A Few Thoughts on the Supreme Court Ruling

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hereFILE - In this Friday June 26, 2015 file photo, a man holds a U.S. and a rainbow flag outside of the Supreme Court in Washington after the court legalized gay marriage nationwide. After the decision, religious conservatives are focusing on preserving their right to object. Their concerns are for the thousands of faith-based charities, colleges and hospitals that want to hire, fire, serve and set policy according to their religious beliefs, notably that gay relationships are morally wrong. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Wow. So, I’ve been gone a while. Life got a little busy. To sum it all up in about two sentences, this is what happened:

I met this great guy and started dating him; while we were dating, a lot of really bad things happened at my old school, so I decided to quit in December. I moved up to my then boyfriend’s city, found a new job, then we got engaged and just got married in May.

Well, that sums it up. It’s been a crazy, scary, fun, frustrating, insane, wild good time – and it’s only just started. (Stay tuned for more adventures. I have some fun plans up my sleeve.) But for now, I wanted to share a few thoughts about the supreme court ruling from July, 26.

In case you hadn’t heard, gay marriage is not legal in all 50 states!

While I’m sure you’ve heard this by now, I’m also sure you’ve heard both the good and bad of this ruling. I know I did. I now live in a very progressive city that was recently voted more hipster than Seattle, but I also go to church. So I heard a lot of comments about this ruling from many people over the weekend, including my own husband. But you know where I didn’t hear it? The pulpit.

I know. I know. What could the pastor possibly say about this situation that is kinda a big deal in modern American history without sounding like a raging homophobe who hates all gay people? Well, a lot. While sitting in church on Sunday morning, I realized how I didn’t really care about the sermon at all. I wanted to hear how we as a Christian church should respond to this, and how to respond without alienating or hurting or turning people away from God. Really, how do we do it? After an exchange of emails with the pastor and some personal reflection, my only conclusion is this: we need to respond to it in a Christ-like way by simply being kind, respectful, and polite. The same thing I was doing before.

Earlier today, I called a friend from Honduras who just interviewed with her dream job working for Women at Risk International, an organization that helps save women from slavery and trafficking. (Seriously, you should check them out here) I’m really happy for her and hope the best for my friend. After this conversation, I felt compelled to write because I realized what I’m really frustrated about. What I’m really frustrated about is the realization that the modern American Christian church cares more about expanding and church planting than about standing up for the downtrodden and those who desperately need help. Instead of encouraging us to love those who sin or the victims of injustice, we hear short sermons that are nothing more than a light version of the gospel. Where Christians were at the forefront of the Abolitionist movement to end slavery, the suffragette movement to earn women the right to vote, and even the Civil Rights movment for racial equality, modern Christians are just sitting on couches (or in pews or cushioned chairs in neat rows) listening to a man dissect two verses from a book in the new testament. While Bible education is good, it should encourage action.

Just to clarify, I don’t think Christians should be encouraged to carry hateful messages proclaiming that gay people are going to Hell. I’m not supporting Westboro Baptist here. Rather, I don’t understand why pastors and churches are not even addressing the issue or any other issue that affects our world.

I’m frustrated with the fact that the modern American Christian church (ACC) cares more about church planting, increasing the numbers of bodies in the pews, and making sure order is maintained in the church than encouraging its church members to take up their calling and go out and do stuff to make the world better. I’m not just talking about missions trips to Africa for a week or sending money to poor children in Honduras or Vietnam (although all of those things are good with the right attitude). I’m talking about doing things, big and small, that really stand up for Christ instead of just encouraging them to sit back and be complacent, quiet church goers who listen to the sermon without a thought. This is the same attitude I saw in American classrooms and I got sick of it.

If you’re wondering about my views about the ruling and what I think of gay people, my thoughts and opinions have never changed.

  • The government attached additional rights and benefits to heterosexual marriage that don’t exist in homosexual relationships/partnerships. This action denied those rights to people who were not heterosexual and created two groups of people without equal rights. Legally, that was unethical and needed to be corrected. Thus, gay marriage is now legal.
  • Do I think homosexuality is wrong? I think I have no place to judge the heart of another and that I am commanded to love others and God loves them. So I love people regardless of sexual orientation, identity, gender and gender identity, religion, race, or their own personal beliefs.
  • The only people I have ever had a problem with are those who are simply hateful.

