Monthly Archives: November 2013

When beauty fades…

but im not attracted to her anymore

by Kenneth Justice

~ “But Kenneth, I’m simply not attracted to her anymore

That is what a married man said to me at coffee a few weeks ago. Married for 20 years, two children….the guy was telling me how wonderful his wife is and how much he loves her….except; he’s no longer physically attracted to her.

Look Kenneth, I’m not saying I want a divorce but she’s put on a ton of weight from when I first met her and she doesn’t seem to have any desire to lose it…..so what should I do?” he asked

I didn’t give him an answer. Its not for me to tell some acquaintance I have only talked with a couple times what I actually think about such an intimate issue in their life…especially when it comes to the subject matter of their spouse. The one thing I did appreciate about what the guy was telling me is that he still really loves his wife and appreciates how much she does for him and their children.

Sadly, it seems like this issue is often only looked at from the guy’s perspective; men rarely seem to realize (or care) that they too have a tendency to ‘let themselves go’ but in different ways;

—) I know many men who loved to go out to coffee with their girlfriends and talk endlessly into the late hours of the night….but after the marriage these men now only grunt when they are hungry and don’t participate in deep conversations

—) I know many men who were voracious readers when they were younger and they used those books to stimulate long conversations with their girlfriends…but now after years of marriage these men spend countless hours zoned-out in front of the television

There are a plethora of examples we could consider when it comes to ‘how people let themselves go’ after marriage or after being in a long-term relationship…..but what are the men and women who are in these situations supposed to do?

A good Christian friend of mine often tells me that “looks aren’t everything“; “Inner beauty is where its at Kenneth and all these young people I see who are obsessed over looks are misplacing their energy and ideals” he says.

However, looks must matter to some degree because even in the bible we find an entire story about a woman named Esther who became queen merely based on her looks. So should we be physically attracted to the person we are with; and what happens if we still love the person we are with but they no longer look the way they did when we first met them.

Personally, it seems rather shallow to me that so many men are obsessed with looks. I realize the bible talks quite-a-bit about being attracted to your girlfriend/spouse (see Song of Solomon or book of Esther) but that was thousands of years ago when women were treated like property. Now that we are in the year 2013 shouldn’t we be placing a higher priority on intelligence than looks?

I often wonder if the men who are so obsessed with how their wife or girlfriend looks are merely succumbing to some kind of primitive cave-man attitude. However in a recent study it was found that Men With Attractive Wives Report Higher Levels Of Marital Satisfaction; Now isn’t that crazy? Does that merely point out that men are really shallow….or that men are easily satisfied?

I mean what does it say about all of us men that all it takes is for us to be with a pretty face; and we’ll report higher levels of marital satisfaction? I mean doesn’t this kinda suck? Is being married to a pretty faced…’dumb’ blonde all that men really want in life?

So as I sat there talking with the man at the café all of these various thoughts were running through my mind…what do you say to someone who tells you they are no longer physically attracted to their mate;

—) ‘quit whining and be a good husband?’

—) ‘stop your bellyaching and grow up?’

—) ‘get a subscription to Playboy and spend more time out in the garage?’

Of course I didn’t say any of those things…..but instead merely asked him, “So what do you think you should do?” to which he said, “I dunno man, I guess I need to stop being such a crybaby‘.

I’ve written about the subject of beauty periodically because I believe its an important issue to discuss. The Western World (and other cultures also) is overwhelmed with the topic of beauty, looks, and appearance. Turn on the television, drive down the street, go for a walk; and you’ll be inundated with advertisements connected to beauty and appearance.

Every culture has always had standards of beauty…but Western Culture has perhaps taken one of the greatest leaps in the way we try and force feed a particular standard upon everyone through the power of the media and advertisements;

—) women must be tall, thin, and have perfect skin like a goddess

—) men must be tall, tan, muscular, and handsome

But how many men and women really fit the Hollywood commercialized ideal of beauty? I suspect the number is very low……In fact, whenever I see pictures of models and celebrities without makeup they look surprisingly just like you and me.

Until we realize that the images we see in the movies and on television are simply make-believe; that they are nothing more than people covered with makeup……we are going to continue to have this troubling standard of unreachable beauty.

time for another coffee,

Kenneth

 

 

 


Is this a case of injustice?

is this injustice

by Kenneth Justice

~ A couple days ago at coffee the young woman sitting at my table struck up a conversation with me; turns out she works for a well known Hollywood A-List actor who owns a couple side-companies he created over the past decade. A mutual acquaintance of mine is good friends with this particular Actor and she gave me enough details for me tor realize she was telling the truth.

Yea, I became friends with him via my old job and one day he came in and asked me if I wanted to come and work for him” she said.

This young woman  has no college degree nor did she have any experience for the job the Actor hired her to perform……..but…..she is extremely attractive. Are you getting the picture?

It also turns out that her parents own a successful construction company and prior to taking the job with the Actor she was earning a lot of money working for her father…….now she earns even more working for the Actor.

At a certain point in the conversation I simply asked her straight out, “So it sounds like ***** hired you because your hot…am I right?

