Sometimes it’s easy to stay locked in the past…
Have you ever gone for a long drive somewhere down the coast, or through a mountain range and you’ve turned the corner and you have found yourself driving through sea mist or low cloud?
It’s very disorientating, isn’t it?
One minute you have a clear view of where you are and where you are going, and the next minute you can only see a few meters in front of you.
A year ago I could tell you that depression, anxiety, stress and mental illness was something that was an important subject that people need to talk about.
What I didn’t realise a year ago is how hard it is to talk about such a subject.
Why do I think it’s harder than people realise? Because in many cases people don’t know the depth of the despair they are in. From my experience, life was carrying on a familiar journey. There were the expected bumps on the road and there was some great scenery.
What I didn’t expect was fog. Thinking about it now, maybe I did expect it but maybe I didn’t realise how disorientating it would be. At some point I had turned a corner and I was in the middle of a deep mist. I hadn’t changed direction. I hadn’t changed momentum. Life had just turned a bend.
I have heard it said “Talk to someone when life gets dark or foggy or grey.” In fact the sentiment is all over the internet. The problem with this thinking is you don’t know how deep you’re in until you’re right in the middle of it. The signs that you would usually use to orientate yourself are no longer legible. The fog is too thick.
So how do you tell when life is really getting to a low point? We have all felt tired. We have all felt despair and we have all felt frustrated with life. The difference is most times life is hiding behind the couch and shouts “surprise!” Then life resumes to normal viewing as if some cruel joke, or maybe even a cruel test that we had to go through to discover how weak we really are underneath all the masks and bravado.
That’s the problem with clouds, sometimes they’re just blots on a blue sky and while they may cover the sun you can see it’s only for a short time. Other times the clouds are dark and grey and you may be caught in a heavy shower. It may last days or it may last weeks. That’s a lot of time with no sun, isn’t it?
Someone once said to me “She died suddenly.” I thought this was an unusual saying, after all doesn’t everyone die suddenly? One minute you’re living, and the next minute you’re dead.
Living, living, living, living, living, dead. From experience for A1 type personalities like me, that’s how depression works. Fine, fine, fine, fine, lost.
The crazy thing is that you can’t even really call it ‘depression’ as everyone will feel it differently depending on their personality, but I wonder if there are just not enough words in the English language to explain this. I could do fifty things at once. I could do it all. I was funny and creative. I was adaptable and then all of a sudden… I wasn’t. Well sometimes I could be, but it just felt hard. Was I getting ill? Did my brain’s super computer have too many tabs open? Not having felt this way before for extended periods, how would I know?
Talking is important… absolutely. However I’m not sure it’s as important as having friends connect up and ask questions. “Hey, you’re looking tired. Are you okay?”
“You don’t seem your normal self. Is everything alright?”
“I haven’t heard from you for a while, what’s up?”
In a world of social media and personal branding it’s easy to hide behind “Ok” and “I’ll show you my highlight reel” -but the reality is fighting depression, anxiety and other mental illness starts with community.
It starts with whanau (family).
It starts with close friends.
It starts with people being observant enough to ask the question if something doesn’t look or feel right.
It starts with us being honest enough to admit we’re in need of support if we are starting to struggle.
What we need to remember, is often we don’t know we are lost until we look around.
Albert Einstein, in 1916, discovered a theory that talked about the ripples in the very fabric of time and space.
We have the access to make ripples in time and space too, however many of us will never see the impact that we make because we are insular and too afraid to step outside of our boxes.
Is the reason more people aren’t changing the world because they think it’s too hard?
Or maybe it’s just not happening fast enough for us?
We live in a world of ‘instant.’ We live in a world of ‘just add water’.
Either way you want to look at it you have been able to get what you wanted in a fraction of the time you could have. Would you have made soup or coffee from scratch instead of ‘just adding water’?
There’s a Joke by Steven Wright that goes “I put instant coffee in the microwave and I went back in time.”
We have things at our finger tips in an instant, and it starts to flow in to all areas of our lives
May of us want to change the world and want to make a huge positive impact on the communities and nations around us. However how many of us actually do it?
