Whatever the reason, there is a freedom that comes in our relationships when we know we are loved regardless of our flaws.
Frankly, at my age, you do one of two things when it comes to your appearance:
Spend a lot of time and money on hiding your blemishes.
Accept the reality that you are far from perfect and it’s okay.
I choose to accept my imperfections.
One of my favorite Brennan Manning quotes is, “Be who you is, or you is who you ain’t.”
In other words, when we try to be something or somebody we are not, we compromise and lose who we truly are.
I have scars.
Thinning, silver hair and a growing belly.
Of course, I bathe, shave, apply deodorant, floss, and attempt to exercise and watch what I eat. By no means am I suggesting we just let ourselves go.
However . . .
No matter what I do, I still have scars, spots, warts and a pockmark or two. As long as I’m in this earth-suit, I must face the reality of an aging and less-than-perfect body (and mind, obviously).
It’s been a long time since someone has called me eye candy.
Here’s another shocker.
Every breath I take is one less breath I’ll have in this frame.
Every second I experience is one less moment I’ll have on this side of eternity.
And every compressed vertebra, lost or random added hair (I didn’t know hair can grow on the outside of your nose), and every single imperfection reminds me that this is all temporary. This earth is not my home. This body is but a shell of the man I will become one day.
So I can worry about the temporary and waste an inordinate amount of time and money on trying to avoid the inevitable, or I can choose to live with eternity in mind.
I choose eternity.
Someone once said to me, “You Christians live with the delusion of a better life and of a better time to come when this is it; this is all there is.”
I smiled and said, “It’s not a delusion, it’s hope. It’s not escapism or about being distracted by the unpleasant realities of this life through fantasy. It’s believing that Jesus meant it when He said, “I’m preparing a place for you,” and it’s a far better place.
You see, I’m not discouraged by my present realities. I’m not frustrated by my current imperfections. The old and rusty face I see in the mirror doesn’t scare me.
Because I know I am loved and that this life is not the end of the story.
I’m due for an upgrade someday.
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I recently wrote a post about tattoos, and it went viral (at least on my website). In fact, at this point, it’s the second most-read blog I’ve ever written. I didn’t see that coming.
Sometimes I write something that I consider to be pretty good (of course, I’m biased), and I’m lucky if my wife and mom read it.
Other times I compose something fairly light-hearted and fun, and it goes crazy in the blogosphere. Go figure.
Regardless of what I write, you’d be surprised at how often I get an extremely mean comment or two (or twenty). For some reason, people think they can get away with verbal bullying and downright rudeness on that thing called the interwebs.
Way too often, stuff that might get you punched in the face if you said it to someone within range of a fist gets verbally vomited onto the comment section of a blog or Facebook.
Okay, so you don’t like what I said. Fine. You disagree. I get it. You don’t like what I wrote, and you probably don’t like me. I can deal with that reality.
However, are rude, unkind, and mean words ever acceptable?
Even so, a woman screamed at me by using all caps and lots of exclamation points and wrote this comment about my tattoo blog: “TATTOOS DEFACE THE TEMPLE OF GOD! YOU ARE A LIBERAL COMPROMISER AND NOT A TRUE MAN OF GOD!!!!!!”
I wanted to respond, “Seriously? Do you wear makeup? Do you wear jewelry? Do you have pierced ears? Do you color your hair? Are you overweight? Just to be clear, that’s definitely not the way God made you, and perhaps those things deface the temple?”
However, I didn’t respond and I didn’t challenge her. I’m sure it wouldn’t have made a difference to someone acting like a modern-day Pharisee.
Without a doubt, we live in a culture in which we hear verbal ugliness all the time. Have you watched any political debates recently or listened to talk radio? But my momma (who might be the only one reading this right now) taught me this: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!
Here are some prudent words from another wise person: “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)
Words can cut others to shreds, or words can heal.
I’m for healing.
So how should we respond to trolls (a term used to describe people who troll the web looking for a fight), bullies, and modern-day Pharisees?