I think my question caught her off guard initially but after a moment she smiled and feigned innocence, “No…I mean he has such an attractive wife, I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of her in magazines…..I think he hired me because I have good people skills” she said….but I should add that she slightly chuckled after saying this which seemed to indicate that she knew why she was hired; because she is really beautiful.

I’m trying to be delicate relaying this encounter as I don’t want to give too many details and risk invading the privacy of this young woman and her Actor-employer…but suffice to say that the job she is performing for him doesn’t require any people skills; she does various computer work at one of his companies.

As I talked with the young woman I couldn’t help but think about all the people who are unemployed and who really need a job. Yet here we have a young woman who got hired by a very famous Actor to perform a job that she had no experience for……because she was simply hired on the basis of her looks. And it only seems all the more silly that she didn’t even need a job since her parents own a successful construction company.

I want to be careful and say that I’m not accusing the Actor or the young woman of being evil or anything like that….rather I’d accuse them of being typical; isn’t this how so much of the Western World works? If you have good looks then you can get ahead.

Is this a case of injustice? Is this a case of injustice to all the less-than-beautiful people in the world? Is this a case of injustice against all the unemployed mothers and fathers who are looking for a job so they can feed their children?

I will be honest with you….in recent years I have felt that the level of hypocrisy among A-list Hollywood actors and actresses has been at an all time high; they go to fund raisers and they perform commercials telling us how much they care about the poor, the unemployed, mistreated animals…and other various ills that plague society….yet these same actors and actresses earn millions of dollars, fly around on expensive jets, and when they go on vacation they spend enough money to feed an entire village in a third world country. Where do they come up with the audacity to ask middle class people to donate money to their charities when they themselves could bankroll an entire year’s worth of operation costs by themselves!

I wish I could name the Actor who hired the young woman I met because last year I saw him in an interview where he was talking about the injustice of the poor………so why the bloody hell didn’t he hire a poor person to come work for his company???

To be honest with you; even though I know that these celebrities are far-too-often hypocritical….it won’t stop me from watching their movies. Does that make me a hypocrite? I enjoy watching a good film….even if I know that the people playing the characters are in real life a bunch of bottom feeders.

Hey, I realize we live in a capitalistic culture and I don’t have a problem with that……but perhaps the problem I’m seeing is that there aren’t enough people practicing compassionate capitalism. A lot of my fellow Christian friends get mad at me when I begin talking about injustice against the poor because they believe I’m really inferring that its wrong to be rich……..perhaps I am….or;

—)  Perhaps I am saying it is wrong to horde your money when there is real need right in front of your face.

—-) Perhaps I am saying that it is hypocritical to tell people you care about the poor….and then to hire someone who doesn’t need a job; only because you want to some eye-candy at your office.

—-) Perhaps I am saying it is hypocritical for the rich Christians to be going on expensive vacations when the people sitting next to them in the pew are working three jobs just so they can pay for their health insurance

Then again….perhaps I am wrong. Maybe I’ve goofed and labeled something ‘injustice’ when it really isn’t……

I think I’ll ponder it some more over my next cup of coffee

Kenneth


I can’t help you when you’re smashed…

are you kidding me

by Kenneth Justice

~ Last night at coffee a dude wreaking of liquor kept interrupting me and my friend as we were trying to talk, “Everyone in this god da*n world are mother f**king god da*n ass holes!” he said numerous times…over and over. He was half-talking to himself as well as trying to talk to every customer that walked by his table.

Initially, we tried ignoring him because we knew he was drunk and was probably at the café trying to drink coffee in order to kill his buzz……but the dude simply wouldn’t stop…. and finally, when he sat down at the table directly next to us he got worse……

After being heckled by the guy for nearly a half-hour I couldn’t take it anymore and turned to face the dude,

Look man, either you shut up and nurse your buzz quietly or I’m going to throw you out of here” I said

The guy seemed shocked that I confronted him so confidently and he quickly retorted, “Oh yea…..we’ll you’re a just another god d**n ass hole yourself!” he said

Ok dude, that’s it, I’ve had enough” I said. I walked over to the manager, and I being a regular at the café told the manager I wanted him out because he was simply another drunk being belligerent; and so the manager and I grabbed the dude and (gently) ushered him out of the place.

Today is Thanksgiving morning here in the United States and over the last couple decades a new ‘tradition’ has arose all across America in which the night before Thanksgiving has become one of the biggest bar nights of year; everyone gets smashed.

I’ll be honest with you; I’m not against alcohol at all….I’m not a big drinker (I tend to prefer coffee over liquor) but I don’t have a problem with people going out last night to drink together and have a good time. I tend to only drink a few times throughout the year and rarely do I ever have more than one glass of wine at a time.

Unfortunately, the drunk dude at the café last night was an example of someone who took the drinking to excess……he went way ‘beyond having a good time’ to being nothing more than an annoying drunk guy.

