We have a crummy way of treating people who change their minds, and I think it sucks. Here’s a little bit of my story of a (slow, uncomfortable) change of mind.
All posts tagged Christianity
Posted by melissajenna on April 9, 2017
“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I love words, and because I love words, I get defensive when they are misused. (And yes, I know how dorky this sounds.)
I don’t mean that I’m the type who gets all bent-out-of-shape when someone uses “who” instead of “whom,” or “can I” instead of “may I.” I get defensive when people use terms like “pro-abortion” rather than “pro-choice,” or “anti-family” instead of “pro-equality.” It irks me so much, I find myself defending groups I do not even associate or agree with, when they are mischaracterized by the willful abuse of language. Calling the pro-choice movement “pro-abortion,” for example, immediately creates a hostile environment in which to carry on a conversation. No one that I’ve ever met that identifies themselves as pro-choice has ever been pro-abortion, and to insinuate that they are is insulting, and is evidence of how disinterested one is in hearing the convictions of others. Just because we do not agree does not give me the right to characterize you as something that you’re not.
So. When I hear the term “flip-flopping” being tossed around (in the context of political or moral convictions or beliefs), I usually become irritated. Because when people say so-and-so is a “flip-flopper,” the connotation is usually that the person in question is pandering to their audience, in an effort to remain likable by all involved parties. The connotation is that the person in question is a shill. Or a ideological whore. Whatever floats your boat. And sometimes that is genuinely the case, and in those circumstances, I’m all for “calling a spade, a spade.” But usually? Usually people throw out the term “flip-flopping” as a way of discounting the journey one has made to come to the conclusion one is at.
A personal example: I’ve often been called a flip-flopper because of my conversion from Atheism to Christianity. Those that label me a flip-flipper, in that regard, are looking to devalue the experiences that led me to a point of conversion. They are establishing security in their beliefs, by choosing not to acknowledge my experiences, and instead, insinuating that I haven’t thought the whole thing through entirely, or that I am weak-minded, because I changed my mind. It is much easier to label me as as weak-minded, spiritual flip-flopper, than to consider that I’ve actually changed my mind based off new information and experiences.
In the same way, I hear people calling politicians flip-floppers all the time. Yes, sometimes politicians are flip-floppers–in that they’re compromising themselves for the sake of winning votes–but often, they’re just changing their minds based off of new and better information. (The way any sane person should.)
What’s So Threatening About a Changed-Mind?
To acknowledge that someone weighed an issue thoroughly, and then changed their mind, is to acknowledge that you might change your mind also. And for many, many of us, the very idea that there is a possibility that we might someday change our mind, is all-out frightening, because so much of our identity is wrapped-up in the labels we stick on ourselves. So, as a preemptive defense, rather than asking someone how they came to a point where they changed their mind, we quickly call them a “flip-flopper,” and continue sheltering ourselves from new experiences and information. (And if you ask me, that’s no way to live.) And please understand that I am not pointing fingers here: just as many Christians do this as Atheists, and just as many Republicans do this as Democrats. We are all equally guilty of not listening to the stories and journeys of others, and considering their implications.
Seeing the Value in Others’ Experiences
This is all to ask that the next time you’re about to label someone as a “flip-flopper,” that you stop for a moment and consider what you’re saying. Do you really believe that the person in question is pandering to an audience, or is there a chance that the person actually changed their mind? And if there’s a chance that the person legitimately changed their mind, what makes their journey any less worthy or valid than your own? And, if you’re in a place to speak directly to the person in question, maybe ask them how they came to their decision, because I guarantee you there is a great story there. There is so much to be learned from the journeys of others, if we would only ask them. We will find ourselves much better able to communicate with others, if we simply make an effort to understand their story, rather than shutting them down, and moving on. We will find ourselves better able to love others if we would only listen to their journeys with open hearts.
When we humble ourselves, and open our ears to those that we do not typically align with, we’re venturing out into fertile ground, and that’s the first step to cultivating a non-adversarial relationship. And if there is anything this country needs, its fewer adversaries, and more allies.
When was the last time you listened to the journey of someone with an opposing perspective? Have you ever shared an unexpected connection with someone of an opposing perspective? What was that like? Share your stories in the comments below. 🙂
(I’ll be back tomorrow with a little bit more on Sincerity.)
Let’s be friends!
