Admitting You Have a Problem Will Be the Best Feeling You’ve Ever Had

You know that feeling you get when you make a good decision? It’s a deeply satisfying thing, isn’t it? And it can sure be elusive – after all, you only ever know a decision was the right one long after you make it. Same thing with bad decisions, for that matter; hindsight is 20/20, after all.

But what if there were decisions you could make that could be guaranteed to have a positive impact on the trajectory of your life?

Well, it would be a lie. Nobody can make such claims. But what I can tell you is that admitting to your personal problems could be one of those decisions. It might not feel like it, and you might not really know right away, but I can personally guarantee that you’ll feel as though a weight has been lifted, and even more importantly, you’ll feel as though you’ve taken control of your life. I can imagine few things in life more rewarding than feeling a degree of balance and control return to your life.

So what kind of stand am I talking about making? Let’s start with the most obvious. The 2012 edition of the Treatment Episode Data Set indicates that some 1.5 million teenagers in America could be considered to have a substance dependency. Just over half of them – about 51.2% – had been referred to some kind of alcohol or drug treatment program by a court.

The thing is, I’m not just talking about chemical dependencies here, although that’s obviously the most well-known sort of addiction. Here are a few others: There’s every reason to think that certain types of video games can be addictive. Sex and porn can be addictive. Even relationships – particularly unhealthy ones – can be addictive.

In case you think I’m speaking hypothetically here, you should know that some of the men in my family have struggled with alcoholism over the years. Too many of them spent too many joyless days by themselves after their closest family members couldn’t be around them any longer. They think of the lost time, lost money, squandered ambition, and missed opportunities over the years, and the regret is sometimes enough to overshadow even the satisfaction of having made a change.

But they did change. Others might make their own personal admission of weakness long before they did, and good on them.

Life is full of temptations. I won’t tell you for a moment that some of them aren’t worth pursuing – responsibly, in moderation, or in the right company – but a great many more will turn your world upside-down and inside-out.

Furthermore, I won’t tell you that there’s an orderly and clearly delineated multi-step program that works for everybody. The Church-sanctioned 12 step program is a great place to start, but like all matters of faith, how you interpret its teachings and put them into action are wholly and decidedly yours.

Know, too, that self-deception is not one of the 12 Steps.

I’m not going to drag this on for much longer. What I’ll leave you with is this: if there was something tugging at your conscience while you read this article, know that it’s probably time to address it. Doing so might be the start of a painful road toward recovery, but the feeling of relief will be an immediate and lasting reward.

Image Credit: Flickr (via Creative Commons)

What Does Jesus Have to Do With Moving Violations?

The relationship between America and religion has been quite interesting to watch over the country’s relatively short history. After all, some could say the country was founded by the Pilgrims: those seeking freedom from religious intolerance. Of course, the Lenape, the Lakota and the Navajo, among many others, were here first. But that’s a different article.

Founded on the ability of its citizens to practice religion peacefully – no matter what religion that happened to be – there’s a saying we all know that’s supposed to inform government decisions: the separation of church and state. In other words, while those who lead are free to believe in whatever they’d like, they can’t use their power to force people to believe similarly.

Which brings us to an interesting case that’s sprouted up in Indiana.

Does Jesus write traffic tickets?

In August, Ellen Bogan was pulled over in Union County for an alleged traffic violation.

Everything seemed to be perfectly normal. In fact, some could argue it worked out even better than normal for Bogan, who received a warning instead of a ticket.

But just before Bogan thought the traffic stop was winding down, Indiana State Police Trooper Brian Hamilton decided to ask her a series of questions: Does she go to church? Does she believe in Jesus Christ? Does she realize Jesus died for her sins?

“It’s completely out of line and it just – it took me aback,” Bogan recently said. After those questions were asked, Hamilton allegedly took out a religious pamphlet from his cruiser before presenting it to her and letting her go on her way.

Partnering with the American Civil Liberties Union, Bogan filed a lawsuit against Hamilton in a federal court in September. It remains to be seen how that case will unfold, and in the meantime, the police department says it’s taken some sort of disciplinary measures. But that statement lacked specifics.

What’s going on here, anyway?

At the very basic level, Hamilton should be ashamed of himself for his actions after pulling Bogan over.

Even though he might have been well-intentioned, the fact is that as an officer in uniform, he is a representative of the government. More specifically: a government that prides itself on keeping church and state affairs separate from one another.

Because of what they represent, most law-abiding Americans are going to be pretty scared during even the most routine of interactions with police officers. After all, state troopers are physical manifestations of law enforcement. We are taught from an early age to respect and/or fear them, lest there be consequences.

And that respect usually entails listening to what they have to say and keeping quiet in order to not dig yourself into an even deeper hole.

Bogan did what most smart Americans would do: behaved cordially and kept quiet. But the experience to her, a non churchgoer, was so odd that she couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie. And I guess that’s understandable given today’s political climate.

But at the end of the day…

While Hamilton was clearly out of line here – after all, officers aren’t allowed to detain you for longer than they need to if you’re not going to be arrested for a crime – let’s keep in mind that his actions, no matter how you want to phrase them, aren’t grievous.

We of course can’t just hop into Hamilton’s mind and understand exactly what was going through it at a certain point, but it appears as though his offense is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Just consider the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City officer accused of sexually assaulting women he pulled over.

