A weekly blog about relationships, belief, and personal growth, written from a position of hope.
Most people I know are busy, have more than one thing they’re juggling, and are simultaneously carrying some form of pain, regret, trauma, or sadness. We are complicated people living in a world that’s like a busy restaurant line during rush hour—hurry and keep moving forward.
Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to slow down, to not strong-arm our way through the mess, to process what’s happening inside of us. Too often we think moving to the next thing will make the hard thing go away—and it doesn’t. So today I want to offer a few simple statements I hope serve as the permission you need but won’t give yourself.
We live in the wake of a society shaped by patriarchy and capitalism, where power and prosperity have been core principles. With that comes an expectation, particularly for men—don’t show weakness in the pursuit of success. Achieve the American Dream, at any given cost, and then you’ll be happy and fulfilled.
I propose this is a lie, and this lie is yielding tragic consequences.
Did you know 7 out of 10 suicides in the United States every year are white males, the majority of which are middle-aged? In general, men die by suicide 3.5 times more often than women.* I don’t believe the stereotypes men are given are coincidental to this statistic.
We all live under these unspoken rules, these bogus terms of agreement, that might grow our GDP a little but deteriorate our hearts and families. So to both men and women, give yourself permission to break the contract none of us knew we were signing, and admit it when you’re not okay. It’s the only way to find healing.
My normal Saturday morning routine is to wake up around 7am, start a pot of coffee, light our gas logs in the living room, and settle into the couch to write. It’s one of my favorite times of the week—a peaceful bookend to working. I’m writing this Saturday morning from a CICU waiting room.
I’m watching a scene that exists every week while I sit at home during this time. I’m surrounded by people who are tired, emotionally drained, devastated, worried, and hopeless. As I scan the room I see traces of suffering in every direction.
I see a woman who has her head buried into her hands. I don’t know if she’s asleep or trying to disappear from whatever tragedy she’s currently grieving. She has a hospital blanket draped over her and a bag of random items you would likely carry if you knew you would be spending the night at the hospital.
The man across from me was here last night when we finally left to go home. He’s in the same red sweatshirt. He looks exhausted. His phone rings, and in a muffled voice he explains something to the person on the other end. I can’t hear the words, but I get the impression it’s something along the lines of, “We are still waiting for an answer.”
In the far corner is an inflatable mattress. Surrounding it is what looks like a makeshift living room. This family has obviously been here for some time now. A “God is bigger” coffee table decoration sits on the waiting room footrest.
The television on the far wall plays a commercial about the latest, greatest car. The beautiful actors and scenic highways make an unspoken promise of youth and vitality. It’s empty, white noise to those who are sitting here grappling with the biggest questions in life.
There is an outdoor courtyard area behind me. It’s filled with benches and plants. I’m guessing it was purposefully placed where it is to offer relief from the waiting room’s fluorescent lights and burnt coffee smell.
Every day some variation of what I’m seeing right now is happening. While I’m sitting at home enjoying my coffee and writing, someone sits in this waiting room chair and wonders if life will be the same for them again.
This is perspective you wish upon no one but appreciate, nonetheless. It’s been a harrowing twenty-four hours, as we’ve dealt with the uncertainty of an open heart surgery gone wrong. We are one of the fortunate ones, though. We get to go home from this place with good news. Many will not.
So the next time I’m taking part in my normal routine, when I’m sitting in my living room on a Saturday morning, I will stop and close my eyes and remember someone is still sitting in this waiting room, wishing life would just go back to normal. In quiet prayer, I’ll express my gratitude and ask for peace for those who are still in the midst of it.
Do you know those phone calls you dread to receive? The person on the other end tells you your worst fear has come true, your loved one has passed, your company is shutting the doors. A pit opens in your stomach, and you feel yourself falling into the black hole of despair.
I will never forget one of the stupidest things I did as a teenager that resulted in my parents receiving one of those phone calls. “Mr. Butler, this is the Hoover Police [long, unnecessary pause for dramatic effect]. I have your son, Chase, here with me now.”
I was fourteen or fifteen at the time. I had great group of friends in the sense that they were reliable, mostly moral, and didn’t offer me drugs, but we still had a mischievous streak in us, nonetheless. In our youthful enthusiasm, we thought bringing air horns into a movie theatre would be great entertainment.
We strategically went to the theatre nearest the rear exit of the building. We would wait until a pause in the dialogue or soundtrack and blast our horns at 130 decibels to the annoyance of the patrons who were just trying to enjoy the movie.
As soon as someone came to apprehend us, we snuck out the back to escape to the neighborhood behind the theatre. As we exited, we were greeted by the police officer who had been tipped off to what we were doing. Air horns were confiscated, and we were led to the manager’s office. Each of our parents were called by the officer.
I can’t imagine the way my parents felt at the end of the phrase, “Mr. Butler, this is the Hoover Police.” There are innumerable possibilities of terrible things that could have happened while their teenage son was out. Fortunately, it was a stupid prank, but for a second the not knowing was crippling, I’m sure.
I’ve received three extreme phone calls since we’ve had our dogs, Eleanor and Theodore. They’re skilled escape artists and have nearly gotten themselves killed on more than occasion.
