a thorn in the flesh… some casserole, too…

With all the talk of peace on Earth, tidings of good cheer and the overall ongoing celebration of Christmas and Hanukkah, it’s got me thinking about other Judeo-Christian principles that absolutely each of us can learn from. But allow me first, if you will, to share a recent, quite personal — and well, if I do say so myself — painful yet still somewhat humorous story…

It’s been a little more than a month now. It was Thanksgiving Day. The sun was shining, the family gathered, and gratitude was the most prevalent, collective disposition. We joyfully went about completing each of our tasks, knowing the combination of our individual contributions would soon lead to an alluring feast. Suffice it to say, anticipation was joyful and high.

My youngest — as has been much accounted for here — was quite proud of his contribution. This was the year young Master Josh would make the infamous turkey day delicacy — aka “green bean casserole” — most all by himself. As a maturing 21 year old with special needs, he was greatly thrilled to independently complete his chosen tasks.

You drain the beans, pour them into the 13”x 9” pan, empty in the cans of creamy soup, add some spice, and then adorn the dish with those crispy fried onions approximately 5 minutes prior to expected completion. Donning the bakers mitts in each hand, he was visibly excited to remove his favored side from the oven.

As he placed the pan on top of the stove, wanting to affirm his independence, I said, “We should celebrate. High five?”

To which he said, “I think it’s worth more than that. How about a chest bump?”

So chest bump it would be. I made the mistake of assuming Josh knew exactly how to do that.

While I jumped up vertically in front of the oven, Josh assumed a little more of a horizontal angle in his exuberance. One could say, in fact, that his chest bump was instead more of a body slam, therefore knocking me backwards while in air, causing me to stumble some 10 feet backwards, eventually colliding with the base of a very nice but also very firm chair. With the onset of immediate pain and soon x-ray confirmation, our Thanksgiving proceeded with two lateral left broken ribs.

Let me share for those who have not experienced such a fate, broken ribs are painful. I have a whole new respect for the cringing quarterback who lies prostrate on the gridiron after a full frontal hit. There’s no way to immobilize the bone; you simply have to deal with it (… I’d say “grin and bear it” but only the latter is consistently true). There’s really nothing you can do to fix the fracture except attempt to numb the pain. But the bottom line is that it typically takes somewhere between 6 weeks to 3 months to heal. Sitting here at the keyboard, it still stings as we speak now.

It prompted me to think about those Judeo-Christian principles, specifically about the centuries old idea of being a “thorn in the flesh” or a “thorn in the side” — in other words, “a source of continual annoyance or trouble.” What do we do with that nagging pain that just won’t go away?

Maybe the pain is a wound. Something that hurts. Maybe it’s a person. Someone who hurt you. Maybe it’s a situation or circumstance, too.

Let me be a little more transparent. It would be easy to moan and complain about how difficult this has been. It was in fact 4 weeks before 2 hours of continuous deep sleep was possible, as there is no comfortable way in which to be dormant for hours. Many basic movements (think breathing, coughing or the dreaded, ill-fated sneeze) are also unpredictably painful.

Not only would it be easy to complain, it would also be easy for the numerous, no doubt wonderful, empathetic and compassionate persons that surround me to encourage and relate by uttering how understandable such is. I love that about them.

But it’s made me think about how a reframe of the thorn or continual annoyance or in this case, the fracture of the 6th and 7th rib could be beneficial. What if instead of focusing on the pain, I pondered if there was any purpose? What if I then focused on the potential purpose as opposed to on whom or what I deemed responsible? And what could happen if the ongoing ache prompted and reminded me that I can learn and grow from what hurts? And… what hurts bad…

Don’t allow me to act as if I’ve got this all figured out. I don’t. Not even close. And many days, often sleep-deprived, the temptation to complain only increases. But I’ve been thinking… pondering… could there be any thing I could use the pain for… to remind me… to persevere… to give thanks knowing it could be worse.

