Uncertainty is not the worst-case scenario

Uncertainty is not a worst-case scenario. Living in pain for a life unnecessarily might be.

Now, of course, life is not pain-free. There is not a version of life without pain, without conflict, or without hardship. In fact one of the most important things we can do as people of faith is learn to face pain, conflict, and hardship head-on. It is vital that we learn to live with some level of pain, to work through conflict, and to tolerate hardship. Otherwise we are fooling ourselves.

The kind of pain I’m describing is the kind that is unnecessary and avoidable. Should we make a change, it would not exist. Making that change, though, may give rise to some other problem or pain. That is the uncertainty piece.

Embracing uncertainty is difficult, but it can be an act of hope. It suggests that we’re willing to tolerate some pain, some discomfort, for a time in order to ensure a future where we are better suited to reflect God’s image because we’re not bogged down by pain. We have pain, but we are not bogged down. There’s a difference between having some pain or discomfort and being bogged down by it such that our ability to live as the kind of people we hope to be is compromised.

I am not suggesting you go out and end every relationship that causes you pain. I am suggesting that you consider whether a relationship or situation is /defined/ by the pain it causes. If so, it may be worth considering uncertainty.

Hope and acceptance

Many of us get to a certain point in life where we’ve become so accustomed to the way things are that we fear change, even though change brings with it the possibility that things will be better. The status quo, or the familiar, offers us comfort because it’s a known entity. We know what we’re up against day-in and day-out even if what we’re up against robs us of our joy and our ability to thrive. It can be, ultimately, an act of faith to abandon the familiar in order to create the possibility of a more joyful, more free life of thriving.

I get it, though, even if the familiar isn’t particularly pleasant it often offers us benefits. If your child has a use disorder, it can ease our anxiety to be able to put eyes on them whenever we want by allowing them to live at home. It can be comforting and secure to go to work everyday and receive a steady paycheck even if the work environment is negative. My point is, even things that are negative experiences on the aggregate generally offer some benefits. So, when we make a choice to change those things we’re leaving behind not just the “familiar negatives,” which we tolerate because they’re familiar, but also the benefits, though they may be small. This is a challenge. A big challenge.

All that said, though, making a change will offer new positives, even as it offers new negatives. The question is whether these changes open up the possibility of living out of our new way of seeing. You certainly don’t need to change what is familiar just for the sake of changing it, but it may be a good idea if it supports our ability to love as God loves at the same time as it decreases our pain. Changes also bring the pain of loss, and this, too, can keep us stuck.

Acceptance is about embracing the truth that the familiar may be quite harmful for us. Hope is trusting that changing what is harmful is ultimately for our benefit, even though it brings with it a great deal of uncertainty.

Uncertainty is not a worst-case scenario. Living in pain for a lifetime unnecessarily might be.

Is "acceptance" really just giving up?

Acceptance is about living in reality. It’s an acknowledgment that things change and we must adapt to those changes. In my mind, it’s not about giving up so much as it is learning to operate within the confines that life throws at us. But, sometimes acceptance is about giving up. It’s about giving up when we’re holding onto a fantasy that is either destructive (to self or others) or otherwise impeding our ability to live out of our certain way of seeing.

For instance, if you’ve lived the past 20 years in a toxic relationship that has robbed you of your dignity and your ability to thrive, it may be time to “give up” on that relationship. If it were me, though, I wouldn’t consider this giving up. I would consider it an act of hope. It’s an act of hope because it’s trusting that there is a better alternative for you, even if it’s not your ideal. In romantic relationships, again, for instance, we often hesitate to let go even when they’re particularly harmful because we fear the alternative of being alone. Being temporarily alone, though, may have unforeseen benefits. You may not have to walk on eggshells. You may not have someone regularly scream at you, or hit you. You may not have to suffer any number of indignities. And, you open the door to the possibility of meeting someone who values you, respects you, and uplifts you.

