Truth and Lies: The (Dis)Honesty Project

​https://youtu.be/Ql4tRBlQIoU

If you haven’t watched this documentary,  your should.  It’s on Netflix, and it’s a great introduction into the field of behavioral economics, the science of lying,  and the costs associated with lying and cheating. 

It basically alternates between Dr. Dan Ariely and his co-researchers explaining what their experiments have shown,  and people who’ve been caught lying or cheating telling their stories, including what was going through their minds when they were doing it. 

It’s amazing to see how things like transactional distance make people more likely to cheat, but being reminded of an ethics system (even one from a religion you actively don’t believe in)  makes people less likely to cheat.

Give it a watch some time.  

Freestyle Friday: A Museum of My Mistakes

(With apologies to Julia Wertz, who draws a comic called “Museum of Mistakes“)

Restarting my blog has led me to re-read some of the posts I wrote three or four years ago … and boy, is that embarrassing.

In some areas, I’m a little embarrassed by where I was then, compared to where I am now.

And I’m more than a little embarrassed by how little progress I’ve made in other areas.

But I’m extremely embarrassed by a few stupid insensitive things I did back then, like using the “homosexual” as a noun, instead of LGBT+ person, gender/sexual  minority (GSM), or a more specific and appropriate term like gay man or lesbian woman.

My first instinct was to go in an “correct” it, changing the old terms to more appropriate, sensitive and respectful wording.

But I’ve decided to let it stand. I’m not going to sanitize my past. Because I wasn’t writing that to speak against GSM people, but to work through my own understanding, and come to a place where I could at least be supportive and respectful to them as people.

I just didn’t know that I didn’t know.

I know now, but I think it would be wrong to go back and change it, to retroactively present myself as wiser or more sensitive or understanding than I really was. That would be false.

So I’ll let the old posts stand as a “Museum of My Mistakes.” Though I do reserve the right to take a post down entirely, if I really feel I need to. But I won’t alter what I wrote, and leave it up as if it had always been that way.

You can’t change the past, even if you have editing privileges 🙂

The Art of Vulnerability

Nietzsche Quote

As Christians, we have to be willing to step outside our comfort zones, something I’m not very good at.  I’m not a naturally outgoing person.  I tend to prefer books and numbers and art and ideas to people and social gatherings.  Of course, I get as lonely as anybody else if I do not get enough social interaction.  I’m incredibly thankful that I’m married to a woman who not only understands this, but feels very much the same (though she’s more focused on music than on books and numbers).

But I think that going outside our comfort zones almost by definition means doing things we’re not so good at.  Don’t get me wrong: I think God made us the way we are for a reason.  I think our talents and temperaments are not accidents, but gifts.  And so I will probably never be called to lead a Billy Graham-style crusade, preaching to millions, or even work as a pastor, dealing with an entire congregation in groups and one on one settings.  But if I ever am, I know I’ll have to step up and do it, trusting that God will give me the strength to fulfill His call.

So, what does that mean here, in the written word?

I think, for me at least, it means vulnerability.  Nietzsche famously said, “of all writing, I love only that which a man has written in his own blood.”  I think that (if I may be so bold as to speak for Him), God may feel the same way.

Vulnerability goes beyond honesty.  A person may be completely honest, as far as it goes, while writing about topics that never require him to lay himself bare, to intentionally make himself look weak or foolish or flawed.  But only by appearing weak and foolish and flawed can we really glorify God.

And this goes for fiction as well as blogging and memoir (those who know me know I’ve always written fiction, and I’ve always struggled with being truly happy with what I create).  It’s hard, when trying to juggle plot, character, character voice, and prose style to really be vulnerable.  It’s not easy to let an ugly, doubt-ridden, questioning, disappointed, vulnerable part of myself spill out into the characters, especially not a character I like.  It’s not easy; in fact, it hurts.  But it is, I believe, necessary.

So what do you think?  Should our brokenness before God show through in everything we write?  Is there a place for confident, even didactic prose?  What about didactic, prescriptive fiction?  And are we ready, as Christians in an often-sanitized culture, to confront each others’ vulnerabilities?

Wrestling Angels

I’m writing this blog primarily about religious matters.  I’ve tried blogging about my faith a couple of times before, but I always fell away from it (the blogging, not the faith).  I think there were two problems:

First, I was trying to tell people what I think the “answers” are.  I don’t have answers.  Honestly, we don’t get many “answers” this side of Heaven, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

Second, I wasn’t ever really, deeply honest.  I don’t think it is possible to be fully honest when giving out “answers,” because the truth is, whatever seems right now may seem wrongheaded and petty in a couple of years.  When your business is talking answers, you either lie,  constantly contradict yourself, or become so arrogant that you refuse to change your mind.  None of those is worth the bandwidth.

The only honest path is to admit to the questions, to embrace the questions, and to genuinely study the questions.  Doubt can be a kind of worship.  Doubt is a kind of humility.  Doubt is saying to God, “I don’t understand you, I know I can’t prove you, but I still choose to worship you.”

That’s why I’ve called this attempt “Wrestling with the Angel.”  The title comes from Genesis 32:24-28, when Jacob wrestled with an angel (or possibly a pre-incarnate Christ) throughout the night, refusing to let go until the angel blessed him, even though the angel tore his hip out of joint.

It was here that he lost the name Jacob, the deceiver who stole his brother’s birthright, and became Israel, the one who struggles with God.

And I think that is one of our duties as Christians: to struggle with God, to wrestle the angels, to dive headlong into our doubts and fears.  To hold on until He blesses us, and gives us a new name.