I’ve never really thought of myself as handsome–Certainly never as handsome as Bruce Jenner, with his muscles, and his Wheaties box covers, and his great head of hair…. You know what, I suppose there was a window in time where I was like, “Okay…. I’m alright.” But that window was brief. Very brief. I spent almost all of my youth feeling way too skinny, and just when I started to be okay with my body, God (that old prankster) took away my hair. I used to joke that God made me go bald because it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else if I was smart, funny, talented, AND good-looking. It was a decent deflection (though it was before I realized God had nothing to do with those sorts of things). Then I blinked…. and now I’m 40, I have three kids, and the other day I caught myself looking at my belly sideways in the mirror.
But like all of us who carry around insecurities about what we look like, I grew up believing that old saying that proclaimed “It’s who you are on the INSIDE that counts.” Ahh, yes…. “You can’t judge a book by its cover”–The great consolation for all of us walking around with crappy covers. I recently shaved my beard for the first time in a while. It’s funny to hear people’s reactions. People look at my shorn face with a kind of tentative concentration, and then they’ll say something like “I kind of like it” or “It’s alright!” all with their voices filled with something between surprise and uncertainty. And I’m always thinking to myself, “Well, I suppose that works out great, because it’s MY FACE, YOU JACKASS!!!” Most people don’t realize that they just gave the flesh that covers my skull the equivalent of a verbal “So-so.”
But for me, being unsure about my outside encouraged me to focus on the inside…. since that was the part that mattered, right? I would be the diamond in the rough. I would be the one the girls didn’t know they wanted until they actually got to know me. I would be the guys from Weird Science. I would be the Ducky. I would be the Lloyd Dobler. And I suppose being insecure has its advantages–if you can’t rely on your looks, you’ve got to find something else to rely on. So I learned to be funny. I learned to be deep. I learned to be clever…. And if I’m being honest, it came pretty naturally to me. I was able to observe which awkward things I did made people feel uncomfortable, and I took mental notes to not do those things anymore. And before long, I became confident about my insides. Which was awesome, because if what everyone was saying was true, THAT was the part that really mattered.
But after a while, a funny thing happened: My “Part that really mattered” started feeling like it was better than most other people’s “Part that really mattered.” My insides started looking down on other people’s insides. That way, if some girl I was attracted to (who, by the way, was probably not receiving my affection because of her “part that really mattered”) liked a guy who was better-looking than me, and I’d explain it away with words like “Superficial.” Which really, if we’re being honest, was just another way of saying, “On the outside you may be beautiful, but on the inside (where it REALLY counts) you are worthless…. At least you are worth less than I am.” And here’s the thing: I AM funny. I AM deep. I AM clever. But how much of my intelligence am I really responsible for? Am I any more in control of my cleverness than some dude is in control of his symmetrical face?
It doesn’t matter if it’s a group of really hot Mean Girls making fun of someone’s clothes, or some really smart tech guys making fun of everyone who doesn’t know how to program a computer, or me looking down on someone who doesn’t get the joke–It is that dark thing behind it. That gross thing underneath it. It is that sick part of our humanity that labels something “Not Like Us,” and works to diminish it. And calls it worthless…. Or at least worth less. And it might even work for a bit to feel better about ourselves by making others feel worse…. Right up until we encounter someone who is way better looking, or way smarter, or way funnier. And then we feel inferior and worthless ourselves. I follow a writer whose prose routinely makes me feel dull and uncreative, and I follow another writer whose insight routinely makes me feel lacking and shallow…. We spend most of our days in a dysfunctional balance between feeling better than most and not as good as others.