Why is that?
I believe it’s because we see a HUGE problem in front of us, and think that it’s just too big. We don’t have the huge platforms to talk from to the masses like big ‘A list’ celebrities who are able to speak out on things that they think are important. People hang on their every word. However I believe that what we say and do has a far greater ripple affect than we even hope, dream or imagine.
Did you think that Rosa Park was thinking about the breakdown of segregation that would result as people rallied around her not getting up on the bus in 1955?
In her own words:
People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.
Do you think John Otis was only considering the revolution that was about to be stirred as Americans sought independence as he stood up and spoke against ‘taxation without representation’, or do you think that the former Advocate General for the Royal Colony was thinking, “Oh well, there goes my career?”
The colonists are by the law of nature free born, as indeed all men are, white or black.
James Otis, Rights of the British Colonies, 1764
In both situations they were acting on their convictions. Rosa Park and James Otis were just plainly standing up for something they believed in. They had to step up and be brave in THEIR context. It may have been a small step but it caused a huge ripple! I’m sure they had no idea the intense movements they were adding to, or even sparking.
No matter how small, you can make a difference. Be brave, step outside your comfort zone and stand strong in what you believe. Take that step.
Love each other, listen to each other, give to each other, celebrate each other.
Be honest, be kind. The more you look into it the more you discover it’s less about me and more about how I respond to the people and the needs around me. As pastor Andy Stanley would say “What does love require of you right now??”
None of these things are revolutionary, are they? They are just small things that could potentially make a huge impact in someones life. Everything is becoming so insular, and self promoting and ‘me’ focused that the way we make the most ripples is to push against this flow.
Simple but not easy.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2
You can’t change the world if you’re just like it.
Start the ripple effect today.
Where did we lose sight of what it means to be a man?
As we look around society it’s increasingly obvious that we have lost our way. Men seem to have neglected their responsibilities to teach the next generation of men, leaving boys trying to figure things out for themselves or follow their peers. Adding to the mayhem, more and more kids are growing without a dad (or in some cases even a father figure) to teach them what they need to know, or have someone to cheer them on or coach them. No wonder men in our society are confused and lost when it comes to their roles in society.
Mark Batterson arrives with a great book ‘Play the Man‘ to address the issue and start to look at really practice ways to attack this head on. Mark Batterson is the New York Times bestselling author who’s works include The Circle Maker and The Grave Robber, and Pastor of the multi site National Community Church in Washington DC.
A book, for men?
“Is it a picture book?” I hear you shout from the cheap seats.
Okay… men aren’t renowned for their reading skills, in fact it’s something that Mark himself even addresses in his book.
“According to the Pew Research Institute, half of adults read fewer than five books per year. Men read 13 percent fewer books than women”
I’ve been an admirer of Mark’s writing for years and the main reason is simple ‘readability’ – it’s easy to read.
It’s obvious that Mark is well read as he has a real knack of taking a tale and twisting it full of intrigue and natural logic. To this he adds a dash of science and pinch of history.
Batterson is the the author for men who want substance, don’t want to read the Encyclopedia Britannica and still want to learn.
In ‘Play the Man’ Mark uncovers what he calls the seven virtues of Manhood.
The six virtues of Manhood in the book are:
Tough love (sacrificing yourself for others)
Childlike wonder (never losing your desire to learn about God’s world)
Will power (that sanctified stubborn streak)
Raw passion (an infectious enthusiasm)
True grit (the combination of passion and perseverance)
Clear vision (knowing what you’re fighting for)
In ‘Play the Man‘ Mark is able to use his natural storytelling ability to share an anecdote about manhood, the good the bad and the ugly. However the thing that makes this book great is his ability to be able to couple that together with the scriptures, and give really practical ways to teach this to the next generation of men.
Let’s be honest, men are really great at avoidance and I wonder if we have lost our way a little because of it? Men are living in some weird void where it seem like we have become the joke of the party. I think it was Scottish comedian Billy Connolly who said “Middle aged white males are the only people you can make fun of without being told off” and he’s right to a point. Men are living in a no mans land where manhood is skewed.