Police officers are humans, too. Even the calmest, coolest and most collected officer will from time to time remember that he or she is more than a badge and a gun. That officer will show attributes that make him or her, well, human.

So is this story so outrageous because Hamilton was trying to convert a constituent to his religion? Would it be a nonstory if he asked Bogan whether he’d buy Girl Scout cookies that his daughter was trying to sell? Or would that be going over the line, too?

I have to admit: I do expect things to be different in the private sector. I’ve been accosted about my contribution to global warming while shopping at a local business. I didn’t really expect it, but that’s Free Speech at work. Perhaps the better example would be another public servant, such as a teacher. Should teachers be able to proselytize to their captive audience? Of course not; some of the teachers I respected the most over the years were the ones who were obviously opinionated but didn’t let their feelings enter into their work “personas.”

The bottom line here is that, as a country, we are too easily offended by just about everything. There was even a considerable uproar over a recent Jeopardy! category called “What Women Want.” While the category might have been poorly conceived, particularly in today’s perpetually offended society, take a step back and realize that the family-oriented quiz show likely wasn’t trying to make some grandiose political commentary on a touchy subject.

The easier answer? The producers made a mistake.

While Hamilton was certainly in the wrong in this particular scenario, is it really that big of a deal? Did anyone else come forward to say that the trooper had done the same thing to them? Would people care if an atheist asked a religious constituent whether he or she believed in no god?

We will never live in a perfect society. But with all the other craziness going on across the globe, it might be time for America to take a deep breath and pick bigger battles.

Image Credit: Keoni Cabral (via Flickr)

Hello, Readers! Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself

Kim was already kind enough to welcome me formally to Our Thoughts, but I wanted to take a moment to tell you a little bit more about myself.

My name is Daniel Faris. I’m 25 years old and I live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I graduated from the Writers Institute at Susquehanna University in 2011. I’ve been making my living as a freelance journalist and ghostwriter ever since, as well as helping out with the marketing efforts of local businesses like Kramer CAT and more nationally recognized brands such as Earbits. My work has appeared on Forbes, the London School of Economics & Political Science, and a number of pop culture blogs.

I’ve come to Our Thoughts to share my musings and experiences as a struggling Christian. I grew up attending church, but have always had difficulty applying the tenets of faith to my life in a practical, personal way. My years at college also saw me drifting further from the church and from faith in general.

I’ve flirted with atheism throughout the years. I’ve doubted and wondered whether there was any room in my life for the God my parents taught me to fear when I was a child.

And, yes, I still doubt. Regularly. But faith is nothing without doubt to compare it with, yes?

As for my intentions for the site, I plan to share, in my time here, some of the ways that my faith has, in turns, been tested and reaffirmed over the years.

I’ll also make a point of exploring faith through the lens of modern music. I listen almost exclusively to secular artists these days, and I’m continually surprised to find theological discussions in the most unlikely places.

Anyway, I suppose that’s a suitable introduction for now.  I’ll be back soon for my inaugural post: a look at a former death metal band whose discovery of the phrase “musically uninhibited” has given their music a thoughtfulness and a renewed clarity of purpose.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, feel free to connect with me on Twitter and Google+, or stop by my music blog, The Sound of Progress.

Welcome Daniel Faris to Our Thoughts

It’s been a few years since we did a post like this, but we are pleased to announce our newest blogger on Our Thoughts: Daniel Faris.

Daniel Faris graduated from the Writers Institute at Susquehanna University in 2011, and has since embarked on a career as a freelance blogger and journalist. You can usually find him discussing political and social issues at Only Slightly Biased, or you can join his alter ego over at New Music Friday for an in-depth look at progressive music.

Please joining us in welcoming Daniel to the Our Thoughts team. :)

The Lord healed the people

In our Gospel Doctrine class today, we were discussing the story of Hezekiah. I won’t get into all the details of his story here, but there is one aspect I felt impressed to write about here.

When Hezekiah started his reign, he inherited a kingdom from his father and grandfather, who each had reigned in unrighteousness. They had disrespected the temple and let it get to a state disuse and misuse.

His first order of business was to gather the Levites together to sanctify the temple. Once the temple was back to working order, he invited all of Israel to come together to celebrate the Passover, something they hadn’t done for a long time.

This brings us to 2 Chr. 30:17–20: Continue reading The Lord healed the people

You’ll never view the strait and narrow path the same again

I gave the lesson in Family Home Evening tonight. I decided to use the opportunity to show our children how they had been looking at the strait and narrow path from the wrong perspective.

It’s not their fault. After all, they view it the same way as most everyone does and how it is portrayed in popular LDS art. A careful reading of the scriptures, however, shows us that the most popular conception of the strait and narrow path is an assumption we have made, which has no scriptural support.

To see the strait and narrow path from a new perspective, we must use a scripture chain.  Continue reading You’ll never view the strait and narrow path the same again

Exploring baptism in EQ

In elders quorum class today, we had a great discussion about baptism.

The instructor started off by noting that the topic of baptism seems basic and hard to delve into, but I think our discussion disproved that position.

He started off asking the class to share how their view regarding baptism now compares to our view of it when we were baptized. Several of us shared our thoughts, and it was interesting that all who did were baptized at 8 years old. Continue reading Exploring baptism in EQ