Taking Names And Making Lists

I like lists.

I like watching all the year end best-of lists that come out every December.

I have a Goodreads account that lets me make lists of books to read, have read, and currently reading.

I have a list in my mind of favorite songs, favorite movies, and favorite performers (which is constantly changing).

I have a list in my mind of favorite athletes (which changes less frequently).

I have a list of favorite Bible verse and church songs (which changes based on the day and the topic).

I like to make to do lists. They help keep me organized and I feel accomplished as I cross each item off the list.

I make pro and con lists when faced with challenging decisions.

So far, this post is just a list of the lists I like!

But the list I put the most effort into was the list I made of people I had harmed. I wrote by name the people I knew I had treated poorly: those I had lied to, those I spoke harshly about, those people who didn’t even know I had done something wrong to them, those people I betrayed. I wrote down all of their names.

(Quick side note: this is part of the 12 step process; it is step 8. I worked on this step with my sponsor–not on my own. If you have not begun the process that begins with self-reflection and reliance on God, do not start here. And do not do this on your own. You need a sponsor or spiritual guide to work with you at this point.)

The process of making that list was humbling. I was more and more coming to grips with what I had done and was now ready to take responsibility for it. I had hurt people–sometimes accidentally, but quite often intentionally.

Listing the names took the process out of my head and put it onto paper. I could no longer avoid. I could no longer pretend. The names were there.

The next step in the process was simultaneously the most difficult and the most healing.

Removing Pride To Open Ears

It is so easy for me to dig in my heels.

If I am honest, I realize it is mostly a pride issue. I have this desire to always be right. So when I am presented with a challenge, I tend to become even more hard-headed and reiterate my position. When I realize I am losing factually, I tend to try to make for it with increased volume. More noise = more right.

Now when it is an objective matter with facts, data, and analysis, I am usually quicker to come around to what is reality. It will sting a little bit. I may try to pass it off as, “I was given different information.” But for the most part, study and research and results will tend to lead me to acceptance.

But in the realm of subjective opinion: politics, theology, pop culture, I often find myself unwilling to listen to all sides.

I do try. And sometimes I succeed. But too often, I don’t.

For many of us, we probably assume some sort of enlightenment at having arrived at certain positions. If my theology changes over the course of my life, I say things like, “I have evolved and know more know than I did when I used to think what you do.” This, of course, is arrogance.

Other times, we may have been a victim of someone’s different opinion. Prejudice, discrimination, racism, sexism are all positions and opinions that victimize others. If I have been such a victim, I may not be so willing to give people time or the benefit of the doubt. I would want to see progress. This comes from a place of pain and a desire for restoration.

Sometimes, we are just flat out silly and think that all people must agree with us on all things (but really, how could anyone not like the McRib?). This is foolishness.

Still other times may see us being so passionate about a certain topic that we just want everyone to come around to our way of thinking. We have become so excited, so committed to a particular agenda that we just believe everyone is going to share our excitement. This is naivete.

In all these instances, when we are challenged or presented with an alternative point of view, we go on the defensive. We fail to see others’ perspectives. We are afraid of losing something by giving in a little bit.

And there may be times when we shouldn’t give in. There is evil in this world and we should stand against it. There are victims in this world who need to have others come to their aid.

But too often, my defensiveness comes more from a place of wanting to be right more than wanting to be in relationship.

So whether it is my arrogance, my foolishness, or my naivete, I must remember to continually ask God to remove this from me. I need to close my mouth and open my ears. I need to remember that it is more valuable to be in relationship than to be right.

And this is a reminder I need daily. I am moving forward, but I must not stop.

Better, But Not Done

I am full of good intentions. I care about people. I care about justice. I want to make the world around myself a better place.

But I am also stubborn. I know how I want to the world to be and I am not always willing to listen to others’ ideas.

I can be passionate. So much so that in the moment, I may spout off and blame people of things that are not true. Or I might assume the worst in people and not consider all the nuances that went into their decisions or statements.

I want to stand up for those I feel are marginalized. Yet sometimes I do this by trying to tear others down through insults and sarcasm.

I want to do a lot. But I often overcommit myself and work in ways that are not productive and then become so exhausted that I end up crashing without doing anything.

