Blind Faith Leads to Corruption

We can call for the pope to resign, bishops to resign, etc., but the atrocities that the Roman Catholic Church has been committing will not end until there is change at the level of the members of the church.

The child-raping isn’t the beginning; it’s the latest. Other scandals include the treatment of unwed mothers, possible collusion with the Nazis, popes fathering children … the list goes on and on.

To put the current scandal in perspective, the church has paid out nearly $4 billion in settlements to victims. This is not new information. We were all appalled at the Pennsylvania grand jury report, but there’s no reason why this should have been a surprise. The media have been saying the “scandal hit” in 2002, but it’s been largely knowable since the mid-1980s. Sinead O’Connor tried to warn us in 1992 on “Saturday Night Live.” Nobody listened. Parishioners just kept putting money in the collection plate.

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It takes courage to speak out against an institution with power and influence. This is very well illustrated by the commentary in the Post-Dispatch by Linda Briggs-Harty, “Catholics who speak up are often shunned” (Aug. 28). It is particularly hard when you’ve been led to believe this institution is the face of a being that determines your eternal destiny.

The root problem with religion is that it is based on a foundation of faith. A foundation of not asking too many questions, or only asking benign ones. This leaves the religious leaders with the latitude to answer very serious allegations with responses such as, “pray about it” or “trust God.” When challenging church authority means challenging one’s core beliefs, it’s a really hard thing to do. So, often it isn’t done.

I became an atheist in my early 20s. While I had some positive experiences in the church, I simply couldn’t ignore plain logic and common sense any longer. Over the past several years, I’ve discovered spirituality, which to me is a recognition that there is something beyond what we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch. For me, that does not take on the form of anything called “God,” and I find little meaning in the story of Jesus, but I recognize there is some good stuff in the Bible. There’s also a lot of nonsense.

The Bible was written thousands of years ago by humans. Mortal humans like you and me. The Bible was written by some folks like you and me who thought they’d figured a few things out. They wanted to share what they figured out. They meant well. I’ve figured out a few things, too. I’m sure you have as well. I’m sharing a few of them here. I hope in 2,000 years, people don’t read what I wrote here and call it “gospel.” I hope they read it, say, “Well there’s some good stuff there and there is some nonsense there.”

What I hope most of all is that nobody takes this nonsense I write down and creates an institution out of it that prohibits it being questioned, brainwashes people into believing that bad things happen if they question it, and ultimately creates so much fear around it that it leads to extensive corruption.

Many will say, “But Jeff, you are ignoring all the good the church does.” The church indeed does good through its charities and community. And there are many other organizations that do much good, without also committing horrific atrocities against children. The good people in the church must go and do their good elsewhere.

When you look at all the things that our society frowns upon, harming children tends to be, rightfully, at the top of the list. While we don’t know the number of children harmed for sure, we know they have paid out $4 billion in settlements. $4 billion.

Those who were not abused had something else very sacred taken from them: trust in the institution they held as sacred. While probably not as bad as being raped as a child, that’s a big deal.

The dynamics in the Catholic Church that caused this exist in every faith-based religion. While many factors differ, mark my words, this issue is not limited to the Catholic Church.

The positive things you find within the church exist outside it. Leaving the church isn’t leaving behind your beliefs, your community or your values; it’s protecting them.

If Jesus’ story is one that is meaningful to you, by all means, do what he would do. Leave the church or fight with all your might to rid it of the corruption that has plagued it since the beginning of its existence.

Jeff Steinmann is a St. Louis-based real estate developer and writer.

This post originally appeared on the Saint Louis Post Dispatch.

Photo Credit: Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

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Making a Difference

Social Media is an effective way of spreading information. It allows us to reach a lot of people quickly. And a lot of folks have expressed their opinion about the practice of separating refugee children from their families at the US border. 

I understand and share the outrage, sadness and terror that folks are expressing. I appreciate that folks have used their voice on social media to express this. 

