3 Tips on Being a Decent Citizen of the Internet

The internet, and consequently, social media, is feeling very political these days (except for you, Pinterest–keep being you). This makes sense because even if the strangest election in our lifetimes wasn’t creeping slowly nearer, there are still huge social and political discussions going on. “Black lives matter!” “What about police lives?” “What about….” on and on it goes. Everyone has an opinion on something, and we all feel very inclined to share the pieces of wisdom we believe we have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I think social media is a great way to share ideas and engage in these difficult conversations. It’s certainly more productive than binge-watching tv on Netflix, even if it’s not quite as relaxing. And while I don’t condemn stating your unfiltered opinion, I do have a few ideas for ways we can all do this whole thing better.

This is not an exhaustive list. Some things should be common sense (for example: don’t insult people on the internet; that’s just rude), and I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting and ways that I have violated these. I’m not an expert, guys. These are merely the things that have been resonating with me during the past few weeks.

  1. Be critical.

    This one is more on the common sense side, but it deserves to be said because people forget it a lot. You really shouldn’t just accept everything anyone says, even if you greatly respect that person. Try to fact check as much as possible, but only when those facts are an important part of what someone is saying. If the facts are not important, then you’re just being nit-picky and obnoxious. But it’s important to at least consult the facts, even though it’s not necessarily an easy thing to do.

    For example, I was going to write a blog post a month or so ago about why I’m a vegetarian (well, technically I’m a pescetarian, but that’s not crucial). I was going to talk about the environmental impacts of eating meat, and I wanted to give you all correct information. So I started reading up about it, but I became so overwhelmed by all the conflicting information that I just stopped. If I wanted to, I could have cited the articles that agreed with me, but I didn’t because I want to give the full picture instead of spreading my half-formed ideas. To this day I have not done enough research on that issue for me to comfortably cite that as a reason for my vegetarianism. I’ll get back to you when I’ve done more research.

    Another big part of this is checking your sources. I went through a phase where I would only accept articles written in the last five years as truth (I got into the habit because I had regular assignments at school that had us do this). And while I now think that’s a bit extreme, it still goes to show that the more recent something has been written, the more accurate it will be. And maybe Dr. Leslie’s article that cites her facts is more trustworthy than Billy’s tumblr post. Maybe. You get the point.

  1. Read articles you disagree with.
    This sort of goes along with the first tip, but I think it’s so important that it can stand on its own. Part of being critical lies in getting the unbiased facts, and since it’s difficult to get a truly unbiased article, it’s better to read completely biased articles but on both sides of the issue (plus the few random angles that people don’t talk about much but are important nonetheless). It’s just a really good practice, because it stretches your mind to think in ways you hadn’t before.

    Also, if you’re not willing to read an article you don’t agree with because it makes you nervous and defensive, it’s likely you’re standing on a castle of sand. If you’re right, then your belief will stand firm in the face of criticism, and if you’re not, then isn’t better that you’re now on the path to knowing the truth? There’s nothing to lose by doing this.

    Not only this, but I think a big missing link in these online discussions is empathy. From a debating perspective, getting inside your opponent’s head will help you know how to argue with them, so that’s something. But on a basic human level, empathy is hugely important. Maybe you can’t fathom why your neighbor supports Donald Trump, or the thought that your friend supports Hillary Clinton makes your head spin. But they are still people, and they believe those things for a reason. Maybe they don’t have good reasons, but they still have that opinion, and that opinion shouldn’t just be cast aside like a used sweater. When you discredit a person’s feelings and beliefs without at least attempting to understand where they are coming from, you are discrediting them as a feeling, reasoning human being, and no one deserves that. Like I said before, their reasons may be the worst in the world, but at least take the time to listen and then gently, but firmly state your case. It’s just human decency, folks.

  2. Recognize where you may be part of the problem. This part has a specific inspiration that my other tips didn’t have, but it distills down to something completely related to this post: for goodness’ sake, don’t act like you know everything. Because you don’t. So don’t delude yourself or act like an arrogant pig, making the internet lives of everyone around you worse. Chances are, you’re not an expert on the issue you’re talking about, and even if you are, you can never know the full truth.

