The Man Behind the Smile: Why Sadness is Important

A lot of the time, I’m a major sad sack.

A lot of you, probably almost all of you, do not know this about me.

In all likelihood, some article discussing the world’s best kept secrets has at number 1 “Andrew Kinsella is a sad sack a lot of the time.”

Most of you understand that I smile all the time. Usually, I don’t even know why I am smiling. Although there are the many moments where I am genuinely happy while smiling, I am unfazed or indifferent toward it all the other moments. This doesn’t always mean that I doubt my own unconscious ability of having and spreading joy, if that’s what you call it (and don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of this sometimes). It most often means that I know the path I’ve been through to get to the point where I can smile constantly, and oh boy, it’s a painful one.

People see me as a happy guy, but I almost never see myself that way.

I’ve been through some crap (or if you’re southern, stuff). My parents went through a divorce, which took waaaaaay too long to settle, and I hardcore resented a lot of people for most of that time. I’ve been through depression, which is always a well kept secret by anyone that has it until they finally can’t take the fact that it is secret. I’ve been unhappy for such long periods of time before that, when I did feel happy again, it felt really weird. It’s reasons such as these why I view myself differently.

Obviously there’s a caveat (at least toward understanding me), where if I’m smiling, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m happy.

However, it’s not terrible that I’m a sad sack. In fact, now that I don’t really deal with depression anymore, I am very welcoming of sadness. Sadness is the emotion that reminds me that I have a heart, or even that I can feel anything. It also reveals to me that I’ve loved something or someone enough that it made me feel sadness toward it when it disappeared or in some way wronged you.

As you continue to chase God as he chases you, more things will burden you, especially considering that God desires to chase everyone to an infinitely grand extent, and frequently with no response. God would love it if everybody could make it to heaven, but many won’t, so of course God has reason to feel sad.

Sadness gives us an understanding of pain, and a gateway toward stronger empathy toward others. Ultimately nobody wants to feel pain, and sadness helps with the belief that we don’t want others to deal with pain either. There is no shame in being sad. In fact, our sadness makes us stronger.

I would never wish the things that have caused you sadness upon anyone, considering that some of it can be traumatic. Everything that causes pain is a tall hurdle in our path anyway, and that’s not something we can jump over and leave behind under our own power. (Grieving is okay. If you didn’t do it upon the loss of something or the negative impact of something on you, I would strongly question your emotional capacity. Ultimately we must continue the race though.) We have a God that has overcome the world, whose right hand can destroy any enemy regardless of how intimidating it is. That hurdle in your way that you cannot jump over successfully under your own power requires just a tiny step from Him.

I am also not saying that I’ve been through more than any of you. I am more so frightened because I feel like what I have been through has been vastly more insignificant insofar as the pain it has caused. However, that’s one of the wonderful things about God: nothing is too insignificant!

Meanwhile, I will continue to smile. Sometimes I will feel happy while other times I won’t. Ultimately this is an attempt at becoming more open and honest about myself, and sometimes I get too emotional to do so in person.

Sadness isn’t a bad thing.

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Finding your Voice

In my life, this has been one of my biggest challenges.

Especially since, for many years, I felt like my voice could not be heard, or was very intentionally ignored. Of course some of this had to do with how timid and withdrawn I was as a person. However, the main issue for me has been self-confidence.

I’m a doubter. I doubt the ability of others tremendously until I am able to witness it for myself, and then leave having changed. I doubt my own ability to a far deeper extent than that. For example, I frequently attributed high grades on papers not to my hard work, but to my professors’ leniency in grading them (there were exceptions though). I just interpreted other peoples’ senses of evaluation as somewhat of a joke. And while that can be partly true, in this scenario other people definitely were not the problem; I was, but not in any way I thought about being my own problem.

Later, I learned that my writing actually was good, and realized it could be used as a voice of sorts.

However, writing is not the method where I am expected to use my voice, nor is it a method I use frequently as someone who plans to go into full time ministry. Public speaking has been another hurdle in my race to attain a roaring voice. I had not practiced public speaking frequently when I was younger, due to me being my timid, withdrawn self. When I was a younger college student, now with marginal social confidence, I was able to hold my own most of the time. I think the real turning point for me was actually doing a sermon for the first time. And it being the first sermon I ever preached (given it was in a class, so not as stressful of an atmosphere for a college student as, say, an actual church), of course it was terrible. It may have been terrible, but the experience aided me in realizing my habits, i.e. the bad ones.