And there is a point at which it becomes self-indulgent. Collectively, we’ve passed that point. There comes a point where expressing our opinions on social media becomes a replacement for taking action that may be more effective. It makes us feel better. It gives us a false feeling of accomplishment. 

We’re seeking new and unique ways to express our opinions, to prove our views are indeed the correct ones. Sharing the latest columnist’s fresh perspective on why this or that viewpoint is indeed the correct one makes us feel good. It makes us FEEL like we’ve made a difference. 

When you are on side “A” and you share a perspective that’s proving “Side A” is correct, you do two things: 

  1. Make your friends who are on “Side A” feel validated. You alos feel validated when your friends of the same perspective agree with you. You entrench yourself and your allies in their perspective. 
  2. You make your opponents defensive. You make them dig their heels in deeper, stronger and with more vigilance. You further deepen the divide between the two sides. 

There is absolutely a time and a place for this. 

There is a also a time and place for other action. 

We can’t rely on our elected leaders and the broken and divisive two-party system to lead change. The two-party system is a self-perpetuating system of divisiveness. 

We have to step up and be the leadership that our Democrats and Republicans fail to be. We have to take the brave and bold steps necessary to lead humanity in a new direction. A new direction of healing wounds, opening new conversations and creating new relationships. 

Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela all know this. The way to make change requires sacrifice, courage and uncomfortable openness. 

It’s time to pull back from the social media sharing and do things that are harder and more effective. 

Start civil conversations with people you disagree with. Speak from your heart. Be open to understanding new ideas. Be so open that it makes you uncomfortable. You don’t have to agree, and you don’t have to excuse behavior that violates your moral values. But these are the hard things that are required to create a new, more unified world. 

Photo by Siddhant Soni on Unsplash

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I Quit Using Straws and My Life Fell Apart

Some entrepreneurs have invented something they believe will keep 560 straws per person out of the landfill each year. They started a kickstarter with a goal of twelve thousand bucks and have raised, as of today, nearly 1.9 million. 

Something is terribly wrong. 

Let’s look at this from a broader perspective; one that considers history. The straw was invented in 1888 by Marvin Stone. In 1937, the bendy straw was invented by Joseph B. Friedman. In the 1960’s, straws became plastic instead of paraffin-coated paper. I learned all that here

Now let’s pull back a bit. Humans have been drinking (with and without straws) for about 200,000 years (as long as we’ve been in existence). We’ve had straws for about 120 years. They’ve been plastic for about 60 years. We know that this petroleum-based product (plastic) basically never goes away. That’s a huge problem. 

Now we have a culture with an expectation that every time you enjoy a beverage, you need a disposable device that never goes away to consume it. In recognition of this conundrum, we gave nearly 1.9 million bucks to some folks who made a reusable straw. 

A reusable straw is better than throwing one away every time you have a drink. But, the whole thing remains problematic because it reinforces the idea that caused the problem in the first place: That there is a PROBLEM with drinking that needs to be solved. 

When this occurred to me a few weeks ago, I decided to stop using straws and see if my life fell apart. Surprisingly, it didn’t. In fact, it was enriched because I discovered that not only do I not need straws  (not to sound too cocky, but I already knew that), I also don’t need lids on my drinks. And the best part is the freedom that comes from realizing how little we actually need in our world to be happy. I’m also now more congruent with my own beliefs and that I’ve eliminated the need for another item in my life and hopefully starting a bit of a conversation. 

I’ve found that freedom comes not from having more, but needing less. Surprisingly opposite the more common notion that having more makes you more free. 

We don’t need reusable straws. We need to need less.

If you spent 5 minutes reading this, 5 children died because they didn’t have access to clean drinking water. 1.9 million bucks (the current total on Kickstarter for these asinine reusable straws) would (according to a website) build 237 wells in Africa. 

Photo by James Aldrin on Unsplash

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Acceptance

Worry, anxiety, suffering. Over and over and over. How do I make it go away? How do I make it stop? How do I? How do I? How do I? 

