The Most Terrible Time Of The Year

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of the year in the United States. It’s a time when families come together for no other reason than to acknowledge their blessings, spend time with each other, and eat until their hearts are content. It’s a day when everyone is encouraged to take stock of the good things in their lives and see how those are what really matter. It is a lead-in to the most joyous of holidays, which extends beyond the borders of the U.S. and reaches in to the entire world – Christmas.

The holidays can indeed foster times of great joy and happiness. Unfortunately, they can also prove to be mental quicksand for those dealing with feelings of depression.

As with many topics related to depression, it can be difficult to explain why the holidays can be so holiday-bluesdifficult to navigate without venturing into self-pity. “Oh, how can they continue to play all this happy music and talk about all these wonderful things when I’m so sad? Can’t they see what I’m going through?” What many people with depression don’t realize is how self-centered the disease can make them. They become blind to how selfish they’ve become.

For those who are self-aware, though, depression around the holidays becomes a double whammy. The person knows they are not being grateful enough. They also know how selfish they are for feeling the way they do. As a result, they not only feel depression, but they also are hit with waves and waves of guilt. It’s a vicious cycle, and it only leads one way – down.

I’m not here to offer any pat answers about how to not be depressed around the holidays. In fact, I would greatly appreciate if everyone reading this could share your tips about how you manage to cope with the holiday blues. All I am trying to do is encourage understanding among those who have never had an un-thankful Thanksgiving or a not-so-merry Christmas for those who are having a hard time getting it together this year. You might not be able to cure them, but you can at least provide a helping hand to get them through.

Charlie Brown Christmas Lucy adviceAnd from me to you, if you’re someone riding a wave of depression from Thanksgiving on the way towards Christmas, hang in there. Better days can be ahead for you. In fact, you could be in a better day right now and just not know it. If you can’t feel it, though, don’t stack layers of guilt upon yourself. You’re not the first person to be where you are, and you’re not going to get it right all the time. It may not be the most wonderful time of the year, but it doesn’t have to be the most terrible either.

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Perhaps I’ve Said Too Much

I’ve been very fascinated recently with the concept of self-sabotage, where a person either sabotageconsciously or subconsciously engages in behaviors that will almost certainly lead them to failure. According to an article published on the Psychology Today website, “The most common self-sabotaging behaviors are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting.”

These are all definitely very serious behaviors and deserving of special attention, but I’ve been thinking of a different kind of self-defeating behavior lately. It has to do with how we view ourselves, the faults we either have or believe we have, and how open we are in sharing those faults.

The very nature of this blog is very confessional, and I’ve pointed out several negative aspects about myself. Inevitably, in the course of a natural conversation with me, I will point out at least one unflattering trait about myself as well. Most of my humor is self-deprecating, and I’m always the first to point out my own mistakes.

Why do I do this? Well, I’ve been trying to figure that out lately. I have several different theories. Maybe I have low self-esteem. Maybe I’m a very honest person. Maybe I believe I’m somehow being more genuine than everyone else if I show all my warts. Maybe I think it shows other people that I’m human, just like them. Maybe I hate myself. Maybe I’m desperate for someone to tell me I’m actually not all these negative things.

My latest guess is this: I bring all these things to the light because somewhere, deep down inside, I am convinced the deficiencies in me will cause whatever I’m involved with to crash, so I might as well let everyone know what kind of person I am.

Self-SabotageIn all honesty, though, the reasons don’t matter. I’m putting myself behind the eight ball every time I bring one of these traits to light. I’m planting a seed that very rarely yields anything good. I’m not saying it’s not a good thing to be honest with yourself about your faults and confess the sins that need to be confessed. When they become what defines you, though, and basically drive you in every relationship, they veer into self-sabotage territory, in my opinion.

I think about the apostle Peter often. Peter flat-out denied he knew Jesus. There was no grey area; he bold-faced did it. Have you ever noticed, though, that in all his writings and in all the recorded instances of him speaking after Pentecost, Peter never mentions this again. I would be like, “Okay, look, I am the guy who denied knowing Jesus three times, but…” He just doesn’t even go there. He didn’t even introduce that negativity into the conversation.

He believed he was better than those moments of denial.