The craziest of the three calls was from a woman who saw them running in the road amidst traffic. Lacie and I were thirty minutes outside of town when she called. As she explained the situation, horns blared and she screamed in terror. On my end, my only thought was, “They’ve just been killed.”
She finally calmed down and told us Eleanor had almost been hit but was okay. She said she would continue to try to catch them then hung up. We couldn’t help, and we didn’t know what would happen. In a moment, in one phone call, we went from thinking they were safe inside the fence to them nearly being gone forever.
We can’t avoid the tragic. Sure, we can lock the gate, reinforce the fence, microchip the dogs, know who the kids are hanging out with, buy insurance, drive the speed limit, get an alarm system, invest conservatively—the reality is that if the phone call hasn’t come, it likely will at some point. Few escape this world without loss, regardless of our precautions and planning.
It’s the double-edged beauty of living. It’s the risk-reward of choosing to engage this life completely. It’s the sunburn you get for deciding a day at the beach is better than locking yourself inside. It’s deciding to start a family while knowing you might lose a piece of it one day.
You just do it, anyway. You expose yourself to everything this life has to offer, because it’s worth it. Even with the suffering, the failures, the losses, the phone calls announcing our demise—it’s truly worth it.
I tend to write three types of blogs. One, I fulfill my weekly commitment and offer an observation and lesson. Two, I actually hit a nerve but make sure the points are general enough to not be too personal. Three, I cut right to the core with less regard to social expectations. The third normally stays saved in the drafts.
I know this about myself because I have an iPhone full of notes I’ve never shared. Many get deleted. Few get posted. Why? Because I’m afraid if I post the ones I wrote therapeutically, with no regards to audience or perception, it would be too much. It would fall outside the bounds of what you expect.
And that’s our problem...
We care so much what others think.
You know what we are missing out on because of that? Authentic connection that creates intimacy, deepens relationships, and actually heals hearts.
I noticed something odd about myself the other day. I wonder if it’s true for you, too. I like to ask Google really serious questions. I know, it sounds stupid, but I literally have typed into a search engine things like,
“Why do so many burnout in their late twenties...what to do when your doubt is too much...online test to see if you’re depressed...how to find inner peace and contentment...what to do when you feel ______.”
Crazy, right? It does sound more dramatic than it is, but I’ve literally asked a search engine personal questions I’ve never asked a human being! I found plenty of “answers,” too. At the end of the day, sure, some of it was helpful. It will never compare to a human hug and a “me too,” though.
Maybe we carry around burdens we are too scared to expose because we don’t want to appear weak. We can’t risk coming across as anything different than what we’ve already decided others will perceive us as.
What would happen, though, if we stopped caring? What would our tweets, statuses, and Instagram captions look like if we were actually honest? Would we even care to have the well cultivated online personas anymore? Imagine a post like this:
“Well, feeling pretty insecure this week. Haven’t hit my numbers at work. Really feeling the weight of this family drama. Not saving or giving as much as I should. Haven’t really felt close to God lately...”
Would people unfollow us or quickly scroll past? Maybe, maybe not. I’m not saying to go be negative all the time—just a little more honest, particularly in your real relationships.
What if it meant that others realized none of us have it all together, and it’s okay to disconnect from the guilt and shame that’s shaping the masks we wear on a daily basis?
I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it’s a switch that can be flipped overnight. It is a better way, though, and I guarantee you will start to notice a difference over time as you choose to be just a little more honest.
Have you ever gotten in an argument, and even if you “won” or made better points, you still felt like you lost something? You look back and intellectually understood why your position was “right,” but something didn’t feel right.
Dale Carnegie writes in his timeless classic, How To Win Friends and Influence People,
“You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.”
If you’re married, in a relationship, or have interacted with human beings for any amount of time, you know what I’m talking about. If you value the relationship, you know deep down that being right doesn’t actually matter. It’s not helpful.
Derek Webb has an album titled, “I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry, and I Love You.” It’s a phrase we can all benefit from using sooner rather than later, because at the end of the day, when the person you love is sitting across from you, do you really want to win?
Of course not. You want to be understood. And when your well-versed, sharp-tongued remarks are falling down like acid rain, I can guarantee no one will get to the core of the thing.
And it’s never really about what you’re arguing about, is it? The dirty clothes on the floor isn’t so much about the dirty clothes as much as it is that your spouse doesn’t feel like you hear them.
I’ve been alive for 28 years, adulting for a decade of that, and married for 4 1/2. I’ve had my fair share of arguments, and honestly, I feel like I’m a good debater. But I would rather be a good husband, friend, son, brother.
It’s three simple things:
If we pursue the alternative:
Then we might “win” today, but we will always lose in the end. We will lose relationships. We will lose intimacy. We will be the lonely victor in a fight that can’t actually be won.
You haven't missed your calling
From where I sit in this hospital waiting room
Accept the invitation to live
The lighted window
It was worth it
The subtle sounds of a life together
Made for the now-what
When holidays are hard
Sharing in our suffering
To my doubting friend
Ten years down the road
How long, Lord?
A season of doubt