Those are my views and they’re probably not going to change regardless of what a pastor or preacher say, but I still think that the church needs to address how to respond to this ruling and to encourage it members to respond to the wrongs of the world in a way that shows the love of Christ. Without a response, the church is missing an opportunity to show love to those who desperately need love and right wrongs that desperately need to be righted.

To Bram: What Feminism is Not

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Dear Bram,

So I thought it might be better to respond to the topic of feminism on a different forum in order not to clog up our mutual friend’s facebook status anymore. Plus I just wanted the chance to write a new blog post. Thanks for that!

In response to your comment: “. . . the feminism I’ve encountered in books, seminars and other sources, where it it often put forward as absolute, rigorous equality and chivalry is mocked, ridiculed and condemned.” I’m simply sorry that this single story of feminism is the only one you’ve been exposed to. This is the danger of a single story: it’s incomplete, poses only one small aspect of a much larger picture, and is usually not true. I truly hope that I will be able to show you some of the rest of the picture in order to help you understand that feminists aren’t hateful, cruel women who want to strip your masculinity, but rather want to value you as a person and reinforce that you may live your life as you choose. I needed time to find the evidence and order my thoughts a little better; thus, blog post.

The word feminism is relatively new in English. It is credited to Charles Fourier, a Utopian Socialist and French philosopher who wrote about it. (1) “Feminism” and “feminist” appear in a letter from Dutch feminist pioneer Mina Kruseman in a letter to Alexandre Dumas about the subject in 1872 (2). It later appeared in Great Britain in 1890 and the United States in 1910 (3). It appeared in the 2nd edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1894, but I was not able to find the original defintion. The current definition according to the Oxford Dictionary is: “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” (4)

At the various time periods of feminism, the goals of feminists have varied from rights to vote, to own property, to work for equal pay, to have control over their bodies, and, more today, to promote mutual gender equality. One thing is clear about this movement: it is not about bashing men and erasing masculinity. This belief has arisen out of several problems and a social backlash against feminism for a variety of reasons. Bear with me as I bring in another definition, but I will draw a circle and come back to men and feminism in a moment.

Today’s definition of feminism is more broad than in past, when the goal was basic rights for women and has been expanded in a way that promotes equal treatment and equal respect for all. According to everydayfeminism.com, feminism is defined as the desire:

“. . . to live in a world where every person (and we mean every single person) is treated with respect, directs their own lives, and reaches their full potential. We want this to be true for every woman, man, adult, child, black, Asian, Latino, indigenous, white, gay, lesbian, transgender, straight, poor, rich, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, disabled, able bodied, immigrant, refugee, citizen, and every other group of people on this planet. Why? Because we’re all human beings who feel love and pain just like you.” (5)

People should be able to live how they chose to live without judgement and with the respect owed to them as a person. If a woman wants to have a career and be congress woman, cool! If a woman wants to get married and have however many children she can and just love on them, cool! No one should ever criticize a woman’s choice for her life. If a woman wants to wear a headscarf or head covering for her own personal, religious reasons, hey, power to you! If a woman born into a religion that calls for headcoverings doesn’t want to wear one, go for it! These are just some examples I’m trying to give here. Unfortunately, too many people (feminists, men, women, whatever), don’t follow these ideas, and that is where conflict occurs. Those attitudes can be changed if people choose to respect others’ choices.

Yes, I understand that there have been instances and times when women are feminists were hateful to men and said women were better than men. I understand how men have felt that roles have been changed in such a way that women are insulting because a man did something very small that may have been defined as chivalrous. Frankly, anytime I’ve ever heard anything like this, I’m surprised because I wonder how feminists can think it’s ok to do to men what was done to them. Everytime I see it or hear about it, I call it the same thing: hypocrisy.

Let’s face it, Bram, hypocrisy exists everywhere. There are women who don’t think they’re better than men and don’t treat men poorly, but there are women who do that, too. I would also submit that there are Christians that are very unloving and certainly don’t seem to follow Jesus, but will swear that you are going to Hell if you’re not just like them. These are usually the people that think certain Christians aren’t good enough to be around them and exclude them from Christian life in a variety of ways, and usually don’t associate with people who aren’t Christians at all. Unfortunately, just like in feminism and Islam and other areas of life, these people exist.

