Confessing … September 12th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2690)

XIX.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

When I was twenty-four years old, our fledgling music group was invited to Hamilton County Catholic Youth Conference to share our tunes.

The event was spear-headed by a guy named Patrick Daniels, who was the owner and proprietor of the huge, aptly named Patrick Daniels Car Dealership of Hamilton County.

Even though our rough-and-tumble style of music was not well-suited for all the Fathers and Sisters of the order, Mr. Daniels took a liking to us.

Matter of fact, he said if we ever needed assistance in any way, to give him a call.

We did. Need assistance, that is, and also, gave him a call.

I explained to Mr. Daniels that we wanted to rent a car at a very reasonable flat rate so we could do more traveling outside our little circle of influence.

He graciously agreed to do so, and we drew up a simple contract that stated that we would pay $150 a month, or whatever we could afford.

As it turned out, we never were able to afford $150. One month we paid $40, and I think on a particularly good thirty-day period, we once paid as much as $80.

Mr. Daniels didn’t seem to care.

Along the journey, we had a bizarre little accident. A cyclist ran into the driver’s front door, leaving a dent. The gentleman on the bicycle was not hurt, but the door was obviously damaged.

So we continued to drive the car with a blemished exterior, unashamed, but never informed Mr. Daniels of the damage, figuring that somewhere along the line, God, in His infinite mercy, would grant us enough money to fix the mistake.

Before that could happen, Mr. Daniels suddenly called us and told us he wanted his car back. When I asked him why, he became infuriated, talking to me about our lack of payment and also explaining that he was no longer attending church and wasn’t interested in continuing his benevolence.

So I brought the car back and walked out to show him the damage. Upon seeing it, he became enraged, asked me why we hadn’t shared about the situation sooner, and then told me that he had decided to charge us ten cents a mile for every jot and tittle we had placed on his odometer.

We couldn’t afford to pay the monthly lease, so obviously, we could not cough up the money for the door or the added charges for mileage.

I should have told him this. I didn’t.

I led him to believe that I was going to go back home and raise the money from family members.

Perhaps a little part of me thought I might do that–a teensy-weensy portion.

I really just wanted to get out of there, escaping the fiasco.

I never contacted him again.

I heard from a friend that he was criticizing us for being phonies. I figured it would blow over.

It did.

I suppose I could tell you that he went back on the deal and therefore he was partially at fault–but that would just be another lie piled onto the transgression.

Mr. Daniels needed us to be trustworthy at a time in his life when he was doubting everything he once held dear.

We ended up giving him more reasons…to shake his fist at the heavens.

 

Confessing Monte Carlo

 

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Confessing … August 22nd, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2670)

XVI.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

Pastor Perry was kind to me.

Having my music group, where I had placed nine years of effort, fold up and die after trial, error and a certain bit of notoriety, I found myself emotionally devastated. I didn’t want to do anything.

But my wife and I had three children who were unaware and uncaring of my trauma.

So I decided to call Pastor Perry and ask him if he needed an assistant minister at his church and if he would consider hiring me for the position for simple wages, room and board.

He said yes.

I don’t know why he said yes. I was not exactly qualified–being a journeyman musician does not prepare you for assisting in shepherding a flock.

But I went.

I quickly discovered that Pastor Perry was a flawed man. I was too young to overlook his obvious inconsistencies, and I was certainly too immature to set them aside and give him respect.

So when people in the church started preferring me and my teaching style to his, I ate it up with a spoon, while simultaneously mentally turning a knife on the man who was so generous in giving me an opportunity.

It was childish. And because Pastor Perry had his own issues, he decided to undermine my efforts–as I turned to degrade his.

It was all glossed over with a veneer of friendship and phoniness that still sickens me.

So great was our ego struggle that one night I forgot I was a dad, abandoned my responsibilities, and in an attempt to usurp my authority over Perry, let one of my little sons slip into the darkness, where he was struck by a car.

I did a lot of growing up over the next two or three months. My son survived but never regained cognitive abilities. I was such a fool.

I learned a valuable lesson. Even though God forgave me for my ridiculous choices, Pastor Perry was kicked out of the church and I was granted grace, I realized once and for all that the tally and sum of our sins is not lessened … by subtracting the iniquity of others.