This isn’t only true in romantic relationships. It can be true of a family sharing a house with someone with a use disorder. It can be true in a working environment. It can be true of a friendship, or a family relationship. Whatever your circumstances are, consider whether or not you have the capacity to thrive. Consider whether or not you have the opportunity to live out of your certain way of seeing. If this isn’t possible, then it might be time to make difficult changes. Don’t make the mistake of calling this “giving up” or “quitting” though, that’s the kind of language people use to try to keep you trapped in a dehumanizing situation.

Call it hope.

Seeing what condition my condition was in

My husband grew increasingly frustrated with my insistence that his favorite shirt was black, not blue. The more I questioned his choice, the more impatient he grew. He decided to end the insanity. We were on vacation with our extended family and he, in all his certainty, decided to poll the assembly about the shirt color. He received twelve votes for black, zero for navy blue. He trusted these people. There was no history of arguments about who is right and who is wrong on the subject. He did not think I had tried to rig the jury because I had no advance knowledge of his plan to ask for feedback from the peanut gallery.

This is a loving group of people and the subsequent ribbing he received was good-natured and he was an excellent sport. Later that evening, he acknowledged that I had been right about the shirt. He explained that his eyes saw it a certain way, and he could not, “un-see it”.

Can you relate? How often has someone confronted you about your using and called it a problem? All the while, using for you seems like a solution.

In my husband’s situation, once he realized he had a problem, he asked for help. We agreed that in the future I would be given the privilege of providing feedback should he happen to choose clothes that did not match. I silently decided to do so as respectfully as possible. I could empathize with the struggle to change one’s mind about a belief that had been held so tightly all his life.

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

~ James 1:12-18, The Message

One of my favorite things about recovery and faithful living is that both journeys offer the opportunity to develop the capacity for humility. My husband had to learn it in this small, seemingly insignificant example of colorblindness. But profound sacred truths are often hidden in the small and mundane moments of life. These moments CAN change our experience of life - in a beautiful, sacred way.

Shame and Guilt and Acceptance

Once, a long time ago, a friend of mine valiantly tried to convince me that I was starving myself to death. I was having none of it. I was not quite ready to admit that my eating was beyond weird and had moved from bad habits that I acted on compulsively into a Substance Use Disorder. I was using the chemicals that my brain produced when I was in starvation mode to comfort myself and distract me from the deeper issues that were causing me great suffering. My life was out of control. Today, I can admit that I knew something was wrong; I can tell the truth about the shame I felt about my body and my starvation diet. Shame plagued me, dominating my thoughts. It berated me, insisting that I was without value unless I was super skinny, practically perfect, and pleasing to all.

Shame is the emotion that tells me that I am broken beyond repair. Shame is not guilt. Guilt is an emotional acknowledgement that I have done a particular thing wrong. It is circumstance specific. Shame is all-pervasive; shame lies and tells me that I am UNIQUELY AND TERMINALLY FLAWED. Back then? I was withdrawn, defensive and arrogant. I believed that people who ate three meals a day were weak-willed, even disgusting. This is what a Substance Use Disorder costs us. It robs us of our ability to love ourselves, God and others. I was also filled with self-loathing. It’s a Jedi mind trick to be both arrogant and filled with shame but most of us who suffer with Substance Use Disorders are masters at holding these two perspectives in one mind.

Before the underlying issues of our disease can be addressed - depression, anxiety, trauma, guilt and shame, trouble coping with real life on life’s terms, etc. - we need to acknowledge the truth about our situation. The combination of arrogance paired with self-loathing contributes to denial. It basically means having a messed up perspective on life. If we have a serious problem that is messing up our life - at some point we are going to have to collapse into the admission that something is wrong. We need help.

I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed

Has been floating forty days and nights

On the flood of my tears.

My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears.

The sockets of my eyes are black holes;

Nearly blind, I squint and grope.

