UAC 148 | Being Informed

 

In a world where information is right at our fingertips, where do we draw the line between taking in all that we can and exploring for ourselves what we could know? Do we outsource our thinking and simply accept what we’ve read or heard as the truth? Have we lost the ability to say “I don’t know”? In another Couch Conversations episode, Thane Marcus Ringler and his wife, Evan Ryan Ringler, ponder on these questions and dive deep into the idea of being informed—what it means now, what good it does, and how it can be bad. Going through the COVID-19 pandemic, they then talk about depression, which is undeniably more felt in this time of quarantining and social distancing. They discuss the ways social media has made us feel small and how we can take that back. Imparting practical advice to help us grow in these areas, Thane and Evan then end with the importance of open-mindedness, of listening to others in full awareness and humility.

Listen to the podcast here:

148: Couch Conversations With Evan Ryan Ringler: On “Being Informed,” Depression, And Open-Mindedness

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This is another episode with my amazing wife. This series of episode will be the first of many with her. We’re entitling them Couch Conversations because that’s where we have them, right on our couch here in our home. These are going to be great times with my wife where we get to sit down and talk through what we’re been learning, what we’ve been processing as a couple individually and in life. If you enjoy the first one, you’re definitely going to enjoy this one. The first one was episode 142, go back and check that out. Evan is the best and I’m so grateful to be married to her and to be living life and processing life with her. This conversation revolves a lot around the idea of being informed. Is it good to be informed? What is helpful or hurtful about “being informed?” Is it actually possible?

This is a lot of the conversation we’ve been having in the last month or two with ourselves and with our community. It’s an important conversation to expand to all of you listening and to your communities as well. We also talk about depression and how with COVID, we felt more periods of that and getting out of bed can be hard sometimes when we feel like we have lack of purpose or identity. We also talk about what practical things we can do to grow in these areas, which focuses on an open-mindedness in conversations and in listening to others. I think you will really enjoy and benefit from this episode. I know I was stimulated and encouraged a lot by my wife. I’m excited to share this conversation with you. Sit back and relax and enjoy this couch conversation with my wife, Evan Ryan Ringler.

Evan Ryan Ringler, welcome back.

I’m glad to be here.

I think I’m going to have to make this a more regular appearance. It’s too much fun to get to talk with my wife. It’s the best. We are sitting with the door open at 7:50 AM. We had a nice morning flow. We walked to local café. I got a decaf latte and some brewed coffee. Maybe we start with that right there, the fact that we just had an early morning. That’s been a hard thing to do, especially in this quarantine time. It’s funny and we’ve noticed that’s a very common theme for most people.

Ranging actually from all of life, ages and demographics. I’ll speak for me personally. It has been a harder season to get out of bed and I’m such a type-A go get things done person. It’s been a little counterintuitive as far as counter to who I am at my core. In the last two weeks, I’ve been working on just setting times and saying, “For these five working days or Monday through Friday, I’m going to get up out of bed at X time.” I think my first week was I’m going to get out of bed before 7:30 AM and then last week was I’m going to get up out of bed before 7:00 AM and then this week we woke up at 5:30 AM.

Social media is a neutral substance that can be used for good or evil. Click To Tweet

We set the alarm for 5:00 AM, but out of bed at 5:30 AM. It’s interesting. It is a common theme that more people are facing right now. There’s a lot of factors involved. I’ve felt it in small doses as well. It’s not like, it’s only a female or only males. Everyone feels it in different ways. The loss of identity, lack of purpose or to the things at its core that we feel more in this time than others because we’re stripped away of typical roles, titles or relationships in daily life. That leads to this weird period where you wake up and you think, “What am I even doing? What do I need to even do now? I don’t even know what my purpose is or what my plan is.”

“When this will lift and I can get back to my rhythm.” I feel like we’ve been stripped of our hurry. Now more than ever, it’s like, “Why am I hurrying to get this done, to get to the next thing when I have ample time or when deadlines aren’t as pressing?” That was a tangible way I feel to combat that or try to get back to the rhythm that I want for my life. I love morning times.

It’s funny because what often is associated with this is feelings of depression, feelings of, “I feel down. I feel in the dumps,” and those are real. That affects all of us in different capacities in ways. It’s hard because sometimes that is debilitating and other times, we can fight through it and discerning which is hard to know.

