Most People, By Default, Choose to Focus on What They Can’t Control (The Illusion of Karma), Instead of What They Can (Their Own Emotions)

It was about three years ago, when I turned 35, that I taught myself one of the most life-changing lessons (and secrets) about the human experience:

That 100% of the time, no matter what anyone else says to me or about me, I always get to decide whether or not I will allow that person to hurt my feelings, insult me, or disrespect me. Similarly, it’s always a choice as to whether I will forgive another person, regardless of what they have done.

Imagine the freedom that I have been able to appreciate these past few years knowing this unspoken nugget of wisdom: That I alone control how I feel in relation to other people… unless I allow them to control me.

That bit of information is one of the greatest gifts I have received in my life so far. If only I could have known this all along!

Contrast that to the illusion that most people live in: Most people, by default, believe this about themselves:

“I’m a good person. Well, I may not be a saint, but at least I’m not an ax murderer.”

This mindset is generically based on the ideologies of Buddhism and Hinduism. Ultimately, people rely on the flaky concept of karma to determine what good things they do deserve in life and what bad things they don’t deserve in life.

Here’s the problem: Karma, in this understanding, doesn’t actually exist.

Children have terminal cancer. Meanwhile, white collar criminals go unpunished their entire lives because they have the luxury of being called politicians.

Most people make themselves constant easy targets to be offended or disrespected because they believe they are moral people who “deserve better”, while they ironically deny the fact that only they alone decide whether another person offends or disrespects them.

Here’s where I’m at in life:

I don’t see myself as a good person or a bad person. I am a person.

I make good decisions and I make bad decisions.

I don’t deserve good and I don’t deserve to escape bad. I ultimately can’t control those things as much as I would like to.

Instead, I can control my own emotions; especially in regards to how I react to other people.

As goofy as it sounds, being a YouTuber and a blogger for the past several years has taught me this:

People in the comments section are constantly hoping to label me as one of the following:

Wrong, ignorant, and/or immoral.

I feel that in the real world, it’s the same way. People are insecure within themselves and haven’t fully figured out their own identity, so they look for people who will get offended, insulted, or allow their feelings to be hurt when it is applied they are wrong, ignorant, and/or immoral.

So imagine the power you have when you are instantly ready to agree with a person like that:

“You’re right: I’m wrong. I’m ignorant. I’m immoral.”

Man, I wish somebody would have taught me this stuff about 30 years ago!

My Christian Faith in a “Social Media Fearing” Society

If I ever ended up on a reality TV show, one where they had me living in a house with people of opposing beliefs and lifestyles and habits, I’m not sure there would be enough drama from me to make the episode controversial enough to be considered modern entertainment.

faith family friends sign

There are 2 main reasons for this:

Here’s the 1st reason.

Despite me being concrete on what I believe in and stand for, as my Christian faith is the basis of my existence, my role is not to “convert” anyone who is close-minded to what I believe.

I will gladly share my faith with anyone who I believe is searching for hope; which is what I believe Jesus and His followers demonstrated in the New Testament.

But Jesus didn’t seem to argue with nonbelievers and skeptics.

The people He seemed to really have an issue with were the people of His day who believed they already had their golden ticket into Heaven, but who weren’t willing to truly surrender their hearts to God’s will for their lives; which typically involved simply loving their neighbors as themselves.

(Apparently though, it’s not that simple; otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this today.)

Therefore, I feel I have no business in arguing with a “non-believer” of Christ, the Messiah; whether it’s a person of a different religion, or a skeptic of religion, or someone who simply doesn’t participate in religion whatsoever.

I feel that if my faith is not evident through my attitude and actions, words alone definitely won’t help the situation.

From a secular (and marketing) perspective, what good is a professing Christian on a reality TV show if he or she isn’t willing to argue, lose their cool, and demonstrate the opposite of Jesus’s mentality? The hypocrisy of Christians sells.

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But if a Christian is actually helping others overseas to get access to clean water, that’s apparently not worth prime time advertising dollars.

I feel the media is quick to give pedestals to the most opinionated and argumentative professing Christians, which helps make the rest of us appear as fools.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I fully accept my title as “fool for Christ’s sake,” as the Apostle Paul puts it.

But what if there were more examples of… I guess I could simply say… level-headed, nonjudgmental Christians in the media?

I don’t think America is really accustomed to that.

Here’s the 2nd reason I don’t think I would make for a controversial enough episode in a reality TV show:

I would quickly and openly admit I am not perfect.

There’s a stereotype that Christians are the most judgmental people; that they think they are “holier than thou.”