    The specific inspiration for this post lies in the recent conversation on racial relations in our country. One of the most cogent arguments that I read was written by Karina B. Heart, a white woman who is the mother of bi-racial children. The most convicting, valuable piece of her eloquent words was when she basically said that we are all a little racist, that we all hold at least a small piece of this filthiness in our hearts. It’s not enough to blame your outwardly racist family or friends–we all have to seek it out, recognize it in our behaviors, and eradicate it as well as we can. Legislation might change some things, but we need cultural change to have true racial reconciliation, and that starts in each of us.

    And this isn’t just about racism. This is about all the problems of the world. We cannot be content merely to point the finger at other people when we haven’t examined our own hearts or done anything to change it. And that’s hard. I’m feeling convicted as I write this. But it needs to be said. None of us are good people, as much as we’d like to believe that we are. And man, I am not doing this point justice, but…if we can get it through our heads to be critical of ourselves first and foremost and encourage others to do the same, who knows what kind of change will ensue?

I suppose what this all boils down to is the fact that I get really frustrated when people on the internet and social media are arrogant and won’t listen to views that they disagree with. When they don’t have the human kindness to stop condemning and think of how someone else might be viewing their words. And like I said, I have made these mistakes as well. I have been arrogant and foolish on the Internet. And I am not proud of that at all. So I think we all have room to grow in this, right? So at least we can be comforted in that. We can use social media to create positive change in our world. We can use it to educate each other on important issues. Every day I find something on social media that I find informative or helpful. Let’s strive to use it in these ways and learn from each other.

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Hi, my name is Privileged

Last December, I had the amazing opportunity to go to InterVarsity’s missions conference called Urbana (though it doesn’t take place in Urbana, IL anymore). And while I would love to tell you about all the incredible things I learned there, today I only want to talk about a specific issue: privilege and racial relations in the US.

Let me start by saying that I am not an expert on this topic by any means, so I will speak only on what I feel I have authority to speak on. But I can’t be silent. Because people are dying. And I know that me writing these few hundred words won’t do much, but I can’t just sit back, not talk about it, and not care about this. Michelle Higgins fiercely asserted at the conference, “Inactivism is not hate. But it is not love.”

Privilege. It’s a nasty thing, and extraordinarily tricky. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but privilege gifts blindness to those who have it. It’s like covering a dead body with perfume in hopes that that will mask the putrid smell of death.Here’s an example. Two weeks ago, a black woman was shot and killed by police in San Francisco, and I only know that because I went looking for it. Did I see anything on facebook, anything on twitter? No. Because it’s not an issue I personally deal with, I didn’t even know it happened.

We fiercely, continuously spray the perfume on. When dozens of Europeans are killed, we all publicly mourn, but when almost the exact same number of people are killed in Turkey a week before, no one bats an eye. Except for the people who care about Turkey, me being one of them. But I’m totally in the wrong here too. I care about Turkey because I was born there, and I lived there, not because I intentionally sought out the problems of the rest of the world. I am not good at keeping up with the global problems. I prefer to shield my eyes and only read about bacteria, social issues, and theology. I used to blame the problem on the media covering the sympathetic issues more, but it’s also me. The bombings in Turkey were an eye-opening experience for me, because it showed me how I only care about the people and places that are close to my heart. And man, is that uncomfortable.

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Colonial Williamsburg is such a quaint, charming place before you stop to think about how much injustice occurred there.

I want to say that black suffering in our country is not my story. And in most senses, it’s not. I am not the one who has to worry that my skin color will keep me from getting a job when I am completely qualified. I am not the one who has to worry about my little brother being sentenced to death (whether intentionally or not) because of our skin color. That is not my story, and it is not my place to come in and tell you that story. My story is one of privilege. I almost certainly don’t know the depths of my privilege. My story is that my ancestors came to this country on the Mayflower (I’m so white; I know!), almost certainly abused the Native Americans who already lived here, and later slaves from Africa and the West Indies, all people with families, hopes, and dreams. The role of the persecutor is in my blood, and that is painful to think about. Of course I am not defined by what my ancestors did, but it is still feeds into of the privilege that is a part of my story.

