How Jobs Change in Good vs. Bad Economies

When the economy is good, it’s easier to find work.

When it’s bad, it’s next to impossible to find work, and to keep it once you have it.

But that isn’t the only difference. Working almost any job in a bad environment is an entirely different experience from working when the economy is good.

Here’s just a few ways:

Employee Satisfaction

Did you know companies used to care when its employees had an issue? I know it’s hard to believe, but back in the 90’s and 2000’s, companies used to regularly hold meetings with employees for the express purpose of allowing them to air grievances they might have. Now, this opened the door for a lot of whining from pampered, coddled employees who expected everything to go their way all the time, sure, but it also allowed for employees to address legitimate issues.

Also, your manager was there if there was an issue to be addressed, or something you needed to talk about. It could be minor, it could be major, didn’t even have to be a complaint, but if for some reason you needed to talk to your manager, you could, and they understood that part of their job was being available to you.

Companies used to take great pride in how well they treated their employees. You would see ads for the company with concurrent employees bragging about how much they loved working there.

Now? Be happy you have a job. Show up, do your job and keep your head down. You don’t like how you’re being treated? Perhaps you’d like to see how unemployment treats you?

No, you won’t necessarily be fired because you complained, or at least that’s not what the paperwork will say. But right now companies are all looking for ways to reduce headcount, and if you’re too visible to management in the wrong way, you should really consider keeping a lower profile. The squeaky wheel no longer gets the grease. It gets management thinking about how they have too many wheels in rotation anyway. When they come looking for heads to chop, you might very well be the first.

A job I was working at recently made me wait two and a half months before I saw a full paycheck. Now, partially this was my fault, because the contract was misleading and I didn’t perform due diligence to figure out what was really being said. I thought it meant that I would be paid every thirty days instead of every fifteen. Honestly, the reality is something I would have considered unthinkable.

The reality is that I would submit my hours for the month to my contractor, who would then bill the company I was hired to work for (hereby known as “the client”) and once she billed them, the client had 30 days to pay her. Once she was paid by them, I would get my pay a day later. The way this played out was that I was hired in mid-December, didn’t see pay at all until the end of January, and then it was only for December’s hours. My first paycheck was only slightly more than the cost of my rent. Once I paid rent and got a few groceries, I was broke again, and I had already been broke for a month. Now I was broke for a second month in a row.

Now, thankfully I had people I could call on to help me get through that month but the idea that I was two and a half months employed before I saw even one full paycheck was, shall we say, disheartening. It felt like I was working for free. If I had not had other resources, I wouldn’t even have been able to come to work. Had it been the mid 2000’s, there is simply no way I would have stood for that, and for that matter, no way any company would have even considered operating that way. But in this environment, I addressed it with my contractor and my boss, and was told in both cases that nothing could be done, this is how it is, and I had to suck it up. I did, and it really drove home to me just how bad things can really get in a bad economy; you can even have a job and still get screwed over. I realized, however, that complaining too much about it could make me be seen as not really wanting to work there, so I didn’t talk about it much after my manager told me how things were.

Job satisfaction used to be measured in how good you felt at your job, including how much you felt the company cared about you as an employee. Now it’s just “I’m satisfied that I have a job.”

Your Time vs. the Company’s Time

I’ve always operated on the principle that if you want me to do work, you need to be paying me. If it’s my time, I’m doing whatever the hell I want. If it’s my lunch break, I’ll be eating and reading my book. Leave me to do that in peace.

Now, you might ask yourself why I don’t go to the break room if I’m on break. The answer is, not all companies even provide break rooms, and sometimes when they do, they’re pretty small, as most people are okay just eating at their desks. Two companies I worked for recently had large, quiet break rooms and in both cases I took my lunch in there, happy to do so. Another had a large, spacious, quiet foyer with tables to sit and eat, so I ate there, happy to do so. But other companies either had no break room at all (or at least, not one where there was a table to sit at and eat) or one that was so small that it would get crowded and loud very quickly. Thanks but no thanks.

So this left eating my lunch at my desk, and of course, even if you have a sandwich in one hand and your novel in the other, and are not facing your computer and are in fact doing your best to show how not on-the-clock you are, there are people who think that if you’re at your desk, you’re available. I’ve been yelled at for not answering the phone when it rings by passing managers who think that because I’m sitting at my desk while the phone is ringing, I’m obligated to answer, even if there are others in my department available, or alternately I’ve had them approach me with something they need me to drop everything and do, even with others in my department right there and able to help. And these types did not like being told “I’m on my lunch”.

At another job, I realized I was the only one who really ever took lunch. The other two guys in my department just worked through their breaks, taking a few minutes to grab food and then return to work, unless they were having lunch off site. They wouldn’t clock out for their lunches, so they were getting paid, but I started to feel guilty that I actually wanted my lunch hour. I started working through my breaks just so I wouldn’t be seen as lazy.

Now if that isn’t an illustration of how a bad economy creates a different work environment I don’t know what is. In the 2000’s, employees got upset if you even asked them if they’d be willing to work through their break, and I personally had more than one employee, who was sitting at their desk, tell me not to bother them with work because they were on their break. Breaks were sacred then. Now, they’re almost a privilege.

Speaking of privileges, I have to comment on one job I had that gave employees a fifteen-minute “preshift”, which was an on-the-clock period to allow them to fire up their computers, login to all their apps, check for morning updates, and get ready to start the day. These “preshifts” were a perk, given because the company wanted you to have time to get ready for the day. They were not a right, and this company was the only one I ever worked for that offered anything like that.

Now, I personally would always arrive early, and get my system up and running before I even clocked in. The reason was that as we got more busy, the managers started asking us to limit our shifts to five minutes, and sometimes would say preshifts were cancelled. This never bothered me, because I knew preshifts were a privilege, and I never really needed it anyway, due to getting there early. However, multiple employees (remember what I said about whining above?) started acting like not being allowed their full fifteen minutes was the same as asking them to work for free. As far as they were concerned, they shouldn’t have to do anything work related, even so much as turning their computers on, before they were being paid to do so. Now, I might be the kind of guy who doesn’t like being bothered on my lunch break, but this struck me as the height of entitled childishness. Grown men, heck, men old enough to be my father, were acting this way.

Every now and then I wonder about those guys, and how their coping in an economy where such behavior would, and often does, lead to dismissal. I wonder if they still gripe about how they’re being treated, in a world where merely having a job means they’re treating you well enough.

Slow Work

Ah, on-the-clock down time. No work is coming in, you’ve completed all the work you had on your plate, and now is the time to sorta kick back and relax for a bit. You’ve earned it, after all, you worked pretty hard, so the fact that work seems to have slowed down is good for you…

…until recently, when the more days you have like this, the more afraid you become that the company will decide you’re not necessary.

Back in the 2000’s, I used to relish slow work days because they were rare and usually came after really hectic periods. On such days, I never was guilted by any of the managers for not being engaged in work when there was no work to engage in, and even on the slowest days there would be some work to do.

Today, if even an hour goes by where I can’t find anything to do, I get nervous. I start to wonder if, or even when, the company will decide I’m superfluous and cut my position. Of course, the strangest thing is that both times I was laid off from my job due to bean-counters deciding my department was not needed, I was piled high with work that needed to be done. I still wonder if that work ever got finished.

Lazy Co-workers

There are some good things about bad economies, I suppose. Well, sorta.

I think one of the worst feelings I had back in the 2000’s was watching co-workers find creative ways to slack off, or in some cases not so creative, and yet not only did they keep their jobs, but some of them even got promoted!