No neat answer here, friends. The only known conclusion thus far is that Josh and I decided we will always celebrate the making of the green bean casserole. Granted, we will be teaching him how to chest bump first.

Respectfully…

AR 

hope

As is our tradition, our fave Christmas post, as told several years ago by Justin Taylor, Crossway Sr. VP & publisher, putting life into perspective…

In March of 1863, 18-year-old Charles Appleton Longfellow walked out of his family’s home on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and—unbeknownst to his family—boarded a train bound for Washington, DC., over 400 miles away, in order to join President Lincoln’s Union army to fight in the Civil War.  Charles was the oldest of six children born to Fannie Elizabeth Appleton and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the celebrated literary critic and poet. Charles had five younger siblings: a brother (aged 17) and three sisters (ages 13, 10, 8—another one had died as an infant).

Less than two years earlier, Charles’s mother Fannie had died from a tragic accident when her dress caught on fire. Her husband, awoken from a nap, tried to extinguish the flames as best he could, first with a rug and then his own body, but she had already suffered severe burns. She died the next morning, and Henry Longfellow’s facial burns were severe enough that he was unable even to attend his own wife’s funeral. He would grow a beard to hide his burned face and at times feared that he would be sent to an asylum on account of his grief.

When Charley (as he was called) arrived in Washington D.C. he sought to enlist as a private with the 1st Massachusetts Artillery. Captain W. H. McCartney, commander of Battery A, wrote to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for written permission for Charley to become a solider. HWL (as his son referred to him) granted the permission.

Longfellow later wrote to his friends [Sen.] Charles Sumner, [Gov.] John Andrew, and Edward Dalton (medical inspector of the Sixth Army Corps) to lobby for his son to become an officer. But Charley had already impressed his fellow soldiers and superiors with his skills, and on March 27, 1863, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, assigned to Company “G.”

After participating on the fringe of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia (April 30-May 6, 1863), Charley fell ill with typhoid fever and was sent home to recover. He rejoined his unit on August 15, 1863, having missed the Battle of Gettysburg.

While dining at home on December 1, 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received a telegram that his son had been severely wounded four days earlier. On November 27, 1863, while involved in a skirmish during a battle of the Mine Run Campaign, Charley was shot through the left shoulder, with the bullet exiting under his right shoulder blade. It had traveled across his back and skimmed his spine. Charley avoided being paralyzed by less than an inch.

He was carried into New Hope Church (Orange County, Virginia) and then transported to the Rapidan River. Charley’s father and younger brother, Ernest, immediately set out for Washington, D.C., arriving on December 3. Charley arrived by train on December 5. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was alarmed when informed by the army surgeon that his son’s wound “was very serious” and that “paralysis might ensue.” Three surgeons gave a more favorable report that evening, suggesting a recovery that would require him to be “long in healing,” at least six months.

On Christmas day, 1863, Longfellow—a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, the oldest of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself—wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him. He hears the Christmas bells and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) but observes the world of injustice and violence that seemed to mock the truth of this statement. The theme of listening recurs throughout the poem, leading to a settledness of confident hope even in the midst of bleak despair…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Respectfully… with hope… always…

AR

practicing goodwill in our individual corners

As we focus on all these good tidings of great joy, peace on Earth and goodwill toward men, I think of the ways we could each more wisely contribute to current culture. What if we embraced each of the above in more than a singular season? What if we valued and practiced such for all twelve months of the year?…

Good tidings means great news… great news of joy!

Peace on Earth… well, sometimes I think we think that means everyone from all factions of life on the planet getting along, embracing no more selfishness or conceit — which suffice it to say, that would be a wonderful concept. But I think it more means figuring this God thing out and figuring who we are in relation to him.

And goodwill… toward men, women, you-name-it. That means we are friendly, helpful and engage with one another with a cooperative, kind attitude and disposition. There’s a lot of people on social media and in D.C. who fail to consistently practice such. And there are a lot of us who justify their seemingly intentional failure because of the (D) or (R) that follows their name. To be clear, goodwill toward all should not be determined by a lone letter of the alphabet.

