“Expect Much of Yourself (and Little of Others)” Lent #8

ExpectMuchOfYourself

So read the message out of the fortune cookie I just devoured. The result was the same as is often the case when random messages hit my eyes and I began pondering the meanings of such a message in my own life. Just as I often do, I will share my musings with the hope that you don’t hate me too much as a result.

That in itself is my expecting little of you.  Yes, I can count with much sorrow the numbers of people who have stopped being my friend because of my attitudes about things. For instance, there are my former friends who are Catholic who first decided to leave my company because of my attitude about the Church (I’ll spare you the gory details in the hopes that more fruit doesn’t drop from my tree).  I lost more when I decided to abandon that cult (uh oh) for a more stable and, for me, truer belief system.

I’ll admit I didn’t expect their reaction.  After all, Jesus preached about tolerance and love so I expected those who followed his message to tolerate me following my own path.  I expected them to smile, preach to me for a bit about how I could be “saved”, and then just consider the good things about me that they liked in the first place.  After all, they couldn’t have just liked me because I ate a wafer while pretending it was a body, drank some wine while pretending it was blood, and gave my hard-earned money to an organization that is among the wealthiest in the world to support priests who actually lived better than some in their own congregation.  They couldn’t suddenly dislike me because I found “God” in the woods while finding little of Her in the ornate garnishments of an overly large building they referred to as “God’s house”.  Or could they?

Before you get all crazy about my tone and my choice of words, understand that I was not always this blunt in expressing my beliefs.  I used to take a sensitive, tactful path toward explaining myself when asked.  I would watch my words while expressing myself compassionately and lovingly only to find that the very idea that “one of them” could “reject Jesus” was enough to have me thrown out on the street.  I would explain that I loved the message of Jesus.  I loved the idea of living compassionately and without bias, often in poverty while washing the feet of my servants (I didn’t have any, so that part was easy).  I loved giving of myself, of eating with those considered sinners within my society, and surrendering to the Universe (using the word “Universe” instead of “God” somehow instantly turns you into a hippie new-ager going straight to hell.  I now wear the moniker with pride.)

Well, I no longer watch my words when discussing religion, particularly the Catholic church and generally Christianity.  I usually begin to lose my cool right around the “well Muslims blow up things” that invariably falls freely from the mouths of most Christians I talk to about the history of Christianity.  I whip out my “guns” (facts) and begin shooting “bullets” (the truth). Mostly, those Christians I talk to quickly don their own bullet (truth) proof vest (the Bible) until they can retreat into the world of silence and “excommunication” through the mechanism of being offended. It’s an interesting mechanism.

I then lost a whole bunch of “friends” when I decided to experience the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle.  It seems that if you decide the killing of animals and the physical effects the practice of carnivorism has on your body is not for you, you suddenly become an unwelcome insect in some circles.  I, frankly, had no idea my choice would have this effect.  Now, I realize that most of us who decide to adopt this lifestyle can get a bit “preachy”, but understand that when you begin to experience the wonderful effects of a plant-based diet you want everyone you love to know about it. I’m a giving guy mostly and it felt like I had found some secret to feeling great.  I had never felt so alive and vibrant then when I was vegan.  Why would I not want to share that awesome feeling with those I care about?

That is a mistake when it comes to health. You need to shut up, and you need to simply feel great all on your own it seems. People seem to love their unhealthy lifestyles, and regardless of how much they may love you they will quickly turn if you try to take away their meat, their processed foods, and their poisonous fast food lifestyle.  I have since become mostly vegetarian as I’ve recently decided to give some meats a try to see if it helps me.

