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Don’t Do Whatever Makes You Happy

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“Do whatever makes you happy” “As long as you’re happy” “I’m glad you’re happy” “They seem happy”

 

It’s not enough.

 

The sentiment is great. It’s good to be happy. Happiness is fun. But it’s not joy.

Here’s where the danger lies. It can be dangerous to wish someone happiness or desire “just happiness” in a choice, relationship, change, or lifestyle shift. There are thousands, if not millions of things that can make us “happy” that aren’t good for us, healthy for us, good for the time or stage in our lives, or are just morally bad. We can get warm fuzzy feelings from many things that don’t turn out good for us. In extreme examples, addictions all feed a desire for happiness and successfully get millions there every day. Happiness shouldn’t be the goal or journey we desire.

Joy, on the other hand, transcends our day to day circumstances and feeds our souls sufficiently. Joy isn’t fleeting, and joy doesn’t need a daily fix or high. A guy can make you happy when he brings you take-out and your favorite movie, but a man in your life can bring you joy when he illuminates at the discussion of his passion. A friend can make you happy by going on a shopping trip with you, but a friend can give you joy by showing you tender care when your heart is hurting. I have joy in knowing people, loving people, and creating things to name a few. But I feel our modern culture’s focus is on what can make us happy right now.

“It makes me happy.” “As long as she’s happy” “Well, he’s happy.”

I’m not happy for someone just because they got engaged, met a guy or girl, chose a college, or have a job. That may sound harsh, but I think it’s actually a symptom of loving someone well.

If someone I love is in a really toxic situation or selling themselves really short all while enjoying themselves, I won’t express that I’m happy for them just because it’s the thing to do. Whether it’s my place to speak against their situation is case by case, but sometimes just lacking affirmation of that choice is enough. It’s as cheap as the old yearbook slogan, “HAGS” in the book of someone I barely knew (short for Have a Great Summer in case you didn’t know). It’s disingenuous to spew off to someone I care about. It almost shows how much I really care.

Now I know most people don’t go into speaking that word with ill intention, but I offer it up to consider or to explain. When I am asked “Are you happy?” or told “As long as you’re happy- that’s all that matters” or even explained away regarding a sad situation with “well, he/she seems happy.” “Well, I’m happy for them anyways”……………I’m not buying it. And don’t be shocked when I respond unconventionally.

I’m better than happy—I find great joy in my life, friendships, and pending marriage. Deep peace and careful thought fill my heart and mind with my state in life. There are times I struggle to find joy. There are things that bring me happiness too, like a good deal or seeing a good movie. It wears off. Certain things don’t.

How can we tell if it’s joy then? In my opinion, we feel joy when our actions, thoughts, or experiences reflect God’s Image. When my friend’s selfless acts remind me of Jesus, when a song makes me dance and I praise God for my ability to move and the artists who create, when my fiancé’s soul lights up like the Bridegroom of the Church at the sight of me…. These things…they ought not be mistaken for their duller byproducts. Truth and Morality beget Joy by Natural order. How wonderful it is!

Pro Tip: I look for example of this at St. Rose of Lima. She’s a fascinating saint who while on earth, sacrificed her beauty that could have brought her much happiness in life by finding a husband or many male suitors. Instead, she followed the religious life she was called to by God. There, she found joy that puzzled many.

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Wonder Woman and The Grace of God

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The new Wonder Woman film is breaking records and performing extremely well in almost every category of film metrics. People love it because it’s feminist, it’s funny, and it’s full of effects. It features an actress who is pregnant while embodying a superhero. That alone is iconic. While all those things were amazing to watch when I visited the theatre, none of those things are what truly resonated with me. What touched me was how much the moral of the film reminded me of Christ’s story of humanity.

This might surprise you as the Wonder Woman story is laced with Greek gods and doesn’t have mentions of God himself. And yet, I was brought to tears at the climax of the film out of pure thankfulness for the Author.

God, although all-knowing and not limited in the ways Diana is, thinks about us in a similar way.

He knows we do wrong. We enter war, kill each other, lie, deceive, and lust—just to name a few alluded to in the film. Ares, the “bad guy” of the film, resembled the character of the Enemy of God. He tries to persuade Diana with evidence that man is so bad that it’s not worth her time or power to protect them. He argues that they are so easily manipulated into evil by his whispers that he hardly need do anything to win them over to doing dark deeds. He gives the evil German doctor for example. While he whispered ideas into her mind of how to make terrible chemicals and contraptions, he didn’t compel her to act. She did it herself. Just as humans do. He takes this to our hero to convince her to abandon humanity. They don’t deserve her.

She has been heartbroken by what she’s witnessed in humanity. Her mother’s warnings proved to be true. Man does some awful stuff. But then she remembers all the good she’s experienced in her time with people. Laughter, love, giving, protecting, encouraging, and befriending people. They have all messed up in varying ways and are flawed where she is not, and she’s confused by this (God isn’t). At the same time, each person she’s become friends with has sacrificed for her and loved her. Just as she is confronted with the choice to join forces with Ares and abandon humanity, she remembers them. She agrees with him—they don’t deserve it. She loves them anyways. Then she defeats Ares.

Reminds me of Someone.

Thank God (literally) that he defeated the enemy, defends us, loves us when He knows we don’t deserve it, and believes in our Free Will to love him back. That small display in Wonder Woman brought tears to my eyes because I forget that every day. I know I forget it because I consistently worry, deny my lovability, and sin. Grace covers it all anyways. And how much greater is it than this fictional story!

I’m thankful for that reminder in a fantastic superhero film. Most of the times, these reminders don’t come from Christian movies, do they? That’s another post for another day…

 

 

Photo cred to Wonder Woman Facebook page

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When an Organization Breaks Your Heart

It’s odd isn’t it? You almost expect that a boyfriend, girlfriend, or friend will break your heart. It still hurts…but it’s almost expected. What isn’t expected?

When an organization breaks your heart.

I’ve seen it happen perhaps a dozen times, and recently, I’ve seen a spike. It happened to me, too. Much like heartbreak from a loved one, it hurts because of how much you put into it and who you thought you knew.

You put time into an organization like you do any relationship. The poster-making, tabling, planning, meetings, recruiting, rallying, posting, and calls/texts take up a huge portion of your time. But it’s totally worth it. You’re recruiting people to ideas and beliefs that underpin a moral society. Of course people need to hear it and of course you’re thrilled to share it with every soul you encounter. With joy you do it. With joy even if it costs you friends, hours of debate, sleepless nights, awkward encounters, and scrambled stress in your day. You were born for this. Looking back, you wonder how you even did it all without going insane. But you wouldn’t trade it for the world because you learned so much, met so many friends, changed hearts and minds, and frankly, became more employable.