So how do we each wisely contribute?

Where can we each make a positive difference in our little corner of the world?

Of course, in our social media interactions…

Definitely, in our day-to-day routines — our work, our neighborhoods, our errands throughout the day…

But what about first in our families?

We all have families. We all also have moments or seasons of hurt, disruption or dysfunction. Additionally, rarely are the moments or seasons all one person’s (or the other person’s) fault; we each contribute. So what if we first practiced good tidings, peace, and goodwill there?

I was struck in recent days by the airing of the much publicized “Harry & Meghan” documentary series, where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex publicly shared their journey — or “complex journey” as Netflix identified it. 

According to Forbes, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were given an estimated $100 million for the docuseries. The production then generously shared their litany of grievances with Harry’s family — and only shared Harry and Meghan’s perspective. There was no such thing as fair and balanced. There was also no admission of contribution to the dysfunction by Harry and Meghan.

I wish them no ill will whatsoever; no one this far removed can be certain of specifics of their motive. But let me just say this. I would have far more respect for the two former senior royals if instead accepting multiple millions to share with all the world all that was wrong with their family, they would have instead gone to the family privately and attempted to work things out. And if one extended conversation wasn’t enough, that they stay put, persevere, and do the selfless work it takes to reconcile relationship. That is goodwill. That would also bring to the rest of us far better news than anything seen on Netflix.

Personally this season I am grateful for my family and extended family. We’re spread a bit far this Christmas season and not able to see each other as oft as we like, and the reality is that life’s not always perfect. We sometimes hurt each other. It’s sometimes not all that fun. And each of us makes our share of contributions.

But we don’t keep score. We forgive fast. Learn much. Laugh, too. And love one another generously always.

Over and over again.

Such seems a wise contribution… in far more than our little corner of the world.

Respectfully…

AR

free speech?

With Elon Musk prompting a bit of a free speech firestorm with the recent changes and tweets at Twitter, it’s made many ask what free speech is, isn’t, and what should and shouldn’t be allowed. For continued context, Musk is reversing the behavior of former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who admits multiple errors and censorship during his tenure. Said Dorsey this past week: “The biggest mistake I made was continuing to invest in building tools for us to manage the public conversation, versus building tools for the people using Twitter to easily manage it for themselves. This burdened the company with too much power, and opened us to significant outside pressure…” He acknowledged the influence of activists.

Noting as previously stated that the Intramuralist has never considered Twitter to be a host of authentic dialogue (the interactions are too snarky and short), it’s not surprising that freedom of expression was also not one of their values. Twitter was not an exhibitor of free speech; they printed what they wanted, shut down and shadow-banned others. But Twitter started as a private company (later becoming public and set to go private once more). It’s also not surprising then, since many have participated in places where free speech was not valued nor therefore practiced, that many have consequently concluded that said freedom is unnecessary. Let’s thus do a little unpacking…

Among other essential human rights, the First Amendment guarantees that Congress will make no law “abridging the freedom of speech.” To “abridge” means to curtail. The freedom of speech then means that an individual is free to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. Categories of speech that are not considered within said freedom are incitement, defamation, fraud, obscenity, child pornography, fighting words, and threats.

One of the critical arenas where the debate most seems to play itself out (no, not Twitter) is on the college campus. In especially recent years, it’s been increasingly questioned whether colleges are embracing or actually eroding free speech… and the wisdom and health of said intentional efforts. What should or shouldn’t be silenced?

AllSides presented the perspectives respectfully and objectively some time ago: “Do college administrators have a duty to protect students against harmful speech and negative emotional consequences? Or is the purpose of college education to expose yourself to different views and build resiliency against bad ideas?”