I can’t speak for other cultures but if there is one particular word that seems to describe my country its excess; us American’s have a habit of going overboard;

—-) We are one of the most overweight of all countries

—-) We have the highest divorce rate of all countries

—-) We consume more gasoline (petrol) than any other country

—-) We love holidays that allow us to gorge ourselves on food and alcohol

Hey, I am definitely not judging anyone who wants to eat a ton of food today….I’m not even saying that there is anything wrong with enjoying a little bit of excess at times……but am I really wrong to think that our country is trending toward taking our excesses to extremes? Is it just me, or are people getting worse when it comes to rudeness, drunkenness, and all the other types of excess that exist in our society?

I had actually planned to write a simply Happy Thanksgiving article this morning and ponder some kind of ethereal happy thought…..but as I spent Thanksgiving Eve having to deal with a drunk dude at one of my favorite café’s…..it gave me the opportunity to think about this sad aspect of the holiday; excess.

After we got the drunk dude out of the café a young woman from across the room came over and asked if she could sit down with us, “Thanks for throwing that guy out of here” she said, “Earlier he was sitting next to me and he kept cussing at everyone who walked by and then he started saying inappropriate things to me

As the young woman sat with us we ended up learning that she is a Naturopathic Physician who abandoned a promising career in traditional medicine because she became concerned about our country’s attitude toward prescription drugs; “I’m not against prescription drugs, but I feel like we are using them too much. I feel like we have an attitude in the United States where more drugs are good and less is bad” she said.

Essentially; she feels that we going to excesses when it comes to prescription drugs…..and as I’ve mentioned before; 70% of Americans are using prescription drugs; which definitely seems like a lot of people.

What could of been a bad thing; having to deal with a drunk dude…ended up being a good thing because it allowed my friend and I to meet the young woman and have an interesting conversation.

Isn’t that how so much of life is; bad things can help us to bond together.

—-) Tragedy can bring us closer

—-) Difficult times allow us to lean on each other

So as I sat here this morning drinking my coffee and doing the whole ‘what am I thankful for’ bit…I thought about the drunk guy. As much as he annoyed me last night, I’m thankful that he gave me an opportunity to ponder a few deeper thoughts about life…..because I would rather spend my time thinking about the things that matter most; then getting s**t faced on liquor…..

time for another coffee,

Kenneth

 

 

 

 


Who you really are???

did you really say that

By Kenneth Justice

~ “Honestly Kenneth, some days I’m just not sure who I am…”

That is what a young man said to me at coffee recently. At twenty four years old he graduated college earning a good degree, he followed the career path set out for him, but he’s now questioning himself in relation to who he is and what he wants out of life.

Have you ever woke up and wondered who you are? For some of us it may seem like a strange question but for many others it is something they ask themselves quite often;

—) I’ve known a number of women who devoted their lives to mothering and when the youngest child turned eighteen…they felt lost and didn’t know who they were

—) I’ve known men and women who hit retirement age and once they stopped working at their career; they didn’t know what to do with themselves

—) I’ve known a lot of people who after graduating college found that the career path they were pursuing wasn’t what they thought it would be or simply wasn’t satisfying enough

Figuring out who we are is one of the central most important issues we will deal with in our lives.

Finding ourselves is arguably one of the most discussed concepts in relation to today’s young adults; countless books and essays are being written about millennial’s (those born between 1977-1996) and the major lack of identity that so many of them (us) struggle with in relation to work, career, relationship and other integral components of life.

For many years religion was a an integral component within our culture used to imbue that ethereal sense of significance within young adults as it connected them to a sense of purpose, meaning, and identity. However, in recent years the percentage of people who feel burned out by religion (i.e. often Christianity) has increased exponentially as many young adults say they feel that modern religions are either boring, irrelevant, intolerant, sexist, or all of the above.

Since I started writing this blog earlier in the year much of my time has been spent ‘finding my voice’. Sure, I’ve been writing since I was very young….. But connecting what I love to write about and what people want to read, can in many ways be a herculean task. There are many days that I write extremely lengthy articles and when I get to the finish line I realize that I’m probably the only person interested in reading about the particular subject. Yesterday for instance I wrote a 4000 word paper on genocide in relation to bible… and while I enjoyed writing the piece….I wondered; who wants to actually read what I have to say about genocide and religion; probably nobody!

Finding our voice and our identity is compounded by the out-of-whack societal problems we have to deal with in Western Culture. Take for instance the sad fact that sex sells; I know that if I write about sex I’ll get a 50% increase in traffic for the day as opposed to discussing the subject of identity. Thus, all of us our faced with the problematic issue of pragmatism; if we sacrifice our integrity we can get ahead. Not that there is anything wrong with discussing sex….but talking about nothing except sex day-after-day merely to get more traffic to my site seems disingenuous.

If we sacrifice our integrity we can get ahead;

—-) Beautiful men and women can use nothing but their looks to get ahead

—-) Media outlets can get more people to watch their shows and read their magazines if they focus on trivial celebrity gossip

—-) Bloggers can attract more readerships by writing about only controversial subjects

I’m not suggesting those things are bad to do; there’s nothing inherently wrong with a beautiful person being a model… is there? But rather I’m pointing out the fact that it if we aren’t careful, we can end up letting society and those around us dictate who we are; rather than finding out who we are on our own.

