Tag Archives: Faith

The Real Reason Why Women Leave Men

David vs. Goliath

(Image/Flickr User upside of inertia, via CC)

“Hey Matt! You’re a big, stupid idiot!

“How far do you want us to bend over backward to excuse women’s poor behavior?! We shouldn’t have to pretend it’s okay for them to act this way. What are you, some kind of feminist? You hold men to this high standard, but not women! This is why everything women do is fine, but men will always be the bad guys with you, you sackless loser.”

Signed, A Thousand Male Readers Who Think I’m an Asshole

Listen, guys.

I used to be you, so I very much understand where you’re coming from. I also used to be married, and now I’m not BECAUSE of just how much I used to be you.

We’re pretty sure we’re not crazy, so when our wives or girlfriends say or react to something that challenges our brain’s parameters for Normal Human Response, we conclude that something must be seriously wrong with them.

If you’re anything like me, it scares you. Bat-shit crazy is terrifying. Especially when you love them. You want to help, right? You want to help them think correctly and believe all of the true and wise things you believe, so that these weird and seemingly unnecessary arguments stop happening. I remember. I thought and felt those same things.

I was missing one critical piece of the puzzle, though. Unfortunately, that piece of the puzzle represented 80 percent of the actual image, so I was never entirely sure of what I was looking at and now, through the prism of hindsight, I understand that I’d spent my entire marriage guessing incorrectly.

This elusive puzzle piece that I was missing is absent in MOST marriages. I believe 100% that it is the greatest contributor to divorce and relationship break-ups everywhere.

I tried to share this magical, relationship-saving puzzle piece many times before.

In a story about colorblindness.

In a story about dishes.

In a story about painful second-degree burns.

And I’ve even shared this exact one in radio interviews and article comments.

I hope it makes sense this time more than all of the other times, because this life-saving truth is evasive.

This truth hides from you in plain sight. This truth is uncomfortable because it requires that we trust other people more than we trust ourselves, and we are understandably afraid of doing that. This truth is uncomfortable because it shatters our very perception of reality.

Other people hurt us. Other people don’t always have our best interests at heart. Others are more difficult to trust than our own eyes and ears.

I know what I saw.

I know what I heard.

I know what I felt.

Everyone feels that way. And since everyone is in constant disagreement with someone about SOMETHING, we can safely conclude that at least some percentage of us are getting it wrong.

No matter how sure we feel, we pretty much never KNOW things.

If you are so certain of what you saw, heard and felt that you argue with someone sharing a different account, then I have bad news: You are probably going to get divorced.

It really sucks, so I hope you don’t.

I’ll make you a promise, right here, right now.

If you’ll bravely open your mind and heart to honestly consider whether what I’m about to share might actually be the difference between you having a healthy, lasting marriage and wonderful family life vs. a depressing, shitty divorce that negatively impacts your kids and strains all of your family and social relationships; you might just find a bit of magic to transform your entire world and the lives of your partner and kids.

Because THIS is it.

This is everything.

The Simple Secret That Could Save Your Marriage

Most people are familiar with the bible story of David and Goliath. It’s frequently used to characterize any underdog scenario in life where an individual or competitive sports team might be facing seemingly insurmountable odds.

With apologies to Old Testament writer Samuel, I’m going to share three versus from the famous David-and-Goliath story, but I’m going to replace ONE word three times, because doing so might save your marriage, and I’m pretty sure Samuel would want that.

48As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a cotton ball, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The cotton ball sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a cotton ball; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

Holy shit!

Did you just see that, guys?!

Little shepherd boy David just smoked that giant Murdery Hagrid-looking sonofabitch right in the forehead with a small piece of balled-up cotton fibers and dropped him like third-period French!

Wait.

That’s a bunch of crap, right? Bollocks? Nonsense? Stupid? Impossible?

This is where I need you to take the leap of faith. Please.

You guys ever see a movie or read a book where the story’s protagonist knows something really important and tries to tell everyone about it, but no one believes her or him, until something horrible happens later and everyone goes “Ohhh. Holy shit. Voldemort REALLY is alive, terrorists REALLY have taken control of Nakatomi Plaza, Freddy Kruger REALLY is murdering teens in their dreams, future murder bots called Terminators REALLY are travelling through time to try and kill various members of the Connor family! I should have believed them! Now I feel like a huge dick!”?

This moment, right now, is EXACTLY like those moments.

You’re being the huge dick who isn’t believing the person who really needs you to and who also happens to be the person who loves you, trusts you, and gives you more than anyone else in your life.

Sometimes, you see a cotton ball hurling through the air and bouncing softly off of someone else—usually your wife or girlfriend—which is then followed by them freaking out as if that harmless cotton ball actually hurt them.

What a bunch of drama-queen psychos.

We get so focused on their whiny bullshit over that cotton ball hitting them, that what they’re actually saying hardly registers with us.

We are concerned with their ability to process information within the framework of reality, right? How scary is it to live with a person who literally can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not?

And the secret—the one that can change your entire relationship and worldview is this: While you are seeing and feeling a cotton ball in your hand and hurling through the air, it’s not only possible, but likely, that your spouse or romantic partner is seeing and feeling a stone. Not a pebble. Not a tiny speck of gravel. A substantial, hard, shitty, ­­don’t you dare throw that at me, you prick kind-of stone like the one David slayed the giant with in the bible story.

You Might Not Believe Me Yet, But You Should

What’s more likely?

That every romantic partner you’ve ever met or heard of is clinically insane or mentally incompetent, OR that both of you, despite living through the same moment, are experiencing it much differently than one another?

Here’s the part that ruins everything.

It MAKES SENSE for BOTH people to think, feel, say, and do what they do after a disagreement in which one person is getting pelted by stones by their asshole partner, but loves them and is trying to communicate that they need help from them; but the OTHER person is defending themselves like “OMG. Cotton balls! They were just cotton balls! Calm down, please. Why are you acting like a psycho?”

Do you recognize the danger?

Two good people, trying their best, both reacting TOTALLY NORMALLY to the events they’re experiencing.

It’s not always gender-specific, but so often it’s the men feeling under attack for something they’re being accused of doing or neglecting.

These guys’ wives and girlfriends are like: “Why would you hurl stones at me?! What is wrong with you? Don’t you love me?”

“I didn’t throw stones at you.”

“Yes, you did.”

“Umm, no I didn’t Kathy Bates in ‘Misery.’ How about we put down the sledgehammer and take a stress tab or something?”

“You’re not listening to me! Why would you want to hurt me? Stones hurt!”

“I didn’t throw stones at you. I threw cotton balls at you, and now you’re acting like a baby about it.”

“You’re such an asshole. Are you, or are you not going to stop hitting me with stones?”

“Since that ISN’T what happened—cotton balls; they were COTTON BALLS—I’m probably not going to stop. Cotton balls don’t hurt people. They’re soft and light, and bounce harmlessly to the floor, so please stop trying to turn this into something it’s not.”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me. I don’t even know who you are anymore.”

Maybe there are tears. Maybe there is fear.

Maybe then, his defensive anger melts and his protective instincts kick in.

He runs to her rescue. She sucks when she’s mad, but nothing gets to him quite like when she’s sad.

“I’m so sorry, baby. I would never, ever, ever do anything to hurt you. Never. I’m really sorry. Everything’s going to be okay.”

You have a finite number of those moments, husbands and boyfriends (or whoever).

It feels like you’re having The Same Fight over and over and over again. It becomes routine. You get used to it. Because you get used to it, you don’t think it matters.

But it matters.

Because every time you have that conversation, she is becoming more and more convinced that you’re going to keep throwing stones at her. She’s going to keep getting hurt.

So, now she can’t trust you.

She concludes that you’re either doing it on purpose, or that you care so little about her, that you’re unwilling to help her not feel pelted by stones anymore. Has to be one of those two, right?

AND IT MAKES SENSE THAT SHE WOULD FEEL THAT WAY.

It does.

Stop throwing rocks at me, dick. I don’t care what you’re calling them. It hurts and I’ve told you this a million times, and you haven’t stopped, so I’m out. You’re mean, dumb or both, and I can’t trust you to be my partner. I can’t trust the rest of my life to you.

AND IT MAKES SENSE THAT YOU THINK ALL OF IT IS BAT-SHIT CRAZY TOWN DOT COM.

Because, after all. They were just cotton balls.

Just some little, harmless cotton balls that have never, and will never, hurt anyone.

God, she’s crazy.

I believe that if we can help more people understand that the various realities people experience aren’t identical—that one person can see and feel cotton balls, and that another person can see and feel stones—and that based on that fact, it MAKES SENSE for everyone to behave as they are, then people can accommodate for that in their communication with one another.

They’ll be able to meet each other halfway.

“Oh man. I had no idea, babe. Can you understand how crazy it seemed when you were freaking out about the cotton balls? Obviously, I would NEVER throw a rock at you. I would never try to hurt you on purpose. Ever. In fact, it hurts when you tell me otherwise. You’ve been feeling pummeled by stones this entire time! I’ve been hit by stones. That shit totally hurts. I get it, and again, I am so so so sorry, and I swear, if you just tell me moving forward that it’s another situation where even though it appears harmless to me, it’s physically harming you, I’ll understand what you mean, and we’ll be able to get through it without accidentally destroying each other.”

About 70 percent of divorces are initiated by women. Thousands, every day.

And for most of them, THIS is why they’re leaving. This cotton ball-stone thing.

All that you see, touch, taste, hear feels as concrete and tangible as anything else in our lives. Of course we’re going to default to trusting our first-person experiences.

It’s monumentally difficult to doubt our own interpretations enough to trust others’ conflicting accounts of what happened, especially when it makes us out to be assholes.