Allowing grace in those moments, I think we in one sense could have grace for ourselves. What I’m trying to say is there’s joy in feeling depression because we can better understand the moments we aren’t feeling it. Not to minimize it at all because it is a real thing and a lot of people experience it to far greater degrees than I ever have. A little taste of it helped build our empathy, help us to better understand and not just dismiss it, which we’re quick to do with things we don’t understand.

We’re quick to prescribe. We’re quick to tell what to do versus just sit with like, Jobs’ friends. To their credit, they sat for seven days with him and that’s good word. We talked about that with James on an episode. Sitting with the grief, sorrow and sadness. Those are really important practices in America that we’re pretty bad at, with myself included in that, being an achiever. I think, we need more work in that regard. It’s a common thing. It’s a fun opportunity for us to say, “Interesting. What’s going on here? What is leading to this? What are other factors that affect it or influence it? What is good about it? What is bad about it? How can I show grace to myself?”

We can busy ourselves out of any feeling for some amount of time and now it’s almost forcing people, myself included to say, “What is going on internally?” I would like to say I try to do regular checks, but I feel COVID, it’s been a nice pause to say and evaluate what is going on and what rhythms I want to keep when things start to lift. We were talking on our walk back home about how we can be choosy about what we’d let back in and trying to safeguard our solitude and time alone to read or reflect. I think that’s a beautiful part of this time.

We’ve gotten so accustomed to it with it being prolonged now for quite a bit of time that we start taking this time for granted a lot more. When it first struck, a lot of us were excited, “We get extra space. We can slow down. We can do things like read more and write more and be present more,” and the tables have turned a little bit to where people are, myself included, getting more antsy and wanting to get back into things. We start taking this time for granted. It’s a cool reminder like you just said, of how can we not take this time for granted and appreciate it no matter how long it is and then be intentional with what we reincorporate. It has been fun to think about. I’m excited to protect the schedule more. Before COVID, I would say yes to way more things. That’s different too between being single and being married. That will be a new fun.

It’s not that being married is a drag and you start to say no.

It’s not a drag. It’s a different reality.

Saying yes is a beautiful rhythm too. I remember my aunt had a shift and said, “I’m always saying no to things. No, I don’t have time for this.” There’s a balance without anything of allowing things into your life and being open-handed.

I’m excited about that because we were talking about on the walk. We are like, “We are blessed by this time and space to have like a long honeymoon in a sense because it’s just been us and that’s been the sweetest.” I can see that if it wasn’t for this time, how busy we would be with getting plugged into new church, new community, developing new friends, exploring, trying in a restaurant, doing every hike and all the things, which are great, but it can become distracting too.

UAC 148 | Being Informed

Being Informed: Being informed is positive. We are expanding our frame of thinking that could help us engage in conversations with people, potentially leading to action.

 

It takes away from the beauty of those “mundane things.”

We had depth in our dating time in long distance because we were forced to. Now, we’re having depth in our marriage time because we’re being forced to in a different way, which is the coolest thing. One of the things we’ve been talking a lot about that we both thought it would be fun to talk about here is this idea of being informed. We’ve been talking a lot about this with each other and with our community. It’s been a couple of week long conversation and it is worth having a conversation on air and then hopefully further conversations with other people in other spaces and even on here too. Maybe we come at it first by this idea of what it means to be informed and why it feels so important.

I would start with in theory being informed is positive. We are expanding our frame of thinking where that could help us lead to engaging conversations with people. It could potentially lead to action. That would be the ultimate good from being informed and then we’re continuing to learn and being curious which are all beautiful things. That speaks to the essence but to define being informed, you could say it’s to be in the know.

This is how people often think about it. I was thinking about the history of it of what was it like to be informed many years ago. It probably meant you read the paper, you talk to your neighbors and you tried to maybe go to city meetings. You subscribed to the right journals and had conversations about what’s happening with the people in your daily life. That was many years ago, which isn’t that long of time and before that it was really localized.

It’s word of mouth. I feel that’s way back but that’s how stories were retold.

Within the last several years, it has compounded and amplified 100 times at least.

When did the iPhone come out?

Several years ago.

It was in 2006 to 2010 or somewhere in there.

The best people to converse with help you hear yourself better. Click To Tweet

The iPhone came out, smartphones came out, internet was accessible, not just on computers but on your phone and then it blew up. The information exploded.

One of the pastors that I listened to has said before, “Isn’t it the worst when a know-it-all has an iPhone with Google on it?” Because then in someone we can say, “I don’t know about this,” and they’re like, “I think I’ve heard something,” and they Google it. It’s so true and we do that, and how often do we reach for our phone.

According to The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, it was it 26,000 times a day.

