring about which is people. We sacrifice relationship, we sacrifice loving our neighbor, because we have an opinion that we think is right and we refuse to back down from it. Instead of changing the world we live in and changing lives, we hurt and alienate people.

So put relationship first. That’s how we’ll change the world.

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Ain’t Nobody got Time for That

If anyone has ever told you that it is possible to have it all together all the time, they lied to you. They were also probably lying to themselves. In the same vein, if you’ve ever been told or if it has ever been insinuated that you are supposed to be self sufficient and be able to fix yourself, that was also a lie.

If there is one thing I have learned this past day and a half it is that going through things alone is miserable and impossible. I don’t know if it is the same for you, but dealing with a loss alone makes me feel like I’m losing my mind. When I deal with painful emotions alone I get lost in them. I lose touch with what is real and true. I have nothing with which I can ground myself and I end up drowning in a sea of emotions alone, which makes them all the more painful.

My grandma passed away on Saturday. I was at Comic Con International when I got the news and I didn’t deal with it. I repressed it, I soldiered on through the convention, and I enjoyed myself. In that moment, there were enough things going on to distract me that I did not have to dwell on the loss. I didn’t have to deal with the fact my grandma was gone.

Then I came back to reality, already exhausted, and the emotions hit. The temptation to return to old habits came up. The desire to curl up in a hole and hide from the world over powered me. I didn’t want to talk with people or share what had happened. The day I got the news I texted three people and that was it. I did not tell the two girls I was with at the convention what had happened. I didn’t tell anyone at work when I finally returned on Monday. I kept it to myself because in a moment of weakness all of my walls went up and I was fighting to protect myself.

The other day I hit a really low place.

There is a place in the midst of isolation where the loneliness is so overpowering the only thing a person can do is give up and give in to despair. Bereavement is an interesting and painful process, and going through it alone makes it even worse. It is in this dark place of sorrow and mourning where one’s only desire is to have someone notice and sit with them in it. Yet very few people are actually willing to do that.

You see, I think one of the biggest problems in American culture is that people run away from emotions. They run away from pain. We drown ourselves in television, the internet, movies, books, and music all so we don’t have to actually feel. We isolate ourselves because we’re raised to be independent and self sufficient. On the flip side, when we see someone hurting our first instinct is to fix them. We don’t want to be people who experience emotions for long because it takes time, it interrupts our schedules, and it is inconvenient.

So when we go through hard times we isolate ourselves because the last thing we need when we’re hurting is to be given five easy steps to fix it. When I hurt I don’t want to be told how to fix it, I just want to know it is okay to be hurting. I want to be able to cry in front of someone without feeling like a weakling. I want someone to ask how I am and actually mean it, and when I give them a real answer, I don’t want them to respond by telling me what I should do to fix how I’m feeling.

Honestly, I just want permission to feel and to be able to sit with someone as I’m mourning and have them be comfortable with it. Yet society does not lend itself well to that. We want to slap a band aid over it and soldier on because processing emotions takes time, and to put it simply: Ain’t nobody got time for that. It is certainly something to work on as an individual and as a society.

To all you Who Worry – A look at 1st Peter 5:5-7

I am a worrier. Sometimes I don’t even mean to worry, but anxiety creeps up on me and I spend an entire day wrestling with it. The verse that always comes to mind and seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues regarding anxiety is 1st Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” It would be very easy to take these verses to say, “All you have to do is cast your anxiety on God because he cares for you” and leave it at that. However, there is so much more to it.

It is erroneous to ignore the “therefore” in verse six. As we used to say in youth group: What is the “therefore” there for? The term always points back at what has been said leading up to the sentence it has been used in and puts what is being said into the context. Whatever comes after a “therefore” is a conclusion, so it is only right to look above and find the argument. The preceding verses look like this:

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”

By looking at verse five, the preceding verses suddenly take on more meaning. Peter, who is writing this letter to the “churches in dispersion,” is not just telling them that God cares about them and wants to help them with the anxiety. He is telling them that part of being humble means that they are willing to give up their worries and concerns. God wants us to relinquish control out of a place of humility and acceptance that we cannot do it on our own and that He will carry us further than we can carry ourselves.

To let go of anxiety is to be humble and admit that we are limited in what we can control.

This must have been especially meaningful to Peter’s audience at the time. They were being persecuted and mocked. Their neighbors talked behind their backs, their homes were probably vandalized, and the “church in dispersion” was living a life in fear because the Roman government did not approve of their faith. They were struggling, they were anxious, and yet even in the midst of persecution they were told to roll with it and to let God handle it.

They were asked to give up their anxieties because they had no control over them anyway.

So when I’m facing down a day like today, riddled with anxiety and worry, I take a deep breath and remember that I cannot control everything. It is ridiculous and arrogant to believe that I can. Some things are out of my control and instead of worrying myself sick over them, I need to admit that I can only control myself and my actions and give everything else up to God.

It is easier said than done, but isn’t that generally how it goes?