Thursday, November 13, 2014

What I Actually Am Having Trouble Understanding (AKA The Reason for The Previous Post)

If there's any topic I've heard more about than any other, it's love.  Growing up in the church, I often heard Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 13 or Romans 5:8 read during services or Bible classes.  I also watched as couples went from merely dating to engaged to married to having children...or, at least partially.  I've also seen many onscreen romances:
  • Mork tried everything to get Mindy to marry him, but, it wasn't until his last ditch effort that she said yes.
  • Gordo liked Lizzie as more than a best friend, but, he didn't reveal it until the final episode.
  • Prince Edward chased Princess Giselle to our world, believing her to be his one true love...only for both of them to step aside when they found romance with someone else.
  • Ella of Frell went from despising the infamous Prince Char to falling in love with him and saving him from certain death.
  • Peter Parker was afraid that he was losing his significant other when she prepared to move to England...only for something much worse to happen to her.
  • Teddy couldn't decide whether Spencer or Beau was the right one for her.
However, love isn't just about romance; love is something we're supposed to show our fellow man.  Though I have yet to find a significant other, I have experienced love; just of the non-romantic variety.  Friends of mine--of all ages, I should add--have given me gifts, helped me out in tough situations, taken me out to dinner, wished me well, etc.  You could say, for that, I am thankful.

Still, I can't fight the feeling that love isn't all it should be at times.  I'd think most if not all of you reading this know the Scriptures about love, especially 1 Corinthians 13.  We often hear them read during weddings or other romantic celebrations...but, actually, most of the oft-quoted ones are not merely talking about our spouses or other significant others.  When Paul wrote, "Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it keeps no record of wrongs...", he had bigger things on his mind than just romance.  We are instructed to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that means pretty much everyone, not just the person who lives next to us.  More to the point, I've heard that a Scripture often read at weddings is Ruth 1:16b-17:
Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.
However, when you look at the entire first chapter of Ruth, it isn't actually about someone getting married; it's what Ruth tells her mother-in-law.  To me, reading that at a wedding smacks of taking the verse out of context.  Maybe that's just proof of how little the Bible actually talks about romantic love.

As someone with Asperger Syndrome, I tend to think in logical terms.  It's why I've always had an affinity for technology; it thinks in logic, just like I do.  There have been times in the past where I was thinking in logic, but didn't even realize that was the basis of my figuring until well after the fact.  Still, most humans aren't logical, much to the chagrin of people with A.S. I remember reading a poem from a fellow sufferer that said, "Humans are the most illogical race.  Nothing they do, nothing they say, makes any sense.  Oh, why can't humans be logical?" Though the lack of logic is present in many areas of human life, it seems to be more prevalent in the world of love--not just romantic love, but love in general--than anywhere else.

Have you ever been asked, "Do you love me?" Peter got asked that three times by Jesus in the last chapter of John.  Still, I've heard of cases where family members asked each other that after incidents where one didn't seem to care about the other.  Most of the time, I only hear love openly discussed when it comes to significant others and/or family members; still, the second greatest commandment says we are to love everyone, no matter who they are or what they've done to us.  Jesus displayed that kind of love by dying and shedding blood for everyone, even those who despised him.  It's up to us to show that kind of love to everyone else.

Unfortunately, sometimes the "love" that people are showing me feels more like bullying.  Years ago, I had trouble with a guy in my youth group who often told me, "I don't like you!" I believed it to be true; after all, a guy in my sixth grade homeroom said the same thing, and he wasn't joking.  However, I was shocked when, in an e-mail after an incident I won't delve into here, the youth leader said of the guy who kept saying he didn't like me, "[He] likes you and you don't even know it!" was I supposed to know he liked me? If he says that he doesn't, and the rest of the group acts like he means what he is saying...what else do I have to go on? That guy and I have become friends and put all that mess behind us; still, that only goes to show how tricky friendship--which is a type of love--can be.  More recently, I've dealt with people who have made unnecessary comments, sometimes in a public area, which makes it embarrassing.  True, they may mean it as a joke...but, if it offends me--and it usually does, even if I don't say anything--it doesn't matter what their intentions are.  Just a few years ago, I lost a once-good friend after making a comment on her Facebook status that she didn't appreciate.  I tried to explain to her that I was merely trying to make her laugh, something I had never been able to do; stories of mine that had made other literally laugh out loud only got a nonchalant "yeah" from her.  Telling her that just made her even more upset; she believed there was no reason for me to say such a thing.  Looking back, she was right; I messed up, and trying to justify it only hurt my case.  Still, when others say or do things I don't appreciate, the fact that I feel that way is on me; instead of an apology, which is what I deserve, all I get is justification.  It shouldn't be that way--after all, you don't see Jesus harassing anybody out of "love"--but it is.