It’s something in the twenties.

It’s a pretty relatively new phenomenon of having the ability to, “What we will consider be informed.”

Be readily informed with this person.

With that comes what we’re seeing now and what we’ve been talking about. Some dangerous results or outcomes that we aren’t even necessarily conscious of.

We can all fall victim to.

We all do fall. No one’s immune to this and we all have fallen into this and you will. The beautiful thing that our pastor said, Rob Brendel of Denver United was we need to stop outsourcing our thinking. That’s where the rubber meets the road for being informed. At least what I’ve seen for myself and for others as I’ve reflected on this, that is what the core of what’s happening is we’re outsourcing our thinking to where we don’t even have a thought process about these things. We get fed by something and then whatever we’re fed with, that’s the capital Truth because we’ve been fed it and there’s no other way.

UAC 148 | Being Informed

Being Informed: We tend to get angry around ideas that if someone were to come and challenge the way we think or believe, a lot of times, our first reaction is anger.

 

That can look like many different things in many different avenues. To me, when I think about sourcing my thinking, I think of repeating something I’ve been told in my depth of that topic is the sentence that I say to someone. If anyone were to say, “Tell me more about that,” which no one usually does because everyone wants to get out what they think, they want to know. I wouldn’t know what to say. I’d probably have to make something up or say, “That makes sense,” and try to rationalize what I said.

Isn’t it funny that we’ve lost the ability to say, “I don’t know?” It’s a phrase that has lost touch with our conversation.

One way I’ve tried to reincorporate that practice of not knowing is just saying it. I try to do it a lot of times with words. If I’m reading something, I’ll ask.

I’m very proud of my wife in this because I’ve learned a lot from her from this practice.

My grandpa taught me this a long time ago. He used to have a dictionary with him whenever he would read to look up words or think like, “There’s a better word for this word that I’m trying to say.” It makes communication clearer and it helps your thinking. Things have become clearer in my brain when I get clearer on words. I’ll ask, “What does this word mean?” “What do you mean by that?” I try to put on humility and say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” or, “I’m not familiar with that. Can you say more?” That’s been a humbling practice but also, I learned a lot. I feel like I’m benefiting.

You ask me all the time what a word that you come across means. I’m like, “I know what that means,” and then I try to define them and I’m like, “I really don’t know what that means.” I think I do, but it’s an educated guess and I couldn’t define it. Now, I need to know. I get to learn alongside, which is the coolest thing and that means I probably need more humility.

With that, it could be because the original question was, “Why is it so hard for us to say, ‘I don’t know?’” I think there’s comfort in knowing. Ego is wrapped up in it. What other factors do you think it could lead to?

I think it’s identity. If we say we don’t know, then people think we don’t know anything. It’s like we jump to the tenth step on all these things. If I give one step away, then that means I’m giving 100 steps and that never is true. There’s a lot of self-ego and worth tied up in that and then we’re lazy. It’s a huge part of it. We default to the easier path of like, “I know that,” when we don’t. We’ll agree and we’ll move past it.

Also shame because that’s dismissing that person. We are like, “I don’t care to know what they are saying.”

Marriage is a never-ending quest of getting to know your partner. Click To Tweet

“It’s not worth my time.”

It’s saying, “I’m already deciding I don’t or won’t agree with whatever that person’s saying,” and not engaging.

Which is huge again, because that goes back to being informed and what that produces is ultimately closed-mindedness. It’s saying, “I’m not going to listen to what this person is saying because I’ve already determined what box they live in or operate out of, and as a result I can discard it.” That’s outsourcing our thinking. That’s saying, “My narrative is already made up,” “This narrative isn’t aligned so I’m going to discard it.”

That speaks to it being easy and comfortable. We talked to someone we love dearly who said, “They think they know you when they can put you in a box,” and that happens. Social media is a perfect example because you can scroll, “I know everything that’s going on in this person’s life. They’re probably really happy and they’re having their third kid.” “This person is sad and we need to pray for them.” That’s so shallow. I’ve been off of social media for a while for those reasons because I found myself getting in those tendencies of, “I know these things about these people. I never really check in on them.” With that, I think being able to put things or ideas in a box helps us feel in control.

