This time has been awful and it’s been terrible and it sucks and I hate it… but it’s also been good. Here are 7 good things to come out of COVID season.
This truly has been an unprecedented time in our history. It hasn’t been quite as bad as the Black Death or other plagues of the past, but it has been pretty terrible. Multiple thousands dead, international and local borders shut and reopened and shut again, increasing cases every day, businesses and even entire industries brought to the verge of collapse, and then collapsing. Not to mention soaring unemployment, vaccines in question, riots, protests, #FakeNews and no end date in sight…
Of course, this is all the stuff you know already. We are repeatedly and constantly bombarding with COVID This and Coronavirus That at every hour of the day from every direction. Every news article, every restaurant update, every facet of our lives has been profoundly impacted by COVID-19.
Whether you’re looking for a date, trying to make some new friends, or attempting to sustain an existing relationship, are you the one to make it awkward for people to get to know you?
If you know me, you’ll know I love talking to people about the relationships in their lives. Relationships are usually the greatest source of joy or the greatest source of distress in our lives. I find talking about them the most pertinent way to find out how a person is really doing in life. No matter what achievements or lack thereof clutter the surface of conversation, when a person is on their own, they will sit and brood over the current health of their love and relational loves.
I’m writing this as Valentine’s Day approaches, which is always the time when the relationship button gets pressed the most. Single girlfriends get together all over the country to remind themselves they’re not alone. Single men sit at home lamenting another missed opportunity this year. People in relationships feel the pressure to have to express gratitude and love that they may not feel like is there any more.
And when it’s not in the world of romantic love, people are often pressured by their lack of real friends. When crisis hits or when something to celebrate comes around, you’re suddenly reminded about the health of your friendships, or the fact that you don’t really have anyone you feel like you can talk to. It’s a dark and painful place.
I thought it would be apt to write about one of the biggest obstacles to finding a love connection and making and keeping our friends, as this is the one thing that most of us complain about other people.
They’re just so awkward.
You know how it is – you’re trying out talking to this guy cause your friends just can’t shut up about how good you two would be together, and in the first 5 minutes, you’re already thinking of running for the hills. You’re meeting up with the boys and someone brings their new friend, and he just can’t make eye contact or say anything that you find yourself interesting at all. What a weirdo.
Why do so many people make it awkward for people to get to know them?
You don’t fit in, but you should
I must admit I know a lot of how this experience goes. I come from the world of nerds. In fact, I may just be the king of the nerds. I have first class honours in IT, majoring in Games Technology (AKA games programming). I have 15 or so video game consoles, I have extensive knowledge of all sorts of Microsoft technology, and everyone who comes to my house believes it to be a den of nerdery.
I’ve tried to watch the show The Big Bang Theory, but I don’t find it funny, simply because what people laugh about are the same things I hear people talk about at lunch. I always thought it was fairly normal for people to be talking about astrophysics or their favourite Pokemon.
And as I’ve become older, I’ve realized more and more the truth about nerds, and it’s this – everyone is a nerd about something. Yes, the people who used to be the athletic cool types have been revealed in their 30s to be accurately reclassified as being sports nerds all along. There are travel nerds, game nerds (like me), relationship and theology nerds (still like me), farming nerds, and any other type of nerd you can think of. Everyone is weird – you need to get over it.
And yet we still maintain that people fall into the nerd category because they don’t fit the mold. In truth, none of us really fit the mold, and yet all of us need to learn to.
Like a body part has a distinct purpose that sets it apart, but still falls into function and context with the rest of the body, so too we can’t be so obsessed with our differences that we miss how much we are the same. There was a fascinating Ted Talk a while ago about how every human is unique, but only by a 0.06% difference from anyone else. And yet how obsessed we become about how different we are.
I also heard a great comment in the last week about how every person has the same dreams. Although you may be a nerd of a different category, you and the people you feel like it’s so hard to befriend want to be loved, to have shelter, to find your purpose, and to grow more and more into the person you’re supposed to be.
We make it awkward for people when we obsess over our differences instead of the greater commonality we actually share.