You believed in the organization like you believe in a friend. You would not have put the time and energy into the org if you didn’t. The ones along for the ride or attention quickly move on to something else. The odd-ball controversy-for-controversy’s sake folks have a short half-life. You were in it for the long haul. You weren’t a summer fling. This was a long-term relationship. You told all your friends about the miracles of the org until you were blue in the face. You slept weird places, harassed strangers, and used your own money to buy assortments of things. You asked others to give money to reach big goals.

But you forgot that organizations are made up of people. And people are human. *Surprise*

I say that with sarcasm, but truly, you forgot. I forgot. You were so focused on the mission that you forgot to look around. Once you did, you wished you hadn’t. You wish that you kept your blinders on, put your head down, and focused on all the good coming from the team’s efforts. The good is tremendous. But you see and hear things you can’t unsee or unhear. Your bubble has popped and the delusion is over. Some things aren’t okay. It’s not okay because it’s politics, it’s not okay because that’s the way this or that person is, it’s not okay because it’s not okay. Some things are just toxic for a team, some dangerous, some immoral, some illegal. It all happens. Whatever it is, you decide you can’t turn a blind eye, face deep seated internal conflict, go through a cycle of emotions, worry about your future and reputation, and hopefully eventually speak the truth. If you’re at this stage right now, wondering if you should say something and/or leave, I’m so sorry. This is, without a doubt, the hardest part of your journey. There are costs to speaking up. Do it tactfully. Raise your concerns, and if you can’t live with the terms, do leave. Yes, things will be said about you. Yes, stories will be made. Yes, it actually might be harder for you to get another role, job, or volunteer position. But you’re in this because you speak up against injustices aren’t you? And whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap that we usually do at the end of a failed relationship—don’t feel it was all for nothing. It wasn’t. That’s a devil’s lie in your brain, creeping around your heart and whispering to you when you’re most vulnerable. Maybe you deserved it? Also a lie. Maybe you weren’t good enough? Lie. But why didn’t they love you like you loved them? Ouch.

But this is our mistake, friends.

A movement isn’t a religion and org leaders aren’t the mother/father/brother/sister you never had. These aren’t saints and this isn’t doctrine. The feelings that come with being in a movement and following brilliant leaders still is not picking up your cross and following Christ. It isn’t and it can’t be. We conflated it. It could have been your calling or vocation. It still might be. But we needed to be more careful about the importance and place in our life we gave people, places, Facebook posts, hashtags, and things. That’s our bad. You trusted it all so much you would have never dreamed people and things would turn against you? The Word promises that it will. The truth is, the enemy seeks to weaken forces of Truth and Good. The people that make up organizations are no exception. Take this opportunity (yes, I called it an opportunity) to refocus where you set your hope. It can’t be in a movement, an organization, a job, or a person. It has to be in the promises God gives us. He holds the Truth, and He will forge a path for you to fulfill your passions, talents, and vocation in life. He will put people and words in your life that help heal you.

And then it happens. You experience an organization with healthy practices. You flinch at the first serious discussion with a new leader for lack of trust. The good-boyfriend-after-bad-boyfriend phenomenon occurs. To be dramatic and in-line with our metaphor, you love again. Your new leader isn’t what you thought they would be. You’re not hurting or blinding yourself. You’re living your passions and joining a movement, but you’re not idolizing it. You’re done with idolatry. You regret nothing. And while you’re pained to witness the injustices that still occur to your friends, you’re at peace.

Forgive yourself and work on forgiving the passionate, exciting, talented people who hurt you. They didn’t go into it looking to do anything hurtful. They’re there for the same reason you were and are. Remember how much you are forgiven. Simmer over it less. Pray for the mission. Be truthful. Allow yourself to be angry and sad but only for so long. Rejoice in the movement of the Lord, believe in the mission of saving Grace, put your time in loving God’s creatures, find Freedom in Christ, and find your identity in your Heavenly Father alone.

“If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.” Matthew 6:14-15

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”                  2 Corinthians 3:17

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There’s a Market for That

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I hear it different versions of it often. “We used to _______ and now we Keep up with the Kardashians,” “This was before we had The Kardashians,” “Let’s do less of Keeping up with the Kardashians and more of ____”…and the like.

It seems The Kardashians have become a benchmark for the deterioration of society. Things are bad, for example, people spend time watching a materialistic, talentless rich family in their everyday life. While I won’t spend time trying to convince you that you ought spend time “keeping up with the Kardashians,” I will explain to you why you should leave alone people who do.

  1. They Create Value

We could say a lot to question the values and morals of the K family. I wouldn’t condone their lifestyle. But the accusation that they are talentless and are famous for being famous falls flat. They create value. They do. They have clothing lines, stores, modeling contracts, TV shows, and pretty much cover every sect of the entertainment industry. It may not create value for you or me, but they create value for enough people to make millions are acquire a huge audience. If you’re a lover of free markets especially, you must understand that things you don’t like that create value, create value without you.

  1. Anything with an Audience Creates Value

You may argue that what they do isn’t valuable, so it doesn’t create value. But value is subjective, and the Kardashian services do something for someone all the time. This is true for all kinds of things. I often joke about my hatred for Pepsi products. I can joke all I want, but Pepsi does serve a large community of people, and they don’t care that I don’t approve. They have a target audience, and they target well. The same goes for music, clothing styles, and architecture..etc. People often joke that my preferred rap song choices aren’t real “music.” But, with the free range of commercialism, Lil Uzi and Fetty Wap are famous and wealthy for a reason. They’re entrepreneurs. It’s not a forced market. They’ve quite literally earned their place.

  1. You can Influence Markets with your Opt Out

If enough people say “no” to a product or service, the market will cease to exist. Your small influence can be refusing to watch or buy. My family does this often when we are morally opposed to core concepts of artists, tv shows, or sponsorships. For example, I haven’t had a Girlscout cookie in over five years. I know people still demand them, but I can personally refuse and join a movement to reduce demand as I choose. You can too. Many do this in marketplaces for products that have undesirable, hurtful outcomes such as cigarettes and porn. A campaign successfully took Duck Dynasty off the air temporarily, and reaction to scandal took 19 Kids and Counting out of the marketplace. If you think something is hurting society in a material way, you have every right to campaign against it. Some may say you have a duty to it. However, a subjective dislike is a bad benchmark for the dilapidation of society.

