Friday, February 10, 2006

The Heathen, the Hamster, and the Rose Revisited

This was going to be a comment on the last post, but it got wayyy too long. It's probably even too long for a regular post, but Oh, well. If you feel you've had enough of the last post, then you will probably want to skip this one. But I'd also love to hear which side you take on the matter. Please be sure to read Pinetree's comment on the previous post, Masquerade, before commenting on this one. It's a good comment.

I'm glad my blog has caused some good discussion, but I'm afraid I must whole-heartedly disagree with you guys, Pinetree and Mustard. I'm not talking about judging whether a person is a good or a bad person. I'm simply talking about telling somebody, "I think that what you are doing is a mistake, and you might not be able to see it as such."

It happens all the time. Just last night I came very close to going on a (literally) last-minute road trip to California. It was 4:00 a.m. and some friends told me they were headed to San Francisco and had room for me to come along. In the end I didn't go, not because I thought it was a bad idea, but because I didn't have any impartial person around to tell me whether it made sense to go. Some people need that all the time, and I believe everybody needs it from time to time. In the case of the girl with the pink hair, I'm not passing judgment on her character when I tell her the pink mohawk is out of line. Am I passing judgment on her hair? Sure. Is it my place? No, it WOULDN'T be. Except that now that all of the relief society has lied to her, she's going to need to hear it straight up. And with this girl, if the bishop were the only one to say something, she'd think he was crazy. "The relief society all loved it." As it was, she thought I was crazy because I was the ONLY person who answered her questions about it with the honest truth. This girl was always asking why nobody respected her or treated her like a grown-up, but she was unwilling to hear that her mohawk and other inappropriate fashion statements were injuring her image. She believed that if people judged her based on her hair, that was a flaw in their character, not hers. I agree, but I also think that to cope in such a flawed world, we need to make certain sacrifices of our own personal liberties IF we want certain reactions (like respect) from the general populace. She really would need to hear the same message from many different people. I knew her better than anybody else at the time. I'm not just some random guy making this assessment.

In the case of Hamster and his wife, I think it's important to note that I was probably the ONLY person at the wedding with closer ties to Hamster than to his wife. Everyone else was on her side, if you had to draw the line that way, and I'm sure almost everybody in attendance was ignorant of the circumstances that made this wedding so terrible. Which were that the kid has totally unresolved and even unexamined homosexual tendencies, he had been having sex with his roommate during his courtship of the bride, and the two seemed to be rushing the wedding to both legitimize their physical relationship and to magically cure the groom of his affections toward men. I was NOT opposed to the marriage on the grounds that both are ugly and they will eventually produce frightening offspring. I mentioned their physical appearance to help illustrate the full tragedy of the situation, i.e. the bitter notion that they seemed to be settling for each other rather than just being two young people caught up in the throes of lust or any other such romantic ideal that might make the readership a tad more sympathetic and falsely understanding of where these two are coming from. Of course, the ideal would be that they could both work out these issues and approach the marriage from the position where both recognize the incredible struggle up against which they're putting themselves. But from conversations I've had with them, it really did feel like they were both blithely entering into some sort of panacean marriage: take one wedding ceremony, apply two sprinkles of the Atonement, consummate vigorously, and you can overcome whatever comes your way, so no need to actually change your lifestyle before jumping into all of this.

Am I saying either is a bad person? Absolutely not. I love these kids. Am I saying they made a terrible, terrible decision? Yes. Absolutely. No doubt in my mind. Is it my place to say this to them? Maybe not. But then whose? The bishop's? Do I really believe he'd been granted all the information I have? No. I came to this wedding as the only friend Hamster had, the only one on his side of the camp who really understood where he was coming from and what his likely motivations were in getting married. And I didn't say anything. I'm not saying I should have stopped it. I'm just saying SOMEone should have been that kid to call the emperor out on being naked in the street. Someone should have at least given Hamster something to gnaw on, something to get his wheels turning so he could come at this problem more perspicaciously, having mulled over the costs and making a sound decision to move forward.