I don’t believe we should all put on masks and act like we’re perfect. I also don’t think we should blab every fault we have to anyone who will listen. I am convinced there is a happy medium between the two extremes. The battle to find it can be bloody and difficult sometimes, though, and it can be so much easier to wallow in the depression and pain and fear. Staying in that place, though, sabotages everything in my life, from my relationships to my job to my spirituality. I become toxic to myself.

I’m trying to do better at identifying the thoughts that would sabotage me before they can take root and cause me problems. This is usually where I would say I’m not doing such a good job of that. To avoid planting that see of negativity, though, let me just say I’m just going to keep right on trying.

Tuneful Tuesday: Mine

If you’ve ever noticed me occasionally dropping references to Van Halen in this blog, there’s a reason for that. At one point in my life, I actually owned every VH album that had been made up to that point. In fact, the only ones I never owned were III (because it was dreadful), Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (because I already had everything that was on it), and Best of Both Worlds (see previous reason).

One VH song, in particular, played a very prominent role in my life. “Right Now,” the very popular single with an even more popular video from the album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, was actually instrumental in my deciding to become a Christian. I had been considering giving my heart to the Lord and being baptized, so when my impressionable high school brain heard the words of this song, well, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer.

That’s not the song I’m writing about here, though, although this post will discuss another song from the “Van Hagar” era. The album OU812 is not one of my favorites in the VH catalog, but it does have some bright moments, in particular the single “When It’s Love.” While most of the songs on the album are about sex, it’s opening track stands out in fairly stark contrast to the rest of the material.

“Mine All Mine” is the type of song that almost slips past a listener, if they’re not paying attention. It seems deathly serious compared to the other tracks on OU812, starting with the lyric, “Forgive me, Father/For I have sinned/I’ve been through hell and back again.” Sammy Hagar’s sort of fascination with religion would pop from time to time in the VH catalog, most notably in the song “Seventh Seal” from the album Balance. In this particular song, he’s not touting any one religion over another or even really endorsing any religion at all. He just wants people to believe in something.

I have to admit, this song has basically nothing to do with how I’ve thought about depression at any point in my life. I have been thinking about it lately, though, because the concept of grabbing onto something I can call uniquely mine is becoming more and more important to me. Something that doesn’t belong to anyone else, something I will hold onto tooth and nail. Following the crowd and the rules has led to many unhappy points. Whatever “it” is for me, I want it to be mine.

The Cosby Conundrum

What happens when America’s Favorite Dad has to deal with allegations of drugging and sexually assaulting numerous women on several different occasions?

Tune in to Must-See TV this week to find out!

bill cosbyOkay, that may be the most inappropriate introduction to any post I’ve ever written on this blog, but, good grief, how else can a person keep from shedding tears over the current Bill Cosby situation except with humor, ill-advised as it may be? The man who helped sell Coca-Cola and Jell-O Pudding Pops may have been carrying around briefcases full of drugs and forcing himself on various females over the span of several years. This is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Even though nothing has been formally proven against Mr. Cosby, the number of women speaking out with stories of alleged abuse at his hands seems to be growing daily. Assuming any of these allegations are true, he will have some explaining to do in the future. He will be (and already has been, to a certain extent) branded a bad man.

My problem at the moment, however, is not that I am grappling with the concept of a guilty Bill Cosby being a bad man. My conundrum is that he may have been both good and bad.

Before anyone picks up a stone to hurl at me, I am not writing this post in an attempt to be a Bill Cosby apologist. Personally, I don’t know if the man is guilty or not, so I certainly don’t want to debate his culpability for the things he may or may not have done. I’m thinking more about his legacy. Was Bill Cosby a good or a bad human being?

I wrote here not long ago about a cognitive distortion call polarized thinking, sometimes also known as “black-and-white thinking.” Basically, this distortion means there is no middle ground; things are either good or they are bad. This is a distortion I have massive problems with. When it’s said the public has short memories concerning past sins of public figures, my opinion was not included in “the public.” I remember everything.

So here I am today, left with the perplexing nature of one Mr. William H. Cosby, Jr. To be sure, these are very serious allegations against Mr. Cosby. They have already cost him a new television project with NBC and have resulted in old episodes of The Cosby Show being yanked from syndication. In the places Cosby is still scheduled to appear, he faces threats of protests. He may have even been a rapist.

Cosby has also been a lot other things as well, things which can be proven. He has donated millions of dollars to charities, universities, and other causes. He entertained and attempted to educate children with programs such as Fat AlbertThe Electric Company, and Picture Pages. Probably most famously, he encouraged African-Americans to reach for the stars with his portrayal of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show, one of the most famous and influential sitcoms of all time.