Systematic racism exists in our country today. I’m not saying that because I myself have judged it to be so, but because I have listened to the stories of people who have faced injustice and discrimination. So, let’s all decide to take the blindfolds off, to stop using our privilege as an excuse for ignorance. Don’t say what is or isn’t racist when you haven’t checked the privilege that is clouding your view. It’s not your story, so learn to be comfortable in your ignorance (and strive to educate yourself, of course–my point is that you will never be completely knowledgeable on this, because you don’t have to live through it). Learn to be comfortable in what makes you uncomfortable instead of in complacency. I started this blog post a week ago, but I’ve refrained from posting it because of how uncomfortable it makes me. But I’m finally posting it because it’s important to talk about this.

So we’re privileged. Now what? Now we listen. Now we learn. There’s so much for us to learn, to just pay attention to in the first place. It’s interesting because in December of 2014 I wrote a post pretty similar to this one, saying: “I have privilege, I don’t pay attention to racial relations, I should listen, etc.” But I didn’t do a good job with that. I didn’t seek out opportunities to learn more, and I became comfortable with complacency. So hopefully I’ll do better this time. I actually think I already am making progress, which is exciting. Either way, I’ve done enough talking.

An Open Letter to the Loudoun County School Board

*For those of you who don’t know, Loudoun County, the county I essentially grew up in, is1463585_848223821855895_8269696314325443692_n strongly considering enacting a plan to rezone elementary schools in Leesburg by neighborhoods. At first glance, this seems logical, giving students shorter bus rides and whatnot, but it will result in a highly stratified system for elementary schools, which is what I take issue with here. This is a copy of the email I sent to the School Board, and I decided to publish it here as well in order to publicize my critique. If you feel strongly about this as well, send an email to the School Board at lcsb@lcps.org before March 29th, because that’s when they’ll vote on the rezoning plans! Without further ado, here is my open letter:

Dear members of the Loudoun County School Board,

My name is Brianna Meeks. I am a former student of the Loudoun County public schools. I graduated in 2014, and I now go to the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA. Northern Virginia, Loudoun County included, has quite a strong representation at William & Mary, and thus, people have created a stereotype for “NoVa” students: mainly, that we are all wealthy. While this stereotype fits many of the Northern Virginia residents, I do not believe it is the best stereotype. I believe that the most accurate statement that can be made of a Northern Virginia resident is that that student almost certainly went to a good school. I am impressed with the quality of my education in public schools in Loudoun County. I was able to attend the Academy of Science, do theatre and choir, and truly thrive while I was in the Loudoun County public school system, which has helped me to thrive here at William & Mary.

Plan 12 is a disgrace to the superior education I received in the Loudoun school system. This is segregation in today’s world, and I am shocked that such a plan could hold weight among a respected group of people as yourselves. Every child deserves the right to an excellent education, an education like the one I got, an education that Loudoun County can give them if you do not rezone based on neighborhoods. If you are making this decision purely for the ease of zoning in the future, then I respect that. However, to zone based on neighborhoods means to zone based on socioeconomic status and race. Making logistics simpler in the future may be a noble goal, but we cannot do so when the result is segregation. We cannot do so at the expense of the education of these children.

Not only are these students at a disadvantage economically and from a lack of proficiency with the English language; now you want to increase their setbacks in life. With society as a whole conspiring against them, the one thing disadvantaged students can count on to give them a chance to reach their full potential in life is a quality education. This plan would take that away, and I am ashamed of that. This plan sets up these students to fail from the beginning, and that is an injustice to them. This plan tells them that they are worth less than students who come from families with privilege, which, frankly, is despicable.

Furthermore, every student should have the opportunity to learn alongside students who are different from them. Diverse environments promote empathy, and empathy is one of the most valuable lessons a person could receive in an increasingly cruel world. Separating the disadvantaged from the advantaged not only severely hurts the disadvantaged, as I have mentioned, but it also steals an extremely valuable opportunity away from the advantaged and thus, hurts them as well. Just as sexism hurts men as well as women, so any form of discrimination hurts all people. If you do not have the empathy to care for the low-income and ELL students, care at least for the chance for your own children.