Knowing more about fictional worlds than the real one
My wife and I have recently gone through the game Final Fantasy XV. She enjoyed the story so much that I went back and showed her the world of the three games in the FFXIII series. Fictional worlds can definitely be a lot of fun for escapism and leisure, but they’re not as fun if they start to replace your existence in the real world.
If memes have taught us anything, it’s that people think it’s hilarious how much TV they watch. In 2017, people streamed one billion hours of Netflix… per week. The fantasy novel genre continues to be popular. People love their TV shows and video games and novels, and this can be a healthy and a good thing.
But a sad reality for many is that they can tell you the names of the first 30 episodes of Brooklyn 99, they can tell you what colour shirt Jim was wearing in the first episode of Season 9 of The Office, they can let you know the games coming out this year by day or who’s the new villain in the new comic book series or some other fictional event that’s taken place to shake up that universe forever…
…and yet they can’t tell you how their friends have been doing this week. They can’t let you know the last time they discovered something new about the people they say they know best. They stand around awkwardly when no one knows how to talk to them at the party, because all they talk about is one of these many worlds that doesn’t exist.
If all you do is consume fictional worlds, it’ll show. If your time is constantly spent away from reality, then it should be no surprise to you when others feel like you’re making it awkward when they try to get to know you. Leisure is good, escapism is good, but don’t live so far removed from the real world that you have nothing real to talk about. You could keep blaming everyone else that feel misunderstood, or you could simply learn more about the world you really live in rather than the world you wish you did in your imagination.
Finding common ground
I remember that once I had discovered how nerdy every single person was, and had come to the realization of how similar every person on earth really is, I found that it made it so much easier to get to know people.
One of my favourite things to do (hence I’m writing this) is to break down the walls of awkwardness and show people where they have common ground with the people around them. By asking enough questions and putting out enough of the different things about myself, I find that eventually I find a show we both like, an instrument we both play, a common experience we’ve both shared, or a dream we both are challenged by, and oh look the person who’s also standing with us connects on that point too.
Start every conversation with the intention that you’re going to find the common ground that you share with this person. When that is your intention, rather than getting depressed and fearful and oh no oh dear I have nothing to talk about I’ll look at my phone til you go away, you find that it’s much easier to make meaningful connections with everyone.
Building common ground
My wife and I share three of the four same dimensions in the Myers Briggs Personality scale thing. She’s an INFP, and I’m an INFJ. Before we started dating, we had already known each other around 15 years as friends. We had common interests in a number of TV shows and especially in our views on God, church, and people.
And yet there is still so much difference between us in so many ways. As a result, we always make it a personal challenge to ourselves to not just find common ground with each other, but to build common ground.
Every single couple on earth is the same. No matter how similar you were from the start, you have to put into the work to build common experiences. It’s the same as friendships. Meeting at the same places as each other, trying something new together, having a change of scenery, trying to discover the interests and the world of this other person – all of these go a long way to removing the awkward from your relationships and friendships.
You want people to be in your world, but how much effort have you been putting in to getting in theirs?
Being genuinely interested
I’m about to give you the secret to being genuinely interested in people, for free. Here it is – the secret to being genuinely interested in people… is being genuinely interested.
It’s not rocket science. If you’re not interested, if you don’t attribute value to what a person has to say or what they care about, then they’ll bore you and you’ll keep blaming them because they make it awkward for you.
But when you assign value to the words and feelings and concerns of this person, it’s amazing how much gold you’ll discover in the heart within.
Feeling like you have something to say
The Gottman Institute reshared an article this week about the pursuer-distancer pattern in relationships. They have observed in their counselling studies that when a person pursues too fiercely, they can push another person away. Conversely and more commonly though in their greater body of research, they observe that a person who doesn’t believe they have much to contribute will attempt to put distance between themselves and others, and pull away.
When you allow fear and insecurity to rule your life, you’re going to be like King George the Sixth in all your relationships, and not just when you’re making The King’s Speech, but in other relational dynamics, you will be left struggling and hesitant about what you say.
You have a voice. You will be much easier to listen to when you believe it.
I could tell you that you need to get better at eye contact, stand up straight, and give proper attention to the person you are speaking to and how you’re communicating it. But I find that if you can get this attitude right, it’s amazing how quickly the rest becomes natural.