Life is about learning the lesson of who you are and who the people around you are…. But ultimately how you answer those questions depends on who you believe God to be. If you believe God to be the Great Judger, that has an effect on how you treat other people. And yourself. But when you start to see God as the Great Lover, the world changes. He loves the ugly, and he loves the symmetrical. He loves the smart, and he loves the ignorant. He loves the clever, and he loves the ones who never get the joke. He loves the disabled, and he loves the ones who set world records in the Decathlon. He loves the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Jews, and the Christians. He loves the straight, the gay, the queer, the transgendered, and everything in between. He loved Bruce Jenner, and he loves Caitlyn Jenner. GOD LOVES. That’s what he does, and that is who he IS. He is the Great Lover of “Not Like Us.” He is the Great Lover of people with imperfections. That’s what Jesus was like, and I believe Jesus is the best picture we have of God. And if you call yourself a Christian, you are called to be like Jesus.
And part of our responsibility in that calling is–if we are able–to stand up FOR the people whom the world tells the lie that they are not worthy of being loved, and we tell them the truth that they are the Beloved of God. Also, I believe the other part of that responsibility involves standing up TO the people spreading the lie that Different=Bad. But letting them know that they are getting it wrong does not have to look like a giant argument or calling someone hateful–It can just be speaking the truth to the ones who are being told they are unworthy. I don’t want to demonize people whose reaction to Caitlyn Jenner is one of laughter and bullying and cruelty…. Sometimes I think that is truly the only reaction available to some people. But for those of us who are capable of loving people who are different–even drastically different–I believe it is our responsibility to stand up and proclaim to people who are being hurtful, “You are better than that. I am better than that. WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT!
I am not loved because of the how funny I am, or how smart I am, or the clothes I wear, or how much I make, or the name I call myself, or even because of my intact male genitalia. And it is not what Caitlyn Jenner looks like on the outside that makes her worthy of being loved either. It is not how smart or clever she is. It’s not how high she can jump, or how far she can throw the discus. It’s not which pronoun we use when referring to her. She is loved, not because of who SHE is, but because of who GOD is. She is loved because God is the Great Lover. And as we realize that truth, and embody that truth, we become more like Jesus. And as more and more of us become more like Jesus, it starts to look like “The Kingdom of God.” And the movement of the Kingdom of God is a movement toward letting go of comparison and judgment, widening the area of peace that comes with knowing we are the Beloved, and living out of that place of contentment in a way that lets everyone around us know that they are every bit as loved as we are.
So if you are posting mean things about Caitlyn Jenner, please stop. She is a human being, and what you are doing is bullying. And it’s hurtful. The consciousness of the world is expanding, whether you like it or not. It’s not moving as fast as many of us would like, but it’s moving nonetheless. And I know, I know…. It’s frustrating when you want to make racist or homophobic jokes, but you feel like you can’t because it’s not appropriate anymore. And even though it feels making fun of people who are transexual isn’t off limits yet, it is. And even though you probably blame this changing tide (and even this post) on “Political Correctness,” it’s actually not. It’s the world seeing your “jokes” and exclusion and discrimination for what they are, and calling it what it is: Plain old cruelty.
In closing, please take a few minutes and watch this amazing and insightful video from Russell Brand. If you call yourself a Christian, and Russell Brand is sounding more like Jesus than you are, that SHOULD raise some important questions. You might not be able to hear it or see it yet…. You might just hear “Blah blah liberal, blah liberal blah,” but the world sees it. It stinks of hypocrisy, and it is the reason the Church is shrinking.
Thank you, Kelly!
She is loved, not because of who SHE is, but because of who GOD is.
Amen. Amen. Amen.
If a little comment from a girl who grew up in a little town in the northeastern most part of NY state matters…BRAVO! I’ve only been following you a short time and I LOVE your work; BUT…this is by far the most amazing thing I’ve ever read! As a fellow writer and human being – I am in awe.
Dude, that is such an awesome compliment. Thank you!
I love your words on this!!! Thank you so much….
Sent from my iPhone
I believe the reason people are mean and cruel to others is because they feel diminished, not as good, that they hate themselves and so they lash out in an effort to feel better about themselves. “I might be crap but at least I’m not you; look how messed up you are”. But if you look at the commandment to love others as we love ourselves it implies that we have to love who we are before we can love anyone else. We have to believe that we are loved by God, just as we are, be accepting of ourselves so that the love we feel inside can flow out to others. You can not let your light shine if there is darkness inside.