You are masking this plan under the guise of simplicity of zoning, to reduce the amount of changes that will be made in the future. I want to believe that you have pure motives, but I am forced to be skeptical. You as a board are not diverse at all, and you may not even be aware of the privilege you and your children have. Privilege affords blindness to those who have it, and it is time that those of us who do have it to look critically at the ease with which we can succeed and the difficulties we may never have to face. Maybe you are not explicitly xenophobic, but we all have implicit biases. This issue really comes down to racism, classism, and xenophobia. But diversity is not a weakness; it is a strength. We should not be afraid of differences but rather welcome them with open arms.

Thank you,

Brianna Meeks

The Time I Almost Got Cancer

Disclaimer: this story has a happy ending, so don’t worry. It’ll be okay.

Once upon a time (actually the time was a few days before Thanksgiving break), I was chatting with a friend in my room. For some unfathomable reason, I decided to touch my back. “Huh, this feels like blood.”  Sure enough, it is blood. My mole is bleeding. So I get a paper towel and stop the bleeding and continue chatting. But I decide to google bleeding mole, because you always want to find out if you’re dying even when one tiny thing is wrong with you. And the google homepage is covered in “melanoma.” Okay. That puts a damper on things. It’s not like, “Oh you have a headache, and that could just be a headache or twenty million other things, including some rare disease that no one’s heard of.” We’ve all fallen prey to WebMD scare. But this was different. It seemed like this cancer could actually be real.

So I get home for break and call the dermatologist to get my mole looked at. Because I’m only home from college for a week, I don’t have time to see her that break. My appointment is scheduled for the 20th of December. That day rolls around, and I get a call that the dermatologist has a personal emergency or something, so I have to reschedule to the 13th of January. The day before I take a train ride back to Williamsburg. That day rolls around, and they see me, and the mole is just slightly concerning, so they take a biopsy (luckily I could get it that day). And then I go back to school, knowing that I don’t definitely know that I don’t have cancer (sorry for those of you who hate double negatives; this was just the most accurate way to say this) and that I should hear back in a week.

A week rolls around, and I call them. They haven’t gotten my results. I’m anxious and distracted, so I try to distract myself as much as possible, and that sort of works.

And then the snow comes. And in Northern Virginia, there was a ton of snow. So naturally, their office is closed that Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Now it’s Tuesday, and I call them. They have my results, but they need to be processed. Tuesday was my worst day. Tuesday was the day that I realized that I didn’t really know how to deal with this, that I needed to actually tell people that “cancer” could become a familiar word on my lips. I hadn’t told people because I didn’t want to make it a problem, but by doing so, I made it even more of a problem. Tuesday was rough.

And then it’s Wednesday, and I call and leave a message. I’ve memorized my story by this point. It’s also officially been two weeks since I had my biopsy, and I’m more annoyed than anxious (though I’m still anxious) at this point. I just want to know.

Thursday rolls around, and I call them. They have my results, but apparently the person I’m talking to can’t view them, so I should get a call by the end of the day or first thing the next day.

It’s Friday. I do not get a call first thing in the morning. I call around 10:30. Again, the person I’m talking to can’t read my results. But she puts me on hold and gets them. It’s a normal mole. Everything is fine. I hang up, and the tears come. I wasn’t expecting to cry at finding out I don’t have cancer, but that’s what happened.

Yay! Happy endings! Yay for finally knowing what’s happening with my body after two months of having a question mark hanging over my head! It was a wild, anxiety-ridden ride. And as awful as it was, I did get some good things out of it.

Well, mostly just one good thing. This experience was a twisted mirror that really showed me how I don’t handle painful things well, how not telling people things hurts me. And even the people I did tell I didn’t allow to see me when I was actually anxious, either because talking to people made me think of it less or because I was repressing emotions that much. So I need to work on the sharing department. And I feel like a hypocrite because I’ve definitely written about being vulnerable with people, but I’m so bad at it. I think I’ve gotten better at being vulnerable, both with my friends and on this blog. I really learned that I need to be okay with showing people that I’m weak and allowing myself to actually feel things instead of pretending my own feelings don’t exist.