Great questions. Let’s offer a few more, questions that are worthy of asking both on and off the college campus — also, both on and off social media… In regard to the freedom of speech… 

Is hate speech protected — and if so, what exactly is it?

(Fascinating note: according to the American Library Association, “There is no legal definition of ‘hate speech’ under U.S. law, just as there is no legal definition for evil ideas, rudeness, unpatriotic speech, or any other kind of speech that people might condemn. Generally, however, hate speech is any form of expression through which speakers intend to vilify, humiliate, or incite hatred against a group or a class of persons on the basis of race, religion, skin color sexual identity, gender identity, ethnicity, disability, or national origin.” Back to the questions…)

What level of scrutiny should be applied to online expression?

And…

Who gets to decide what is and isn’t acceptable?

Friends, this isn’t easy. It’s also not some simple, binary, black and white answer; there is no minimized two-option, potential solution.

So allow me to respectfully add what does not qualify as a filter in our discernment of what’s a wise way forward, as admittedly, some of the speech out there — and some of the squelching of speech out there — is offensive. We don’t like it.

The challenge is that neither offense nor dislike are rational reasons for restriction. There exists no right to shoot down what we don’t like.

That, my friends, is what makes this both sensitive and hard.

Respectfully…

AR

what makes us jolly?

Tis the season to be jolly… or something like that. For the record, let’s ensure we’re all on the same page…

jolly  [ jol-ee ]

adjective, jol·li·er, jol·li·est.

1. in good spirits; lively; merry: In a moment he was as jolly as ever.

2. cheerfully festive or convivial: a jolly party.

3. joyous; happy: Christmas is a jolly season.

So I thought about the idea. What makes us jolly? What puts us in good spirits, making us cheerfully festive, and joyous?

I think of our family evening the other night…

We were gathered in concert with thousands of others, encouraged and inspired by the talents and gifts of the Australian brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone — also known as the talented pop duo “for KING & COUNTRY.”

Declared by Billboard magazine in 2012 as one of the “New Artists to Watch,” their success and status has only increased, humble as the men seem to stay. As another musical publication articulated, “It takes only one listen to the brothers’ rich, upbeat, alternative sounds and thoughtful lyrics to understand their sudden popularity.”

And as they performed once more on their “A Drummer Boy Christmas” tour, I realized a little bit more of what it means to be jolly… to feel that inspiring, lively happiness…

Here in an arena that seats some 20,000 people, there is no way we are all alike. There are differences in demographics, belief systems, convictions, you-name-it.

And yet somewhere in the middle of all the rum-pa-pum-pums, they took time to sing a few other, non-seasonal songs… 

“Burn the Ships,” for example, where they see each day as an opportunity, a time to “step into a new day,” saying “so long to shame” and more… “Joy,” where they encourage the intentional choosing of inner delight…

But my favorite came from “Together,” written by the duo along with Tori Kelly and Kirk Franklin, released two years ago at some of the height of our country’s racial and political tension; the chorus and included end says this:

“If we fall, we will fall together

Take my hand 

Come and stand

When we rise  

We will rise together  

Together 

Together we are dangerous

Together with our differences

Together we are bolder, braver, stronger.”

Said Luke later, noting that they originally didn’t have time to finish the song as desired for a previous record: 

“What’s ironic is the song was kind of shelved. Fast forward to where we are now and I find it amazing that a song we couldn’t finish back then is really dealing with the core issues in regards to what I think a lot of people are struggling with right now. They feel isolated, they feel like they’re lonely. Most of the time you have these things take place in your countries, your towns or whatever but this is something that’s actually happening around the world. There’s a lyric in the song that says ‘if we fall’ and we’ve all fallen; everybody knows somebody that has fallen significantly. We have this opportunity coming up of how we will rise. Our hope is the narrative can be hey this took place in 2020 and what an unbelievable difficult thing it was for the world but look what good came out of it because we actually united over commonalities instead of trying to find our differences.”