Such actions make it hard to get along with people who do them.  Most of you probably know that my relationship with my sister has been strained for ages; try as we might, we just can't get along.  Part of that is because we're equally strong-willed, but hardly ever agree on anything; the number of times we've ever been in agreement can be counted on two fingers.  Another part of that is because, even though pretty much everyone who knows or has known her--and even some who haven't--insists that she loves and cares about me...there were times when I just didn't see it.  I won't go into detail, as not to embarrass her, but I will say that those incidents were very emotionally painful.  Why'd she do what she did? It's hard to say.  Maybe her intentions were good, and I just didn't understand them; maybe she was having a bad day, or was in a bad mood; or maybe it was merely a mistake that she learned from later on.  Whatever the reason, such actions made it hard to believe that she meant well in other cases; some time later, when she asked me a question about a rather personal situation, I answered it, then added, "Why is that any of your business?" I do regret reacting that way...but, I don't think I would have if it hadn't been for our checkered past.  It's not just her, though; countless others have acted in ways I didn't appreciate, only to wonder why I later had negative feelings towards them.  If only they'd followed Romans 12:18--"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone"--instead of saying whatever they wanted with supposedly good intentions, it wouldn't have been that way.

So, suffice it to say: I don't really understand love.  Oh, sure, I understand what the Bible says about it; still, many humans' expressions of it--even when I'm not the intended target of it--seem to be not in line with God's Word.  You have no idea the kinds of things I've heard people say to or about the person they married; if I were in their spouse's situation, I wouldn't stand for such treatment!  Though I agree criticism is necessary at times--after all, I am an amateur entertainment critic--there's times where it just borders on meanness, if it isn't already downright ugly.  Of course, there are times when we all need to hear something we don't want to hear...but, more often than not, the comments I hear are simply unnecessary.

I was raised on an old-school sense of morality; when you do or say something, you are responsible, regardless of what anybody else did, and you should apologize to someone you've hurt, even if you did mean well.  Though my mom was the main one who instilled that any me, other adults--even my teachers--would be quick to tell me when something was "unnecessary" or "not very nice".  Once, when I was in third grade, I nearly got written up because, when the teacher told us, "Y'all are the most talkative class I have ever had!", the kid sitting next to me said, "Yeah, right!", and the teacher thought I had said it.  The kid responsible admitted that she said it, but claimed she was saying it in response to what another classmate said; still, if I had said it, I could have been in serious trouble.  Some of you may have been raised on similar morals...but, unfortunately, in my generation and among most of the people I know, they're largely dead.  People can say whatever they want; if it makes someone else feel bad, it's not the fault of the person who said it.  I've never agreed with that, and neither does the Bible; Jesus said in Matthew 12:36-37, "But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." Do you think that, on Judgment Day, Jesus will accept, "But...I meant really well!", as an excuse? I doubt it.  Instead of trying to justify yourself, you should be big enough to apologize.

I will conclude by saying this: Like many words in the English language, the word "love" is tossed around a bit too easily.  We say we "love" pizza or Star Wars, yet we also say we love our significant other and our kids, or whatever family members we have, even if they're not human.  I'm not sure how you can feel the same way about your spouse as you can about a TV series; honestly, I'd have to agree with those who say that the English language is rubbish when it comes to expressing love.  Still, love isn't about what you say; it's what you do.  You may tell your wife you love her...but, do you express it in the way you treat her? If you do, great; I'm not trying to condemn anyone here.  Still, when it comes to the love I have experienced--entirely of the non-romantic variety--I often have trouble seeing the many ways it's expressed.  Some of it smacks too much of bullying for my tastes.  I understand that love causes pain; when you love someone, you hurt when they hurt.  Most of you probably have struggled yourselves when a loved one went through a physically and/or emotionally difficult time.  Still, there are times when I want to tell people, "If you loved me, you wouldn't talk to me that way!" I realize that sounds kind of like Samson's wife in Judges 14:16--"You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer."--but, seriously, I can't help but feel like I deserve better.  Not because I have a condition; not because I'm superior to anyone else; not because I got bullied when I was in school...but because I'm a human being, and your job is to love your fellow man.  What part of "Love your neighbor as yourself" don't you understand?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Why I Have Trouble Taking Marriage Seriously

NOTE: Actual Mrs. Russo not pictured.
When I was a junior in high school, I had a very attractive English teacher named Mrs. Russo.  (Okay, that wasn't her real name, but I don't want to give that away, so, that will be her name for this post.)  A pretty young blonde fresh out of college, and easily mistakable for a student, guys throughout the school were simply gaga for her...and me probably most of all.  I couldn't stop talking about how "hot" she was, to the point where it was driving others bonkers; one guy at my lunch table said, "What is it with you and Ms. Russo?" However, there was a problem with our infatuation: Mrs. Russo was just that; a Mrs., aka a married woman.  In fact, her husband was Coach Russo, a longtime teacher at our school; word among my friends was that Mrs. Russo was Coach's student, and that they had gotten married just before she became our teacher.  I actually got into a bit of trouble with Coach Russo; when one of my other teachers notified him about what I was saying about his bride, he saw me in the hallway and said, "I heard you were talking about my wife!"