But, if you can muster the courage, the trust—the faith—to believe your partner when she or he tells you about something that doesn’t jibe with your perception of reality—I think you’ll discover that giant missing piece of the puzzle I referenced earlier.

The one that completes the picture and helps you see things as they really are.

It’s the piece that says Happily Ever After on it.

And it’s the story ending you and your family deserve.

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Maybe Jesus Was a Lousy Carpenter

bad fence

“Thanks for building our fence, Jesus. We promise to leave you a fair review on the Angie’s List bulletin board next time we’re in town.” (Image/Home Services by Gary)

I don’t know whether things like building inspectors or mechanisms for people to leave positive and negative customer reviews existed in the Middle East 2,000 years ago.

But maybe in the Nazareth town square there was a bulletin board of some kind where townspeople could leave reviews.

“Ezekiel the shepherd did an amazing job! He took our goats and pigs from Town A to Town B in just a few weeks’ time and he only ate three of our goats to survive! If you need a shepherd/goat herder for a cross-country flock transfer, Zeke’s totally your guy!”

Or maybe.

“We hired Ishmael to help us harvest figs and grapes. He was the absolute worst. He showed up late every day, collected the fewest figs of any hired farmhands, and he was always walking around the property naked with nothing but fig leaves covering his privates! Gag me. Ishmael is a dirty, fig-stealing nudist, and we will NEVER hire him again!”

And, just maybe, Jesus of Nazareth was a subpar carpenter. Maybe in today’s online-review terms, he had a 2.3-star rating.

“Our family hired Jesus the carpenter to help us build a barn. And we feel morally obligated to say what an absolute gem of a guy he is. Literally, the most kind and patient person we’ve ever met. I was giving him crap about being late half the days he worked here, and Jesus calmly explained how he’d stopped on the way over to help some sick and hungry people, and by the time he finished explaining, I wasn’t even mad anymore! He’s amazing. But, we’d also be doing our neighbors a disservice if we overlooked Jesus’ work. I mean, the guy’s a BRILLIANT philosopher and demonstrates impeccable character… but good God, his miter joints and tongue-and-groove work are about as shoddy as we’ve ever seen. Forty-five-degree angles, Jesus! Amiright? Goodness. We’re going to have to redo half of the barn next year, and when we call Joseph, we’re going to politely request that he not bring Jesus along with him. The entire back-half of the roof is leaking water every time it rains! I’ve got buckets of water everywhere! Anyone know a guy who can turn it into wine? I need a drink!”

No matter what you believe about Jesus, I encourage you to consider that he might not have been an amazing carpenter.

I’m a long-time Jesus guy, so I had a little trouble dealing with the idea when I first considered it. But I think your life will suck more if you run away from discomfort all the time, so I hope even if you’re also a long-time Jesus person, you’ll let the idea roll around your mind a little.

It’s amazing the stuff we don’t think about. REALLY important things.

For many people in the world, Jesus is the focal point of their spiritual lives. PERFECT. SINLESS. DIVINE.

For many people, Jesus = God.

I insist we not have any religious or theological discussions on the matter. Because that’s not the point.

The point is: You’re a human being. And you’re a miracle. And you’re amazing. And you’re capable of doing incredibly beautiful and inspiring things, and I couldn’t believe in you more.

But you know what you also are? Thoughtless. Wrong. Confused. Misinformed. Misremembering. Flawed.

Those aren’t value judgments. Those are simply true things that come along with each and every one of our Welcome to Earth gift packs when we arrive.

And I think this is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for people to understand about themselves—this idea that no matter how intelligent or healthy or functional we are, we get things wrong a lot.

When you KNOW you’re right and are disagreeing with someone else who also KNOWS they’re right, bad things tend to happen—especially when you’re in a romantic relationship or marriage with them.

I don’t think I’m going to blow the minds of anyone in the relationship counseling or family therapy space by identifying THAT as the root cause of the vast majority of relationship dysfunction and human emotional suffering.

And I can only think of two things that might help:

  1. Encouraging smart and healthy communication techniques.
  2. Encouraging people to start questioning their beliefs and holding them to the same level of scrutiny they’re applying to others’.

Every instinct in your body is to avoid doing this. You start rattling your inner Beliefs cage, and your whole world can feel unsteady.

But it’s what we’ve got to do. We must.

Uncomfortable Truths > Comfortable Wrongs

It’s the difference between being a slave in the Matrix, or living free in the Real World.

What Might You Be Wrong About?

I want to be SUPER-clear on something. I am NOT trying to challenge your core beliefs. Never. I promise. Those are for you and no one else.

But I think calling attention to things—VERY serious and sacred things for many of us—and then pointing out how thoughtless and careless we are with some of those beliefs can help illustrate how silly we can be. Ultimately, that silliness can cost us healthy relationships with those we love most, and lead to the most pain we can ever feel. The pain of breaking on the inside after your family or marriage or friendship is torn apart can feel infinitely more uncomfortable than can the process of challenging your own beliefs and assumptions.

NEVER FORGET—the truth will always hold up to intense scrutiny. Truth is truth. It CAN’T be proven false. So rest easy, truth seekers.

Santa Claus is my favorite example for this conversation.

I was wrong about Santa Claus. I believed totally and completely for about five or six years of my life that an overweight, bearded, jolly man in a bright red suit flew through the air in a sleigh pulled by magic reindeer, and delivered Christmas presents to every well-behaved child on the planet in one night.

I believed that even though I woke up on various Christmas mornings in Iowa, in Ohio, in Missouri, and in Florida when I was little that Santa magically always knew where I was.

I can’t remember what I did last Tuesday, but Santa could keep track of things like that. I was too young to realize that’s even more improbable than flying reindeer.

Santa was real. And there wasn’t a damn thing you could do to convince me otherwise.

Finally a holiday season came along where by that time I’d heard enough rumblings from friends via their older siblings enough times to finally have the breakthrough: Ugh. Our parents are playing Santa. That’s not a shot at parents. Nor a call to destroy childhood innocence, or a sense of wonder which we should all demonstrate no matter what.

But I have to deal in reality. I believed in something I felt certain was true. I later discovered it wasn’t.

Want your relationships to be awesome? Be mindful of the fact that you are capable of wholeheartedly believing in things that aren’t true. That realization allows us to demonstrate the humility necessary to experience healthy intimate relationships and cultivate meaningful, unbreakable friendships.

Jesus Might Not Have Even Practiced Carpentry

Thanks to white European artists becoming famous, having their work spread far and wide, and then having Europeans bring their homeland’s artwork across the Atlantic ocean 250 years ago, I grew up only seeing the images of Jesus I imagine most of you think of when you hear the name “Jesus.”

White guy. Long hair. Piercing eyes.

But Jesus was a Nazarene. He was Middle Eastern. I’m not pretending to know what he looked like. But I think we can safely assume it’s NOT like the images we all grew up seeing in the United States.

I had trouble with that at first. That was a little bit like the Santa thing.

Do you ever think about that no one ever even called him Jesus?

His name was Yeshu’a ben Yosef. After all of the translating from Hebrew-Aramaic into Greek, then to English, you end up with a name that’s the equivalent of Joshua or Jesus.

Christians grow up learning about Jesus working as a carpenter. Despite my juvenile jokes about him possibly doing shoddy carpentry, Jesus was likely not a contractor doing a bunch of framing and finishing work.

The original Greek word was “tekton.” Which is more like “craftsman” or “builder.” And when you start digging into all the word stuff, it’s not hard to see that Jesus may have always been more in the philosopher/teacher/Rabbi line of work “crafting” and “building” the following that evolved into Christian faith.

And if the image of a Middle Eastern man named Yeshu’a not practicing actual carpentry, OR maybe so, but not at a high level, can be so radically different from my lifelong image of Christ, ISN’T IT POSSIBLE THAT HUMAN BEINGS WHO DISAGREE WITH ME ON ANY SUBJECT AREN’T WRONG?

I’m not asking you to doubt your beliefs. I’m not asking you to abandon confidence or faith. And I’m NOT suggesting that your most sacred personal beliefs are like childhood beliefs about Santa.

I’m only asking you to allow yourself to be wrong.

About EVERYTHING.

I’m asking you to ask good questions with a curious mind and heart.

Not to create doubt and disconnection. To seek Truth and create lasting connection.

Mentally. Physically. Spiritually. Emotionally. With yourself. With others. With Life that we see and feel on Earth, as well as the Life beyond these bones.

Sometimes there’s Right. Sometimes there’s Wrong.

It’s hard to choose a path when we can’t tell the difference.

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The Ism Theory: Maybe There’s Less Hate Than We Think

Remember the Titans screenshot

They didn’t like each other. Right up until they became friends. Then, wouldn’t you know it? How they were different didn’t matter at all. (Image from “Remember the Titans”/listal.com)

ism — a distinctive practice, system, or philosophy, typically a political ideology or an artistic movement.

I had a mild case of homophobia growing up.

Gay people were “weird” and different. Kids threw “gay” around as meaning the same thing as stupid.

I use the term homophobia when I really mean something closer to bigotry. I wasn’t afraid. But I was something akin to intolerant.

But it didn’t matter! Because I didn’t know any gay people!

I also didn’t have any close black friends before college.

I didn’t know anyone who didn’t believe in the Christian God of the bible.

I didn’t know any feminists or really even understand why there was a gender-equality conversation to be had.

I wasn’t exposed to anything except one story about right and wrong growing up. Fortunately, I was raised by kind and decent people, so any ugliness stemming from my core belief system was always rooted in a general love for human beings, rather than having people teach me that certain groups of people were evil and warranted my hate and discrimination, as many less fortunate children are taught.

I was an only child, so I gravitated to my friends, but one of my closest friends was a cousin about my age. At family gatherings for holidays or weddings, he and I were mostly inseparable.