Certainly none of these feats excuses a man from sexually assaulting a woman. What they do show, lukehowever, is that Cosby has, as the famous line from Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi states, “some good in him.” Consider this quote Cosby gave during an interview with The Christian Post in December 2011:

If you have no faith, you’ve lost your battle. You can’t let things just happen. If you know right from wrong, and you know proof that certain things are true and people are telling you information to guide you and it’s good solid information, then you should have it.

Who is this man, then? My brain is having trouble deciphering all this. There is only one conclusion I can arrive at.

Bill Cosby is a human being.

Human beings do bad things, and many times they have to face severe punishments for their actions. What they do, though, does not necessarily make them rotten to their cores. Human beings fall and fail all the time, some on a grander scale than others. If we could control our actions, keep ourselves under perfect control at all times, we never would have needed Jesus Christ to intervene on our behalf. Good men do bad things. Bad men do good things. It is a difficult thing to grasp.

If nothing else, the current Cosby situation has reminded me that while judgement in the courts may be ironclad, judgement between people often is not. For a polarized thinker like myself, the urge is there to run between the two extremes. The real Billy Cosby, though, like most of us, probably lives somewhere in between.

The Downside Of Awareness

One of the unexpected consequences of my starting this blog has been the number of friends and acquaintances who have shared their own experiences with depression with me. In the cases of many of them, I would have never guessed them to be people who would ever be affected by any type of mental struggle whatsoever. They seemed to be highly confident, outgoing, successful people, but their stories were every bit as real as my own. I just wasn’t around them enough to spot the signs.

It was with great interest, then, that I read an article today citing a report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health samhsa2Services Administration which estimated nearly 44 million Americans experienced a mental illness in 2013. To further put that number in perspective, that’s approximately one out of every five people.

That is an astonishingly high number. So high, in fact, I wondered if it was even correct.

As someone who stumbled through a large majority of his life not even knowing what depression was, I am often the first to applaud efforts to shine a light on mental illness and de-stigmatize it as much as possible. While the SAMHSA report pointed out how large numbers of people never even seek any treatment for their illnesses, however, it also notes that in nearly three-fourths of mental illness cases, the symptoms do not significantly interfere with a person’s ability to function.

This leads me to ask a somewhat uncomfortable question: Is it actually becoming too easy for people to claim they have a mental illness?

I certainly don’t want to discount anyone’s experience with mental struggles. I just know that in my own life I am deathly afraid of getting to the point where I use my depression as a crutch for everything. “Well, you know, it’s because of my depression…” I mean, I’m already sort of guilty of that now, and I find myself slipping into that defense much too easily. Could, then, these extremely high numbers indicate that maybe some people are confusing some of the normal bumps in the road of life with mental illness?

mental healthIt seems to be more acceptable in this day and age to admit to struggling with a mental illness. I was extremely worried about starting this blog, but I haven’t experienced any noticeable negative effects from it yet. I haven’t noticed anyone shunning me in public or crossing to the other side of the street when they see me. It’s actually opened some doors, in a way. With that in mind, it might be easier for someone who, for instance, isn’t very organized to say, “I think I have Attention Deficit Disorder” or for someone who gets nervous driving to say, “I have anxiety issues.” Is it becoming to easy to attach labels?

There is a certain amount of fighting involved in dealing with mental illness, but there is also a certain amount of fighting involved in just getting through everyday life. I worry when so many people are believing their minds are different from everyone else’s. Everyone has their own issues; that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone has a mental illness. There are definitely those who have issues requiring extra assistance or counseling, but there are also those who are just working through all the things we all have to work through.

Again, I don’t say any of this to diminish anyone’s experiences. Maybe my concern is more personally rooted. I don’t want to reach the point where the illness defines me. I was diagnosed with a form of depression, but I don’t need to have that printed on my business cards. We don’t need to become a nation that believes it’s all messed up in the head. Awareness is one thing; over-acceptance is another.

Always On (The Mask)

One of my great pet peeves in life is when someone can’t hear what I’m saying. In many instances of this, I’m simply not talking loud enough, but I usually feel as if the other person just isn’t listening hard enough. My voice sounds perfectly loud enough to me; why can’t they hear it? Then, when I have to repeat myself, I usually come off as annoyed (which I am), leaving the person listening to wonder, “Man, what’s his problem?”.