The favorite tactic for some was essentially pretend they were managers. I don’t mean take on extra work for their managers, or ask if they can spend some time learning how managers do their job, I mean they would log themselves out of their phones (remember I mostly worked in call centers at the time) and would walk around coaching others. They had a way of exuding authority and convincing people that they knew what they were talking about (even if they were full of it) and often did get put into management roles full-time, because they were “taking the initiative”. The problem? They would actually brag about how they “got out of” doing their jobs by pretending to do manager duties. They would even avoid doing the real manager work, disappearing for a while and saying that they were busy helping someone else when what they were doing was having a smoke or something.

Which leads me to the next frustration; smokers who would leave the call floor every half hour for a smoke, regardless of whether or not it was break time. They would use their addiction as an excuse, and the company never did anything to stop them. Those who didn’t smoke but still wanted in on the laziness would do the “bathroom break every twenty minutes” routine. Others learned tricks like switching your phone status at the end of every call, thus putting you at the very bottom of the queue every time you went back into “active” status. Still others would simply sit around in “not ready” mode until they were told to get back on the phone, and they always had an excuse prepared for why they weren’t in the queue. Still others just mastered the art of looking busy only when being watched. That last one is dangerous because you don’t really know when you are or are not being watched, but plenty of them still got away with it.

There is some upside, I guess, in an economy like this one, where such employees can be as creative as they like with their laziness, but eventually it will catch up to them.

Or at least, most of them. I have noticed that the first group of people I talked about are still able to keep and hold jobs, sometimes better now than they used to be able to. See, they’ve mastered the art of looking, sounding and behaving managerial, and they bust their humps to work themselves into legitimate management roles…whereupon the hard work stops and the delegation begins. A lot of managers have learned how to baffle ’em with bullshit and make sure someone else is set up to take the blame when something falls apart.

Now, that doesn’t mean managers are safe. Very highly placed managers usually are, like department heads, but underneath that, they can still find themselves out of work in a minute. One of these I personally witnessed was exactly the kind of guy I described above. I don’t know if he got into his position by bullshitting his way in, but he certainly was the “delegate everything and blame the other guy” sort. It was satisfying to see him walked out.


This one’s pretty self-explanatory. I am presently doing more work than I did in 2009, but being paid less to do it. I think to some degree, that’s true of everyone. We used to get upset if we were denied bonuses or raises. Now we’re just happy if we don’t see our hours or pay cut. One man I know had both happen to him for no other reason than that the company needed to save money.


How Management Views IT

My profession is Internal Technologies. I’ve been working in this field since 2001.

That wasn’t the plan. The plan was to work at that job while working on my novel. My novel was going to turn me into a professional novelist and I would leave the average, humdrum, work-a-day world behind.

In fact, that’s still the plan but now I have a more realistic idea of what it will take to become a full time novelist, and I have to acknowledge that this may, in fact, never happen.

In the meantime, I’ve become an IT service desk professional, despite having no schooling for it and learning all I know on the job.

When I started in this field, it was an employee’s market. If you didn’t like a job you were in, all you had to do was look for a new one. In a typically very short time, you’d find one. Most of the jobs I worked back then were call center jobs where I would be one of over a hundred of agents toiling away in half-cubicles, being paid peanuts and in general not feeling like I was noticed or appreciated at all.

How I wish I could return to those days.

In recent years I’ve been working on a series of in-house service desk teams. The desks are smaller now. The largest one I worked on had 15 analysts, myself included. The smallest had two. Once again, myself included.

And the economy couldn’t be more of a reversal. Don’t feel appreciated in your job? Tough. Just try and do the best job you can and hope you can hold onto it. There are far worse things than not feeling appreciated where you work…like not having a place to work at all. That job where I was one out of two service desk analysts? I was laid off from that job…and so was my colleague. And our team lead. And his boss. That company no longer has a service desk.

As up in the air as everyone’s job situation is right now, I think it’s especially tough being in IT, because while all companies are looking to save money, which means downsizing their entire workforce, IT is in the most precarious position of all. Not because it deserves to be, but because of how management views it.

So, here are five misconceptions upper management has about IT and why IT, the service desk in particular, seems to be first on the chopping block when it comes to layoffs.

The Service Desk will Always Be Seen as an Expense

IT does not bring in any revenue, therefore it’s an expense. A necessary evil at best. In an economy where saving money is the number one priority, businesses will not be looking to fully staff their IT department because all they can see is the drain that will cause on their budget. Why hire twenty analysts to deal with issues when ten will do? And if ten will do, certainly five will as well. And on and on until you’ve just ushered your entire team out the door.

What never seems to cross their minds is that the service desk is often the reason why the other departments can make money. If other departments can’t do their work because their equipment doesn’t work, they’ll lose business and so will whatever field they’re in. That’s what IT is there for, but that is not how management views it. All they see is a department where money is being spent despite not bringing in any revenue.

“The Service Desk Never Does any Work”

You’ll hear this often, and for several reasons. Perhaps the person saying it submitted a ticket a long time back but didn’t include enough information, and the service desk can’t get ahold of them (getting clients to answer their phones when we try to call them is a daily hassle). Or maybe their ticket was escalated and the department we escalated to ran into an issue and didn’t inform the client. This happens a lot, and while the client is made aware that their issue is being escalated, they often don’t care about details like that. All they know is that they submitted a ticket to the service desk and “they haven’t done anything.”

Another reason you might hear this is due to snap judgments management likes to make when they walk by our desks. See, in their minds, service desk analysts should be on calls or “they’re not doing anything”. I remember once having a management type walk up to me needing help with a problem. I wasn’t on the phone but I was in the midst of a long project, and the first words out of his mouth were “You aren’t doing anything, so you can help me.” Maybe he didn’t mean literally “not doing anything”, but he assumed that because I wasn’t on the phone, whatever I was doing couldn’t have been important. And that’s not the only time I’ve heard it. I have repeatedly heard management types using phrases like “those service desk guys always sitting over there doing nothing” or “they look like they need something to do”, not because we’re actually not doing anything but because the perception of management is that our job is to be on the phone. In some cases, they don’t know the difference between “service desk” and “desktop services”, and thus believe we’re supposed to constantly be away from our desk resolving client issues in their offices.

Here’s the reality: service desk analysts are responsible for a ton. Most of our traffic is emailed to us and/or sent to us in the form of a ticket, not a phone call. And most of the tickets we get have to do with changes being made; new software being rolled out, employee moves or transitions, off-boarding, on-boarding, and the like. In cases like this, no phone calls are necessary, but what is necessary is updating database upon database. One employee change requires updating anywhere from three to eight databases. That’s a lot of sitting at a computer, clicking a mouse, and not being on the phone. To a casual observer who can’t see our screens (or in some cases even if they can), this looks like we’re just killing time. But more than that, we would often be engaged in special projects, including cataloguing inventory, or making a user handbook, or collecting data on apps clients are using, or just making sure various databases are up to date.

“The Desktop Team Does All the Real Work”

Recently, as I mentioned, I was ushered out of a job, along with the entire service desk, but what I didn’t mention was who was kept; the two-man desktop team, which is to say the men who performed physical repairs on broken systems. One doesn’t have to be a genius to figure out why.

As I mentioned above, the service desk has a ton of work they do, but they’re seen as non-essential, at least when compared to desktop, because, again, of perception. When a wireless hub goes bad or a printer stops working or a computer won’t boot or any of the other issues that might require on-site service, it’s desktop who shows up. IT is the department that “fixes our computer systems when they break” so there is a perception that the real “heavy lifting” in the department is done by the desktop guys, or whatever your company calls the on-site technicians.

This is false. Not to take anything away from the desktop team, but they are a relatively small part of the IT department. An absolutely necessary piece, but by no stretch the largest or the ones doing a bulk of the work. Depending on the company, desktop does not fulfill service requests. They do not maintain or update databases, they have nothing to do with software testing, rollouts or maintenance, they do not monitor the servers, and they don’t answer phones. All they do is fix issues that require a hands-on touch. They probably handle about 15% of IT’s general traffic.