We spent countless hours talking about girls, playing video games and playing basketball.

Years later, I was the best man in his wedding where he married an awesome girl I’m not sure I’ve seen since.

They fairly quickly divorced, and my cousin—one of my lifelong best friends—moved to another state.

Turns out, he’s gay. Which caused a bit of strain in the intimacy department before everything broke.

What was different about my cousin between all of those years he was among my dearest friends, and after coming out?

I thought about that for a bit.

The answer was simple: Nothing.

“For in spite of itself, any movement that thinks and acts in terms of an ‘ism becomes so involved in reaction against other ‘isms that it is unwittingly controlled by them. For it then forms its principles by reaction against them instead of by a comprehensive, constructive survey of actual needs, problems, and possibilities.” ― John Dewey

The Kinda-Racist Old White Guy & the Young Black Kid He Adores

Maybe (if you grew up anything like I did) you remember the old prejudiced guy in your personal circle who predated The Civil Rights Movement.

The guy you could count on to say something super-racist at Thanksgiving dinner or while watching an athlete showboat on TV after a good play. Maybe he even dropped an N-word or two now and then.

And because you KNOW him, you know he’s a pretty good person, if a bit out of touch.

But here’s where it gets interesting:

This lovable old guy (who you’ve NEVER seen mistreat anyone short of using offensive or insensitive language about a group of faceless strangers in private conversation) doesn’t BEHAVE as a racist.

A group of black people who committed a crime on TV might earn a foul label from him, but as he goes through life, he treats the actual individuals he meets with kindness and respect regardless of their skin color.

Maybe he meets a nice kid named Daryl because Daryl is a waiter at the old guy’s favorite breakfast spot, and Daryl is working hard to save money to go to college. Maybe Daryl is also a star on one of the old guy’s favorite local high school teams.

The old racist guy loves Daryl after getting to know him, and you can’t help but notice how he still speaks in (unintentionally) offensive ways about people of different races or cultures, but he sings the praises of Daryl.

Daryl – the hard-working, intelligent, well-mannered, kind kid from the restaurant who always makes sure the old guy’s coffee is full, and who delights the old man when he’s sitting in the stands cheering on Daryl’s team.

“So. Old Guy. I gotta ask: You periodically say things about black people we see on TV which is racist by every known definition and interpretation of the word. But then over here, you’re always raving about Daryl. Daryl has the same skin color and is from similar communities as all of the people you are categorically speaking ill of. It’s inconsistent. What gives?”

And then maybe the old guy responds: “Daryl’s a great kid! He’s not like the others.”

But the real truth is, if he spent the same amount of time with any of those others, getting to know them on an interpersonal level, he’d feel the same fondness for each new person.

If he didn’t? It wouldn’t have anything to do with skin color. It would have everything to do with the same personality conflicts we have with People Like Us.

Did you ever see films like “American History X,” or “Remember the Titans,” or “A Time to Kill,” or “Gran Torino,” or “Crimson Tide,” or “Men of Honor,” or “The Help”?

Do you remember when former vice president Dick Cheney’s daughter came out as being lesbian and he changed his entire tune on homosexuality as a U.S. social issue?

I don’t believe people actually hate one another to the degree the social narrative suggests.

I believe everyone simply hasn’t gotten to know each other yet.

When People Meet and Develop Relationships, It’s Never Skin Color, Gender, Sexual Preference, or Creed That Fosters Dislike

There are clearly notable examples in history where people really do hate as much as they say. They behead innocent people on video, and they violently attack through word and action people who belong to some group they’ve identified as being Different From Themselves.

I think a lot of people subconsciously think (especially when young and unexposed to different cultures): I’m me. I belong to this group. We are good. I am good. Those people over there don’t belong to this group. They are different than me. We have competing interests sometimes. They must be bad.

But when we ACTUALLY spend time around other people with diverse beliefs and backgrounds, we are regularly exposed to the fact that human beings share so many commonalities, and mostly have the same goals.

It’s not a black football player and a white football player. It’s teammates who play for the Titans.

It’s not a black defendant and a white attorney. It’s two fathers who love their daughters and demand justice.

On Sept. 11, 2001, it wasn’t “That stupid idiot Bush fighting his daddy’s war over oil!!!” Or black or white or Hispanic or male or female or Christian or Jew or atheist or gay or straight or New York Yankees fan or Boston Red Sox fan.

It wasn’t even American or “foreigner.”

Because for a moment, it was only about humanity.

When we realized that fiery explosions kill people no matter what tribes they belong to, or what beliefs they have.

When we meet human beings where they are—or when we meet each other where WE are—we work together or play on sports teams together or fight battles together or laugh together or pray together, and then we collectively grow together.

I felt weird about gay people because I didn’t know any.

But then I found out that I did, and there had been nothing weird about it at all.

Every one of us is a minority somewhere.

Every one of us is different in another part of town.

Every one of us has an accent.

Or. Just maybe.

No one is a minority.

All of us have a million things in common.

And underneath all the nonsense, everyone actually speaks the same language: Human.

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BREAKING: Someone Called Me ‘Jesus-Like,’ My Mother’s Head Explodes

humility

Humility is worth striving for. I hope I don’t come across as lacking it, because that will be a major failure on my part. (Image/blog.adw.org)

“I’ve got nothing against God. It’s his fan club I can’t stand.” 

— Unknown athiest

I was having a nice time with a small group of friends gathered for my 37th birthday before everything went sideways.

It’s one of those speakeasy-styled places with super-legit handcrafted cocktails. Good company. Good drinks. Good everything.

And then one of my newest friends (who was promptly downgraded to ‘acquaintance’ status after this) stopped in with two of her girlfriends from work, one of whom my friendquaintance was trying to set me up with.

God.

An Interlude

“When you live what you preach, you don’t have to say much.”

— Abdul Nasir Jangda

Something you might not know about me since most of you only read things here and it’s sometimes difficult to convey tone with the written word: I am an animated person.

I’m gregarious. A tad loud sometimes. And I have a reputation with some people as having really strong opinions about seemingly inconsequential things, which is well deserved, but ONLY within the context of trusting that I mostly have my priorities in order.

For example:

Maybe I have strong opinions about some facet of religion or about a particular politician or divisive political issue. No matter what someone believes and no matter how much my opinions might diverge from theirs, it’s generally “safe” to discuss sensitive things with me without any risk of fighting or offending one another.

That’s because I work hard at NOT, A. Judging, B. Trying to convert someone to my way of thinking, C. Being impolite, offensive or unkind, and D. Assuming of every mathematically possible answer that exists in Life, that little old me somehow has all of the correct ones. It’s all part of my master plan to be less of an asshole.

HOWEVER, to the uninitiated, listening to me go off on the relative inadequacies of Mounds or Three Musketeers candy bars, or debating the merits of crunchy versus creamy peanut butter, or some other random personal-preference thing, can seem like I’m going off the rails about something inconsequential.

It’s because I foolishly believe that no rational human could ever think I’m ACTUALLY that passionate about something stupid like peanut butter, just like I foolishly believed that no rational wife could ever ACTUALLY believe that I didn’t love her based on my well-documented Shitty Husband behavior.

When someone dangerously cuts you off in traffic, and you’re pissed about it, the difference between whether they were recklessly cutting you off “just because!” or because they were rushing their deathly ill child to the hospital is likely to influence how we feel about it.

Context matters.

Back to the Birthday Thing

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

The three women walked in, we shook hands while they wished me a happy birthday, then they ordered drinks, before somehow, some way, religion and church attendance became the topic of conversation.

Among the churchgoers, I think everyone attended Christian services of various denominations.

As a Catholic (not a very good one), I counted myself among them.

But I was quickly derided by the girl my friendquaintance wanted to hook me up with. She didn’t attempt to conceal her disgust with my personal choices, informing one of her coworkers that “Catholics aren’t real Christians because they don’t believe in love and forgiveness.”

Attempts to politely correct her were met with assurances that she knew better. As a baptized Catholic, I firmly rejected the concepts of love and forgiveness. That was her take. She looked me in the eye and said so.

I have zero problems with people not believing what I believe. Because in the context of their individual life experiences, it almost ALWAYS makes sense that they believe what they believe.

But there’s a point where that stops being true. And that’s when an ignoramus opines on a subject she knows nothing about, is politely corrected by someone with more than 30 years of personal knowledge on the subject, and STILL insists she knows before repeating something ridiculous.

This was an opportunity for me to behave with patience, with kindness, with humility, with perspective in a way someone might consider Christ-like.

But instead, I did the Matt thing where I get a little pompous and outraged—NOT about the religious aspect of the conversation nearly as much as how irrational and bitchy the Birthday Ruinator was.

Out of context, it probably looked and felt like I was being super-non-Jesusy in a moment that probably called for walking a higher path.

I don’t know.

Maybe it was super-Jesusy that I didn’t call her a big, fat stupid face who sucks at all things, which is reasonably close to how I felt about her in the moment.

The Last Thing I Want to be is Preachy

“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

—St. Francis of Assisi

In a comment, a reader asked whether I was a practicing Christian, but I unintentionally never answered it. In response to that comment, another reader wrote this, which could legitimately cause my mother to have an aneurysm or actually explode when she reads it. (I hope not, mom. Please let me know you’re okay!)

In agreement with a previous comment, Catherine wrote:

“I was thinking this. Matt, you are very Jesus-like in the way you preach. Perhaps you should start a Church for Husbands! They do not want to go with us, maybe you could start one on TV? HeHeHe…”

I can’t emphasize this strongly enough: I don’t KNOW anything. I lack the knowledge of those with more education, the experience of those who actually have healthy relationships, and the wisdom of the people with the requisite education and experience.