Everyone seems much more naturally opposed to Rose's wedding. Why? Because it's making a mockery of marriage? Because her fiancé might be entering into this marriage completely unaware of what he's getting himself into? I submit that Hamster's case was the same on both counts. okay, so Rose's wedding is also in the temple, whereas Hamster's wasn't but I bet people would still be strongly opposed to Rose's wedding were it a temporal one.

Now, I don't think that I should be the one to pull Rose aside and explain to him(?) that to receive the blessings of the temple he'll need to go back to being a man and get rebaptized and whatever else will be required of him. I'm just not that close with Rose, and that is a very touchy subject that is bound to cause more harm than good. Which is why I'm going to the bishop. And if he won't talk to Rose's current bishop, then maybe I will.

Again, this has nothing to do with judging between good and evil. I don't believe that Rose is a bad person. I believe that Rose is a confused, scared young man who probably has almost worthy dreams of becoming a typical LDS housewife, and is willing to do whatever it takes to reach that goal.

Poor Rose.

In all of these cases, I don't believe that it's my place to decide what sort of punishment should be doled out. But I do believe that it is among the duties of a friend to offer advice. That doesn't always have to be the green light. A real friend will tell you when to hit the brakes, when you're going too far. You'd expect the good friend to pull you aside and tell you when you were about to go outside with your fly down, when you are too drunk to drive home, when you're about to rush into a marriage that you think will cure your homosexuality....

I stand by what I said in the post. Ideally we wouldn't have to be Paula OR Simon; we could each be creatures of balanced niceness and helpfulness, but in a valley so inundated with unhelpful but nice Paulas, I'll do my part to bringing balance and be a helpful Simon. Being a friend is not about saying what people want to hear. Like you did with your comment, Pinetree. It's made me reconsider, and though I haven't come to agree with you, I'm glad you felt close enough to tell me what you think.

There was a woman on American Idol a few weeks back who had quit her job to come on the show. And then she was awful. Simon told her she was awful, and then called her boss and personally asked the manager to rehire the lady, telling her the woman was very personable and a great salesperson, but she was a very terrible singer. That's what I'm talking about here with the Simon thing. Not deciding she's a bad person. Just that she's a bad singer. And my question is this: Why didn't ANY of her friends ever tell her she wasn't that good at singing? WHY!? What kind of friend lets you quit your job like that? That's a very bad friend.

I think I can do better than that.

Pinetree, while I disagree with your points, I'm glad we can even have these discussions. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but I don't do middle so well, so for now I'm sticking to my extreme side, until I can find a way to get extreme balance. Love ya much.

--Snappy Smurf


el veneno said...

This is a good discussion. You clarified your position well and I agree with what you have to say. I've posted on my blog before about how much it means to me when a real friend will give me his real opinion. Sometimes I'm so caught up in things that I can't see clearly and I need a friend to come in and pull me back to reality. Ideally God or the spirit would do this but sometimes I'm just not listening.
Patronizing and coddling doesn't help anyone. Now, Pinetree's point is a good one too. It's not our job (thankfully) to judge or point out flaws in everyone else. In fact, I'd submit that another factor in the Provo Effect is that the same people who support you or say nothing to your face WILL pass judgements in their mind and will bash you behind your back. That's bad.
But not saying anything at all? Well if it doesn't concern you, fine, let it go and get over it. Good policy. But if I'm your friend and I'm making choices that you are concerned about, PLEASE PLEASE tell me. Do it gently and lovingly and all that but please tell me. We should worry about ourselves first, but I hope somebody sometime worries about me, and I hope when they do they let me know. I think a good rule is "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you."

Scott said...

The last comment summed it up pretty well. You have to reconcile the justice of complete, brutal honesty and the mercy of kind words. It's not a very natural job for us because it's our job in life to just exercise mercy and let the justice be served in its own time. I would say that by being honest we're not actually judging, we're just trying to make the eventual justice that will come, regardless of our actions, less painful than it otherwise would be. The two examples at hand are perfect, Smurf doesn't want to cause anyone pain, or judge anyone, he would just (ideally) like to make everything come to a head a little earlier than it otherwise would. It's pretty clear that the sooner things get fixed, the less painful the fixing will be; that's usually the case.