Now, again, they do a lot, because a single issue they handle might take them all day, or at least several hours, depending on the severity of the problem, so I won’t for one second say they do “less work”, nor will I accuse them of sitting around waiting until something breaks down. They’re frequently not available because they’re off fixing an issue.

And one of the advantages to that is that they are highly visible. Hence the perception that they’re the guys doing the “real work”. Combine that with an attitude that the service desk does nothing, and you get management making horrible decisions like cutting the service desk and declaring that the desktop department can do both their job and whatever “meager” tasks the service desk was doing.

“We Don’t Need In-House IT; Our Systems Hardly Ever Break Down”

First, that’s likely not even true. You likely just don’t notice it because well before it starts affecting you, someone in the IT department has been made aware of it (or discovered it) and took steps to fix it before it got out of hand.

Second, if your systems really are hardly ever breaking down, this is a sure sign that you have a tremendous IT department, and you had better hang on to them for as long as you can. Your systems work as flawlessly as they do because your IT department is maintaining them, apparently extraordinarily well. Do you think the systems maintain themselves? That they are the sort of flawless machines that never need to be checked or monitored? Of course they need this, and who’s doing the checking and monitoring? The IT department!

Of course, this sort of silly statement, which I have actually heard variations of with my own ears, springs from the misconception that “fixing our computers when they break” is all IT does. I have already mentioned how much more we do, and I’ve barely even scratched the surface. Get rid of your IT department and say goodbye to ever figuring out which employees have which hardware, what plans the company cell phones are on, what access levels various employees have and/or need, you name it.

“Those IT Guys Cause All Kinds of Problems; They Don’t Know What They’re Doing”

More than any other department, IT is only noticed when something goes wrong. Each day we are tasked with doing various system checks to ensure all is running smoothly. Sometimes it is, but often there will be a potential issue looming, and it’s our job to make sure it gets taken care of. This usually means quietly dispatching a ticket to the right department and then moving on to the next issue. We, of course, can’t catch everything, and some issues happen on the user’s end, meaning we couldn’t have even been alerted to them, but by and large, we solve issues that users aren’t even aware of.

There’s a quote, which I think is from Futurama that says “If you do all things right, people can’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” If your computer/network connection/software/printer/what-have-you works flawlessly 360 days out of the year, you’re only going to notice IT on those five days it doesn’t, falsely leading on to assume that the IT department doesn’t have much to do. As I said, we’re only noticed when something goes wrong. But it’s worse than that.

Imagine a user with a computer that’s riddled with bugs. The IT department won’t, in fact can’t, notice those bugs until they show themselves and the user complains. If a user has to do this multiple times a month, they start asking questions like “Why can’t you guys just fix this damn thing and keep it fixed?” or “Why am I always having to call you? Did you give me a bad computer?” or, best of all: “Whatever you did to fix my last problem caused all kinds of other problems!”

I hear that last one all the time. “The last time I called, you fixed my email issue, but whatever you did caused my printer to stop working!” Right, because that’s a thing that happens.

We also encounter recurring issues, and really, the only thing we can do about these is try a fix and then wait to see if it worked. This causes users to complain that “It always takes me several calls and you guys never fix it! You don’t even know what you’re doing!”

And here’s a common scenario. A user will send us a ticket for an issue they’re having, but we need to communicate with them in order to solve it. The user doesn’t know this, and is constantly unreachable. Most service desks will not spend more than three days trying to chase a user down to solve their problem. After that third day, they will close the ticket unsolved and message the user to contact them if they’re still having issues. The user then sends another ticket, and the whole process starts again. Then we get the user complaining that “You guys never help me. It takes days to get you to do anything and then you close my ticket without fixing anything!”

And that is how we become known as “the helpless desk” or thought of as a needless middle man between them and the desktop guys who “do the real work”. Therefore, management views pretty much any other aspect of IT as entirely expendable.

An Open Letter to Terry Goodkind

Introduction: I feel like I need to add an explanation as to why I wrote this. I love fantasy, both reading it and writing it. I started reading Goodkind’s books years ago and while I initially enjoyed them, before long they started to grate on my nerves, for many reasons that I won’t go into here (that’s a blog post on its own). So I stopped reading them, but thought some day to return.

Then I read the 2003 USA Today interview with Goodkind, which he followed up with an author Q&A that he had posted on his website a couple of years later (it’s down now, and unfortunately has not been reprinted in full anywhere else) (it’s been archived here) that reiterated the same points and attitude that showed in the initial interview. After that I simply could not stomach the idea of reading another word he wrote.

What he did goes beyond mere jerkass behavior and enters into an uncharted area of egotism that verges on bullying. He didn’t just make himself sound like much more than he was (by this time I knew his works to be standard fantasy with some bludgeoning preaching on the side; nothing new, nothing inspiring), he had to tear down the entire genre and those writing within it. The genre that made him famous, the genre that his fans liked to read. The genre that I loved. I felt a little dirty knowing that I’d ever enjoyed reading him.

So just recently when I came across his attempts to deflect criticism on reddit, I thought maybe he would own up to his douchebaggery, let us know he’d learned and grown since then and maybe we could all put this behind us.

Instead, what I found was double-talk and further arrogance, a bit of revisionist history and goalpost-moving by him on his behalf, and…that was it. It seemed like people were willing to let him just get away with it.

None of the responses pointed out his hypocrisy. None of them pointed out how he said one thing then but another now, or how he makes claims today that simply can’t be true if the claims he made back in 2003 and since had any truth to them.

So, I had to respond. I’m two years too late, and I don’t care. I cannot let Terry’s two-facedness stand. So, without further ado, here is my response to his defense:

Terry, how on earth did I miss your half-hearted attempt to defend yourself on reddit from the horde of internet users who hate you? Well, a response is absolutely required, and I have yet to see one that really underscores the hypocrisy and double-talk you engage in while attempting to save face. So, here’s my response, point by point.

I have yet to see a single photo of this man that doesn’t make him look like he’s begging to be punched in the face. Google it if you don’t believe me.

“The First Quote: “First of all, I don’t write fantasy. I write stories that have important human themes. They have elements of romance, history, adventure, mystery and philosophy. Most fantasy is one-dimensional. It’s either about magic or a world-building. I don’t do either.”

This one comes up frequently. And almost always brought about by detractors that have already decided they don’t like my books and/or they disagree with my philosophy. ”

Almost always, Terry? Really? In fact, it seems like most of the time the people who bring it up are former fans who loved your books until they read that quote.

“Occasionally, this quote even gets rehashed by other authors that like taking public stabs at their peers (presumably to feel a little bigger).”

Actually, Terry, the author I have witnessed taking public stabs the most often is you. You don’t name any names; you don’t have to. You paint the whole genre and everyone writing within it (aside from yourself) as “tired”, “empty”, writing books that are “plotless and [have] no story”. These authors that have attacked you by name since then were striking back, not just taking pleasure in public stabs at their peers. Their goal was NOT to make themselves feel bigger, but entirely to let you know that your behavior was distinctly not okay. They had, and have, every right to be offended. What you said was pure dickishness. And part of you clearly knows it.

“Rarest of all, it gets brought up by people that have read the books, enjoyed them, and idly wonder why I would say such a thing.”

Rarest of all. Shocking disconnect with reality. I literally have only seen these quotes (other than in their original context) on message boards where people who have read and either used to or still do love your books talk about the quotes and what they mean. An astounding majority have stated that their appreciation of the books was already minimal, but now gone completely because of the quotes. Some of your cultists tried to defend the statements while others said they’d keep reading because they liked the books, even if they now hated you personally. But regardless of reactions, the people I’ve seen talk the most about this are your readers, not “haters” or other authors.