The subtitle of ‘Play the Man’ is ‘Becoming the Man God created you to be’.
This is more than just a book, it’s a manual for manhood. Imagine if this is shared, developed locally, put into practice and focused on, it could be the start of a manhood revolution that could change the world.
The revolution starts at home, in our families and in our communities. Are you willing to ‘Play the Man’?
Viva La Revolution
I was recently in a meeting where the coordinator said “People judge you by what you look like and how you act. It is YOUR BRAND. It is what they see”.
The phrase took me off guard.
I’ve heard people talk about ‘Your Brand’ before. It’s not a new concept and if we were to be honest we’ve all been doing something like it (regardless of if we knew we were doing it or not) for centuries. You may have heard phrases that came out of this line of thinking such as “Dress for the job you WANT, not the job you HAVE”.
This thinking is not wrong, as it’s good to take pride in your work place and even more importantly yourself. The issue I have with this line of thinking is that it starts to get in the way of some important stories of the communities/team’s/families we are in and makes us focus on just the individual.
So let’s unpack this a bit further. Take the example of “Dress for the job you want…” idea (just because I bought it up earlier). The intention is for people to take pride in how they look and how they present themselves, so that when people meet you for the first time there is a good first impression made. Plus the added bonus is that it makes you feel better about yourself because you have taken time and effort in how you are presented.
Unfortunately sometimes it just becomes an ego driven self marketing tool that is all about who looks best and owns the appropriate fashion for a particular role. And it potentially leads to disappointment. It’s far too easy for people to think “I dressed for the role I want and I still didn’t get it, maybe I didn’t market myself well enough?”.
We start to base things on what we think we know and not on what we have actually discovered about someone. It’s almost as if we throw out their CV and reduce them to a kids picture book ‘This is John. See John work’ . It’s like the old adage about books being made in to movies and puts it into the context of life.
“Is like taking your oxen and seeing it made into an OXO (bouillon) cube”
– John le Carre’
Has this grown out of our own laziness? Instead of seeing the first impression as an indication of the substance that may be hidden in the pages of the book beneath the cover, are we actually taking time to read the story rather than just the basic synopsis or overview of what the person is about?
A good friend, pastor and musician Malcolm Gordon once said “We pretend we’re people without shadows” and while he was talking about people going to church, I think it’s a much bigger epidemic.
Some of our greatest world changers – from Lincoln to Edison, Churchill to Princess Diana – have fought hidden demons. While these world changers were ‘flawed’, their stories made their accomplishments even more impressive. Their hardships/demons/flaws gave them the push and drive to see the world differently. Our ‘self brand’ technique has just become a way to bypass the mundane, to leap frog the pain and to ‘become the people we were destined to be’ with all the fanfare and poise of a well executed marketing campaign.
It’s actually killing our work places. Imagine great self marketers gaining great positions without knowing what the hard times are like and without understanding the pain points that lead to growth and improvement. No wonder society is becoming less engaged, less empathetic and more reactive. Isn’t this just setting people up to fail?
In the age of Facebook and social media saturation are we becoming so trained at hiding our shadows, that we don’t see the bigger story? We don’t see the story of our community and work place it’s in? Or even worse don’t see the story of an individual more than just at synopsis level?
New Zealand journalist and news reporter Nadine Chalmers-Ross had that dilemma at a very real level. Making a name for herself under the name Chalmers-Ross she recently got married. Should she remain Chalmers-Ross or become Mrs Higgins? What does she do? Her name was her brand, what she was known as, part of her ‘News identity’ if you will.
I love the conclusion that Nadine came to:
“My name is my brand, sure, but my marriage isn’t about what’s commercially savvy. It’s about forming a team and a name is the loudest way I can think of saying he’s my person. So, may I introduce you to Mrs Higgins?”
Nadine has certainly got it. It’s about so much more than ‘my own personal brand’
Our ‘Brand’ affects far more than just ourselves – it affects our families, our teams and our communities.