4 Ways to Respond Rather than React
Listen first. There might be something you and I can learn. Even non-constructive criticism can be helpful at times if we listen with a humble heart.
Refuse to over REACT! In fact, under react. Only a fool is quick to quarrel. Adding my mean words to their mean words never ends well. Even if my response is kind and my explanation rational and reasonable, trolls love to fight, and they tend not to listen or care. Consequently, I often choose not to respond or to comment on their comment. It’s just butter! (A reference to this post).
Ignore or delete the harsh, bad-mannered, or unjust comments. If someone’s words were harmful to me, they’re probably damaging to others too. My website and my social media accounts are mine. I’m responsible for the content (what a concept), and if I don’t like something, I can delete it without shame. That’s not censorship; it’s boundary maintenance. I don’t limit the other person’s right to free speech, but I protect my own boundaries.
Ask any author or blogger—putting your stuff out there is risky. People can be ruthless, and civility is a disappearing art. I try to be as transparent and genuine as possible, but sometimes that bites me in the buttocks.
It’s okay. Life goes on. And maybe, just maybe, God uses the humble and often flawed words of this broken man to bring a bit of healing to others who are perfectly imperfect, just as I am.
So I write on.
Thanks for reading.
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At a recent gathering of Christians, one of the guys noticed I have a half sleeve tattoo. The look on his face was shock bordering on judgment.
“Why would you do that?” he said.
“Because I like art! In fact, I have three tattoos, and I’m probably not done.”
While shaking his head, he said, “Seems like a waste of money and an ugly blemish on God’s creation, if you ask me.”
I couldn’t help but notice he held in his hand a $4 drink from Starbucks, was wearing $100 jeans, and was a bit overweight.
“We all make choices based on what we do or don’t value,” I said with a smile.
“Yeah, but, Christians shouldn’t value what the world values” was his curt reply.
I thought about going nose-to-nose with him and upping the debate by saying something terse about his over-priced coffee and jeans (a potential reflection of worldly values) and his over-stocked gut (a bit of a blemish), but I decided it was best just to walk away.
For the record, my tattoos are not demonic. There’s no skull and crossbones. No naked women. I don’t have a tattoo with an old girlfriend’s name.
It’s just art—meaningful symbols to me that tell a part of my life story.
Of course, when I point out that this passage refers to a pagan practice and not body art, I get a condescending smirk. When I gently suggest that if they’re going to literally apply that verse, then they’d better obey the verse directly before it that says, “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.”
For the record, the moral principles in Leviticus 19do apply to Christians. We shouldn’t participate in pagan practices. However, there’s nothing morally wrong with cutting your hair or getting a tattoo unless you are engaging in heathen rituals. (Go ahead, do a study of that passage. You’ll see my point.)
The more biblically astute usually go next to Paul’s admonition in Romans 12 not to conform to the pattern of this world. And again, I absolutely agree we should not be molded into the shape of the world around us nor to allow the culture to determine our values.
However, Paul is specifically addressing a godless system of worldly lusts. The principle here is to avoid allowing our minds to be polluted by a corrupt culture and to be transformed in our minds by Christ.
Can an argument be made to include tattoos as a part of a godless culture? Perhaps. But where do we draw the line? Who gets to determine what is godless and what is not?
When and where God clearly states something is a sin, like adultery or divisiveness, we must comply. But when the Bible is not explicit, you don’t get to be the judge. Sorry.
By the way, the Amish use Romans 12 to make their argument against modern conveniences and cars. How’s that Amish thing working for you?
So let’s get to the real issue.
We Christians, and I do include myself in that we, too often focus on things of personal preference and make them a litmus test of fellowship with others. We tend to judge others by our personal standards to determine the measure of another’s spiritual maturity. We often evaluate by the outward appearance rather than by that which really matters—the heart.
You don’t have to like tattoos. My mother wonders why her son and daughter have tats.
You don’t have to agree with me about everything. You don’t even have to like me.
However . . .