Mustard said...

Smurfling, You said something regarding pink hair girl that is a vital part of the answered her questions honestly. That implies that she asked your opinion. That is a very important thing to remember when doling our it solicited? The thing about Hamster is that he was so guarded that he did not even invite you personally to his wedding. You had to read about it on the internet. I gather from that that he would not have wanted to hear what you had to say. For years my best friend did not say anything to me about what I should do with my failing marriage…even though she had gone through the same thing herself and knew what the final outcome would be. When I finally separated from your dad my best friend told me she trusted me enough to come to the conclusion on my own. She was right, and I am grateful that she let me learn the lessons I needed to. I probably would not have listened to her anyway. A couple of years before the demise I received a phone call from an anonymous person at Kaiser telling me that your Dad was having an affair. I hung up on the person, because I didn’t want to hear it. I confronted your Dad and he explained it away by saying it was a prank call. I BELIEVED him because it was what I WANTED to hear! Think about the people in your own life that you want to change. You can talk until your blue in the face to some people because you can see what they are doing is so wrong, but they will think it is you. You cannot take away anyone’s bad choices. Extra marital affairs, alcoholism, etc. destroy the individual and those around the person, but not matter how much you love the individual you cannot change them. If you could…you would take away the need for a Savior. You are right about the fact that some of us think that the Temple marriage thing needs intervention more than the civil marriage. That is flawed thinking I know. Marriage is sacred no matter where it is performed. The true difference is that you did not talk to Hamster’s Bishop (which I might have), and you have the opportunity to talk with Rose’s. You give the information to the proper authorities, then go about what you ARE commanded to do and that is to LOVE the person without JUDGEMENT. Sorry this is so long…I have much more to say. Maybe we can talk more this weekend. Love YOU! - M

вџн said...

I'm glad everyone has so much to say.

I have a question though.. what will/would happen after Rose tries to have a wedding? What are people going to say? What would they do?

And doesn't Rose/Ross have a family? Where are they? Do they not know anything about the wedding?

My word verification says BUH!

Toasteroven said...

While there is a point where one can be too blunt, let's seriously ask ourselves--what is more often the problem? People lying to be nice and then the truth doesn't happen? Or people being rude and blunt but at least honest?

I think we can all see there needs to be more Simon Cowell and less Paula Abdul these days. A lot of people are neither, so at least we have Paulas. Still, we'd do better to have more Simons.

I hope I'm going to write a play or short-story about this. It'll be either serious and show people pathetically, or Voltaire-style biting and funny. The latter style would probably get the point across better and more tactfully, but I don't know if I could pull it off.


(Oh, and my word verification says "Toasteroven" in it! Wow. Okay, just kidding. Haha, fooled you, didn't I?!)

Christmas Smurf said...

I'm not saying I think the wedding would have stopped, Mom. But I am saing that I probably had a right to say something. I didn't find out about the wedding via the internet. Hamster called me and told me specifically. But I did find out when and where via Myspace. And I'm not waiting for people to ask, either. That goes back to the fly-down situation. Sometimes people just can't see that there's even anything to ask about. You seem to be having a difficult time separating negative attributes and decisions from negative feelings about a person in general. There's all this talk of judging, but I agree with El Veneno when he says the bigger problem is saying those things behind the person's back. If I'm going to say it, I think it should be to their faces.

And Buh, as far as I can tell, If Rose has had a legal sex change, she can legally marry a man. I think. So the marriage license will not be enough to stop this thing from going forward. I'll keep everyone updated after I talk to my bishop.

pinetree said...


First off, I totally just realized you were calling that kid Hamster and not Weasel. I just assumed weasel. bad.

Also this song is great, I love it.

I completely agree with everything Mustard said. I’m glad someone else feels as passionately about this whole judging subject as I do.

Now on to the dirt...

I don’t think you’re giving people enough credit here, Smurf. They are much more cognisant and capable of making decisions than you make them out to be.