I’ve always been fond of the story about a famous NFL Running Back who made millions of dollars playing American Football but never liked playing the sport. Numerous articles were written about him that said he only pursued the sport because he was good at it and because everyone told him he should do it…..but for him; being a football player wasn’t who he was. When he cut his career short many of his fans were furious….they only knew him as a football player; they couldn’t understand that was simply not who he really was.

As I go down the final stretch of my first year blogging I’ve been asking myself the simple question; who am I as a writer? I know what I want to write about but how do I find that delicate balance between writing about what I enjoy and connecting it with what people enjoy reading? How do I prevent myself from fading to gray and becoming nothing more than another irrelevant blogger?

As with so many other areas of life it’s important to stay fresh and current;

—) For a woman who devoted a large portion of her life to being a career mother it’s important for her to find a new passion in life

—) For the person retiring from a thirty year career it’s vital that they develop new passions that carry them into their later years of life

—) For the young adult who graduated from college but is no longer interested in their career, it’s necessary for them to find the balance between the responsibilities of life (paying bills for instance) and finding whatever it is that gives them a sense of meaning and purpose.

While some of these thoughts may seem rather meek, for me they are a big deal because as I draw near to the beginning of my second year of blogging I want to increase the depth of the subject matters that I deal with while at the same time not risk losing my readership……I want to continue to explore who I am as a writer without alienating myself from the culture.

As for the moment, I think I’ll have another cup of coffee and keep thinking about who I am….

Kenneth


The most common complaint…REALLY???

the most common complaint

by Kenneth Justice

~”Kenneth, my boyfriend simply won’t listen to me, he just sits there zoned out in front of the television every night” ….that is what a young woman shared with me recently as we sat at the coffee shop.

Far and away the most common complaint I hear from people of all ages is that they feel like nobody is listening to them;

—) Teenagers who feel like their parents only preach at them and never listen

—) Employees who feel that their bosses don’t really listen to them

—) Men and women who feel that their significant others don’t listen to them

—) Teachers who feel that their students aren’t really listening to them

—) Students who feel that their teachers aren’t listening to them

Whether it was when I worked at the jail, the rehab clinic, or I’m sitting around at a café….everywhere I go people complain that the significant people in their lives are simply not listening to them. “Well he says he’s listening to me, but when he doesn’t take his eyes off of the f**king television I’d say he’s not really giving me much of his attention!” the young woman at the café said.

Strangely enough, when I was working at the rehab clinic I never went a week without hearing from clients who would complain to me about the other counselors; they felt the counselors weren’t really listening to them. Many of the clients felt that the counselors would spend more time ‘telling them what to do’ or ‘making them feel bad for ending up in a rehab clinic’…than truly listening to the client.

Awhile back I talked with a young man who was engaged to be married and was struggling with a sex addiction. The man wasn’t merely satisfied having sex with his finance; but was actively trying to sleep with a different woman every single night. The young man went to his minister to seek out help and explained to him the problem; the minister told him flatly; “sex outside of marriage is a sin, you need to stop engaging in it altogether” and left it at that. The young man felt dejected leaving the minister because he felt that he was still all on his own in trying to overcome his behavior; he told me that he felt the Minister didn’t really listen to his problems because “Once I told him that I’ve been having sex with different women the Pastor seemed to shut down and got all angry with me. He didn’t really listen to me much and just kept telling me that what I was doing was wrong….as if I didn’t know that already

Here in Western Culture one of the most dire examples of a lack of listening is when it comes to parents and their children. When I was studying psychology in college we had an entire course that was focused on ‘teenage rebellion’. Yet as I studied through that course I couldn’t help but feel that much of the problem with teenage rebellion is connected to the parents; how many parents simply expect their young adult children to obey their rules unquestionably?

—) How many parents truly take the time to interact with their young adult children and listen to them?

—) How many parents spend more time listening to their young adult children then they do talking at them?

I’ve always been uncomfortable referring to that particular age group as ‘teenagers’ because of the negative connotations that so many people associate with the term. ‘Young adult’ seems to be more of an appropriate term in that it reminds us of what they truly are; young adults. Perhaps this is merely a semantical word game I’m playing, but I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve heard utter the awful phrase, “I’ve got a teenager who thinks they know-it-all” in the presence of their ‘teenager’. It seems as though; that is such a disparaging thing to say right in front of the face of your young adult children…..no?

A few years ago, before I ever began blogging myself, I began commenting on some well-known national blogs (authors who I still read daily). It used to frustrate me to no end that they would ignore so many of the comments on their blogs; I would become mad and think these bloggers ‘aren’t really listening to anyone!”

Obviously there are no ‘rules’ when it comes to blogging but when I made the decision to create my own website I told myself that I would try damn hard to really listen to my readers………because I feel that in listening it demonstrates to others that we ourselves are willing to learn and grow…..that we aren’t bullheaded; that we don’t know-it-all.

Isn’t that the issue between so many young adult children and their parents; when parents don’t demonstrate the ability to listen they are communicating to their children that ‘I’m a know-it-all and don’t need to listen to you’. Do the parents ‘know’ more than the children? Sure….but so what? Isn’t the quality of a great leader someone who is a great listener?