If I was on a reality TV show, the 1st thing I would proclaim to the other people in the house was that I definitely, absolutely do not believe I am better than anyone else.

I would share with them that my understanding of the Christian faith is not that we are people who think we are perfect.

It’s quite the opposite. I know for a fact I am far from perfect and therefore have no right to judge anyone else. Instead, I depend on God’s grace not only for eternal salvation from my imperfect state of being, but also for constant salvation from my greedy, selfish mindset.

I believe we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. I’m simply in the same depraved state as everyone else.

Our society (on both sides of the fence) places so much value on the morality/immorality of homosexuality, as the controversial topic only further divides America in its own civil culture war.

I remain publicly mute on the topic, because I’d rather focus on the things listed in the Bible that I personally struggle with every day:

Like pride.

And greed.

And gossip.

(Those are items people tend to overlook in the New Testament the moment they see a reference of homosexuality; even when those things are listed together with homosexuality in the same verse.)

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Our society actually places a high value on gossip, in case you haven’t noticed.

What should be a shameful thing is instead worshiped.

Let me be clear: While our society is divided on homosexuality, we love gossip.

In actuality, gossip is condemned in the Bible; the whole way throughout the book.

But it’s easier for us to question the things in the Bible that only some people relate to, like homosexuality… while the more identifiable issues to the mainstream, like pride and greed and gossip, are virtually excused.

So if I was in a reality TV show, my role would be to help other people alongside me. For example, if I was placed in a house with self-proclaimed slobs, I would help them do their dishes every day before I would allow myself to lose my temper with them.

Granted, I would still fear my scenes could be edited to be taken out of context, packaged into bite-size morsels, so convenient to be blasted all over Twitter- making me out to be the judgmental character I most wished to disassociate myself from.

After all, I fear that in some regards, as we live in a time when the Internet has become the modern day Tower of Babel, we have learned to fear social media (and its potential backlash) more than God Himself.

At the same time, isn’t it safe to say that we as a culture even worship social media, as well?

It’s sad, but that concept helps me better understand the concept of both worshiping and fearing God; though at first it seems like a paradox.

In a reality TV show setting, I would consider myself as a “competitor” in a contest, whose agenda was to prove that Christianity is serving others; not judging them.

Christianity is about demonstrating love, by being patient and kind and understanding and forgiving.

If we dumb down Christianity to “heaven or hell” or “traditional marriage or gay marriage” or “Republican or Democrat”, then I feel we’re not talking about the same faith Jesus taught His followers.

It seems that would be a compromised and ultimately misleading version of the very Gospel we are called to share with our “neighbors”…

Now, the question is, would an American audience buy into a concept so revolutionary… that serving others, not judging them, is what faith in Jesus is all about?

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It’s Easier To Ask Forgiveness Than To Ask Permission

May 13, 2013 at 10:05 pm , by 

2 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

You have officially learned to spit. That’s both a good and a dangerous thing.

It’s good because it’s an important part of brushing your teeth. It’s a dangerous thing because I have to trust that you’re not going to spit at an inappropriate time or place.

I guess I make it more alluring for you to want to spit because over the past couple of months, I have taken up the Indian folk remedy of “oil pulling.”

Yes, I know it sounds weird. But two or three times a week on the drive to school, I swish coconut oil around my mouth for 20 minutes (it helps serve as a natural mouthwash and preventative of headaches for me) and then at the Nippers Corner crossing, I spit the coconut oil out my car window.

I always feel bad for whoever’s in the car behind me, especially if it’s a woman. I’m sure they assume I just got sick.

Each morning as you and I are getting ready to leave the house, you always ask me, “You gonna put that stuff in yo’ mouth?”

Watching me do my oil pulling is normal to you by now. However, I don’t think you’re totally clear on when it’s okay to spit.

With that being said, this past weekend on Mother’s Day, when Mommy told you that you couldn’t have a 2nd granola bar, but  instead that you’d have to eat more of the main lunch she prepared for you, you acted like you were about to spit at her.

After I put you in a time-out session providing me with enough time for finish my own lunch, I had you apologize to Mommy:

“I sorry, Mommy.”

You saw how important it was for you to apologize, so then about 10 minutes later, you apologized to Mommyagain.

Within the hour, you had begun using “I sorry, Mommy” as a new way to ask for things.

“I play with Play-Doh? I sorry, Mommy.”

I guess it’s an interesting spin on the saying, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.”

 

Love,

Daddy

 

The Difference Between Punishing And Disciplining My Child

August 15, 2012 at 11:15 pm , by 

20 months.