I never want to come off (even though I have many times failed at this in real life and on this blog) as if I think I KNOW things.

I just THINK things.

And I like to tell the stories of my life and marriage as a cautionary tale to others because I perceive (correctly or otherwise) my life and marriage story to be fairly average.

I think most people accidentally break their marriages, and I think I mostly see how.

But none of that means I’m capable of walking the walk in a future relationship. That remains to be seen. There’s certainly no reason to assume I will.

And regardless of what you might believe about Jesus, there’s EVERY reason to believe I have little in common with him.

I believe Catherine meant well and was mostly being playful.

But my alarm went off when I read the word “preach.” Because I can’t think of a more off-putting way to be than to PREACH. As if I—some divorced jerkoff on the internet—is in any position to PREACH to any one of you.

I apologize for any time you felt as if I thought I was some super-smart and wise person who you should listen to. (About things that matter. You should TOTALLY listen to me on things that don’t matter, like food, music, movies and all of the other things about which I have exquisite tastes.)

I only hope that if you ever recognize yourself in the stories that you ask yourself whether there are better choices to be made or better ways to live, so that good and beautiful things happen for you and your children.

Because they don’t make tequila strong enough to salvage the kind of sideways birthday parties I had. And even if I start walking on water or turning said water into wine, you can be damn sure no one will confuse my behavior with Jesus’.

Even if I do believe in love and forgiveness.

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Throwing Stones in Our Glass Houses

throwing a stone

Go ahead and set that thing down. (Image/onesteadfast.com)

I hurt my son once and had to take him to the hospital afterward.

When the little person I love most was just 3 or 4, he was doing the thing little kids do where they let their bodies go limp to protest another idiotic parenting command, like going inside the house to potty when they’d rather be outside playing.

When I went to lift him by his hand I’d been holding to get him up the back porch stairs, I yanked harder on his uncooperative little arm than I should have. He started crying and I probably didn’t care.

It didn’t take me long to start caring because he cried longer than kids do when they’re being needlessly dramatic. His elbow was hurt for real. And I caused it. Oh my God. I hurt my son.

His mom and I (we were still married then) took him to the emergency room at the local children’s hospital where I assumed I’d be arrested for child abuse, and the doctor would call me a monster, both of which would have bothered me less than the fact I’d hurt my child.

I wasn’t arrested, nor did the doc eye me suspiciously. Our son was feeling the pain of a slight dislocation so common to young children that it has a non-medical name: Nursemaid’s elbow.

By the next day, his elbow was totally fine.

But I’ll never forget how I felt in that emergency room, nor how I’ve felt any number of other times in which I’ve raised my voice in anger, either scaring him or making him cry.

It’s the same thing I felt when my wife would cry during an argument.

It’s the same thing I’ve (only on TV, fortunately) seen men do when they hit or push their wife or girlfriend resulting in serious injury or death.

One minute, you’re raging. And you say or do something that falls in the “I didn’t mean it” category once regret replaces the anger. And the next minute you feel sorrow. You feel the love and concern return, even though those feelings were absent when you were inflicting mental, emotional or physical damage.

So, which is it?

Who Are We?

Which of those is the Real Us? The angry one? Or the person insta-concerned about the wellbeing of the person they just verbally or physically assaulted?

I want to believe the genuinely concerned, not-angry version is. But I guess I don’t know.

You know what I think about people who physically hurt children? You know how I feel about men who make their wives or girlfriends cry during arguments?

I think they’re assholes, and since I generally trust my gut and opinions, the conclusion is obvious.

I’m an asshole, too.

Dear Assholes, We Can See Inside Your Glass Houses

A man armed with an assault rifle and handgun went inside a Florida nightclub this weekend and opened fire, murdering 49 people and hurting 53 others.

We hear that news, and 99 percent of all sane people are insta-horrified.

But then more details emerge:

The shooter targeted an Orlando nightclub called Pulse which is popular with the gay community.

The shooter worked for a security firm, had weapons training, and legally bought both of the guns recovered by police at a Florida gun shop.

The shooter—American-born but of Middle-Eastern descent—reportedly dialed 9-1-1 and pledged allegiance to ISIS immediately prior to the attack.

Then toss in the fact that an aspiring young pop singer was killed tragically in a random act of gun violence the night before in the same city.

THEN, add in that we’re in the most-heated presidential election in my lifetime during the age of social media.

Mix it all together, and you have a bubbling cauldron of anger, sadness, and fear, creating a massive batch of shit stew which I think might be unprecedented in size and scope from a political and social commentary standpoint.

Here’s what actually happened: A man deliberately took guns into a densely populated place where people were trying to have fun and murdered as many as possible.

What happened next was predictably stupid.

The anti-gun crowd wanted to scream about gun control. As if an ISIS-pledged terrorist couldn’t have used a bomb to kill even more people, and potentially still be alive and on the run.

The pro-gun crowd wanted to scream political conspiracy and opportunism. As if questioning whether a man like Omar Mateen (previously investigated by the FBI for potential terrorist ties) legally buying an assault weapon which he used to murder or hurt 100 people is somehow unfair.

The anti-Obama crowd criticized the president’s comments afterward, because he chose not to speculate on unconfirmed facts during a national address, and because he said things consistent with his well-established political opinions which got him elected President of the United States twice.

The pro-Obama crowd got butt-hurt about the president’s detractors as if he doesn’t have an equally well-established history of avoiding labeling acts of terrorism anything he deems politically incorrect.

Republicans blamed Democrats. If Obama and Hillary would get tough on terrorists, this wouldn’t have happened, some said. Which seems presumptuous.

Democrats blamed Republicans. Because all Republicans love gun violence, invite attacks through racism, promote bigotry by supporting Trump, and oppose marriage equality for gay couples? Please.

People internet-screamed for banning Muslims. Because Banning Things That Scare Us and pigeonholing entire groups of people has proven to be such a wise choice in the past.

Others internet-screamed that white Christians with guns commit way more mass shootings than brown-skinned Muslims. As if the teachings of Christ can in any way be linked to condoning murder.

And then all of that outrage caused even more “Yeah, but…!” internet-screaming.

Fringe members of the anti-religion crowd railed against Christians AND Muslims because organized religion is the real problem, they say. As if most religious people aren’t peaceful, or responsible for an ENORMOUS amount of good that’s done on behalf of humanitarian causes globally.

Fringe members of religious groups pounced on the opportunity to condemn the homosexual lifestyle. Because their sin and human failings are somehow more pure and noble than those of the gay community.

It’s healthy to acknowledge your assholeishness. You instantly become less of an asshole the second you do so, as a self-aware asshole is infinitely more tolerable than a self-righteous one.

Few things anger me like hypocrisy and unfairness. Who sucks more than the Holier-Than-Thou crowd?

The self-righteousness on display from people politicizing a mass murder is as disgusting and nauseating a thing as I’ve ever witnessed.

I hope Muslims understand why random acts of violence in the name of terrorism is a scary thing for the average American family, and ignorant people sometimes have a guilt-by-association mentality about it. I’m Catholic. For the rest of my life, I have to answer questions about the systematic cover up of a vast sex-abuse scandal within my faith.

Even though zero Catholic or Christian teachings say: “Sexually abusing kids is okay!,” and even though the vast majority of Catholic priests are fantastic, kind, principled men who make enormous personal sacrifices to serve as spiritual leaders and would never harm a child, Catholics—especially Catholic priests—must now deal with the scrutiny and questions about child molestation. It unfairly comes with the territory.

I know what it’s like to have people make ignorant assumptions about what they think my beliefs are.

I’m no expert on Islam, but my rudimentary understanding is that it is a religion which promotes peace, and condemns violence. Extremist violence is rooted in politics—not faith. According to things I’ve read, the word “Jihad,” is SUPPOSED to mean “to struggle for God.” To live well, spiritually. It’s HARD to walk the walk in our spiritual lives. It requires commitment and discipline. That’s something I understand and can relate to.

And now the word has been compromised. An ancient teaching to fight against oppression has been perverted by some into “kill anyone who doesn’t agree with us.”

People do bad things. Others get scared. The scared people do bad things in response. And round and round we go. You know, like the breakdown of pretty much every marriage that ends badly.

Every person alive is someone who had ZERO say in where they were born, who their parents are, how they were raised, or what they were taught by their childhood influencers and adult behavioral models.

I’m in no way condoning ignorance, stupidity, and certainly not behavior which harms other people. But human beings are a little bit hamstrung by the whole We Can’t Know What We Don’t Know thing.

We are born.

If we’re lucky, we have parents who love and care for us and teach us things which help us grow into functional people who contribute positively.

If we’re unlucky, we don’t have parents who do those things.

In EITHER case, we only know what we see, read, hear, feel, experience, and are taught by the people who earn our trust. We only know as much as we can with the resources of our schools, or books we have access to, or teachers who share knowledge, etc.

There are exceptions, but we by and large grow up following in the footsteps of our parents and the people who surround us growing up.

Children born to Buddhist parents in Thailand tend to grow up practicing Buddhism.

Children born to Hindu parents in India tend to grow up practicing Hinduism.

Children born to Muslim parents in Iran tend to grow up adhering to Islamic teachings.

Children born to Christian parents in Texas tend to grow up practicing Christianity.

Children born to Jewish parents in New York tend to grow up practicing Judaism.

Maybe kids raised by gay couples think having a mom and dad is weird.

Maybe kids raised by atheists need to witness a miracle to believe in God.

Maybe kids raised by liberal parents in San Francisco can’t help but think the kid raised by conservative parents in Utah is a bigoted, oppressive, close-minded and dangerous fascist, and maybe the Utah kid can’t help but think the liberal kid is a Constitution-hating, baby-killing, unholy and dangerous Marxist.