The job I used to have at a Starbucks in a Kroger (if you’re out of the loop on this, I left there) helped me become more assertive. You have to learn a lot of information in a short period of time, and in the beginning I was flustered and intimidated by rushes. Three months later, though mainly due to suddenly relentless employee turnover, I am the top dog. Some of that was me having to become the top dog in order to help out the swaths of new employees coming in.

Over the past few months, I have gotten more practice at speaking, teaching lessons, and doing devotions in my Sunday School class in my own church. I have improved with that over time, especially since, at the same time, I was becoming more assertive in my former job. I had little confidence in myself five months ago, but now I feel like I can do many things.

For anyone who may read this, perhaps you haven’t found your voice yet, or you know someone who lacks confidence. There are a number of things to keep in mind while trying to find your voice.

  1. Time: Finding your voice is a process. For some, it may occur more quickly than others, but a voice never manifests immediately. It’s like when we were babies, and we made noises which were obviously not cohesive language gestures. However, as we grew older, we began to say words, to understand them, and realize that we could be able to use them without thinking much of it. Your brain will take time to adjust, but when you understand what you’re doing, it’s like muscle memory.
  2. Opportunity: Practice makes perfect. This of course isn’t like practicing an instrument, which is likely accessible 100% of the time. Public speaking opportunities only come every once in a while, for you , the person still trying to find your voice. If you do go into something where public speaking is an everyday aspect of the job, you will need many opportunities. With each time, you will become more aware of what public speaking is like, and this will help you in confidence as well as voice.
  3. People: What your voice is like, or how existent it is, depends a lot on the people in your life. This is the most important factor of all because how people react to you really makes or breaks you. Hopefully the people in your life will empower you, and hopefully you will reciprocate said empowerment. Hopefully the people in your life also keep you in check, and tell you when you have done something dangerous or inflammatory, because if they say you’re right all the time, they’re either intimidated by you or scared to lose you rather than truly concerned. Empowerment is probably the best tool in making a confident person out of all of these things.

I really would be nothing without the people in my life. I feel bad for not discussing a topic as important as people earlier, but saving the best for last is something of a tradition. I get to work around a crowd who supports me to the end, and I have family and friends who do the same.

Ultimately you will always be working on finding your voice. Sometimes, the atmosphere changes. Other times, the era changes. However, the adjustments to those changes are small potatoes in comparison to the principles behind being confident and assertive, which stay the same throughout.

 

I have blessings, but I’m out of title ideas.

I’ve always had trouble with counting my blessings.

Even in childhood I always wanted something else, something new. Back then, I achieved completion of my journey to boredom rapidly, and there definitely were many of those journeys. I’ve even been ashamed of what I had, whether it be people, things, or characteristics about myself, in my own life. And this continued, for a very, very long time.

I was very much a whiny person in my adolescence, as if I were someone who sought after Prequel Anakin’s own heart. I’m very convinced that all of my friends thought I was lucky to have what I had, and they were right, but only about one thing.

I had never really counted my blessings.

I was that person who was given a pretty darn great setup to life, yet I still hated (yes, hated) it. Eventually I had begun to hate myself, all the while hardcore repressing it so nobody would publicize it. Nothing for me was good enough, and I wasn’t either. At a certain point in my life everything, including myself, had become a curse. I had hit a rather Nihilistic thought pattern, where life is pointless and we’re all just waiting to die (in case clarification is needed).

But God.

I got saved when I went to college, but then still had trouble considering any aspect of my past life as a blessing. This would cause me to be really excited to go back to school and really unenthused toward going home (though divorce stuff was a marginal contributor to that). For three years it was like this, and I was still a terrible human being to people who would always be there for me.

It was hard for me to be thankful for anything I had.