What if we aimed for the same outcome for adults who do us wrong as we do our own kids when we discipline them?

I mean, instead of instantly wishing that a person suffers, what if we honestly hoped to see them restored to decency?

What if instead of wishing for annihilation for our enemies and frenemies, we wished for restoration and positive progress?

If I take away my son’s security blanket/girlfriendor put my son in time-out for no reason, then I am punishing him.

But if I do either of those things after I already warned him against something and he refused to cooperate, then I am simply following through with disciplining him.

To me, that is the difference.

It’s punishment if there is no cause. It’s discipline if it serves a purpose to make my child a better human being.

I’ve said it before: Disciplining a child is a weird thing.

Everyone has their own approach to it that they feel most comfortable with and find to be the most effective. But I’m for certain that no parent disciplines their child in secret hopes of making them suffer indefinitely for their offenses.

Instead, we want our children to mature and become less selfish. We want the best for them. By doing so, we make the world a better place.

So here’s something I think is messed up about us as adults: It’s way too easy for us to want to see other people cursed and suffer when they offend us, rather than them being blessed and enriched.

If someone cuts us off in traffic, they are automatically a jerk who deserves to be flipped off.

No matter how good of a person they may be outside of that single moment. Forget about how hard they work for their family and how they help others out of the goodness of their hearts.

For cutting us off, they become labeled as idiots who have no hope of redemption.

In fact, in that heat of the moment, the thought of that person being redeemed is absurd. It’s natural and easy to generalize them into an evil and moronic imbecile who intends to make your life hell; or at least annoying.

Simply said, we want that person to suffer. Who cares about forgiveness, redemption, or reconciliation.

And then, for all we know, the next day we coincidentally see them at the gas station and they say to us, “Excuse me, but you dropped this.”

They hand to you your debit card which slipped out of your wallet. You thank them; neither of you even aware of the incident the day before.

We discipline our children to help them, not privately wish bad things upon them. Yet we so easily want to judge and punish those who slightly offend us or have the opposite view as we do on a political or parenting issue that doesn’t even personally concern us.

By the way, if you live in Nashville, I’ve probably cut you off before on the road. But only because you seemed to be going slower than you actually were, but I realized it only after I had already pulled out in front of you.

Oops. My bad.

Here’s a quote from my favorite song right now, performed by 10th Avenue North:

“Why do we think that hate’s gonna change their heart?
We’re up in arms over wars that don’t need to be fought
But pride won’t let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up but just to burn them down
We think pain is owed apologies and then it’ll stop
But truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not”

 

Facebook Friendship: Let’s Not and Say We Did

 

I hear you knockin’ but you can’t come in. 

 

For months now, there have been “friend suggestions” on my facebook homepage that I refuse to deny or accept.  I just keep them there in purgatory.  And the fact that they haven’t requested to be my friend yet either means that the feeling is mutual: Despite growing up together, we don’t have a desire to reconnect as adults.

The problem with high school is that we were all immature back then.  Sure we did foolish things we would be embarrassed if today if anyone remembered.  But even worse than the embarrassing things we remember which we hope no one else does, are the hurtful things we did or said to others that we ourselves don’t remember doing.

I realize that people from junior high or high school who may have spoken stinging words to me back in the 90’s or even that were just overall snotty or hateful, have grown up now, just like I have.  They get the benefit of the doubt from me that they are now changed people, just like I am. 

But I can’t say the same for those I may have offended unaware.  For all I know, there are some people in their late 20’s who remember me as a jerk from when I was a teenager.  And to them, I’m still a jerk, despite the fact they haven’t been around me or talked to me in over 10 years.  There’s no way for me to know how each individual classmate remembers me. 

Unless they accept the fact that there’s a decent chance I’ve matured since then, I will always be that thorn.  There will always be a negative storm cloud associated with my name.

Here’s the thing with offending people: Unless you truly are a jerk, you’re not doing it intentionally. 

 

And the people who tend to be the most sensitive about getting their feelings hurt are often the people most likely to hold in their hurt and let it fester into bitterness.  And the ones who remember me in less than favorable terms would be the last to tell me. 

Instead, they would just turn the other way.  And not make an effort to reconnect. 

It’s ironic that we can use prejudice from a person’s behavior in 1998 to determine that they are still the same way in 2010.  Because let’s hope, at least, we’re not the same people we were back then.

But sometimes it’s just better not to open that door at all.  Sometimes it’s not a matter of hard feelings, necessarily, or not forgiving a person.  Sometimes it’s just best to not to rekindle a relationship and let our best basic instincts guide us to click “ignore”.