—) I think back to some of my favorite managers and bosses throughout my life and the quality that I see in all of them is the ability to listen.

—) My favorite professors in college were the ones who actually listened to the students and used the back-and-forth communication to better connect and teach

A leader can be a great orator…but if they aren’t a good listener than their followers can end up suffering……

And if you’ve been listening to me you know that its right about now that I usually start craving a cup of coffee,

Kenneth


It’s simply what we talk about…

a two coffee morning

by Kenneth Justice

~ “I feel so starved for deeper conversation…every woman I meet lately seems so shallow and uninteresting to me….they don’t seem to be able to talk about anything of substance” that is what an older-divorced man told me and my friend as we were sitting at the café recently.

Divorced for more than five years now he had been telling my friend and I that he was growing tired of the dating scene…..”I wish I could meet a woman whom I could look forward to seeing every day and who always had something interesting to talk about” he said.

While I definitely echo his sentiments in the concept that a lot of conversation these days  seems to revolve around the trivial……sometimes that is okay. To put it quite simply; every conversation we have can’t be intellectually intense or we might get overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all.

One of the difficulties I ran into while working with people at the jail and at the rehab clinic is that it was difficult for me to have so many intensely personal conversations with people;

—-) Spending 4 – 6 straight hours day-after-day with people in tears…as they worked through the personal issues that landed them in jail or in the rehab clinic was overwhelming at times

—-) Listening to dozens and dozens of people a week pour out their hearts to me and their most intimate thoughts was extremely difficult for me to handle…I led a number of group counseling sessions and sometimes I would have has many as 10 people in tears at a time……I found that there is only so much raw emotive energy I can handle week-after-week

It’s not that I don’t want to talk about personal issues or deep intellectual problems; but when you are in a situation where its all your doing….it can be a bit unnerving……..exhausting…..and you can find yourself longing for someone to hang out with who just makes you laugh at their silly jokes.

I suspect the same principle applies in a relationship; if all you ever have are deep intellectually stimulating conversations you might burn each other out; there’s only so much depth that we can each handle in one sitting.

I suspect though that are culture is a little too imbalanced toward the silly; too many conversations are about celebrity news, athletics, and other various trivial subjects….and for that reason a lot of people are longing for something deeper to talk about.

As my friend and I talked with the divorced man….one of the things that became quite apparent is that he was a poor listener. Every time my friend tried to get a word in the man would talk over him; he was dead set on talking about himself and his own problems….and he wasn’t interested in a back-and-forth conversation.

That is the key isn’t; having a good conversation involves a lot of listening…and a lot of people simply are interested in listening.

Not that long ago I had an eighteen year old guy sit down at my table and confess to me that he had tried cocaine the night before…it was his first time…..and then a few days later a nineteen year old young woman confessed the very same thing; she had tried cocaine at a party over the weekend after being pressured by her friends.

Both of the teens were looking for someone to talk to in order to work through the various emotions they were dealing with in relation to having done a drug that is considered such a taboo in our culture……..neither wanted to talk to their parents about the experience at all…….

Most of the conversation with the two teens involved me listening and asking a couple simple questions, “How do you feel about what you did?”, “Do you think your friends are a bad influence, or were you going to the drug regardless of your friends“, and other such things…..

If we want to have deep conversation with someone we have to be prepared to listen. We have to listen to their ideas, their philosophy, their thoughts…..even if we don’t necessarily agree with everything they are saying….we have to listen.

Good listeners make good friends. Perhaps one of the reason I enjoy writing these articles every morning is that it gives me the opportunity to talk…because so much of my life is about listening.

But its also important to paint a proper picture; much of what I listen to isn’t ‘deep and stimulating’….much of the conversations at my café revolve around the lighter things of life….because its by talking about the everyday things that we build trust in our friendships; its by talking about those little things that leads us to talking about those big things…..

And all of this talking involves a lot of listening….because if you aren’t willing to listen then it probably means you aren’t willing to have a deep conversation….

time for another coffee,

Kenneth


Taking a break from talking…REALLY???

woman in a white dress

by Kenneth Justice

~ “It seems as though people love to hear themselves talk

That’s what a young man shared to me recently as three of us were sitting at the café recently enjoying our coffee. The young man was sharing his observation as we were people watching the other patrons hanging out at the café, “Just look at how half of these people keep interrupting each other…everyone seems so obsessed with whatever is going on in their own lives that they never bother to listen to anyone else” he said.

Of course the young man is probably guilty of exaggerating just a bit in his observation….but there is definitely a level of truth in what he was getting at as I’ve written in the past about the lost art of listening.

After I left the café and was heading home I began to think more deeply about the young man’s comments and I remembered my own childhood. Growing up in a hardcore fundamentalist Christian culture it was drilled into my head that “we have the only true answers to save the world“….the ministers who preached at me each Sunday taught us to believe that it was our responsibility to preach at the world in order to save them from eternal hell fire and damnation…..