Without a doubt, uniting over our commonalities, realizing we were each divinely created, that puts me in good spirits, makes me cheerfully festive, and joyous, too.

Tis the season, you know.

Respectfully…

AR

explaining the sometimes unexplainable

And just like that, it happens again.

There’s this simple thing that happens frequently to most of us… sometimes daily, maybe more often weekly. Just a common occurrence. But yet, it’s one that’s long had me thinking. Let’s see if we can make this work…

We’re on our cell phone, having what is hopefully a delightful conversation, interacting with said person of choice. And then just like that — in the middle of what may even be mid-sentence, perhaps in the middle of unveiling a striking thought, profound revelation or simply deep conversation, the call drops.

“Call failed” is the typical, bland screen response.

So somebody pulls the trigger, dialing back, so the conversation can resume, and that’s the spot that has me thinking.

“What happened?” says one.

(Assuming no button was inadvertently tapped) “I’m not sure,” says the other.

“What’d you do?”

“I don’t know. I’m standing in a spot I typically stand in. My cell service says it’s strong.”

After a brief analysis of why the call dropped, the striking thoughts and profound revelations continue. But what prompts my wonder is that analysis, the attempt to determine why what happened happened.

If I didn’t push a button and am calling from a place I typically talk without incident, I automatically assume the reason for the call failure is the full responsibility of the other person. In other words, if I wasn’t knowingly responsible, I assume the other is completely responsible.

I assign responsibility fully to another. And… 

I assume I am 100% correct in my conclusion.

Because of that, I never again reflect upon whether I had any responsibility or how I may have contributed to the problem.

Therein lies the zillion dollar question, friends…

Where else in our search for an immediate answer, do we assume another is fully responsible because we are unaware of any self contribution?

Where else, too, do I assign a conclusion to something that might not actually have one — meaning, we are incapable of discerning an answer; we can’t figure it out.

I think of the many who have published popular books who embrace the tactic of the binary choice. “If you’re not this, then you must be this.” It’s a choice between solely two alternatives, and if you’re not one, then you must be the other. Sorry. But I find this to be incredibly faulty logic; it’s simply a way to explain away what we don’t understand. We need to be wise enough to acknowledge that we cannot comprehend all; we aren’t capable; and we error in self-awareness when we think we are so capable.

For the record, according to CommunityPhone.org, there are four primary reasons for phone calls being dropped: 

  1. Cell Tower Distance
  2. Natural and Man-Made Obstructions
  3. Unreliable Phone Carrier
  4. Faulty Equipment

Also, for the record, we can’t always tell which one it is.

Respectfully…

AR

the problem with Twitter

As a fairly neutral observer — or perhaps better put — as a half-hearted Twitter tweeter at best, I’ve found it fascinating to watch the recent/current/whatever brouhaha surrounding the San Francisco-based microblogging/social media site. Please, for purposes of this discussion, remember the meaning of the word “fascinating”: “extremely interesting.” There exists no positive nor negative connotation. 

With the wealthiest person in the world purchasing the social networking service, people have had all sorts of opinions… 

“Musk is wrecking Twitter.”

“The aftermath of Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter has turned out to be quite tumultuous.”

“Is it time to quit Twitter?”

Elon Musk — founder of Zip2, SpaceX, product architect of Tesla and more — officially acquired Twitter on October 27th of this year. Immediately upon acquisition, he fired multiple top Twitter executives, changed subscription fees, and also laid off a notable percentage of existing staff.

In addition, he has seemingly boldly declared he wants the site to allow for free speech — suggesting sometimes subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly that such is not a current practice. “By ‘free speech,’” he says, “I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.” He added that “going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.”

With the manifestation of said declaration, Musk has also shared the release of various specific information, much which recently focused on questions surrounding the President’s second son, Hunter, and his ill-fated laptop. The nuances of that news can be found in greater detail elsewhere; the bottom line, as reported by Wikipedia, is that “three weeks before the 2020 United States presidential election, the New York Post published a story presenting emails from the laptop and stating that they showed corruption by Joe Biden.” Twitter and Facebook admittedly suppressed said story, with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey saying later that blocking the story was “wrong.”

