Stop Defining Yourself By What You Don’t Like
July 3, 2013
Carly Gelsinger is a wife, mother to a 1-year-old girl and an overall mess maker. A former newspaper reporter, she now writes about rediscovering Jesus apart from her legalistic past, her chronic struggle with feeling like an oddball, motherhood, and her journey toward letting go. Follow her on Twitter @carlygelsinger, find her on Facebook or check out her blog.
“I hate Twilight,” I blurted to my coworkers a few months back. “Not only is the plot shallow, the character development is pathetic, and seriously, Stephenie Meyer needs a thesaurus. The fact that the books are bestsellers reveals just how stupid our nation has become.”
I’ve never read any of the Twilight books, so these musings weren’t based off experience. They were unoriginal, regurgitated vitriol I’d previously read on Internet forums, newspaper columns and book reviews.
I decided I hated Twilight from the moment I first heard about it, so while I refused to read the books, I read negative material on them to “build my case.” If I hate something, it’s important that I understand why so I can defend my opinion to others and publicly decry the object of my loathing. I do my research. And then I talk.
What compels us to draw a line in the sand and separate ourselves from the things that we find repellant, tasteless or wrong?
I am constantly blabbing to others about all the things I dislike. I can quickly come up with a list of things I don’t care for and am liable to launch into a rant about any one of them at any time. Certain politicians. Several different musicians. A popular frozen yogurt chain. School district boards. McMansions. People whose life choices don’t reflect my personal values. Hummers. Ben Affleck as host on Saturday Night Live.
Here I go again.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to our local bookstore on a quick date away from our 6-month-old daughter. I instantly picked up a book on a particular parenting philosophy that I’m vehemently opposed to and spent the next 30 minutes poring over the passages I most disagreed with. This will help me explain to others why I’m against this parenting style, I rationed.
My husband, who knows me too well, recognized my maneuver right away.
“Why don’t you pick out a book that you do like?” he said. “Instead of getting all worked up about something you don’t?”
His words, which annoyed me at the time, lingered with me long after we left the bookstore that night.
Why do we love to talk about what we hate? What compels us to draw a line in the sand and separate ourselves from the things that we find repellant, tasteless or wrong and then make our opinions known to our coworkers, our friends and our Twitter followers?
Perhaps it’s about insecurity.
If I openly bash teen vampire books, maybe I’ll be perceived as someone who appreciates finer literature. If I rant about parenting methods I find repulsive, maybe nobody will ask me about what type of parent I do want to be. It’s safer, in a sense, to share with people impassioned negativity than to share with them something closer to our hearts: the things we like. Or daresay, the things we love.
On a larger scale, the Church does this too.
We often define ourselves by the things we stand against, thinking it makes us special. We talk a lot about sin. About the things we’re not supposed to do. About the things our culture does that we, as a Church, denounce.
There’s a scene in Liberal Arts, a nostalgic coming-of-age indie film directed and starred by Josh Radnor (of How I Met Your Mother), where 35-year-old Jesse, a self-proclaimed literature aficionado, is negative and judgmental about a book that his college-aged, free-spirited girlfriend enjoyed.
"You think it's cool to hate things,” she tells him. “And it's not. It's boring. Talk about what you love, keep quiet about what you don't."
It’s safer, in a sense, to share with people impassioned negativity than to share with them something closer to our hearts: the things we like. Or daresay, the things we love.
The Apostle Paul addresses the issue in scripture.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
It may be awkward at first (especially for those of us who have skated through our 20s on a decade-long wave of cynicism) to share our authentic self with others. It might feel kind of uncomfortable to put ourselves on the line and talk about our passions, our dreams and the things that fill our hearts with joy.
As I attempt to cleanse my mind from the constant negativity I spew, I’m focusing thoughts on the things God put in this world that make life rich, like love and grace and swimming on a hot day and a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. I’m going to start thinking on those things—and talking about them too.
I’m challenging myself, and the Church, to start talking about the things we love.