Don’t give up on yourself, or your stained shirts.

Bleach! (Clorox™)

I’ve had this happen twice for me. I got a stain with some chemical or food compound that everyone universally tells me is impossible to get out. That I need to either accept the stain as is or throw out the shirt. One of the first times was with one of my favourite white shirts when I cut open a glow stick and sprayed the flourescent liquid all over my shirt. The warning even told me this would happen. Pro-tip: don’t cut open a glow stick unless you are ready to be covered in hard to remove glowing liquid.

Now, the shirt got a weird glowing yellow splash on it. It felt that regardless of how much bleach I used or spray wash I put on it, it wasn’t going to come out.

Naturally, I couldn’t wear it anymore until I either fixed it or threw it out. My wife, and my good friend Joe simply told me to just throw it out, but I viewed it as a challenge. It’s a white shirt, the worst that can happen if I use too much bleach is it falls apart (and then gets thrown out) or it gets clean. I may as well condemn it to the trash when it’s actually unfixable, not just a bit dirty.

So, thus began my adventure with getting out stains. After many many washes, using many different techniques (soaking in bleach, coating stain in spray’n’wash™, washing in hot water, washing in cold water, beating it up, etc.), it actually came out. Every time a little more came out, and then suddenly the shirt was clean. I could’ve thrown it out, but because I had faith it could be cleaned or at least wouldn’t throw it out until it was totally destroyed, it actually got cleaned. I saved my dress shirt.

This is actually the shirt. It’s so kawaii!

Sadly, this happened again with a a favourite t-shirt I got in Japan. I think I spilled salsa on it, and didn’t realize it until it was well dried into the shirt. To make matters worse, I had run it through the dryer with the stain still in it.

And… this shirt was coloured and had a cute panda bear design on it. I couldn’t simply use bleach or so I thought, but at the same time, I was determined that I’d rather destroy the shirt (bleach it to white, have it fall apart, etc) before I threw it out. I wasn’t going to condemn it until it was actually destroyed.

Amazingly… it got cleaned after a few dozen washes, and it didn’t fade either.

It was a great feeling, actually. Both times I saved a favourite item, simply by not giving up on it.

These shirts were cleaned about a year ago, but for some odd reason it all came to mind when I heard the gospel reading at mass. The famous one most of us have heard where Jesus saves an adulterer from being stoned to death.

Specifically this line stood out to me:

“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

John 8:10-11

It seems to me that Jesus is not saying that we shouldn’t ignore wrongs that people commit, or ignore the fact that we ourselves all have stains. This story is saying for us to not give up on ourselves or others. That we can all be washed clean. He doesn’t say she is without sin, nor does he forgive her sins. He says, “it’s ok, you are worth saving, go forth and try, and don’t get more dirty.”

He saves her from being condemned not for simply being unclean, but because they believed she was uncleanable.

I think we have been called to repentance because we don’t need to wear the stains either. We all are sinners (ie. that famous Catholic guilt), but that doesn’t mean we are all condemned.

So many people give up on getting rid of their habits that, in the end, make their and their friend’s and family’s life worse. Even more seem to think the Catholic guilt that points out these stains somehow makes them worse, that they can’t be cleaned, so why point it out. They get viscerally angry at those who can see the stain and introduce them to the tools that can be used to get out the stain. Yes, sometimes these tools are hard on us, just like bleach and spray’n’wash can be hard on fabric, but it’s possible to get it out. You just need to keep on trying.

And once you get it out, you are actually free and clean. You are actually forgiven.

I think that’s the great feeling so many converts to Catholicism say after their first reconcilliation, that’s the feeling so many Catholics who have lost their way don’t understand anymore.

In today’s easy come, easy go mentality, it’s easy to forget that. It just takes a bit more effort and you can get out the worst stains you can imagine.

And once those stains are out, you’ll have back your favourite thing.

You’ll have back yourself.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The modern sinner, the modern pharisee

The Pharisees Question Jesus
The Pharisees Question Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are a Christian, you may be aware of the gospel reading where Jesus is sharing dinner with various nefarious (and outcast) types. In the words of the Pharisees:

“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them”

Luke 15:2

They sat on the sidelines and shunned him because they felt the company he kept was unclean. However, he was only obeying the same law that he lays out quite clearly elsewhere in the new testament: “To love your neighbour as yourself.” While Jesus was open to welcoming all types into his circle – sinners, saints, liberals, conservatives, men, women, jews and gentiles. The Pharisees were busy setting up their own silos to isolate themselves from those they felt were sinners; standing on the sidelines insulting those who were more open than them.

These days, with the Internet and global communication, we are exposed to more ideas, peoples and diverse interests than ever before. This is truly an age where we can get to understand varying viewpoints and try to understand and love our neighbours more than ever. Yet, I feel we have degraded back into the days where we find similar minded people, and isolate ourselves from those “sinners” we disagree with. Those who don’t follow our limited set of rules that we have arbitrarily set for ourselves. We’ve become pharisees.

My theory is that because we are able to connect with so many more people, we are also able to connect with more people who share precisely our view of the world. Thus, it is easier for us to find only those we agree with and not have to put in the effort to try and understand those we don’t understand (or even disagree with.) It’s simply easier. You just parrot the same lines that allow you to dislike people among your small social group and then you all feel a bit better about yourselves. You simply block them on Twitter when they state something you disagree with, argue with them during Thanksgiving, dismiss any reasons behind their beliefs or banish them entirely.

Sadly, I must admit that I’ve fallen into this trap from time to time. Yet, what does that gain me? What does that gain us? It’s easy to see that every group has their own “sins” and their own “sinners.”

Some eco-minded folks demean those who shop at Walmart and not Whole Foods as if they were adulterers. Simply not comprehending that for some families that is the only way they can get by week-to-week.

Some fiscal conservatives insult those who require food stamps and government assistance as if they were lepers, claiming some undefined sin has placed them into this category of life.

Some educated liberals insult those who view the world differently than them and have some ideas that actually are quite well founded when you dig down to find why they believe them as if they were blind beggars in the street.

What does this accomplish for us as a society, other than make it harder for us to work towards common goals and still feel good about ourselves because it’s not our fault?

Further segregation, less cooperation, and eventually more crises without any capacity to solve them. If you dismiss anyone who you disagree with as a sinner, you inherently have less knowledge, less manpower and less capacity to work towards a common goal.

To use the Christian reference, Jesus not only could work with sinners, but sat down at the same table and ate with them congenially. How many could sit down at a table with those we disagree with and share a congenial meal? I know I’ve seen enough vicious arguments over family dinners to know it feels like very little these days.

Perhaps though, we should try to change that.

While I cannot speak for other religions, although I believe many have similar constructs. If you are Christian, we have all been invited to the table of plenty; Invited to sit down with sinners and saints, understanding that even though you are also a sinner, you are forgiven; This is precisely how amazing works are accomplished and communities like the 1 billion strong (and growing) Catholic church came to be; not by excluding sinners, but welcoming all with open arms.

For myself, after much frustration from doing the opposite, I have found that the best thing is to try to extend that forgiveness to those you disagree with and even those who have harmed you, listen patiently to what they have to say, and don’t dismiss them as yet another sinner, even if you believe they are wrong.

Even those you disagree with can have many valuable things to say.

Enhanced by Zemanta