A fact I want to point about men and feminism is this: feminism promotes that men should be able to make choices for their lives as they want to live them in the same way that women should be able to make choices for their lives as they want to live. In response to the idea that feminism strips men of their masculinity or is somehow against masculinity, (your various statements; I’m not going to copy/paste all of them here), feminism is more against the aggression and competition that is taught to boys as a way to show that they are men. The reason to be against this is because it is harmful to both women and men. Many men are taught as boys that in order to solve their problems or get what they want, they must be competitive and aggressive in every possible way. This attitude is even carried over to how they pursue or date women and is sometimes taken too far. The majority of mass murders and killing sprees in the United States (75% to be exact) are commited by white men. (6) Many times, the men who commit these crimes have a very violent reason for wanting to commit them, such as wanting to kill all those who hurt them (such as the case in Columbine) and because women wouldn’t sleep with them or because they had been fired from jobs. Just check out the timeline. (7)

By teaching boys to be aggressive and solve their problems with violence or by being competitive, societies create more aggressive men. Not all men will grow up to be aggressive mass murderers or rapists, there seems to be a correalation. I also submit this view. Societial roles and expectations for men and women are actually not good for either gender. By teaching each group that their value lies in something other than being a good person or not correcting negative behavior because “that’s just how it is with boys/girls,” we create more problems for both groups in how they respond to, relate to, and communicate with each other.

When society (including Christian culture) says that a woman’s value is only in if she is married and has children, society is teaching her that anything else bad and the desire for anything else is bad. The desire not to marry or have children is now a sin to those women. Telling women their value is only in one thing and not who they are is damaging to women and girls.

When society (including Christian culture) says that a man’s value is only in if he has a good job and can make a lot of money to provide for his family, anything else is also bad. There is more to men than just paychecks and the ability to open jars and lift heavy objects. Treating men as though they are not thoughtful, emotional, caring human beings who may be more focused on family and betterment of community is wrong and denies them a part of their humanity. THIS is another damaging effect of societial gender roles that feminism would like to correct for the betterment of both genders. Traditional gender norms and expectations have truly created many problems in society that feminism would like to correct because it would better for both genders.

I am absolutely certain that you have felt strong emotions that have overwhelmed you to tears in some way. I’m also certain that just like any other guy in the world, someone told you or implied to you that crying made you weak and unmanly. That attitude towards emotions has been taught to guys for years and should be discontinued because guys do have emotions and shouldn’t be taught that they are not men for feeling them. Many are further insulted by being compared to girls or parts of a woman’s anatomy for feeling that way. This adds further insult to women and teaches boys more disrespectful attitudes towards women. These same expectations have also told men that they can’t be raped or abused. That is not true. Men are also victims of physical and sexual aggression (8). An estimated 40% of domestic violence victims are men. It is either underreported or just ignored because so many believe that women cannot be that aggressive and that only men are that aggressive. This is attitude is not only further proof that society believes men are aggressive and women are not, thus men cannot be victims of violence, but this also sheds light on another sad fact of human nature: both men and women can be equally very cruel. Feminism acknowledges that this is wrong. Men and women should be able to live in safe environments. No one should suffer from pain or abuse.

You also addressed chivalry in one of your comments and that feminism has killed chivalry because it went against masculinity in some way. I have seen what you’re refering to, unfortunately, but I have also noticed something else. Many guys cop out of being just kind and respectful to women and say, “Hey, I don’t need to do anything for you. There’s equality now. You do it. You call me and pursue me and pay for me.” Then they don’t do anything in the relationship. I chalk this up to two things: immaturity and laziness. Many of these guys also don’t really work and don’t really want to grow and be adults, either. This tends to be their excuse. If feminism did reject chivalry, I can understand. I’m sure that there are women who felt that men were domineering over them with feminism. The reason for this might be simple. A lot of men would be chivalrous to women with the aim of getting them into bed, like somehow buying a woman dinner meant should would go home with him. There are men that believe such things and that might be their only goal in being chivalrous, which is sad and makes all men look bad. I’m absolutely certain that you’re not like that, among many other good guys. I would say that for chivalry, isn’t it sometimes nice not to have to do everything? Isn’t it nice sometimes to be pursued? Yes, it is. But much of society has said that women who pursue are desperate and needy and you don’t want that. So men tend to ignore the signals when a woman is pursuing. It might best to just be respectful of each other and learn to read some body language or take a good compliment. But as far as chivalry goes, there are women who do appreciate it and are feminists. I’m one of them. 🙂 Just saying. 😉

Lastly, I would also to discuss counter-feminism and how that affects women and men. The idea that women no longer need feminism is strange to me. There are still women in the world who are not allowed to attend school. Rape culture is still prevelant in so many parts of the world, including the United States and Europe. Many women are still shamed for wanting to have a career instead of getting married and having kids. Many women are shame for wanting to get married and have kids instead of having a career. Men are abused as well. When I hear it from women in the United States (usually college-educated women, strangely enough), this is what pops into my mind.