The irony of this appears daily in my job: I get paid to talk on the radio, and for some reason, when you put a microphone in front of me, the volume of my voice suddenly jumps to about twice its normal level. Other deejays I work with actually have to turn the mic up after I get off the air because I have to turn it so far down to avoid blasting our listeners’ eardrums out. So, in summary, my voice does not project well in normal conversation, but rings out like a bell when I’m talking on the radio.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this is, and I have come to the following conclusion: When I switch on that microphone, I handsome danbecome an actor. I’m not unique among deejays in this regard. No one wants to hear a mopey voice when they turn on the radio, so deejays (unless some national tragedy has occurred) almost always have to be on. Even if we’re talking about some annoyance or trial in life, we have to deliver in some exaggerated way to hold the listener’s interest. There is no “off” position on the deejay’s power switch.

Of course, anyone who has lived any time at all on the planet Earth knows you can’t be on all the time. Even the most happy, go-lucky people alive have their down days every now and then, so the only way someone like a deejay can project a sense of being in an “up” mood all the time is to act. They laugh, they crack jokes, they talk a little louder than they would when a microphone is not placed in front of them… Anything to keep the illusion going on those days when their kids are sick or their bills are piling up or their favorite relative has just died or their car wouldn’t start that morning.

For a large number of people suffering from depression, this is what life is like every day. They don’t feel like going to work, picking up their kids from school, buying groceries, going to church, or, least of all, talking to anyone. While there are some who literally cannot go about these tasks, the greater majority somehow manage to function in life, and to be able to function in life, a certain amount of composure is required. Therefore, these people become actors in the same way the deejays of the world do; they project a person or an energy that simply isn’t there sometimes.

For many, many years, I believed the tragedy of having to live this way was not being able to be honest about how I felt, and, to a certain extent, that was true. I didn’t have an outlet for what I was feeling, so I would pretend I was fine, occasionally unleashing how I really felt in waves of negativity. I’m not sure what type of reaction I was looking for. I didn’t learn until the last few years that there are actually healthy ways of talking about being depressed.

The old mask, then, is in the process of falling away, while a new and better one is taking its place. The new one doesn’t mean I try to put on a happy face all the time, but it also means I don’t spew negativity from my pores. There are reasons to be up on the down days. Not every bad thing that happens in life is my fault. I don’t feel as fake anymore when I say, “I’m good,” because I actually believe part of me is good (I’m still working on the concept of “the whole thing.”).

So tomorrow morning I’m going to sit behind a soundboard, open up a mic channel, and talk louder than I reasonably need to, all because someone needs to know that there’s a better mask than the one they’ve been wearing. We can all be “on”; we just need to find the switch.

Tuneful Tuesday: Frail

Apparently, “snafu” is a curse word.

snafuWell, it’s not a curse word in itself, but it is an acronym which contains a curse word. I’m not going to spell it out here; a simple Google search will tell you what the individual letters stand for. I was not so lucky as to discover the meaning of each letter through an internet search, however. No, I learned their meaning after I uttered the word on live Christian radio today.

I have been using that word for years and had absolutely no clue it was an acronym. Of course, now that I know, I definitely won’t use it on the radio anymore. What’s interesting to me as I sit here and reflect on my gaffe is that something which meant one thing to me when the day started now means something else as it is ending. The word didn’t change, though; my perception of it did.

Sometimes songs are like that. You go for years thinking a song means one thing, then one day you realize you had one of the words wrong and suddenly it takes on a completely different meaning. Ironically, on the same day I learned what “snafu” really meant, one of these song occurrences happened to me.

I’ve written about Jars of Clay here before, so I’m not going to rehash all that. The group’s second album, Much Afraid, was a bit of a dud for me. It was almost as if after the enormous success of their debut album they were given free rein on their sophomore project, which unfortunately resulted in some over-elaborate production that nearly drowned many of the songs. There are some interesting arrangements on the album, though, including a nearly seven-minute song titled “Frail.”

For years, I believed this song was about someone lamenting their inability to be a good friend. I thought this mainly because I believed the last word of the song was “friend.” Well, it’s actually “frail,” which sort of debunks my theory. I’m stubborn, though, so I’ll probably stick with my version at least a little while longer. Besides, it fits better with how I’m feeling today anyway.