 

Confessing Joshua

 

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Confessing … June 6th, 2015

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2604)

V.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

Being 16 years of age, I was thrilled.

The principal of our high school had agreed to let our music group perform at an assembly for the entire student body.

I was pumped–with a side of arrogance.

I arranged for the custodian to meet me at the school very early that morning so I could get in, set up the equipment and make everything perfect.

I also decided to bring along my 9-year-old brother so he could help me carry stuff and be my legs, running around from place to place.

But when I arrived at the school there was no janitor anywhere and the building was locked.

Fearing that my dear friend who swept the halls might be late for our appointment, I had taken the precaution the previous day of going into the basement of the high school, where they kept the boiler room, and unlocking a window which faced out to the parking lot.

I was so proud of myself.

This was another reason I had brought my little brother–the window was only big enough for him to slide through.

So I went over, opened the window and gradually eased him down, holding onto his hand, thinking that certainly his feet would touch the ground on the furnace room below.

They didn’t.

He was scared and started to cry, so I released his hand.

He fell a few feet to the ground and bumped his head on the wall. Once again, tears ensued.

I yelled at him, told him to go up and open the door so I could get in.

When the janitor finally did show up, I was nearly set up. With an angry tone and furrowed brow he asked me how I got into the school. I explained that it was really weird, but apparently somebody left the door open. He didn’t believe me, but he also couldn’t prove I was wrong.

After I got set up it was time to take my little brother to the elementary school. On the way I told him to keep his moiuth shut about us entering the school and him bumping his head. He promised he would.

But during the day he got a headache, so Mom had to come pick him up–and all the beans were spilled.

She yelled for a while, calling me inconsiderate and selfish. Honestly I didn’t care. The concert at the school went great.

Until writing this essay today, I had not done a whole lot of thinking about that incident simply because my lies weren’t punished, my meanness to my brother was not revealed and it all came off beautifully.

But it does make me wonder if any of that self-righteous deception is still inside me.

Am I willing to cheat to get what I want if I know what I want is a good thing?

I hope the years have taught me that honesty is not a wimp sitting in the corner waiting to be bullied by the lying crowd, but rather, an intelligent student with a secret–knowing that when all things pan out, he will be the valedictorian.

 

Confessing boy falling

 

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Untotaled: Stepping 46 (February 14th, 1969) The Pain in Pleasure… December 20, 2014

  Jonathots Daily Blog

(2449)

(Transcript)

Her name was Belinda.

She was about two rungs down the ladder of popularity from me, promoted by the horrendous high school caste system.

She liked me a lot.

I liked her, but of course, I would never go against the feudal structure of High School U. S. A., to ask her out on a date. I would never survive the ridicule and humiliation.

But I got lonely around Valentine’s Day.

My dad was sick and dying. One of the guys in our music group quit because his girlfriend thought he was taking too much time with us, and I had no idea whatsoever on what geometry was all about.

So I quietly asked Belinda out on a date, hoping that because she was so devoted in my direction, there might be some necking involved. She was one of those farm girls, raised on Bible principles, but was willing to renegotiate some of the terms on a Saturday night.

I wanted to neck.

I had kissed girls, but had never sustained long sessions of smooching and my curiosity had overtaken me. So I selfishly decided to take advantage of poor Belinda.

She was thrilled and promised not to tell anybody about our date because I told her we “needed to see how it worked out.”

I took her to a drive-in movie, which in 1969 was code for “we’re gonna mess around.”

It took me nearly thirty minutes to work up the courage to put my arm around her, and then I was afraid to move it and therefore contracted some horrible cramps in my muscles, which continued through the entire evening.

It was easy to get her to start kissing. She had thin lips so the first couple of times I got mostly teeth. But after a minute or so we got the hang of it, and she started slipping her tongue in my mouth, which was relatively new to me.

Adapting the phrase, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” I concluded, “When in France do as the French do.”

We were about ten minutes into the session when I realized that one of us had really stale breath. It wasn’t really horrible–that dried smell of garlic baloney and over-chewed gum.

I persisted.

She really got into it–so much so that she unbuttoned her blouse, inviting me to see how “alive the hills really were.”

I thought about it. After all, I was a teenager. Morals were something to discuss at church and feverishly avoid in your everyday life.