What if instead we started looking at ‘Our Brand’ as our way to be the superstar of our own story? What if we started to see our stories interweaving with others in our communities? What if we looked at ‘Our Brand’ as something that adds to not just our own story, but the stories of our community like our own entry into a section of the Iliad.
We don’t just have one story. We have our own starring role in a story of our life- the fears, the failures, the wins, the loses and the mountains we have conquered. However we’re also playing a supporting role in many other individual’s stories, many other team’s stories, and many other community’s stories.
In these stories we’re not the superstar, we’re not the white knight, or the cowboy with the white hat. We’re the neighbour who said “Hi” every morning, the guy or girl who took time to notice the lack of smile, and the person who let you into the queue of traffic during rush hour. These stories are the mundane, but these stories are the brands that reverberate throughout the world we live.
So let’s talk brands… but let’s tell our stories.
“Because Hope deserves an anthem” echoes through the U2esque intro that builds into the first track of the latest album ‘Where the Light Shines Through’ (WTLST) by Californian group Switchfoot.
Imagine creating an album with this at the heart! Would the task almost feel so overwhelming that it would cripple you with fear? Switchfoot have climbed into the challenge like a surfer floating into a crushing barrel wave for the first time.They have respected the power of the wave and the result is the most personal group of songs about hope and struggle that the band have brought us.
This is the first focused album since 2011’s ‘Vice Verses’ album. In between was the soundtrack to 2014’s surf rockumentary ‘Fading West’ and while this was released as an album it couldn’t really be taken in context without the accompanying movie.
WTLST builds on the Switchfoot sound that the band has developed since leaving their major label and going on their own, and honestly, this is great. The band has merged into one body that would sound odd without the other components, as we start to hear more of the influences of Jerome and his library of sound that he brings and Drew’s colour that is added to each song. This is a band that has found it’s voice, and in the process has found it’s soul.
The album is scattered with songs that are filled with lyrical hope. They easily connect to the heart and settle in your mind as a reminder of a renewed way of thinking about the situation you’re in. The title track ‘Where the Light Shines Through’ has a chorus that has a sentiment that echoes throughout the album – “Because your scars, Shine light night stars, Yeah your wounds are where the light shines through.” It is raw in it’s emotion but honest in it’s approach.
Some of the most beautiful moments are raised up from confronting the realness and the pain that the open wound may feel like for some people. Lyrics like “Pain gives birth to the promised land” from ‘I Won’t Let You Go’ or “I hear the shame of my accuser, but it ain’t you” from ‘The Day that I found God’ confront realness and pain and there is beauty in that. Then album turns from the hurt and only seeing the light from a distance, to a journey of chasing it and healing from it. “I want to start healing healing“.
One of the highlights of the album is the track ‘Live it Well,’ a real anthem and a song that will be a stadium hit this summer. This track throws back a level of responsibility onto us. How are we going to live this life knowing that every breath that you take is a miracle?
While we’re on the subject of tours: This year Switchfoot will tour with international rap and hip-hop sensation and billboard chart topper Lecrae. Lecrae makes a guest appearance on the track ‘Looking for America’ as the discussion turns to a nation that has been crippled by fear and entitlement.
As a bonus track it’s wonderful to hear ‘Light and Heavy,’ a song that was written 7 years ago for the annual Heavy and Light event held by To Write Love on Her Arms .This organisation exists to bring to light the often forgotten or hidden topic of depression and self harm , and although the track is a different feel to the rest of the album (as it’s a bonus track) it’s certainly a worthy track considering the theme flowing through this album.
The world is in need of Hope. It seems to be getting darker and while there are many aspects of life that make the world seem a smaller place, there are places where the light doesn’t shine and they seem separated from the rest of the world; This is where the broken live and as these areas hear albums like this, a new hope is birthed and this is where the light shines through.
The world certainly needs more albums like this.
I’ll leave the final words to Jon Foreman, Switchfoot’s lead singer:
We sing because we’re alive. We sing because we’re broken. We sing because we refuse to believe that hatred is stronger than love. We sing because melodies begin where words fail. We sing because the wound is where the light shines through. We sing because hope deserves an anthem. – Jon