Psalm 6:6-7 The Message

Going the Distance

In Paul’s letters, he encourages consideration from believers toward one another. He is not talking about opening doors for ladies. He’s allowing for the vulnerabilities found in communities and asking those who do not suffer the same issues to respect the struggle of others. He talks about food preferences; he asks folks to respect their brothers and sisters who take a more narrow view of godly eating and not make it hard for them to follow their rules. He makes a statement - hey, just because it is not a sin, does that make the action you are contemplating beneficial?

I think about these things when I overhear two women talk about “snowflakes” and “millennials” as fragile and too sensitive. Paul says, be considerate. That requires a certain sensitivity, or at least a little civility. Or even self-awareness. Everyone is sensitive about the things they are sensitive about. Sheesh.

We have learned over the years how shaming and judgmental words like “alcoholic” and “addict” can be for folks. In an effort to reduce stigma, the preferred terminology today is “Substance Use Disorder” (SUD). This is helpful because it is more accurate - it indicates that this malady is on a spectrum and provides a framework consistent with observations about the disease. Words matter.

That said, some of my friends in recovery have worked long and hard to come to acceptance about their disease. They cannot get on board with this new lingo. It is part of their acceptance to specifically name their disorder - “alcoholic”, “addict”, etc. Wherever you land in the discussion, it might be helpful to think of the issue like this: there may be adjectives that I can use to describe myself that are inappropriate or unadvisable for you to use to describe me. SUDers may find using more specific labels helpful; the rest of us show more respect when we get with the program and use less stigmatizing language.

And finally, be gentle. Be kind. Because when you sit at Starbucks and talk about snowflakes and millennials in a disparaging manner, it causes me to sin. I judge you. And this is a problem for me. So help me be a better person. Please stop calling all white men bad, millennials fragile, attractive women floozies, addicts losers, the homeless annoying, and all the other stereotypes we consciously and unconsciously use to justify our cruelty.

Why NOT me?

36-39 As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be. 40 Philip showed up in Azotus and continued north, preaching the Message in all the villages along that route until he arrived at Caesarea.

Acts 8:36-40 MSG

Luke is such a creative story teller! What a fantastic narrative! Chariots and men running beside them. Philip talking to angels and being swept off by the Spirit of God - high drama. But also something else quite lovely. “Why can’t I be baptized?” asks the eunuch. This is a question of such hope! Frankly, there were a ton of reasons why someone might consider eunuch unfit for time, attention or baptism.

He was not an Israelite. He was a foreigner - Ethiopian. He was castrated in a world that values a family that has many arrows in their quiver - as the old saying goes. He just wasn’t the guy that God’s chosen people would have noticed. He didn’t seem like the kind of person God would choose. Time and again, God says, “I choose all people.”

I hear stories every week from people who do not feel chosen. I witness folks who behave in ways that indicates to me that they are primed to feel rejected. Often it appears to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy for people who seem pre-wired in every situation to feel left out and alone and seem to hone in on any perceived slight as a reason to confirm their belief that they are not “good enough.” The eunuch asks a question that implies a state of mind - I do belong. I can be part of. I will get baptized! Today - what can you believe in about yourself in light of who God is and how he provides?

What is left to work with?

A few days ago I wrote that some of life’s difficulties are so great that we feel that we lose a piece (or pieces) of ourselves that we can never get back.  When this happens, life can feel meaningless or purposeless. We question whether or not we can go on. What is the point in going forward if we’re broken, if we are a shell of ourselves?  


If that is the place you are in, that may be a question you have to answer for yourself.  I’m not arrogant enough to think that I can provide you with the sense of meaning and purpose you need to persevere with a few words in a blog post.  But, when I have had my own low, dark moments, one of the things that helps me persist is to ask myself this question: What do I have left to work with?  


Here’s why I like this question:  It suggests to me that it’s okay to be broken, and it’s okay to be damaged, and it’s okay to feel that we are not all that we once were.  Yet, just because we’re damaged doesn’t mean we’re destroyed. There is still something there to work with. We still have something to offer to our family, our friends, loved ones, community.  God has plenty to work with, and I say this for two reasons. 1. He can create as much as he needs from whatever is available and 2. God routinely works through damaged people anyway. In other words, he doesn’t need us to be particularly capable in order to make use of us.  