And so, I’ll leave Pepsi alone if you leave alone our friends who watch E! Television in their free time. Deal?

Pro Tip: You won’t get more dates with a pompous air over your own tastes 😊

17 Reasons I Became Catholic in 2017

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In the last few months to a year of exploring then joining the Church, I have been asked perhaps 200 times—Why the Catholic Church? Why now? Usually I give a quick answer or fail to answer. Perhaps this is because I could clearly only scratch the surface of this question in over 4,000 words once I actually did try. It can’t be summed up so succinctly for me. Friends and family approached me lovingly and unlovingly, tactfully and offensively, concerned and angry, debating and praying. Thank you for your genuine concern and desire to understand. Hopefully this can give you an idea of my “sudden” change and console your fears that we are so different. While there is time for debate, that is not the intention of this piece. Thank you so much for your concern and aid. Here are just the Top 17 Reasons (in no particular order) I became Catholic in 2017:

  1. Vocation-Based Direction

If you’re protestant and spend any amount of time around Catholics, you’ll notice the word vocation come up a lot. In fact, in comes up almost anywhere the word “calling” typically comes up in all Christian circles. Your vocation is your life calling, not just a calling in a moment. Your momentary callings from day to day are typically in line with your overall vocation. Vocation doesn’t just mean your work or job. It refers to the all-encompassing “who” you were created to be and who you are. Any verb can be filled into a sentence on vocation—serve, love, create, join, defend, advocate, innovate, discover…the list cannot end. Another word often attached to vocation is discernment. Discernment is something that is, or should be ongoing in every Christian’s mind. Often, you will hear people say they are discerning their vocation. Frequently this means they are considering joining religious life (priesthood, brotherhood, deaconship, or sisterhood, etc.) or marriage and are taking a time period to pray and think on whether this is their proper next step or not. However, discernment can and should be practiced by everyone with a desire to make decisions with Christ’s intentions in mind. Discernment of vocation is deep, intentional reflection of your purpose and direction. Opportunities will often come your way that just don’t feel right upon further reflection for named or unnamed reasons. This outlook is emphasized in Catholicism to a degree I’ve never seen before. The Holy Spirit is not seen as random as the breeze. “Callings” to trivial choices such as whether or not to get a second helping at dinner are not seen in the same light or with the same language as life-altering motions. You don’t feel as “called” or “not called” to serving a Sunday School class as you do to starting a romantic relationship or accepting a job offer. Small decisions are also important in life and do either stay in line with your vocation or not, but they don’t take the same place in the heart or mind as the focus of vocation that begins as early as First Communion in elementary school.

  1. Seriously Caring for The Least of These

My initial interest in the Church came from my shock at the Hands and Feet the Catholics were being in my community. I worked with a lot of churches on caring for preborn children and their families and…er…let me rephrase that. I attempted to work with a lot of churches. Most churches couldn’t be bothered to be associated with a controversial subjects like abortion, single mothers, or premarital sex. I got a lot of closed doors and no call-backs. I got one reference to my local Catholic church and they immediately showered my group in prayer, volunteers, and material aid. I almost questioned it. This help remains consistent to this day. I quickly realized that this was not just my local parish (church), but also every city I visited. As I traveled around the nation, city to city, I saw Catholic church doors open to the homeless. There were constant initiatives to feed the hungry with pantries and kitchens, visit the imprisoned, shelter through Catholic Charities, and meet every need for the disabled, widowed, poor, mentally ill, and everything in-between by the Knights of Columbus and student groups. The Catholic Church was a constant presence at every Supreme Court or abortion facility vigil, fundraiser, or rally I attended. Ages 0 to 101 were involved in these ministries. Few times have I walked into any type of church where this is the consistent case. Never have I been exposed to a denomination of Christianity where this is true in any city I visit. As someone who is motivated by swift justice and serving needs, this was a huge incentive for me to get down to the bottom of what made Catholicism “tick.”

  1. View of Suffering

This is so important to me because I did suffer so much in the year of my transition to Catholicism. I came to bitter ends with great relationships I had with people I love very much. My entire career path changed as I was deeply wounded by people I once looked up to for guidance. My boyfriend moved across the country and became my fiancé as we both experienced financial strain. Close friends of mine struggled with death and illness in their families. I struggled through the hardest class of my life as I came upon graduation and had a few short months to decide what to do about my future. My living situations (I moved three times) were not comfortable or healthy. My friends and family were largely very upset about me becoming Catholic, and I was met with a steady stream of harassment about my beliefs. In the grand scheme of things, these were short term troubles and though a lot to handle at once, were not dire situations. But in my worst states, I felt I had nothing. My heroes, my career, my faith, my relationship, my friends, my grades, my finances, my home, my family’s approval…it all felt like it may amount to nothing after very intentional living. I felt I was just trying to make good grades, obey my parents, be a friend in difficult times, listen to the Holy Spirit in my faith journey, be healthy, and make good life choices and coming out with nothing to show for it but heartbreak and closed doors. Of course, by the time 2017 rolled around, my whole world changed and I gained back all the things I had been suffering over and more. The lesson I learned was that I had been viewing suffering the wrong way. I had learned over my years as a Christian that suffering came as a result of my own failure to please God and that I deserved the suffering that came my way. I felt so out of gas because I was working on the assumption that I could do or say something to end the hurting. But I couldn’t. The Church has taught me that suffering comes to even those who live in the Spirit, even sometimes because they do. I learned that I could take my suffering and use it to become more like Jesus. In my mind, a shift was made. Suffering wasn’t always punishment. It often is an opportunity. Prosperity preaching will have you believe the lie that you can speak desires into existence, “claiming” control in the name of God. It says that the good become rich and the poor in spirit remain in poor situations. AKA: You had it coming. This is not the Biblical view of suffering, and it’s not mine either.

  1. A Journey of Salvation

In the worldview of Catholicism, salvation is not a destination. It is a lifelong journey. The steps towards salvation are still the same as my non-denominational Sunday school ABC’s: Accept, Believe, Choose. Or as my favorite protestant leader, Judah Smith, says, “Belong, Believe, Behave.” You were already designed to be with Christ by birth, accepting Him and His role in your life is a first cognizant step, believing in His teachings comes next, and behavior following full knowledge of a Christ-like lifestyle leads to the refining of one for Heaven. Salvation isn’t a one-time occurrence. It’s a lifelong trek that’s both personal and in cohesion with fellow believers. And no, deeds don’t get you a “heaven guarantee,” but a life on track with Christ does necessarily produce good works.

