Your lecture could not be delivered

A gal I grew up with in church left a random comment on Facebook last week. She suggested to me and another guy (also from church back in the day) that we should get the back pew group together.

I'm not sure if this was your experience, but as teenagers, we preferred to sit in the back pew of the church, and adults were always getting after us to sit up front or with our parents. Sometimes a speaker would come to the church and make a point of noting where the teens sat as a judgment on the church, its adults, and the spiritual condition of the teens.


I remember one summer my sister and I were at family Bible camp, at Lakewood Park Bible Camp, a place made famous years ago by a documentary called "Jesus Camp." I might have been working in the kitchen that summer; I can't remember. Anyway, back then, where we gathered for service we called the tabernacle and unlike what it looks like today (air conditioned, padded pews, sheetrocked, almost Mormon-like pillars up front), it was pretty rough. Concrete floor. Exposed beams in the ceiling that looked like the ark flipped upside down. No A/C, just windows that struggled to let in breezes. Plain board pews, no padding.

So there my sister and I (or it was a friend -- I can't remember) sat on a hot, sweaty summer afternoon, hardly any other youth present in a mostly crowd of mostly 50+. We were wearing shorts. Not short-shorts; my mother wouldn't have allowed that. Just a t-shirt and shorts and flip-flops. Listening to a preacher, and trying to stay cool. At one point the preacher began bellering about the evil of women, especially young girls, being allowed to wear shorts. I felt horrible, and sort of slouched down in the pew, wondering how many adults were now judging me. About 30 seconds later, my sister motioned to me, and we got up and left the service and didn't come back.

I don't like lectures.

No, it's not that I don't think I do anything wrong. I generally think I'm doing something wrong almost all of the time. So I'm easy to manipulate, and as I've gotten older I have had to learn to draw boundaries and take some actions that might seem off-putting to people so that I can deal with that weak spot in my life.

You have to be careful who you let direct you, who you allow to pour judgment in the form of lecture or reprimand into your life. You have to decide who you ought to listen to.

I can appreciate, particularly when I was growing up, that the adults in my church -- adults who knew me personally and had invested in me by volunteering to teach Sunday school and put on other events for the kids -- sincerely cared about what happened in our lives. So sitting in the back pew drawing cartoons of adults in the church and snickering during the sermon probably wasn't so great and they probably should have gotten after us like they did. But the random preacher who knew nothing about my sister and I? Not so much. 

As it is now, I just want most people to get off my lawn.

I don't know if it's my generation (Gen-X) or getting old or what, but I have zero appreciation nor inclination to respond to scolds, nags, coercion, shaming, or virtue signalling for anyone outside of my circle of acceptable and known corrective or informative sources.

It took some time to fine tune and reason out why I would listen to some people, and not others. I used to have a somewhat infamous blog EULA (end user license agreement) back in the day (before social media existed) in which I went into great detail about how private property concepts applied to the online realm. Granted, I was younger and incredibly mouthy (yes, worse than now), so it was a brutal application of "get off my lawn" but here it is in part:

There was a section regarding commenting:

And then this beauty (sigh):

I read this and I want to punch my own face, but I also remember it was 20 years ago. (There was more to it that was way worse, believe me.) Yet I recall how I would get the strangest emails from random people. Accusing me, insulting me, threatening me, lecturing me. Awkardly trying to set me up with their son (long story). So I quickly began to view the whole thing in terms of private property, particularly for those people needling anyone who didn't allow a free-for-all on their blog as proof they weren't intellectually robust enough.

Social media has changed some of this, in the sense that monopolizing and powerful platforms like Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, while privately owned, are almost in the utilities realm and though private companies have the right to make rules on who and what can be done on their property, something that is a communication utility needs renewed consideration. That's another blog post for another day. For individuals, though, it's vital that you don't buy into the idea that you must have wide-open access for everyone or you are intellectually or emotionally dishonest. Close most of the doors and windows, for crying out loud. Keep the bugs out. It's not necessarily because you're afraid of conflicting ideas (though some ideas are worth keeping out), but because you'll be a stressed out mess if the whole mob is running amuck through your head as your phone dings notifications.

Anyway, back then I loved blogging. I loved writing, putting out an idea, getting genuine feedback (even disagreement) from a tight group of regular readers I'd grown to understand and trust. It was the hit-and-run one-offs that spurred the above kind of crazy EULA reaction. Blogging was a different time back then (free! wild! abundant! not marketing! glorious! trolls!). Social media seems different, even with the same people.

Today, however, my approach might look like this:

When do I swap people out?
  • They say or do things that distract me from God.
  • When I realize they aren't safe (i.e. they haven't been honest, aren't concerned with my best interests anymore, are in the process of discarding me)
  • I realize they create stress or a feeling of dread when I see that they've interacted with me online.
  • Unnecessary conflict arises from online interaction that will affect offline real-life relationships that matter.
  • They add confusion and chaos to my life.
  • They seem to communicate mostly in terms of lectures in which they are on the podium, teaching down to the dummies.
  • They mock people, or work to establish themselves as above others, both in obvious and subtle ways.
  • I allow them to be my go-to voice of reason instead of going to God and to my very closest friends and family.
  • They repeatedly aggravate, ping, toy with, or magnify a weakness in me that I'm trying to learn to deal with (e.g. controlling my temper)
  • I don't really know them, and can't remember how they got in the green circle in the first place.
It's like the person you unconsciously stopped inviting out to eat because all he does is argue with everyone.

When do I add/listen to people?
  • They have a real love and relationship with God.
  • They are speaking on or about things that God has been directing me towards, or speaking to me about, and it is exciting to connect with them on what God is doing.
  • They aren't concerned with being the best, smartest, coolest, wittiest whatever.
  • They have shown they genuinely care about me as a human being not just in word but in deed.
  • They don't mock other people either outright or subtly.
  • They have knowledge in an area that they are willing to share with the genuinely curious in a way that doesn't lecture, scold, or coerce through emotional manipulation.
  • They are consistent in all of these things over time.

That's just a few that I can think of. I'm sure I get dumped, swapped, and whatever else by people, and I wholeheartedly think you should do it, no hard feelings. You can't have too many voices, and the wrong ones at that, with full access to your head and heart. I find my green circle getting smaller and smaller as time goes on, particularly during crazy times where stress management is crucial. For me, at least, large groups add to stress.

This blog post, by the way, was spurred on by seeing a post by a couple of nurses lecturing people on how to be kind and caring during the pandemia. Sorry, ladies, but your lecture could not be delivered.

Red circle. Dismissed.