But recently I have been realizing how temporary things can be. I’m very busy all the time. I haven’t seen my dad or my best friend in way too long. A few weeks ago, I was at a wedding where I saw some college friends for the first time in roughly a year (though they, too, are very busy). I’ve been learning that, whenever you are reunited with someone after being distant for some time, the part of your personality that your friendship with them occupies goes through a great awakening. And honestly, it’s the best thing ever.

Sadly, it is also temporary.

This has made me realize the blessings in my life. My family is a blessing, not to mention a support machine. My friends, whether childhood, college, or church, are all blessings. Both of my jobs, one great and another miserable, are both also blessings. God has given me great things.

It doesn’t matter how well I know you or not. In all likelihood, if you are reading this, you have impacted me greatly.

I’ve also learned that, on a scale that includes all people, I have immensely high standards for what people should be. I am also trying to fix this, especially considering I hold myself to that same set of standards, causing me to be really hard on myself.

But for those of you who have seen the Anakin in me, I’m sorry I was such a whiny person to you, and I’m working on being changed.

Living Life Uncertainly: aka Living Life

Almost a year ago, I had written about the uncertainty that leaving college and moving to the next step in your life is.

Now, I’m going to tell you that the uncertainty after college isn’t something that changes. Maybe this is just me, but I imagine a few others are in a similar boat.

And this doesn’t even have to pertain specifically to life after college. It could mean what that uncertain future is for you. Every school transition brings about a new world we have yet to discover, and then at some point you are shuttled into the real world, or it certainly feels that way. When I graduated high school and started attending Lee University, the new world I became absorbed in wildly exceeded my expectations. I left Lee University (via graduation, thankfully), am becoming increasingly involved in Buford Church of God, got a job at a Starbucks in a Kroger, and all of that is wildly exceeding my expectations as well. I had gone six months out of college with my only source of income being work for the children’s pastor at my church, and in the last three weeks, it’s been crazy how much God has allowed me to have.

Before you begin to believe that life gets better and better and better, please first realize that both of these were rather fortunate outcomes for me.

I don’t know what it will be like for you. Personally, I hope it goes well, and I hope your journey within the multiple worlds you will travel in impacts the world in some extraordinary way.

If you are in a big transitional phase in your life, you are likely extremely worried. If you aren’t in one, you are probably complaining about why on earth everyone is pushing this information and concept into your skull, but you will be worried once it happens. For me, God is really the only one who has kept me from certain doom.

The two big things for me have been these: trust in God, and have patience with God.

Around a year ago, I was at a Tuesday Night Prayer at Lee, and I was showed Jesus and his disciples, moving around without anything except for each other, working to get food and shelter for the day. But man, they moved around A LOT. If we did that now, we would have simultaneous panic attacks and then be like “I can’t do this, man!” The disciples followed Jesus everywhere. They trusted Him. After all, they have seen pretty much all of the great things Jesus did while he walked the earth, the full extent of which can’t be possibly carried in the world. Anyway, after being shown this, God said “where’s this in you?” I was immediately convicted, and very curious. Throughout this year, I was uncertain about my future, until basically a week before I left, and even then it was quite cloudy. I had asked for prayer for guidance and direction, and all I heard back was “trust Him.” I did, and I was told to go home, where I currently am, immersed in a new world. I will continue to trust him until the end of my days. After all, He hasn’t given me a reason to NOT trust him yet.

Patience is also important. After I made it home, I started an internship at Buford Church of God, which was required for me to graduate, as I had planned to do so that July. I finished the internship, graduated, and then was jobless for six months, except for working Wednesdays at the church (which could only get me so far). I had asked God what I should do, and had received no answer. I was also getting hounded by my family to get a job, all the while receiving advice that I considered either unimpressive or unnecessary. Suddenly, I had to take my car in for a repair worth around $1,100. I was in a panic, but since then, God has just continued to impress me. First, my dad helps me with the repair, which I am thankful for since I absolutely didn’t have the money. I then got a job almost immediately at a Starbucks inside a Kroger (which is basically a Starbucks Lite, and now I have no desire to buy anything from there ever again). Now I am getting even more involved at the church, i.e. playing a bigger role in certain ways and actually being something of a leader (and being on their payroll, which means no drinking, which I can honestly live with). I had to wait 6 months for all of this, but everything has manifested in a wonderful way, all at the same time.