I don’t feel much need to pay more attention to the story — not that it’s not relevant nor that Twitter and Facebook’s suppression of said story isn’t significant; it simply isn’t the point of today’s post. There is zero desire to enflame any side or perspective.

Perhaps the site that said it best was actually the left-bias news source, MSNBC, which I believe sincerely posed the following, excellent question…

“Would scrapping Twitter benefit American Democracy?”

Their response was based most on Musk’s recent, allowed-to-be-published content and what perceived inappropriate speech — aka “tweets” — may now follow.

Allow me not to take a side one way or another on that. Again, at best, I’m a fair-weather Twitterer, tweeter, whatever. Allow me simply to say this…

Twitter allows 280 characters per tweet. That means whatever you have to say, however you want to say it, however passionate you are, no matter the issue, no matter the point, no matter the complexity of the issue, nor matter the sensitivity necessary to say it wisely and well, you have only 280 individual characters to say what you want to say. It’s the ultimate mic drop. The ultimate say what you want to say and walk away. In other words, it’s the keenest conversation killer. Who are we to think that this is a productive venue prior to any Elon Musk takeover? 

In fact better put, who are we to assume that this has ever been a healthy communication channel?

I like the words of journalist Nate Hochman. They pierce the partisanship of left and right. I also think they ring totally true: the “threat Twitter poses to our shared way of life is much more nonpartisan: an incentive structure that rewards hysteria and partisan bottle-service over nuance and serious intellectual engagement, echo chambers over cross-ideological conversation, and one-sentence dunks over good-faith debate.”

That’s the real problem with Twitter. It isn’t Elon Musk. It wasn’t Jack Dorsey. It’s mistaking serious intellectual debate for what is lesser… for what is so not good-faith. Good-faith conversation will always be better and right and true.

Respectfully…

AR

what we reward

As oft articulated here, this is not a sports story. You need not possess any zeal for any athletic entity and have interest in today’s conversation. Today we’re talking about when sports becomes too important… or rather… when sports — or profitability — trumps ethics and integrity.

At approximately 1:00 PM EST today, kickoff will commence at NRG Stadium. It’s the Cleveland Browns vs. the Houston Texans. And for the first time since the 2020 season, the very talented Derrick Deshaun Watson will step onto the gridiron to quarterback his team. Granted, he’ll be quarterbacking his new team against his old team. 

Deshaun Watson sat out the entire 2021 season not due to Covid but on the contrary, because the Texans chose to pay him but not play him. Watson was accused by over two dozen female massage therapists of sexual harassment and/or assault. Those privy to the testimonies of the accusers claim significant similarity of details when comparing the individual accounts. Watson, however, has denied any wrongdoing, despite financially settling over 20 of the disputes. My point, no less, is not to disparage Watson. I will only add from an admittedly distant perspective, when there’s that much smoke, there’s typically some sort of fire.

But as aforementioned, the point is not the player. It’s what happened next.

After sitting out the season due to the accusations of unquestionable iniquitous behavior, there was a bidding war for Watson’s professional football services. It would be unfair to target solely the Browns. Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans were each also active solicitors. Minnesota, Seattle and Tampa Bay likewise inquired about a trade.

The contract then subsequently agreed to between the Cleveland Browns and Deshaun Watson was this: a fully guaranteed, 5-year, $230,000,000 contract with a $44,965,000 signing bonus. Negotiated prior to the league’s discipline decision, contractual language was included — and to better make my point — and agreed to by the Browns — that Watson would not have to forfeit the signing bonus nor future guarantees should the NFL suspend him. “Fully guaranteed” means that the “player will receive every single dollar from that portion.”