Of course, you’ve tried to write off everybody who once liked your books and now doesn’t as “not fans” but “a note wrapped around a brick thrown through a window.”

I’m going to address that here: yes, some of these people either didn’t read your books or read one or two and didn’t like them. I, and many others, started off liking them but gradually realized how bad they were. You unfairly lump two distinctly different groups of people together. You behave as if it is impossible to hate your books on a pure quality level. No, we have to hate your message and their success. This is the height of arrogance on your part, and since you don’t address it in your response, I must conclude you still feel that way about people who once liked your books and now don’t.

“Here is the net of it; I fumbled with my words and the message I had intended to be clear was not.”

And you call yourself a writer. Terry, writers communicate. Even at the worst of times, they don’t usually tear into the genre they write in and declare that “most” works within it are “about magic and world-building” and thus are “plotless and [have] no story”.

“Most people that read the quote probably get it.”

This dragon is absolutely in the story. Know what her name is? Scarlet. I am not making that up.

Again, not from what I have witnessed. If anything, this quote probably turned many, many readers against you based on what I read in online discussions. And it’s pretty hard to mistake the meaning of what you said then, which isn’t what you’re saying now. You said, bald-faced, that you don’t write fantasy, but you write about important human themes of deep philosophical reach, which you implied no other fantasy author is doing. That makes your work so much better than, and so different from, mere fantasy, as most fantasy is plotless and has no story. What’s worse, when given an opportunity to clarify your remarks a couple of years later, you doubled down on it, talking endlessly about how while your books contain magic it’s not the defining characteristic while it is the defining characteristic of fantasy novels or whining about how mean and nasty Tor Books was to you for putting a dragon on the cover of your first book (as if your story did not feature a dragon), for releasing it under their fantasy label, and how it was “bigotry” to consign you to the midden heap that is (in your mind) fantasy.

“I want people to read my books as stories about the human spirit. I want people to approach my books as human stories that exceed the general conception of what most fantasy novels represent (particularly what most fantasy novels represented at the time when I gave that quote).”

If you were winning any goodwill from me with your half-assed walking back of your original statement, you undo it here. First, plenty of fantasy writers, both before you hit the scene and after, have written about the human spirit. In fact, it’s one of fantasy’s dominant themes. And your writing is a very standard example of what fantasy was offering at the time you were published, which is WHY you were published. Also, I agree that at the time, fantasy’s conception in the general public was lacking. Most people did think it was “about” magic, world-building, faeries, elves, dwarves and dragons and little else. But you chose to write in that genre and then you chose to reinforce that misconception by literally saying that’s all other fantasy is! All but the stuff you wrote!

If you want me to believe that you were trying to open a door and show people what good fantasy actually was, and how much there was, you could have said something like what you said above; “What I wish to do with my books is show readers who typically don’t like and won’t read fantasy due to misconceptions what fantasy can be when it’s written with heart and focused on the human spirit.” While I definitely disagree that you wrote anything like that, at the very least a quote like that uplifts the genre and those writing in it and, most importantly, it doesn’t make you look like an arrogant dick.

“I don’t want someone to walk into a store, pick up one of my books, read the classification (‘Fantasy’) and then immediately assume dragons, orcs, elves, wizards, and so on.”

So, in response to that simply dreadful thought, you decided to tell the world that all other fantasy aside from what you wrote is exactly that (and again, you’ve got wizards and dragons in your books!). Why not say something to that affect: “Today fantasy gets a not-entirely-deserved bad rap. People assume it’s all dragons, orcs, elves, wizards, and so on. I sincerely hope that my novels will show them that fantasy can be so much more than that. In fact, many of my peers like Robert Jordan and George RR Martin leave out elves, dwarves, etc. altogether and focus on the characters.”

“You could liken this to a musician that struggles with typifying their genre of music or a director that sighs every time a reporter catalogues their work into a dusty genre bin. It’s all a bit groan-worthy, I know.”

Groan-worthy is how you describe your smear campaign against the genre you chose to write in and the other authors writing in it.

“Keep in mind the context of when this quote was offered.”

Terry, it was offered in 2003. You’d been on the scene for just under a decade and your ninth novel had just been released.

You act like this quote came from the early 90’s when you were first published. When you made this quote, authors like George RR Martin, Tad Williams, Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling, Steven Erikson, Matthew Stover, China Meiville, Trudi Canavan, Jacqueline Carey, Garth Nix, Greg Keyes, Jonathan Stroud and Chris Wooding were already doing great things with their works and helping fantasy take impressive leaps forward. Wizard’s First Rule did well because it was exactly what fantasy publishers were looking for at the time; you introduced precisely zero new ideas and content and essentially just aped what was popular then. That was why you did so well. These other guys I named might not have enjoyed the immediate success you did, but that’s because new, creative ideas often take a while to catch on. Well, catch on they have, and many of the authors I just named have now outstripped you, sales-wise and otherwise, several times over.

“Fantasy has been on an incredible rise in just this last decade.”

Nice of you to acknowledge that. Too bad you contradict yourself even now.

“When I did the interview, there were only a handful of breakout fantasy authors (I had just become one of them).”

See, at the time, you insisted that all fantasy was the product of uninspired hacks producing by-rote re-workings of the same-old-same-old; Tolkien clones, RPG writers, not an original thought among them. Supposedly that’s what set you apart. Now you say that you were one of a handful of breakouts. This much is true, but this is the first time I’ve heard you acknowledge that you weren’t the only break-out.

I listed above a partial list of writers who were enjoying, at the very least, critical success and later sales success. And I did not include writers from well before your time who had done inventive, interesting things with fantasy and were being re-discovered thanks to the fantasy boom of the 90’s that you enjoyed, including Michael Moorcock, Terry Pratchett, Stephen R. Donaldson, Jonathan Carroll, Gene Wolfe, James Blaylock, David Gemmell and Glen Cook.

“Fantasy was not the cauldron of creativity it is today. Far from it.”

Again, by 2003 it absolutely was. People were slow in recognizing it, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. You seem to define success in writing as success in sales, likely because you enjoyed sales success. Indeed, your cultists on the internet often fall back on the idea that because your novels sold well, they must be truly great stuff. To that I say only this: Eragon, The Da Vinci Code, Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey. High sales figures do NOT equal quality, nor does the public necessarily flock to pick something up solely because of how brilliant it is. You’re right that it has to stand out, but what makes it stand out is often what makes it crap. Eragon stood out because of the age of the author. The Da Vinci Code stood out because of the author’s outrageous claims about its authenticity (which turned out to be made up). Twilight stood out because vampire romance literature was at its peak and it featured a female character bland enough that teenage girls could self-insert and pretend Edward Cullen was their boyfriend. Fifty Shades stood out due to the explicit content.

In your case, what made you stand out was that while your books were exactly what the fantasy genre wanted more of at the time, you were able to deliver massive tomes in the heroic fantasy genre like clockwork, with no long waits, and unlike a lot of fantasy works at the time, yours were fast-paced and not over-burdened with plot.

“There had only been a few successful fantasy movies, almost nothing on TV, very few major stars were willing to take on title roles, fantasy scripts were some of the lowest selling commodities in Hollywood, publishers would routinely reject fantasy on receipt, etc.”

So now we’re defining success as whether or not fantasy was doing well in Hollywood? Really, Terry? Fantasy has always been, and will always be, a niche market and Hollywood tends to avoid those like the plague. Because of this, fantasy movies were usually given small budgets, despite needing larger than average budgets to look even half-way credible, had hack writers and directors assigned to them because they were cheap, and were marketed to children if they were marketed at all. Because they weren’t children’s movies, kids didn’t beg their parents to see it, so they failed.