  1. Emphasis on Prayer Relationship

I’ve heard it more times than I can count. “Catholicism doesn’t leave room for a personal relationship.” I truly cannot think of anything more personal and individualistic than prayer. Something fantastic about my road to Catholicism has been all the types of prayer I became exposed to in the last year. Of course, there are more types and methods for prayer to list and describe than anyone reading this probably has time for, but I’ll hit some of my favorites. Repetitive, memorized prayer through the rosary, Our Father, or other remembered prayers has done so much in my life. I used to wonder how anyone could actually connect with reciting words. However, reflecting on the life of Jesus during a rosary or focusing on an Our Father word by word has brought me to tears. I’ve needed the words of the Lord’s prayer in bite sized chunks, and I’ve needed to slow down and sip in the mysteries of Christ’s life over and over until I feel peace. Novenas, 9 days of prayer with special intention, have been very important for specific petitions I have about life choices or the healing of others. Spending dedicated time every day at the same time of the day for a specific reason clears my mind and helps me find the voice and power of Jesus. Prayer with candle is good for my learning style. I can light a candle, lifting up a prayer with the flame, and spending time in front of the flickering light spilling out my intentions. Adoration, oh, adoration. I can walk into church during or after work and just speak with Jesus on my knees. I can see him at the altar and tell him everything on my heart. The physical interaction with prayer with beads, candles, images, etc. draw me into a 360 degree focus. You certainly don’t need anything to pray and can access prayer any moment you wish—I often pray on my morning commute for protection and the stresses of the day. These different avenues certainly make for a rich, healthy prayer life.

  1. Accountability

This was a hard one for me: confession. I waited until the week of confirmation for my first confession. I dreaded a person being out there walking around with the knowledge of all my sins. I much preferred confessing my sins on paper or in my head in the dark comfort of my bed. Reflecting on one’s sins in private is certainly an essential component of a walk. However, the confession of sins to a priest, sitting in for Christ as the apostles did, is truly liberating. When darkness in your mind is freed from pen and paper to words out loud, they become hard to ignore. All of the sudden, when I know I will need to examine my conscience and say out loud what it is I’m doing or failing to do with words, actions, and thoughts…it gets real. I truly have less desire to sin. This isn’t to say I am now sinless, but I am more aware when I do fall short. I can’t wiggle my brain out of acknowledging what I’ve done. In Catholicism, it’s very serious and a sin in itself to hold onto sin without confessing and continue to receive communion. Because I want communion so badly, I really end up thinking of the cost of sin much more severely. It literally separates me from Christ. And just like that, age old habits of mine seem just not as important. All it took was a better system of accountability.

 

  1. Consistency of Core Beliefs

As someone often involved in policy and politics, this is so important to me. Consistency, brought together by the Catechism, lays a foundation for every believer to have a consistent worldview. The Church respects Life, Marriage, Earth, Humans, Human Rights, and the Common Good of mankind among other things. This seems simple, but apparently it isn’t. Spend two seconds on Facebook or the news. Many denominations have found ways to tip-toe around hard stances to take in evolving culture, but the Catholic church puts it all out there. And it’s not optional. Point blank, if you’re Catholic and advocate for policies that don’t honor the sanctity of life, marriage, human rights, and the like, you’re just wrong. The Vatican won’t and can’t wake up one day and redefine Life away from conception to natural death, for instance. Now, Catholics may widely vary in their beliefs of the best method to achieve these ends, but these basic tenants are non-negotiable. If you would like to share an anecdote about a Catholic person or politician you know who advocates or believes this or that, they’re just wrong. All we can do is pray they return to the teachings of the Church. The Church doesn’t stray from core beliefs because God doesn’t change Truth. I love waking up and going to sleep each day knowing what my church believes and knows to be true.

  1. Acknowledgement and Acceptance of the Unknown

I never heard the word “mystery” come up so much until I started attending mass. There is the mystery of faith, the Paschal mystery, the mysteries of the rosary— the Glorious Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Luminous mysteries, and the Joyful mysteries. These mysteries aren’t an unintellectual way of shrugging off the history and facts surrounding our faith. They are an acknowledgment that we often do not know how miracles and wonders actually come to be but through God. I appreciate this openness and acknowledgement of the unknown because it doesn’t try to concretely define things we cannot truly know in this lifetime. We are not final determinants of where people go when they die, we do not fully grasp the many mysteries of the world, and that’s okay. One instance in which this is particularly important is when loved ones pass away. I had a great grandma that passed away when I was young. I distinctly remember it being said with good intentions that it was too bad she wasn’t in heaven because of the state of her faith. How absurd to be a young girl and hear how your great grandma is definitely in hell! In reality, we can pray for her soul and do what we can to help people reconcile with their faith on earth, but it isn’t going to be known in this lifetime what exactly happens after their final moments pass. Catholicism leaves room for possibilities after death that I’m not sure many denominations do. We can project and interject all we want—we don’t really know the state of anyone’s soul or the judgement passed upon them. We just trust that it’s righteous and in line with a Perfect Plan.  We must do due diligence to understand and grasp as much as we can at all times, but we must not feel overwhelmed with the burden of having all the answers. I quite enjoy a good mystery myself.

  1. The Priesthood

This was the hardest thing for me. It was my last hang-up and objection to the Church. Growing up Protestant, I really couldn’t understand how there were people without families leading churches. Every church I have ever belonged to had a pastor with at least two kids, usually four or more. How could they really lead families without one themselves? How do they last their whole lives without wives? And what about the history of abuse? Wasn’t that a result of chastity? Do I really “need a man to get to God?”  These are huge, valid concerns. I’ll explain unconventionally by starting at the moment I changed my heart about the priesthood. My good friend (and later, my sponsor) famously bombards people in religious life until they will either take a photo, bless us, or join us somewhere. This particular time, she won us some seminarians to join us for lunch by Catholic University in DC. It was a great time for me to ask questions and actually meet seminarians. But what actually struck me was a comment made: “What I love is that the Church is a priest’s flock. They don’t have two flocks and can focus on the one.” It seems simple, but it really soaked in for me. All week it rang in my mind. And I thought back to all the pastors I had in my lifetime. Many of them had hurt me, made me feel abandoned, failed to answer my questions, etc. not because they were jerks but because they had families of their own to tend to. Now, I have a father wherever I go. I feel at home so many places. It’s literally a priest’s full time job to make time for me. In RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), one priest told us that he’s often the only one available to midnight calls to sick or dying people. Sometimes non-Catholics even call on priests because they will come at a moment’s notice. I could write a whole separate page answering how I came to answers on all my concerns over the priesthood, but the realization of the fathers I have was definitely my most important discovery.

