You Don’t Have to Be An Angry, Resentful Person Just Because Everyone Else Is

I don’t think this entry needs a trigger warning in the traditional sense, but perhaps a “take offense” warning is necessary. I’m not attacking or critiquing any specific individual with this entry, although if you take offense, maybe you should stop for a second and figure out why.

One of the biggest parts of my recovery journey is the conscious attempt to be a better human being. I actively work on skills like empathy, inclusiveness and compassion. While I still certainly have a long way to go before I’m the person I’d like to become, I feel that while my life is swinging in one direction, the attitude of the population in general is swinging the other way.

It could be the 24-hour news cycle, more social media than we know what to do with or some other factor, but people seem to have no problem putting their lack of compassion and empathy on full display. Instead, those traits have been replaced with resentment and anger.

I’m not going to get into politics, religion, science, patriotism, parenting or any of the other areas that seem to set people off. I’m far less interested in the specifics of peoples’ opinions than I am in the way that many people present those opinions these days.

I think there are reasons that people become addicts, but there are only excuses why they don’t seek help, especially after learning why they have the problem. I also believe there are reasons that people turn into who they are with the belief system that they have, but only excuses why that belief system allows them to present themselves as boorish oafs.

I’ve been trying to figure out the cause of what feels like this massive pendulum swing in the attitudes of our society. I know it can’t just be the fact that I’m actively trying to become a better person. I’ve come up with a few theories:

The world is moving too fast. While older generations always make the argument their experience and wisdom trumps youth and inexperience, our older generations have seen exponentially more change than those before them. I think this is also filtering down into middle-aged generations. Technology moves at such speed that it seems like only 17-year-olds can keep up with it because the rest of us don’t have the extra time to learn. With all of the new media we have, getting glimpses into the past is easier than ever. I’m sure because of television and the Internet, I understand the culture of 1955 far more than the people of 1955 understood the culture of 1895. I believe this causes a bit of romanticism of the past, forgetting the negative and remembering only positive. The feeling you’re being left behind doesn’t feel good.

People are smarter than you. This has always been the case, but with the Internet and 500 TV channels, we’re constantly exposed to people who are more intelligent, deeper thinkers and understand things many of us could never grasp. I think we also are aware that most smart people recognize their intelligence and far too many of us make the leap that they therefore believe they are better than us when that has never been established. There is deep resentment in this world toward people who act like they are better than someone else, but we seem to be at a point where we invent the idea that others believe they are better without them doing anything to suggest it.

There’s more diversity than ever. I’m sure there have been studies done and I’ve just never had enough incentive to look them up, but I’d like to know when it comes to fear of people who are different how much is nurture and how much is nature. Somewhere, there is somebody out there who has 100% the opposite views as you when it comes to politics, culture, entertainment, etc. They are the bizzaro, anti-you. And guess what? They’re not a crazy psychopath either. It’s not just diverse ideas, it’s also basic demographics. Communities are not as homogenous as they once were. Different languages are being spoken, even in small towns and people who don’t look like previous generations now live there. This is scary to many people.

The recognition you were wrong. I think at one time or another we’ve all recognized we were incorrect about something and instead of correcting course, we doubled-down, despite being wrong. I believe this also extends to those around you who you discover were wrong. Many people directly get their beliefs from their parents and others they knew when they were young, but how many of those beliefs ever get questioned? Something isn’t OK just because mommy or daddy acted like it was. Your friends may all think one way, but that doesn’t mean it’s the correct thing. When recognition that those around you made poor decisions, it’s often hard to stand up to them and blaze your own path.

Simply because you can’t relate to someone does not make them a bad person. Moreover, simply because you can’t relate to them does not mean that you have to present an argument why they are not a good person.

A changing world does not mean it is changing for the worse. Yes, new things – including attitudes and societal norms – take adjusting, but that does not mean they are bad. Despite what people who eschew change believe, most change is designed to make the world a better, inclusive place. Yes, it takes getting used to new ideas, concepts and technology. Changing who you are does not mean you are any less or more of a person before and after that change.

I think most people today are of a mindset of looking for what makes them different than the next guy, and whatever that difference is, it becomes the weakness of the other person, ripe for attack. This is also true with thoughts. The general rules seem to be that if two people think differently, one must be wrong, and it’s always the other guy. In most cases, neither – or both – are wrong.

We live in a world full of angry, sad, resentful, non-compassionate, close-minded people. Standing behind the fact you have the God-given or governmental-given right to be that way doesn’t make it OK. Feeling emboldened by like-minded people to share your negativity doesn’t make it OK.

There is someone, probably more than just one, who is reading this feeling attacked. I’ve shared no actual specific opinions here. I’ve isolated no specific group or type of person. If you’re feeling attacked, I hope you’ll take a few minutes and figure out why.