Goodkind hated this series as much as you did, but not for the same reasons.

And as far as all that, well, the show based on your books was hardly the first fantasy show on television, and it suffered had poor ratings, poor reviews and was cancelled after two seasons, so really, you can’t suggest that you were the one who turned things around there. Not to mention that by the time Legend of the Seeker first aired, three VERY successful film franchises had been birthed out of well-loved fantasy novels. And that started in 2001. A decade later, another series based on the novels of one of your peers did extremely well, and still is.

Based on posters alone, which one would YOU watch?

Also, that last comment makes me shake my head. Publishers usually have specialized branches. Macmillan has Tor, Penguin has Roc, etc. These guys do fantasy. That’s all they do. The statement “publishers would routinely reject fantasy on receipt” implies that fantasy had an extra struggle to being published. If it did, it was only because of how many people were trying to break into writing it. The publishers were definitely there, and looking for other fantasy books, and chief among them was the one that signed you on.

“The context of this quote was truly from a different time. It was before the nerds — us — took over the world.”

Dude, you are SO not one of us.

“At the time of the interview, fantasy overall was regarded very poorly (and mostly deservedly at that).”

The first part of your sentence I would agree with. The second part is pure bullshit. Again, I remind you that the interview took place in 2003. Significant progress had been made in fantasy writing by then. Authors had introduced material that made yours look like the trite, derivative hack-work that it was. The poor regard fantasy was suffering was mainly thanks to Hollywood portraying fantasy readers as pathetic virginal dweebs living in their parents’ basements and playing D&D, unable to function in the world at large. It was hard to shake this image, and you definitely hurt matters rather than helped with your insistence that you didn’t write fantasy and that most fantasy is about magic and world-building, tired, empty, bereft of thought, plotless and with no story.

“As an author writing in the genre, I was frustrated by the massive amount of prejudice found in stores, publishers, Hollywood, mainstream news, and even the general public.”

So you chose to reinforce this negative stereotype, possibly holding fantasy back even further. I have news for you, Terry, every author writing in the genre back then was frustrated at not being taken seriously. None of them decided they had to tear down the genre and their writing peers in order to help their own public perception. And none of them pretended to have never read fantasy.

“…We [you, me, other authors] have come a long way since then.”

No thanks to you. In fact, I’m not sure how far you’ve come, and in fact other authors have come a long way because they are more creative and better communicators than you.

“Those contextual excuses aside, I was not clear enough with my own words and I accept responsibility for the confusion.”

Oh, fuck you, Terry. It’s clear you’ve learned nothing except that you made a lot of people angry. This whole section reads like you trying to save face by implying you never felt the way you felt then and obviously still feel today. To wit:

“I still do believe most fantasy is one-dimensional (as I am sure most of you do too).”

You’re just determined to undo any goodwill this back-handed apology might have gained you, aren’t you? After all that about how fantasy has made great strides since that interview (though, again I must point out that those strides were already happening well before then), you again double down on this idea that most fantasy is one-dimensional.

“I think people would agree the vast majority of fantasy stories printed every year are either about magic or world-building and not much else.”

The vast majority. Sigh. Make up your damned mind, Terry, has fantasy come a long way or is it still trapped in the mire of being one-dimensional? Why attempt to clarify your initial quote if you’re just gonna end up saying the same thing?

“The same is true for movies and television.”

Here, I will agree. But we’re not talking about movies or television.

“And of course I still do want my stories to be looked at as something more than ‘just fantasy’. Specifically, I have always wanted people to approach my books knowing and believing that they are about to read stories about humanity, our spirit, our fight and our love.”

Once more, I will state that I think you ultimately failed, but even if you had succeeded, the fact is that a great majority of fantasy writers write about humanity, our spirit, our fight and our love, and a great many do it far better than you. When you say you still want your stories to be looked at as something more than “just fantasy”, you fail to realize that few if any fantasy novelists start out hoping to write “just fantasy”. They all want to try something that sets them apart. Many fail, some succeed, and you absolutely count among the failures. Don’t believe me? Just read what your online defenders have to say. Most of them love your books because they are familiar (as in, full-on standard fantasy) and easy to read.

“I concede my quote appears to take a step backwards and step on the toes of my beloved genre”

Your “beloved” genre that is, according to you, 99% one-dimensional?

“…but I also hope most people would recognize I have written now 16 books based in a fantasy world. In fact, I have only written fantasy stories to this point.”

Now, here, you actually do win some points from me because you finally acknowledge that you are, in fact, a fantasy writer after spending well over a decade denying that. But ultimately, it’s too little, too late, and it comes couched in strenuous denials that you said what you said and reiterations of the more asinine statements you’ve made.

In fact, later on, well after this initial interview, you complained that being labeled as fantasy was “bigotry” and that now, whatever you write is going to be racked in fantasy, something that clearly rankled you. You hated being thought of as a fantasy writer, and not only because of how it was perceived, but because of how you perceived it. I repeat; no other fantasy author felt it was worth slagging their own genre in order to look cool. Just you.

“You can safely assume the guy that has written more than 4.25 million words in the genre, probably has a deeply rooted love for it, however awkwardly I may stumble when trying to explain it.”

Terry, something you don’t acknowledge here is the umpteen times you’ve openly said you have never read fantasy, nor do you have any interest in starting. I often wondered over the years how you could make blanket, sweeping statements about what other fantasy authors were doing while simultaneously stating that you don’t read them. I always figured you had to be lying about never reading fantasy, and now I know that you were, but you can’t express a deeply rooted love for something you spent well over a decade claiming you never even read (and yet are confident you are leaps and bounds better than) and not expect us to call bullshit on it.

“It is outrageous to think that I am somehow a ‘fantasy-hater’. Incredibly I have been called that and more, even a few times in this thread. Pause and think. Could that possibly ring true?”

Outrageous, you say? Here are some un-retouched quotes from you:

“There are those who focus exclusively on this least important element -magic – simply because people I don’t know, despite my strenuous objections at the time, insisted on placing a red dragon on the cover of my work, and because of that, and who published the book, I was racked in bookstores as fantasy. As a result, in the minds of some readers I am for all time to be labeled as a “fantasy” author. So I must now follow some unstated laws of writing – I must know my place – because I’ve been mindlessly labeled a “fantasy” author? That, my friends, is bigotry.”

–I’m not sure what made you think being racked as fantasy meant you need to “know your place” or that there were “unstated laws of writing”; you can write however you want, even if you choose to write fantasy. This quote shows more than anything the disdain you had for the genre based on its worst stereotypes. Not a fantasy hater? Please.

“Translation: Will you please change that way you think and write, stop using your mind, stop being an individual and instead start writing books like every other hackneyed Tolkien clone on the fantasy shelves. Answer: NO. The Premise of this question and all that it entails is beneath contempt. To say that I view this notion with indignity hardly begins to cover it. What you are seeing with my novels is something unique. They are not like all the other fantasy books. A tiny group of fantasy fans happens to like things the way they are and only wants more of the same. These few do not under any circumstances; want anything to change or anything that requires thought. They want everything to stay static and simplistic. For these reasons (and others), these people do not like what I write and they never will. They even hate that my books exist, that I write things that dare to uplift and inspire.”

–This was in response to someone asking if you’ll write a non-fiction book examining your beliefs so that you stop shoehorning them into your books at the expense of story and character. At no point did she imply that she wants you to change your beliefs. She was expressing, as many others have, an irritation at how you stop your story dead so that your character(s) can deliver an umpteen-page filibuster on your views with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer. Plenty of writers insert their views, but good writers can make it a seamless part of the story.