I am full of good intentions.

But I don’t always know how to focus.

There is a lot I need to work on. I need to be more mindful, more careful, more humble. I need to be less controlling, less reactive, less cynical.

I can say (without hubris) that I am a lot better today than I was several years ago.

I can say (without deprecation) that I am not as good today as I need to be.

My journey in sobriety has taught me several valuable lessons. One of them is how to be self-reflective. I am more able today to look at myself and recognize what is lacking. But I have also learned that my shortcomings can and will be removed–but I will not do the removal.

In our journeys of sobriety and spirituality, we all must come to the acknowledgement that God will do the removal. All of those things about ourselves that are lacking will be removed by God.

If only we are willing.

40 Day Journey: 4th Sunday Wrap-Up

Once again, I am not posting new content on Sunday. But I do want to provide you with links to this past week’s post. Please read, reflect, and share!

Are You Ready?

Are You Ready, Part II

Beginnings and Endings

What happens…

No Longer Neutral: Loving Our LGBTQ+ Community

No Longer Neutral: Loving Our LGBTQ+ Community

Note: Today’s post was not originally scheduled for this series. However, it fits at this point of our journey: humbly talking with God. My alma mater recently made a move that is upsetting to many within its community (and many agree with it wholeheartedly). But I believe it to be unjust and ask that people on all sides take a step back and humbly seek God’s will.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” ― Desmond Tutu

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” –James Baldwin

In his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr., implored moderate, white Christians to speak up. Too many would acknowledge the injustice of racism, but few did anything about it. Few would even speak about it.

There are times when we must speak up about the injustices we are witnessing. When those injustices are being perpetrated by the people and institutions we love, we must speak up even more. The fact that we love our associations to church, nation, college, job, or any other entity demands, as Baldwin said, that we perpetually call out the wrongs in order to work towards making them right.

I am a graduate of Abilene Christian University in Abilene, TX. I loved my time there in attaining a total of three degrees. I was taught well. I developed many lifelong friendships. I was mentored–and that mentoring has continued. I was spiritually shaped. I am where I am in professional life because of the education I received at ACU. I met my wife while we were both students.

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In summary: I love ACU.

And ACU has done a lot of great things. ACU has shown a willingness to stretch and grow beyond what many would consider comfortable.

Not too long ago, a terribly racist video was filmed in a campus dorm and exploded on social media. ACU acted swiftly. The students involved were invited to leave campus by the end of that day. But the university’s action did not end there. Administration members actively sought out and listened to minority students, staff, and faculty. They heard without making excuses. They attempted to find ways to continually improve relationships across all ethnicities on campus.

ACU is far from perfect in the realm of racial reconciliation, but there is an awareness and a desire to grow that I truly appreciate.

Recently, ACU made a mistake. I am not privy to all the information and all the nuances, so it may be unfair for me to make that statement, but I will make it again: ACU made a mistake. And this past week, they doubled down on it.

Due to a recent awful occurrence surrounding the potential hire of a couple with ties to a fully LGBTQ affirming church, the university has amended and restated its policy concerning LGBTQ relationships.

One of the results of this new policy is essentially a “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy for employees. If faculty, staff, or student workers (Graduate Assistants, student researchers and others) are found to be in a same sex relationship, they can be dismissed from their jobs (and some student life positions, such as Resident Assistants, are not allowed to be out at all). Although the policy states that faithful people can study the Bible and arrive at different places theologically, the university as an institution is desiring that its employees be in line with the institution’s theology.

While part of that makes sense, it also creates a toxic environment which will lead members of the LGBTQ community back into the closet. They will be afraid to be themselves. They will be constantly looking over their shoulders. They will believe they have to hide a part of themselves to be a part of this university community.

There are many layers to this topic and conversation. But those of us who are largely unaffected by policies such as this have been silent for too long. Our neutrality has not helped our brothers and sisters who are being punished for who they are. It is time to stop allowing our neutrality to freeze us. It is time to speak up for those, like the mouse in Bishop Tutu’s analogy, who are feeling the weight of the oppressor coming down upon them.

I love my university. They have made difficult changes before. They have even stood up and made apologies before.

I pray they do so again.