And to be honest with you….I can’t remember ever hearing one sermon growing up that taught us to learn how to listen to others; how to listen to what people are really saying, about how to learn what their needs truly are……There was practically no emphasis whatsoever in the churches I was raised in on reaching out to people who were in need; the jobless, unemployed, the single mothers, the sick, fill-in-the-blank…….

The only ‘listening’ that the ministers in my churches taught us was to listen to them; to make sure we listened to their sermons and homilies every week in order for us to know how God wanted us to live……it all seems so strange to me now. All the emphasis in church was drilling into our heads the idea that we must preach at people in order to save them. Its pretty strange as I look back on it……

In the past month I’ve received a dozen or so emails on this topic alone from various Christians. They’ve accused me of being ‘soft’ in my Christianity, “Kenneth, you need to talk about hell! If you love people you will tell them they are going to hell unless they turn to God!” is what they’ve said to me.

I always feel weird getting emails like that from Christians because it makes me feel as though they are part of some other religion than the one I know…as though they are part of the religion of my youth; a religion I’m now very disconnected from……its weird to me that they spend so much time emphasizing preaching at other people…..and so little time emphasizing caring for others, helping others, and listening to others.

I try to be careful on my blog not to get bogged down by bible verses because I am not a theologian….there are plenty of other good blogs for those who want to debate the intricacies of the bible and debate it till the wee hours of the morning. I’d rather let professors of theology argue the finer points of the bible.

Have I read the bible; of course I have, I’ve read it cover-to-cover more than a few hundred times and my personal library of theological books and commentaries is in the multiple thousands…..but its simply not my prerogative anymore to argue the bible with people…..I look back at all the hours I spent studying and wonder how much different my life would be if I spent even half of that time reaching out to those who are in need.

Studying the books of our religion is all fine and good…..but in a world where there are so many people in need, who are struggling financially, broken homes, children without parents, widows, fill-in-the-blank…….what I’m trying to say is that in a world with so much need I feel like I might have wasted a little bit too much time in the past reading and studying….and should have spent a tad bit more time reaching out to others.

When I was younger I loved to hear myself talk. I loved talking at people and telling them what I believed was wrong with their belief systems; I debated, I argued, I spent endless hours arguing religion……..because that is the way the churches I attended taught me to act.

But now as I get a little bit older….as I got into my thirties, I simply don’t care to talk at people anymore….I would rather talk with them. I’d rather have positive conversations that build people up rather than tear them down. I’m not out to save-the-world via my religion…..I figure if God wants people to believe something than God can convince them which book to read……

Does all that make me a heretic? Because I don’t want to ramrod the bible down people’s throats does that make me a bad Christian? Well, that is what some Christians tell me…..its what they say when they email me…..but when I look at these ‘Christian’s’ lives, when I listen to them talk about themselves…..I’m not very impressed.

All that is to say…..lately I would rather listen to others than tell them what I have to say…..perhaps that’s why I enjoy reading comments from readers. I enjoy hearing people’s stories and I enjoy hearing from others about what they think about life….because to be quite honest; I already know what I think….so I don’t need to hear myself talk anymore.

I would like to say I could really go for another coffee right now,

Kenneth


It’s about getting cussed out for a cigarette…

please chill out already

by Kenneth Justice

~Earlier in the week as I was leaving the café after enjoying my morning coffee a random dude in a wheelchair asked if I had a cigarette,

“Sorry man, I don’t have any” I said

“Mother f****r! What the f*** is wrong with you!” he yelled at me. It caught me by surprise to get cussed out by a stranger for not having a cigarette… and for just a moment I considered turning around to him and giving him a piece of my mind………but then; I decided to let it go.

When I looked back at the guy and weighed in my mind whether to get into a cussing match with him I couldn’t help but realize that by the looks of it; the guy had clearly been stuck in a wheel chair for a long time….and he was probably going to be confined to one for the rest of his life……..

Was he in the wrong for dropping the F-Bomb on me simply because I didn’t have a cigarette? Sure…..but so what? Would I have really gained anything by responding towards him with the same level of hostility that he treated me?

All week long I have been discussing one simple concept; demonstrating grace to people and chilling out,

—) On Sunday I talked about enjoying every moment and not sweating the small things….that it’s okay to enjoy the little things in life, and that we don’t have to get mad at others when they do as well.

—) On Monday I talked about the importance of letting go of bitterness and grudges

—) On Tuesday I expanded the topic of bitterness by suggesting that we should also be there for those we love…even when they make choices we may disagree with them on

—) On Wednesday I compared and contrasted authentic love and grace against fake love

—) On Thursday I showed where life takes us when we don’t forgive the mistakes of others

—) Yesterday I discussed the tragic consequences of parents who cut their children off over religious doctrine

Perhaps I am wrong but it seems that so many people all across Western Society are on edge; at any given notice people are ready to go to war over the stupidest s**t imaginable. Road rage, relatives who argue over who will host the holiday dinner, parents who hold their children to unrealistic expectations, young adults who demonstrate so little respect to their parents and others in authority, sibling rivalries….and so much more.

It seems like a weekly ritual to turn on my television and see people disrespecting politicians, politicians disrespecting citizens, people disrespecting law enforcement, and law enforcement disrespecting people…..everywhere I turn people are at each others throats with anger and hostility.