So let me tell you (while I tell myself this): it’s okay to feel things. They may feel ugly, but

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I’m done with walking on eggshells. Photo credit: Tara Meeks.

your feelings are valid, regardless of what you’re going through. You may say, “But hey, I’m just stressed about my grades. I don’t have a life-changing disease. I shouldn’t feel this bad!” And you know, it is important to have perspective, especially if you’re just putting yourself in a bad mood and throwing yourself a constant pity party. Sometimes you do just need to get over yourself (trust me, I’ve been there). But it’s okay to feel sad or angry or hopeless or confused, even when you know other people have it worse. Your experience, your feelings are legitimate. And it really is good to be vulnerable with people. Every time I am, I’m so glad I did, even though I fight against it tremendously. Vulnerability breaks down the barriers we put between us and other people. It leads the way to let us be our genuine selves.

I’ve been thinking about what I’m trying to accomplish with this blog. And maybe the only thing I can do on this blog is bring up difficult subjects so that we can all talk about them more, or maybe it’ll just be talking to the air. But I will be that person. So this is the story of when I was afraid I had cancer.

Epylle Spydre

Every Precious Story

I’m going to talk about politics today. Wow. Crazy, right? Miss “Let’s All Just Get Along” wants to speak about one of the most divisive topics: politics, specifically abortion.

I can almost always see every side to a debate. That’s probably because I value harmony so much, or maybe because I have difficulty making up my mind. I dunno. But with most debates, I see both sides, and then I struggle to make a decision until I see a way to unite them. So it is with this issue. On one side, I see many of my Christian brothers and sisters fighting for the beautiful, valuable lives of the unborn (they’re not always Christians, but Christians are the most vocal in this demographic). On the other side, I see most of my progressive classmates fighting for the importance of choice and the health of the beautiful, valuable women who make that choice. I have a foot in both pastures, but I’m not here because I can’t decide. I am here because I think that there is, in fact, a way to balance both.

I think every life has value. I know I’ve already said that, but I do. I think every life deserves a second chance and that every person can do beautiful things. I want all of those lives to be lived out to the fullest. So I think that every abortion is a tragedy. I think God cries for the unborn children, as do so many who are burdened for them. I think it’s foolish to believe that life starts having value at a certain point in time. From the moment the egg is fertilized, there is life and the potential for a beautiful human soul to walk upon the beautiful earth we call home. Life is sacred, and it deserves to be preserved.

But I don’t think banning abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood are the ways to do that. You can ban abortion, but that won’t stop people from getting abortions. It will probably reduce the number of people getting abortions, but it won’t stop them entirely. And if they do it when it’s illegal, it will probably be much more difficult, dangerous, and maybe even more expensive for them. And if there’s anything we want less than abortions, it’s abortions that are also putting the life of the mother in danger. GUYS. THIS IS HUGE. The problem is not merely that it is legal for women to have abortions. It’s that women feel the need to have abortions in the first place.

The woman who can barely feed the children she already has will feel like she has no choice but to terminate the life of the child inside her. To her, that is more merciful. And that’s tragic. That shouldn’t be the only choice for her. And to solve her problem by simply banning or allowing all abortions is incredibly reductive. I think we can do better than that. Her nuanced, multifaceted problem should not be solved by a single, simple law, but rather with a series of specific, intentional reforms that give her life and the life she carries the dignity they both hold. And yeah, maybe we won’t be able to do all of these things. But we can still try.

So what are some of the problems? Unplanned pregnancy is definitely one. I think there should be better sex education and more access to contraceptives that reduces the number of unplanned pregnancies. What else can we do? Oh, how about rape? Maybe, just maybe (please note the sarcasm), men should stop raping women, which can cause emotionally charged and painful unplanned pregnancies. The objectification of women is a whole other issue that you can read about elsewhere on the internet (not saying it’s not important; it’s just a big topic that I don’t want to get into at the moment but that other people have gotten into. I also want to emphasize that it’s not just women who are raped, but that’s what’s mostly relevant to this discussion.).

