The moment you realize that a lot of really nice people probably don’t like you

Photo by The Lonely Photographer on Unsplash

There’s this guy I used to work with. I’ll call him Mike to protect the innocent…

Mike was a super nice guy. He was my age and had a couple kids. We got along really well. At a couple of work events, our wives met each other and seemed to get along really well too.

And then, I heard from another person at work:

Her: Pssssst… [Leaning in] Did you know Mike is a Christian?

Me: No, really?…

Her: Yeah, he’s, like, kinda ‘out there’.

Now, this was five-ish years ago. And five-ish years ago, I was NOT a self-proclaimed ‘Christian’. I was spiritual, but not religious.

I mean, I liked Jesus. But I’d have never claimed to be a ‘Christian’.

Christians, in my opinion, were those kinds of people. The ones who were all in-your-face with pamphlets trying to convert you and whatnot. Yeck

I veered clear of Mike at work. We crossed paths several times and engaged in small talk, but that was about it. Mike went his way, I went mine, eventually left the company, and here I am today, writing about… Mike.

I’m writing about Mike because, thinking back, my personal experience of him wasn’t ‘out there’ at all. He never once tried to push any kind of conversion process on me. He only mentioned his faith to me once when he told me that he and his wife went to a Christian couples retreat (after I had said discussion above with our co-worker).

As I said, I liked Mike...

But then, I judged that guy. I judged him hard. And it was all based on the viper-like tongues of the rumor mill at work. None of it was experiential. I put a big ole’ X on his name and avoided him like the ‘weirdo’ that I (and so many others at work) pegged him to be.

Recently, one of his Facebook posts (not about faith) appeared on my feed and I decided to click through to his profile. I wanted to get a lock on just how ‘out there’ Mike really was…

Low and behold, Mike and I follow a lot of the same authors and thinkers. Yes, these people are Christians. But they are not (at least, looking through my progressive lens) ‘out there’. People like Rob Bell, Peter Rollins, Flannery O’Connor, Frank Schaeffer, and… Me (yep, he follows my work).

That’s when it struck me…

How many people out there — ‘nice’ and ‘good’ people (as I’ve always thought of myself to be, both pre and post-Christian) — are reading my stuff thinking I’m one of those Bible-thumping, neo-conservative, end-of-days proclaiming, conspiracy-theorizing, guilt-tripping, out-of-touch ‘weirdos’ that I used to think ALL Christians are?

Probably a lot. 

When I tell people that we go to church and I’m even considering the seminary, I’m sure they’re mentally writing me off to be someone they either want to avoid or never want to get to know (I live in Chicago, for crying out loud. If I lived in Memphis, this would be an easier conversation; though even THEIR assumptions of my path would likely be wrong).

I’m having one of these moments where I’m realizing a lot of good, reasonable, nice people don’t really like me.

And I get it. I really do.

Because I once stood in their shoes.


It’s always better with friends

Image: Sidharth Bhatia

I have a confession… I haven’t been a very good friend lately. In general. For quite awhile, actually.

I’ve had a long-time habit of uprooting myself away from friends on a regular basis.

After graduating high school, I moved a state away from my friends. After living in that state for awhile, I met a girl, got married, and moved across the country.

We’re back now, but I was gone for a couple years. I lost touch... Out of sight, out of mind.

Then we started a family. I dove in to my work. Got lost a few times. And, due to my introverted-leaning personality, just didn’t see nurturing friendships as an important focus.

This spiritual mentorship of parenthood is showing me how life-changing friendship is.

When we took Rory to her old preschool a year ago, she cried every day at drop-off. For two months. Heartbreaking.

Then, she found a friend. A little girl names Jaycyn. Soon, she and Rory were besties. When we’d drop Rory off at school, Jaycyn would run up and they’d embrace before running off to play, hand-in-hand. No more tears.

Now, Rory is starting at a new preschool. Away from Jaycyn. And it’s heart-shattering dropping her off in a place where no other kids even remember her name yet. She grips my neck and clings to me like a spider monkey as the teacher has to carefully rip her away, tears flowing out of her beautiful blue eyes, down her red cheeks and onto her Elsa dress.

Of course, she’s fine a few minutes later — and she’s always having fun when I pick her up.

But those drop-offs… Ugh…

I remember being the same way. I hated going to school. Hated it. Especially the early years. But then, I made friends. And as much as I still really didn’t like school, friends made it better. Way better.

Emerson and Thoreau. Montaigne and La Boétie. Lewis and Clark.

Good friends are spiritual fuel for a lonely world.

Yesterday, I picked up Rory and before she saw me, I noticed she was playing with a little boy. They were putting little characters in a small wooden boat. They were totally lost in each other’s presence.

I’m sure that little wooden boat wouldn’t have been nearly as cool without the companionship of a friend. And today, drop-off was a heck of a lot easier.

P.S. If you’ve been following my weekly Q&A on YouTube, I’ve just posted this week’s piece titled, Is it right to ‘sell’ mindfulness?. Check ‘er out below:


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A friendship litmus test

Image: Anna Vander Stel

A friend of mine mentioned something the other day that stuck like a shuriken in my mind. He said, “I’m not the kind of friend who’ll come to your birthday party. I’m the kind of friend who’ll bail you out of jail.”

This got me thinking about what friendship really means. We could all use a friend or two like this, right? Not only that, but think about what friendship would mean to you if you held yourself to this standard. What if you held the belief that, the kind of friends you’re looking for are the kinds you’d bail out of jail, AND who’d reciprocate the favor?

What if this was the litmus test?

I mean — It’d be cool if you came to my birthday party too, but…

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