And then, when I see parents refusing to look past the mistakes and choices of their children…….it only saddens me all the more. Because of all places where we should see the most amount of grace and love; it should be within our homes….right? But when I meet someone whose parents have kicked them out of the house because of disagreements over religious beliefs……I can only shake my head and wonder what the hell is going on in this world.

I respect the various readers who have emailed me in recent weeks and have accused me of being too soft and of not taking a firmer stance on various issues…….but in a world with so much anger, hate and hostility…..don’t we need more people to begin living lives based on grace, forgiveness, and love?

Sure, perhaps I sound cheesy……maybe I’ve been listening to John Lennon for too much of my life and I’ve got the tune “all we need is love….” stuck in my head. But if we are going to be honest with ourselves…..there are not very many well known public figures who are talking about grace, love, and forgiveness…and turning the other cheek.

—-) Hollywood celebrities are all about talking about themselves and accepting awards

—-) Athletes are all about people watching them and doing little dances after they make a great play

—-) Rock stars and pop stars are all about fame and living lives of luxury and excess

—-) Politicians are all about their own agendas and personal gain

Am I overgeneralizing just a bit? Perhaps……but for the most part the Mother Therese’s, Gandhi’s, and Jesus Christ’s of the world simply do not exist anymore…….the people who emulate those kind of characters are few and far between.

The people who live lives based on grace and love……are not the people we put on television and watch on 24/7 cable news shows.

So did I walk over to the guy in the wheelchair and give him a twenty dollar bill to go buy cigarettes? Nope. I won’t pretend to you that I am some saint who gives money to people who cuss me out. Honestly, it took everything in me to bite my tongue and not cuss the dude out…..I was gritting my teeth as I turned away from him and walked toward my car……..

But perhaps in that moment……simply walking away was enough. Sure, the guy was definitely down-and-out and I probably should of done what I could to help him out…..but if walking away was the only good alternative I could offer to cussing him out….then maybe I made the best decision at the time.

I definitely don’t want anyone to think that I’m any different than the next person……I’m just as self-centered as anyone else…..but perhaps in writing all this down every morning I’m slowly learning to move in a positive direction.

Besides, at least writing every morning gives me something to do as I drink my coffee,

Kenneth

 

 

 

 

 

 


It’s about a deacon and a crack smoking daughter…

its about a deacon and a crack smoking daughter

By Kenneth Justice

~ “My father says I’m in sin for hanging out with non-Christians” that’s what the young woman who sat across from me at the café began telling me about her situation. Apparently her father is a deacon and her mother is the church secretary of a strictly conservative fundamentalist Church on the East Coast, “My father hates it that I dye my hair pink, have piercings, and that I don’t stay at home and read the bible every night…but at least he hasn’t kicked me out of the house yet like he did with my sister” she said.

This young woman was hardly the first young adult whom I’ve met with that was dealing with religious conflict from their parents and will most likely not be the last……The Western World is filled with men and women who have come from homes where religiosity has burned them out. I’ve talked with Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Muslims, and even Hindu’s who have been burned out by the religion of their family and parents.

Sadly, although religion should be a positive opportunity to carry down traditions from one generation to the next; too often it ends up being a double edged sword that certain communities and peoples use to antagonize their children and others. Too often people use religion to heap heavy burdens upon others that are too difficult to bear.

—-) Don’t smoke

—-) Don’t drink

—-) Don’t chew tobacco

—-) Don’t cuss

—-) Don’t hang out with people outside of our community

Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t drink, don’t chew, and don’t run with those who do”?

No matter the religion or ethnicity, these are merely a sampling of the don’ts that many children and young adults have ingrained within their heads. When the child begins to veer slightly away from the course their parents or religious community have set for them….the adults in their life begin to panic and turn to condemnation as a way of trying to harness the child back under their control. But does condemning someone really work at controlling their behavior? Even if it does work; should it really be a tool we incorporate as a part of our interaction with others?

Of course there are some things we should most definitely condemn; such as murder…..but for the plethora of other behaviors that fall well below murder; should we really be so quick to condemn others for their actions? I mean, isn’t a normal part of growing up; venturing away from the nest and learning things through trial and error?

Sadly, as the young woman at coffee continued her tail she told me of her sister who had been kicked out at the age of 18 (the year before) and was currently living in a homeless shelter for pregnant women; the parents were wealthy enough to support the daughter but because she wasn’t willing to abide by their religious rules they weren’t willing to help her out, “My mom and dad mean well, but it’s hard for me not to resent them for what has happened to my sister. After they kicked her out she started smoking crack and now she’s pregnant with twins and all by herself at a homeless shelter. I go and visit her but it’s not like I have any money to help her out” she said.

It simply doesn’t look very good for a deacon and the church secretary to have a unwed and pregnant daughter living at home…about to give birth to twins…….especially if the daughter doesn’t believe in the religion anymore….and so they’ve chosen to kick her out of the house??? Seems rather extreme if you ask me.

