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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In the summer of 2004, my friend shoved me into the basement of an abandoned elementary school in the north Atlanta suburbs after yanking the flashlight out of my hands and proceeding to hold the door shut.  We were in there because that's the sort of thing stupid teenagers do - try to place themselves in the best possible scenario to have a potential horror film written about them.  I was scared, but I knew if I freaked out, he would hold the door shut for a longer period of time (that's what guys do to each other).  When I was finally freed, I did issue him a well-deserved Mag-Lite smack across his kneecap for that one.  Scared?  Yeah, because I didn't know what was down in the basement.  

Shortly after New Years Day in 2005, I jumped on a plane and went to Jamaica to play music and stood before the biggest crowds I had ever played for at the time.  Traveling around half a foreign country with only one person you know is even more frightening than having over a thousand pairs of eyes on you, watching your every move.  Scared?  Yep, because I had never done anything like that before, but it completely killed any fear of public speaking and performance from that point forward.

In the summer of 2009, I did a lot of weird crap... Between building a race car in my garage with my friends and racing it, getting expelled from Seminary, riding my motorcycle through the downtown Atlanta connector at about 90mph in rush hour traffic too many times, and being one of four grown men who squeezed into my old car:
all at once and went for a little late night jaunt (I was sitting on, yes on, the trunk) you would think I had a death wish or something.  Honestly though, riding four deep in my car didn't seem like a bad idea in the moment until someone pulled up beside us at a traffic light, rolled his window down and said:  
"I'm an ER nurse at Emory.  I'll probably be seeing you guys later."
Scared in all of those moments?  Sure.  That's how you live and know you're alive - or at least that's what I tell myself, but I make weird decisions sometimes.

The thing is, I think we all have stories that aren't so far off from the few I told you.  I have quite a few more to tell than those, but my mom reads my blog and I don't want her to have a heart attack, so I'll stop short.  A sense of fear and seeking it out is a pretty normal thing for most people unless you're really reserved (which is just fine and dandy if you are).  But, what I have noticed is that even the most fearless, crazy, or outgoing individuals I know tend to share one fear in common:
Most of them are afraid of other people.

It boils down to honesty and the culture that has been created over the span of generations which gives so many of us the need to please or be pleasing to others.  Walking that fine line between being appropriate and not disappointing to anyone.  What we have actually done, I am afraid, is lost our sense of honesty and individuality with others.

You see, I listen.  I listen to lots of people vent, share their frustrations, break down crying, or even question life.  Why?  I have no idea, but people confide in me either because I have a trusting personality or am just so damn cute that you can't stand it...  Let's go with the first option.  Getting back on point, what I have realized through the past dozen years or so worth of listening that I have done is how people create their own social issues fairly often and don't even notice it is happening.
Because they'll take twenty steps around something instead of facing it head-on.
It's a fear of people, a fear of rejection, and a fear of hurting people.

The thing about honesty is that it provokes fear in people who aren't confrontational, and it makes people think those who tell you the truth without flinching are complete jerks.  Since nobody wants to be in either camp, we settle for treading lightly around insignificant issues and start lying or avoiding instead.  Trust me, I lived there, so I know all about that.  The thing about lies and avoidance is how much more crap it compounds on the issue and also how much more complicated it usually makes life.

Some people have that "friend" they don't actually like.  When you're at a party and instead of everyone saying:
"Oh! Is William coming??"
it ends up being more like:
"Ugh, is William coming?"
while everyone else there has the same exact thought in their head.  That guy who is a complete jackass because nobody has ever been honest enough to tell him how much of a scrub he is?  Yeah, a situation like that, which is harsh wording, but you know exactly what I am talking about.  No, you don't have to invite him to your wedding, I promise.  But someone should probably sit down with him and have a nice talk at some point or introduce him to a new herd of like-minded donkeys to run with.  Otherwise it's sort of like having an abusive boss you hate, but with the title of "friend" put into the mix for some reason, isn't it?  You try to escape the boss, yet you try to maintain the friendship.  Makes sense.

It's the same idea when we make up excuses for not wanting to go places or do things with certain people instead of just saying the truth.  I had a friend a while back who would send me a text asking to call him when he was trying to get out of certain social situations (honestly, I've done it too).  I had a tendency to think up anything I could to make him laugh when he picked up the phone so it didn't seem like an emergency to the people he was trying to get away from.  
"Hey, man, I got my little toe stuck in a Tobasco bottle and I can't get it out.  It's not the original flavor either, it's habanero, so I need some help." 
because I'm fun like that - or a little facetious.  It's one of the two.  

Then I started thinking about how much all of that hoop-jumping and goose chasing it took to put up with all of that socially acceptable "normal" stuff.  You know, as compared to being honest about how we feel about things as we were taught to do when we were kids.  All of that seems to go out the window at some point between being about ten years old and halfway through high school.  If that's the world you like being in and constantly having to cover your tracks, by all means, continue to do so.

I would rather be transparent in life, answer truthfully, and be answered to with honesty from other people.  Sometimes the truth hurts, but the sting goes away much more quickly when we're upfront about things.  
Then you can concentrate on scaring the shit out of yourself and being afraid in the moment instead of just being afraid of other people.

Make sense?

Grace and Peace,



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