Accepting My Flaws

This seems like an odd way to start a post about romantic fiction, but I hope you’ll see where I’m going with it. So, you know when you have a crush on someone, and every time you see them, you get really nervous that you’re going to make a fool of yourself or have something in your teeth?

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably experienced such a sensation, and if you’re not reading this, I’m not sure how you’re still paying attention.

Why do you suppose most romantic fiction focuses on the first blush of fascination between two people? Well, one would expect that to be the most exciting part of a relationship. You may ask why, and even if you already know why, I’m still going to break this down for you.

We see a story told from the perspective of one party, most often in first person, and this main character is just like us! Super relatable and super flawed and they have a crush on someone. And we see that person through the protagonist’s eyes – oh, he’s so perfect! oh, she’s so beautiful! We know, logically, the protagonist is looking through rose-colored glasses and their crush definitely has flaws, but since the protagonist doesn’t see them, neither do we.

They dance around each other for a period of time, before finally revealing that they love each other and we all celebrate a happily ever after. That’s the part of the story we all know and love. In recent years, we decided that this was a trite way to end a story and storytellers had to add more padding to the end of it to appease our sense of realism, but we all know the truth. The romance is the best part.

We love to watch some flawed person – just like us – get the attention and love of a person who may not be perfect, but is definitely out of the protagonist’s league. We want to be them in those moments, being their complete awkward self and getting the girl or guy of their dreams. We imagine a world in which we could be loved and known so completely and fully. The fiction is so easy; just be yourself and be loved, cherished, and cared for, no strings attached, no expectations.

But in real life, the person we’re thirsting for wants the same thing and they have flaws just like us, so the fantasy falls apart rather quickly once the two of you get to know each other on more than just a superficial level. That’s when you come to the realization that you have to be their dream come true just as much as you’re expecting them to be yours.

It’s hard to be someone else’s dream, and we fail every day, but – and this is really my point here – if we don’t try to be the best version of ourselves, loving that person for all that they are, and not just for the weak image of them we first saw when we met them, then they can never be the best version of themselves for us. Kind of an all or nothing deal here.

Perhaps what I’m really getting at is our cultural obsession with the fantasy, and how much that gets in the way of the messy reality of loving a flawed person every day. You have to give to receive, is what I’m saying. The “happily ever after” is an ongoing uphill battle and you can’t be lazy. Don’t expect your partner to do the hard work of loving you and all your issues if you aren’t willing to do the same in return. In the real world, you have to earn the “happily ever after” if it’s going to last.

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Why haven’t I heard from you?

An interesting thing is going down on my Facebook feed this past week, and probably on the feeds of many other people. I heard it described as “the Confederacy is having a war with a Skittles factory” and that would be pretty accurate. I’ve mostly stayed away from posting anything about current events, partially because I don’t know what else can be said that hasn’t already been said by someone much more qualified than me.

But I noticed an interesting trend in the types of people who were posting certain kinds of content– I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, and it has probably occurred to you as well, assuming you have friends from many different social circles. Let me spell it out for you, in case it’s not totally clear where I’m going with this. Most of the articles and posts in support of displaying the Confederate flag as well as vague posts about how we need to “pray for our troubled nation” (like we don’t all know what you mean, c’mon, now) came from white Christians.

There’s a type of article, though, that was posted almost solely by black people, and they were articles about the string of church burnings that have happened following the shooting at Emmanuel AME church in South Carolina. Since then, 5 black churches have been burned this week alone, and at least 3 of these have been attributed to arson. Who is talking about this? Who is outraged about it? Well, from the evidence on my Facebook feed (so a limited sample, I’m not very popular) pretty much just black people.

I gotta say, it’s pretty telling of the condition of our society when white Christian folk care more — as in, they get more outraged and preachy about — the law of the land finally allowing same-sex marriage than they do regarding what appears to be an arsonist who is specifically targeting black churches. It would be easy to conclude that white Christians by and large do not care about their black brethren. That they are not stirred to action by the injustices faced by the black community and that even the obvious and ongoing crime of black churches being torched by racist person(s) unknown doesn’t seem to spur the kind of outcry that same-sex marriage has done.

Already, I’ve seen praise of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s letter encouraging state agencies to basically ignore the SCOTUS ruling. Check out the rest of the articles on that website, by the way, it’s a real piece of work. And it looks like some state officials are already jumping right in. Look, you must realize that no law can force a church or religious group to marry people if they feel it to be against their beliefs. No one is questioning the 1st amendment, but to use your own personal beliefs to deny people a civil right that is granted to them by federal law — that’s a different matter entirely. If your job is, for example, county clerk, you shouldn’t go abusing the 1st amendment in order to violate the civil rights of gay people.

These kinds of actions absolutely do not reflect the gospel of Christ. It’s sickening to see that people who proclaim their belief in Christ would look favorably on the abuse of religion described in the paragraphs above, but for some reason these same people choose to remain silent on the extremely real struggles of the black church in this country.

I don’t know if we’ve made any progress at all in the 8 years of having a black president, but what I have seen is heightened racial tensions. Maybe someday we will actually be able to reap some positive benefit from this, like an actual dialog about race relations and systemic racism. At the moment, all we have are gestures, and they are increasingly unsatisfying. I doubt anything will improve, though, if white folks can’t stop getting distracted by smoke and mirrors — issues that don’t really matter, the imagined “injustice” and “persecution” of people who have always been privileged.

The privileged class has influence, and nothing can change without properly leveraged influence. Unfortunately, the privileged class often chooses to go and fight paper tigers while others are left to fight actual battles in silence and darkness. So then, white Christians, why haven’t we heard much about the issues that really matter?