One of my dearest friends who died last year frequently said, “It’s easy to love people when everything is going good…..but you really find out the true measure of a relationship when conflict occurs

Isn’t that the true fact of the matter? It’s easy to love our children, parents, coworkers, friends, fill-in-the-blank when everything is going well……but how will behave towards them when they do something we don’t like? How will we respond when they make choices we don’t agree with? What will we say when they mess up and say something negative towards us?

There are certain moments in our lives where we must stand our ground and speak our mind…..but don’t you think that more often than not the problem in our culture is people simply don’t demonstrate enough patience and grace towards each other? It seems to me that everywhere I go people are at the precipice of blowing up at a moment’s notice……but rarely do I meet people who are kind and patient in the face of adversity.

Are the parents wrong for kicking their pregnant daughter out of the house because she doesn’t agree with their religious views anymore? It’s not for me to say how they should live or behave……but if they ever want to have any kind of relationship with their daughter or grandchildren…then it seems to me they might want to rethink their philosophy.

Maybe I’m too laid back…..I’ve received a few emails recently by people who think I’m too soft. But I wonder….can you really be too forgiving? Can you really be too gracious? Can you really be too loving? Maybe I’m simply a loon and all this coffee I’m drinking is pushing me to the precipice of a cliff and I’m slowly falling off the side into a pit of nonsense……

But if I am falling off a cliff I would really like one last coffee to sip as I fall down

Kenneth

P.S. join me tomorrow as l wrap up this week’s series and tie it all together


It’s about one mistake being all it takes…

one mistake is all it takes

by Kenneth Justice

~ Last week at coffee I sat with a woman whose employer fired her for comments she made to a co-worker. To put it gently, the woman who was fired made a politically-incorrect statement to a coworker…. and even though she had been working for the company for more than 30 years……they gave her the axe.

While I listened to the woman tell me the story I definitely must admit that I don’t agree with the term that the woman used (its not a term I use whatsoever, but it definitely wasn’t at the top of the list as the worst terms she could of used) yet it seems rather extreme to fire someone for making a mistake; after all, the woman was not fired because she performed poorly or was a bad worker…..she was fired for using an inappropriate word….and it ended up in a 30 year career down the drain.

The woman at the café has had a rough time since being fired; her life has been in upheaval for the past six months, “Since they fired me I’ve lost my house, my car, and had to move back home with my aging parents. Kenneth, I’m 57 years old and I’m penniless living in my parent’s house”  she said.

So much of life is about making mistakes; its how we learn and mature…right? Yet it seems that as we march forward as a culture we are becoming less and less tolerant of other people; we seem to expect everyone around us to talk and act perfectly…..and never screw up.

In many aspects of our culture…one mistake is all it takes to ruin our lives forever. When I used to work at the county jail this was an issue that came up a lot; a man or woman who has spent time in jail usually has to live with the blot on their record for the rest of their life. Many ex-convicts are treated like lepers by the community…..its as though they are forced to live with the mistakes of their youth; for the rest of their life.

A few weeks ago I was sitting at a café and a customer came barging through the door and began cussing out the barista behind the counter, “You damn idiot! You got my order wrong again! That’s twice this month! And now I’m f***ing late for my meeting!” he barked. The manager of the café came out and tried to calm the customer down but the dude was extremely irate and left with a few more cuss words spewing from his mouth.

Is it just me….or are mistakes merely a part of life; does it really matter that the barista messed up the order a second time in a month? So what? Why does it seem that so many people are living on the edge of anger and it takes so little to send them into a tizzy?

I realize that the economic situation throughout the Western World pretty much sucks. Hell, I talk about it all the time as it frustrates me to no end that so many people all around me are struggling financially……but so what; just because the economy sucks…it doesn’t justify being at each other’s throats….does it?

In fact, if we really think about it; shouldn’t economic woes be an opportunity for us as humans to band together more….to work together more…to spend more time sharing coffee with each other? Isn’t it by working through the tough times together that we build stronger friendships and relationships? Yet if that is true…then why does it seem we are becoming more disconnected as a society?

Three different people at coffee throughout the past week each said to me that they believe people are becoming more and more ‘disconnected‘;

—) The first person said, “Even though we are all using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, I feel that we are becoming more disconnected from each other

—) The second person said, “Too much of our lives are becoming disconnected from the things that are truly relevant; we’re focusing too much on the trivial and not enough on what’s really important

—) The third person said, “People are wasting so much time watching television that they are becoming disconnected from thinking rationally…..instead they are letting their emotions drive there actions

Of course, those three observations are somewhat disconnected in content and subject material…..but I found it interesting that three different people used the term ‘disconnect’ to describe their observations on Western Culture. Perhaps in our quest to use the Internet to connect the entire world together…..we are failing at actually connecting people together.

I guess when it comes down to it….I expect people to make choices that I won’t always agree with, I expect people to screw up and make mistakes……and when I sit with people whose parents have cut them off because of their life style choices it drives me nuts…..when I hear a story about an employee getting fired for using an inappropriate term….it drives me nuts. It seems that our culture is heading in a really strange direction…….

But then again, what do I know?

I just realized my cup is out of coffee….time for a refill

Kenneth


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