I want to touch on that too. Here’s and interesting to think about social media. Before social media, which is only a few years ago, Facebook was earlier, but the widespread use of social media, before that, the people you stayed in touch with. First it was writing or in community, then it became texting and calling phones. With texting and calling, you could have a decent idea of what’s going on in someone’s life. When you’re seeing snippets of moments of their life and all the best, how can you have any idea what’s going on? Your idea of what’s going on is a projected image of reality. It’s not even reality itself. It leaves room for your own interpretation of it times infinity. What’s dangerous? It’s not all bad. Social media, I love the quote, “Every great cause begins as a movement, turns into a business and then degenerates into a racket.” That’s same as true with social media in a sense.

It was a great cause connecting your loved ones that you don’t get to see that much. It turns into a business. Now, we’re making money off it. There are profit schemes, ads, algorithms, followers, influencers, and then it turns into a racket. It’s a game. The dangerous thing is not recognizing that. You can put the right boundaries in place. You cannot be on it. There are lot of ways you can set it up to where it can still be helpful. If we’re not conscious about the ways it’s dangerous, then it’s going to cause harm, especially to others. When someone is following another person and they get this facade that they actually know what’s going on in their life, but they haven’t communicated within for years. They’re going to have a skewed perception of who this person is because they’re forming that off of what they see online versus the actual human interaction they have with them.

In social media, it’s a neutral substance. It’s like money. It’s like any neutral substance that can be used for good or for evil. That’s what is so beautiful about it is it is neutral. We get to decide what our part is and are we going to redeem it for good. I would also say that I’ve found something we like when we try to be informed. With the social media example, we get on there and I know this to be true for myself. We can get on and confirm our biases, “That person’s doing this.” Control them and keep them in boxes in our heads and then measure ourselves up, “I want to be more like that.”

Maybe, “I’m missing the mark with this person.” “I feel a little bit better than those guys.” It’s been proven again that ample amounts of time on social media can lead to depression and loneliness. I think that’s what it does. Even if we get on and get those hits of dopamine of, “I love that person. It’s so good to see them.” That’s genuine and that’s real and then you start to feel bad about yourself because your family doesn’t look like this or you don’t look like that. We get on and we have this certain narrative that’s running through our mind and then we cater information coming in to the said narrative.

UAC 148 | Being Informed

Being Informed: Curiosity lends itself to questions and vice versa. The more questions you ask, the more curious you are.

It takes away curiosity. What you hit on earlier is really huge because it stems from a desire for control and that ties directly into being informed. We want to be able to control not only our lives, but the situation, the circumstances surrounding it and have a grasp of other people so that we can control how they affect us. If I’m afraid of being hurt by someone, I’m going to control them so that I’m not hurt by them. If I’m intimidated by them, I’m going to control them so that I can come out on top.

I’m not going to let them in or see this side of me.

What’s funny about that is that we have zero control. The only thing we have control over is really our thoughts, interactions. That’s it. Even that is less control than we think we have.

We’ve been talking a lot about the monkey mind. Meaning how quickly our mind and brains can jump to things that aren’t helpful. It almost feels like not any fault of your own and how distracting that can be. That’s why time of meditation and mindfulness is so important to try to sit in quiet and just be. I am a class right now. I’ve been learning a lot of things. One of my teachers said and I love this, “We’re afraid to lose the control that we think that we have over the life that we think that we’re living.” It points to, if we can grasp this life and keep it in all of these nice neat little boxes, then I feel okay about life. When people say, “How’s life?” I say, “It’s really good,” because I know what’s going on. I throw anything at me. I’ve got it under control and as you said, none of us are in control.

It’s hard to let go. The core of it is letting go and practicing that daily. What’s cool is that’s the way God set it up in His world and design. It’s a humbling practice because we then have to admit and realize that we don’t have control. It’s also a grounding practice because we are back on the ground, the level ground with all of humanity. It’s a uniting practice because it’s helping us connect better to our fellow humans by saying, “None of us have control, you don’t, I don’t.” What we see as semblances of power. The things that have power here on earth, they really actually don’t have as much power as we give them. We just watched The Irishman, which is a pretty dark movie and long. What I thought poetic about it at the end was that these mafia men, they die like everyone else. They end up old and decrepit and barely able to walk just like everyone else. How much power they have then? Zero. It’s all gone.

I’m taking an online class through the Center of Action and Contemplation on St. Teresa of Avila who is a 16th century of mystic. It’s been a heavy journey and I been in the weeds a lot and it’s made me more aware than ever at our own mortality. Something that I’ve been learning and linking with that is how angry we can get around ideas. Meaning, if someone were to come and challenge the way I think or believe, a lot of times our first reaction is anger. I wonder, why are we so angry? I think this is prevalent with COVID and etc. These are really unique times. With that said, I see now more than ever, people angry about politics and the way people do things. They’re acting that way because they’re a conservative or they’re acting that way because they’re liberal.