But something stopped me.

Maybe it was the ache in my bicep. Or it could have been the halitosis.

But I backed out of the encounter, tongue first.

I took her home. She wondered what was wrong. She practically pleaded with me to see her again. And rat that I was, I went mousy and never spoke to her.

It was an odd night.

Rather than feeling fulfilled, I felt like I had used another human being, who would suffer some pangs from the experience.

It sucked.

I did learn, though, that there is some pain in pleasure.

The reason most people never pursue their goals is because along the way, there are some shards of glass strewn in the pathway which either need to be avoided or walked over.

If life was easy, dumb people would rule the world.

Well, maybe they do.

But life isn’t easy. With every pain comes some pleasure, and the pleasures that arrive our way do require that we survive a bit of discomfort.

 

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A Barn Yarn… August 18, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1979)

barnMany years ago a music group of which I was a member in fair standing was invited to a rustic resort in Western Minnesota to put on a concert. The brochure provided to explain the services of this facility were very enticing.

  • Gorgeous cabins.
  • Swimming pools.
  • Hiking for those inclined.
  • And buffet lines, stacked with freshly grilled hamburgers, and sweet corn— steaming, salted and buttered.

Needless to say, this music group of which I was a part was very excited to go to the facility, which was offered to believers who had grown tired of worldly toil, and who wanted to escape the rigors of a demented society and spend three days listening to Christian music, with public speakers brought in from all over the country to fill them with spirit.

The joint was aptly named Christian Retreat.

unfortunately, upon arrival we discovered that the cabins had been booked up and all they had available was one small compartment, which would not be acceptable for three–especially since I was a male intruder. So the girls skipped off to their living quarters and I was escorted … to a barn.

Now, when they told me I would be staying in a barn, I assumed it was a euphemism for a rustic facility, but one still worthy of human habitation. Climbing the crest of a hill, what I beheld was actually a barn–an Amish cathedral–complete with hay, stalls, John Deere tractors and cattle with their south ends pointed to my north.

I did not complain. I found an area they had set aside for human occupation which included straw beds and a shower they had rigged with a spigot protruding from a pipe and a wooden frame to stand upon and a hole dug to drain the excess watery parts from people like me.

I was sitting on a bale of hay when I was interrupted by the arrival of another gent. He started talking. I point this out because from the point that he commenced speech, he never stopped. He explained that he was a farm hand. He told me how difficult his day had been. Within three minutes, I had the full description of his mother’s nasty divorce from her abusive husband which left him with a single mom, working very hard, but still on food stamps.

All during the discourse he was disrobing in front of me, preparing to take his nightly shower, with no embarrassment whatsoever, and was eventually standing buck naked from the curly top of his head and simultaneously beneath.

I am not comfortable around naked people. Matter of fact, I prefer “lights off romance.” If I were a nudist, I would constantly be apologizing, making excuses and informing everyone that I planned on starting a weight loss regimen next week.

Not this fellow. He turned on the spigot, climbed up on the boards and proceeded to suds himself repeatedly.

I did not know where to look, so I stared down at my shoes. When he asked me what I was doing, I explained that I was an amateur cobbler and that I was considering taking the steps to repair my own footwear.

At this point he climbed down from the boards, fully foamy, and walked over to eyeball my shoes, to see if he might be able to assist in the cobbling

I made eye contact–not because someone in a seminar told me to, but more or less for emotional survival. He made some suggestions which I cannot remember, turned the other cheek, climbed back up on the boards and resumed his bubbly process.

I finally had enough and excused myself, explaining that I needed to go set up for the concert–and I instinctively grabbed my gym bag on the way out, knowing that unlike Douglas MacArthur, I had no intention of returning.

After the program that evening, I headed towards our beat-up van, climbed into the back, put together a make-shift pillow and stretched out to go to sleep. My partners in music were concerned, and asked me why I wasn’t going back to my accommodations.

I thought about telling them about my encounter with the farmer’s son,” but instead replied, “I discovered I really DO have hay fever and don’t get along well with barn animals–especially when they talk.”

 

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A Way That Seems Right… October 4, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

Simply put, I liked it–speckled with pickles and pimento, with a sweet-tasting lunch-meat flavor.I was twelve years old and madly in love with pickle-pimento loaf.