How to Be Less Assholeish

Maybe we could try not hating or being afraid of people who disagree with us. One of the best things I’ve ever done (and this is mostly in the past three years following my Ah-Ha Moment RE: shitty husbandry) is learn to embrace trying to understand people who disagree with me.

It’s hard and it’s scary, but it’s worth it.

Possible outcomes:

  1. You learn something you didn’t know.
  2. You teach someone something they didn’t know.
  3. You eliminate a false belief or help someone else do so.

All of these are good things.

People are afraid of terrorism, so they demonize religion.

People are afraid of societal desensitization to and acceptance of openly homosexual relationships, because they believe it’s immoral.

One asshole pastor in California reportedly said the shooting victims in Orlando got what they deserved. He posits that because they were in a gay club and presumably homosexual, that they were an immoral scourge on society who deserved to be murdered.

A CHRISTIAN PASTOR TOLD A GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT MURDERED PEOPLE WHO HAPPENED TO BE GAY DON’T WARRANT MOURNING.

Any Christians out there wondering why people lacking good information about Christianity who read that might frown upon Christianity and perpetuate false beliefs afterward?

Anyone wondering why gay people might feel hated or oppressed, and how that seems to clash with purported Christian beliefs?

Anyone out there connecting dots about how hateful actions in the name of other religions might paint similarly inaccurate and unfair pictures of certain people?

Anyone out there think God hates people dancing in a club, but loves church leaders who casually dismiss mass murder?

Anyone out there wondering whether THAT might be the problem?

The exact same thing that happens to so many married couples—people who VOWED to love one another forever? Is it any wonder two strangers from opposing camps or opposite sides of the world have conflict?

STOP. BEING. ASSHOLES.

We all live in glass houses, messing up, and feeling fear, and falling short.

They’re not the only ones messing up. Maybe we can encourage them.

They’re not the only ones afraid of things they don’t understand. Maybe we can comfort them.

They’re not the only ones falling short. Maybe we can let them jump on our shoulders.

And maybe they’ll offer the same in return.

And maybe we’ll have the strength because we finally stopped throwing stones.

…..

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How to Be a Man, Vol. 3

Monty Williams

Be like this man. Monty Williams. Because he’s what we’re called to be. (Image/pelicandebrief.com)

“This will work out,” Monty Williams said at his wife’s funeral the other day.

Out of context, you might find the comment flippant or emotionally detached. It was anything but.

The phrase I like to use is: Everything is going to be okay.

And that’s what Williams, an assistant coach of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, meant when he said matter-of-factly: “This will work out.”

Life is hard. And the most fortunate of us don’t know it when we’re children, because nothing is hard. You just wake up every day in comfort and safety that you didn’t earn, pay for, or work for, and then people love you, give you stuff, provide your needs, educate you, and allow you to spend—compared to adulthood, and within the context of appropriate behavior—a lot of time doing pretty much anything you want.

It’s magical, and none of us appreciated it because we all wanted to be big so we could “do whatever we wanted” like the little morons we were.

But then we grow up and no one just gives us things anymore. We have to work for what we have, and we have to work to maintain those things.

Instead of living with people who tend to love us no matter what, we now live with people who have to choose whether to love us—but because we don’t know better, we take that for granted and often assume they’ll love us like mom and dad did, because we exchanged vows, or share an address, or share a bed, or share children. But then we sometimes learn the hard way that we were wrong about that, too.

Many other hard things happen in adulthood.

Losing friends in adulthood is harder than when we were kids. Financial pressures in adulthood weigh heavier than they do for mostly insulated children. Because Father Time stops for no one, those fortunate enough to stay alive longest must in turn deal with the most amount of death.

Life is hard.

And because it’s so hard to think and feel and exist beyond our own minds and chest cavities, it’s difficult to not wallow in self-pity during the darkest, most difficult, most painful moments.

A dead wife.

Just 44.

Mother of five children, three of whom were with her in the car crash.

Killed in a freak accident by someone recklessly driving 92 miles per hour on a four-lane Oklahoma City road with traffic signals and a bunch of other cars on the road.

And the grieving husband and father said, with courage and conviction: “This will work out.”

All roads lead somewhere. Even the excruciatingly painful and treacherous ones.

And no matter how much we hurt, someday tomorrow will get here, when we will get to see exactly how things worked out so we could arrive to a better, perhaps beautiful, today.

Everything is going to be okay.

A Tangent on Personal Beliefs, God, and Faith

I deliberately tend to avoid writing about spiritual beliefs, God, religion, etc.

These are human beings’ most sacred beliefs, and they often generate strong emotional reactions, and by proxy, controversy.

This blog is mostly about two things: Personal growth and reducing the frequency of divorce. And since I feel strongly that both believers and non-believers can experience personal growth, and that regardless of belief system, people will continue to get married, I want to stay focused on those things.

If we start screaming at each other about which story about God is most credible, and internet-damning all dissenters to eternal damnation, I think the important personal growth and Let’s Make Marriage Suck Less conversations might get lost in the noise, or ignored entirely.

“Hey, Matt! Why don’t you ever write about faith as an important part of making marriage last!?”

Because I think if I tell an atheist she needs to pray to God; or a Buddhist that he needs Christ’s mercy; or Christians that they need to read the Qur’an; or Jews that they need to accept the New Testament; or the faithful that there is no god, that all of our conversations will become about that, and not what I’m actually thinking and writing about.

I’ve said it before: Does it matter how right you are, or how much truth you’re sharing if no one hears the message anyway?

I’d rather people from all walks of life strive to be better people and have healthy, positive, loving relationships, than spend time quibbling over disagreements that will never be settled in this lifetime, let alone these blog comments.

But if you must know, I believe in God. I just don’t presume to know how God works, or what God wants, or why God would want whatever that is.

I personally believe that God doesn’t want people screaming at one another and dividing up into camps of angry people telling others they’re going to hell if they don’t change all of their beliefs to whatever their particular camp believes, or worse, killing people with different opinions.

Something is true. And maybe we’ll find out what that truth is someday if the lights don’t insta-shut-off when we die. I hope so. Maybe in the meantime we can speak and act with humility, treat others kindly, teach our children to do those things, try to get 1% better at something every day, and try to live in such a way that we are giving more to others and the world than we take from them. Maybe we can do that no matter what we believe.

Coach Williams is a Christian man with a strong faith in God.

And should you listen to this courageous and inspiring eulogy to his wife at the bottom of this post (and I really hope you do), I’d like to ask all non-Christians not to get distracted by Bible references and churchy things, but simply on Williams’ class, bravery, humility, and forgiveness. I hope any men reading who believe how they treat and talk about their wives should be measured in blow-job frequency or what other guys think about them, will watch it.

Coach Williams probably messes up just like every other person, ever.

But he strikes me as a man who loved his wife as wives are meant to be loved. Who loves his children as fathers are called to love. Who wakes up each morning and falls asleep each night with a peaceful heart and relatively regret-free. Because he WALKS THE PATH.

Sometimes guys like to internet-shame me because of the things I write about marriage. They think they’re tough guys, and that I’m a huge pussy.

I used to be sensitive about that back when I spent every day wallowing in self-pity over divorce and feeling sorry for myself about how unfair life had become. I spent a lot of time doing the Why me, God!? thing. It’s because I was being a huge pussy.

But that’s not what I’m being today. Things were always going to work out. Everything was always going to be okay. And now they are.

Coach Williams’ manhood has never been in doubt, despite always touting the merits of his wife to anyone who would listen. Her beauty, and strength, and importance in his life.

When he wasn’t with her, he wanted to be.

When he isn’t with his children, he wants to be.

It’s what love looks like. And courageously choosing it even when it’s inconvenient is what makes a dude, a man.

Williams is a leader of men. And for those brave enough to listen, we can learn how to be men, too.

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A Crooked Soul Trying to Stay Up Straight

(Image/nature.com)

(Image/nature.com)

I’d like to tell you I’m a man of deep, unshakable faith. I’d like to tell you I know the real, actual truth about the universe and meaning of life so I could share the secret with you.

That’s a big deal when you’re a Christian. Certainty. Certainty wearing a “Hello, my name is Faith” sticker.

Maybe it’s a big deal for Muslims and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists and Atheists, too. Maybe you’re only a good member of your faith community if you believe everything you’re taught.

Understand something about me: I only saw good, kind, decent versions of Christians growing up—loving and charitable people who I only witnessed doing good things, and never doing bad things. I think that’s why I always felt ashamed when I was younger for wanting to make out with the cute girl in the church pew in front of me, or for questioning whether I’m literally supposed to believe that God once lost His temper and intentionally flooded the entire world killing every man, woman, child, animal, and plant which wasn’t on a giant wooden boat built by Noah and his family large enough to house two of every type of animal on Earth, followed by Noah’s family incestuously repopulating the world.

I nonetheless had mountains of evidence that Christians were good people. And since I knew a bunch of them, and had no reason to doubt them, I grew up believing all of the finer points of Catholic Christianity.

And let me tell you, that’s not an easy thing. I was just a kid. A pretty good and nice one too.

There wasn’t any ambiguity in our rules:

Any orgasm outside of marriage?

Going to Hell.

A hit off a joint or one too many drinks at a party?

You’re gonna burn.

Profane language?

Holy shit! An eternity of torturous fiery terror and torment!

That’s a lot to handle when you’re a 16-year-old boy, and your life revolves around girls, friends, sports, and daydreaming about going off to college, in that order, where you assume you magically become an adult and figure out what you’re going to be for the rest of your life, and maybe stop getting erections for no apparent reason.

Maybe Muslims and Atheists experience it differently. I hope for their sake that they do.