It’s like, “Maybe they’re just acting that way because they believe that’s what’s best.” With that and us being mortal beings, it makes me really sad to see in myself how angry I get about certain topics or why don’t people think this? It’s helped me get into this process of, why am I angry? Am I even angry about that topic? I’m angry that because I’m scared? I don’t want to be challenged. I don’t want people to say, “No, you’re wrong.” With that, something that has been helpful to me is thinking of what conversations I like to be in. We heard a quote that, “The best people to be in conversation with help you to hear yourself better.” How beautiful that is when someone is sitting here with you saying, “I want to hear you.” They help clarify your own thoughts.

It’s Yahia Lababidi who said, “A good listener is one who helps us overhear ourselves.”

I think that this posture needs to be emulated. It needs to be copied. The point is if I can sit here and say, “Here’s what I’m thinking. I’m not sure, but this is what I know from experiential self-knowledge to be true. This isn’t what I know from prayer. This is what I know from humility.” Humility, self-experiential knowledge and prayer can be three hinges or ways to experience growth. With that, when someone hears me, I am much more willing to hear them. If we can hold that passion for other people, that’s the first step in that growing.

Do not be dismissive of others' experiences. Click To Tweet

When you think about conversations we have, when you’re done talking, someone immediately jumps to what they want to say, did they even hear you? We already subconsciously assume they didn’t. Whether or not we’re aware of it, we’re assuming, “They didn’t even listen to me because they’re saying what they want to say.”

Probably more subconsciously and then in the conscious level where like, “What’s my next point?”

How can I get my two cents in and it’s a downward spiral versus an upward spiral?

I just listened to this podcast. Homebrewed Christianity is what it’s called. The person talking was saying how hard it’s been for him to have conversation with his parents since he’s undergone growth and transformation. He said, “I noticed sitting there with my dad that he has a zero to negative 10% chance of changing my mind. There is no way he’s getting in there to change my mind.” Why would it be any different? Is that the point to gather all this information and then put your stake in the ground and be like, “I’m independent?” There’s no growth from that. There’s no curiosity in that.

One of the reasons is why did Jesus talk in parables? I think a big part of that is because debates never changed anyone’s mind. I don’t think anyone has changed their mind from a debate. If you think about social media conversations/arguments, big news channels and what their programs provide, these short snippet debates, nothing ever changes from that. You just entrench. If you’re going to debate with people, how did Jesus debate? He asked questions and he left it open. He said, “If you can’t answer me, I’m not going to answer you.” Jesus is paving the way for us of saying, “This is how you do it.” You don’t change people’s minds or hearts by a debate. You change it by life you live with questions posed. I love Rainer Maria Rilke. A poem I read said, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.” It does take patience. There ought to be things unsolved in your heart. Those questions are good. They need to be asked.

It’s the mystery. There are two things. One, I read in Mark 11, the Pharisees come to Jesus and they’re like, “Who gives you this authority?” He’s like, “Who John the Baptist authority?” They didn’t know what to say. If we say, “We’re going to make people mad if we say one thing,” and they didn’t say anything and Jesus is like, “I’m not going to tell you where my authority comes from.” The thing is we as humans would be so quick to be, “This is where my authority comes from and XYZ.” That was something that it made me think of and then you said the Rilke poem. Can you say that again? I think it will come back to me.

Be patient toward all those unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.”

I was talking with a dear friend who was saying how in marriage it’s a never-ending quest of getting to know your partner. The minute you wake up and say, “I’ve got Thane figured out,” that dismisses Thane and your partner. You’re not interested, you’re not curious and you’re not helping foster growth in the other.

It’s easy to fall into that. I’ve seen that with myself in you. I’m sure you’ve seen that with you in me that if we get annoyed by something or we see something play out, then we’re just like, “This is how it’s always going to be, this is the narrative, this is why, this is who they are.” All of that isn’t fair or true and we have to fight that on a daily level because we are human.

UAC 148 | Being Informed

Being Informed: Rest in knowing that God does have our best interest in mind and does love us.

Our collectively as human motives are not always ill-intended. In that example specifically, I think about, “I know Thane reacts this way sometimes. In these situations, I can do this to help.” That does lend itself to that narrative of, “I’ve got it under control. I know it happens here.”