However, as serious as Coach was, I honestly laugh every time I think about that incident.  Why? Simply because, less than four years after they said, "I do," the Russos divorced.  I don't know all of the details--frankly, they're none of my business--but, for Coach to go from telling me not to talk about his wife to no longer having a wife in well under half a decade's time is simply laughable.  Of course, divorces happen; they were happening even back in Bible times.  Still, it's incidents like that and others--mostly involving friends or other people I've personally known--that make it difficult to take marriage seriously.  Another couple I knew got married when I was in middle school, only to be separated well before I finished high school and eventually ended up--you guessed it!--divorced.  Other couples I've known have done everything from split up once their kids moved out, to go from leaving their spouses to having new fiancees in a mere year or two, surprising right many of their friends.  It just seems to be happening left and right, and not just in Tinseltown.

Those of you who are around my age or older probably remember when Pokémon came on the scene in the late 90's.  I actually was late to the party; I was one of the last kids I knew to have any of the cards and especially the original Game Boy games.  When I heard people talk about the games, I tried to imagine what they were like...but, when I actually got one, it was nothing like what I had pictured.  Eventually, many kids ended up giving up on the franchise; an article in the local paper titled "Interest in Pokémon is waning" blamed Nintendo's pokiness in bringing the "next generation" of games to American shores, and Wizards of the Coast's doing the same with the newer cards, which led to many kids actually catching all of the monsters, both in card and video game form, which made them bored with it.  Some kids even became seriously critical of other kids who still were fans; I knew a guy once who went from wanting to name his family's new cat Pikachu to making fun of me for playing the games within a mere two years.  Not only that, but...many adults made fun of the franchise itself, mostly because they didn't understand it.  As one article I read said, "Kids everywhere know about Pokémon.  Most adults just scratch their heads."

I mention that because many grown-ups attitudes towards Pokémon echo my feelings about marriage.  Though I know what I've heard people say about the topic, I'm pretty much an outsider, and don't really know what it's like to be married or even in a serious relationship; it's hard for me to understand what romantically involved folks go through on a daily basis.  When I see people's marriages turning out to be fads--that is, they're short-lived--it makes me wonder why they even got involved in the first place.  It's easy for me to criticize what those in relationships do, because I don't ever find myself in such situations, and the writing on the wall says I may never at all.  There's been a recent meme on Facebook that uses the mishaps of celebrities ranging from Elizabeth Taylor to Larry King to Britney Spears to Tiger Woods as an argument against the sanctity of marriage; I can agree that, despite its divine institution, it has become a very big joke.  The splits of countless couples I personally know or have known only augments the point.  Even when couples don't split up, marriage is still poked fun at; how many times have we seen movies or TV shows--especially sitcoms--that focus on problems between spouses? I'll tell you right now that I have seen married couples fight in real life, and it is not the least bit funny...yet, that didn't stop Tim and Jill Taylor's disagreements from being punctuated by a laugh track!  Other sources--including non-entertainment ones--liken marriage to being a punishment or an otherwise not good thing.  With all of on earth can I take it seriously? Half of the people involved in it don't seem to!

I will conclude by saying this: I know that many of you reading this probably are married or otherwise romantically involved.  I don't want you to think that I look down on you because of your relationship status; I don't feel that way at all.  In fact, I did a post about a year ago that talked about how entertainment was my significant other, because I talk about it often, spend most of my spare time with it, and even work with it at my job; one I specifically chose, that is.  Still, for most people, that's hard to understand; they've never had a "relationship" with an abstract entity.  Well, guess what? I've never had a romance with another human being; I have just as much trouble understanding your romantic situation as you do mine!  It's difficult to understand a situation that's not your own; when my oldest sister--who was severely disabled, mind you--was alive, people used to wonder why my mom was doing what she did.  When my mother started a day care in her own house after being unable to find reliable care for my eldest sibling, people would ask questions such as, "Why don't you get a job as a substitute nurse?" They didn't understand what it was like to have a kid like my oldest sister; those of you who have kids or other family members with disabilities probably feel her pain.  When it comes to marriage, I'm just as much of an outsider; part of me just doesn't get it, whereas another part of me just says to let the married folks do what they're going to do.  Maybe I'll understand someday...but, these days, I'm doubting that more than ever.