Questions are king
In one of my old connect groups, I was called “Mini Maxwell” because of how many times I quote leadership guru John C Maxwell. I can’t help it fam, he’s just so right about so many things. I would say that one of the greatest lessons I learnt from him, and fortunately at a young age by reading the book Leading From The Lockers in my pre-teens, is the importance of asking questions.
I’m going to reveal to you the secret of every conversation you’ve ever had that ended awkwardly: one or both of you stopped asking questions. You either assumed there was nothing left to find out, or nothing you wanted to find out. Or perhaps you’ve just never thought about it enough to realize that conversation and discovery of another person ends in a question.
I absolutely love to ask people questions. In fact, in any conversation you’ll have with me, you’ll find that I’ll be asking more questions about you than you’ve probably ever heard. I’ve found that by doing so, I get to hear the heart of a person, as well as ensuring there’s always something to keep talking about. I may not have been to that country you just got back from, watched that TV show you seem to love, or had that relational experience that you’ve been through, but man, I would love to hear about it.
You will become the less awkward person you know if you turn the attention off yourself, off how the other person is so awkward and weird, if you’ll just ask.
Here’s three I always love to ask and find universal enough to get a good conversation going:
What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this week?
Whats your favourite Disney movie, and why? And your least favourite?
If you had unlimited money and unlimited education, what would you be doing? What is the fairytale ending in your life?
I find it sad how truly lonely people are. Desperately lonely, at that. And so many of us feel that it’s all these other people who make it awkward to get to know them.
But the truth is, we establish the standard of awkward in our lives. It just doesn’t have to be that way where you feel like you have no one to talk to and nothing to talk about.
I really hope that you find in your life the confidence in your own voice, as well as the great wealth that lives in the people around you. Life is so much more rewarding when we’re not blaming awkwardness for our poor relationships, but when we help break down the walls in communication that really don’t have to be there at all.
How about you? Do you hate it when people make it awkward to get to know them? How do you overcome awkwardness?
Are you a creepy guy? Do women die a little inside when they see that face pop up? Take this Creepy Guy Quiz and find out!
I know. You probably think you’re a nice guy. You’ve got it going on like Diddy Kong. You put the fine in financially stable. You put the man in can’t manage how hot you are.
But do you put the bleh in bleh stop talking to me what are you doing?
Ah, well if you ever questioned whether or not you fit into that category or not, this specially designed Creepy Guy Quiz will help you work it out!
Question 1: Have you ever added someone at 3am in the morning?
You know a woman’s favourite time to get added by someone they’ve never met? 3am, when the shark fin is up and you’re in hunting mode.
Not really. But if you want to reinforce your creepiness more than your display pic is doing already, then go right ahead.
Question 2: Have you ever hit on someone who was already in a relationship?
Wedding rings, engagements, longterm dating relationships… who cares? I know you don’t.
But maybe she values the man she already has in her life, and doesn’t feel comfortable receiving a “random compliment” about her figure when she’s sitting there with her beau already.
I mean, just putting it out there.
Question 3: …and continued to hit on them?
Okay, question 2 was a freebie, you didn’t know she was spoken for, everyone makes mistakes.
This is a backup question for you guys who’ll continue to do it anyway. You know who you are.
Question 4: Do you add people on social media so you can add their hot female friends on Facebook?
Why only talk to the women you know when you can talk to the women that everyone else knows? Look at all those potential options of people you could weird out!
Question 5: Do you continually message people you’ve never met and/or have no working relationship with?
There’s nothing better than hearing from Random Guy 34 after Random Guys 17, 22, and 24 have all responded to the new display picture a woman put up because she felt pretty good about herself in the photo. Nothing.
Oh, except hearing from them all the time.
Question 6: Are the first words you ever speak or message a person you’ve never met “Hey girl”?
“Hey girl I noe u neva met me but i think u look rly cute dm me lawlz”
That’s a girl’s favourite combination of words, don’t you know? Especially from some dude she’s never met or heard of in her life.
Question 7: Have you ever sent a DP to someone who you weren’t with?
Just in case you didn’t know, pics of yourself are weird unless prompted for or brought up in natural conversation.
Pics of your junk are always weird. Just in case you weren’t sure, cause I know a lot of guys aren’t. The ultimate revenge of course is when she sends it on to a bunch of your friends.