Posted by melissajenna on August 13, 2012
I am not talented enough, or clever enough, or righteous enough to deserve to reflect Jesus to the world, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try and do my best. I used to believe that most people were that way, that most people had the audacity to know that they don’t “measure up,” but to carry on anyway, putting one foot in front of the other, not letting the unattainability of that calling deter them. But that’s not the case. For so many people, it’s easier to sling insults, and to disparage, from the comfort and safety of their iPhones, or computer screens. It’s easier to tear something down than to build something up. It requires zero sacrifice of self, and offers no vulnerability. Those people are the armchair-quarterbacks of the writing world.
I’m Not Doing Enough
I often am often told by the armchair-quarterback types that I’m “wasting my time,” and that “the church has bigger issues to tend to” than the ones I choose to write about on my blog. “So why bother?” they ask. But here’s the thing about that kind of talk: it is impossible to fix (or even address) all the issues of the church with a single blog post, and if it were possible, I’m certainly not the writer that’s gonna do it. Additionally, it defers responsibility for action and change onto everyone else. “Why are you writing about _______, when you SHOULD be writing about ________!?!?!” they rail on.
What if, rather than spending their time criticizing me, and telling me that I’m not doing enough, the armchair-quarterbacks of the world were doing what God was calling them to do? If you have a heart for a thing, and you feel God calling you to speak up– do it! If you’re annoyed that I don’t write enough about sex-trafficking, or water projects, or food deserts, then maybe those are the things you should be writing about. Suddenly you’ll find that you don’t have the time to criticize complete strangers on the Internet, because you’re too busy doing the little bit of work that God has put on your heart. If we all did that, what would the church look like? What would the world look like?
We Will Never Be “Good Enough”
I understand the underlying concern: there is too much wrong with the world, and the church, for me to have any sort of significant impact. Here’s what Mother Teresa has to say about that
Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.
God doesn’t require us to succeed, he only requires that you try.
My responsibility, and your responsibility, is to figure out what God’s calling for us is, and then to do it to the best of our ability. Even though we’re not talented enough, or clever enough, or righteous enough. Let me encourage you with this: God’s calling for your life is not to passively criticize other believers. It’s not to sit back and say “you shoulda said this…” It’s to take what little you have to offer, and offer it, letting God work through your offering. Think of the story of the boy with the loaves and fishes in John 6: 9-11
Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many? Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
You might think my offering isn’t sufficient. That I’m not talented enough to make a difference. And if we’re talking about me, as a person, separate from God, I agree with you. But when we offer up our imperfect and insufficient selves, God will do the rest.
Do you trust God to work though your offering? Are you ready to listen and respond to the Lord, and refuse to be intimidated by the circumstances? Are you ready to look a little bit foolish, offering up your measly loaves and fishes in front of a crowd of 5,000?
Remember what Jesus said to his disciples?
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
I think part of “denying ourselves” is giving up our need to feel “good-enough.” Giving up our need to feel like we’re making a big stinking difference in the world. We have to understand that it is a privilege to die to ourselves in order to live for him.
(And I promise that you will be far more satisfied in fulfilling God’s calling for your life than you ever were armchair-quarterbacking on the Internet.)
I’ll be back on Friday with this week’s update on the 40 Day Makeup Fast!
Let’s be friends!
Posted by melissajenna on July 18, 2012
I’m sitting here at my computer, collecting my thoughts, and on the surface, everything is exactly the same as it was yesterday. Same feeling of disapproval when I look at my face in the mirror (explanation). Same anxiety about leaning into the words that have been put on my heart. Heck, I’m even drinking from the same coffee cup (I washed it, don’t worry).
But below the surface, I’m overwhelmed. I’m completely humbled by the incredible outpouring of love and support I’ve received from strangers.
You know, when I first sat down to get that 50 Shades/Magic Mike post out, I’m going to be honest: it felt as if I was unloading a burden. I didn’t write it so much to please God, as to get him off of my back. (I wish I could say I had more righteous intentions.) I put off writing it for several days, but whenever I’d sit down to blog, or work on my book, or email a friend, I couldn’t write the words I wanted to write, because the whole 50 Shades/MM thing kept bubbling up. So late one night, annoyed that I couldn’t get any “real” work done, I finally addressed the issue that had been niggling at me for the past week. And I am so glad that I did.
