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“We accept the love we think we deserve.” ~The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Why does she stay? That’s a question I ask myself so often when I read stories of women who have been consistently abused by husbands, boyfriends, or other men in their lives. And I honestly don’t think there’s one answer that stands up to scrutiny any more than the others. Every woman is an individual, and she has her own reasons for staying, but I can’t help but pose the question inside my own head anyway.

I saw this quote a while ago, and it resonated with me, about accepting the love we think we deserve. On some level it struck me as being brutally honest, for several reasons, but on another level it was an attempt at answering the question that keeps haunting me. Why does she stay? It’s quite possible she stays because she’s accepting whatever she thinks is the love he offers her, that she believes this IS love, even when he hurts her both emotionally and physically.

And I use the term “she” with a caveat, with a disclaimer that not all victims are women, but I come into contact with more of these issues involving women than anyone else. So I use the term, but I understand it’s not all-encompassing as it is. Nothing could be, though in this society we try to make everything fit. Regardless, these emotional and physical scars are everywhere, and those who inflict them often get off scot-free when it comes to getting a proper comeuppance, living to torture their victims another day. To think that victims believe this is love is beyond me, but it happens all the time, and it has happened over and over again.

These patterns are honestly depressing to see, but there is no end in sight. “We accept the love we think we deserve,” says more about our own feelings of self-loathing and poor self-esteem than they say about the other person. These other people manipulate us because they know they can, because they see in us these signs of low self-esteem and they prey on that. Shame on them. They say they love us, but they don’t know what love is. They only know how to pretend well enough to reel us in, and then they lower the boom, in more ways than one. Once we are caught in the web, it’s so incredibly difficult to extricate ourselves from it, because we become believers.

At least that’s how I see it. I could be completely wrong, but it’s what I see from those of my friends and acquaintances who have stayed, who have put themselves secondary to someone who is literally not worth it. The quote, to me, means that we, as human beings, can’t quite wrap our brains around the fact that we’re worth so much more than a punching bag, either emotionally or physically. When we have been neglected and cast aside it becomes easier to accept that any sign of interest on the part of someone else might be the only interest we will ever get in our lives. It becomes easier to accept it all, despite the warning signs, and throughout the relationship, even when the hard times come.

Why does she stay? She stays because she thinks he will change, even though she knows he won’t. He says he will change. He sometimes gets emotional and cries on her shoulder, and she thinks that’s a sign things are looking up, not the manipulative move it really is. Or maybe he honestly thinks he will change, but when faced with a similar situation in the future he simply goes back to his previous ways because they are hardwired into his brain. She stays because she believes in the goodness in him, despite the fact that he often shows her his negative side. She stays because she thinks she cannot find anything better, and she believes what he is giving her is what love looks like.

This is the love she thinks she deserves, and it makes sense. But it also makes me so utterly sad for her, for me, and for mankind, that this is what we think we amount to in the grand scheme of things, that too often we are belittled and taught to think we aren’t worth very much. We deserve so much more, every single one of us out here just wanting to be loved, to be appreciated, to be seen for who we are and embraced for it in a way we haven’t been before. It’s never enough just to settle, to give up essential parts of ourselves for people who don’t care, who just want to control us in a way we wouldn’t accept if it was anyone but us. But we often have blind spots when it comes to those who we believe we love, when it comes to those who have already broken our will, our self-esteem, and our emotional capacity.

She stays because she thinks there’s nothing better for her in this wide world. And that’s an absolute travesty.

Sam

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“Dad, why do some people go to hell?”

“Uh, well, um… How did you even hear about that place?”

See what I did there? Instead of answering her question I turned it around and asked her one instead. It’s not great parenting, granted, but it did give me some time to think about what my real answer would be. You know those kinds of questions that kids ask, all innocent like, just because they WANT TO KNOW. She said that one of her friends asked that question during lunch one day, and no one had an answer, so she decided she would ask me.

Lucky me.

If that were the only awkward question my kid has asked me in her life, I would count myself lucky indeed. But I’m not anywhere near that lucky. These questions either come to her out of the blue, because of something she saw, or because of friends at school who just can’t keep their mouths shut about whatever queries they have. And leave it to my kid; she can never let something go.