We did not purchase it very often, for two reasons. My mother thought it was a little too expensive at 79 cents a pound, when bologna was 58 cents a pound. The second reason it was rarely purchased in our household was that I was fully capable of eating a pound of it in one sitting without blinking an eye (even though I am not sure what eye-blinking has to do with consumption…)

But you see, there is one little sidebar to my story. My mother and father also liked pickle pimento loaf, so from time to time they bought it and hid it–never fully aware of my skills of investigation.

Yes, I always found it.

I knew they didn’t want me to have it; I knew it had been set aside for adults only. So I carefully stole a couple of pieces from the package and then supplanted some Saran wrap underneath the remaining lunch-meat to make it appear to still be a full unit. I thought I was extraordinarily inventive–that is, until my appetite caused me to go back for more and more of the delicious treat–until eventually my saran wrap facade was unable to disguise the depleting pile.

I always got caught.

I didn’t care. I was twelve years old and working under a singular philosophy: I want what I want. It was a way that seemed right to me.

Time presses on–and fortunately for my moral character, my fervor for this particular outlook matured and evolved. If it hadn’t, I probably would have become a drug dealer, a criminal, or worse yet… a politician.

Move ahead in time to when I was twenty-one years old. I started a music group. We were desperately trying to do three things at the same time, which as you know, is the definition of juggling. We wanted to be great entertainers. We wanted to make enough money so that we could continue to travel around and share our talents. And we also needed to make enough moolah to pay bills in our stationary life, so we would not be regarded as dead-beats. It’s an awful lot of pressure when you’re twenty-one.

So when I arrived at a motel one night in Smyrna, Georgia, I told the innkeeper that I wanted a room for one person when actually there were four of us. The difference between purchasing a room for one person and four was seven dollars. I wanted the seven dollars and didn’t see any reason why the innkeeper should have my money–when whether I had one person or four in the room, the room was still occupied. It made sense to me. It was a way that seemed right. After all, I was only trying to save money.

I was living under a new precept, having tempered my original “I want what I want.” I now honored “I need what I need.”

Unfortunately, one of the members of our troupe was not a very good sleuth, so we got caught with four people in the room and were asked to leave the premises because of our lie. Amazingly, I was infuriated at the proprietor and spent the next twenty minutes driving down the road, cursing him for being a greedy and selfish loser.

It would be many years before I realized that I was the culprit of mediocrity that evening. Yes, it would be some time before I abandoned the idea of I need what I need, and gained a functioning mindset for a mature adult. I did, however, eventually vacate the useless idea. If not, I would have become a small-minded, provincial individual, trapped in a little world of my own, with no perspective on the needs and feelings of those around me.

When I was twenty-five years old, a new spiritual rave was sweeping the nation. It was the belief that as long as “God was on our side, He would pay all the bills.” Yes–we didn’t need to worry about stepping out in faith and spending money, as long as our mission was ordained by the Most High. I read in a book that a famous evangelist wrote a check on a Friday afternoon with no money in the bank, trusting God to provide the funds by the following Monday, when the check would arrive for cashing. In the story, God not only provided, but gave abundance above the original written amount.

I was so impressed. I was so overtaken by the concept that I wrote my own check with no funds to back it up. All the giddiness mentioned in the story–stepping out and believing–flooded my soul. After all, I was doing what was considered to be spiritual work. I was saying to the world around me, “I believe what I believe.”

When Monday morning rolled around, unlike the testimony shared in the book, I did not receive financial manna from heaven. I had to scamper around to figure out how to cover the check and in the process, ended up setting in motion a series of very bad choices, which ultimately ended up with me deeply in debt to an individual who had trusted me, and now was stuck holding the bag of my foolishness.

I was devastated. I didn’t understand why God forsook me. After all, “I believed what I believed.” There was not a smidgen of doubt inside me. Truthfully, it would be many years before I realized that the promise for daily bread is actually a promise for daily bread. It’s not even a promise for weekend bread. I would have to shed the fantasy that believing something was like building a concrete wall and recognize that the Word of God is actually more like water–yes, the water of the word–moving along towards actual solutions instead of insisting on its own way.