If you’re feeling stuck in life, if you’re feeling hopeless, if you’re struggling with acceptance, if you’re filled with contempt, then I’d humbly suggest you ask yourself:  What is left to work with?


Even if you’re particularly damaged, I believe there is more than enough.

What kind of comfort helps?

11 All his brothers, sisters, and acquaintances came to him and ate food with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him concerning all the disaster the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a qesitah and a gold ring.  

~ Job 42:11, CEB

What kinds of things truly offer comfort to those who are hurting?  


I have found it helps to listen, for starters.  Some of you may say, “I’m not really a good listener!”  That’s okay- listening is easy to pretend. Just don’t talk.  Allow the other person room to talk. If you can’t actively listen because of fear or anxiety or some such thing (which is normal) just sit silently and be uncomfortable.  You can do it.


Some level of distraction can be comforting.  I’m not talking about going and getting drunk or high- I’m talking about being distracted by things that are reasonably healthy (or not harmful).  My friends take me out to play golf when I need comfort and we laugh about how much we suck at golf. It helps.


Simple things are often what bring comfort, as opposed to grand gestures.  A hug can be very comforting. A card or note can bring comfort. Simply acknowledging that you know that a hurting person is hurting can provide that person comfort.  It helps knowing that other people see your pain.


When we’re comforted, we realize we’re not alone.  When we know we’re not alone we gain strength. When we gain strength we can move in the direction of acceptance (even if it takes a while).  


What else would you add to the list?

Comfort Fosters Acceptance

11 All his brothers, sisters, and acquaintances came to him and ate food with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him concerning all the disaster the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a qesitah and a gold ring.  

~ Job 42:11, CEB


Life sometimes throws things at us that are so difficult that we feel as if we lose a piece of ourselves that we will never regain.  When this happens, it’s appropriate to sit with the loss and to mourn, to grieve. Our faith does not compel us to pretend as if the loss did not happen.  Let’s remember- even after Job reconciles with God, he is still in need of comfort.

Comfort, too, fosters acceptance.  Let’s try to be clear about what constitutes “comfort”, though.  Truisms are not comfort. Cliches are not comfort. Being told that things are not really that bad is not comfort.  Being told that things will get better is not comfort.  As a general rule, people know that things will get better.  What I mean is, we generally recognize that our low points are low points, and that we will not feel so low forever.  

What do you find truly comforting when you are at a low point?

God is making things "right": Part II

Acceptance element #4: The willingness to trust that, on the aggregate, God steers creation in a hopeful direction



When Brittany and I suffered our losses, we weren’t suffering on account of our faith.  Nobody was persecuting us and we were not under attack. While we can draw hope from these verses knowing that they remind us that God does have a plan that is slowly unfolding, their truest audience is someone persisting in the midst of persecution.  



And so, my summary of the summary of these verses would be this:  God is steering creation in a hopeful direction. To suggest anything more specific is to get lost in the details of a verse that is notoriously difficult to translate in a way that is true to its original language.  



Knowing that God steers creation in a hopeful direction does not necessarily solve our problems or make us feel better about the tragedies that have befallen us.  However, our ultimate hope, in faith, is that God will redeem creation to such a degree that tragedy is no longer a part of creation. For this reason, I don’t think Paul’s reminder falls on deaf ears, and I do find it uplifting.  I can both experience life’s tragedy as tragedy (meaning: I don’t have to pretend that tragedy is joy in disguise) and use that as a reminder that God is actively working to remove tragedy itself from his creation because he does not want it there.  Tragedy is not God’s desired plan for his people.

Believing that, I think, opens us up just a little bit more to accepting the world as it is.

God is (slowly) making things "right"

Acceptance element #4: The willingness to trust that, on the aggregate, God steers creation in a hopeful direction



We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.  