Question 8: Do you leave weird, constant, consistent comments on people’s photos?
You have 371 new notifications, all from that dude you never should’ve added. Are you the dude?
Question 9: Have you ever written a message that you wouldn’t want anyone else to see?
Messaging is private and unlocks something weird within us that makes us think certain things are acceptable to write. But maybe if we printed out your chat log or someone else you know saw your screen, then maybe you wouldn’t feel so good about it.
Some things are private, granted. But would that situation make you feel proud, private, or revealed as the creep you are?
Question 10: Is the intention of your heart to better this person or to get some?
You know why you’re talking to her. If that reason is creepy or seedy, then guess how you come across?
Question 11: Does she actually enjoy talking to you?
Okay, I know some of the other questions you could get out on. Maybe you comment on everyone’s photos like that. Maybe you do just flirt naturally. Maybe you do like growing your social network.
For every excuse you could come up with, question 11 is the ultimate decision maker of the Creepy Guy Quiz – does she want to keep talking to you? Would it be described as a pleasant conversation? Or are you that dude that she’s complaining to others about and asking some of her guy friends to step in and sort out?
There’s your metric.
Bonus points if more than one woman feels the same way about you and your approaches.
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions in the Creepy Guy Quiz, congratulations! You are part of the problem.
NB. On a serious note, I’m sick of my female friends having to deal with creepy guys hitting them up on social media or texting or even in person. It shouldn’t be so hard to be a pretty woman in our world, but it’s the overwhelming creepfest that I continue to hear about that necessitates things like this.
Straighten up, be a man, turn down the cologne, get rid of that dumb duck face pout that makes you look like a horny balloon, stop acting surprised when she doesn’t enjoy your gross advances, learn some respect, and treat her like a lady.
Make sure to share this with any guys out there you think may benefit from the Creepy Guy Quiz! Remember the life you save may be your own! Sometimes they just don’t know.
A statement that sounds like wisdom is that you shouldn’t have to change for love. But how wise is it really?
“I’d like a relationship, but I shouldn’t have to change for love”, she said. An interesting statement that I’ve heard many times. Having brought the dating arrangement to an abrupt end, she was pretty adamant that his desire for her to change was what was ruining things. “That’s right”, her friends said, “you shouldn’t have to settle for someone who wants things to be different”.
I agreed. There was too many compromises being made in that relationship. They were being suppressed and going against the core identity and value of who they were.
This is a conversation I’ve been involved in many times before. A relationship breaks off or fails to start because one or both people don’t believe that they should change that much. Too much denial of self, too many adjustments to be made, too much to allow two to become one…
Wait a minute, that sounds like exactly what we encourage people to do when they’re in a long-standing relationship.
I’ve been recently thinking a lot about the seeming hypocrisy present in modern relationship advice when it comes to whether you should or shouldn’t have to change for love. With one hand, we tell people to be themselves and live a life of pursuing their dreams and goals. And yet with the other hand, we tell people that love is all about give and take, about not always having your own way, about putting the needs and desires of others above your own.
Single people face this dilemma in a more immediate fashion than others due to the severe life change that a long term relationship represents. If you get married, then what happens to your dreams? To your goals? To the person you wanted to be? To all the things you still have to do with your life to make you feel like you’ve made it?
And what if he wants me to be different? Or she doesn’t like some of my qualities initially? What if they decide a few years in that they do want to see some more changes?
But you shouldn’t have to change for love… right? This fundamental principle we have adopted from somewhere becomes the driving piece of advice and the statement that results in relational turmoil further down the road.
And what if you are with someone and they suddenly start asking for change?
I would like to submit to you that I don’t actually believe this cornerstone piece of advice is actually as wise as it sounds. I mean, sure, it does sound like wisdom and it has some true dimensions, and where there is excessive or dangerous compromise involved perhaps as in the earlier case, but I think it’s an attitude that can become the ultimate obstacle to true relational freedom and the expression of love. So here’s one reason why you shouldn’t have to change for love, and five counterpoints where I believe there is more wisdom in being open to change.