Acceptance is the worst enemy of pain. What if it just is and that’s totally OK. What if it’s just totally fine to be worried, to be anxious, to suffer? 

What if you just stop the worry? Stop the anxiety? Stop the fear and just accept. Just accept everything as it is and for what it is. 

Afraid you’re going to run out of money? Just accept running out of money. ***

Afraid you’re going to be alone? Just accept being alone. ***

Afraid you’re losing someone you love? Just accept the loss. ***

Or what I you keep being fearful, having anxiety, keep worrying? And completely accept it? You can’t. 

You can’t worry, be scared or suffer when you are in acceptance. It’s impossible. 

True, real acceptance that flows through your body like a river from head to tow removes all worry, all suffering, all fear. 

Accept. 

Accept and Love. 

*** INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Acceptance does not mean not doing anything about the possible circumstance that’s causing the worry, fear and anxiety. It means making yourself as complete as possible so as to enable you to be as effective as possible at dealing with the circumstance.

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/liberty-feel-gender-identity-2262513/

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The Voices In Your Head

You know what I’m talking about. That voice in your head. That voice that’s telling you how to wash the dishes, how to eat your food, how to brush your teeth, how to act in a certain situation. It’s always there, always telling you what to do and how to do it. 

You don’t want to hear it. You don’t want to do what it wants you to do. You want to do your own thing. You want to do it your way!  And you want to tell it to fuck off! 

Your teeth clench, your shoulders tense up, and you breath harder because you’re tired of being told what to do. 

You start slamming things around. Muttering under your breath….. 

“I’ll do it my own goddamn way, bitch.”

“I’m doing it my way, asshole.”

You explain to this voice why your way is better. Why their way is wrong and why your way is right. 

This goes on… and on… and on…. Perhaps constantly. Perhaps the intensity is greater or less in certain situations but generally speaking, it’s there and it’s usually annoying as fuck. 

The voice is always there, but who is it? Is it a mother, a father, a sibling, an ex, a friend, a boss? Perhaps it changes over time. It may be one person way day, another a different day. But usually, it’s the same person. 

How do you make it stop? 

RECOGNIZE IT

Recognize that some person from your life has entered your brain in a way that causes them to nearly constantly ring in your head. Recognize that someone has influenced you in a profound, but not constructive way. Recognize that you’ve kind of lost control. 

If you read this far, you probably get it. You get what Im saying. So, now you get to take back control. Recognizing you’ve lost control is kind of hard and rather annoying but it’s an important step. Just do it. It’s gonna help you get past it. 

Notice that it’s taking up a crapton of energy. It’s using a lot of energy in your brain to constantly argue with this person in your head. Its wearing you out, making you angry and sucking energy energy from funner things. 

TELL IT TO SHUT UP.

You’ve now recognized that it’s there, in control, and taking up valuable energy, so you can now tell it to go away. 

It probably won’t go away quickly, it may take a while, but be patient. The moment you recognize it’s there, you begin to take away it’s power. Try talking to friends about it. Explain to them that you have this voice and they probably won’t say, ”You’re nuts”, instead they will probably say,

“OMG, I have that voice too, only its my ____!” 

Talking about it with others is very helpful. it gives you a little control by casting more light on the voice and also helps the other person deal with their voice. 

These little bitches suck, but take away a bit of their power and they’ll fade away. If you’d like, share who the voice in your head is in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash

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Being Yourself

Every day, you get up, go out into the world and do what you do. But who’s doing it? Who is going out there and doing the thing you do? Is it you? Or is it a person you’ve carefully created to be sure the world will love you? A person you’ve created to be sure the world won’t hurt you? To make sure the world won’t reject you?

Probably. 

Every day, we step out the door as someone who is’t real. Someone who isn’t really us. We go out into the world as a fake. A phony. 

We do it to protect ourselves.

But we quickly realize, this is slow death. Not being who we uniquely are kills us — slowly and painfully. Becoming genuinely happy and contributing to the world in our best way means chipping off all the stuff that isn’t really us… and be left with who we truly are. 