~Romans 8:28, CEB


People often point to this verse as a way of saying that things that are bad only seem bad and that, one day, we'll understand better because all things are actually good once you have time, distance, and perspective.  



That isn’t actually what’s being said, if we pay attention to context.  As short as I can be, Paul is telling his readers that, though their current circumstances have caused them to despair, their ultimate hope is in a God who, through his spirit, works through creation to bring about his good purposes.  He is speaking on a very wide scale here. God’s plan, what he intends to accomplish in his creation, is ultimately for the good and will be of most benefit to his followers. Paul is not talking here about lost pregnancies or children with substance use disorder, or any specific tragedy that a person may undergo.  He is simply highlighting the fact, once again, that God is in the process of transforming creation and this will be undoubtedly good news for people like those in the Roman church who are suffering on account of their faith.  

More on this tomorrow.

Resist the Alternate Universe

Acceptance Element #3:  The willingness to resist idealizing alternative ways in which life “might” have gone



If I could give the parents I talk to on behalf of my work a gift, I would give them the gift of being unable to fantasize about their child’s future.  I know, I know parents can’t help it. I’ll learn this very soon myself. But parents so often talk to Teresa/mom and myself about how their child’s substance use disorder is such a shame and how they just know their child would be a doctor, lawyer, programmer, or whatever if they had just not gone down that particular path.  



There is so much grief over what might have been.  Believe me, I know it is not easy to see your child struggle and to wish things had gone differently.  That is natural, normal, and probably healthy to an extent.  But, it can also become an unhealthy obsession that prevents a parent from seeing and interacting with their child as that person really is.    



I think that considering negative realistic alternatives for our lives can be incredibly useful.  Considering the ways in which things could have been worse has the potential to push us ever so slightly in the direction of gratitude in the midst of turmoil.  Considering the ways in which things “should” be better, as we often do, does not serve us particularly well. It opens us up to additional resentment and contempt and distracts us from whatever work is actually in front of us, today, in real time, in our real lives.  

There is no alternative universe where things went perfectly well.  There is only the life we have. Let’s focus our attention on what is lest we miss opportunities to love and care for the people and world around us.  In so doing, we find a piece of acceptance.

Tolerating Tragedy: Part II

Element of acceptance #2:  The willingness to tolerate tragedy (in both a global and personal sense) without trying to pinpoint its source



Get caught up here.  



Can I believe that God loves me even when it seems that we’re not going to get something that we desperately want (and something that is legitimately good, at that!)?  That is the challenge. Brittany and I have had to wrestle deeply with this question over the past few years.



So often people try to take this a few steps further, saying things like:  God has something better in mind. God isn’t giving you things because of your sin.  God has his own timing and he’s teaching you patience. God’s withholding something from you so that your testimony will be better later.  



I don’t particularly care for any of those explanations because they’re all suggesting the same thing:  Things happen because God is either 1. Rewarding us 2. Punishing us or 3. Teaching us (and the “teaching” in this case usually involves some kind of withholding that feels an awful lot like punishment).  The book of Job strikes down all three of these possibilities, but they still circulate widely because us humans are silly dumb-dumb’s who take a while to learn difficult things.



Faith, we falsely believe, should give us a framework for understanding.  It simply does not and cannot do that because faith is not primarily about us.  Faith is about God.  Explanations are about our anxiety, not about God’s activity.  Acceptance demands that we go beyond pat answers. It asks us to consider that tragedy happens in the world, and it happens often, and it may have nothing to do with our sin and it may have nothing to do with God’s desire to punish, reward, or teach.  Sometimes it just happens because the world is a chaotic kind of place to live.

We do not know the source of tragedy.  We can tolerate the fact that tragedy happens without trying to pretend that tragedy is already redeemed.  There’s plenty of redemption ahead.  Not all of it is here just yet. Tolerating tragedy means living in tension.  Sometimes, that’s just what we’re called to do.

