Category: ramblings

What Does It Mean to Forgive?

Last Sunday in church, we had a discussion in Sunday School around forgiveness, and it’s still been kicking around in my head. It centered around this scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 64: 9-10:

Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.

The part that I really stumbled over this time was the bit about the person who isn’t forgiving having the greater sin. That works totally fine when the act you’re supposed to forgive is something minor. Someone said something mean to you. Someone got in a fight with you. Forgiving something like that seems doable, and I could see that if the person who said or did something to you is there asking for forgiveness, and you decide to be angry at them for forever anyway, how you might be the person with the bigger issue there.

But what if it’s something bigger? What if it’s someone who killed your dog by accident? What if they killed your dog on purpose? Or something worse? Or what if they aren’t even asking for forgiveness. Do you still have to forgive them then? And does the “greater sin” still rest with you?

As I’ve continued to think about it, it’s helped for me to look at this transaction in economic terms. The action of the person who hurt you is a sunk cost. It’s done damage to you, and that damage is already inflicted. At this point, what you choose to do in response to that damage might make things better for you or worse for you. If you choose to harbor a grudge permanently, who is that hurting more. You, or them? If the definition of sin is knowing the will of God and not doing it, which action is bringing you further away from God? Perhaps the “greater sin” is focused on you, not on them. On the impact that action will have on you.

That angle of thinking helped somewhat with my conundrum, but it led to another question: What does it mean to forgive? Are you supposed to forget about the harm that person caused you? You shouldn’t have to put yourself back into the position where you were harmed before, should you? You don’t have to be BFFs with that person anymore, right?

To answer this, it helped me to think about the contractor who walked off with $3,500 of my money, never to be seen again. I was most definitely angry with him for months. Denisa and I had a private investigator track the guy down in hopes of getting our money back. We discovered he was in prison for possession of heroin, and we had to decide what we wanted to do. We could push forward, trying to get some of our money out of him, but it would take a lot of time and effort, with no guarantee that it would work.

In the end, I decided to just forgive him the debt. What did that mean? I never talked to him. I never had this big scene where I said, “I forgive you,” and the music swelled, and we all hugged. I most definitely would never hire him for another job, and I would warn anyone I heard of who might be thinking of hiring him to stay well away. Instead, it meant that I stopped wanted to get back at him. I decided to forget about the urge for retribution. I went from thinking about what he’d done to us often, to not thinking about it at all. Five years later(!), I still remember everything that happened, but I no longer feel much of anything but pity for the contractor. He was in a bad spot. His marriage crumbled around him. He went to prison. Googling him just now, I see he’s been up to no good since then as well. Illegal fires, more drugs, forgery, and more. It looks like someone’s getting money from him, and good luck with that.

But in the end, I felt like the grudge I was harboring against him was doing me far more harm than it was doing him. He never asked for forgiveness, and I doubt he would if he saw me. (I have no desire to see him again, if for no other reason than I know he’s perpetually doing things I don’t want to be around.)

In the grand scheme of things, $3,500 is still not a whole lot of damage, compared with some of the things people do to each other. I don’t know how I’d navigate worse things, and I pretend to be in a position to advise others how to do that. But it makes sense to me to do what we can to minimize the damage terrible things can have on us, and making the conscious effort to move forward is often the best way to do that.

After all this thinking, I still believe that scripture is a whole lot deeper than the surface level it seems at first glance, and discussion of forgiveness and what it means likely changes depending on each circumstance. It’s much more nuanced than you can get with a group discussion of thirty people, especially when you never know what sort of “sins” each person in the room is thinking about in the discussion.

What does forgiveness mean to you?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice . . .

After my article yesterday gushing about In the Heights, I was taken aback to read about some of the blow back the film has been suffering from in certain circles. Not because it’s too diverse or too woke (which I cynically expected), but rather because it isn’t diverse enough. Specifically, that it doesn’t adequately represent the Afro Latinx community. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jon Chu have both publicly apologized for this now, and when I read about it, my reactions were mixed. I wanted to parse those reactions out a bit to see what I’m thinking, why I’m thinking it, and if those thoughts were justified.

A warning in advance: I’m going to be blunt, to try and show both where I started and where I ended up. Please read to the end, and please keep the whole of the post in mind.