“Rather than simply reading and enjoying the many books available that they like, they spend their time railing against the one author who is different. What I have done with my work has irrevocably changed the face of fantasy. In so doing I’ve raised the standards. I have not only injected thought into a tired empty genre, but, more importantly, I’ve transcended it showing what more it can be-and in so doing spread my readership to completely new groups who don’t like and won’t ready typical fantasy. Agents and editors are screaming for more books like mine. They can’t find any-for 3 reasons. One, copying innovation is an impossibility. Two, individually cannot be copied. They don’t grasp the essence of my work. What they end up with are authors who imitate some of the nonessential elements unique to my books, believing they must be the secret to success, much as my publishers at first believe that it was the red dragon that defined my work. Why are editors trying to get more books like mine? Because any one of my backlist sells more copies in a month than most fantasy authors’ books sell in their entire run. NAKED EMPIRE has been on the NY Times list for two months now. Far more importantly, I break genre lines and draw my ever growing sales from the much larger pool of general fiction readers who embrace my books.”

So yes, Terry, it “rings true” that you hate fantasy, all right. You’re the cook in Wendy’s that insists on being called “Chef” and constantly talks about how what you’re doing is so much better than what the other cooks are doing, all while producing bland, scorched beef. Not to mention the sheer number of times you’ve insisted that you don’t read fantasy and never will. Maybe it’s less “fantasy hater” and more “literature snob” but still, the shoe more than fits.

“It is a little ironic; I only wanted to break preconceptions about my work and here we are, many years later, I’ve inadvertently provided the sorely needed ammunition for others to create new misconceptions.”

Again, nice of you to admit that. Yeah, if what you wanted was to make people understand that you, and others in the genre, weren’t just making RPG campaigns in written form or re-telling Tolkien, you spectacularly failed at that and instead completely confirmed (though falsely) that all fantasy, except your books, naturally, was just that.

“In my own stubborn, faulty, artistic-or-what-have-you-way, I have only ever asked that you see my stories as human.”

You failed at that, too. One of the chief complaints readers have with you is that your characters don’t behave like real people, and fall victim to the “Mary-Sue” trap. Look that up if you don’t know what it means.

“I’m proud to write fantasy, to have made a good living as a fantasy author, and to have millions of fantasy fans across the world. I always have been and always will.”

Says the guy who spent nearly two decades saying, and is essentially still saying, that fantasy is a crap genre and his stuff is the only part of it worth reading, to the point where it’s not even fantasy.

The Second Quote: “What I have done with my work has irrevocably changed the face of fantasy. In so doing I’ve raised the standards. I have not only injected thought into a tired empty genre, but, more importantly, I’ve transcended it showing what more it can be-and in so doing spread my readership to completely new groups who don’t like and wont ready typical fantasy. Agents and editors are screaming for more books like mine…”

“A few of my words appear to have been changed (not by the original poster, but presumably sometime over the last many years from when that quote first appeared).”

Dude, I’ve read the original transcript. That’s what you said. I’ve never seen it put differently. Please, enlighten us as to what you really were trying to say.

“That said, it generally speaks to the note I wrote on my website and it mirrors the breath of what my agents and publishers have always said.”

Or double down on it. Whatever.

“Again, context. WIZARD’S FIRST RULE shattered records. At the time (possibly even still today) it was the largest purchase of a fantasy work by an unknown author. It had one of the largest first edition print runs in fantasy history and it shattered expectations on every level of publishing.”

And, to all that, I say, congratulations. It really is a grand achievement. But it’s also easily explained.

“The reason, I believe, is that the book defied what was commonly known as fantasy at the time. It helped forge new opportunities for readers that had discarded most fantasy whole-mass.”

Ah…no. The reason was that fantasy was experiencing a renaissance at the time, one that began well before you entered the scene. Writers like Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, Guy Gavriel Kay, CS Friedman, Katharine Kerr, Mercedes Lackey, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Melanie Rawn and numerous others produced new material (or had old material re-released and/or rediscovered) that, while they varied in quality, benefited from publishers who truly cared and marketed them very well. You were one of many swept along in the wave that was created by this, and the authors I named above who enjoyed great success after you benefited as well. Robert Jordan, for good or ill, was the major best-seller that opened the floodgates. What most publishers were looking for at the time was the next Robert Jordan, and that turned out to be you.

One thing I must point out is that, as this obnoxious quote shows, you believed that your success was due to your grand vision and brilliance. Look at what you said; “copying innovation is an impossibility” and “they don’t grasp the essence of my work.”

I’m gonna be blunt with you, Terry. Your work is a very standard, stereotypical example of what you get in fantasy novels. It includes nearly every cliche, barring elves and dwarves. You’ve got the stalwart hero with the big magic sword, the sexy, powerful love interest, the cantankerous wizard, magic, monsters, some meager, incomplete but nonetheless very present world-building (that sure ain’t a real world!), prophecy, et al. Your characters are static Mary-Sues that don’t behave like real people and would stick out like a sore thumb in any setting but this one (I would argue they stick out pretty badly even in the world created for them). Your themes are only present when you stop your story so that Richard or Kahlan can sermonize. There’s nothing deep or challenging about your works. You have literally done nothing that hasn’t been done hundreds of times before. The only possible exception is the fact that you’ve created a sociopathic pair of “heroes” that are constantly referred to as gentle, pure, good, etc., clearly meant as role-models for the reader, even as they commit crimes as bad or worse than the villains.

There is no essence to grasp with your work. The whole thing feels like fan fiction from start to finish. However, at the time publishing companies wanted the next Robert Jordan, and you fit the bill. As your books were well-marketed, fast paced and didn’t require much thought to “get it”, they sold like hot cakes.

“I wasn’t the first…”

Now you are admitting you weren’t the first. What kept you from acknowledging that little factoid then? Read what you said; the one author who is different. What you have done with your work. Agents are screaming for more books like yours, but they can’t find any, because, to boil down your remarks, you are the only one doing what you do in the fantasy genre. Sorry, but where does “I wasn’t the first” fit in with this towering arrogance? At the time, you claimed not just to be the first, but the only.

“I’ll certainly not be the last, but for whatever reason (luck, timing, marketing, and the story), WFR did move the needle and it broke a lot of new ground.”

I love when these tiny moments of honesty slip through. For once you’re not crediting your brilliance and innovation for your success. You are giving credit where credit is due; luck that you happened to write a novel that was exactly what fantasy publishers were looking for at the time, timing that you got it looked at by people who had the ability to get it on shelves before it became passe, marketing, as Tor marketed the shit out of your books and made you a household name overnight, the story…not so much. Sorry, maybe you aren’t being 100% honest here.

“While there were some paths in place before, we paved roads. And now there are highways.”

Still more truth. See, you know what’s actually the case, here, Terry. It’s too bad you spent years tearing others down, all while claiming you trampled the pathways and built the roads entirely by yourself.

“The rest of the books in the series continued to do the same. In spite of what a few people in this forum claim, my best selling books have been from the end of the series; Chainfire and Confessor. Readers did not leave the series “in droves” as was suggested. Last Summer, I self-published The First Confessor and without a major advertising campaign and without publisher or book store support, we smashed expectations again.”

Actually, while the reddit commenters might have been a tad overzealous about readers abandoning the series in droves, it cannot be denied that your books aren’t selling nearly as well these days, and I include your new books, too. Sure, the “final” volumes of your series sold very well upon initial release, but once they weren’t “new releases” anymore, the public promptly quit caring about your books.

I can hear you getting ready to suggest that it’s because they’re older now, so naturally, sales have fallen. To that I say Tolkien’s books are several decades older than yours. He’s still outselling you. Robert Jordan’s series is five years older than yours. He still outsells you.