Tolerating Tragedy

Get caught up here.



Element of acceptance #2:  The willingness to tolerate tragedy (in both a global and personal sense) without trying to pinpoint its source



Once we got the news about Brittany’s health, we had basically two options: try to adopt, or accept life as non-parents.  We knew there was a good chance we would not be able to fundraise the money for adoption and, if that happened, we would have to orient ourselves to a completely different vision of our future together.  We did not want to live as a childless couple. But, we understood, life does not often give you what you want.



As people of faith, there are complicated questions that arise as a result of being confronted with that painful reality:  Does God love me? Does God care how I experience my own life? Does God truly provide for his people? Why is this happening?



Now, the temptation in hindsight is to say, “Of course he does!  Look how he provided for you and made you parents!” Yes, he did, that is true.  However, it is also true that there are plenty of people in this world who love God, and want to become parents, who do not become parents.  Do we think God does not love them and did not provide for them?



I personally do not believe that.  I believe God’s love for us is steadfast and present regardless of whether or not Brittany and I became parents.  It is not easy for me to believe that. It is not some kind of unwavering confidence. It is shaky and filled with doubt.  Yet, this is my attempt to tolerate tragedy without pinpointing its source. What I mean is, I’m intentionally trying not to try to figure out why this happened.  

More on this tomorrow.

Living within the constraints: Part II

Element of acceptance #1:  The willingness to live within the boundaries of life’s natural constraints



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Brittany’s body has constraints that suggested to us adoption was the path towards parenthood.  However, we have, as everyone does, financial constraints. Should those constraints prove too large, our new constraint would be life without children.  



We weren’t happy about these constraints.  We’re still not, in fact. We’re taking advantage of the resources we have available to us to process our various losses, including the loss of the way in which we thought life would go.  Yet, when the going got tough we were lucky enough to have people around us who were able to guide us into making decisions based on the constraints we have. They did not encourage us to make decisions based on a denial of the constraints.  



This was the first step in our journey towards acceptance, and I believe the first step in the journey for everyone struggling with new constraints.  We see the constraints and we respond accordingly. We don’t pretend they aren’t there by continuing to sacrifice Brittany’s present and future physical well-being.  We try to find a strategy that worked within the options available to us.



Sometimes, that is the best we can do in life.  We recognize that we have limited options available and we choose from within those options.  If we don’t do that, we’re either living in fantasy or setting ourselves up for even more disappointment.  



And, sometimes, having constraints pushes us towards creative and satisfying solutions we would not have otherwise considered.  I had not previously considered adoption and, as much as our losses hurt, I couldn’t be happier to be Norah’s dad.

Living within the constraints

Element of acceptance #1:  The willingness to live within the boundaries of life’s natural constraints



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I understand this post is longer than our usual posts.  Bear with, please.



One Thursday night last August was the worst night (so far) of me and Brittany’s life together.  We went to the doctor for an ultrasound on her pregnancy and found out that the pregnancy was not viable.  We also found out that Brittany has an extremely rare (less than 1% of women) condition: a unicornuate uterus, which basically means she has half of a uterus (at best).  After consulting with the doctors it became clear that, in her particular case, a best-case scenario is an extremely early (25 weeks or so) birth with incredibly high risks all the way around.  That is a true best-case scenario. In other words, statistically, we’d more than likely be looking at many, many losses and even if we could get to 25 weeks one of those times, that is still very touch-and-go for a baby (though it is technically possible for a baby to survive at that time) and for Brittany.  This is why, when people say to us, “Well you’ll probably get pregnant now that you’re adopting,” we respond with, “We hope not- as the risks are very high.” The risks are even higher now that we have a child of our own.  We do not feel we can risk losing Norah’s mom just to play roulette with biological children.