My knee-jerk response was an eye roll, to be honest. Come on. Not diverse enough? One of the things I found so encouraging about the movie was its diversity. It made a point to show how people in the neighborhood came from all over: Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and so on. There’s even a song and dance number about it. If a movie like In the Heights is getting yelled at for not being diverse enough, then it feels like there’s just no pleasing some people. They should be happy with the progress that’s being made, and quit being so impatient all the time to have every single teeny tiny group represented. What are film makers supposed to do? Run a statistical analysis of their work to make sure it accurately portrays the actual racial and socio-economical make up of the setting of their work? Stories are about different people. It doesn’t make sense that the story should need to come second to the race or gender or whatever of the characters involved.

So. Once I got that initial thought out of my system, I took some time to think about what’s going on, and why it might be upsetting to some. In this case, there’s a film being made that’s supposedly celebrating diversity. Where everyone’s going to have a place at the table. And so members of that community head into it expecting to find themselves in there somewhere, only to walk away feeling excluded yet again.

How are they not supposed to feel disappointed? Back pre-Fellowship of the Ring, I was typically disappointed whenever a fantasy movie came out, because they generally stunk. Was I supposed to just suck it up and be happy they were making any fantasy movies at all? If I was upset back then over something as frivolous as “is this fantasy movie any good?” then how can I begrudge someone for feeling like they’ve been left out of a movie that, when you think about it, really doesn’t have many dark-skinned actors in it?

But then I waffled once again. “Criticism like this is exactly what’s keeping people from speaking up online about anything remotely related to race or any potentially sensitive topic,” I thought. If you say one thing out of line, then the twitterati will show up to yell at you and tell you all about how you’re wrong and how dare you. And indeed, I’ve talked to numerous people who have expressed just that sentiment. They don’t express any opinions online for fear of saying the wrong thing.

That’s clearly not something that’s held me back over the years, for better or for worse. But at the same time, it has kept me from doing some things that I’ve wanted to do or say. I recognize that I don’t fully understand the meaning of some words or some causes or some ideas, no matter how much I may try to. And so I’ve been hesitant to wade into those waters, for fear of saying the wrong thing. For example, I wasn’t going to write this post today, because I was unsure how it would be received, and I didn’t really feel like it was my place to speak up on the topic. In the end, I decided to write it, mainly to illustrate how I’m trying to navigate issues like it. (The biggest issue being my ignorance, and the fact that I consistently want to default to a “what’s the big deal” mindset that’s so dismissive and potentially hurtful to minorities.)

What else have I shied away from? Another example would be putting up a rainbow around my picture on social media in support of the LGBTQIA+ community. I worry that I don’t fully understand the statement I’d be making with that, and so I do nothing out of fear of making the wrong statement. This despite the fact that I believe members of that community deserve protection, support, and love. Despite the fact that I voted in favor of gay marriage and consider myself very sympathetic to their cause. But am I sympathetic enough? I don’t know the answer to that, and so it feels duplicitous to try and interject myself into the conversation.

Where am I trying to go with this? I suppose I’m trying to say to all the people who roll their eyes at some of these issues, “I see you. I get it. I understand why you might feel that way.” But at the same time, I’m trying to explain why it’s important to get over yourself and understand it’s not all about you and the way you feel. That just because things have changed from how they used to be doesn’t mean that they’ve changed enough, and people in the majority don’t get to tell people in the minority when it’s time for them to shut up and stop being heard. Not if people in the majority really think of themselves as compassionate allies.

If there’s one thing I know about feelings, it’s that no one gets to tell you how you feel. If you tell me you’re upset, I can’t say, “No you’re not.” Only you know how you feel. And if I care about you at all, telling you to suck it up or stop being so sensitive or insisting that there’s no real reason for you to be upset is pretty cold-hearted.

So where do I end up after I go through all those thoughts sparked by one simple article? I conclude that the people have a right to feel upset, and that the creators of In the Heights were right to apologize and express a desire to keep improving. If you’ve been failing a subject for year (centuries!), and you finally get your average up to a C or a B, you can be congratulated, even as you can also recognize you still have work to do to really master the material. Sure, you might feel like those are laurels you’re resting on, but if you find out they’re really just dandelions, stomping your foot and insisting they’re not won’t really help anything.