There are indeed multiple perspectives intriguing to pursue in this story. One could easily examine the glaring inconsistency of the NFL’s player conduct policy and punishment system. Watson was eventually handed down an 11 game suspension. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley, on the other hand, made the disastrous mistake of betting a total of $1500 on his own team to win. He was suspended for 17 games. Alas, we’ll attempt to not be lured by the tangent perspectives.

Those familiar with NFL contracts and salary caps would share that Watson had to play 6 games this year, as otherwise, his number counting against the cap would have given the Browns a $20 million competitive advantage in the succeeding year. But understand, that’s because of how the Browns structured the contract. It didn’t have to be this way.

I suppose that’s what perplexes me… and why I felt propelled to make this an actual post. I just think in our society, we sometimes value the wrong things.

Clearly, the Browns’ motive is winning. And again, no need to throw any stones; they are by no means alone in that. It’s as if Coach Vince Lombardi’s infamous statement that “winning isn’t everything — it’s the only thing” has morphed from a clever sports mantra to an acceptable social ethic. Sometimes, clearly, winning is too important.

When winning becomes too important, we excuse character and behavior that we know to be otherwise illicit. We turn a blind eye to things we would otherwise not accept. We act as if things aren’t that bad when they really are. We do it in our sports. We do it in our politics. Sometimes we do it in our personal lives as well.

USA Today sports columnist Nancy Armour wrote, “If Watson were anything but an athlete, prospective employers and co-workers would be trying to get as much distance from him as possible. But because he’s a special talent, in a league where quarterbacks are king, and at 26 has another decade or so left to play, there is almost nothing he can do that won’t be forgiven.”

If I’m honest, I deeply believe that for some, forgiveness can be a vital, unprecedented prompt to finally get it, so-to-speak, and turn your life around. No, I don’t have a problem with what we forgive. I have a problem with what we reward.

Respectfully…

AR

compounding the awfulness

[It] “can often lead to bad decision-making.” — Kendra Cherry with Very Well Mind

[It] “may lead to disastrous decisions.” — Margit E. Oswald and Stefan Grosjean in Explorable: Think Outside the Box

And… [It] “degrades our judgments when our initial beliefs are wrong because we might fail to discover what is really happening until it is too late.” — Gary Klein Ph.D. in Psychology Today

Today’s “it” is none other than confirmation bias. 

To clearly define the phenomena, let’s return to the research published by Explorable, Psychology Today and Very Well Mind, with a little WebMD mixed in…

Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out or prioritize info and perspective that supports one position or idea. It is a “cognitive bias that favors information that confirms your previously existing beliefs.” It is “known as selective collection of evidence. It is considered as an effect of information processing where people behave as to make their expectations come true. People tend to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses independently of the information’s truthfulness or falsity.” In other words, even very intelligent people hear what they want to hear, read what they want to read, and tune into the channel or site that they know ahead of time will reinforce what they want to believe. This bias is thus one of the many reasons we regularly re-publish a media bias chart. This bias is not healthy nor good. 

To be clear, there exist different types of confirmation bias; below are some of the most common…

Biased attention: This is when we selectively focus on information that confirms our views while ignoring or discounting data that doesn’t.

Biased interpretation: This is when we consciously interpret information in a way that confirms our beliefs.

Biased memory: This is when we selectively remember information that supports our views while forgetting or discounting information that doesn’t.”

Want to see how this plays out? Note how people conversed — or were unable to converse — about the recent, awful shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs. Let us do absolutely nothing to diminish the tragedy; five people lost their lives in the senseless, evil act. The resulting shaming and shouts, no less, while taking nothing from the tragedy, certainly compounded some of the awfulness. 

It made me wonder… as one who wishes to honor all and promote respectfulness in tragedy and celebration alike — in agreement or disagreement — did it matter where people got their news? Was there a confirmation bias that affected individuals’ ability or inability to converse?

