fear

No Longer Asking How I Want to be Remembered

Photo by  Madison Grooms  on  Unsplash

Today marks what is known in the liturgical calendar as All Saint's Day. It is the day the Church remembers the saints who have died and who continue to teach and guide us even as they are no longer walking among us. Those who have come before us have much to teach us, if we could take the time to listen and see. 

Many of us think about how we want to be remembered when we die. This is a fine question. It forces us to consider the ways we live our lives and the story that people tell about us. It is a social check to encourage people to be kind and generous. You don't want to be remembered as a curmudgeon do you? 

Recently, I heard someone say that they used to ask themselves how they wanted to be remembered, but then something dawned on them. How they want to be remembered is not as interesting compared to the question, "Why do I want to be remembered at all?" 

The question of how we want to be remembered challenges our outward actions, but why we want to be remembered challenges our desires and motivations. It is our desires that drive action, thus our desires need to be examined and vetted.

Why do you want to be remembered at all?

 

We Are All Afraid in the #UMC. Great. Can We Move On Yet?

Everywhere I look and read there is some element of fear that is being described. For instance in the conversation around the inclusion of LGBT Christians in the UMC, each side claims the other side is fearful. One side says that the other is fearful of change. Another side says the other is fearful of being out of step with culture. One side says the other is fearful of a slippery slope. Another side says the the other is fearful of embracing the full authority of scripture. Everyone says the other side is afraid.

In some circles you may hear that everyone is afraid and even go a step farther in sharing what they are afraid of. Owning what we are each afraid of is cathartic, but it does not seem to produce much fruit. In fact, talking about fear seems to only amplify the fear that may not even be out there! 

Instead of talking about our fears, can we just take at the starting point that we all are afraid? Can we move the conversation around LGBT inclusion from "what are you afraid" of to something like "what do you value"?

My son is four years old and he says he is afraid of the dark. However, in addition to being afraid of the dark he is also fearful of deep water and caves. At night I can give him a flashlight. I can ensure he stays in the shallow end and in the suburbs it is not difficult to avoid caves. The "thing behind the thing" around my son's fear of the dark, deep water or rocky crevasses is that he values being able to see clearly. Now if you listen to my son talk about what he is afraid of you will miss the underlying value that informs (drives) his behavior. 

Likewise in the Church. When we spend time listening to the fears of another person, this is a pastoral action and it is important. However, if we are only listening to fears we can miss the underlying value that drives those fears. 

The final point I want to elevate when talking about fears is that it is easy to dismiss the other person as not having legitimate fears. When we hear the fears of others and then speak to our own fears we often discount our partners fears as being less important as our fears. Playing the game of who has the most legitimate fear is a relational earthquake that shakes foundations, rupture relationship and crumbles bridges.

Rather than talking about fears, can we talk about values? Can progressives and traditionalists see that our values are aligned? Talking about values shifts the conversation from what arrests our actions to what can we do to live out these shared values? 

We Are All Afraid. Okay. Can We Move On Yet?

Looking into the eyes of others is a drain

Eye contact is a powerful and complicated practice. We know that eye contact can impair functions such as visual imagination but it turns out eye contact may also impair our ability to speak.

According to research by Shogo Kajimura and Michio Nomura, they found that participants were slower to generate complex verbs when looking into the eyes of someone on a screen. Their conclusions were not that eye contact impedes our ability to formulate verbs, but instead,

"They said the results are consistent with the idea that eye contact drains our more general cognitive resources – the kind that we need to draw on when some other task, such as speaking, becomes too difficult to be handled by domain-specific resources. That’s why the more complicated the story you’re telling (or excuse you’re making), the more likely you are to need to break off eye contact.
Looking away when we’re talking is something most of us do instinctively as adults, but this isn’t necessarily the case for children. Past research has shown that young children can benefit from being taught to avert their gaze when they’re thinking."

Scriptures speak about a variety of humans unable to look into the face of God for various reasons. This metaphor of our inability to look into the eyes of God , may very well speak to a biological limitation we all have. For reasons that I don't understand, looking into the eyes of another person drains a lot of cognitive energy, which may explain why many days of listening to people share their souls I am exhausted - I may be looking at the face of God and it overwhelms me.

8 Years Later and I Still Fear Blogging

Blogging has taken a backseat in the world of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It is not that people do not read it is just that blogging is difficult to get any traction in such a noisy internet. For over eight years I have been plodding away on this blog and I have learned a few things.

  • Blogger is for PC people, Wordpress is for Apple people and Squarespace is greatness
  • Mailchimp is also greatness
  • I might be able to build a larger audience if I used Adwords and/or better posts
  • Shorter posts are read and shared more than longer ones
  • People love lists
  • Post titles matter a lot
  • Images help
  • Building an email list is very helpful to see what is "connecting"
  • Post to Facebook and Twitter

Beyond the blogging specific stuff I have learned more about myself than I ever imaged. Perhaps the most important point of self discovery is how much I fear blogging. Specifically how much I fear putting thoughts on "paper" in a public way. I am not a great speller. I am not disciplined in writing and distracted often contributing to mistakes. I did not pick up the basic principles of sentence structure and am not sure what a preposition is. These errors are brought to my attention by someone with some consistency and no matter how much I try to be better I seem to plateau on ability. Each published post is laden with fear and trepidation that I often cloister up for weeks on end and don't write anything (that has happened more this year than any year so far). 

Eight years later and I still fear blogging because of how it exposes so many of my insecurities and inadequacies. Blogging is a practice in humility and a practice that is most formative to me than other areas of my life (except parenting which is just a series of failed attempts to live into the very ideals that I want my children to live into). 

I write this all to say that if you fear something about yourself and you want to "get over it" I am not sure that is the point. I believe the point of the fears in our lives is not to run from them or to "get over them" but to learn from them. Fears are some of the greatest gifts we can receive because they teach us more than we could ever imagine. If it is possible to embrace that which you fear, I would encourage you to do so. You may still fear it, but it will teach you something you need to know.