When it comes to these sensitive issues, I try my hardest to listen to the people who are actually being hurt, and then adjust my actions accordingly. Those knee-jerk reactions are my own shortcomings in action, and demanding the world conform to them is short-sighted, egotistical, and kind of a jerk move.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Keeping Perspective

I don’t have a whole ton of time to blog today, but I wanted to jot down a quick thought that’s been kicking through my head. In a nutshell, it’s a basic observation of how important it is to remember that the things you are familiar with and good at aren’t universal to everyone. For example, I have written many books by now. Writing a book, for me, is in no way an insurmountable task. It’s gotten to the point where it’s just another thing that I do, much the same as library work, or organizing a pantry, or installing a new A/V system for my home theater.

I try to remember that when I’m talking to other people who are working on writing their first book, or who dream about just writing anything at all. For me, rattling off 1,000 words writing about a topic isn’t something that’s terribly difficult to do either. After all these years of blogging, the bigger trick is often coming up with something to write about, rather than just having enough to write about whatever it is. (I mean, come on. I’ve been able to come up with blog posts about the best fruits out there. And then I did a specific post just about bananas. You give me a topic, and I can talk about it for about as long as you want. Probably longer, to be honest.)

So it’s okay if I come up to some sort of problem that just leaves my head whirling. If I were to try to fix a broken engine, I would be so far out of my depth I wouldn’t know where to begin. “It doesn’t start” would be about as far as I got. Figuring out how to garden well? Landscape a yard? Make a cosplay costume? There are a ton of things that are outside my skill set.

Sometimes it can be tempting to put more value in the things you do well than in the things other people do well. As if the things you’ve specialized in are somehow of greater intrinsic worth than the things you chose not to specialize in. And I suppose that might be natural. After all, you thought they were worthwhile enough to specialize in them, right? But just because you think engineering is the bee’s knees doesn’t mean it’s going to be worth a whole lot to you when your television breaks and you have no idea how to fix it.

Where are these thoughts going? Nowhere, really, other than to say it’s important to remember that the things that are easy for you (relatively speaking) can be very difficult for other people. Not because you’re awesome and they aren’t, but because you’ve spent a whole lot of time on them and they haven’t. And I guess that’s all the time I’ve got to think today.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

One Skill to Rule Them All

If you could pick one skill to be completely proficient in, which one would you pick, and why? There’s a ton to pick from, right? I mean, you could be the world’s best piano player. That’s going to be worth bank in the long run, right? Or you could be an expert rock climber, or a race car driver or any number of things. And I suppose any of those would make an awful lot of sense, and they’d work out really well for you in the long run.

But if we tone the hypothetical down a notch or two and just made it “what skill would you work on improving before any other,” I think one rises to the top for me: time management.

So much of success in life seems (to me, at least) to stem from being a good manager of your time. If you know how to stay on top of your work, do the things you’ve committed to do, and do them all on time when they’re expected, then life becomes a whole lot easier. It’s much(!) easier to hold down a good job and get promoted. It’s much easier to find time for yourself and your hobbies. It’s easier to improve other areas of your life.

On the other hand, if you’re always running behind and playing catch up with yourself, everything becomes more difficult. In many ways, it seems like it’s parallel to good money management. Have enough money in the bank and don’t over commit yourself, and life suddenly gets a whole lot easier.

So the question then becomes, “How do you get better at time management?” In my experience, you do that the same way you get better at any other skill: consistent, mindful practice. Decide that it’s something important to you, and then work at it every day. For me, I’ve done that through making daily goals. I also heavily utilize lists, analyzing any big projects I’ve got on my plate and breaking them down into a series of daily tasks that need to happen each day. Then all I need to do is get that smaller bit done consistently, and the rest takes care of itself.

But what about you? Do you also think time management is important? If so, how have you worked to improve at it? If not, what do you think outweighs it? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Bryce’s First Law: People are Bad at Evaluating Evidence

When I was on my mission in Germany, I had the chance to talk to a lot of people (a lot of people) about things you typically don’t talk to strangers about. Yes, it was really outside my comfort zone, but at the same time, it gave me the opportunity to see how many people think. What reasons they have for doing what they’re doing. How they critique what other people are doing. That all comes from starting a lot of your conversations by introducing yourself and asking, “Would you like to hear a message about Jesus Christ?” (In German, of course. Though I don’t recommend using German if you want to try the same thing here in America. Not many people speak it here, you know.)

One of my big takeaways from that experience (and something that’s been confirmed for me time and time again in the 20+ years since then) is that people do what they want to do. I know this shouldn’t seem like a huge revelation, but it gets a bit deeper when you pair it with the realization that people also want to make the right decision. Very few people sit back and say, “This is a stupid thing I want to do, and it makes no sense, and only an idiot would do it, but I’m going to do it anyway, because it’s what I want to do.” Mind you, I think many of us actually do use that sort of logic as we make any number of decisions every day, but we’ve developed this workaround.