‘You Have an Obligation to Write About Your Faith’

People tell me that, sometimes. I always disagree with them, and then try to explain why.

I usually write about divorce, marriage and sustainable relationships, and I’ve earned some credibility with a group of people who think maybe I have a bunch of it figured out.

Here’s the thing: I can spit out a nice little playbook for how a man can make his wife feel loved, safe, secure and desired, and not want to divorce him as much as most women want to divorce their shitty husbands. I can. I’ve had THOUSANDS of wives, and even some husbands, write me to say so.

That doesn’t make what I believe true.

It just makes me confident.

Certain?

The only path to a good, forever-kind-of marriage is vigilantly practicing love—the verb—every day. It requires a healthy understanding of human psychology—how husbands’ and wives’ minds and bodies operate differently, and having the tools necessary to keep things from breaking.

For years and years, everyone was smoking. Even doctors. A bunch of people were dying from cancer and heart disease and we couldn’t figure out why. Eventually, we did. And now we know smoking invites sickness and death faster than not smoking does.

There are three kinds of people now.

  1. The kind who do not smoke because they want to do what’s best for themselves and the people they love.
  2. The kind who smoke because they don’t give a shit about themselves or others.
  3. The kind who smoke, know it’s bad and want to quit, but struggle with the addiction or habit for a variety of reasons.

On the subject of marriage and relationships, we are—as people—nowhere near as enlightened and educated as we are about the health ramifications of smoking cigarettes. Every day, people are accidentally and carelessly ruining relationships, damaging children, and tearing families apart.

There are three kinds of people who are married or in committed relationships, and unlike with smoking, the largest group has NO IDEA that what they’re doing (metaphorically smoking circa 1960) will invite sickness and death into their relationships.

  1. The kind who get it and do things the right—and frankly, only—way. Actively choosing to love their spouse and family every day, applying information they’ve learned about what makes their partner feel good to their daily lives. Proactively nurturing their marriages.
  2. The kind who abuse and lie and cheat and neglect because they don’t give a shit about themselves or others.
  3. The kind who sometimes fall short, understand that they can do and be more, want to, but struggle in their hearts and minds for a variety of reasons.

Let’s call it doubt. Maybe a person doubts that monogamy can really work. Maybe a person doubts they can trust their partner to not abandon them. Maybe a person GOT EVERYTHING THEY WANTED IN LIFE AND STILL DOESN’T FEEL HAPPY.

That last thing happens to decent, intelligent people all the time. They were certain this was what would finally make them happy, but then it didn’t, and now they want more.

There must be more to life than this.

Life in the Margins

I don’t write about God and/or Jesus because I think it’s an ineffective way to communicate with strangers. People don’t like being judged or preached to.

It automatically divides and makes people feel unwelcome. Not only that, it’s a bullshit thing to do.

And the answer to this question is why I think so: When is the last time you witnessed two human beings with deeply held spiritual, theological, philosophical or political beliefs discuss their differences pleasantly or otherwise, and afterward hear one say: “Gee whiz. You’re right. I reject all my previous beliefs and agree with you now.”?

Even once? Ever?

I mean, yeah. I’m Catholic. Kind of a rogue, miscreant one. I believe many things unique to Catholicism. I’m a regular churchgoer.

But I also have a bunch of stuff I’m not sure about. I used to feel guilty about that but now I don’t.

I don’t murder, because that makes sense. I don’t rape, because that makes sense. Can I really be damned for eternity for using birth control during married sex because money’s a little tight right now?

I’m tired of people acting like they know. No one knows. Zero people.

We know precisely dick.

We’ve had the world’s most-intelligent and thoughtful people trying to get to the root of what’s true about life and the universe since before the words “science” or “philosophy” were ever uttered. And no subatomic-particle physicist, pastor, atheist, teacher, scholar, prophet, rabbi, tribal chief or jungle medicine man has solved it.

Their argument and evidence would be convincing if they had. Like when the doctors proved to us that smoking caused cancer, and we believed them and made new choices.

We all want to feel certain.

I want to feel certain. I don’t want to believe in fairy tales. And I don’t know how to believe in nothing, Lebowski. I need meaning and reason and purpose, or I can’t make sense of anything. If the entire point of living is hedonism before the lights inevitably go off, why aren’t we all shooting heroin, hosting orgies and encouraging everyone we know to do the same?

But I’m NOT certain.

I don’t know.

Not for sure. Is what I feel faith and belief? Or is it just 36 years of habit reinforced by like-minded people within an unchanging faith community?

If no one ever told me the truth about Santa and someone kept sneaking “From Santa” gifts under the Christmas tree every year, might I still believe in him?

If Carl Sagan was my father and nothing bad ever happened to me for believing everything he taught me, would I look at the world completely differently?

If I didn’t have a father, money, education, enough food, or experienced love from family or friends, might I be willing to join a violent group of religious militants intent on spreading mayhem and murdering innocent people who believed a different God story than me?

The Shadow Proves the Sunshine

When you strip away all the bullshit, we’re all just a bunch of people who behave the way we do because of our beliefs and habits.

That’s why we usually believe whatever our parents taught us, so long as no negative consequences came from doing so. When it felt bad, we did something different than them.

I don’t know anything. I never have. I just believe things which make sense to me.

I don’t know that what I write about in terms of love and marriage actually works. I just believe it strongly because I’ve read, discussed, and thought a lot about it and it made sense to me.

Maybe some really good guy out there has been married twice and did everything right both times, but in both marriages, his wife took advantage of him financially and slept with his best friend. Maybe now that guy can’t believe what I believe anymore.

I’m done pretending I know what it’s like to be another person.

Maybe some people can’t believe in God because they watched their mother die of a horrible disease she didn’t deserve to get, or because they lost family on Sept. 11, 2001, or because their parents told them there is no God, and since thousands of children die every day in Africa from asshole warlords and no sanitary water, that story made sense to them.

Something is true, and I don’t know what it is. But I like trying to figure it out.

The only thing I really know is what it’s like being me.

A flawed, broken, uneven human being who can feel joyful and grateful one day, and a little bit sad and empty the next.

A guy who does all kinds of things my faith community warns me could send me straight to Hell.

That might be total bullshit. Or 100-percent true.

I won’t know until I’m dead. That’s when we will all learn the truth OR when the lights go out and our consciousness insta-shuts off, and the book of our life ends, maybe mid-sentence and unresolved.

On the other hand, I can’t tell you I don’t believe in God.

Do I doubt some of the details of thousands-year-old religious texts which include mountains of symbolism and metaphor? Sure!

But do I doubt God’s existence, goodness, or power? How could I? Why would I want to?

Some people don’t like God and religion. But it’s not because of God and religion. It’s because some religious people do heinous, horrible things in the name of their faith, thereby making every sane person on earth despise them and reject their beliefs.

That makes sense to me.

If the only Christians you ever knew screamed “God hates fags!” at your gay friend or family member, or staged protests at the funeral of your neighbor killed in military combat, or bombed women’s health clinics because they’re somehow convinced God’s preferred solution to ending abortion is murdering people with guns and explosives, would you like them or want to practice the same faith?

Isn’t that what many Muslims deal with now? Judgment and squinty-eyed suspicion based on the actions of a few?

Life has clearly demonstrated that one size does not fit all.

I think everyone feels the emptiness sometimes. Every faith. Every walk of life.

Things just feel off, sometimes. We can’t figure out why because when we write it all down on paper, our lives are exactly what we think we want.

I HAVE EVERYTHING I WANT AND STILL DON’T FEEL HAPPY.

I love my wife and I want to be married, but I don’t always feel like sacrificing for her. I don’t always feel like not putting my penis in others I’m attracted to. My marriage didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, so what’s the point?

There will always be that third group. The group too damaged to love themselves or others. Who just want to watch the world burn.

Then there’s the rest of us. With all our doubts. All our ignorance. All our guilt. All our shame.

Crooked souls trying to stay up straight.

The longer we live, the more bad things we experience. We collect more scars. We lose more innocence.

It’s so easy to embrace the cynicism now. To abandon hope while the politicians scream, and the fanatics shoot, and greedy abuse, and our friends fail us, and our marriages burn while we cry.

But here we are. Still trying.

We pray and we hope. We try to be good, for the sake of being good. We do things that are difficult or inconvenient because it’s what’s right.

People keep waiting for a blinding light. For God to speak thunderously from a mountaintop or burning bush. To feel certain again. Like when we were kids and less afraid of everything.

God doesn’t yell. We’d all know if that were true.

He whispers. Whispers are hard to hear.

I think when people have everything they ever wanted and still don’t feel happy, or genuinely love their spouse and family and want to be married, but still feel empty?

I think that might be a whisper.

I think that’s when we’re supposed to cede control. For God to fill the gaps. I think God likes working in the margins.

I’m never going to suggest you need to be saved. That you should believe what I believe. That I have some answer you don’t. I don’t know. And I think most, if not all, people who say they know are mistaken or lying.

I will always try to ask the right questions, though.

When it seems as if all options have been exhausted, is it possible the only thing you’ve never tried is a legitimate leap of faith? Is it possible that could make the pain and fear go away?

I’ll always say what I believe and why and let others form opinions about it. To decide for themselves whether the nagging emptiness we don’t usually talk about might be a whisper. A nudge to wake up inside.

Maybe there’s no love without hate.

Maybe there’s no hot without cold.

Maybe there’s no light without darkness.

What do I believe? That the shadow proves the sunshine.

 

(Thanks to Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman for writing this beautiful song, and inspiring this post.)

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The Purple Shirt Theory

Maybe Bruce Banner will get a pass since he's a fictional character. Maybe actor Mark Ruffalo is going to burn for this. I don't know. But isn't it worth trying to figure it out?