When one notices someone else’s fly open, he simply says: “Hey dude, your fly is open.” or “XYZ” or something like that. You don’t jusge, you just point out the fact. It’s not saying, “Hey Susie, that was really careless of you to leave your fly open, it will definitely have detrimental effects on your reputation and social life.” No one even says that sort of thing nicely. It would just be silly. it’s the same with pink hair girl. I guess if she doesn’t realize she has pink hair, you ought to tell her, but something tells me that’s not the case...

When you drive a drunk person home or tell them not to drive, you aren’t judging the person, you’re just doing what is right and safe for the both of you. The person has made the decision to forfeit his or her ability to choose and those around that person who still can choose are therefore responsible for his/her safety. That really sucks and seems incredibly unfair, but I think we have an obligation to care for eachother no matter what poor decisions someone may have made. You might argue that Hamster or someone else is incapable of making his own decision in his fit of passion or whatever, but I wouldn’t buy it. That’s like when psychologists compare alcohollics to gay people; and that’s a whole different horrible story. Ugh.

I can’t remember what the other thing was so I’m not going to write about it right now.

California trip: Smurf my man, it’s up to you to decide if you need third party help to make decisions, but you don’t get to impose your own opinions on someone else just because you yourself need input from other people now and then. I agree that most of us as human beings want the approval of our friends and those we care about, and we should definitely ask for and take into consideration honest advice from those who have our best interests at heart. We should also ask our Heavenly Father what he thinks, as he knows us better than any person and definitely has our best interests at heart. You DO have to ask him though about the really perplexing stuff. In my experience, only in extremely rare circumstances does He inform us of what to do without us pleading for his advice on the matter. Sometimes even then He lets me learn on my own because he knows I will be better for it.
Ultimately, it’s all up to you.

American Idol Woman: No one should have lied and told this woman she was a great singer. Lying is just bad news.

Pink hair girl: I don’t think it matters what the whole relief society does, and you shouldn’t base your actions on what they do or say. I still don’t think you have to say anything unless someone asks you. It remains the responsibility of the bishop.

Hamster Wedding: I never said you were opposed to their marriage on the grounds that you mentioned, I was just trying to make a point that you don’t need to call attention to anything that you think is wrong with them as a couple unless they are looking for some help from you. I know you are probably one of Hamster’s closest friends, and perhaps that is why he needs you to stand by him the most. No one really knows for certain what is going to happen with all of that, and until he proves what is going to happen to himself, no one person should be allowed to forecast it for him. He gets to choose and live and experience it all on his own.

Rose Wedding: The church is still the one that should decide what to do. I fully support you bringing the situation to the attention of the church, but not protesting it on your own.

To sum this mess up, I suppose my perspective comes from my loathing of exclusiveness and people making judgements of character based others’ decisions. Everyone is learning, we need to respect that. We cannot honestly say that we know for certain what is best for anyone else. We know what is best for us and we have a responsibility to make hard calls for those in our stewardship (parents for their children, a bishop and his ward members, local and national government officials and their constituencies). Ultimately in the day when all truth is revealed, right and wrong will all line up the same for everyone. But as things now stand, there is so much gray that we just don’t understand or know about. I could go on forever about the things I don’t fully comprehend about the gospel or about laws of physics or whatever, but I have faith in what constantly comes through for me. If something ever doesn’t, I will reevaluate.

I very much value the opinions of those who care about me and even ask for them from time to time (just ask Blueshorts). I want those who care about me to give me their input, like when I blog or discuss something with you or just seem generally anxious or confused about something. I’ve done this plenty with Smurf and I appreciate him very much for that.

However, while I do heavily consider what other people think and have to say, that is never by any means the end all to my decision-making process and I don’t think it should be for anyone else either.

I’m not sure I can make a general rule for anything. This subject of judging, just like most other things in life, has it’s rules and its exceptions. It truly is a case by case sort of thing. I do believe strongly that judging is the exception and not the rule, even in Provo, and I’ve tried to address this. I’m sure there are more exceptions, but honestly I can’t think of them all. The ultimate judge should always be Heavenly Father, and we should leave any decision we can to Him because he will do an infinitely better job at adressing it.