When I was twelve years old I lived under the concept of “I want what I want.” It was a way that seemed right to me. The problem? It forced me to steal, lie and deceive.

When I was twenty-one, I pursued a path that proclaimed, “I need what I need.” It caused me to be self-righteous and arrogantly angry at people who insisted I follow the rules.

When I was twenty-five, I jumped on a bandwagon in a false parade of Godliness, and decided I would force the hand of my heavenly Father by writing a check in His name. I thought that if “I believed what I believed,” then God was bound by his Word, and His love for me, to perform tasks.

It has been a journey. Now I only have one moving part to my faith, philosophy and interaction with others. I pursue what is true. And you know something? It changes on me every day. It requires that I revise my thinking and shed stubborn little pieces of “I want what I want,” “I need what I need,” and “I believe what I believe,” which still try to cling to the inner lining of my soul.

  • It leaves me saying “I’m sorry” more often than ever shouting “I’m right.”
  • It makes me vulnerable, but valuable.
  • It causes me to pause instead of leap.
  • It thrusts me forward towards revelation instead of merely talking about consecration.
  • It permits me to listen to people I never thought I would agree with, and discover that they hold a piece to my puzzle.
  • It allows me to go to bed at night with a bit of uncertainty over the quality of my efforts, but rejoicing in that precious insecurity.

If I had stopped at twelve years of age and made it my lifestyle to want what I want, I could never have expanded beyond my limited appetites.

If I had insisted that I need what I need, I would have justified decisions that would have kept me from meeting the quality folks who have assisted me in discovering a better path.

And if I had locked myself into I believe what I believe, I would be defending my religion instead of living it out in joy.

I now pursue what is true. I often fail, but the failure is merely confirmation of the veracity of the mission.

“There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end of it is destruction.” That’s what Solomon said in the Book of Proverbs.

I wonder how he knew that. Do you suppose they had pickle pimento loaf back then?

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Dark Night Descending … July 21, 2012

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Gary and Terri were my friends. Neither relationship was based upon ease and comfort, but rather, hinged on need.

I met Gary during a brief station of living in the Bayou State. He was just a little younger than me and both of us were much too immature for our own good. He had been diagnosed as bi-polar, and like so many folks who find themselves in that position, he yearned to be normal by conventional standards. To confirm that desire, he often refused to take his medications. When he didn’t allow for chemical intervention, he was completely out of his mind and would occasionally run through the streets of our little Southern town naked, proclaiming what he determined was the “good word of the Lord.”

Because I was young and lacked experience, I took a long time to consider what my job was with Gary. He had been to so many churches in his life that in many ways he was more qualified than some ministers–at least in being able to quote large passages of scripture. He had been counseled by an abundance of professionals, so he had learned to be a great con man and was quite able to convince you of his complete competence at the drop of a hat. He was charming enough to have deluded many hapless lasses into bedding with him, so he lacked respect for the opposite sex as human beings, viewing them as sexual conquests.

I watched all this unfold in front of me. I made a decision with Gary that I have used the rest of my life. The notion that we will never meet crazy people or that there’s nothing we can do about them is what causes the empowering of the weak-minded. People are either afraid of them, baffled by them or disgusted by them. All of us have crazies. Many of these crazies are in our own families.

Now, what do I mean by crazy? If you’ll allow me to insert my definition here before you become offended by my candor, here it is: crazy is when we allow disappointment and frustration to drain us of our better virtues and invite self-pity to take control. For some people, it’s pronounced because they have chemical imbalances or issues going back into their childhoods. For others, it’s an imitation of maturity–acting depressed, upset and pulling themselves out of the game of life just as they’re about to have the opportunity to score a touchdown.

The first thing I did with Gary was love him. The second thing I did with Gary was insist that he take his medication. In the process, he became annoyed, sometimes appreciative, attempting deception, and bounced among those three profiles for the rest of our relationship. Because he was on his medication, his life got better, he grew in true wisdom of his faith instead of superstition, and he met a lovely woman and married her. But then he decided to go off his medication, and ended up abusive, threatening and dangerous.

I realized I had one last responsibility with Gary. I stepped in, protected the young woman from his viciousness and got him admitted to a mental ward. I visited him. They decided to keep him for a long time. They even transferred him to a more permanent facility. Shortly after that I left the state and I’ve never heard from Gary again. But Gary taught me a very valuable lesson.