  1. Categorical Views of Sins and Sacraments

I already held certain things like marriage and baptism to be very sacred, but I didn’t have the concept of the sacraments before my Catholic expedition. Viewing Sacraments as more than an event or stage of life has increased my reverence for these sacred actions. When marriage, penance, baptism, confirmation, communion, anointing of the sick, and the priesthood are brought into the picture, the conversation changes. These are Sacraments, not just important moments. They bring us in union with Christ. Therefore, the religious law and outlook on these Sacraments are treated so. Sins are categorized as either venial or mortal/grave. This was confusing to me at first, but has come to be so useful in understanding my weaknesses. Because grave sin involves the full knowledge and intention of sin, I know when I’ve committed it. An examination of conscience helps me identify what venial sins creep up in my day to day life and build up bad habits. At first, all these categories seemed baffling and unnecessary. Now, they guide me through the joys and sorrows of life and help me appropriately respond to each instead of eyeballing my way through the highs and lows.

 

  1. Symbolism

As someone who loves symbolism in film, art, and literature, I find symbolism in general speaks to me. Step into a Catholic church, find the entire Bible in items. From the shape of the sanctuary, to the placements of three throughout the church, to the windows, statues, signs, liturgy, and lower case t traditions, Genesis to Revelation can be found. Meaning is in every crevice of the sanctuary.

  1. Reverence for Communion

I recall myself, just two years ago, telling my good Catholic friend that I liked the informality of communion at my church. I liked that I could have a meal like Jesus did anywhere at any time, even with three people in the woods (technically still true). However, I explained that my view of communion was symbolic and an imitation of what Jesus shared with the Disciples. Now that I have an understanding of Jesus being The Eucharist, my approach to communion is so different. The first time I attended a mass, my heart longed for it. I became so suddenly aware of its significance in a way I never had before. It would be more than a year later that I had my First Communion. Every Sunday, and every adoration, I stared at the host preparing my heart for this Meal. Now, I understand the veil, celebration of mass, and receiving on the tongue. I think about how I long for it every day. I think a lot harder before I escape to sin because I don’t want to forfeit that connection.

  1. Potent Homilies

The more I attended mass, the more the sermon taking the whole church time got under my skin. “Church shopping” becomes necessary because one needs to find a church with a pastor who gives sermons they connect with most. Messages are spiced up with humor, cool effects, and long anecdotes. With a homily at a Catholic church, it must be brief and form a quick connection with the day’s scripture readings. Because of this, the message is potent. The priest must get right to the point, sometimes with controversial statements of truth in line with the Church. Priests tend to be highly intelligent and often put this to use with references that are equally understandable and stimulating. I recall an especially great homily I heard before RCIA that employed Natural Law at length. Homilies, more often than not, cause me to desire to learn more—not wandering my mind to the point of the message. There’s less room for showboating or entertainment via the altar.

  1. Scripture Focus

Much to the surprise of a Protestant, mass is scripture enriched! Not only are there two readings and a Gospel read in every service, but scripture influences every motion, image, and action. Uncovering the layers of origin of scripture at a mass is so deep that some might even say it’s like an onion—or a parfait. Everybody loves parfaits. If you move past my Shrek jokes…you’ll see the significance of the placement of hands, movements of the head, and position of body changes throughout the mass, telling the story of scripture. Just when I think I understand the origin of something, the narrative grows deeper. This truly touches on Catholicism being a lifelong journey.

  1. The Lives of Saints

I don’t really know how I made it through life without the example of the saints. I had always looked up to Saint Joan of Arc, but I never really got her significance other than a neat story in history. Now, I learn of the incredible sufferings, sacrifices, and lives of saints, and I grow richer in my own life. These people answered the call of God in their lives. Why didn’t I know about them before? Many saints didn’t start out saintly and have amazing journeys of sanctification. Many died tragically. All help me in different aspects of my life. The saints exemplify virtues that the Church holds in high esteem, such as Justice and Truth. In the past year, I’ve grown so fond of St. Joseph the Worker, who reminds me to be excellent in my work as though for Christ and keep God’s Will in my heart as I choose a professional path. St. Rose of Lima gives me something to strive for in humility. The list goes on. ­­­­The intercession of saints has expanded my family so much, that I always feel surrounded. I can think of a saint for every situation. My family grows with each passing day! What a rich heritage we have in Christ!

  1. Use of Talents

Catholicism truly emphasizes the employment of one’s talents. This feeds into the major theme of following one’s vocation. The talents and natural gifts that make you you are designed to fit your vocation. Remember that you were woven in your mother’s womb and created for such a time as this! We are all en route to sainthood when we fully employ our strengths. This is not unique to Catholicism, however, it is surely emphasized to a greater extent. In fact, not using your talents, as I’ve learned in my Magnificat (devotion), can lead to sin. This often ties in to failing to take interest in the world, its current events and disasters—which also falls into a stronger compulsion to care for the least of these. Failing to offer aid to the ailing world around you through your natural abilities can lead to some disastrous effects. I’ve never viewed my talents as much of a responsibility and compliment to God as I do now.

  1. Being Home Anywhere

Today was a good example of this. Long story short, I accidently ended up at a Spanish mass today. But I wasn’t lost during service! No, I’m not fluent in Spanish. The order of the mass is universal, so with only a few minor differences, I can follow along wherever I am—even in another language! I love talking to my friends across the country and them commenting on that day’s First Reading. We read the same thing. The whole world meditates on the same scripture, and a homily is derived from the day’s passage by every priest. When I travel, I always have a familiar place to land. There’s no awkwardness in the perhaps dozen churches I’ve visited because we are strangers united by a common celebration of mass. I guess that’s why they call it “coming home.”

 

Pro-Tip: I didn’t write this at the first move in a long winded debate. I am confident that my blog post will not solve the age-old divide between Catholicism and Protestantism or the rest of the world. I am answering a question I get on a weekly or daily basis—Why Catholicism? Why now?Catholic

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Why I Don’t Need To Test Drive My Future Husband

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These questions are coming up more often in my world now that I’m engaged. “But how will you marry someone you’ve never lived with??”  