Indigenous People’s Day vs. Columbus Day vs. Porn Addiction Education

In Maine, today is no longer known as Columbus Day. The governor signed a law stating that we are now celebrating Indigenous People’s Day. Those who wanted the holiday renamed said that it celebrated a man who did far more harm than good to the native people of the Americas.

I read an article the other day featuring voices of several people who didn’t like the name change. They couldn’t really speak to the criticism of Columbus, just that they don’t want to change it.

They seemed like the kind of people who were also against wishing people Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas or who get upset when you want to change a high school football team’s mascot because it offends the group it is meant to represent.

I find it hard to figure out why any other white guy like me would really care, or demand to keep things the way they are.

Does it matter what they tell you when you leave Wal-Mart in December, really? Will you stop cheering for, or rooting against, a certain team because their mascot changes? Do you really worry that the next generation won’t understand the history of the confederacy without statues?

I think the other guys care as much as I do, as to say that they don’t specifically care at all because it isn’t about a greeting or history lesson. I think they make a stink about these things because it’s change, and it’s change that favors the opinion of someone who doesn’t look like them nor shares a common background. You could call this racist but…nothing. It’s fucking racist. It’s the very definition.

But as someone who has probably silently supported these traditional standards, I think it’s important I take a moment to recognize that there are people who care and who are offended for deep personal and cultural reasons.

If it genuinely bothers you that the Redskins are the local football team or that a Robert E. Lee monument sits at the front of your library, well then I say to you…sorry. I didn’t know it bothered you, but I listened to your rational, well explained reasons. Let’s try to make the community more inclusive. Let’s change it.

You can wish me a Happy Hanukkah. I’m not Jewish, but whatever. If you confuse me as being Jewish, again, whatever. Give me an old Merry Christmas, or Super Fun Kwanza or say Happy Holidays. It’s all good.


Bringing this back to porn addiction…

I think fear of change (in this case, our long history of silence and ignoring the problem) is the reason nobody wants to talk about pornography, or the hellish addiction it’s currently bestowing upon the young adults in our society. If we talk about porn addiction, we have to admit that people look at porn and that it can lead to problems. It’s still too much to stomach for many people.

Do you know what offends me? When a podcast about solving problems in marriage asks for pitches from potential guests and I drop several statistics on them that show porn is a growing issue in marriages, but get a response saying that their show doesn’t think it’s the right time, or it’s the wrong direction, to talk about pornography addiction. Right, let’s talk about more important issues, like painting vs. wallpapering.

It offends me when a library or church group books me to give a presentation about pornography addiction and then someone on the board of trustees or parish council or whatever decides it’s not a good idea because I’m talking about solutions to a substance…that personally offends them! I’ve heard everything from “We’re afraid people who attend will be mistakenly labeled as addicts” to “If we hold this presentation, certain people may believe we are promoting the use of pornography.”

Sure, maybe the morons will think you’re promoting pornography, but that’s why they are morons. We can’t let our standard be that we tailor our message to the morons in society or we have a moronic society.

And yeah, I guess I’m not offended about people’s willful ignorance or shunning of pornography addiction, but I’m scared. I know more data than most researchers about pornography addiction. I’ve seen the depths of its depravity within myself, I’ve contemplated the horrors of it from a jail cell and I pulled myself out of it – but I’ve also seen for every one of me, there are exponentially more that don’t recover for a number of reasons, and how society treats them, when they even acknowledge them at all.

I am scared of a changing world where 1/3rd of men between 18 and 30 label themselves as having a problem with pornography. I’m scared of a world where 80% of female porn addiction addicts take their addiction off the computer screen and actually engage in real-life sexual encounters. I’m scared of a world where 98% of married men and 70% of married women looked at online porn in the last 6 months. In 2010, 47% of American households said porn is currently or was a problem in their home at some point. Do you really think that scary number has gone down in a decade?


Wrapping things up…

I think the problem comes down to the fact too many in this country look to the people around them to know how to think and feel about things. Have you ever tried to have a rational conversation with somebody who can only spit the liberal talking points they heard on MSNBC or the conservative talking points they heard of Fox News back at you? When you present them with a counterargument, they get flustered and often result to name calling and attacking the other side. As a guy who is in neither group, I’ve got to tell both of you…you look and sound exactly the same to me. It’s a shame you can’t see it.

Saying or thinking the phrase “porn addiction education” doesn’t make you an addict, nor someone condones pornography. Having a problem with porn addiction education is about having a problem with something else entirely.

Let’s get these indigenous people who despise Columbus in a room with people who really believe that the world is going to be worse off by not recognizing Christopher Columbus and have them explain their beliefs to one another with no bullet points from their political silos. Let me talk to these people who preach “open dialogue” so I can find out what their real issues with pornography addiction education is and why that doesn’t meet the criteria for such dialogue.

Our country is divided because we don’t talk about our differences and solve our problems collectively. We’re wasting too much time doing this while our problems and differences continue to multiply.

Happy Indigenous People’s Day. Try not to look at any porn.