God sends you people. People are often crazy. Deal with your crazies.

Terri, on the other hand, was a young lady who joined my musical group in its early years. She was attractive, although she thought she was beautiful–her parents had told her so. She was a pretty good singer but she thought she was great–she had a letter from her church choir director to confirm it. She had a friendly personality, but believed she was dynamic. Everything about her perceptions were exaggerated. It wasn’t exactly Terri’s fault–in a great cloud of deceptive self-esteem, she had been raised by a family which believed it was their job to over-state their appreciation for their daughter to build up her confidence so she wouldn’t be depressed by the true nature of life’s competition.

So when Terri got in a music group and needed to sing harmony with other people, it was a shock for her to discover that she was occasionally sharp or flat. She would burst into tears at the notion that she needed to rehearse more to perfect her portion. It was a painful process and a grueling detail–to smother the false awareness that had been placed in her by her upbringing and replace it with reality, allowing her to improve so that she could measure up to the standard of the praise she so yearned to receive. Terri got better, and when she got better she wasn’t nearly as devastated by being worse.

Americans are under the misconception that giving praise will keep people from being dashed by the dastardly criticism of everyday life. Really, nowhere else in the world does any culture mislead its citizenry in such a way. Young people waking up in Africa are not told they are beautiful. The Chinese don’t laud their children with tons of accolades, but rather, expect perseverence and the desire to excel.

It’s in America where we feel the need to lie so as to cushion the harshness of the necessary system. Let me explain–when something is fair, it can not be considered to be okay. Okay is a little better than fair. Learn the difference. Likewise, when it’s okay, it is not good. The word “good” means that we have entered the ballpark of possibility. Okay means we’re still trying to get a ticket. Here’s a tricky one: good is not exceptional. We love to over-praise people and end up exaggerating their sense of importance, which means that exceptional is not great–and great, my friends, is not genius. I am not so sure that “genius” is proper to use for anyone but our Creator.

Our doctrine of self-esteem in this country has created a generation of “lazies,” and because of their addiction to accolades, they cease to try to get better. It affects our society, from the President all the way down to the street sweeper.

Very early on Friday morning, a man walked into a movie theater and emptied out all of his craziness and laziness into a theater full of unsuspecting people. Because it was not caught early enough by astute family members, friends and just folks who were perceptive to human need, his unleashing was in the form of bullets instead of frustrated bad language in a counseling session.

I will be blunt with you: James Holmes should have either ended up being taken care of and helped, or so frustrated that he put a gun to his own head, killing himself. Yes, let me say it loud and proud–suicide is preferable to homicide.

So even though the anti-gun people will insist that the purchase of weapons was the source of the tragedy and the NRA will defend itself by saying that guns are a God-given right, and those against video games will cite that the young man was trying to play the part of the Joker from the Batman movies, and the entertainment industry will bring in its experts to prove that merely watching violence does not create a climate for it, all of them miss the point.

The reason James Holmes was allowed to commit this atrocity in Aurora, Colorado, is because people didn’t deal with their crazies or motivate their lazies. When he was a kid he was given too much self-esteem because that’s what our society does, so when he arrived at adulthood he found out he wasn’t nearly as valuable as he thought he was; he also was a little crazier and more imbalanced than anyone was willing to admit to his face. So even though when people got around him, within half a minute they knew something was wrong, they chose to leave him alone instead of dealing  with their “crazy” and trying to motivate the laziness, which would allow his promise to turn into the reality of some accomplishment.

Every one of us has crazies in our lives. Every one of us has lazies. They are people who are weaker and require our focus and attention. What we decide to do with them determines whether they end up struggling, discovering a mixture of daily victories and defeats, or angry with the world, emptying ammunition into terrified ticket-holders.

Don’t blame anybody for Aurora. Be smart. Deal with your crazies and motivate your lazies. Stop avoiding people who are imbalanced and challenge them to find help. Cease to give over-zealous flattery, and instead, call great “great,” good “good,” fair “fair” and by the way–poor “poor.”

When we finally arrive at this point, people who love and care will take the crazies and the lazies out of the spotlight, and in so doing, save the lives of average people who just wanted to go out to a movie premiere.

    

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