Women renounce feminism

I think something like: “Really? It’s responsible for a plethora of choices in your life. Really?”

I really believe that the whole idea that feminism is bad and, dare I say, sinful is probably caused by all the negative images and actions of a group of feminists who treat men badly and say they are the cause of all problems in the world. That’s wrong. It is. There’s not getting around it. That’s just wrong. And it’s not feminism. It’s hypocrisy. I also think the other reason feminism is considered a bad thing in the modern world is for a simple fact that often goes unmentioned: society does not really like it when women stand up for themselves and have a voice. These voices go against the norm. Just like the voices of others who have experienced prejudice and oppression, the majority doesn’t want to listen to them. When women stand up for themselves, society tells us that they are out of control, making a scene, over-emotional, exagerating, or on their periods. When men do it, people tend to say they are whipped, or they just listen. The norms need to change in order to help both genders.

I was going to include some of those “I need feminism because pictures,” so I did that and took a few of my own.

i-need-feminism-because-i-am-blind-without-it-L-vvswRr Feminism-4

IMG_20140921_193033389  IMG_20140921_193302880

So there you have it, Bram. That is feminism. I truly hope I have been able to shed some light on a much bigger picture. I also hope that at the end of this (very long) blog post, you understand more of why I believe we still need feminism, for both women and men.

I would also like to add that I used figures from the US because I wasn’t sure where to look for figures in Europe, though I would be interested in seeing any if you know where to look. You may check all sources below in the works cited section.

I have no idea what this post may do, but I also hope that at the end of this, you and I will still be on good terms.

Best regards,

MZimmerman

Works Cited

  1. Goldstein 1982, p.92.Goldstein, L (1982). “Early Feminist Themes in French Utopian Socialism: The St.-Simonians and Fourier”, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol.43, No. 1.
  2. Mina Kruseman in a letter to Alexandre Dumas – in: Maria Grever, Strijd tegen de stilte. Johanna Naber (1859–1941) en de vrouwenstem in geschiedenis (Hilversum 1994) ISBN 90-6550-395-1, page 31.
  3. Offen, Karen. “Les origines des mots ‘feminisme’ et ‘feministe'”. Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine. July–September 1987 34: 492-496.
  4. Oxford English Dictionary. Accessed 21 September 2014. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/feminism
  5. Everdayfeminism.com. Accessed 21 September 2014. http://everydayfeminism.com/about-ef/our-vision/
  6. http://bossip.com/698648/race-matters-study-claims-white-men-are-more-likely-to-commit-mass-murders-than-blacks-or-any-other-racial-group/
  7. Follman, Mark; Aronsen, Gavin; and Pan, Deanna. May 24, 2014. “A Guide to Mass Shootings in America.” Accessed 21 September 2014.http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map?page=2
  8. “Get the Facts and Figures.” http://www.thehotline.org/resources/statistics/
  9. Campbell, Denis (5 September 2010). “More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male, report reveals” . The Guardian. Accessed 21 September 2014.
  10. Poeler, A. viralwomen.com. Accessed 21 September 2014. http://viralwomen.com/post/amy_poehler_on_women_renounce_feminism

The Power of Persistance

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I saw the above picture yesterday and immediately recognized what it refered to. The quote comes from Angela Lee Duckwall’s TED talk, “The Key to Success? Grit.” I showed it to my students this past spring, hoping it would be encouraging to them. If you’ve never see it, check it out HERE.

My students were starting to slack off and disengage from the work. They were complaining about the workload, how it didn’t matter, and were generally unruly. I’ll be honest: part of the problem was me, and I know it. We were going through “Hamlet” and they were struggling to understand the langauge (which I knew would probably happen, but didn’t really prepare for). Facebook suggested this particular TED Talk to me and I couldn’t pass it up. The day after I watched it, I showed to them. They had a hard time understanding the word “grit”. It was new to them and they’d never heard it before. I explained it was the quality of persisting through hard situations, “stick-to-itness”, if you will. O ok. They understood that. We talked about pushing through things, doing things even when we didn’t want to do them. We talked about getting through the material we were reading, how bettering their English would create more opportunities for them, and that being persistant would better prepare them for college. Afterwards, things got a little better. It helped that I found an easy-read version of “Hamlet” and they suddenly better understood the material. When we finished “Hamlet,” they better understood the story and completed projects to reflect that they had understood the material. They had shown understanding, but they had also shown grit. 