Don’t you need to test drive before you buy?”

“I would never buy something I didn’t try on.”

These questions clearly point to sex as well as moving in together. I’m fairly used to them because we’ve been pretty vocal on our decisions to not move in together or have sex until we are married. I’ll admit it’s clearly not normal or expected in the 21st century to date from 10th grade to after college with these lifestyle choices. For the majority of our friends and family, these are not choices that they identify with, and it doesn’t make us any less close them. We are used to being the odd “men” out on this one.

But this question of my need to test drive my future husband has really got me like:

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Here are three of many reasons needing a “test-drive marriage” is a total myth:

  1. I’m Not Divorcing Someone Over Idiosyncrasies

The big fear is this- You don’t move in with someone, marry them, and then find out life-altering annoyances. If you didn’t live with your significant other, how could you ever know the truth about how they live?  The reality about this fear is nobody asking this really takes the time to consider that they’re essentially deciding to break up with someone over annoyances. You definitely shouldn’t marry anyone, move in with someone, or even date someone you’re willing to break up with because they snore, leave their stuff around the house, or miss the laundry basket  on a daily basis. Now imagine you’re married. Are you going to want to divorce someone because of small, weird, annoying habits? These things can be worked on and even changed over time. You have a lifetime to both evolve.

 

  1. It’s Possible To Know Someone Without Sharing A Home With Them

You know your best friend, your cousin, or your co-worker like the back of your hand. You most likely don’t live with them. You know right now whether or not you would want to live with them based on your years together. Often, couples claim move in together to experiment whether or not living together will work. I know plenty of couples who decided to move in together who aren’t even close to envisioning themselves getting married (which is fine- marriage comes or doesn’t come at different times for everyone), so I know people usually aren’t moving in together to truly test if marriage is their next step together. Hopefully it does end up that way, though! Point being, I don’t think moving in together is really as intentional for marriage as we may first think it is. It often makes sense financially or is viewed as the next logical step of a serious relationship. Once again, not usually for truly testing the marriage waters. Usually, you already know when you choose to move in with someone whether you want to live with them. See how that makes sense?

You can travel with someone, date them a long time, or spend plenty of quality time together to find out your other’s weird tendencies. You may even surprise yourself and fall in love with some of the odd things they do in the process.

 

  1. Don’t Get Married If You’re Having Major FOMO Issues

Here’s my favorite uncomfortable FAQ from people I’ve just met: “But how will you know if the sex is good??” The fear-scenario here is that you’ll be madly in love, get married, walk on clouds..then *find out they’re bad in the bedroom* I have to laugh at this because for people who have intentionally waited for sex until marriage, we honestly don’t have anything to compare our experiences to and are learning at the same time as our significant others. It’s literally the best sex they’ve ever had. I think it’s really awesome there are couples on that journey together in a new marriage. I’m positive that there are ups and downs to this journey just like anyone else’s in any stage of life. But there doesn’t have to be FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). If you’re hyperventilating at the idea that marrying someone (or dating someone seriously) means no sex with anyone else, don’t commit! You’re not ready! And that’s okay! You should only marry or commit to someone if you won’t be up at night thinking about all the good sex floating around the universe while you’re ball-and-chained to a man or woman you desperately love who just can’t satisfy you.

 

It doesn’t have to be your outlook that sex and living together is only for marriage. It definitely isn’t everyone’s view. But, think twice before considering someone else ignorant, naive, or set up for failure for marrying without these milestones coming first.

Pro-tip: Group trips, conferences, and retreats are really great ways to learn how someone lives without living with them.

Commercialism of Your Favorite Holiday Isn’t A Bad Thing

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We’ve all either said it or heard it: “I just wish ______ holiday wasn’t so commercialized. It takes away from the meaning behind it.”

Whether it be a historical, religious, or “funsies” type holiday, there’s special meaning to each one. That’s what makes it a holiday. While the “cool” thing to do right now is be upset about the buying and selling surrounding your favorite days, I want to focus on what makes commercialism of holidays great:

 

  1. It’s Why People Can Afford Holidays

Maybe as an upper-middle class young person, someone who has never had a career in retail, or someone who has never owned a business, you may feel sad to think some people work on your most cherished holidays. I’m in all three of those boats, so I understand that concern. However, holidays can be some of the biggest money-makers for anyone with a shop of their own or retail/service job. These hours and sales translate to millions of people being able to put food on the table and gifts in loved ones hands. For those living paycheck to paycheck, these busy times can be a Godsend. Sure, it’s tiring and a lot of hard work. But, for them, it may mean actually getting to have Christmas or Easter. Often people supplement holiday costs with seasonal jobs surrounding special dates. That’s a huge blessing for anyone who needs the extra cash. Imagine if these jobs and hours didn’t exist. It would mean more people forgo family celebrations. If someone is forcing you or a loved one to work days or hours that kill, and the cost of that outweighs the benefit in payment, it’s time for a new job with more understanding management. Because of all the retail/service jobs created from holiday demand, there are plenty to choose from!

 

  1. It Creates New Traditions

Every generation likes to lament the traditions of old and shriek in despair at the ones that replace their own. What’s hilarious about these notions is that it’s a given— with each generation comes a new set or version of traditions. It’s always “better when it was mine.” There was a time Christmas trees and Charlie Brown related traditions were newfangled and odd. I’m sure there were some Valentine Card naysayers back in the day. Instead, find some joy in the constant creativity of human beings. I was recently a naysayer for the “new tradition” of engagement hashtags because they seemed corny and “millennial” to me. Someone explained the utility of them gathering all relevant photos to one place (and the humor behind the corny-ness), and I realized I should have a better attitude about them. How cool is it that we even have a hashtag. Similarly, I almost sneered at the new style of Christmas lights with flashing projections on homes instead of string lights last season. However, I have to admit that it all took a good bit of innovation whether it’s my style or not. You’re still allowed to have preferences for things of your childhood or liking. Just don’t decide that it’s bad for everyone to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without even being Irish or having a Guinness. Commercialism makes way for so many new, innovative ways to celebrate! Cheer on your fellow celebrant!