When we got this news, life presented us with a new set of constraints we did not previously know that we had.  IVF would not be particularly useful to us as we did not have problems getting pregnant (we had problems staying pregnant).  We could either: continue to risk Brittany’s body and health on the hope that we would stumble into a best-case scenario, at which point Brittany’s health would still be compromised and we would instantly be tasked with caring for an infant who may or may not live (again, that’s best-case).  Or, we could adopt.  Or, we could figure out what it would mean to live as two people who desperately want to be parents who will not have the opportunity.  Primarily we discussed the second and third options as Brittany already felt like she had been in physical agony for a full year.

You see, despite how much pain we were in, we knew we had to live within life’s constraints.

More on this tomorrow.

(Some) Elements of Acceptance

In these past few days we’ve discussed a few strategies that help us avoiding living as contemptuous people.  One is seeking out both a skilled therapist and a trusted spiritual advisor or mentor or whatever word you want to use.  This helps us deal with the source(s) of our contempt. The second thing we did was attempt to reframe how we perceive other people’s lives.  Contempt can be the product of comparing what we have to what other people have.  The reality is, we have no clue what other people have or do not have in their lives.  And so, comparisons are foolish, though we can’t help but do it, can we? It’s only natural, even though we know it isn’t particularly good for us.  



The third “strategy” (if you can call it that) I want to mention is acceptance.  What do I mean by acceptance? I personally think that acceptance is a rather expansive, multifaceted topic and I plan to take a few days to address just a few of the many ingredients that lead to acceptance.  I’m surely going to leave some things out. I’m going to give you my list in no particular order as I have no idea how to rate the importance of each of these aspects of acceptance. I’ll unpack these over the coming days so, if the sentences are not immediately clear, they soon will be (I think).  



Without further ado, here are my elements of acceptance:



  1. The willingness to live within the boundaries of life’s natural constraints

  2. The willingness to tolerate tragedy (in both a global and personal sense) without trying to pinpoint its source

  3. The willingness to resist idealizing alternative ways in which life “might” have gone

  4. The willingness to trust that, on the aggregate, God steers creation in a hopeful direction

Contempt and Comparison: What NOT to do

From yesterday:  Avoiding comparisons to other people’s lives is an important step in avoiding living as contemptuous people.  This is not easy to do, but there are a couple of things we must all keep in mind as it pertains to the comparison game.  



What are those things?



1. You never know the various ways in which others are suffering in secret.  Yes, in a given area, someone may have it better than you, but you don’t know the various ways in which they have it worse.  Life is not easy for anyone. We tend to assume people are living an ideal life simply because we don’t have all the information.  So, don’t assume the best about others’ lives. Assume you don’t have all the information- that’s the truth.



2. You don’t know what people want for their lives.  Someone may get the thing you want- but they may not want it.  The presence of that thing, in that person’s life, may constitute a very real suffering.  In such a case as this, both parties are on the receiving end of life’s unfairness.


Playing the comparison game is ultimately pointless because, at the end of the day, we have no clue what we are comparing ourselves against.

What to do with Contempt: Part II

Our contempt does not serve us well.  Yesterday I suggested that addressing the causes of our contempt is the first step in crafting a life beyond our hurts and resentments.  



It is difficult to avoid comparing our lives to the lives of those around us, particularly as it relates to our hurts.  As Brittany and I dealt with infertility, we couldn’t help but notice how easily it seemed all of our friends got pregnant and birthed children without complication.  We know, we know, lots of people struggle with infertility- that’s not the point. The point is that the comparison factor kicks in when you’re hurting.  It often does not help to be told there are plenty of nameless and faceless others out there like you when all you see around you in your day-to-day life are people who, in this area, have it easier than you do.  This comparison is fertile breeding ground for contemptuous living.



Avoiding comparisons to other people’s lives is an important step in avoiding living as contemptuous people.  That’s really the goal isn’t it? We want to avoid living as contemptuous people in order to give ourselves the best possible chance at a hopeful life moving forward.  



This is not easy to do, but there are a couple of things we must all keep in mind as it pertains to the comparison game.  

What are those things?  Check back tomorrow.