Here are the Top 5 questions she has asked me that gave me pause…

5. “Is there a God?”

Now, we’ve read her the illustrated Bible stories, but we don’t go to church. We have never taken her to church, but we try to talk to her about these existential conundrums and about what real spirituality is. However, for the other kids at school you can only believe in God if you go to church, and you’re a good person if you believe in God, so if you don’t go to church then you don’t believe in God and you’re a bad person. Huh?

4. “Where do babies come from?”

Well, the easy answer is that she’s too young to hear about that right now, or you’d think that would be the easy answer. But as you should know by now, this kid doesn’t take the easy path, not if she can help it. I can hear the choruses of “Am I old enough yet?” on Monday, on Wednesday, on Friday, and so forth, until we are forced to answer her anyway. “They come from love, my dear. From love.” Oh, if it were only that simple.

3. “Why do people die?”

Death is this nebulous thing when you’re a kid. You know that people you used to see are no longer around, but they could just be hiding in closets somewhere, waiting to spring out at you when you least expect it. They see pets get old and disappear too, so why not people? But at some point the question comes up, and we all know that death is this great mystery. What happens after we die is up for all kinds of debate, and the question above is merely a gateway question for that one. Batter up.

2. “How are boys and girls different?”

Talk about a loaded question, and one that might be just a little bit easier if I were raising say boys rather than girls. And I wonder what they hear from their little friends at school on the subject, if it might be better to tell them the real differences instead of having them hear it from other kids, who may or may not be tactful in the delivery. 10 just seems a little too young to me right now.

1. “How come some years are Leap Years?”

When she first asked me this question I laughed out loud because the answer seemed so simple. I refused to look it up on Bing, but try as I might to answer the question, she just kept looking more and more confused. I mean, I knew why there were Leap Years, but I just couldn’t translate it into language she would understand. I even twisted myself up with my science and logic. It was an almighty debacle that eventually forced me to look it up. Then I felt stupid. Oh well.

And, by the way, if you were curious… There are 365.25 days in a regular year, so every four years that .25 adds up to a whole other day. I know. It blew my mind too.

Sam

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“What do you think is the most important question in life?”

adamtglass-comWho am I?

And it’s not even close for a second most important question because unless we figure out who we are fundamentally then every decision we make will be flawed. Think about it. What do we want as our career? Do we want what we think others want for us, or do we know where we fit in the world and we go for that? What about relationships? Too many people shift with the wind, owning a separate personality for each person we’re with at any given time. How is that conducive to finding our “happy ending?”

For me personally it took forever to even ask that question. I think I figured it was as natural as breathing, knowing who I am, but it turns out I was dead wrong. All the time I spent trying to fit into a circle, I never thought to ask if I was square all along. It makes sense now, looking back, but for all those years I honestly thought I was the crazy one, never sure of much, but certain there was something missing all the same. I never thought to ask if that something was me.

Once I finally let myself ask that question and took the time to process what that meant I realized I was a lot different from what people had always said I was growing up, but I was also a lot different from the person I had always told people I was. It was an epiphany of the utmost proportions because I had based my whole life on what would make the person I thought I was happy, not on what would make the REAL ME happy. So it took a lot of rearranging to figure out what was best for the me I actually ended up being. And I’m a lot happier now that I made that shift.

So what stops us from asking that most essential of questions? Pride. It takes a lot to humble ourselves enough to question our belief systems, or at least it did for me. I hate being wrong, so imagine having to face being wrong about who I was at my very core. It took a real hard fall, and a stern look at myself to even get me to reconsider everything I thought I knew about myself, and maybe that’s what it takes anyone to finally search for those answers. Whatever it takes, it’s well worth it, even if half of your life is already over by the time you eventually get to it.

It’s never too late to find out who you are. Believe me.

Sam

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faith-does-not-eliminate-questions-but-faith-knows-where-to-take-them-589980I guess we all go through our lives thinking that others know what we’ve gone through, assuming that our experiences are tacked up on our faces like so many notices on a board, or at least we don’t really think about where others come from so we assume the same when it comes to them. Regardless, the time comes when we get close enough to another person that we feel the need to explain, when all the questions come, the excitement of getting to know another person’s history.