And that means we have to do one really hard and scary thing:

Be honest. 

Being honest with your friends, family, coworkers, and other people is hard. But the brutal truth is that it’s the easy part. Easy compared to the to the biggest, nastiest, meanest, hairiest monster you’ll ever have to face: 

Yourself. 

Being honest with yourself is the scariest part. 

What if I’m no good? What if I don’t really matter at all? What if? What if? What if? 

It takes a long time and a lot of living of life to get this very simple point…. and many people don’t get it it before they reach their death bed, but it’s the only thing that really answers the “what if” question: 

You actually ARE good enough just like you are.

Even if you don’t get out of bed today, even if you get nothing done, even if you make no money, even if you make no progress, even if you help nobody, even if you do nothing…. No matter what…. you’re good enough just like you are. 

Even if you don’t matter (you do), even if nobody likes you (somebody does), even if nobody thinks your creations are any good (they are), even if you fart out crappy blog posts (they’re kind of good, actually… maybe?), even if you completely suck at life…. you’re good enough. 

It is ONLY from that understanding that you can actually become what you are truly capable of. 

Knowing that (and it’s doubtful that reading this is going to convince you, so you’re going to have to keep working at it, since every single human being on this planet struggles with this to some degree every single day), you can finally….. 

finally….

finally….

BE HONEST

…. so that you can be who you really are…. yourself. The alternative is a slow, miserable death. 

BE YOU. 

Photo Credit: https://www.splitshire.com/young-man-headshot/

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When You’re Struggling

We all struggle and we all agree that when we’re struggling, we usually either learn something or the process gets us prepared for the next thing that is usually bigger and better. When we struggle, we develop some skills, knowledge, perspective, or maybe just experience the contrast we need to enjoy the less strugglesome times even more. 

If that’s the case, why do we view struggle so negatively? Why can’t we be excited about struggle? Why can’t we wake up, feel like shit and say:

“YES! This struggle is real and it’s what I need right now and it’s going to result in something great.” 

If we actually embraced (we already know) how much our struggles help us, we’d be excited to struggle. We’d say: 

“Shit yea! I’m fucking broke! Not even sure how I’m going to pay this month’s bills. Something AMAZING is going to come of this!”

We would recognize that something super, super important is coming along because of this struggle. 

We’d exclaim: 

“My friend just totally screwed me over! Boy, this hurts like a motherfucker, so it MUST mean that something positively unbelievable is coming along! I’m going to learn something REALLY important from this!” 

Our struggles prepare us for bigger, better things to come in life. Things that we can’t even know what they are yet, much less how wonderful they will be. 

The other day, I messaged a friend to see how he was doing. I started to type, “I hope your having a wonderful day…” then paused. It didn’t feel right. I thought…. hmmm… maybe a wonderful day isn’t what he needs today. Maybe he need to have a shitty day so he can learn something from it? So, I changed it to, “I hope your having an amazing day… or a shitty day, whatever you need to have.” Not many people would understand, but fortunately, he did. Because he laughed, and agreed. 

Years of meditation and questioning everything I‘ve ever thought true have allowed me to maintain a level of peace even when my emotions are not what I’d prefer them to be — most of the time. 

If you’re struggling, remember that whatever this is … it’s preparing you for something amazing. Think you can change how you react next time you’re struggling? I haven’t, but it sure is a refreshing way to look at struggle.

Bonus points: Hug somebody who’s struggling. 

Featured Image Credit: Photo by pawel szvmanski on Unsplash

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How to Do More of What You Want

The refrain of, “I’ll do all this crap I don’t want to do for most of my life, so that hopefully I’ll have a few years to do what I really want to do and hopefully I’ll be in good enough shape and still alive to do it.” has grown tired.  

I’m not sure how we got to a place where the standard operating procedure is to spend most of your life doing stuff you don’t want to do, in hopes you’ll be able to do a little bit of what you really want later on. 