Maybe Bruce Banner will get a pass since he’s a fictional character. Maybe actor Mark Ruffalo is going to burn for this grave offense. I don’t know. But isn’t it worth trying to figure out?

Is there a God?

That’s not something I ever asked myself growing up because I was raised in a pretty religious household and pretty much only knew other religious people in my small Ohio town.

I never asked it until I was older, divorced and felt like dying.

It’s a question that makes us feel something on the inside. Maybe comfort. Maybe discomfort. Most of us don’t talk about it because it has become impolite to talk about such things. Some people will kill you if you don’t believe what they believe. Others will hate you.

But you’re safe here.

I won’t kill you.

I won’t hate you.

I just want to tell you about the Purple Shirt Theory, because I think it’s interesting.

Relativism n. – the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.

I’m guilty of engaging in relativism from time to time. It’s one of the ways I justify some bad thing I’ve done, or justify not doing some good thing I should be doing. I think everyone does it once in a while.

We think: Well at least I’m not like [insert person you think sucks here]! What an asshole!

And all the sudden we feel better about the times we were assholes because it was less assholey than the times that suckier person over there was.

I’m Catholic.

There are a lot of rules and frankly, I’m not the best Catholic in the world. I don’t mean I might be second place, either. I mean, I’m probably in like 118 millionth place.

The reasons I’m not a great Catholic generally revolve around sex and drinking, which is likely the reason most people aren’t great at being one.

Here’s what people like me do. We look around at the world and we see all the people who are bigger assholes than we are. (Which might not even be true. We just think it is.)

Guys are married and their wives are pissed at them, but sometimes they think: At least I’m not like Roger! That guy cheats on his wife all the time! At least I’m not like Larry! That guy gambles his paycheck every week! At least I’m not like Freddy! That guy gets drunk every night! At least I’m not like Michael! That guy hits his wife and kids!

And because we don’t cheat, and we don’t gamble away our savings, and we don’t drink excessively, and we don’t physically abuse anyone, all the sudden we feel morally outraged because our wives or whoever are criticizing us about something. And it could be so much worse! we think. They should be grateful!

Because we’re getting a C on our report card while other people are getting Ds and Fs, we sometimes feel like we’re doing a good job.

It’s because people like to lie to themselves in order to feel better and sleep at night. I’ve done that before.

Getting Cs isn’t so bad!

It kind of is. C grades are shitty.

There is much debate about what’s right and what’s wrong. People disagree all the time about what is okay and not okay to do. It’s at the very heart of the cultural and political wars being waged globally.

I don’t know what’s right.

I don’t know what’s wrong.

I only know how certain things make me feel. I know some things seem okay to me. And some things do not. And that’s how I decide for myself.

And this is the part where it gets scary.

The Search for Truth

The following is indisputable: SOMETHING is true.

What I mean by that is, if you knew everything there was to know, you would know all of the true things from all of the false things. And for the purpose of this conversation, I’m mostly talking about what’s good or bad, or right or wrong. No ambiguity. No guessing.

There are people—many of them—who believe everyone gets to decide for themselves what’s right and wrong. That’s relativism. And I promise I’m as guilty of practicing it as anyone.

But what I’m absolutely sure of is that SOMETHING is true. Something is right. Something is real.

And that anyone on a quest to live the best, most-fulfilled life possible is OBLIGATED to seek it. We must seek truth. 

The Purple Shirt Theory

There either is a God. Or there isn’t. If there is no creator and everything is random and there is no such thing as right or wrong, then life is meaningless.

The Purple Shirt Theory only matters for people who believe in God, or believe it’s possible there is a divine creator or supreme being that started this whole life thing.

It goes like this:

IF you believe in God, then you believe there is an all-powerful creator who made the universe. Yahweh. The Boss. The Artist.

Ergo, what we think or feel or believe doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is whatever the facts are. Whatever the truth is.

If God is true and God exists, then God makes the rules.

Sometimes, humans say that God made some rules and I don’t always agree with them. About things I should or shouldn’t do. About things I should or shouldn’t say. About who people choose to love and live with.

And we argue and we bicker, and maybe some of us are right, or maybe all of us are wrong.

I just think it’s REALLY important to always keep the truth in mind.

And the truth is this: IF there is a God. God makes the rules. Not us. Not the ants.

And no matter how unreasonable or incorrect or unfair we consider a rule or law or truth to be, our feelings and opinions on the matter mean precisely dick.

There is truth. Something is true. Something is certain. Something is real.

And it might be (it might!) that God says the greatest sin or moral crime you can commit is: Wearing a purple shirt.

We think it’s silly. OF COURSE it’s okay to wear a purple shirt! we all think. It doesn’t make sense to me that God would punish me for that! If that’s the kind of God he/she/it is, I don’t want to know him/her/it anyway!!!

We’ve all heard, said or thought that.

But we’re wrong—dead wrong—every time we resort to our feelings and opinions to justify an action or belief.

If life has no meaning… then I guess life has no meaning, and this is the most-pointless thing I’ve ever written.

But maybe it does have meaning.

Because SOMETHING is true.

We are wise to pursue whatever the truth is. We are foolish to not.

Maybe it’s okay to wear purple shirts. I think it probably is. But I wonder what the truth is.

Because maybe it’s not.

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When Life Erodes Faith

(Image courtesy of saludconabundancia.org)

(Image courtesy of saludconabundancia.org)

Maybe it’s different when all you know is hopelessness.

When warlords kidnap your children and force them to murder.

When mosquito bites or severe weather or missile attacks annihilate your village.

When all you ever know is poverty and illness and violence and death.

Maybe then, life is so bleak that you never really care whether you live or die. Maybe death and an eternity of nothingness sounds like sweet relief when nothing good ever happens anyway.

That’s not how it was for me.

Even though my earliest memories are living in a trailer park.

Even though my parents divorced when I was 4 and I didn’t get to see my dad very much because he lived 500 miles away.

Even though we never had a lot of money to do a lot of things other kids I knew were doing growing up.

Everything was great. I didn’t just feel loved. I felt special. I think it’s because my mom and grandparents were trying to compensate for my parents’ divorce by telling me how great I was all the time. Over and over again, my family would recount the story to me and anyone who would listen about how I wasn’t even supposed to be here.

The doctors told my parents I wasn’t going to make it on the day of my birth in 1979. The nurses took to calling me “the Miracle Baby.”

The unlikely human.

That’s me, I guess. I can’t remember much before about age 4, so I’ve never been particularly moved by the story.

I was showered with love and affection from my mother’s rather large extended family. There was no shortage of attention.

“Do you know how special you are, Matt?” my grandmother liked to ask me.

When you’re a child, you believe everything you hear, especially from parents and other trusted adults.

They told me things. My parents and other adults. And they could never lie or be wrong because when you’re little, it seems like they’re never wrong.

We believe fantastic stories.

Santa Claus. Delivering presents to every little boy and girl in the world in one night. Magic.

The Easter Bunny. I never imagined an actual bunny. More like a guy in a large bunny outfit. And that somehow didn’t give me nightmares.

The Tooth Fairy. I pictured someone small and Tinkerbell-like. But she had full-size money.

Mythical beings. I believed all of them to exist at varying points in my life.

When you accept these things on faith, and you grow up going to Sunday school classes followed by 12 years of Catholic school, it’s really not that hard to believe that Moses parted the Red Sea, or that Jonah survived inside a whale for three days, or that the entire world was once flooded and everyone died except for Noah and his family who survived on a really large hand-built boat with a bunch of animals they rescued.

When you’re a kid, you just think: Sure! Noah and his incestuous family repopulated the Earth! Makes sense to me!

I used to get uncomfortable when I’d hear people ask questions that challenged any of my beliefs. You’re supposed to just BELIEVE! Like me! Trust me! I’m right! My parents told me and they’re never wrong!

Then my uncle died in a hit-and-run car accident and his murderer was never found.

Then I was a student leader on a Christian retreat in high school when total chaos erupted because my friend was accused of raping my other friend in one of the dorm rooms. So, either I’m friends with a rapist, or I’m friends with someone who lies about being raped.

Then my mom left my stepdad after 20 years.

Then we lost my father-in-law and my wife was never the same.

Then she stopped being my wife because I apparently wasn’t THAT special, grandma.

Then I sort of stopped caring whether I died because—honestly? Fuck this.

It’s totally unsettling when all the stories you ever believed about life and yourself turn out to be wrong.

Not lies.

Not fake.

But, wrong.

You find out secrets about people you know and then you can never think of them the same and you wish you didn’t know the secrets.

Your friends get divorced and everything feels a little bit tainted and broken after that.

People die. And you use to think: I’m sad that you’re gone, but I hope you have an amazing time in heaven and that I get to see you someday.

But now, you just think: I hope they’re there, but what if they’re not?

What if this is all there is?, and you scare yourself because now you know that you don’t know. Now, people talk about heaven, and in the back of your mind, you secretly think: I want you to be right, but I don’t want you to know how unsure I feel about that.

The loss of innocence that happens, usually incrementally, between childhood and adulthood is a quandary. Better to have everyone go through the shock-and-awe process? Or maybe, should we be doing a better job of preparing children for some of life’s harsh realities?

Protect and preserve their innocence for as long as possible? Let kids be kids? Or try to make it so the adult transition is less of a brutal mind job?

You have to be an adult before you learn there are no easy answers.

The sun shone through the gorgeous stained-glass window. St. Matthew’s name is at the bottom. There’s a purple flower I can’t identify just above the Star of David.

The priest was speaking from the pulpit. About faith.

Per the Gospel reading, Christ had resurrected from the dead. But Thomas was doubting the story his friends and fellow Christ followers were telling him because people just don’t come back from the dead. Doubting Thomas needed to see for himself.