God is Proving a Point
It is interesting, how even in the community of believers, one can feel so alone. At least, that’s my experience. I didn’t see much purpose in writing that post, beyond showing God that I was willing to let him interrupt my plans, even though I didn’t see a real point in it. (Though I’m well-known in my field, outside the tech-world, I’m nobody special, so the its not like anyone was going to read it anyway.) And in hindsight, I wonder if God’s purpose for me wasn’t necessarily just to address the 50 Shades/MM issue, but to show me that I’m not alone. That there are sisters (and brothers) all around me, and that I don’t have to feel so isolated.
So thank you. And “thank you” are pretty measly words, compared to how I feel. I am so grateful to each of you who has extended herself/himself in support, and has encouraged me to continue saying “yes” to God’s “interruptions.” You have blessed me immensely, and God is using you to prove a point to me: I can trust that I am not alone. I can find community and love in a group of people who used to intimidate me. A group that I used to openly despise. (Maybe sometime I’ll talk about my pre-Christian life a bit. What a change.) That I’ve been adopted by such a father, into such a family, moves me to tears. What a beautiful, beautiful gift that I absolutely do not deserve.
This is not to say that there has not been resistance. I knew when I wrote it that it was not going to please everyone (and would probably upset some), but should pleasing people be my primary concern? Like so many people, I place too much value in how others regard me, and I often prioritize others’ comfort to a fault. Saying “yes” to the words that were placed on my heart was a way of willfully pushing myself out of my comfort zone, recognizing my error in allowing others’ opinions of me to dictate my identity, and deciding to place my security in the opinion of my Father alone. And it was hard. And just because I did it one time, doesn’t mean that it’s over. I’m afraid and excited that in this regard, my journey has only just begun.
Feel-goods aside, I’ve learned a lot from the spectrum of responses I’ve received.
- We can turn nasty when our earthly desires are threatened.
- We are prone to justifying behaviors to satisfy our ideas of what is good, rather than God’s.
- Many people have said that admonishment of wrong behavior is “why they left the church.”
“It’s people like you that caused me to leave the church.”
That third point, “Many people claim that admonishment of wrong behavior is “why they left the church,”” is an interesting one. I can see a lot of myself in that statement. Like I said earlier, even in the community of believers, I often feel alone. There is a lot that bugs me about Christians; some of it is vestigial frustration from my pre-Christian experiences, but some of it is rooted in legitimate concern. Probably the greatest factor that has influenced me to stay in the church over the past several years is that at one point I realized that authentic faith is not rooted in one’s feelings about Christians; deep, meaningful, authentic faith is rooted in one’s love for God their Father.
If your faith is tied up in people-pleasing, and following rules in order to be accepted by people, your faith is in trouble. I used to resent Christians, because I didn’t feel like I needed to live a certain way in order for God to love me. And that’s the truth. God loves you, no matter what. But here’s the thing: if you believe that God, your Father, loves you, and only wants the best for you, it follows that you would, out of respect and love for Him, do your best to live in a way that honors Him, and brings glory to his name. It is IMPOSSIBLE to be happy living that life if you are looking to others for validation. So many of us have tried doing just that, and failed miserably.
So to those of you who would say that being admonished by other believers is pushing you away from God, I encourage you to reorganize your priorities, and begin making decisions through the lens of God your Father. If you love God, seek after Him, and his will, and his purpose for your life. It will follow naturally that you will make decisions based on His approval alone. (Though that doesn’t make those decisions easy.) Once that becomes your new normal, I believe you will have a whole new perspective on admonishment from other believers.
God, The Dictator
If you’re trying to live under God without loving him, or without knowing his love for you, you’re missing out entirely, and you’re going to feel like you’re beating your head against a wall. If you feel as if God your Father is demanding, and oppressive, and you’re constantly struggling to please him, you’re not getting it, and my prayer for you is that something will happen that will reveal God’s overwhelming love for you, because it will change your life.
Thank you, again, for encouraging me, and for correcting me that sharing God’s truth doesn’t have to be “quick, like a bandaid,” (my words), but “loud, and clear, like a trumpet call” (words of a particularly inspiring commenter.
I love you. I really do. And that’s the first time I’ve ever felt that for our big, crazy, sometimes loud-mouthed family. (Even though there are a few of you that fall into the “crazy uncle” category, and a few of you who I’m SURE would argue with me about politics over the Thanksgiving turkey.) 🙂
So this is brotherly love, huh? It’s a whole new world.
- Looking For An Exit From The Journey With Jesus (internetmonk.com)
- 50 Shades of Magic Mike (In Which I Am VERY UNCOOL) (melissajenna.com)
Posted by melissajenna on July 4, 2012