Yes, so true! If you hate yourself, or “feel diminished” (Great phrase!) all you can do is spread that hate and darkness. This article and this reply are both beautifully and intelligently written.
Some are so wounded though, that loving themselves is more than they can achieve. Often they pour themselves into professions (assuming you survive childhood) that are focused on helping. If you can not fill up your own gas tank, at least work on filling someone elses. Helping others, gives one some semblance of regard/reward/altruism. When a person has such profound misunderstanding about the abundance, or selfless giving, who, is out to hurt me, then their life is spent looking for people who are unsafe. There are plenty out there. Loving others passionately and helping to fill their gas tank, becomes hollow and uses your energy so thoroughly that eventually, out of your scarcity you can’t imagine abundance and love or freely given gifts. The release from such painful islands of scarcity, are only approached very carefully, because the first instinct is self preservation. I have known two who wanted to become priests, but after that first year of introspection, they were shocked to their core to not be invited to the next year. In both cases, they were passionately motivated to give themselves away, usually for the chance of redemption. And you really can’t give what you don’t have. The process wounds them more. But, in both cases, the decisions were later revealed to have been wise. I think this is the source of the template making “wounded healers.” Some of these folk die, still working to save others, but perish on that path (I think this is true for many police, firefighters, and emergency personnel.). Some bury their particular wounds so deeply that once self-insight is achieved, they perish, sometimes by their own hands. Some never see the train of inner freedom bearing down on them. And far too many people become grist for the mill (political disidents, empty idealism (some soldiers), and those who struggle to keep their wounded perspective (it is all they know) that they self imolate in grand gestures of giving themselves away (therapists, social workers, teachers, and others who do sacrificial work). They crumble from the strain. We know a lot of these latter folk.
Ultimately, most of us do the best with what we have. Poverty, insanity, and legal entanglements take a lot of folks down. Not everyone has an inner light to shine, or it lasts just a very short moment. I think this is where mean-spirited, angry, and caustic people get their energy. (Read any screed of any politico that tries to establish order so severely, they themselves become a part of the mill (Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Napolian, Cromwell, Joe Mcarthy, that bastard at work that interprets corporate policy so strictly, and definitely many law makers).
I am a wounded healer. My job in retirement is to find the richness, love, and abundance I never really had, yet tried to give away. I think a LOT about the good I attempted and those I could not save, no matter how hard I tried. God does love Caitlyn, Bruce, and millions of people who feel trapped in their own way. I have yet to find my own pathway to abundance, healing, understanding how to fill myself in order to give.
And, lastly, wealth is not the solution to scarcity. Because not all scarcity is about money. Scarcity of love, good mirroring, having the “right kind and source” of what is required to be whole. I think this is where a great deal of Social Darwinism springs.
Caitlyn, I wish you well. And all those marginalized or battered by cruel others, I hope all of them figure out a way to find the artesian well of love to fill them up.
I agree, other than a few details that don’t actually matter in practice. Regardless of what laws are passed on this subject, treat people well. With the Internet, everyone who has an opinion about someone else can make sure that someone knows it. Some stranger’s opinion is irrelevant, even if it happens to be right, and people like that are contemptible.
On the other hand, opinions should be allowed, and people with thin skin should stay away from most of the Internet. I guarantee I can find someone who thinks you’re trash; it’s up to you to not care.
My only issues in this area center around how to handle this new trend of transgender surgeries. Bruce wants to be called Caitlyn; OK, Caitlyn. But how I categorize Caitlyn depends on whether I’m talking to *her* or only thinking about *him* abstractly. Pronouns aside, *he* might as well have exchanged pants for a dress; nothing really changed. But I would never presume to tell *her* that.
This is some of the best work you’ve done, and I always love your blog!
Boeskool: ends super poignant humanity post with Russell Brand video – drops mike, walks off stage.
Thanks Sara! I’m a big fan of RB….
Reblogged this on Home on Deranged and commented:
So completely BANG ON.