Category Archives: Social Commentary

The Lost Art of Being Real

Back in the day, “Keeping it real” was a popular phrase used in hip-hop culture. It was about being genuine to who you are and The Lost Art of Being Realwhere you’re from. Keeping it real wasn’t always the best etiquette and tact at times, but it beat the dreaded alternative: being phony.

Unfortunately, it seems keeping it real is a thing of the past in today’s society, largely due to virtual profiles we create via social media.

With the hundreds, if not thousands, of social media networks out there, we dive deeper and deeper into creating profiles, posts, and fake images of ourselves. It’s not that what we post for public consumption isn’t true, it’s just incomplete.

I was conversing with a friend recently about how Facebook posts present false images. People only post the best things about their lives: cool vacations, new outfits, new cars, cute kids, and delicious-looking meals. They leave out the photos and statuses of when they are sitting at home alone, can no longer fit into those jeans, when the car breaks down, when the kids are driving them crazy, and when they burned the meatloaf.

The truth is, the latter happens more than we let on. And that’s just reality. But we don’t keep it real anymore. We want our lives perceived as perfect.

This causes a few problems, but primarily it tickles our tendency to compare ourselves with others. We look at the selfies, vacation photos, and plates full of food and think we’re missing something in life. We think our lives are not as great as those on our friends list. But as Pastor Steven Furtick once said, we should never “compare our behind the scenes footage to other people’s highlight reels.”

Essentially, we tend to compare those perfect things people post to the most imperfect things in our lives. The things that most people wouldn’t dare to post, but we are all experience.

Debt.

Family conflict.

Marriage problems.

Work stress.

Health issues.

Loneliness.

Insecurity.

Nobody’s posting an Instagram photo of that rash on their leg. Nobody’s taking a selfie when their hair is jacked up. Nobody’s tweeting when their spouse won’t sleep in the bed with them.Lost Art of Keeping it real

Now, I’m not saying that we should publish all the negative, private, and frustrating things about our lives (because honestly, some of us need to chill on sharing all our drama with the world). I just believe we shouldn’t be focused on creating a flawless public image of ourselves.

The reality is, we have plenty of issues. And when we’re brave enough to open up and admit it, we realize others are experiencing the same problems and have the same imperfections.

The most tragic thing is that practice of putting only the best image forward plays out not just virtually, but in public, particularly in the place where people should be most free to keep it real – the church.

Unfortunately, in the place we need refuge and should be able to openly share our weaknesses, we find ourselves being more fake than ever. God forbid someone in our congregation finds out we struggle with self-confidence, fear, lust, doubt, insecurity, pride, etc. It’s not like 99% of the people, including the pastors, aren’t dealing with or haven’t dealt with the same issues. And that’s just my personal list of issues. I’m sure you could add your own.

It’s time for a reality check. What type of image are you portraying? Is it authentic, or are you just trying to make your life look awesome to others? The whole you is much more beautiful and much more admirable than just the “best” you. Let’s go back to keeping it real.

 

“Authenticity is a collection of choices we make every day. It’s the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” – Brene Brown

 

 

 

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You Have All You Need

The older I get, the more I understand the importance of relationships and the more I learn to appreciate them. Plain and simple: we need each other.

It seems like an obvious concept, but putting it into practice isn’t friendshipeasy because we often take people for granted. We take the time we have with people for granted. We take the bonds we have – whether in marriage, family, friendship, church fellowship, or work – for granted. I don’t believe it’s because we’re horrible people who don’t give a damn about others. It’s because we are constantly drawn away from community in our culture.

Every day we are bombarded with marketing messages that push us toward self-gratification and indulgence. We’re told that you deserve this or that. Or this is how you get ahead (everything is a competition it seems). Or your life will be miserable and incomplete unless you get this car, this smartphone, or try this diet.

It’s easy to get caught up in the mind-set that we need things to satisfy us. We feel if we just get the promotion…if we just get into that university…if we just get that home…or if we can move to that city…if we just get a different job, then life will be great. We are driven and programmed to think that way because we are constantly lied to, both by the media and Satan, that we are not happy. That we don’t have enough.

The truth is we have everything we need. I saw a Facebook post from Joel Osteen the other day that spoke to this:

“Psalm 34 says, ‘Those who trust in the Lord will never lack any good thing.’ This means if you don’t have it right now, you don’t need it right now. Our attitude should be: ‘I’m equipped, empowered and anointed for this moment. I am not lacking, shortchanged or inadequate. I have what I need for today.'”

