Not Tuesday At 7

Today, I wasn't able to do Tuesday At 7. It's a sad day, but it ended up being best. Next week, we'll be up and running with my good friend Jonny Cantwell. But for this week, I decided that since I wasn't able to do a Tuesday At 7 shoot, that I'd just post some random photos I've taken recently and write some stuff that's been on my mind along with them.

Putting yourself out there is one of the scariest things you can do. You open yourself up to all kinds of judgement when you decide to tell your story, publish your work, voice your opinion, share your ideas. We crave approval and affirmation so badly, we hold out on putting ourselves out there so people don't like us. There's too many untweeted tweets, unposted posts, and unsaid comments in conversations because I'm so afraid of what people will think of me. And I bet you're the same way. We want people to like us. We suppress who we are to fit the expectations of others. And I think that's sad. That's sad because we, the same people who are scared to put ourselves out there because of what people will think of us, are the same people who cause others to fear putting themselves out there. When someone actually has the courage to do it and we disagree with them, we let them know. And typically, as witnessed on most Facebook statuses, we not only deconstruct their position, we deconstruct their character. We don't separate their opinion from their character. Even though it would be entirely unfair if someone did that to us. We know that we are not the sum of our opinions. We are much deeper and much richer as humans than that. Yet we reduce others to an idea and have no problems picking that apart. And this is where the fear comes from. It comes from me. It comes from you. We cause others to fear.

The problem with this is, of course, is that sharing your ideas, work, opinions, and story is so crucially important. At some point in time, someone shared something of theirs with you, and it changed your life. Maybe it was in a song or a speech or a book or a conversation or even a stupid little tweet. Someone had the courage to put themselves out there and it changed your life. And we all have the capacity to do that. We all have the capacity to just say what we've been learning and change one persons life. In fact, it's our obligation to do so. If someone had the courage to share apart of themselves hoping that it could help me, even in the smallest of ways, then it's my obligation to do that for others. It's selfish of me not to. If I didn't then I'd be nothing but a taker. Christians are called to be the ultimate givers, and that means giving others our experiences, ideas, stories and work for their benefit and good. 

So what's the solution? We have an obligation and yet and we end up being the barrier for others and, through a vicious cycle of critique and judgement, ourselves from fulfilling that obligation to help others with what we have. The solution, I propose, is a boring word with strong implications.

Civility.

It's a sign of maturity to be able to disagree with a man or woman and yet never question their character. Civility is strong. Civility is respect. It's been an interesting journey growing into adulthood and seeing so many hypocrisies in lessons I was taught growing up. 

I was taught to respect everyone, yet somehow it's okay to disrespect the politicians I disagree with. I was taught to love everyone, yet somehow it's okay to rail against the pastor's who's theology doesn't line up with mine. I was taught to share, but told I'm irresponsible when I attempt to be generous. I was taught to be slow to speak and quick to listen, yet when a controversial issue is in the public debate it's commonplace to quickly state a position without listening to the other side. 

It takes courage both to put yourself out there and to withhold judgement from others that do. And we have an equal obligation to both. People are not their positions. Opinions do not equal character. Our ability to listen is far greater than our ability to speak. 

I truly believe that before we debate any issue, it's our responsibility to reclaim civility as a virtue, as a trait of our character. If someone put themselves out there and you disagree with them, remember that it took courage for them to say it out loud at all. Respect is never optional. 

I know these words have nothing to do with these pictures. But sometimes there are words and pictures that never get to see the light of day because it never feels like there's a place for them. I'd like to start finding more places for them. I think it's important. My friend Jon said that God has recently been teaching him to be bold and to always be clear about where he stands. I'm feeling God starting to teach to me the same thing. It's scary. But God gives courage. I always want to listen more than I speak, and I also want to learn how to speak more. I've been burned in the past by people who have shot me down after speaking up. I've had my salvation questioned and have literally been called "the downfall of America" after speaking up in certain circles in the past. That's not respect. That's not civility. It's also not courageous to let that stop me from speaking up. So that's what I'm going to try to do, because I feel it's an obligation. I've been influenced by too many people more courageous than I to not speak up in the hopes of helping others. 

Tuesday At 7 will be back next week. I can't wait to get back on a roll!