There are much bigger issues to get fired up over. Maybe problems like poverty and homelessness or the fact that 63 million people (1 in 10 on the planet) don’t have access to clean drinking water; perhaps these matters are more important than tattoos.
Maybe seeing eye-to-eye about every debatable topic isn’t nearly as important as loving others and treating them the way God has treated you. Perhaps we should focus more on unity than on our diversity. What might happen if we Christians were to demonstrate a profound level of unity to a watching world like that which Jesus prayed for in John 17?
Opinions are good. With free will comes the right to choose what matters to you, or doesn’t. Personal preferences are permitted in the Kingdom of God regarding a whole boatload of topics. It’s okay that we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.
That being said, things like love, forbearance, kindness, goodness, and so on, are not optional.
Not now. Not ever.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
She came in like she was on PCP (or way too much caffeine). I couldn’t believe her rudeness. She was vicious, furious, and brutal. It was as if my home were being invaded by Viking hordes or shaken to its foundation by a powerful earthquake.
If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it, but what she did will forever be etched into my brain.
Everybody knows that when you take butter from the cube, you don’t desecrate it by cutting a huge hole in the middle! For Pete’s sake, cultured adults know how to delicately take a slice from one end or the other and, preferably, from the same end that’s already been used.
I was shocked. It will be a cold day in Hades before I let her into my kitchen again. This travesty was similar to the time I caught our cat eating the butter cube. That time I think I threw up in my mouth.
Okay. You might be thinking, Bubna, you’ve lost it! And trust me, I did for a second or two. Then this ridiculous thought fluttered through my brain: Maybe it doesn’t matter, or it’s not that big of a deal.
Of course, a mutilated butter cube isn’t anything to lose sleep over, but isn’t it funny how we let little things get under our skin?
I know this “butter massacre” wasn’t truly an act of violence. Not for a second do I want to make light of the life-threatening brutality happening in our world.
My point is simply this: Sometimes we make a lot out of a little (notice how I avoided the mountain/molehill cliché?).
Sometimes we go ballistic over silly things that just don’t matter.
Okay, so your kid left his socks on the floor—again—but life will go on.
Yeah, he forgot to put the toilet seat down for the 100th time, but is it worth a meltdown?
She left the car for you—on empty. Guess you’ll have to get some gas and choose to be grateful for the millions of good things she does for you.
Sure, nobody likes to get treated poorly by someone who is supposedly in customer service, but perhaps you should be kind nonetheless.
Lots of us are famous for losing the bigger picture way too often. We get so focused on the things we want, and we get grumpy when things don’t go our way.
If you’ve ever tried to sleep in a tent with a mosquito, you know that occasionally, little things do matter. However, more often than not, we’ve blown something completely out of proportion.
Five things to do when your “butter” is violated:
Stop and ask one simple question: Will this matter in a week, a year, or ten years from now? Probably not. So why damage a relationship, something that always matters?
Pick your battles carefully. Fight for justice. Fight for equality. Fight for life. However, fighting with your teenager over a nose ring or sagging pants might be foolish. Lots of things are a matter of personal taste rather than an issue of sin or national security.
Remember how many times you’ve pushed someone else’s button. The best way to give mercy and grace is to bring back to mind the number of times you’ve been the recipient of unmerited kindness.
Develop a servant’s heart, which involves putting the needs of others before your own. I had put the butter out for my friend, and she got what she needed (even if I didn’t like the way she met her need). A servant serves. Period.
Acknowledge the fact that most of your pet peeves became an issue because you have issues. As a child, I was forced to live with ridiculous standards in an environment that demanded perfection. The “butter problem” is my problem with perfectionism, not her problem with a knife.
I write about relationships. A lot. Because relationships matter. A lot. What is important is the connection and friendship I have with a dear friend, not my butter cube. It’s long gone. She’s not.
Anything tick you off recently?
Maybe that thing is just a thing, and you would do well to walk through the five steps I’ve outlined above.
It might just be butter.
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34:14 (NIV)
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