The world functions best when everyone is doing what they are not only best at, but also most excited and energized by. The industrial revolution moved us away from that idea. It moved us toward a paradigm where we categorize all the work that must be done, define exactly how it should be done and then find people to fit into these clearly defined and labeled, “roles”. 

When you’re in school, you learn stuff and are asked, what you want to be when you grow up. There is a list of roles you can fill (aka jobs) and you must decide which of these boxes you fit into. You get to “pick” because we believe that you should get to choose the one that you’ll be least miserable doing. 

You better pick wisely, because you’re gonna have to do it all day long for many many years, until you get to quit doing it. At that point, you will have saved or invested enough money from doing that thing you picked. That’s the idea anyway. 

That’s just how it is. 

I don’t accept that anything is how it is or that it can’t be changed. When everyone is doing what they most want to do, everyone is fueled by passion, desire and the thing they most devoted to. Whether it’s music, historic architecture, curing cancer or football, everyone has something unique to contribute that — most importantly, they vehemently want to contribute to the world. 

Few people will argue with this, but few people will actually take the scary steps necessary to make it a reality. There’s no three-step process to doing what you most want to do, there’s no single plan that anyone can follow to make it happen. 

Because it’s so unique for each person, each one of us has to find our own path. But delaying it definitely won’t get you there.
Doing it will. 

If you’re passion is music, figure out a way to do more music. If it’s helping cure a disease, do more of that. If it’s playing a sport, do more of that. If actually doing it isn’t feasible, research it, talk to people about it, do whatever you can to move in that direction. 

The world functions best when we’re all doing what we’re supposed to be doing. Don’t just do it for yourself, do it for the future of humanity. 

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post

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How to Live Better

I’ve studied a lot about human behavior. It started with a self-help addiction when I was miserable and stuck in my corporate job, a relationship and a life that wasn’t the life I knew I could have. I had everything I was “supposed to” want, but I knew something wasn’t right — I knew there had to be a way to live better.

The Problem

I don’t believe that any of us are “meant” or “destined” to be or do anything. Each of us has to make a decision about what we want to become. When I was living a life that was a series of sacrifices to support things I didn’t want, I was miserable.

Over the course of my journey, I’ve worked my ass off to make my life what I KNOW it can be, and along the way, I’ve learned a lot about how to be happy. We all want money, some want fame, most want to be liked, but we all just want to lay our head on the pillow at night and feel like we had a good day, go to sleep happy and excited to get up the next day.

Happiness never, ever comes from achievement. Never. But we constantly pursue achievement believing it will create happiness. And it never, ever works. So we ignorantly believe that if we could just achieve more, we’d be happier.

That’s just like a drug addict. After a while, alcohol doesn’t give you the same feeling, so you move on to something else. Then something else, and on and on. We publicly condemn, and even outlaw drug use, but nobody talks about the exact same cycle that makes a majority of humans on this earth live a miserable or (at best) mediocre life.

How to Live More

What we need is to actually act IN ALIGNMENT with becoming the person we want to become. Is what you are doing right now moving you in that direction? Right now, your reading this blog post, but what about the next thing you do? Is it going to move you in the direction you want to go?

Don’t worry if you don’t exactly where you want to go. You just have to ask yourself if the things you are doing every minute, hour, day and week, are moving you in a direction you REALLY WANT to go. Whatever it is, it doesn’t even have to work out the way you expect it to. It just has to move you in that direction.

It’s not really that complicated. It’s not necessarily about figuring out some grandiose life purpose. You just have to want something and take steps that move you toward it. Some things are no-brainers — maybe you want more money, a husband, a wife, a better job… whatever. You want something but if your actions aren’t aligned with ANYTHING, you won’t be happy.

You can always find peace inside yourself by meditating and eliminating outside attachment, but to really thrive, you need more. You need to take actions that are aligned with what you really want out of life.

What we generally do in our world is to accept mediocrity and then take actions that move us towards more mediocrity. It’s not about the result; it’s about the actions that you take to move toward something greater.

Image Credit: Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

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