Obviously the Word is quite different from the messages we hear and see each day.

So what does this have to do with relationships? I believe how God equips us for each moment, season, and challenge in life is with each other. We are the answer to each other’s’ prayers. While the culture and media push us toward things, God pushes us toward each other.

I think of Jesus’ life. Obviously He wasn’t caught up in things, but He was obsessed with people. He always was teaching, eating, conversing, walking, and talking with people. Even when He isolated Himself, it was to spend intimate prayer time with His Father.

We are made for community. A couple of weeks ago, I spent quality time with friends on a retreat. It was so refreshing – yes, to get away from my regular routine – but mainly because of the people I was with.

Time with friends and family is golden.

As seasons in our lives end – whether we move to a new city, change jobs, graduate college, or get to the end of life – we don’t miss the car we drove, the house we lived in, the place we worked, or the area we lived so much. We miss the people we experienced life with. We miss the bonds we had.

So while you may feel you’re lacking in an area of life – whether it’s because you’re single, unemployed, unhappily employed, or just experiencing general discontent – I challenge to look around you, not at things but at the people in your life. Even if your true friends are few, you have all you need for this moment in life. Enjoy it. Enjoy them.

 

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Press Re-set on 2015

So we’re almost a third of the way through 2015, and if you live in the northeast like me, you’re thanking God that it’s finally spring after the longest, coldest winter since Washington hunkered down at Valley Forge.Press Re-set on 2015

While we can celebrate by finally wearing short-sleeves and chilling outside, it’s also time to reflect on how our year is going and if we’re living the theme or goals we proclaimed back in January.

Hopefully you’re on track to reach the goals, but even if your life has gotten off track, there’s still time. That’s right, who says starting over is relegated to the turn of the calendar? Every day is a day that never happened before—ever. Each day is a fresh start, sort of like the new year.

We don’t think of it that way because we get caught up in the routine where one day seems no different than the last. Even the start of a new week feels static.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You don’t have to let a calendar dictate your progress. You can have a fresh start now. You can set new goals and a new vision starting today.

Maybe the year hasn’t gone as you hoped it would. Maybe you’ve experienced heartbreak, a setback in your health or finances, loss of a loved one, or disappointment. Maybe those goals you set at the beginning of the year appear impossible now.

Sure, the first few months of the year haven’t gotten off to a good start, but today is a new day…and so is tomorrow.

Each new day offers an abundance of possibilities. An abundance of opportunities. It’s all in how you look at it.

Sure, your circumstances may still be the same, but your mind-set and attitude can be completely different. And how you think determines how you feel.

I’ve come to realize our thoughts and decisions can determine our mood. As a friend once told me, “Being in a good mood is a choice.” Circumstances don’t control your thoughts, you do. They can influence them, but you determine how much influence they have.

So today can be different. You can start your year over today. Inject new hope, new life, and new optimism into your life.

Today is nothing like yesterday. It’s completely different. It’s your new year. So pop some Champagne, forget the past few months, and look ahead with hope and happiness. You can press re-set on 2015.

 “…one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” – Phil. 3:13

 

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Live Simply, Love Lavishly

I’ve never had a problem trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” that old saying about comparing yourself with your neighbors’ social status and material possessions. But recently I noticed I’ve been trying to keep up in another neighborhood—Twitter.Live Simply, Love Lavishly

It’s not that I’m trying to reach a benchmark for followers or get a certain amount of retweets on a post. I’ve just gotten too caught up in this trend of having a personal brand.

Personal brand has become a buzz word in recent years and everyone—whether you’re a celebrity, life coach (which everyone seems to be these days), CEO, entrepreneur, or regular employee—is being pushed to develop one.

So I’ve been a bit obsessed with my branding lately, and it’s been to the detriment of more important things in my life.

There’s nothing wrong with developing and promoting your personal brand. It’s a savvy move in today’s society. The internet gives us all a platform, so it makes sense to maximize it.

But where we go wrong I went wrong was when I focused more on my brand than on myself. I was building my reputation while ignoring my character. Prayer took a backseat to crafting my profile. Time with friends was sacrificed for time on LinkedIn.

In addition, I tumbled into the trap of comparing myself with others. How does he have so many followers? How did she get on that podcast? How come he got so many comments on his blog, it sucks?