You shouldn’t have to change to love because…
#1: Your individual dreams, giftings, and safety are important
You have a unique purpose in life. You do have giftings for a reason. You do have callings and dreams that are important.
No one wants to enter a relationship where these things die completely. Where you are suppressed and you deny your very reason for existence. Without you being you, the world would be a worse place.
And it goes without saying that you need to be in a safe place where your rudimentary needs are being overlooked or are being jeopardised.
That said, I believe you should have to change for love because…
#1: The other person’s dreams and goals are important too, and you become the suppressor with this attitude
I have seen it too many times where people are crushed in the name of dreams and goals. Where relationships are cast aside because one person believes their individuality is the most important thing.
Such people can’t sustain long-term relationships, because this is the attitude of the suppressor who thinks they’re the ones being suppressed.
To be in relationship with someone means that it’s not just about you anymore. It’s not. And if you’re unwilling to ever get to a point in your life where it’s not about him or about her, but about us, then you’re going to break hearts, not listen to your partner/s, and be frustrated trying to find someone who is exactly identical to you in all respects and where there will never ever need to be a joining together of lives.
And do it all in the name of your seemingly noble cause of pursuing your dreams. Well done. You are perpetuating a cycle of selfishness where you will only ever see people as obstacles to your own personal success. Maybe it’s time to learn how to dream for two rather than one.
#2: Because two are better than one
I think one of the greatest things about relationship, whether it be romantic, business, or even friendship, is the potential it represents to reach beyond your own life. Name the number of one person companies out there who have had any measure of success. Or the number of soccer teams who’ve one the cup with one person alone. Or the number of churches, not-for-profits, charities around the world, that have made a difference whilst being comprised of an individual? I mean, it’s possible, but difficult.
Why do we think love is any different?
When we say we shouldn’t have to change for love, we diminish our potential together for the vain ambition of one. By serving the common dream, we reach further than we ever could on our own. And we don’t do it alone. We do it with support, we do it with someone to bounce ideas off, we do it together.
There is so much strength and power in together.
#3: Because two can’t walk together without agreement
Have you ever tried to walk hand in hand with someone while going two different directions? The first metre or two might be okay. You started relatively the same, but eventually the pull of your separate drives will result in you either hurting one or both of you, or letting go of each other.
And this is exactly what we do when we think that’s it’s my way or the highway. I know we don’t say that, but in our heart, when we’re unwilling to change, when we think we’re the most important part of the relationship, then we’re the person who’s yanking the hand of the other, trying to get them to go wherever we want them to go.
And hey, there will be places that she wants to go and that you want to go that aren’t always the same place. But in agreement you can go to them together. Or in agreement you can decide against it. But to preserve the bond of peace in your relationship, or the relationship you want, you need to develop the ability to agree.
#4: Because you don’t carry this attitude in any other area of life (successfully)
A lot of people stay at the same level of income for their entire life because they are either unwilling to change their level of expertise, their location, or their level of responsibility. All the complaining in the world about the dollars you aren’t getting won’t make a difference if you are unwilling to do the things necessary to bring about financial improvement.
Similarly, a lot of people stay in the same way in their health by leaving their lifestyle unaltered their entire life. A lot of people stay the same way in their friendships without being willing to put themselves out there and make friends. A lot of people stay single by maintaining the attitudes and approaches of a single person, not ever giving anyone a chance, and by hiding behind their personality when they could be developing a few conversational skills to help them get more of the doors open.
If you want a different result, you have to change the input. You have to change the habit. You have to change the mindset and the accompanying actions.
And if you want to be successful in love, you have to change what you’ve always done. If you have a mediocre relationship, you have to schedule more dates. If you don’t listen to your wife enough, you need to change to become a listener. If you make him feel like he’s no good, you need to become an encourager.
#5: Because you said that you love them
As a bit of a theologian, I was trying to work out if this mentality actually was consistent with the tone of Scripture or not. I mean, we are told that we are loved and accepted as we are, right? That’s definitely true.
But the more I thought about it, the more I see that love and acceptance may help open the door to relationship, but there does need to be measured change to demonstrate that I’m actually in relationship. Faith without works is dead, after all, and my life should demonstrate the belief system I operate under. I was accepted as a sinner, but I should go and sin no more after I have been set free. Unless I change utterly and become childlike, I won’t even get to live out the fulfillment of our relationship. I will still be accepted, but for the relationship to improve, I would be remiss to avoid the requests of the one who loves me.