The other quote I love was James Clear, the best newsletter around right now. He said, “Knowledge is a compound interest of curiosity.” It speaks again to the importance of questions. Curiosity lends itself to questions and vice-versa. The more questions you ask, the more curious you are. I want to go back to what you said about self-knowledge which is similar to experiential knowledge.

It’s specifically knowing for yourself.

To go to the realm of experiential knowledge in general, the other danger of this day is being informed society and culture is that, grandpas have both talked to this. You can be so knowledgeable with the information of anything today because there’s so much readily available that you can become a “knowledge expert” without any experience in that subject field or skill. It’s half-baked because you haven’t lived it, experienced it or flushed it out in real time by the actions of experience. I think that is a danger for all of us. None of us are immune to that of what this idea of knowledge and information without experience.

I would caution us to not be dismissive of others’ experience like, “They can’t know this because they’ve never experienced.” We don’t know their experience. We can’t judge that, but I do think that it is helpful and great.

Even back on what you were talking about too. I know you’ve got some more things that you’ve been thinking through. What you mentioned before with your journey through this idea of mysticism and how it’s led you to a better understanding of mortality, which can also show at times how angry we get. That mortality and the anger comes from being scared, which comes from being fear. That comes from a semblance of control or leads to a semblance of control again. Fear and control are tied together that we want to have control because we’re afraid. We’re fearful. The ultimate fear is death. That’s the thing that’s hanging over everyone’s head and all of it ties together.

That’s where even from a worldly standpoint, stoicism had such a resurgence because we need to accept the fact that we are mortal. We need accept the fact that we’re going to die and be okay with it. In that acceptance comes freedom because now we’re not living in fear. That’s of course what God brings through Christianity. Understanding that this semblance or want to be controlling comes from fear and that God is love. Perfect love casts out all fear. As followers of Jesus, we can’t run our lives around fear if we’re going to follow Jesus, especially in the church. When the church is built on a fear-based narrative, it’s going to lead towards guilt and control versus freedom and love.

It’s beautiful and necessary. For me, that’s a little overwhelming. I don’t know what happens when we die. Who does? The practical piece is, and what’s been helpful because it isn’t helpful to camp out in the mysticism camp or the fundamental Christianity camp. We have to have both open-handed curiosity of, “This is necessary and beautiful.” With that, Jesus does care about this life too. He created it. It’s beautiful. There are details in every part of the creation. I see this most went on hikes 14,000 feet up. People have never even come across. It’s not to say I’m an adventurer. I accidentally came off the trail and found this. There are beautiful flowers where some people will never lay their eyes on them, but they’re still there.

All of that to say, I think we can rest in this life is beautiful and necessary too. We can say, even though I don’t know what happens in death, I trust that. How much more God. I hope that we’re with everyone we love and we get to explore the creation tenfold and more, how much more God? My little finite brain can think about it in that extent. I rest in knowing that God does have our best interest in mind and loves us. We are created out of love and we are existing because of love. To tie in a little mysticism, James Finley, the teacher for the course has been talking about, “If the endless, infinite love of God who is loving you into existence, could stop loving into existence at any point.” I love being in that flow of like, I am being loved into existence and so are you, and so as everyone around me.

We are created out of love, and we exist because of love. Click To Tweet

We play a part in that. That ties another quote you sent me. Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen.” By hearing someone, we’re loving them, seeing them and bringing them into existence because of that. The three core needs are to be seen, to be heard and connected.

I thought it might be helpful to think through other ways of, why we like to be “informed?” Partly, it is a routine. We come home, we turn on whichever news channel we get our news from and mindlessly listen or numb out. We could jump on social media and mindlessly scroll. There is a mindless component that we of just like numbing. It’s not having to do anything. It doesn’t feel like work. Another piece that I think is helpful is confirming our own biases, our narratives. I feel it’s detrimental to you and I’ve seen it in my own life because then I become close-minded. I become angry that people aren’t the way that I am and don’t see things the way I see things. I felt my eyes have been open to a posture of humility first and then just the posture of, “I don’t know,” and, “That’s why I’m letting you know,” and, “Here’s a little bit I know and how I’ve experienced Jesus in my life,” or, “How I’ve experienced these truths.”

It’s interesting how we truly do not see each other as humans in those moments. It’s where we’re emotionally invested in a stance, idea or place in the political, current events and in the religious views landscape. Whenever we put our self and put our stake in the ground in a place and someone else’s at a different place in that spectrum, we don’t view them as a fellow human being. We view them as an enemy and we view them as lesser than ourselves and that’s not what God wants. If we have God’s worldview and perspective, He sees every single human the same and it’s not putting one above the other or on a weighted scale. That’s the thing that I get most frustrated with, especially on a political landscape of news outlets and what “being informed” is the anger that comes from it divides humanity. That’s the worst outcome of it.