The truth?  Adding meats to my diet has made me a physical wreck.  My joints now ache.  I feel tired.  I feel stuffed and I am gaining some weight.  Secretly (if you don’t want to know skip to the next paragraph) every nagging ailment that had bothered me before I made the switch to vegetarianism has returned in force as if they were waiting for me to “slip up”.  So, I have made a decision to go back to vegetarianism at the very least and veganism whenever possible.  While I, and others, may be experts in lying to themselves, our bodies refuse to lie to us.  My body tells me to stop eating the meat and return to the greens and veggies that made me feel more alive than I have in my entire life.  Pain is a voice of the body telling us that something is wrong.  Fatigue is telling us we are doing something that is making us tired.  The only thing that I have changed is the adding of meat so I figure that has to be the reason.  So, I simply cut it out and see if that is truly the reason.  If my body returns back to its former feeling I know I have found an answer; my own “fountain of youth”.

This time I won’t preach unless specifically asked.  I will go about my business and not say a word to anyone unless they ask.  I don’t care how great I feel or how bad they feel. They are free to poison themselves as much as they want just as I am free to seek health in a way my experience has taught brings it to me.

The next destruction of some of my friendships was the gun control debate.  Man, people truly love their instruments of killing.  I used to be one of them, so I understand the addictive qualities of maximum firepower and the warm feeling one finds in the false sense of security.  Still, I never expected to be challenged as I have.  I even had one former friend tell me that we need to protect the easy access to guns despite our kids dying because knife violence would increase.  Now this type of reasoning will get me out of my shell pretty easily.  See, the visions of bullet-riddled kids in a classroom simply does not allow for the idea of rising knife violence to enter into my mind.  I simply cannot look at the facts surrounding gun violence and forgive it because someone may use a knife instead.  Perhaps it is that thing we all call “common sense” that has infected my brain.  I just hope it is contagious.

As you can see, I can posses an acerbic wit at times.  I can be very blunt and very “acidic” in my delivery on certain topics.  I have found this tact works best for me.  See, it gets my point across to those who would put on a fake smile, a fake “Jesus saves” button on their lapel while putting their fake arm around me in friendship.  I can disagree with my friends without discarding them.  I don’t love their opinions, or their beliefs, I love them.  So discarding any one of my friends for some idea they may have (there are exceptions to this rule; priest-like people who would harm young children is one example) is ludicrous.

That is me expecting a lot of myself. I have had to learn, however, to expect little of others. Yes, I am sure that they believe they are doing the same and simply not tolerating my heresy and liberalism.  I get it. Yet for every friend that disappears in the fog of differing beliefs I find one that is tolerant, truly compassionate and worthy of my trust.  Still, it is the expectation that is the crippling injury here.

I have learned that the reason for my acerbic wit and blunt delivery is similar to the idea in farming of “thinning the crop”. A farmer will go through his crop and purposely knock fruit off the trees in order to increase the quality of the remaining fruit. I have no doubt that my methodology is doing the same thing. I am making room for quality fruit by getting rid of the excess. I am attracting people who think like me and, in the process, finding that great minds truly do think alike (ahem, yes that is a laugh you hear in my arrogance). Yes it is easier to feed the hungry when I am partnered with those who want to feed people in a healthy way and not those who want to argue about what red meat to give them.  Yes it is easier to dance this dance when we are all listening to the same song.

Yet I rarely take the easy way out so I will continue to allow anyone who disagrees with me to argue their point. I won’t shun you (unless you act in a priestly way while harming young children, for example) and I won’t deny you.  You will be my friend, and you will be in my heart.  I love your perspective because even as I debate the point with you I am challenging my own views through you and learning.  Even as my pig-headed and stubborn self is debating you I am challenging everything and learning in the process.  Why would I not love you for all of your effort?

Finally, there is a Lent 2-7 in my drafts folder. I didn’t post them because they are about the Christopher Dorner escapade and I feared losing even more friends over my feelings there.  Plus, I am in the process of combining those masterpieces into one large journalistic piece (journalism today being op-ed pieces with facts strewn in there somewhere).  I will call that “Lent 2-7” when I am done just to prove that I have kept my Lenten vow.  Yes, it would be the first time in my life that I truly stuck to my Lenten promise.

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