In the parable of the wedding feast, people from all over are invited to celebrate, but then one person turns up in his street clothes, thinking it’s all good that he’s still dressed for the street when he was invited to a wedding. This was of great insult to the host, and they couldn’t continue while he was ill-prepared and unwilling to even change his attire for such a momentous occasion.
And so many times in our love lives, we do the same, especially when we say that we shouldn’t have to change for love. If you said you’d love this person, you would change from what you were wearing and prepare yourself for the celebration of who they were. You would take out the trash more. You would extend a listening ear and be a safe place for their heart. You wouldn’t be so dismissive of their desires for closeness, intimacy, or even more time together. It’s so important to them – is it really so bad that they get what they asked for?
It’s actually a really terrible attitude to harbour towards someone when we say that we’re unwilling to change for them. It means that they’re not worth you making an effort and applying some improvements. It means you won’t alter your behaviour from that of a single person to that of a person in love. It means that their needs and desires aren’t important enough to you that you should change to accommodate them.
It sounds so high and noble that we shouldn’t have to change for love, and yet the one you love may be dying because of your unwillingness to make a change. It’s ultimately pride. We think we are more important than the other person. And so, we allow our pride to destroy what could be great, instead of reaching out in humility, not considering our current standing as something to be grasped but laying our lives down as a ransom for another.
My wife made a brilliant point to this end in saying that it’s not about having everything changed instantly, or being nagging or aloof of the person who needs to improve, but in doing it together. In the same way God loved us, by relating to us, by going through it with us, so too we can live lives of love when we are both willing to change together.
Because it’s not about you individually and them individually. It’s about us. It’s about the new team. It’s about the new entity. It’s about doing more than we ever could alone.
Isn’t that love? Not that we do it for acceptance, but we do it from acceptance. Because they loved us and have made drastic changes for us, so too do we do whatever we can to build the life of this person we call our partner. Not having a withholding attitude, but being generous and open, endeavouring to do all we can to make this other life better.
And if we don’t yet have a partner, perhaps that we would be open enough to develop the heart attitudes that allow room for another person. Many of us don’t have many other considerations in life besides our own.
Bonus Point: You should never take what hasn’t been given or be in an unsafe place
I do need to qualify all this to say that you shouldn’t take what hasn’t been given to you. It can be very frustrating when someone won’t change, but that never entitles you to take it from them, whether it be sexually, emotionally, physically, or financially. To do so breaks the ties of relationship.
And if you’re in an unsafe place, make sure to reach out. If you’re being made to do something illegal, unethical, or unsafe, there is help available. I’m not talking about justifying abuse, but living in a way where we are giving a person our best.
And so, is it true that you shouldn’t have to change for love? I don’t think it is. I think there are dimensions of this statement that hold weight, but I think we set ourselves up for isolated, individualistic lives when we sustain this attitude. Obviously, there is a fine line between what change would be considered acceptable and what would range into the realm of abuse, but this is where you will have to find the balance together. It could easily be argued that denial of what a partner wants or needs is another form of abuse.
How about you? Do you think people shouldn’t have to change for love?
Presents, relatives, memories, nostalgia, holidays and relationships. Out of all the many things that make up the holiday season, ultimately Christmas is about you.
This year, my wife and I are already way ahead on the Christmas movie schedule. My all-time favourite, The Muppet Christmas Carol, has already made an appearance, as well as The Santa Clause, The Grinch (Jim Carrey), and the new Grinch with Benedict Cumberbatch. On top of the movies, the tree was up in early December, we have already been to multiple Christmas parties, and I’ve added a new Santa hat into the rotation.
The shopping centres were busier earlier than normal, so our last minute Christmas presents were obtained with much greater ease than the ones planned in advance. A bit of a change for the year, but nonetheless the Westfields and other shopping centres have featured people madly running around to give their friends and loved ones a special morning.