I learned that Jesus saw God and all that you saw. There were great examples used of He saw God in His mother and in a prostitute. The same good God, He saw in the prostitute and in His own mom. He saw God in his disciples and in His executioners. There’s one more, a flower and a bird and how different those two are and then a wedding and a funeral. To me, we can look at the least of these which I love how Paul is like, “If I can be a Christian, so can you,” and that’s such a beautiful posture to say, “I’m just doing the best I can here too.” Paul used to kill people, but all that he say, “I think we can look at the least of these in our eyes, which most times isn’t us. For most of us, we look at other people as lesser than ourselves or leaders as fallen evil people.” There is evil in the world too. My challenge would be that Jesus probably sees God too. That’s what were called to as Christians is to see that.

I think what you pointed out too with the ways we are informed and why, you hit the nail on the head when we numb out or mindless about it. If we’re going to see God in others, we have to be mindful and intentional about it. We can’t be mindless. If you’re mindless or if you numb out, you’re go towards comfort and safety and security.

Back to your own narratives, it’s mindless numbing.

Just because we’re saying this, it doesn’t mean we don’t fall into this. We do every day.

I feel that’s the only reason we can talk it, is that we know.

It’s the experience. We’ve done this and we still do this. Even when I’m telling myself, “Thane, enter this space or this conversation with a curiosity and an openness.” I feel that boiling up within me of this emotional investment in something against whatever, and then I revert or divert back to my old ways. It’s not like an overnight switch, but we can get better at it. That’s the beauty of growth is that we can get better even if we don’t feel we’re making much progress. The fact that we’re trying is progress.

UAC 148 | Being Informed

Being Informed: The three needs of any human being: to be seen, to be heard, and to be connected.

Another good quote I learned is, “Admitting means you’re admitted.” You’re in the club if you’re able to be like, “I don’t have it all figured out.” What’s helpful?

The first thing to say with all this, because when people hear close minded versus open-minded, they start getting fidgety like, “I don’t want to be open to whatever.” The quote that I always want to say is, “An open mind is not an empty one.” Just because you’re open-minded, it doesn’t mean you don’t have beliefs or convictions and things that you hold on to. It’s saying, “I can entertain other thoughts, ideas, perspectives, views and consider them. Not just dismiss them.” Because you’re open minded about something, it does not mean you forsake all that you think or know to be true. That’s not the point.

What’s been helpful for me is this process of unknowing. It doesn’t mean, “Everything I’ve learned up to this point is meaningless,” but I would just say holding that with open hands and saying, “This is what I think I know to be true. How has Jesus showed up to confirm that,” or, “Have I experienced that in my day to day life.” Being open to deconstruction and I think that’s a scary term. It’s basically blowing up boxes and turning your life upside down, which is uncomfortable and scary because it takes away your comfort of knowing. I would encourage you, if you do lean into that process of remembering how much more God, because He is a loving God and the reason we’re even here, looking at each other is because He’s loving us into existence. That has been such a restful place because it is scary. I don’t want to lose people I love and people I love that hurt me, etc. The process of unknowing and being curious could be a first step.

We can ping-pong this, because the practical thing for me has been not consuming. I don’t consume news hardly at all. For you, it was not consuming any social media for me. I don’t see any practical purpose in my life for that. A lot of people are you, “You need to be informed.” The point is, is that being informed? Are fifth hand accounts of information really being informed? That’s a helpful thing for us to realize is that what you see in the news is fourth or fifth hand. It’s not even firsthand or second hand. I want to know information first or second hand if possible. If not, I’ll eventually find out about it.

Do I need to hear it immediately? Does it have any impact on my life? Will I have any impact on it? Those are helpful questions to ask. For me right now, consuming news does not have an impact on me or I can’t have an impact on it in a helpful way. Because you enjoy staying up-to-date, I get to learn about my news from you, which I would rather learn about it from you than to read it myself. It’s not that I’m choosing ignorance, but I’m putting boundaries in place to help me not fill my mind with unhelpful things.

I would want you to clarify on that if you’d want to, that you’re not choosing ignorance. You’re still getting information. We know the ordinances in place around COVID in our city and in cities we go to, etc. We’re not naive. We don’t need to hear the same newsreel over and over.