I’ve been in my new teaching position for a month, and I am wondering if I need to show this video again. Most of my students are not trying. They don’t like English, mostly because they struggle with it. It’s hard. English isn’t just reading stories and talking about the stories. I’m not just reading with them on a carpet here (although the media would like people to believe that’s all English teachers do). I’m trying to teach them to find elements of literature in the stories. I’m trying teach them to understand what they read, which they usually don’t. I’m trying to teach them to think about what they’re reading, which they don’t want to do at all. Shoot, most of the time, they don’t even understand the storyline at all. And the worst part is that they don’t ask for help. Right before my first test on Friday, a bunch of students said they didn’t understand the stories at all. I asked them why they hadn’t even asked me for help or to explain it. They didn’t respond. Some students had missed class on Wednesday or Thursday, then they said they hadn’t made up the work they had missed because they didn’t know what to do. I asked them if they’d looked at their weekly calenders that told them what we were going to read that week, or if they had asked their parents to call the office and get the make up work, or if they had emailed me, or if they had a parent call me. No, no, no. They had not even thought about it. I told them they should have taken some responsibilty for their learning and done something about it. None of them responded.

I’m not trying to rip on my students. I’m trying to point out something that is lacking in our modern culture: grit. People are lacking grit in all kinds of ways. You can see it in every age group, too. Baby boomers are giving up on trying to show other generations how to live well and are retiring in mass droves. Those who are unemployed or underemployed are giving up on finding good jobs in their fields. Millenials are giving up on finding jobs and accomplishing their goals under crushing student debt and societal/parental pressure to be “grown ups” living on their own and finding jobs that pay off their debt. People aren’t taking relationships seriously and giving up on them before really investing in them. Women are giving up on finding men who don’t act like teenagers. Men are giving up on finding women who aren’t jerks. Parents are giving up on raising children well. Children are giving up on behaving well and making good choices. And teenagers are giving up on their futures and themselves before they even start trying. Several of my students think that they are stupid and that their grades are proof of it. My response to those comments has been that their grades reflect that they aren’t even trying, not a lack of intelligence. 

This is really disheartening, both as a teacher and as a citizen in this society. I think that our society is giving up on trying to improve themselves and be better. I think that the older generations are giving up and their attitudes are affecting younger generations. As a result, people aren’t trying to improve, learn, or take responsibility for themselves. Everything is becoming someone else’s fault. In Duckwall’s talk on grit, she explains that gritiness is a better determiner for longterm success than anything else, but she also states that experts don’t know how to increase grit in others or improve grit. I think I might have her answer: a person needs to believe in his/her goals and that they can accomplish those goals, regardless of setbacks, and a person needs to understand that mistakes and setbacks don’t mean that the person can’t do something; it only means the person needs to keep trying. Our culture is losing this. Instead of seeing setbacks and long roads as challenges to overcome, people see them as signs that they can’t, so they don’t do anything for themselves. The situation isn’t going to get better until people change their minds and their attitudes. 

I’m not sure if I’m going to show them this talk on Monday or not. I do know that I’m going to discuss our test and the areas in which people need to improve, then I’m going to drill them on the literary elements and reading comprehension until I’m satisfied that I don’t need to anymore. All I can do is teach the material and give them chances. I can’t learn it for them. But I’m going to do what I can do until the end of the semester. 

Hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend!

~MZimmerman

Questioning Life

Well, it’s happened again. I’ve sunk back into questioning life all over again. Lately, I’m just very disatified with my life. I’ve been questioning everything lately, including how to solve the problem I’m in right now. I could be all cheery and say, “Well, I don’t have to live this way. I’ll just change it.” But changing my own life is proving to be a frustrating and monumental task. I’m not sure what to do or where to go with this. I just want life to be better, but I don’t really see that happening anytime soon. To top it off, I haven’t been doing much for myself lately. I haven’t been writing much or blogging or working out or spending time with friends. I am at my happiest during the weekends when I do what I want to do and what makes me happy. I know I said that I’m only going to add to the pile of things that makes me happy, but that’s proving to be difficult. There are some things I just can’t control, and what I can control is difficult. I also know that in the great perspective of things that could suck in life, this is a speedbump. I know what I need to do to change the situation, but it’s proving very difficult to do this. I know it will change eventually; I simply don’t know how and am anxious for it to change. I can’t go into details right now. When it changes, I’ll explain. 