There are so many other facets to Christmas besides the movies you watch and the presents you buy. There’s also the nostalgic, happy memories associated with the day. Memories of childhood greatness like the day my brother and I got the original Mario Tennis on Nintendo 64. That was such a fun morning. You would have memories in a similar fashion, perhaps of an early fruit mince pie with the smell of some sort of roast in the oven getting ready for a hearty lunch.
There is also a tone of sadness around Christmas time. Not all memories are pleasant, with a recent report indicating more than two million Australians feel isolated or disheartened by the holiday season. It’s a time where happy memories can turn sour, or where past associations with the day can still be there like a sword in your mind all these years later.
And it’s a time for giving. For selflessness. Words like charity and generosity are prevalent around this time of year. It’s an important time of the year to enjoy the true gift of giving gifts, of being a servant to others, of loving them with all that you have.
And yet with all the tinsel, the the psychological effects, the joy, and the presents, something gets lost in the mix.
Because ultimately, Christmas is about you.
It seems like a kind of backwards thing to think about at the time of year for generosity. Even from the perspective of the Christian origins/adaptation of the holiday season, we are generous because of generosity. It’s right there in the story of the Nativity, of Jesus coming to earth, of new birth, of such a significant event in world history that our calendar still remains divided into two main parts because of it.
It’s truly a noble thing to be generous to others. In fact, I would like to encourage it. But I also don’t want you to miss the significance of what was given, nor the significance of your worth and value during a time of year that seems to be dominated by thought for others.
Because while you may have your mind and calendar devoted to the betterment and true joy of others, the original Christmas shows that heaven’s mind was devoted to yours.
Life can be hard. It’s full of questions and uncertainty. And it’s tainted and corrupted by the horrible decisions and actions that people take against each other. Even those little white lies or “things that don’t seem to be such a big deal” can leave scars and impacts that last for generations, until one day someone wakes up and tries to do something about them. We justify so many decisions other people make and that we make ourselves, and yet the catastrophe in our global world and even our personal world reveals the truth.
Enter Jesus. For every tear you’ve ever cried, for every mistake you’ve ever made, for the weight you feel on your shoulders and the thoughts that keep you up at night, this unassuming baby boy represents the ultimate sacrifice and humility of a king.
There’s a Christmas carol that always gets me, “A Strange Way to Save The World”. This line here – “To think of how it could have been, if Jesus had come as he deserved“. What a sobering thought. The arrival of God on earth should have been the ultimate spectacle. Every nation on earth should have been at attention. Every question you’ve ever had should have been at the ready. The red carpet should have been rolled out with every ruler on earth doing their best to prepare for the arrival of the king.
And yet it was humble. Almost insultingly so. Creator becomes dependent on creation. Omnipresent becomes tactile. And he didn’t even get to live a very long life. He only lived 33 years on earth.
And he didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t his fault the world was so stuffed up. It wasn’t his fault your heart got broken or your family torn apart. He didn’t rape or murder or deceive or covet anyone. And yet here he was, paying the price to live a life to demonstrate one thing –
Just how much value you truly have.
For the joy set before him, this Jesus would endure the cross. Yeah okay big whoop, lots of people died on crosses. But the cross of Jesus represented more than physical pain, it represented the denial and corruption of the embodiment of perfection. He felt our rejection so we would never have to feel his. Like a dove that is dipped in tar, this Jesus became saturated in the mistakes and willing corruption of mankind.
And not just corporately, but also individually. Your corruption. Your pain. Your shortcomings. Every hurt you’ve ever endured. Every injustice you’ve ever had to live through. He took it all on himself.
Like the song said, he didn’t deserve it. And yet he chose it, deliberately, in a calculated matter, for you. Because the joy set before him was you. You living your little life. You and what you think is an ordinary little existence. You and your frailty and uncertainty.
If God would kill his own son for you, what does that say about how truly valuable you are?
Christmas is about you.
I know you may doubt yourself. I know you may see yourself as not worthwhile. I know you may think your mistakes and decisions have made you a write off in your own sight. And yet God saw you as having such great worth that he wouldn’t spare his own son on your behalf.
When you allow that to truly invade who you are, you could never doubt yourself ever again. You could never look down on who you are again. You are free from your low expectations and poor opinion you have of yourself and who you are. You are free of thinking even for a second that you have no purpose or significance to anyone, as Christmas is loudly screaming over your self doubts and all the other damning voices –
You are worth it!