Yeah, trusting in God and having patience with God are important as fudge for the future. That’s honestly all the advice I have for now. Life is chock full of uncertainty and waiting, and everyone making a plan is thrown off course frequently. But God has really been the only way I’ve been able to get through all of this. Ask for him, and it’s certainly easier.

In all likelihood, there are many bases that I didn’t cover, but I pray those can be covered for you.

This whole “living life” thing is bigger than you or me could possibly imagine.

Somebody Stole my Car Radio

Sometimes being on your own is hard.

It is somewhat hypocritical to say this because I still live at my mother’s house, but this is not what I’m discussing in this scenario. It’s hard not being around friends, man-sharpeners, and the like on a daily basis, even though such people are definitely present in my life. The battle that is fought behind closed doors is easily the most difficult, especially if you, like me, are the type of person that prefers to ignore discussing what commences there. I’ve had plenty of time in solitude and in loneliness (aka. being in solitude and not being okay with it). It has been strange for me, especially leaving an environment where you see tons of people every day.

The abundance of free time that I have is no secret to any of you. Many of you have seen part of the product of that. I’ve been goofing off a lot on Facebook, but the primary reason is because there was a time when I would get genuinely angry at the political cacophony occurring, resulting in using a coping mechanism made of Haikus and Alphabet Aerobics by Blackalicious. What you guys understand is that I have had way too much time to think, and you’re correct. However, you also vastly underestimate the dangers of this.

I think it was a week and a half ago. I was really tired because it was a Wednesday, which, if you didn’t know, I’ve been spending my Wednesdays doing work at (what I now consider to be)my church. I had planned on sleeping for what would likely end up being eleven hours long. I even tweeted, saying I would probably sleep for eleven hours that night. So, that’s what would happen, right?

Wrong.

I ended up lying in bed, alone, being attacked in a way I’ve never expected to be attacked by the enemy. A typical attack on me usually involves indifference, a lack of motivation, a lack of confidence, existing as someone that pendulums between arrogance and self-hatred, a disdain for what A.W. Tozer calls “the Sacrament of Living,” and on occasion lust. Instead, it was resentment, and in large quantities, toward my family. It felt really terrible, and I feel really terrible for feeling this (if you’re reading, family). For those of you not in my family, allow me to provide you with backstory.

My senior year of high school, my parents got divorced, and I spent the entire year being really pissed at both of them (this is the short, short, short version). But then, I went to college, became a Christian, got called to ministry, and things became a lot better and easier for me with everybody. Everyone is much happier now than they were six years ago, especially me. I’m getting along with everyone in my family pretty darn well lately, and that’s been great!

So, where is this coming from all of a sudden?

But wait! Why am I not prepared for this?

My prayer life hasn’t been what it should be, I’m bad at having structural reading (or structural anything, really) in my life, and I am not always thinking about how great everything is or even loving everybody. I imagine those things are hard for everybody, assuming you are like me and have not gotten to implementing strict discipline in your life.

I understand the need to make my alone time as productive as it once was (believe it or not, it was), but that’s not all I need. I also need you, whoever you are. The battle I fight in a place without other people is mine, but I cannot fight it without your support or without God. And I cannot be with God if I’m without your support. You guys are really important to me; I just don’t always know how to express it. I have not always been a good example around you, and I hope that can change.

I pray that God will be with me in my privacy, and that I can be the example of Christ’s love that I’m supposed to be.

And now I just sit here in silence.

 

 

Conquering things is hard, man.

Firstly, I know I haven’t made any post public since April, which I take full responsibility for that.

Secondly, to the actually large amount of people I’ve met since then, I have a blog! SURPRISE!!!

Lastly, this will be part of a series of thoughts and realizations I’ve had in my own life, which, mixed together, looks extremely convoluted contextually. Also, sorry for the too-long preface.

That being said, let’s get to it!

