When Life Gives You Deconstruction: Music

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I’ve been sitting on this for a while because I’ve been doing my own processing and healing. While in the middle of writing this blog, there were several public outcries from the evangelical community denouncing the process of deconstruction. Trusted leaders, pastors, and musicians have called deconstruction evil, witchcraft, and ungodly. I’m in a place where I can often ignore or shrug off these ridiculous claims, but sometimes it hits a nerve.

I am a lover of music. I love all different kinds of music. Not only do I love music, I am also a musician. Music is very powerful and can evoke powerful emotions. It can convey what is not being said and bring people to a special place.

While in the church, worship time was my favorite. I was often on stage, singing with the worship team. This appealed to me for several reasons. For one, I love to sing. I love to take a song and make it a little bit mine. Secondly, I love being on stage. As scary as it can be, I like having eyes on me. I like performing. I like being heard. I really feel at home on the stage. When people would come up to me after church and compliment me on my voice, it filled my cup.

In the church, however, you are reminded quite regularly that you are there to serve and it isn’t about you or whatever need of yours it is fulfilling. While I believe servant leadership is a beautiful thing, the struggle between joy and sense of duty that came with leading worship eventually led to guilt and shame around enjoying what you were doing. It was made to feel selfish. I felt this and I saw it all around me. It made me sad that people couldn’t just enjoy the high of performing without being pulled down by the guilt of being self-indulgent in your talent and hobby. This was seen as holy.

There are many exvangelicals who will talk about the manipulation tactics used during worship services – evoking strong emotions by song choice, “spontaneous” worship time, talking over a musical intro/outro, long build ups in songs, dimmed lights or concert lighting. These are all things that happen during worship. These are not points I feel too strongly about, personally, but I believe that anyone who feels they were misled or manipulated by these tactics have valid opinions. Not everyone carries the same opinions or experiences from the church and I would never dismiss the harm done by the use of these tactics.

I’m also an avid listener of music. It’s rare that you walk into my home without some kind of music playing – especially if I’m alone. I admire talented musicians and lyricists. I sing loudly to the music I love. I dance around my house while cooking or cleaning.

Some weeks ago, my partner asked if I had heard the newest Skillet album. He knows that I really like Skillet’s music, so this is a totally normal question, but I wasn’t prepared for how triggering it would be. At the time, I was a bit hesitant to listen to anything remotely close to Christian music because so many of my beliefs have evolved recently. I’m still working through this. I want to be cognizant of the musicians I support because I don’t want to perpetuate the abuse I’ve experienced.

While writing this blog, a very problematic video came out where John Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet, declared a “war on deconstruction.” This isn’t entirely surprising, but still hurtful. As a fan, I realized that their music is no longer safe, uplifting, or encouraging for me. He is spreading a dangerous and unloving message at his concerts while his legions of fans cheer him on. The irony here is that he is fiercely defending an institution that does not fully accept him for who he is with all his rock ‘n roll and tattoos. The only reason he is welcomed by any part of the evangelical community is because of deconstruction. Deconstruction paved a way for him to be a successful musician on the edge of evangelicalism and secular popularity. Since then, I’ve done some research and realized that John Cooper has a history of spreading misinformation and dangerous ideologies. Disappointing, to say the least.

Navigating the obstacle course of the music I once loved can be an exhausting feat. There are still musicians who I adore and will sometimes listen to. For now, though, I stick with my alternative, rock, pop, new grass, and hip-hop of the secular variety. It’s more open, loving, and godly than I was taught to believe.

Hurt People

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I am overwhelmed with emotion in this moment. On my way home tonight from church I felt the pull to write up a blog entry on how we deal with hurt. I haven’t posted a blog in a year – exactly one year. On September 17, 2014, I wrote the blog titled Everyone Needs a Cheerleader. The post is a short entry on being a cheerleader for others because we are all hurt and when we are hurting, we hurt others. I was in a season where I needed a cheerleader. It is no coincidence that one year later I am drawn to writing on almost the exact same topic. It’s been a rough year – full of growth, stumbling, confusion, heartache, falling flat on my face, and understanding. In fact, I’ve gone through all of those motions in a single day.

I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s latest book Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. In the book, she discusses her research on what it takes to rise strong after falling flat on your face. Her research focuses on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Without going into too much detail (because you should seriously read the book – yes, you), she discusses the ideas around human-ness and how we respond to feeling hurt – founded or not. Recently in my life, I’ve made some poor choices that are completely out of character for me. I hit what I like to describe as a rock-bottom. There was a moment when I looked back on my choices and thought, “What the hell are you doing? And who is this person?”

After listening to most of Brene’s book I came to realize my choices were a result of me being hurt. But wait, I didn’t feel hurt. I was fine. Life was great. Well… not exactly. The closer I looked, the more I realized that I was really hurting. I had been burying my pain in travel, nights out with friends, food, and alcohol. Those actions were not the regrettable ones, but they helped me not feel all the feels I was having. Burying that pain and heartache in fun times and social activities led to making other choices that were regrettable.  I didn’t even know myself – and my heart was broken.

When everything came to a screeching halt, I realized I had hurt so many people unintentionally – all because I was hurting. And when I looked back at why I was hurting, I realized the person who had hurt me was also hurting. What did I draw from this? A couple things:

  1. Hurt people, hurt people. This is not a new concept to me. I know this. I think this is where my capacity for massive amounts of compassion and understanding comes from. I thank my mother for this. She’s always been a benefit-of-the-doubt kind of person.
  2. Understanding how I deal with hurt. Having compassion and knowing that hurt people also hurt others is not, in and of itself, enough for growth. You must see your own patterns and understand how you hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally. What is your go-to comfort? Some examples are food, alcohol, TV, gaming, sex, shopping, drugs or any combination of these. And maybe you’re like me where your go-to comfort depends on the type of hurt you have experienced. Once you understand your patterns, you can then begin healing and choosing healthier patterns for yourself. Those could be writing, reading, exercise, or, what I would first recommend, talking with the person who hurt you.

I will not claim to be an expert on this topic, but I do know what I’ve learned so far in my own life and observed in others’. I would consider myself an expert on falling flat on my face. However, it can take some time for me to truly understand how I got where I am (think: ten years!). If you want more tips on what to do next, I truly recommend Rising Strong. In fact, I also recommend Brown’s two previous books, The Gifts of Imperfections and Daring Greatly.

I am sorry to those I may have hurt in this process. While I have a ton of personal growth to experience, I take comfort in knowing that I am living wholeheartedly and I am in the arena.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

Xoxo