Now THIS series really did irrevocably change the face of fantasy.

George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books are just slightly younger than your series. He outsells you greatly. True, his sales were rejuvenated by their being a TV series based on his books but…wasn’t there a TV series based on your books, too? Didn’t it air first?

Also, there are still massive fan bases for all these series. There are multiple online communities for each. People to this day discuss these works ad nauseum. I can’t seem to find many, if any, online communities dedicated to the Sword of Truth series. You had an official message board, as I recall, but where is it now?

When I read online discussions of your works, the only “fans” you seem to have left are of the “I can’t believe I actually read them all” or “I can’t believe I used to like them” variety, mixed in with a few “guilty pleasure” fans and those to whom you introduced fantasy, and therefore have a soft spot for you. A large majority are in the “I read them, hated them, and will never read them again” category, including yours truly.

One thing that I’m sure kept people reading was that fantasy readers are notorious for feeling like they have to finish any series they start, even if they realize several books in that it’s become a chore. They also pride themselves on being “completists” that need to have every book in a series, including novellas and prequels. Once they’ve spent money, they feel obligated to stick with it and usually get excited that a series they’re reading is coming to a conclusion.

Chainfire was a book that took a while to come out and was supposedly the first in a “new” trilogy while Confessor was the “last” book in your series. Once it was over, your sales went way down and nothing you’ve written since then has come close to capturing the sales figures you once enjoyed, unlike men like Martin, Jordan and Tolkien. For that matter, going by the adage that no publicity is bad publicity, and you started making these remarks in 2003 and again in 2005, sales might very well have been boosted by people wanting to know if the asshole who brags on himself constantly and says he’s not writing fantasy can back that up at all.

Also, do you not realize that once you’ve become a best selling author, your name alone sells a book? As evidence, I offer The Cuckoo’s Calling by “Robert Galbraith”, which sold poorly despite great reviews until it was revealed that “Robert Galbraith” was in fact a pseudonym for JK Rowling. Then sales took off.

Tor’s marketing campaign helped you become a best-seller, but now, thanks to your status, you could shit into a photocopier and mail your results to any publisher, and it would sell. The First Confessor did not need a major advertising campaign to “smash expectations.” All it needed was your name on the cover. Not to mention, it’s not hard to “smash expectations” in the self-publishing market. They’re all very low, so for an established “name” author to self-publish, well of course it’s going to do better than your average self-publish job. I’m not sure “smashing expectations” is applicable here, though. Expectations of whom? You? Whatever small house you used? You’re comparing yourself to small-time writers who have never enjoyed mainstream success, or in most cases, any success at all. Any author who had become a best-seller through Big Six publishing is going to do crazy well if they self-publish, at least by the standards of the self-publishing industry.

“I’m not the only one, but my work has changed the face of fantasy and it did propel the entire fantasy publishing world into new heights (my publisher Tor included). We paved the way for a lot of other authors to live far more comfortably today.”

What a fatuous, douchey way of saying “I was one of the many authors that benefited from a rise in appreciation for fantasy that helped other authors enter the genre and do amazing things with it. I’m proud to have been part of it and I’m proud of what I see going on with it today.” See? That’s how non-dicks do it. And it in no way diminishes your contribution to the genre.

Something must be said now. I’ve been dancing around it but this is a point you seem to be confused on. Back in 2003, when you were making grandiose, assholish claims about your work, your premise, as your quotes state above, was that you were producing work of never-before-seen quality and innovation, work that broke down the genre barrier and became something more and greater than fantasy because it was just so brilliant. Your claim to have “irrevocably changed the face of fantasy” and “raised the standards” was in regards to the quality of the work you were producing vs. the tired, empty old hacks that were writing fantasy alongside you. Now you seem to think that you were referring to your sales changing publishing practices, breaking down genre barriers thanks to smart marketing, a large influx of new authors, etc.

That last is true, but you can’t take credit for it. That was all Tor’s work; you remember, the ones you lambasted for putting a dragon on the cover of your book and labeling it fantasy. The first part is plainly false; there was no inventiveness or groundbreaking quality to what you wrote. You were perceived by all as the next

The man who made it possible for Terry Goodkind to be a published author. And we will never forgive him for it.

Robert Jordan. That’s the beginning and the end of it. Robert Jordan already broke down all the barriers you claim to have broken, and even he didn’t do it alone. He was just the one who did it most successfully. Any raised standards or irrevocable changes made in fantasy were made by people who came before you and paved the way for you. The fantasy boom of the 90’s had been building since the late 80’s. You came along in 1994 as one of the earliest beneficiaries of the genre opening up to new authors.

“It is absolutely true, then and now, agents and editors are still screaming for work like that.”

Noooo, no it is not. Then, maybe, but not now. For that matter, you still seem to be implying that you were the trailblazer here. That before you, fantasy was struggling but then it took off, all thanks to you.

Let me break it down for you: back then, they were looking for more Robert Jordans, not more Terry Goodkinds. You were one of the new Jordans, possibly the first of that new breed, and the most successful. But he came first, he outsold you then and he outsells you now.

Nowadays, if someone tried to break into the game with “Hey, here’s my thousand-page epic fantasy in which people spend inordinate amounts of time journeying from place to place” they’d get nowhere, because it’s been done to death.

Another thing I must address; you claim that no first time author in this genre ever managed to be a runaway success. First, I’m not sure how true that is, but even if it is true, the fact is that in the 90’s, fantasy publishers were on the lookout for first-time writers and, if anything, your status in that regard might be why they poured so much money into marketing for you. To this day, being able to promote an “exciting new voice in fantasy” is much more desirable to them than “20th novel by well-worn writer who’s retreading the same ground yet again.”

“Of course they are also now screaming for 50 Shades sex novels and children’s books.”

And another moment of clarity. If you listened to these earlier and more often in life, I wouldn’t hate you so much. Can you admit that if trash like 50 Shades, and the ones I mentioned earlier, sold well that your sales might not at all be related to your quality?

“All of that said, the overall tone of the second quote is cringe-worthy. Although altered a bit here, I was speaking to my fans and my readers directly, on my website, and absolutely feeling a surge of success from all of the people that were benefiting from the work we did and the new roads that we paved. Simply put, I was speaking with bravado and ‘preaching to the choir’. It was a lofty, exciting moment. It was also brash.”

It was dickish. It was douchey. It was unthinkably arrogant and probably lost you a lot of fans. You also were not preaching to the choir as the quote came after plenty of your fans asked questions that made it clear they were getting sick of your preachiness, your long-winded hammering of your beliefs and wanted you to get back to the story you’d abandoned so that you could use your characters as a mouthpiece for your views (and no, the views themselves weren’t the problem; your hi-jacking of your own story in order to focus on them was). The very question asked, the response to which I reprinted in full above, was “Will you, Mr. TG, actually ever go write a non-fiction book exploring fully your ideals and philosophy, getting it out of your system. So that it’s not being presented in the next book at the expense of the actual story?”

That was one example among many that should have told you how irritated you were making your fans. And your response was angry and bitter, not just explanatory. If you weren’t angry, why would you use a term like “beneath contempt”?

“In the end, many people would probably appreciate if I was a bit softer heeled and tempered my voice a bit.”

And didn’t make broad, subjective claims about the high quality of your work while taking a piss on the genre that made you a success and the other writers writing it it, many of which were and still are far more successful than you.

“Unfortunately that is not one of my strengths. I speak determinately [sic], I speak in broad strokes, and sometimes I make mistakes doing it.”

In other words, you’re a total dick.

“But please know, I love my work, my fans, my readers, and everyone that has ever picked up a book and sparked their imagination and pushed themselves to be something more than they already are.”