 

  1. It Gives The Perfect Platform To Share Meaning

Sure, all the bustling and commercials can take away from the genuineness of meaningful holidays—if you let it. On the other hand, everyone’s focus is on that certain day, so why not take advantage of it? In conversations, parties, events, posts, and activities, share much and often why the season means so much to you. You could look at it as your voice being drowned out by millions of ads and loud voices making Christmas about Santa or Thanksgiving about Turkey deals… or you could see it this way: You are a voice apart from all others. The contrast could really give someone a fresh view on a commonplace occurrence. Don’t mistake this for being a grouchy un-fun-haver by posting every day about how everyone has forgotten Jesus. Instead, invent creative ways to spread what a certain holiday means to you. Share it on social media and become part of the messaging in your sphere. Start a conversation online and in your everyday life. For example, if you love Valentine’s Day but hate how commercialism made it into a shallow cartoon-heart love ritual, do something to authenticate your love-messaging. Hand make cards for your loved ones and make a point to verbalize or write your feelings if that helps you experience the meaning. Keep in mind that others may really be able to communicate affection with gifts you find cheap and pointless. Share the way you celebrate and others may appreciate your view and take it on themselves. Commercialism creates great avenues that make all these thoughts shareable.

 

Pro-Tip: If you’re specifically sharing a religious holiday, tying faith-based events to historical or philosophical significance can sometimes interest a secular individual to explore what makes a certain day special to you.

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Do The Job Nobody Else Wants To Do

So, you’re at a new internship or entry-level job. You may be wondering how you can quickly set yourself apart for more responsibility and autonomy. With little experience and perhaps the least amount of years on earth in your office, you’re up against a lot. Doing odd, messy, or tedious jobs help you get noticed more than you might initially think.

I’ve had three internships in the DC area. DC is basically 1/3 political agents, 1/3 everyday employees, and 1/3 interns. It’s pretty easy to blend in and never stand out. If you just do what you’re told and show up to work, you’ll do fine. You will blur into the history of interns or entry-level employee past, though. Here are a few ways to distinguish yourself:

  1. If You See A Mess, Clean It Up

It may be someone else’s job to clean up the kitchen, common area, or copy room. However, almost everyone is probably busier than you or working on harder deadlines than you when you’re new. Especially as an intern, you’ll have some downtime between jobs. Instead of counting the ceiling tiles, go check out if there’s anything can be tidied up. Odds are, they want a certain closet, shelf, or fridge cleaned out, but it hasn’t been a priority. Of course, make sure you’re allowed to touch the things you’re cleaning up or a good intention might lead to a stern talking-to. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor. A safe option is usually wiping out the common fridge or counter space. I once took on the task of throwing out all expired common foods—it was easy and much needed.

  1. Experiment With Processes

When you’re given a task, especially a tedious one, try switching it up to find easier, more effective ways to get it done. If you’re given something like entering data, as interns often do, it can be pretty boring. Try learning more about the platform you’re using while you’re at it. This could open up more opportunities to diversify your task and improve the timing. For instance, I have had research projects where I’m looking up hundreds of contacts, bios, or phone numbers. Fooling around with typing a chunk out then making phone calls, opening multiple windows and typing, searching by categories, list making, or starting a pattern have helped me trial-and-error develop systems for tedious jobs.

  1. Imagine The Bigger Picture

All employees perform better when they have an idea of how they fit into the bigger picture of the company. Sometimes this is hard to envision when you have a task that seems menial. Spend some time figuring out how your assignment contributes to the overall mission or goals of the company. For instance, calling a list of media sources or donors, or shredding trash documents might be the last thing you want to do, but you can usually draw it back to the “why” of the entire organization. If you can’t, ask your supervisor in a polite way how he or she thinks your task helps their job or the goals of the operation. Perhaps, if your task truly isn’t useful, you and your supervisor will trim or cut the task to make it more relevant. Requesting tasks that help you grow in a specific area can also lead to assignments that grow you and your organization. Most supervisors truly want to see you benefit from the experience. Knowing how you contribute to the team will keep your attitude up and set you apart. There have been times my “small job” led to big media hits or donations. Other times, my supervisor has cut a task down to low-priority.

  1. Don’t Wait for An Assignment

When there is a chance to offer yourself for a task, do it. Often, an email will go out to all staff for and event or job that needs a few hands. Volunteer yourself. This may mean staying after hours, coming in on a weekend, or forgoing some plans. Not only will you be helping out the staff, you will probably also learn something you wouldn’t in your normal role. Also, take initiative when you’re between tasks by asking your supervisors and co-workers if they could use some help on a project. Going beyond your duties will put you on the map for your team. I’ve met some of the most interesting people bar tending or coat-checking at events I wasn’t assigned to cover.

  1. Don’t Discount Your Skill

You might get used to hearing that you have little to offer the workforce. That’s not true—all of your skills can be showcased. One that is easy to implement is social capital. Whether mobilizing volunteers, reaching out to media contacts, or connecting a personal contact with a product, you can contribute in a meaningful way. There have been times I thought I was just a lowly intern, then realized I had a real connection to reporters and fellow interns around the country. These connections have led to real results. If I discounted these real-life relationships, or other skills, I might not have had an opportunity to become an asset to my company. Take caution to not assume you’re higher profile than you are, but also realize how much you could contribute with your unique network and skill set. Implementing your strengths in your work is more than most bother to discover.

Pro tip: Don’t end up becoming less efficient by doing non-essential tasks. Best results come from proper prioritization and well-handled free-time. Sweeping is only helpful if you’re not using it to avoid actual work.

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Rap is a Tool for Freedom

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Rap and Hip-Hop have enhanced the lives of millions across the globe. They have certainly enhanced mine. While there several solid reasons to complain about rap, I’m focusing today on how rap frees all of us in our everyday lives. How? As the pre-rap poetry goes, “Let me count the ways;”

1. It Was Made To Make Us Move

Dating back to the history and origins of rap and hip-hop, the most basic forms were used for rhythmic dance rituals, celebrations, and all forms of expression. What sets it apart is its usual fast, consistent tempos or soulful storytelling. Fast-forward to today, and the roots are still there. I’m a fan of all rap and hip-hop types. Whether underground poetry or auto-tuned Top 50 Hits, old school throwbacks or present-day playlists, these genres force me to move! This changes my bad day, bad thoughts, or bad ideas into blissful motion. For me, it doesn’t matter if the lyrics are deep or not. I am moving, and my mind is nowhere else but here. I don’t even worry how I am viewed in these moments. This is everyday personal freedom for millions.