This weekend, I plan on focusing on writing and youtube videos. I’m going to see my dad and his dogs. I might even have a date this weekend. 

If you believe in prayer or good energy or vibes or whatever, please send some my way. I’m in dire need.

Happy Friday, folks!

~MZimmerman

Piles of Good and Bad Things

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It was a good weekend for so many reasons.

A friend drove four hours to come see me on Friday. We hit golf balls together at a park the next day and talked about grad school options. On Saturday, I got a lot of work done so that I could have a Sunday all to myself, which I did! It was the first day since school started that I didn’t do any work whatsoever. I slept in, worked out, made bread, chatted with friends, caught up with a friend from Honduras, and just generally relaxed. It was so nice. It was the perfect practice to my new mantra: If it doesn’t add to your good pile, you don’t need it!

Confession time: I haven’t been doing well for about a month. It’s been bad. I’m not going to divulge too many details, but I will say that I’ve spent some time contemplating the value of my existence. Through all of this contemplation, I’ve come to one great conclusion: if it doesn’t add to my happiness now, or won’t contribute to it in the future, I don’t need it. Before I left Honduras, I realized that I had done many things in my life because I thought I was supposed to do them. These were things that didn’t make me happy, contribute to my overall well-being, or add anything more to my life than regret. When I realized this, while lying in my bed, staring at the ceiling with the lights on in the middle of the night, I realized something else as well: I don’t have to live like that. I never did. And who said I had to live like that in the first place? Why didn’t I smack that person?

Because that person was probably me.

As a result of this epiphany, I decided not to return to Honduras this year. I moved home and reconnected with several wonderful friends. I found a new job with awesome people. I found an apartment I really like. I started taking more steps to better myself and improve my health. I started trying to make more of an effort to strengthen existing friendships and create new ones instead of waiting to be invited. I tried more. I planned more adventures. I started a blog. And all of it for no greater reason than because I wanted to.

Today, I called a friend who didn’t return to Honduras. We talked for about an hour about our respective decisions and what was happening in our lives. She called the conversation “a breath of fresh air.” That made me feel valuable, to be fresh air to someone. We also talked about piles of good things and bad things.

I love Doctor Who. In one episode, the main character, The Doctor, and his companion, Amy, time travel to meet and save Vincent Van Gogh from an alien, and from himself. They witness his depressive and manic episodes, as well as how he sees the world in bright colors and swirls of amazing. When they return to the present, Amy rushes off to a museum, certain he did not commit suicide and that there will hundreds of new paintings to see. There aren’t any new paintings. He still commited suicide. She cries because she feels that it was all for nothing, that they didn’t help him at all. The Doctor explains to her that Van Gogh was a very troubled man and that nothing could have saved him from himself. He had a big pile of bad things, but they added to his pile of good things. That’s why I used the above quote for this blog and for my little mantra.

There are piles of bad things and good things in life. Some of us have big piles of bad things we either can or can’t do anything about. But if I can add to my pile of good things, or to someone else’s pile, I will. So this is my new view of life: if it doesn’t add to my pile of good things now, or won’t in the future, I don’t need it. I may still need to do things I don’t really want to do sometimes, like see the dentist or go to class when I’m sick, but in the long run, my pile of good things will grow by doing those things. This is choosing happiness. This is choosing better. This is choosing what I really want for my life: a pile of good things.

And I hope this added to your pile of good things today.

Now go add to someone else’s pile of good things.

~MZimmerman

A Thought about Depression

RIP Robin Williams

I wasn’t planning to post again until next week, but the recent death of Robin Williams changed those plans.

I was saddened to hear of his death. His movies and comedy were such a big part of my childhood, as they were for most people. He was funny, charismatic, and attention-grabbing on screen. I suppose that’s one of the reasons why so many people find it hard to believe that he struggled with depression and committed suicide: it’s hard for people to believe that funny, happy-looking person can be sad, have depression, consider death to end that sadness, numb it with substances or alcohol. For me, it’s not too hard for me to imagine. Those who can’t understand how a happy-looking, funny, successful, and talented person can struggle with depression are those who have never really understood what that particular struggle is really like. The people who say: “just snap out of it, find a hobby, you don’t have anything to be depressed about; really, what do you have to be sad about? you have everything!” or any combination or variation of those lines are people who don’t understand it because they’ve never been through it.