Per the story, Jesus shows up. Lets Thomas touch him. See his wounds. Hear him speak. And, of course, Thomas believes now. Physical evidence of the greatest miracle ever told.

I use to feel sorry for Thomas because he couldn’t have faith like me. But now, I just totally get him. A sobering and depressing realization.

“Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed,” Jesus said to Thomas and all within earshot.

But now I’m sitting in the pew, no longer knowing what I use to know.

I’m not saying I don’t believe it. I’m saying: I don’t know. And I need it to be okay with everyone that I don’t know because that’s what’s true, and truth shouldn’t need defended.

The priest talked about how when people don’t eat intelligently and don’t take care of their physical bodies, they tend to get sick and die.

When you do eat smartly and build your body up, you tend to feel youthful and vibrant and prolong your life.

Then he transitioned to matters of faith.

“This is why we PRACTICE our faith,” he said. We always get better at things when we practice them.

The only way to have a strong, youthful, vibrant, unwavering faith? To practice it, he said. When you neglect your spiritual health, your faith erodes, he said.

Withers away into nothingness like our dead bodies in the ground.

I was reading a space encyclopedia for kids with my son. A pretty thorough explanation of our solar system and what we currently know about the universe.

As best as science can tell us, everything we know to be physical matter—that is STUFF, like planets and stars and comets; all physical objects—makes up about 5 percent of the known universe. That’s it. Five percent.

“26.8% of matter is ‘dark’, we know it’s there because on large, cosmic, scales stuff moves around faster than it should and because the way that galaxies strew themselves across space is consistent with the existence of vast amounts of slow-moving gravitating ‘stuff’ that never turns into stars or planets or anything, just stays as diffuse, invisible, incredibly antisocial particles,” wrote Caleb Scharf, director of Columbia University’s Astrobiology Center, in Scientific American.

We don’t really know anything about those particles, either.

The largest percentage of stuff in the universe is called “dark energy.”

“Something is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. It didn’t used to. Until about 5 or 6 billion years ago the stretching of space following the Big Bang was in decline, but then something started to counter that, another unseen component, perhaps a type of vacuum energy density that fills up space as space itself grows. What exactly is it? We do not know. We have lots of ideas though, which is great, always good to have ideas about 68.3% of the universe,” Scharf wrote.

It’s possible that life is meaningless and that how we spend our time and how we treat others doesn’t matter.

But it doesn’t feel that way. No matter how right or wrong my parents were, it very much feels to me like our choices matter.

I look around and see an astounding amount of beauty. Spring has sprung where I live. Color and life returning as it does each year. Rebirth.

A cycle that feels entirely too intricate to me to have just happened by chance.

I really look.

I don’t see random chaos.

I see order.

I see creativity.

I see design.

Scharf said it all.

What EXACTLY is it? We don’t know. We have lots of ideas, though. Which is great. It’s always good to have ideas about the universe. About all that stuff we can’t explain.

Hello, God. It’s me, Matt.

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Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

(Image courtesy of chadhyams.wordpress.com)

(Image courtesy of chadhyams.wordpress.com)

A convicted child rapist’s face was being shown on TV.

He was 19, and convicted of molesting a 3-year-old girl (which is heinous and disgusting in every imaginable way).

The Orange County, California judge hearing the case reduced the convicted rapist’s sentence to 10 years, even though law mandates a minimum 25-year sentence for child rape convictions.

I was sitting in the living room with my mom who was visiting. She joined the chorus of people absolutely infuriated by this judge’s actions.

“Doesn’t this upset you?” she asked. “What if that was your son?”

“Assuming it’s true, it’s troubling. Yeah. I don’t know enough to make a determination one way or the other.”

“He was convicted of rape, Matt,” she said.

“Sometimes an 18-year-old has consensual sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend and gets convicted of rape.”

“This is a child, Matt.”

“All I’m saying is I don’t always believe everything I see on TV. In my experience, there are always two sides to every story,” I said.

“This judge was way out of line,” she said.

“You’re probably right,” I said. “But for the sake of argument, can you conceive of a situation in which an adult could be accused of molesting a child without actually molesting a child?”

My mother often works as a substitute school teacher.

“Yes, actually. I can.”

I didn’t know as much about that particular case as I do now. I think that kid did sodomize a 3-year-old family member, and it’s immeasurably horrible and disgusting. And I don’t think judges should be able to arbitrarily create new legal sentences out of thin air.

But when I first heard it, I didn’t jump to conclusions. I’m glad I didn’t. People always jump to conclusions and roughly half of them are wrong.

That’s a life skill I’ve only learned in my thirties. I used to be like many others and rush to judgment and be wrong half the time.

Everything Feels Wrong Sometimes

I was going off.

Really getting on a roll.

Mom was the only person there to listen. I was probably annoying her the way she sometimes annoy one another.

Our education system is in crisis. Our health care system is thievery.

Our entire way of life was pissing me off, and I felt the need to unload on mom about it.

We’re born and then we get herded into the school system where we are taught what they want to teach us (Don’t learn what YOU want and are interested in! WE know better!) so that we can “get a good job someday.”

Why do we need a job?

It’s because we have to pay for a place to sleep, and food to eat, and transportation to and from our jobs, of course!

I get the sense sometimes that they—“they” being people super high up the decision-making food chain in magical Fuck-Everybody-Land—just want people to go get jobs and follow their rules, so we keep buying things.

They want us to buy all their stuff. And then more stuff, and more stuff, and more stuff.

We can’t be happy without all this stuff!!!

That’s why we need our jobs! For the stuff!

That’s why you have to play by the rules! So you can be happy and buy stuff!

I don’t like how we all got brainwashed into believing we HAD to do it this way. But with almost everyone buying in, it’s so hard to escape the machine.

You can’t quit your job! That’s THE WAY.

You can’t pull your kid out of school! That’s THE WAY.

You can’t spend your time doing what you want to do! Follow the rules! Spend your whole life working for someone! That’s THE WAY.

I’m in a phase, I guess.

My mom is a very religious woman. She probably didn’t like me using the word “bullshit” so much during my little rant, but I didn’t care.

“I get it, Matt. I do. But that doesn’t exist on Earth,” she said. “What you want? What your heart wants? You’re describing Heaven. And the entire point of our time here in this life is about getting there. Nothing else matters.”

It wasn’t an unwise thing for her to say. You have no idea how much I want her to be right. I hope she is.

But you know what I muttered to myself?

Well, fuck. What if there is no heaven?

It’s because I don’t always believe everything I hear on TV.

We All Want to be the Catcher in the Rye

I just finished the book last night. J.D. Salinger’s classic ended up in a place I hadn’t seen coming.

I had no idea how the book got its name, but it all made sense in the end.

Holden Caulfield is a troubled 16-year-old feeling disenchanted about growing up in a world where it often feels like EVERYONE is chasing things that don’t matter.

He’s nostalgic for the age of innocence and he wants to be the guy saving all the children from running blindly through the field and falling off the cliff into adulthood when the world turns harsher, colder and uglier. Sometimes, people fall off the cliff before they’re adults because older, messed-up adults like the 19-year-old molester in California steal their innocence.

Holden can’t stand it.

I can’t either.

You feel it when the big kids tell you there’s no Santa Claus and you realize how foolish you must have seemed to believe such a tall tale.

You feel it when you find out an old neighbor man used to diddle up people you love when they were little kids, telling them: “Shhhh. Now don’t you tell anyone.”

You feel it when you get older and realize all the adults are just as messed up as you. When you realize all these people you grew up loving and admiring all have dysfunctional marriages because everyone is having sex with people they’re not supposed to or drinking too much or gambling away their life savings.

You feel it when masked men cut off people’s heads.

You feel it when police officers gun down unarmed citizens who are running away from them.

You feel it when you get divorced and you’re just like: Damn. Life wasn’t supposed to be like this.

It was so good when we were little and we just played.

We didn’t know what was really going on and some people think ignorance is bad, but maybe it’s better. Because if we’re not pursuing happiness, what are we pursuing?

You get so tired sometimes because there isn’t just one problem to tackle. There are unlimited problems.

And sometimes we’re not very good multitaskers.

We have more people writing hate onto walls than we have people to clean it off. It’s because we all get so tired and there’s never enough time.

“If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the ‘fuck you’ signs in the world. It’s impossible.” – Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

Maybe it’s because I’m a little bit crazy.

Maybe it’s because of genetics.

Maybe it’s because God really is there feeding me the strength and grace and hope I chase constantly.

I don’t know. But I hope. I always hope.

Sometimes we’re knocked down. Other times, we fall.

But we have grit. And we get back up.

I don’t stay down long. You can’t kill me.

There is always a silver lining. Always another way to look at everything.

In my experience, there are always two sides to every story.

Always new ways to reframe things. Always new, better questions to ask.

For one, short moment, Holden was able to feel peace.

He felt happy.

He looked around and saw more than phoniness.

His little sister rode the carousel in the park.

Round and round and round.

And that was it. Nothing else happened.

There was nothing bad.

Nothing that might stand out to us as particularly good.

It was a moment of just “being.”

Without judgment.

A moment full of innocence and nostalgia.

He was so happy.

He probably wanted that carousel to keep spinning and spinning and spinning forever because then maybe he’d always be happy.

The carousel can’t keep spinning forever, though.

We have to wake up tomorrow and pay another surprise bill or fix something that was working fine yesterday or deal with some new family crisis.

Because things always change and life always happens and we have no control except how we choose to respond to it.

It feels good to be angry about it sometimes. To point out all the phonies and their bullshit.

But maybe a better use of our time is looking forward to that next carousel ride.

That next moment of happiness.

And hold onto it for as long as we can.

And be grateful it happened.

And then look forward to next time.

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