Word of caution: The moment you start comparing yourself to others is the moment you get off track in life.

I had to slow down and reflect on what mattered most in my life. This quote from Don Miller’s latest book, Scary Close, helped put things in perspective for me:

“Our lives can pass small and unnoticed by the masses and we are no less dignified for having lived quietly…There’s something noble about doing little with your life save offering love to a person who is offering it back.”

How beautiful is that? While I was caught up trying to be heard, seen, and established, I forgot how beautiful and profound a quiet life built on love can be. I was busy branding myself when I just need to be branded with love.

At the end of our lives, we won’t be remembered for our presence on Twitter, connections on LinkedIn, or influence on social media. We’ll be remembered for and by the people we loved. Again, there’s nothing wrong with building a personal brand. I’m still working on mine. But it won’t be my obsession any longer. Instead, I’m focused on living simply, but loving lavishly.

 

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3 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day Even if You Hate It

Valentine’s Day is approaching, so you’re probably saying one of three things:

“I freakin’ hate it!”3 ways to celebrate valentine's day even if you hate it

“I can’t wait for it!

“What day is that again?”

It’s not surprising that a day about love can draw such emotional or even indifferent reactions. That’s how love is. It’s an emotional thing. No feeling tugs on our hearts like love. I’ve probably had all three reactions to Feb. 14 at different times in my life. I’ve been single and lonely, despising the every commercial and TV show celebrating love that I lacked. I’ve been in love and eagerly planning the perfect date (and ordering flowers too late to arrive by Feb. 14). And I’ve been indifferent.

The reason we have these different reactions to Valentine’s Day is because it’s marketed to one segment of the population. If you’re not “cuffed” for the season, it ain’t for you. But if the day is truly about love, then it shouldn’t be limited to couples.

The best Valentine’s days were in elementary school. Remember then? Everyone bought a box of mini-Valentine’s Day cards to give to each person in class. It was big party with sweetheart tarts, heart-shaped candy, chocolate…it was like Halloween in February minus the costumes. I remember in third grade we had a big ice cream party. School was awesome then. But the best part is no one felt excluded. Sure I had a crush on the girl two rows behind me and she paid me no attention. But heck, I still got ice cream, candy, and cards from every girl in the class anyway, so it wasn’t a bad day.

But after elementary school, Valentine’s Day is a roller-coaster of emotions: some years you’re up, some years you’re down. But what if we went old school on Valentine’s Day? What if we took it back to when everyone was included? That’s what love really is like, right? Jesus is the author of love and His love is for everyone. It’s inclusive. So how can you make this the most inclusive Valentine’s weekend you’ve ever experienced? It may take some last-minute planning, but it’s easy to pull off. Here are three ways to have an inclusive, true love Valentine’s Day, whether you’re single or coupled.

  1. REACH OUT TO A WIDOW OR SOMEONE RECENTLY DIVORCED

A married couple I’m friends with did this a few years ago. A woman at church lost her husband in recent months. It was going to be her first Valentine’s Day alone in more than 30 years. So the couple invited her to their home. Their children made cards for her and decorated the place. They bought her flowers and had a family dinner with her. She said it was one of the best days she had since her husband died. There’s likely someone in your church, community, or family who has been widowed, divorced, or separated within the last year or so. This is the perfect opportunity to show them love this weekend.

  1. THROW AN EPIC PARTY 

Take it back to elementary school and host a Valentine’s Day party. Call up some friends, tell them to bring games, wine, and ice cream. Just celebrate those you love most. As a bonus, have each person write a note or card for someone in the group explaining what their friendship means. Don’t be exclusive either. This is not pity party for singles. Invite couples and singles and share the love.

  1. SERVE

Love is giving. There are plenty of opportunities in your area to volunteer to help people less fortunate. Whether it’s serving a meal at the Salvation Army, giving clothing to the homeless (it’s going to be ridiculously cold in the Northeast this weekend), giving out Valentine’s Day cards at a nursing home or children’s hospital, or simply ordering a meal for someone who is experiencing hard times. Choose to give this Valentine’s Day.

It’s time to take Valentine’s Day back from the marketers. We know love is broader than romance. Let’s make this holiday more inclusive. So whether you have a bae or not this weekend, think outside the (chocolate) box, and celebrate love in a grander way.

 

 

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