If you spend any time on social media you’ve seen them. In fact, they’re impossible to avoid. Memes, memes, memes. Everywhere there are memes.
On the off-chance you don’t know what a meme is, the word comes from the Greek. According to Wikipedia, a meme (pronounced “meem”), is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” In short, a meme represents a cultural idea, often delivered in a symbolic way. You’ll see a picture, sometimes with a famous person, with a caption describing what that person is thinking. Many memes will communicate a concept meant to be accepted as a truth.
Why do I bring them up here?
Because so many are wrong.
Except When They Aren’t Funny
Recently a friend shared a meme on his Facebook page. It said something like this:
Fools take a fork and stabs a person in the back.
A wise person takes the fork, cuts the cord, and frees themselves of fools.
So what’s the problem? Kinda makes sense, right? We all know fools. We all want to be rid of them in our lives. There are hundreds of memes that mean to communicate this kind of truth. So it must be right.
Being Pithy Ain’t The Same As Being Wise
The problem is that we accept these things as truth. You’ll see loads of people pile on and comment about how insightful memes like this are. What troubles me most is when I see friends who are believers pile on with just the same enthusiasm.
If there is a negative person in your life, you just need to move on! they’ll say.
Why does this matter? Because we’ve all been that negative person at some point. We’ve all been the fool, probably at many points. So gleefully arguing that we should all walk away from a person that we have been…and will be again…is just silly.
And it is arrogant. We all want to be wise, don’t we? But are we wise enough to notice the unspoken arrogance in that meme quote above? Wouldn’t it be better to be so wise that we cut the cord and free ourselves of fools?
I would argue it simply makes us pretentious, not wise. The more we lean into this way of thinking—and acting—the more mean-spirited we can become, all the while feeling smug about how “wise” we are. Hmm. Not quite the type of person that we would want to become.
What’s more, how do we square this impulse to be rid of negative people in our lives—those fools that getting rid of makes us “wise”—with our faith? That doesn’t sound like something Jesus would do. Nowhere in the Bible do I find verses to support such behavior. But you don’t have to look far to find loads of passages that actually counter such mean-spiritedness.
When Meme and Mean Blend
Most saddening to me in all this is that fellow believers have thoroughly embraced this prideful point of view, that has them agreeing with being rid of fools.
What if they got that wrong?
A man’s wisdom gives him patience;
It is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
A quick review of Romans 9 reminds us that had God chosen our worldview of what is actually “wise,” we’d all be doomed, rather than redeemed. And yet believers are the quickest to adopt this impulse to cut off relationships with fellow believers, in my experience. More times than I care to count, I have been the “fool” in their perspective, and I’ve been cut off. Just like that. Because it is wise. It must be because the meme said so!
Believers would do well to remember that two Apostles, Peter and Paul, had a huge and very public disagreement with each other. Visualize how that would work in our day: Paul stands up in a crowded church and condemns Peter for hypocrisy. Very public. No room to wiggle. Peter stares at Paul, slack jawed by this stinging rebuke, as he scrambles with how to respond.
There Are No Apostolic Memes. No, Really.
Peter didn’t respond with a meme.
He did what we are all called to do as believers. Consequently, he sought out true wisdom. With daily commitment, he sought out Truth. And he owned his error, repented of it and sought reconciliation with his brother in Christ. Rather than immediately break away from that trouble-making, negative guy named Paul, he sought to make things right with him and those around him, within his fellowship, as well as those outside of it.
If we as believers gleefully congratulate ourselves for being wise when we dump others, how will those outside of the faith ever be drawn into the church? Simple answer. They won’t.
As believers, we’re not given the option to just dump people because we don’t agree with them or they don’t agree with us. We dare not cut them off because they called us on a hurtful behavior. Doing this doesn’t make us wise. It just makes us like the rest of the world, unwilling to face our own actions.