And from that place, we see the true standard for generosity at Christmas time. Forsaking the welcome and the life that was deserved, Jesus chose humility, and didn’t consider his equality with God as something to hold on to.
What do you deserve this Christmas? What expectations do you have on others? How should people treat you?
This Christmas, see the value that you carry. Let it set you free from the things that have been weighing your heart down.
And from that place, help others to see the same thing. That they are valued, loved, and worthwhile. What a terrible reality in our world today that so few people know that in their heart and mind. They live their whole existence running from their lack of worth, filling their life with frivolity, running the rat race like hamsters on a wheel, trying to find significance in things that never could fill the void within.
When you know you are loved, you are empowered to show others that they are loved and valued. Beyond what you deserve, beyond what they deserve, in the same way that Jesus forsook what he deserved, so too you are able to instill a sense of true value in the hearts of the people around you.
So Merry Christmas. Christmas is about you. I hope this year that you see that reality in your own life, and in turn are able to pass on the message.
Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. Wonderful counsellor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. The prince of peace. The one whose peace will transcend all understanding and guard your heart and mind this holiday season, and through all the other seasons of life.
NB. People have been convinced by groupthink and secularism that the Christian story is a fairytale, when in reality there is more evidence for the acts and life of Jesus than your own existence. If you have such concerns, I would encourage you to actually seek out the origins of the Christian story, and see why this belief system has been the foundation of modern society. There are few better times than Christmas to address this side of your life. I wrote a bit more about my take on faith and secularism in 7 Reasons Why Atheism Makes No Sense To Me.
A seemingly broken promise, the end of hope, and the death of what was supposed to be. This Easter, what do you do when what you love dies?
It is a time of great uncertainty in the world today. There have been numerous attacks and great tragedies across multiple nations. Governments are in breakdown, millions of dollars are being removed from people’s livelihoods because of the actions of a single plane crew, children are being shot in schools, and at the time of writing this, I am hoping that a thermonuclear war hasn’t broken out.
And yet I feel like in light of the international and corporate turmoil, many people would say their internal conflict is perhaps more dominant in the human heart. Easter, like birthdays and other repeated holidays, is a time where you remember where you were this time last year, this time three years ago, perhaps even this time 10, 20, 30 years ago. Continue reading
I’ve made a few hospital visits this year to see some of my friends and their family members after surgery or a health scare. They’re actually really great places for the most part. Sure, you can complain about your country’s health care system or certain conditions in some rooms you might not like, but on the whole they are brilliant institutions. I remember being struck by the efforts of the countless staff and volunteers who go out of their way to look out for the wellbeing of their patients and their visitors. Hospitals are a place of healing.
Churches are supposed to be like hospitals. Every week, they are filled with people looking for answers to their problems. Trying to make sense of their existence. Trying to find out who they are, and if there is a God, who God is. People go to churches with similar expectations to hospitals – to be looked after, to find their needs met, and to work through some of the bigger issues in their lives.
Unfortunately, a lot of people end up encountering hurt and disappointment that they didn’t bargain for. Continue reading
Between the expectations of others and the expectations you place on yourself, just who exactly are you supposed to be?
It’s amazing that even as a grown man or woman, you’d think you’d be more settled in life by now. I mean, you’ve spent 12-14 years in schooling, probably taken or undertaking some form of tertiary education, tried a lot of different things, and yet for all our doing and our activity, we can still be so unsure of exactly who we are and who we’re meant to be. Continue reading
Welcome to Walking the Shoreline! I have been writing some of my thoughts on various issues as I’ve been going through life over the last few years on my Bebo, MySpace, Facebook and so on, and thought it was high time to start doing this in a more public forum. I’m just a guy like you, on a journey, just like you.
The name of this blog is inspired by a song entitled Shoreline by Deas Vail, and a fairly accurate description of where I find myself in life most of the time. It’s an adventure to be in a place of busyness and life’s main issues, but also to be able to rest by the sea and contemplate the bigger road ahead.
My first few posts here are going to be reposts of some of my more popular recent entries on Facebook, so be sure to check them out, subscribe, share around, and join in in the discussion!