For the life of me I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise and we’d never compromise
For the life of me I cannot believe we’d ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen

 -“The Freshmen” by The Verve Pipe

LOST Recap: Season 6, Midseason- “Ab Aeterno”

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

After going on a LOST recapping hiatus since this season’s premiere episode, I came out of hiding to praise the job well done of the long awaited Richard-eccentric episode.  I feel so relieved, excited, and passionate about LOST again.  Because the show has finally stepped back into its former mystique while at the same time taking a giant step forward.

It’s not that I wasn’t a fan of the flashes-sideways.  They were cool.  I liked learning where the characters would have ended up had things gone differently.  But after a few episodes, the game started getting stale.

Yes, I get it.  James and Miles would have been buddy cops.  Ben and Dogen would have known each other through a high school.  Kate would have still ended up helping Claire.  Jack would have meet Locke and offered to help him gain his mobility back.  (And I’ve read an interview with one of the writers that said Hurley and Libby have a baby together in an upcoming flash-sideways.)

The first half of this season, to me, has felt more like a group of forsaken bonus episodes.  I feel like last night’s episode was the first real episode of the season.

Last May when I did my Season 5 finale recap, I predicted that Richard came to the island as a Spanish explorer in the 1600’s and was killed by the Smoke Monster.  So I was a little off.  He was a Spanish slave in 1867 from the Canary Islands (Spain) who became shipwrecked on the island.  I also predicted that the whole premise of LOST was a game between Jacob and the man I still refer to as Esau.  It now clearly appears that is indeed the case.

On a side note, the actor who plays Richard, Nestor Carbonell, is a Spanish-Cuban American who does not actually wear eyeliner, despite popular assumption.  He just has really thick eyelashes.

While some Losties are disappointed that the six seasons of the show have all led up to a moral chess game between two spiritual beings, I think it’s the only plot that the series could have that is grandiose enough to pull this all together.

Because just like real life, when all it’s all over with, it will be apparent that we were all participants in a sci-fi story alongside a spiritual war.  Yes, our life matters and is real, but ultimately we have a spiritual audience watching us and even influencing our personal decisions.  Brilliant.

Read “SCIence + FaIth = Sci-Fi” http://wp.me/pxqBU-1N

As for who and what exactly Jacob and Esau are, here is my guess.  Jacob is an angel and Esau is a demon.  Here is why they are not God and Satan.  When offering to grant a wish to Richard, Jacob says he can not raise the dead nor absolve Richard’s sins.  God would be able to.  But as an angel, Jacob is restricted by what God allows him to do.

Jacob’s gift of everlasting earthbound life is interesting.  It keeps Richard from going to hell, but makes his earthly life a form of hell by keeping him trapped on Earth while still not reuniting him with Isabella.

“Ab Aeterno” (the name of the episode), which is Latin for “since the beginning of time” or figuratively “since a very long time ago”, was by far the most blatantly Christian episode to date:

Richard learned to speak English by reading the Bible and carried around his wife’s cross necklace.  When Richard was shown to us in the prison, he was reading the 4th chapter of Luke which tells about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by Satan to turn the stone into bread (the lust of the flesh), to worship Satan in exchange for the domain of the world and all its glory (the lust of the eyes), and to attempt to commit suicide knowing that God would save him anyway (the pride of life).

This concept was later reiterated in 1 John 2:16- “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”

I wonder if this was intentionally (and loosely) played out with Richard through the episode:  Esau granted Richard the lust of the flesh when he freed him from his chains and gave him food and water.  Hurley enabled the lust of the eyes to Richard through his vision of Isabella.  Jacob granted Richard the lust of the pride of life by giving him earthly eternal life.  That could all be a coincidence, but maybe not.

In other Christian elements, Jacob asked the priest, “What can I do to earn God’s forgiveness?”, which is a pointing towards the need for God’s grace.  Also, there was the use of the word “sin” by Jacob when he quoted Esau, “Everyone is corruptible because it is in their nature to sin”.  Explicitly New Testament Biblical.

So far, Jacob has not yet been able to prove his case to Esau, that a person can ultimately choose good over evil.  He continues to bring people to the island to find someone who will be his representative of righteousness (symbolizing followers of Christ), since Jacob himself refuses to force his will upon anyone.  And of course that’s another obvious reflection of God and his relationship with humans: The granting of free will.

Esau/Billy Joel

As for my predictions for the last half of the season:

Ben Linus: I stand by my belief that he is ultimately good.