But that’s not what our Savior calls us to be.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… 2 Cor. 5:18
Becoming a Living Reconciliation Meme
Will we always reach reconciliation with others? No. But are we called to try? Yes, without a doubt. And wouldn’t you want to be wrong on that side of the ledger?
Next time we’ll take a look at those times when it is appropriate—even necessary—to part ways with someone, even a fellow believer. But know this: it is a much rarer circumstance than some believers regularly want to believe.
“No, you can’t play until you have your chores done.”
“No” applied to any number of things I cared about.
I think back to being a kid and remember this, one of the most disappointing of words, “No!”
When my parents or teachers said “No” it often meant I put an abrupt kibosh on some delightful plan I had come up with. So, I would quietly think to myself, “When I’m an adult I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.”
However, adulthood quickly taught me that “the land of milk and honey” (aka adulthood) was not quite the tasty feast of freedom I originally thought. (more…)
It’s a well-known truism that if something isn’t “broke”–like a car or something you depend on–you don’t mess with it. “Mess with it” meaning attempting to fix it. Which really means “making it better.” Because what’s the point? The argument is that if something is working properly, even if it’s not especially cool or “new,” it still works…so monkeying around with it could go badly.
It’s not a bad principle. Until it breaks.
In our society, even post- “Great Recession” (assuming you believe the premise that we are, in fact, “post”), we’ve become accustomed to just throwing things away when they are broken. Which is odd, since people post-Depression rarely threw anything away, even when it was broken. They’d fix it.
The Banker’s Light Fiasco
Many years ago I worked in a small, 3rd generation office supply store. The prices were a bit higher than the big box stores we’re used to now, but they had great service and many products you simply couldn’t get elsewhere. Like the banker’s light you see above. It’s mine. I’ve owned it almost 20 years. So, when the irresistible force of something that had been hanging in my office decided to let go, the lamp became the immovable object that stopped it. Until it couldn’t.
Looking at the collected remains, and tentatively putting a few together–like a nightmare jigsaw puzzle, I decided it was worth fixing. What you see is the result. Super-glue to the rescue! Where the bits of glass were too far gone to redeem, I filled in the void with clear caulking.
Viola! Good as new…and it looks cooler, too.
Come on! You know it looks gnarly and you want one now. Word of advice: make stuff “broke” carefully…
Go For “Broke”
OK, so I fixed a busted lamp. Is there a metaphor here? Indeed, there is.
When a relationship looks like the lamp, what does our culture advocate? Dump it. Dump the loser. It’s broke. Get a new one. Move on and let go. That viewpoint is everywhere in social media. This comes from a Facebook post of a friend:
Keep people in your life that truly love you, motivate you, encourage you, inspire you, enhance you and make you happy. If you have people who do none of the above, let them go.
Am I so naive as to think that all relationships must be continued, even when toxic? Of course not. But here’s the rub. Where do you see toxic in the maxim above? Doesn’t the manifesto strike you as, at least, a little too egocentric? More to the point, who really just discovers one day that they have relationships with people who aren’t like this? Wouldn’t that say more about their own motivations?
5 Steps to More Satisfaction in Life
Lose the sense of royal disdain. Just because someone in your life doesn’t fulfill Your Highness’s needs all the time, show some royal grace. You might be the grump someday. It could happen.
Get your vision checked. Rather than going through your day like Mr. Magoo, see whose life you can bring love, motivation, encouragement and inspiration to. Let them be in charge of their own happiness.
Own your own. Look after your own happiness. Really. We need others, yes. But not to the extent we dump them when they fail to meet our lengthy list of expectations.
Seek out discomfort. Have you ever learned something, been enhanced or motivated…by someone that just rubbed you wrong? Thought so.
Seize the day. When relationships are less than satisfying, try fixing them first. Work at it. Consume and discard people at your own risk. One day, you might be the one “let go.”
Engage here. What are your thoughts? Agree? Strongly disagree? For more steps to living a satisfied life, click here.