When I first met the woman who would become my wife I remember the first question was, “What exactly is Seventh-Day Adventism?” and I had a hard time answering it past the obvious “We went to church on the seventh day instead of the first.” Then I really took the time to think about it, something I realized I had never truly done before, and the answers weren’t coming easily. It made me think of that quote I’ve often used on others: “Always question everything because the answers might surprise you.” So I dug deep and I told her Seventh-Day Adventism is the belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ, in the faith that God never changed his holy day, in the confirmation of the miracle of immaculate conception, and in the promise that God will come again to save us from ourselves.

Of course that seemed like a pat answer, like one I had rehearsed more than once, like propaganda from God-fearing folk to explain Him to the unwashed masses, and it felt like mud coming from my mouth. But it was the answer, for better or for worse, because it was what I had heard time and again while going to church, the “party line,” if you would. So when I thought about it, really thought deeply, it was all I could come up with, which was a sad commentary not just on my upbringing in the church, but also on my lack of understanding and depth of something I was supposed to be expert at.

It wasn’t about others from the outside asking questions. It should have always been about me asking questions from within, so I wasn’t merely going through the motions. But I had been going through the motions, toeing the “party line,” and understanding exactly nothing. I realized I needed to do some research, some real research, not just going to the SDA website or simply listening to the pastor preach it from the pulpit. It had to be real to me so that I could make it real to someone else who hadn’t been there with me from the start, who hadn’t gone to Sabbath School, and church every Saturday, and Vespers every Saturday night, and Vacation Bible School every summer. So I went back to the beginning, for me anyway — my mother.

Say what I would about my mother, I could never deny her complete devotion to the church, but I had never asked her any of the questions that I should have growing up, back when I was blindly following the religion by rote and not by faith. When I went to visit her one time while I was back in Philadelphia we had the talk we probably should have had when I was younger, and I asked her pretty much every question I never knew the real answers to, the ones that were most difficult because they were most essential. You have to understand, it physically pained me to admit that I didn’t know, to let anyone else know that what I had in the church had been built on shaky ground, not on a true understanding of my faith.

That’s what it comes down to, she told me by way of an answer to my biggest question, the understanding that even though it’s a religion it’s at its base about the individual, not the collective. Seventh-Day Adventism, according to her, is a connection of individuals who believe in God, who believe that he will come again in glory, but who also believe that their individual connection with that God is paramount above all else. It’s not about the song and dance, and no one else need know where you stand, because God knows, and that’s all that matters. It’s not about being demonstrative, even though many Christians believe that “works” are most important. It’s about the questions and the answers, and not from you to others, but from you to God. Wow, that blew my mind, to think that the whole time I thought it had been about appearances when it should have been the exact opposite.

And I knew I had to start living what I preached, that I had to question everything, whatever I built my foundations on first and foremost though, because building on shaky ground is never a quality proposition, and not understanding where you come from and what makes you YOU is inexcusable.

Sam

Growing Up Seventh-Day Adventist Archive

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I’m talking to you.

I have to admit that my nearly 8-year old (her birthday is Friday) never ceases to amaze me with what she thinks about. Once, about a month ago, I brought up the idea of making difficult hypothetical choices, such as, “What would you rather be, stranded on a desert island or stuck in a building you can never get out of?” She said the building because there might be a phone there and she could call someone to pick her up. Good explanation, even if it did miss the greater point, but that’s Lexi — always inquisitive.

Now, almost like clockwork, every other night she’ll bring up a choice. This was our latest chat…

Lexi: Dad, you know that choice thing?

Me: Uh, what choice thing?

Lexi: You know, like when I was in that building. And I chose the building instead of the island.

Me: Oh yeah. What about that choice thing?

Lexi: Give me another one!

Me: I don’t know. Would you rather… spend the day on your iPad, be outside all day playing, or go with your mother to work?

Lexi: Um…

Me: Take your time and think about it.

Lexi: I know. I know. I think I know. I want to go with mommy to her work.

Me: [after a pause] Wow. I’m shocked. What made you decide that?

Lexi: Because I get time on my iPad, but I don’t get to see mommy at work. It would be cool.

Me: Would you want to be a librarian [what her mother does] someday?

Lexi: I don’t know. Maybe if I saw mommy at work.

Me: Did you know they have a “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day”?