Another question: why don’t more people go through with pregnancies and give their child up for adoption? Because society isn’t very helpful to women who are pregnant. I think there should be better health practices that make every pregnancy and birth as safe as possible for every woman, so that health is not a concern with going through538317_293248474104546_166862026_n with a pregnancy. I think society should care for every child that needs a home, whether through adoption or through the foster care system. I think maternity (and paternity) leave should be something employers do more so that it’s easier for a woman not to be anxious about expenses when she’s pregnant. Wow, guys. Treating women like they’re valuable both to do work and to carry life are such crazy concepts, but maybe we’ll get on board eventually.

I also think we should reduce the stigma that women face, whether it’s for pregnancy out of wedlock or for the women who do end up having abortions. Because sometimes, abortion does end up being the best, most merciful option. And we shouldn’t silence those who make that choice. They still have value and worth, and though we may be saddened at the life lost, we cannot do so at the expense of the woman who is standing in front of us. We should be less quick to judge and more eager to listen to each person’s individual story. Fred Allen (don’t really know who he is; I just found this quote in a book) said that “A human being is nothing but a story with skin around it.” Let’s listen to each other’s stories. They are truly gorgeous stories.

In conclusion I suppose I am both pro-choice (more like pro-all-the-choices) and pro-life, as in pro-every-life. I want to reduce the number of abortions happening, even, make this phenomenon disappear entirely, but I want us to recognize that it’s a complicated issue. I think women should have the viable option to choose life. Because life is beautiful, and we all have beautiful stories to tell.

Epylle Spydre

p.s. Here’s the excellent article talking about this issue from a feminist perspective that first sparked the thoughts that went into this post. And here’s another article that is more a critique specifically of the church’s involvement in the pro-life discussion, urging us to consider the full implications of what it means to protest abortion. These are both golden, so please read them.

p.p.s. I am almost certain there are aspects of this that I am forgetting. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you disagree with me? Let’s talk about it, friends!

Edit: 1/22/16 I changed the wording of one phrase in the fourth paragraph to specifically be about the legality of abortion. I also added the second sentence in the last paragraph before my signature on this date.

A Prayer for the Beloved

I feel like I’ve been surrounded by death recently. On the smaller side of things, last week, my family decided that our guinea pig would be better off not in pain, and we put her down. Then on Monday, we heard news of the third suicide at my college this year. And today, we cry with the family and friends of the 32 people at Virginia Tech who were killed in 2007. It’s also Holocaust Remembrance Day, so there’s that.

I never met Paul Soutter, the young man who committed suicide, but I’ve been to his high school, and I saw him in two shows this year. After the second show, I would recognize him in the dining halls by his bright, strawberry blonde hair. And that’s the closest I’ve been to someone who committed suicide, and I earnestly hope that is the closest I ever get. Since his death, there has been a campus wide discussion about stress, mental health, and suicide. And it’s good that we’re having this discussion. It’s just sad that it took 3 suicides in a year for us to get this desperate and really start talking about it. And I’ve been watching on, not sure what to say or do. I’m not an expert on anything but I will tell you what I do know.

Hello, darling. Hello, beautiful. To whoever is reading this, you are worth so much. Please don’t ever think that you can’t do anything in the world or that no one appreciates your presence. You are a work of art, a breathing poem. And that’s not that you merely have the potential be a work of art if you work harder or do more good deeds or whatever. You are beautiful and precious and incredible right now. Yes, it’s true, you can become so much. And I hope to see the even more gorgeous, accomplished person you become. But you don’t need that to affirm your worth. You don’t need to get certain grades or hold a certain number of leadership positions or be recognized to be worth the time of those around you. You have passions and pet peeves and talents and things you can’t stand to talk about, and that is so wonderful. You are wonderful. You are unique, and you are beautiful. You are not alone. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel pain. You are precious and loved and so, so worth it.

Even without knowing the people who have taken their own lives, I am struck by all the pain there is. The pain they must have felt. The pain their friends and family and acquaintances feel, especially for these people. Because I know that if I was in that position, my automatic emotional response would be that of intense regret at not having done something to change the outcome. But it’s not your fault. Please, please do not blame yourself. And I know that’s super hypocritical of me to say, but maybe if I’m ever in your position, you’ll be able to tell me that too. And in response to all the pain, I’m going to do something that I don’t think I’ve ever done on my blog before. I’m going to write my prayer.