“If I was not so weak/If I was not so cold/If I was not so scared of being broken/Growing old…” It’s a spiritual metaphor in the song, representing why someone can’t submit to God, but aren’t these all attitudes that keep us from being good friends? They’re also attitudes that are incredibly difficult to face in ourselves. Finally, they’re attitudes that require a lot of patience from our friends to put up with.

It’s all about the perceptions. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong. Sometimes we’re not exactly either one, but the hopeful side of me likes to believe things will become clearer over time. That makes the snafus … er, mistakes easier to deal with along the way.

Early Snow

snowLet’s just get something out of the way up front, shall we? I don’t like snow. I’m sure at some point in my life when I was younger I might have enjoyed the white stuff and its ability to get me out of school for a few days a year, but those days are long since gone. Snow means cold. Snow means slick roads. Snow means uncertainty.

I could probably point to some key moments in life which helped shape this attitude. The time my dad drove us straight into a ditch about three-quarters of a mile from our house, which forced us to walk back home on a snow-covered road. The time I slid a car down a snowy embankment because another driver (who did not even stop to see if I was okay) cut me off. All those mornings I had to work while others “just couldn’t make it in.”

Stupid snow.

I could cite all these factors, but they wouldn’t cut to the heart of the issue for me. The bottom line for me is this: Snow scares me. It scares me because I know I’ll have to drive on it. It scares me because I know it can cause power outages. It can cause a run on gasoline and groceries. What annoys me more than anything about it, though, is the fact it causes fear in me at all.

I mean, snow is just basically water. Guys with big trucks plow through it like, well, water. Families with generators or gas logs don’t fear power failures. The better-prepared are stocked up on the essentials. I should be more like those people. Of course, in my mid, every other person on earth besides me is those people.

Now, I’m sure if I really sat down and thought about it, I could think of at least one person I know who has had an automobile accident because of snowy road conditions. I could probably name at least one other family without a generator. I could probably throw a rock and hit at least one house where the pantry isn’t fully stocked before the snowstorm hits.

But I don’t sit down and think about it. I assume I’m the only one who is nervous or scared or unprepared for what’s on the way.

Snow obviously brings out some of my worst comparison traits, but there are other triggers as well. In fact, it would probably be easier to list scenarios that don’t cause me to compare myself to others than to count up all the ones that do. Low self-esteem and comparisons add up to an endless trap. You’ll never be brave enough, prepared enough, or good enough. You’ll always be the only one not ready for winter.

You know what happened today, though? We received an early snowfall of about an inch or so. TheIMG_0099 roads were in good shape, and I drove in to work without a second thought. Then I remembered driving on the ice we had earlier in the year. Then I realized I didn’t wreck then. Then I thought, “Hey, we survived all that.” If you’ll pardon the expression, my thoughts snowballed into something pretty positive.

While snow isn’t always a killer, comparisons definitely are. The struggle to stay inside your own head and experiences and not idealize everyone else is more dangerous than any snowstorm. Snow may scare me, but it’s not nearly as scary as my own thoughts can be.

I Gotta

Have you ever had one of those mornings where all your issues seem to just lay themselves out right before your eyes? It’s like all of a sudden you see exactly what’s going on, and you begin to get a real sense of what is going to be required for you to turn things around. And then you make a fatal mistake by uttering those two terrible words…

“I gotta…”

Think you should be writing more? “I gotta get to work on that book idea…” Should you start bookexercising again? “I gotta get to the gym more often…” Missing old friends? “I gotta start being more sociable…” Thinking about getting the band back together? “I gotta start writing songs again…” Feeling a little far from God? “I gotta start reading my Bible and praying more…”

It’s amazing how two little words can turn something you’re passionate about or something you enjoy doing or something that could truly benefit you into grueling, grinding, miserable work of the most frustrating order. Suddenly, writing becomes a pressure cooker. Staying in touch with friends seems more like a weekly requirement. A relationship with God becomes a guilt-ridden minefield of good intentions gone awry.

It’s always astounded me, the way I’m able to put pressure on myself in a way no one else can or even does. Is there an editor somewhere expecting a manuscript from me by the end of the month? No. Do I need to set a new personal best time for riding my bicycle around my neighborhood because I need to qualify for some competition? No. Most of all, do I even possess the strength within myself to be the kind of Christian I should be?

No.