We look for someone or something that tells us what we want to do is actually a good idea, and then we listen to that person or source above any other objections.

In religion, this meant that even people who were looking for a new religion were typically focused on finding a religion that told them that everything they already believed was right. This was frustrating to a 19 year-old missionary, since I was trying to get people to see for a moment that if religion is about the worshipping of a literal, real, existing God, then it might make sense to ask God what He expected out of a religion. That said, I’ve since seen plenty of examples of people using religion as a “something that tell us what we want to do is actually a good idea.” (Religion is very handy like that. You can just tell someone you believe something is the right thing, and there’s really no way of arguing that you don’t believe that. It’s the headache of justifications. If I tell you I have a headache and need to go lie down, how in the world are you going to tell me I don’t? Mind you, God knows if you’re using religion as an excuse or not, so I suppose it’ll all even out in the end, but that doesn’t do us much good in the here and now with people using it as a blunt object to support everything from genocide to bigotry to homophobia to who knows what else.)

But this doesn’t just apply to religion. Look at any number of hot button topics being debated in society these days, and you will find the “look for someone or something that tells us what we want to do is actually a good idea, and then listen to that person or source above any other objections” approach in action. Climate change was decided for many people decades ago. They came upon the “some scientists don’t believe it’s true” argument, and they’ve hung onto that argument like grim death ever since, ignoring any and all additional evidence that the world is slowly turning into a hot tub. Abortion? There are any number of sources out there that will convincingly tell you any facts you want to hear to justify any position you want to take on the matter.

The same is true for COVID. Think it’s no big deal? I’ve got some articles and statistics that will confirm that. Think it’s just a shade less bad than bubonic plague? I’m sure we can get you covered for that as well. Want to get vaccinated? Want to not get vaccinated? Want to be vegan? Want to not exercise? Want to drink coffee? Want to not drink coffee? You’re going to be able to find something that will confirm to you that the thing you want to do is actually right and proper and really the best decision to make, all things considered.

Except that’s the thing. All things aren’t being considered, because humans are incredibly bad (on the whole) at evaluating evidence. We’re easily swayed by single examples and exceptions. I’ve talked to numerous people who don’t want to wear seat belts because they knew someone who got trapped in a car wreck because their seatbelt wouldn’t release. So they’ll ignore the mountains of evidence and studies that confirm it’s far safer to wear a seatbelt. With COVID right now, you have people who argue that COVID just isn’t that dangerous, but then they’ll turn around and argue they won’t be vaccinated because those vaccines are too worrisome. On the flip side, you had people who were citing all reputable sources about the importance of mask wearing and COVID precautions who are now refusing to let go of some of those precautions as the vaccine rate increases.

This isn’t a red problem or a blue problem. It isn’t a rich problem or a poor problem. It’s not an educated problem or an ignorance problem. It’s a universal human problem that’s being exacerbated by the fact that there are so many other sources of information out there to provide fodder for justifications.

Of course, it’s one thing to identify a problem, and another to actually do something about it. I have no idea how to combat this principle in every day life. I’d say it would help to share better resources and link to places that have reputable studies, but as I said, there are plenty of places out there that will contradict whatever I link to. People are fond of saying “do the research, you’ll see I’m right,” but just because the random dots you see out there happen to link up to form a shape that’s kind of reminiscent of Scooby Doo if you squint hard doesn’t mean that Hanna Barbera is actually running the universe.

I suppose in the end, all you can really do is try to avoid the problem yourself, and do what you can to help others avoid it as well. If someone really does want to make good, informed decisions, then I believe they’ll win out in the end. Perhaps a good litmus test would be to ask yourself how many times you want to do something and then, after investigating it properly, you end up changing your mind. If the answer to that is “rarely or never,” then you’re likely falling victim to what I’ll call Bryce’s Law (because this is my blog, and I don’t know that anyone’s already named the law. (And even if they have, I can now cite evidence that this has always been called Bryce’s Law . . .)).

How many times have you had a knee-jerk reaction to something, looked into it, and then discovered you were wrong? Again, the correct answer should probably be “frequently.” Or maybe that’s just me, and I’m just typically wrong more often than most . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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