In national news, it’s been so divisive. National news is such a wide, broad spectrum that what happens in a different state, we have zero control or impact over. It’s important to find sources that you trust and that can have helpful information, but even then, you still have to hold that with an open hand because each source or outlet you go to has some agenda, whether or not they’re aware of it. How can you even consume that with an open hand? Let’s say, this is their perspective on it and I’m going to evaluate it as fairly as I can.

It’s not practical to be, “Everyone’s not listening to the news.” People are still going to tune it, but maybe one practice of curiosity could be, “I’m going to log in to Fox News every morning because that’s my main source of news and that’s what I like.” After that, I’m in a log into CNN. It’s the same exact stories, different perspectives. I’m going to log into BBC as my last one. The same exact stories again, different perspective and outside of our country too. Trying to be curious about someone else’s perspective could be a helpful tool.

I mentioned this on our first podcast, I’m not sure. A toll that’s been helpful to me is a book by John Mark Comer. He was a pastor out of Portland, Oregon. He wrote this book called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry and there were so many practical tools that I took from it. It helped me take a couple steps back and how you get those average reports of your daily phone usage. Mine came up and said 2 hours and 30 minutes. There’s a lot of people that are more than that. There’s a lot of people that are less than that. For me, personally, that is fifteen hours a week, times that by four. That’s 60 hours a month, times that by twelve, that’s 7,200 hours. It’s a lot of phone usage a year. I don’t want my last to be defined by that. I don’t want this major chunk of my life to be, “I was responding to the messages.”

Ideas and concepts don't mean anything if you aren't actually going to do something. Click To Tweet

The practical tools were, he suggested eliminating email, social media and news from your phone. Deleting the apps, eliminating all of that from your phone. Essentially, turning your phone into a dumb phone. He even went as far as taking off the notifications on his text messages because he was like, “If someone really needs me, they’ll give me a call.” Having a set time each day, “I’m going to check my texts at 10:00 AM and I’m going to check them again at 4:00 PM.” If I need to jump on and say, “I was thinking about you.” Talk disparately. It’s having set times. My uncle is where I first heard the email thing of having to set times for email because then it’s not controlling your life.

You’re setting the boundaries of, “I’m going to get on respond to these things.” I’ve loved that. I turned the notifications off. Nothing pops up on my screen. I can still see the tag on my messages. To take it further, if and when you do want to check social media, news, email, you have set times for that. Maybe in the morning and then afternoon and doing computer things on your computer. Many people do the thing of, “I’m on my phone eight hours a day because I’ve worked on my phone.” “Are there ways to not?”

Those are great and very practical and actionable things. A lot of what we’ve talked about is Siri, but how can we take action on it? That’s the most important thing because talking about ideas and concepts is great. It doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t actually going to do something. That takes discipline and it’s hard, but it’s possible, attainable and helpful. If you’re listening to this right now, take action. Start with one thing. You don’t start with five, start with one. Whatever it was, it pricked your conscious today or brought some thought or conviction of like, “That would be great to do.” Take action on now.

I want to be that person. I don’t think any of us look in the mirror and say, “I want to be an angry person who stands on all these hills.” I’ll end with a quote that I learned that says, “Transformation takes honesty and humility.” I learned a new definition of humility, because it’s been a harder concept for me. I still do think of humility as being confident, but being humble and not being too confident, but stay humble. It’s like, “Is it helpful when the word is in the definition?”

The other side of that too is a lot of times in Christian circles, humility is self-deprecation, which is equally as bad.

It’s not helpful. I would equate my version and definition of humility in my experience of humility as self-deprecation. “I’m not good enough yet,” or, “I have to do these things and then I will earn this.” Transformation takes honesty and humility. The definition of humility that I’ve come to love is humility is total freedom from shame. Humility could look like, “I don’t know, but I know.” What I mean is I know these things to be true and I’ll give it from a faith context of, “I don’t know if it happened that way, but I know that it’s true.” For me personally, I’ve experienced Jesus personally to know that he is who he says he is and how much more God.

That’s a great place to bring this to a close. I hope it was thought-provoking that the idea of being informed may not be as helpful as we think it is or may not be what we actually believe it to be. The goal is to stop outsourcing our thinking. Take ownership back of our thought process, our minds to stay curious and to realize that we don’t know, but we do. We would all do well to embrace these mindsets and being an Up and Comer, we required to. It’s ongoing and this conversation will be too. There are more to come. Thanks so much for coming on.

Thank you too.

For all of you reading, we hope you have an up and coming week because we out.

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