One doesn’t just “snap out of it.” A person with depression can’t just “happy up.” “Finding a hobby” or “focusing on other people” isn’t going to make it go away. It’s not that people with depression “don’t have anything to be sad about” because they “have everything and no reason to be sad;” it’s because something is wrong. It’s something others don’t see or understand. It’s something they’ve never felt or thought. It’s something one has to experience. A person with depression is a person who is going through something that may even not be completely understood by him/herself. 

One blog I read recently said that all depression is a spiritual issue. A professor in college once told my class that depression occurs when someone doesn’t have control over something in his/her life or perceives that there is no control over a certain area of his/her life. Others say it’s all chemical. Others say it’s only situational. Others say grow up. 

Frankly, the cause doesn’t matter until a person with depression is at a place to think clearly enough to deal with the cause. That means until the person is in the right frame of mind, is ready to deal with it, and is safe from potential self harm, whatever caused the depression is on the sidelines for a while. Only when a person is ready to deal with it and others are ready to help can the cause be found out and dealt with in the manner that is best for that person. For some people that is spiritual, for others it’s medication and therapy, for many it’s a combination. Regardless of how it’s treated, the focus shouldn’t be on getting that person fixed, but rather on helping that person find out how to make him/herself better. The focus should be on genuine understanding, compassion (not pity!), caring, and listening ears.

I happened to stumble upon the following video last night and thought it was The Best Description of Depression in the History of Mankind to explain what depression is really like. 

~MZimmerman

Real Problems vs. Hardships and Inconveniences

I went to my parents’ house this weekend to get some medicine for a sinus infection and to see them. While there, we watched a little news. The news coverage at that particular moment happened to be about the genocide against christians in Iraq by a newer terrorist group called ISIS. If you haven’t read about it yet, go HERE and read a little. It was pretty shocking, but what shocked me more came later that evening.

I follow Jamie the Very Worst Missionary pretty religiously on facebook. If you’ve never read her blog, check it out. Well, yesterday’s post was pretty hilarious. (You can see it HERE) The videos on it were just hilariously cheesy. The caketopper was the trailer for “Christian Mingle,” the latest christian romantic comedy to make our friends see how cool it is it to be a christian. 

Seriously???

Are these the things christians really concern themselves with now? 

Now, I’m aware the Forever Bible company is actually a fraud and that the product isn’t real, but it was so cheesy that my brain couldn’t help but think this:

First World Christian Problem: I need a bible the won’t fall apart and won’t get wet when I take it to the pool.

Third World Christian Problem: I would like to have a bible, but they’re illegal in my country. If I can get one, and I’m caught with it, I could be killed. Oh, and I’m hungry.

Or this:

First World Christian Problem: I really want a husband to complete my life and he must be God’s absolute best in every way. And hot.

Third World Problem: I wanted to marry a man I loved someday after I finished school, but my parents arranged for me to marry a 45 year-old man. I’m 12.

Most of what people think are problems are not really problems. Problems are things like murder, rape, genocide, infanticide, persecution (the kind that involves jail and beatings and stuff, not that people won’t talk to you for being a christian), slavery, human trafficking, sexism against women and men, being afraid to leave your house because of the fear of crime in the streets, abuse of all kinds, kidnapping, hunger, and people dying due to poor health care and disease.

Sit down today and think about it: Are the things you call problems really problems? Are they hardships you will overcome? Or are they just mild inconveniences to your pretty nice life?

Yes, people have hard times. The economy still stinks, jobs are still hard to find, relationships are falling apart, people are cruel to each other, and we’re being crushed by our debt and our ineffective government. I’m not saying that whatever you’re going through isn’t important or isn’t going to be painful.

I’m simply saying that real problems, real suffering, are very different from the hardships of life in a developed nation. We still have a lot of things that make life much easier. And if things aren’t working for us, we can change them if we work hard enough to do so.

American Christians, please remember that there is real suffering in this world. There are people that need prayer for survival, as opposed to that fancy new ride or that “A” on tomorrow’s test. There is still injustice in the world that needs to change.

Work towards that change. Focus on being the light others need instead of worrying about the things you only think you need.

Contrary to American christian cultural beliefs, God never promised us health, wealth, wisdom, and prosperity. 

~MZimmerman