The problem with being a Christian and “I gotta” is that it flips the teachings of Jesus on their heads. When God puts a motivation on our hearts, what He wants us to do is turn to Him for the strength to do what needs to be done, not to place even more demands on ourselves. Instead of praying about my issues, I begin to obsess over all the things I should be doing more of. So I start putting forth greater effort, only to find I’m almost immediately overwhelmed and utterly depressed by my lack of success.

“I can’t do it,” I say to myself. “I’ve failed … again.”

You know what the only thing I gotta do? Trust God. Rely on His strength, not mine. Stop pressing so hard. Find some joy again in the things I love and stop making everything some sort of competition or deadline. Accept that if I make the attempt He’ll meet me halfway, instead of believing I have to complete the work and then present it to Him.

None of this is optional. I gotta do it.

 

Gray

You do what’s right. If you don’t do what’s right, you’re wrong. Plain and simple.

It sounds like a noble and upright philosophy, doesn’t it? What could possibly be wrong with that? It’s ethical, it’s truthful, it’s, well, right. Good people do good things, bad people do bad things. It’s neat, it’s tidy, and it makes life so much easier to navigate.

Except it doesn’t. Especially if you apply it to yourself.

I only recently stumbled across the term “cognitive distortion.” In short, a cognitive distortion is cognitive-distortionsthe term given to the way our minds can convince us certain things aren’t really true. They’re mostly used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions. We lead ourselves to believe cognitive distortions help us make sense of things, when in reality they usually only serve to make thinking even more difficult for us.

I use the words “us,” “we,” and “our” here to refer to those who have developed cognitive distortions as a result of depression or some other mental illness. Of course, the trick with a cognitive distortion is being able to recognize it, which, ironically, lies at the heart of how such faulty thinking begins in the first place. Whatever distortion is in place just becomes natural over time, so the impetus to correct it starts to disappear. It’s just sort of there.

So I’ve been a guy who believed in justice, in people living out what they say. One of my favorite sayings of all time has been, “If I go out to lunch with you and you’re nice to me but rude to the waiter, you’re a rude person.” The middle ground is where ethics get violated, where virtues get compromised, where hypocrites breed. There can be no gray area; life is black and white.

This particular cognitive distortion, I’ve come to find out, is known as polarized thinking. It’s a tricky one, because it seems so well-meaning on the surface. In reality, though, it’s a sure-fire recipe for perfectionism. If I expect this high of a standard in others, I should expect it in myself as well. If I think John Doe is a bad guy because he says cuss words, I’d better not be saying them either. Doesn’t matter if John Doe does a hundred other good things every day; I’ve honed in on a negative entrenched within the positives. Likewise, my positive traits never outweigh my negatives. One dark blot corrupts the entire picture.

The-Perfectionists-Guide-to-Results-LoI’ve always believed in absolutes. I believed I could separate the bad bosses from the good ones by whether or not they hosed their employees. Notice I didn’t use the word consistently, though. I could separate the hypocrites from the real Christians by how badly they sinned. Notice I didn’t take repentance into consideration. This was how I was going to live with integrity and virtue.

The only problem was I left myself no room to fail. I either failed or I succeeded; there was no middle ground. I took scriptures from the Bible that talked about how if even a small part of the law was broken the whole thing was, and I magnified them one-hundred-fold. I either did everything right or I failed utterly. I judged my performances so harshly that eventually the negative connotations began to seep into my soul.

I’m not just doing things wrong. I am wrong.

I’ve been challenged lately to break this pattern of thinking, but it’s so ingrained in me. I’m petrified someone is going to see the “real” me, the one who not only isn’t perfect but is actually pretty despicable a lot of the time. I keep hearing that the things I find so unappealing about myself are pretty common in most guys, but I don’t believe it. They couldn’t be as bad as me, could they?

It’s been a long day, and I plan on writing more about this in the future. I’d like to close with a little revelation I had just this week about the level of righteousness God expects of us.

In Matthew 5:20, Jesus says that “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This verse has terrified me for years, because I’m not even close to that level. For some reason this week, though, I saw this verse in a different light. Jesus was constantly critical of the scribes and pharisees for attempting to display a level of righteousness they hadn’t truly attained. The only way to achieve true righteousness would be through Christ, and that could only happen by admitting sin and weakness, not by touting strength.

I’m imperfect. I don’t always get it right, but I don’t always get it wrong either. I’m gray, and I have a feeling you probably are, too.