It’s not persecution when someone doesn’t agree with us.
It’s not persecution when someone tells us they don’t want to hear what we have to say.
It’s not persecution when someone doesn’t agree with our religious choices.
It’s not persecution when we encounter the “trials” that everyone else encounters e.g. health, car breaking down, wishing we got paid more.
It’s not persecution when someone does or says something we disagree with even if their intent is to tease us or watch us squirm e.g. using language we don’t like or telling jokes we don’t like.
It’s not persecution when someone asks us to stop preaching at them.
It’s not persecution when someone disagrees with our particular brand of religion.
It’s not persecution when someone disagrees with our particular interpretation of our scriptures.
It’s not persecution when we’re not allowed to preach in the office or sing Jesus songs on the construction site.
It’s not persecution when someone we don’t even know chooses to live their life in a way we disagree with.
It’s not persecution when we stumble across a piece of art that offends us.
It’s not persecution when we’re “forced” to listen to music that offends us in a restaurant or in a public space.
It’s not persecution when someone flips us off on the freeway and we’re sure it’s because we have a WWJD bumper sticker on our car.
It’s not persecution when our neighbor asks us to stop blasting religious music at 9:00p in our backyard.
It’s not persecution when our neighbors ask our entire youth group to no longer park in front of his or her house.
It’s not persecution when our kid is not allowed to wear a t-shirt to school with religious imagery on it.
It’s not persecution when the movie theater in town won’t show the latest, “God’s Not Dead” movie.
The existence of HBO is not persecution.
The building of a mosque in our town is not persecution.
When someone responds to our Facebook post or tweet with criticism, we aren’t being persecuted.
Differences of opinion, possibly.
But, not persecution.
Today’s morning walk was an exercise in listening. As I meditated and prayed, I listened to the world around me. If I’m honest, my morning walks are often consumed by the voices and noise inside my own head. But, today I gained a different appreciation and perspective of the place I live.
There are many ways to listen. Or not listen. When I taught communications labs at the college level we used to refer to active and passive listening. Active listening is engaged. Passive listening means we may or may not be aware of sounds—we hear them but we may not be paying careful attention to them.
Listening skills affect relationship, the way we see the world, engagement with society, safety, enjoyment, processing, remembering details, and understanding. And, they are skills to be sharpened. This is why we have the, “You’re not listening to me!”/ “I heard everything you said!” argument. Experts inside and outside the communications field talk about listening skills in much broader and more definitive terms than just active and passive e.g. appreciative, biased, comprehensive, critical, discriminative, empathetic, enjoyment, ignoring, pretend, pseudo, relational, and selective. When we attach these words to our definition of listening, we start to learn what is needed for mutual understanding.
On my morning walk, as I prayed I asked God to expand my ability to listen to the world around me. My family, my neighbors, my city, my co-workers, my friends. When I got home and showered and headed in to the office, I stayed in that frame of mind. What is the world around me communicating? What do I need to hear?
What do you need to hear?
Plenty of eye candy to look at while walking through our neighborhood–historical buildings, rivers, lakes, lush greenery, woodland creatures, birds, flowers… But I tried something different today on my morning walk. I took notice of the ground. I noticed the change in textures and colors beneath me as I prayed. I put one foot in front of the other and focused on what was directly beneath my feet. The ground became a museum full of extraordinary canvases. What’s beneath your feet on your path today? What stories is the ground telling you?
I had a great conversation over coffee the other day about social networking. My friend recently disengaged from any online activity for a variety of reasons including but not limited to anger, passive-aggressive behavior, meanness, bullying, hurtful sarcasm, name calling, and narcissism.
At times, I’ve thought about disengaging for some of the same reasons. Then I’m reminded of the beautiful, healing, life-giving conversations I have in these platforms and how many of my relationships have been strengthened through social media engagement. So, I press on. Which can be painful at times. Not only because I see all the things my friend pointed out but also because I have been the recipient of some of it.
So, I’m gathering my thoughts. I’m praying. And, I want to start talking about the issues—not to vilify them—but to depower them. Social Networking is not going away. It will keep reinventing itself. And, I believe God wants to redeem every iteration.
I want to start talking about these problems and opportunities more. In order to seek to understand and invite conversation. So that God might better use me. And you.
To invite conversation, the following is from, Follow You, Follow Me. I wrote this in 2012 and I think it’s even more real in 2017.
Not too long ago a friend of mine tweeted “Narcissus does not fall in love with his reflection because it is beautiful, but because it is his.” If you need a brief reminder of Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool and died staring at his own reflection. This is where we get the word narcissism that describes an “inordinate fascination with oneself.”
My friend was only partly right. The story of Narcissus is one where he was indeed renown for his beauty. But my friend was on to something very important. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the only reason Narcissus knew he was beautiful is because people defined him as such over and over again. He believed it because people told him it was so and he told himself it was so.
Nemesis was the goddess of revenge and retribution. When someone succumbed to hubris or pride that was an offense to the gods, Nemesis stepped in. It was Nemesis who led Narcissus to the pool knowing that his fascination with himself was a blind spot. A weak spot. A spot that Narcissus was not readily aware of.
In Narcissus’ case, it was his own pride that killed him. A pride he was blind to or at least chose to dismiss. This is also the case with the rest of us.
Bob Dylan’s “License to Kill” indirectly references Narcissus in a poetic and potent way:
Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool
And when he sees his reflection he’s fulfilled
True narcissists put themselves and their loved ones at great risk. Studies show (and maybe you have experienced in yourself or loved ones) that narcissists have a greater tendency to become impatient, anxious, angry, depressed, lonely, and violent. Narcissists tend to suck the self-esteem out of those they are in relationship with and seed a dose of despair and alienation in those they allow to be closest to them often resulting in infidelity and terminated relationships.
Narcissists often create their own reality where they feel there are more eyes on them than actually are. They often spiral when they feel they are unable to live up to other people’s expectations of them that may in fact be exaggerated or imagined expectations on their part. Unable to live with their own failures, narcissists often self-destruct and fall prey to all kinds of addictions including drugs, alcohol, and pornography.
Many times, the narcissist will not take responsibility for their own actions believing they are either invincible, or beyond reproach, or that other people are at fault for making them the way they are, or all of the above.
Within every one of us lay the ingredients for the making of a narcissist. A dash of pride, and cup of unchecked spirit, a slice of a lack of accountability and time on our hands are a great start.
The world of Social Networking can be a perfect kitchen for putting these ingredients together if we are not aware of the dangers. But remember, the ingredients exist in many a kitchen because we take the ingredients with us wherever we go. We shouldn’t fear entering this kitchen. It’s not the kitchen’s fault when a meal is poisoned.
Follow You, Follow Me. 2012. Abingdon Press. p125
I’d like to take the time to remember all the friends I’ve lost during this campaign season. The ones who no longer want to converse with me. Because, I obviously support someone other than their candidate.