Being your own cheerleader is most important!…and actually, necessary. Your view of yourself and your self talk is the most powerful input you will ever get.
Often I will discover or have it pointed out to me some routine I didn’t finish that negatively impacted someone. We call it in my house, an “open loop.” I open windows in the a.m. to cool down the house but I forget to close them before the sun comes around, so the house is twice as hot as it would have been. I feed the cats but forget to put away the catfood afterward. (I will get back to the catfood in my part-2 blog.) These are the kind of loops that are easiest to leave open because they involve timing but not much thought. I can be thinking about something completely different as I do these things so I may get distracted and pick up on a thought in the middle of my task. Oi!
Here is what I mean:
The windows – If I don’t set a timer for the closing of the windows I will most likely forget. There have been times I have remembered early and thought to myself, ‘ it’s too early…I will come back to it’ with every intention of doing so. Convinced I will, I go on with my day but end up completely forgetting. I am better off doing something either immediately when I think of it or I need to set a timer. Really those are my two options. It’s tricky though because doing it immediately may keep you from accomplishing something else you had planned to do. It’s good to pause and check first. If nothing will be impacted, then go for it!
Anyway, back to my original thought – being persistent. I accidentally tick people off, whether I know it or not. All I can do is apologize and do my best at being aware of my open loops. (Timers can be a helpful tool. Just remember to not pound yourself if you forget the timer, too. Beating yourself up just makes the rest of the day worse.)
Let people express their frustration so they know you care about their feelings. Whether you mean to do things or not, they are hurt, so let them know you love them by listening.
Try not to internalize their words of anger as attacks on who you are, it’s just what you have done. Now, yes it can be hard to separate those two but if you do you will be able to think more clearly and problem solve how to make the situation better. If you let other people’s anger completely overcome you it will distract you, and just make things worse.
You aren’t stupid, you aren’t an idiot, so just listen compassionately, keep your head on straight and be open to the fact that you just might come up with a creative idea to help improve the situation so it won’t happen quite as often. Be persistent with being persistent. 😉
What routines do you find challenging to complete? Please share. We may be able to help.
A hipster poseur is someone who pretends. Someone who poses. Someone who wants to fit in. We all saw them in school. Some of us were them. Or at least we wanted to be.
In youth ministry, it is not uncommon to bump into hipster poseurs. They can be fledglings just starting their ministry career. They can be old farts who know better. In either case, it’s sad and just so unneccesary.
You don’t have to be young and hip to be a good youth minister. If you are young, you will be inexperienced, though. However, it is common that someone entering into a youth ministry career is, arguably, still a youth. Makes sense, in may respects. In others, not so much.
On one hand, the fresh-faced youth minister might feel unworthy. Perhaps over his head. Even inclined to grovel (think Wayne and Garth…even Moses). But at the same time, she may be agitated that some of the people she serves don’t recognize her amazing abilities. They may even question the validity of her calling to ministry. That’s tension. Push, pull.
No Harm, No Foul, No Curse
But think about it. There’s tension for the older youth minister, too. They’re the weary veteran of days of phone calls, months worth of retreats, years of lock-ins. They’ve got mileage on their youth ministry chassis. It’s left a mark. Some rust is showing in the wheel wells, if you follow me. My dear friend, Roger, loves doing youth ministry and is SO tired of lock-ins.
What’s unique to the young and inexperienced youth minister is that they’re young and inexperienced. Not just in youth ministry, but in life. That’s usually where the sense of inadequacy and unworthiness comes from. It’s the soil in which their insecurity grows. The more experienced youth minister really has been there, done that. Like all of us, the older youth minister is every age they’ve ever been. Hopefully along the way they’ve catalogued some insights and perspective that the newbie just can’t bring to the table. Yet…
The Dilemma of Age
So, is there an optimal age for a youth minister?
The age you happen to be at this very moment.
Engage here. What are your thoughts? More importantly, what’s your experience of age within the realm of youth ministry?