To El Veneno: My friend, I seriously don’t think you are doing much of anything in your life that calls for any sort of major alarm. At least that I know of. If you ever are and I know about it, I’ll be sure to let you know. For the time being, I think you do pretty well with yourself, a lot better than I do, anyways. Maybe you don’t think clearly sometimes or speak clearly, but that’s alright because you almost always act clearly. And that’s what counts. You’re a pretty amazing guy. It seems there is a lot of confusion in your mind and on your blog and such, (there is with most people) but you still seem to manage to do the right thing most of the time.
I picture you reading this and coming up with all these ways in your mind to chastise yourself and say “No way Pinetree, you’re totally wrong, I do all these horrible things like this and this and this....” but I think that’s just because you are ultra sensitive to anything you do do wrong...another reason I’m not very worried about having to point things out for you.

Christmas Smurf said...

Ok, My main response to this one, Pinetree, which I'm sure I'll tell you when you get here, is to the paragraph that begins "to sum this mess up."

You said, "I suppose my perspective comes from my loathing of exclusiveness and people making judgements of character based others’ decisions."

K, I loathe exclusiveness, too. But have I ever excluded any of these people? No. I understand that the world will, though, and if I can help that, I will try.

As for judgments of character, I call your bluff. Any time you say that somebody is intelligent, funny, nice, or annoying, you are making a judgment about his character. If you mean a simple good-or-bad judgment, then I agree with you, and I haven't done that in any of these cases.

As for Hamster and Gladys' being more aware than I give them credit fir, I just can't buy that. You didn't see them at the wedding. It was uncomfortable for everyone there, because we could all tell that there was something wrong. That they didn't know what they were doing. The were looking at the marriage like it was an end to something, not a beginning. I was going to write that maybe there is a chance that I'm wrong on this one, but really I can't bring myself to do it.

For the fifth time or so, I don't think they are bad people. I think they are just missing some of the much-needed perspective that people getting married require. I think if there were open communication among ALL their friends about what they thought, they would have a clearer picture of all the ramifications of their endeavor. But everybody, under the false notion of friendship you seem to be promoting, has decided the only thing to do is to stand by and "support" their decision. You can disagree with someone and still support them, but I think you should at least offer your opinion.

As for the fly-down comment about the detrimental effects on the social life, the reason you don't need to say that is because they WILL just zip up after the XYZ. But if someone said, "Oh, I don't think it matters and went parading around all hanging out, I think it would be time to talk to them about the effects this would have on their social life. And I would indeed tell the girl with the pink hair that, because, well, she claimed to not see any relationship between her hair and how pwoplw treated her. She said she had a pink mohawk because it was beautiful, and that was all. If that's true, and she doesn't recognize the treatment she's getting as a result of her hair color, then I'm there to say something.

Finally, I also call your bluff on the idea of not letting others' actions affect my own behavior. Because often people will do something harmful, and it will be up to me to fix it. If we're on a boat, and you move left, I'll have to move right. It's not changing my standards, it's changing my position.

Wow, this discussion is going so many different directions. I like this last set of arguments from you, Pinetree. It's making me think more than the previous set.

pinetree said...

No bluffs here. Just chill, killer. You're still my friend.

As your mom so well put it, we could argue until we're blue in the face and I don't think you're gonna budge, so any of the rest of this discussion can just take place in real life. I pretty much still stand by everything I opined until further notice.

n said...

Have to say I agree with Smurf 100%.

I still don't understand how the idea of judgement came into this. With knowledge comes responsibility. In the case of Hamster, he gave this knowledge to Smurf directly. If I tell a friend something that personal, it is because I trust what they will do with that information and that they will only have my best intrest in mind. I may not take their advice, but I will not feel judged. A good friend will tell you when you are being foolish because they are the ones who believe that you are not a fool and whatever you are doing to appear that way is out of character. If someone lets me face-plant into a huge mistake, maybe they didn't have enough faith in me being able to avoid it.