God, I pray for everyone who feels like they are overwhelmed by life right now, who feel in bondage. Bondage to a mental health disorder or to the stress of school or to their regrets or family problems. You see these people. You know them intimately, far more than I can ever know them. And you love them.
I know you are a God who heals. You love to see your little children unrestrained by pain and loss, living in the freedom that you so generously give us. You don’t get rid of pain altogether, and we don’t always know why. Maybe because sometimes it’s healthy to acknowledge pain. Maybe sometimes we need to see you work through our pain.  But you do heal. I’ve seen it before, and I am confident I will see it many more times before I die. I have faith in that. God, heal someone, even if it’s a small healing, just letting someone know they’re not alone or affirming their worth; move today. Even to the people who feel like they’re okay or that they’ve got everything figured out. You see their hidden pains, the ones they repress and ignore. Encourage your children and show them that you are the Father who Loves, freely and perfectly. Thank you that you are so much bigger than us and that you put us in the right place at the right time, even if we do not understand. There is so much pain in the world, today and every day, but you are bigger than the pain. Amen. 

20140802_132201“Are not 5 sparrows sold for 2 pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs on your head are numbered. Do not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Luke  12:6-7

p.s. If you’d like individual prayer or just want to talk about essentially anything, please, please, please let me know!

What’s Happening to Conversation?

You know, I was sitting at my computer, reading the blog posts of other people and hoping to be inspired. I just sat, listening to music and letting possible first sentence after possible first sentence float through my head, only to discard them all. I definitely felt something, if only the urge to write, and then the conscious thought came to mind, “But I don’t know what I feel.” And then I knew exactly what I was going to write about.

I went to a nerd school for 4 years, and I’m going to one now. I’ve been surrounded by smart, interesting people for a while now, and I hope to do so in all my years to come. And I love it. But there’s one thing that’s been bothering me about this. I’m actually surprised I haven’t already written about it. You see, there’s a very subtle peer pressure that’s particularly common among people like this. I’m not talking about the pressure to get all As or to stay fit (those do exist, though they’re hardly subtle). No, I am speaking of the pressure to always have an opinion.

It just bothers me. I feel that I must have an opinion about everything to be considered interesting or sometimes even deserving of the attention of other interesting people. I need to know what I believe about gay rights, feminism, racism, and every other hot button issue out there, and I need to be able to articulate that opinion well. And yeah, like the pressure to do well in school or stay fit, it definitely has positive sides to it: it challenges me to stay informed on the status of the world and to be critical where I might otherwise overlook minor flaws. And those are really good things for me. But I still have a problem with the culture that sometimes overlooks me because I haven’t thought of something before or because I feel incredibly conflicted on an issue. I don’t think people should be valued just based on what they say, regardless of how intelligent they sound.

Because that’s what the emphasis is on: speaking your mind. It’s all about the talk.  There’s not as much value for listening or even asking good questions. It’s a very self-centered way to think about communicating, even if you happen to be speaking passionately on behalf of other people. There’s no room for the humility that comes with saying “I don’t know.”

Now, I’m not saying everyone is like this. In fact, in most small groups, I don’t notice it at all. But I do see times when it seems like conversation is really just a competition of who knows the most obscure facts or an excuse to sound really smart. But hey, that’s not what conversation is supposed to be about. Conversation is supposed to be about connecting with other people. It can totally happen over stimulating topics that challenge the people involved to think and apply and speak well. But it can also happen over silly things like Disney movies or cute puppies and/or babies you’ve seen or even sports *gasp*. Conversation should be a safe space for people to really interact and not worry about whether they sound intelligent or are interesting enough to hold the other’s attention.

Don’t let social pressures tell you lies. You are interesting; you truly are, even if you don’t think you are. You are a human being, and that automatically makes you beautiful and complicated and intriguing. Don’t ever forget that.

Epylle Spydre