 2. It Helps Us Understand Each other More Deeply

More often than not, rap makes me laugh. Lyrics comes out cleverer than my brain can catch up to in real time. They play on words, rhymes, and patterns. Listening is a brain game. Sometimes the mental images are so hilarious (or so foul) that I have to pause the music to digest. Either way, I always know exactly what they mean. The use of literary devices allows for unmatched verbal precision. It tells a story or even a joke like nothing else can. It gives us understanding—a free exchange of stories and ideas. We all know this leads to more freedom.

3. It Shapes Language

I don’t study language, but I wouldn’t be surprised if rap meeting the internet has made for the fastest evolving creation and spreading of new language in history. Slang is adopted overnight from the minds of artists to the everyday use of young people. A rapper forms a string of letters or words that tickles us, and before you can meme it, it’s history. We now control our language in a more direct way than ever. People sometimes joke about the legitimacy of these words and phrases, but there’s no fighting spontaneous order. The words already have meaning before you can use yours to fight it. The fact that the haters don’t relate to the meaning doesn’t make it less legitimate.

4. It Spreads the Word on Free Market Solutions

This is probably my favorite thing about rap and hip-hop. Young and minority communities have found a special place in their hearts for freer markets because of lyrics. Your everyday young person isn’t concerned with economic models and policy research. They like what they like and they don’t like what they like taken from them. Rappers were early adopters of Uber and Bitcoin. These solutions to state-led problems have stirred up controversy around the world. It doesn’t faze lovers of rap for one minute. It’s already been deemed “cool” by the rap and hip-hop community, and it’s already proven to work. Just take a look at 14 famous lyrics about Uber from the year 2014. Furthermore, access to Uber driving has given immigrant and minority communities who cherish rap music greater avenues to income without excessive occupational licensing—a big barrier to work in low-income areas. Bitcoin also wasn’t on the map for most listeners until its lyrical mentions. Check out how this hip-hop contest offered Bitcoin to winners. These means of reaching minds are unfathomably more effective than policy argument. Self-interest and culture are at work.

5. It Brings Change

Culture follows rap and hip-hop culture in the world of memes, references, and art. As long as rap has been on the radio, it has been the fastest and most accurate way to find out what is on teenage and young adult minds. Issues of criminal justice reform, federal government expansion, and welfare state issues have all come to light through rap. Emotions and thoughts are recorded and spread through communities as issues evolve year by year. These songs have even motivated individuals to take action and innovate. Its popularity has even made it impossible to ignore black creators. Testimonies through art are far more powerful than ones on congressional podiums.

6. It’s Productive Entrepreneurship

The majority of rappers and hip-hop artists didn’t grow up in wealth. In fact, much of their music reflects the poor conditions they did grow up experiencing. There’s also a reason artists work with crews comprised of many childhood friends. What gets one ahead in the projects and streets is destructive entrepreneurship. Organized crime, as terrible as it may be, is highly entrepreneurial. It’s not productive, as Baumol would say, but it’s still creatively capturing a market. Art development is an innovative, legal means of inventing, and has the potential to make us all richer. Most even go on to start brands and non-profits that each create hundreds of jobs—often for suffering communities. Entrepreneurship breaks all the chains.

There are certainly flip-sides to these coins that include degrading women, body image issues, glorification of drugs and crime, materialism, and causality of sex. I won’t dispute that. Maybe that should change. In a way, these plights being included gives insight into the authentic state of culture. It’s not pretty. It’s messy, but it’s true. Understand rap, understand the world around you.

 

Pro Tip: Check out some female rappers to hear some empowerment-in-action. Boss ladies are doing and not checking with the press first.

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Seriously, Eat Something New

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Food is a huge, essential part of everyone’s lives. Beyond its nutritional value, it brings conversation, culture, imagination, and joy into our lives. A world without access to a variety of food is not only filled with death, it suffers culturally as well. If you refuse to try new foods, you’ll suffer in areas way beyond your taste buds.

Almost everyone has experienced this in some capacity. Either you, someone you hosted, or someone you have traveled with has had such a narrow scope of what they’ll consider eating, that it becomes an issue. I’ve traveled with people who only eat “American” foods, won’t eat any Asian foods, won’t try new vegetables, won’t eat “woman food”, or only like a fine-tuned list of items. Denying new foods signals to others that you’re closed off to much more than a menu. Here are three reasons to try a new food to improve your life:

1. You Will Have Better Etiquette

Unless it’s a religious reason, real allergy, or serious belief system like vegetarianism, it’s really rude to deny what someone has prepared for you or spent money giving you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a scenario where a host bought or prepared food, and someone loudly proclaimed, “I don’t eat ____!” They usually then proceed to make life difficult for everyone around them by requesting something different or making everyone take an extra stop. This objecting individual may even insult the culture someone comes from by appearing to say “your country’s food isn’t good!” —whether you mean it or not. Be gracious of what is offered to you even if it’s something you wouldn’t normally order. Your complimentary behavior will go far with your peers and hosts.

2. You Will Have More Quality Experiences

 

By generally being more open to new experiences, including food intake, you will receive more opportunities. If you’re known as a picky eater, you’re less likely to be invited to exciting events or socials. If you make things difficult for your group, they’ll make note to not invite you next time to save money or time. Going to new venues and learning about different cultures through meals is a very quality way to expand all your horizons. If you travel to another country to take in all their art, architecture, and history, it would be a disservice to yourself to not understand them through their food as well. It will also be a huge pain to everyone to constantly be on the hunt for burgers and hot dogs.

 3. You Will Bond Over Your New Meal   

Almost nothing draws people closer together more than trying a new food together. You take a small risk by “going for it” at the same time and discussing your reviews. This is an opportunity to see their genuine reactions, expressions, and personality. (Try to not be dramatic if you don’t like it) If you both try it and it’s really bad, you’ll have a laugh to share. If you both love it, you have a new shared favorite. It may even bring up new information one of you has on the background of a state, country, or dish. When a colleague or friend inquires if you will try something new with them and you accept, you flatter them by valuing their thoughts. It’s unlikely that they will forget you.

Pro Tip: If there’s a food you ate as a child that you had a bad experience with, try it again as an adult. There may be an emotional reason you didn’t like it that has nothing to do with the flavor. Maybe the place you’re going to makes it differently. Try it again.

The bottom line is this. If you try a new food, the worst thing that can happen is you not enjoying it. The best thing that can happen is exposure to new cultures, people, and ideas. You won’t be sorry.