Lexi: When? Tomorrow?

Me: [laughing] No. I actually don’t know when it is, but I’m sure your mother would love to bring you then.

Lexi: Ooh, I want to go tomorrow.

Me: It’s not tomorrow.

Lexi: So can I have my iPad now?

Sam

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thNever ask questions if you aren’t prepared to deal with the answers.

I don’t even remember where I first heard that, probably on some lame, cliche-filled TV show or right after a pregnant pause in a dramatic film. But isn’t it true that some of the most poignant turns of phrase show up in the oddest places? With great power comes great responsibility anyone? Luckily for me, I honestly don’t care where it comes from, if Alvin and the Chipmunks said it, or if it came from Al Gore, or even if it’s a catch phrase for Joey from Friends. I take every single one that interests me and I analyze it to see how it could be applied to my life, then I share what I’ve learned with others.

Question #1: Where is this relationship going?

This may surprise you, but before I got married the first time the longest relationship I had been in was a year in length, and three months of that time were spent estranged. So the question was indeed very valid for me. Was I ready at that point to analyze a relationship and see if it could be long term? Or was I just in it for the fun and excitement that came from being with someone new, and then with someone else new, et al. Honestly, my answer to that question back then was always, “This relationship is status quo, which is good enough for me.” It’s no wonder my relationships lasted such a short amount of time.

Question #2: Where do you plan to be in five years?

It’s not as easy a question as you would think. So much happens in the course of life that five years can be an eternity made up of a series of shifts and changes that define and redefine who we are. If you had asked me the question five years ago I highly doubt I would have said I would be here, doing what I’m doing, thinking the thoughts I’m thinking. I know I wouldn’t have said I’d be here writing a blog right now. In fact, back then it was all about writing for myself, and not sharing with others. And the big problem with plans is that we have a tendency to try and fit our lives into those plans and then to judge ourselves on whether or not we hit our objectives. (more…)

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Well, Friday’s here again, and along with it another installment of the Friday Top 5!

It’s funny, but I can almost always predict in new situations and with new people what variation of five questions they will ask me. That’s because for most of my adult life I have gotten the same questions so often I have down-pat answers for each one at this point. And I also throw in a telltale chuckle at my own expense to punctuate my answer. To honor those five questions I’ve decided to list them here. Had you met me outside of this medium you would probably have asked me these questions too.

5. How old are you?

People have often told me that I either look older or younger than I actually am, and by sizeable margins. Apparently I have a face that is difficult to assess, age-wise. I remember the first day of school a few years ago I asked my ninth graders how old they thought I was. One of them raised his hand and said, “63,” and he was dead serious. I laughed, but I was the only one laughing. They honestly thought I was 63 years old. Eek. It goes the other way too. I used to be able to tell people I was 18 and they would believe me. While I can’t do that anymore, anything from 25 to 30 people will trust is true.

4. How tall are you?

I am very tall. Not freakishly tall like Manut Bol or anything, but tall enough to make an impression on most people when I initially meet them. I like to keep them guessing, though, so I generally beat around the bush when they ask me this question. Eventually we’ll get around to the fact that I’m 6’5″ and inevitably they will know someone that tall or taller. At which point I say, “Good for them.”

3. Don’t I know you from somewhere?

No, I don’t think they’re hitting on me or anything, although that line does sound awfully cheesy. But I do have a large network of acquaintances and associates from all walks of life. While they seem to recognize me, they don’t often recall my name or where they know me from. Because I have an amazing memory, I generally know exactly who they are and where I know them from, but I like to play this game where I let them guess. I know, I’m mean.

2. Do you play basketball?

See: Number 4.

1. What are you reading?

If you’ve ever met me even just once (and I wasn’t working — heck, sometimes even when I am working, depending on the job), I usually have at least one book with me. That’s because in pretty much every free moment when I’m on break, or when I’m not writing, I can be found reading. So, when you carry around books as often as I do, people can’t help but notice them. I get asked this question multiple times every single day. The problem is that I read several books at once so my following question is usually, “Which book would you like to hear about?” That’s another way I find other readers out there. We are a wonderful community indeed.

Sam

P.S. – I’m reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Risk Agent, and Hadrian’s Wall. Thanks for asking.

Friday Top 5 Archive

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