The Smoke Monster (Esau): It is a “soul train” that collects the spirits of those it kills, so that it can take the human form of them once they are dead.  Sometimes it “takes pictures” of their good deeds when it flashes the light at them to decide whether to collect them (by killing them) or keep them alive, like it did with Eko in the first season and with Richard back in 1867.

The List:  Jacob touched 7 potential “saviors of the island” back in their past including Kate (as well as Locke, Hurley, James, Sayid, Jack, and Sun/Jin), but for some reason Kate’s name wasn’t written on the cave ceiling when Faux Locke took James there: Kate somehow disqualified herself.  Also, no one knows whether it’s Jin or Sun that is on the list because only their last name shows up- but I predict it’s their kid instead, not either of them.

The Flashes-Sideways:  Not what actually happens, only glimpses.  The island is reality.

I will close with a few other quotes from the season so far that really stood out:

“I am not a zombie.” -Sayid

“John Locke was a much better man than I’ll ever be and I’m sorry I murdered him.” -Ben Linus

“I’m the smoke thing.” -Faux Locke (I like this name for him best because it rhymes with “Mohawk”.)

Read LOST Recap: Season 6, Episode 1- “LA X” http://wp.me/pxqBU-vo

Dr. Deja Vu: Before and After

There is something magic, mysterious, and forgiving about the past. Like a black hole it just absorbs our former stupidity and ignorance. As long as others can see we’ve put enough time between the present and the past, then much can be dismissed. Learning from the past is the respectable thing to do. It’s current and constant immaturity that people have a problem with.

In 1989 in 3rd grade the snack my mom always packed for me for the designated “snack time” was a Kudos bar. If I opened the healthy candy bar a certain way, the wrapper would stay intact so that it looked like there was still the Kudos bar inside. So everyday, I would offer an empty Kudos wrapper to one of my friends. They would anxiously grab the bait, and it was funny to both the giver and receiver every time.

After a few months I had done this trick to literally the entire class, so I tried it out on the teacher, but with a twist: After she realized there was no Kudos bar inside, I would actually give her the Kudos. (I carefully took it out of the wrapper and placed the bar inside my cold metal desk.) She laughed when I pranked her. Then I reached into my desk, pulled out the naked Kudos bar, and said, “I’m just joking. Here it is.”

The look on her face said enough. But she simply just said, “Oh no, you keep it. I’ve already got a snack. Thank you though.”

Who wants to eat a chocolate covered granola bar that an 8 year-old boy touched and sat in his desk that hasn’t been cleaned out in six months? I realized it was a faux pas right away. It was awkward and I hoped she would forget about it as soon as possible.

By the time I got to 4th grade, I was able to say to myself, “Okay, that Kudos bar incident was a year ago. It’s a new year, you’re a new person, time to prove you’re not immature anymore.” But year after year I would do things that embarrassed myself, and each time, I would hope that the next year I would finally “get mature”. But 20 years since the Kudos incident, I still haven’t reached that perfection I’m looking for.

And in the last 20 years, I’ve buried not only socially awkward events, but also personal offenses. Times when I’ve insulted and hurt people I care about. Of course I didn’t mean to. But I did the crime, each time. And after the sincere apology, and the sincere forgiveness, there’s still the sincere “let enough time go by so that hopefully both of us pretty much have forgotten about it” issue. Easier to forgive than to forget, no doubt about it.

We know that time is a healer, but how much time?

To the familiar proverb, “we hurt those we love the most” I add “and embarrass ourselves in front of those we don’t know as well”. I’ve tried, and I just can’t embarrass myself in front of those who really know me. Because they really know me. They’ve seen me do enough goofy stuff that it’s no big deal anymore.

But it’s interesting that it takes love being mishandled or abused to cause real hurt. And also that part of growing up and becoming mature is learning from mistakes involving hurting those I really care about. Whether it’s training for the norm of social behavior, or whether it’s learning “how to love” another person, it takes spilling the milk and cracking a few eggs.

Making mistakes and not learning from them reveals a fool. But turning around in a new direction shows repentance and maturity.

The irony is that while it takes someone that I love to truly hurt them, it’s their returned love that helps heal the wound faster, the way a Band-Aid and Neosporin do. I can insult a stranger or acquaintance, but I can’t truly deeply hurt them. So there is no love needed to heal a wound in that case.

Weird how that works.

“I can’t wait to figure out what’s wrong with me, so I can say this is the way that I used to be- there’s no substitute for time.” –John Mayer (“Split Screen Sadness”)