There are so many potential answers to the question “who am I?” There are many ways  people have tried to evaluate themselves, none of which are wholly reliable. I am one of those people who continues to try to do so. One thing you may or may not know about me is that I am rather oblivious to the impact I have on others. I also question everything and trust very little, which has benefits and detriments. However, when it comes to asking the question “who am I,” it has been hugely detrimental to how I have viewed my self-worth. Anything along the lines of depression I’ve only experienced to a very minor degree (I know what it can do. It sucks, and if your going through it you REALLY SHOULD talk to someone.). However, there is something I have experienced to a major degree because of this.

Insecurity.

I have been insecure all my life. What could perhaps be surprising to some of you is that it’s never been about how I look (tall and skinny, not really muscular). It could also surprise some of you who know how open I can be about topics that many are uncomfortable with (bodily functions, sexual stuff, I can go on). It’s almost entirely based on what others think of me. I am one of those people who really, Really, REALLY wants everyone to like them because they are afraid that they are viewed negatively. In fact, some of this is because I haven’t always liked myself. To be totally honest, in the two-ish years before I became a Christian (which occurred when I was 18), I truly HATED myself. I had no confidence or motivation, and lived in a state of ennui 24/7. I feel like this had a strong influence on myself insofar as wanting others to like me. After all, if I couldn’t love myself, how could anybody else? When I did become a Christian, I went a full 180 on my outlook (which was VERY Nihilistic, though we can elaborate on that later, maybe), though this still lingered. It still lingers today, like, right now even. I can give you an example.

This is the fourth time I’ve tried to write this blog post in the last ~3 months, yet I was not proud with it because I want something that pleases other people.

But maybe I should stop. After all, there is one who loves me for simply existing, and I’m not talking about my parents. I’m talking about God  (yes, God!). He loved be before I came into existence, and still loves me today. He’s not just interested in how I can be instrumental in his overarching plan, he’s just interested in me (a thought which I cannot take credit for). The first thing you are upon entering the world is that you are loved by God, and other than that you are a completely blank slate. Why should I gamble for the approval of others when I can look to the one who already loves me?

On the other hand, why don’t I look to please God first?

So many actions committed by a person involve an attempt to fill a hole. For some that is cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, pornography, or other addictions. For others, that involves trying to get everyone to like them or approve of them. I’m sure I’m missing some things here, but insert your not-God attempt to fill that hole, and it applies as well. How about filling that hole with God, and not just hearing the words, but pursuing God so intensely that there is no hole? I’m sure many of you, particularly Lee students, are tired of hearing this exact thing, having heard it about a million times in chapel (an understatement of colossal proportions), but there’s more to this.

These things we used to try to fill ourselves with then still linger. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who, if  you haven’t read things by him, you need to) said that if you try to resist temptation, you’ve already lost. The only way to really not fall to temptation is being so absorbed by God’s presence and what He has you doing that the evil has no direction to go. The extent to which I’m saying to fill that hole with God is this. Obviously God does the filling of the hole, but that’s how much we need to pursue.

Too long have I been doing anything I can to project a certain, “lovable” image of myself that I approve of. I cannot try to rely on others liking me (which can be very dangerous) anymore. I need to pursue God.

I know from many experiences that this is not a simple thing. It takes time, as it most certainly has with me. I am still changing, but I also relapse moments, and we all do. But we must all understand that first, we are loved. Before we are anything, we are loved.

Anyone who believes or tries to convince you otherwise you need to cast out of your life. Immediately.

We should also work at loving others. Everyone needs a person to be there for them, and we can all work on trying to be that for as many people as possible. If you are struggling and are reading this, feel free to come to me for this very thing. I can promise that I’ll try.

Right now, I probably should get going to bed. After all, this has basically been a massive wild tangent with an undoubtedly annoying overusage of parenthesis, and I’m not entirely sure how much this all makes sense. But It’s just me working on becoming a better person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not only doing this for me. I truly hope any of you get something out of this, aside from the “Andrew just confessed things about himself,” thing. As I work on trying to pursue God more, I’m asking you, not just as a likely small readerbase, but as friends, to help me with this too.

 

 

What to Pack on the Journey of Real Life

It says I wrote this on May 3, which is not true. That’s when I first created this site. Then I wrote some drafts that I deleted. This is the first one I feel deserves reading.