According to AllSides, here’s what the Left was saying about the shooting:

  • Said Lauren Boebert and other conservatives spread anti-LGBTQ hate that contributed to the shooting
  • Framed LGBTQ community as under attack
  • Reported on anecdotes pointing to a potential anti-gay motive

Here’s what the Right was saying: 

  • Covered the left’s reaction to  Boebert’s comments about the shooting
  • Reported on the suspect identifying as non-binary
  • Highlighted lack of clear motive

So allow me to humbly but boldly ask the three zillion dollar question: how in the world could a person who only tunes into the Left or only tunes into the Right converse, for how could either have a totally accurate perspective? Each has had their perspective emboldened by their bias. And — true to one of the dangers of confirmation bias — they are convinced they are right.

Hence, back to Kendra Cherry, recognizing the pitfalls of this process…

“There are a few different ways that we can try to overcome confirmation bias:

  • Be aware of the signs that you may be falling victim to it. This includes being aware of your personal biases and how they might be influencing your decision-making.
  • Consider all the evidence available, rather than just the evidence confirming your views.
  • Seek out different perspectives, especially from those who hold opposing views.
  • Be willing to change your mind in light of new evidence, even if it means updating or even changing your current beliefs.”

Just trying to be healthy and good. Wanting to be able to converse, too.

Respectfully…

AR

confounding the “vuhls”

Fans of the collegiate gridiron oft anticipate those late November days…

South Carolina vs. Clemson… Oregon vs. Oregon State… Florida vs. Florida State…

Our house found ourselves camped on the combative contests of Michigan vs. Ohio State and Purdue vs. Indiana. 

The time is colloquially known as “rivalry week.” So for purposes of today’s primary point, let’s define the key — and dare I suggest, oft misunderstood — word…

rival [ rahy-vuhl ] – noun – a person who is competing for the same object or goal as another, or who tries to equal or outdo another; competitor.

Key to comprehension is the included synonym; a rival is a competitor. A competitor is one who vies for the same prize, accomplishment or acknowledgement. They want what we want, so-to-speak. Their ambition is comparable to ours. 

But notice what’s not included in the objective explanation of the word…

There exists no inclusion of moral value or virtue. There also exists no lack of it.

Meaning, a rival is just a rival. A competitor. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing better. Nothing worse.

But how many times do we dismiss the objective explanation in order to embolden our passion, perspective or experience?

And when we dismiss it, what do we do? 

We change what precedes the “vuhl.” Instead of rival — or “rahy-vuhl” — we think evil — or “ee-vuhl.” And just like that, we inject an assumption of morality… or perhaps more accurately stated, a lack of it.

When pondering this post, I kept thinking of how we confuse the terms, how we turn rivals into evils to justify the intensity of our dismissiveness or disgust. I think of all the ways and wheres in which we do that. I came across a recently revised Stanford study in their “Encyclopedia of Philosophy” in which they address the concept.

They suggest that ever since World War II, “moral, political, and legal philosophers have become increasingly interested in the concept of evil.” They also acknowledge that one of the aspects that has motivated the uptick in interest are “ascriptions of ‘evil’ by laymen, social scientists, journalists, and politicians.”

Let’s be clear. Sometimes such an ascription is a valid attempt to respond to the various atrocities and horrors on the planet…

9/11 was an act of evil.

The modern day genocides in Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia and Herzegovina are acts of evil.

Mass murder, terror, torture and human trafficking — all evil.

Evil is one thing. Badness and wrongdoing is another. But let’s be clear — as the Stanford study also affirms — they aren’t the same.

Which leads us to clearly express what many of our journalists, politicians and even college football fanatics will not. Let’s elaborate on the objective, even though agenda-driven media and fundraising partisans also will not…

Our rival is not our enemy. 

Maybe read such once more; our rival is not our enemy.

It doesn’t matter our level of disgust. It doesn’t matter the depth of the passion or how badly we want to beat them.

It’s simply wise not to confound the two, as they are not the same.

It also makes all November days better.

Respectfully…

AR