As some of you know, in July, I will (finally) be graduating college. Of course, with this comes a barrage of emotions that, combined, cause someone to not understand how they feel. Lee University has basically become a home for me in the five years that I have been here. And in these five years, I have changed from a person I had grown to disdain into a person who loves the Lord, and now himself. The unmotivated, truly apathetic person I had become in high school had become someone who cared deeply for others. Of course, showing it sometimes is still a challenge for me, as I have never been particularly adept at showing my true emotions.

Now, along with many of my friends, I am approaching the end of my time at college. Being at Lee University has changed me profoundly, and I’m sure my friends’ lives have also been changed. I’m also certain that the school itself is not the most responsible for the changes that have happened to me, and that both God and the people that have come into my life are. I have loved the time I had with my friends probably more than they know, and I’m sure the same applies to them. However, now I am approaching the time where I will likely leave most of these people. Even if I choose to stay in Cleveland, there are others who have been called to other areas for the time being. Though I couldn’t be more happy for them, I’m also sad because they will be removed from my life, or at least the possibility of guaranteed frequent (possibly daily) in-person conversations will be removed. As someone who loathes the notion of close friendships becoming temporary, I’m scared. I have always been scared of losing people, and I have always been insecure about how people think of me (i.e. whether they like me at all or not). However, I am also thankful for these people, and glad that they have been given extraordinary opportunities.

I have been learning this year, probably more than any other year, to trust God more. He commands me to do something, I do it (albeit, foolishly, sometimes not immediately). He tells me something, and He will ensure its occurrence. This has been the case for me the entire semester, and it’s amazing that everything has worked out. However, now I am close to my future, which is the thing that people call “real life.” Real life is a constant challenge, from what I’ve heard. I have been at Lee for a long time by college student standards (anything longer than 4 years is a long time). This is such a Christ-centered atmosphere, that adjusting to somewhere that likely is not will be difficult for anyone, particularly those super sheltered people who have never really been exposed to non-Christian atmospheres (there are also some atmospheres that call themselves “Christian,” and are not, but that’s a discussion for another time since it opens an Empire State Building-sized can of worms).

I’m less scared of the lack of Christian atmosphere itself than I am of the person I could become in this atmosphere. I had experienced lack of a true Christian atmosphere basically my entire life leading up to Lee. Though church was a somewhat prominent figure, at least on Sundays, but Christ was not at all the person/thing I chose to center my life around. Now that I have been saved, I sometimes fear the person I would become re-entering that atmosphere. In some ways, I revert, though less intensely now than in my first two-ish years. Sometimes we define change as the things we let go. I think this is partly true. However, probably the most defining aspect of who we become in whatever atmosphere we may choose to enter is that we take the ways in which we changed with us. As we travel to many places in the world, our possessions will surely come and go, but our character and who we have become is really what we pack in our bags. And those bags are sure to get heavier as we become more, and we will, no doubt, be run into the ground. The most important thing we are is who we are to God. Before we are anything in this world, we are Loved by God, and we must be sure that we always take that with us.

We will continue to change. This is unavoidable, and often uncontrollable. Sometimes it is hard to let your immediate surroundings affect you. This was only easy for me in my transition from High School to College because I genuinely hated the person I had become (Yes, I know hate is a strong word, but it is apt for this description). Now, that I have completely changed, loving God and caring and such, I am scared of how my surroundings will affect me. There are some things that will always be with me. I certainly wish I could take people. But there will always be people who never cease being a part of your life. Hold on to them dearly, but don’t think you can’t take more with you. You can all hold on dearly with each other, forever. You cannot live life without doing that.

This is my first blog post. If you have gotten this far, thank you for taking the time to read this, and enduring through the sporadic structure of this writing. Usually, I’m much more careful with words (I’m usually very meticulous in paper-writing if I’m giving it all), and I’m hoping future blog posts will be like that. This was mainly an emotional splurge of feelings, and that I have them, and that life lies ahead of me and I lie here uncertain of the future. Anyway, I will sometimes write things here. This is partly practice for potentially writing serious stuff, but also an expression of myself, probably more than what you normally get, and also likely different material.

And the fact that I spent more time on this than I did reading for my quiz tomorrow probably says a lot about me.