So why the years of disdain heaped upon them? Where’s your apology to the other writers you have smeared and continue to smear? What do you have to say to the idea that you spent years dismissing fantasy and claiming you’d never read it and never would but now you claim it’s a beloved genre to you?

In conclusion, Terry, old boy, I want to leave you with this thought: Forget about your sales. Stop using them as a shield against criticism, a way to reassure yourself that you’re a brilliant trail-blazer. A large percentage of the books that are universally considered the greatest of all time, regardless of genre, didn’t sell well in their day. Books that are ahead of their time or truly groundbreaking often don’t. That might not be a hard and fast rule, but plenty of authors we regard as giants of literature today suffered from poor to middling sales while they were active and many died broke. Meanwhile, as even you point out, much of what does sell is crap. Truly great stuff often starts out selling fair to middling at best and then, once it catches on, becomes a best seller, sometimes taking more than a decade.

Your constant hyping of your sales figures is not impressive. You’ve been around for just over twenty years and there are already signs that readers are leaving you behind. Your initial sales were likely little more than a flash in the pan. History is your judge and I don’t think history is going to look kindly on you, both because of your attitude and because what you’ve produced is now considered sub-par and in no way groundbreaking or game-changing.

I Really Don’t Need Anymore Friends

I’m out of my head
And it’s not the way that I wanted to feel
This loneliness and dread
gets your attention, makes us real
I’m going nowhere and it’s slowly sinking in

I don’t stand a chance
Until you get me out of here
I just don’t have the will to pretend
I’m running for the door
Can you get me out of here?
I really don’t need anymore friends

Well turning it on
It’s getting harder and harder to do
Well don’t get me wrong
That’s dedication, good for you
It’s just your atmosphere that brings me to my knees

I don’t stand a chance
Until you get me out of here
I just don’t have the will to pretend
I’m running for the door
Can you get me out of here?
I really don’t need anymore friends

Not anymore
No not anymore

Don’t take it bad
Don’t look so sad
If I turn around and walk away
Don’t take it hard
I’ll try to play that part
But I’m having such a bad day

And I’m not that much fun anyway

I don’t stand a chance
Until you get me out of here
I just don’t have the will to pretend
I’m running for the door
Can you get me out of here?
I really don’t need anymore friends

Not anymore
No not anymore

–Joel Kosche


Being an introvert.

What does that mean to you? Do you know anyone who you might describe as an “introvert”? Are you an introvert, perhaps?

It’s taken me years, but I have finally realized that I’m an introvert, and that I’m okay with that. I think I have been one all my life. It’s just that I didn’t want to be; that I believed I was weird or different for wanting it.

Today, I’m more than an introvert; I’m practically a misanthrope. I do not care for most people. Which is not to say all people, it’s just that if I find myself in conversation with someone I know only casually, if at all, I tend to be looking for ways out of the conversation rather quickly. If I am forced to be around a large crowd of people, I find that I’m not even breathing normally until I am away from them.

I look back on my earliest memories and I wonder if I wasn’t always somewhat this way. Even as early as three or four years old, I remember preferring activities that one usually did alone. I would read, play with my toys, make up stories in my head. I loved being able to play with my brother, once he got old enough to play with, and I usually had one very close friend, maybe two, but usually not much more than that.

Two factors influenced my view of friends very early; one is that my family moved around a lot in my formative years. The longest I spent in one spot before High School was four years. Before I was a teenager, I had lived in three different states and one Canadian province, and within them lived in eight different towns or cities. During the first year of my teens, we moved again. Before moving out of my parents’ house I lived in three different Canadian provinces, four different cities, and eight different houses. That’s seven states/continents, twelve cities and sixteen houses, all before age 21. I know very, very few people who have moved so often throughout their life.

The second factor was having a brother who was my opposite in almost every meaningful way. I’ve already referred to how he was underweight and super-short throughout most of our childhood, causing my mother to believe that I had a serious weight problem and probably contributing to, or even creating, the real weight problem I have today.

But another way he was very much my opposite is how we approached social situations. My brother loved meeting new people, would seemingly instantly become friends with other kids, and was generally well-liked by everyone.

I didn’t approach social situations that way. In fact, I didn’t particularly like getting into social situations at all and tended to be happy if I just made one friend. Some of this was due to crippling shyness and some of it was an inability to relate to anyone who didn’t share my (admittedly rather narrow) interests. Other kids wanted to do things like play ball. I have had an intense dislike of sports from a young age, and even a bit of suspicion towards people who really, really liked them. Which is most people who aren’t me, so you can understand a bit of my misanthropy now.

My parents didn’t really understand me. I always felt a little bit like I was the odd one of the family, the black sheep, if you will. As I got older, I developed a love of reading, and the more imaginative the books, the better. My father did not understand this; the part about loving imaginative books, not the part about reading. My father loves reading, too, but he appreciates far more the idea of reading in order to further your knowledge or edification. He was greatly perturbed by the fact that most of what I wanted to read was so fanciful, and, in his view, inconsequential. “Mental candy”, he called it.

But it wasn’t just the reading. I would often obsess about various movies and cartoons I watched. My parents, I think, believed it was because all I did was dream about toys I wanted. Actually, even though I couldn’t put this into words at the time, it was because I enjoyed the world-building aspect of it. The characters, the stories, learning how the worlds they inhabited worked. That was what I loved. My parents could not see this and just saw a kid that would prefer to remain indoors with a book or TV and thought “we need to get this kid out in the world where he can learn how the real world works and get socialized.”

Aside from attending public school, my parents tried two obvious methods of socializing me; putting me on a T-ball team when I was six years old, and enrolling me in the Boy Scouts when I was 11. Both ended badly, but it wasn’t because I didn’t want to do them and therefore sulked or sat everything out.

You see, I wanted friends. Wanted lots of them. Or at least, I thought I did. I knew that it was abnormal to spend so much time alone with my thoughts and dreams. I wanted to be normal, and normal meant getting out into the world and having lots of friends.

T-ball ended badly because my head was never in the game. It wasn’t that I hated being on the team, but I was forever having to be re-coached on what I should be doing because I just wasn’t good at it, nor did I particularly think it was important that I should be. I was there to have fun, and possibly make friends. Scouts was a different story, and I’ll come to it later.

During grade school, I developed an intense need to be liked, but I felt like I had to be someone I wasn’t in order for that to happen. I knew other kids weren’t as withdrawn as I was. Other kids had interests that couldn’t have been further removed from mine. In the fourth grade, my first year in a Canadian school, I learned just how into hockey kids were. I decided that in order to be accepted, I had to pretend to love hockey.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me. I heard the phrase “be yourself” all my life. I just repeatedly felt like that phrase didn’t apply to me, because there was nothing worthwhile about who I really was.

Other things I pretended to love in order for other kids to like me included: various forms of music I was rarely exposed to and didn’t listen to, like rap and heavy metal, wrestling, the Olympics (it was 1987 in Canada), using profanity, getting into fights (yes, some kids do like this) and various and sundry other things. I would alternate between pretending to love things I knew little about and cared less about, and trying to get people to pay attention to what I liked to do.

In addition to reading, I also enjoyed bike rides, walks and recording myself on tape. I would do phony radio broadcasts, or record myself singing, or just being silly. Technically these activities could be done with a friend, and often I would bike ride with others, but the recording thing? I had a pretty hard time getting anyone to “enjoy” that activity with me. Other than sometimes my brother.

I had one friend, who, while far more social, was also a nerd like me (he even recorded with me!), and even though he was three years older and we went to separate schools and churches, I still thought of him as my best friend.

Another fact concerning my attempts to make friends over the years was that I had a tendency to get very jealous of other people spending time with my friend. I was possessive, and felt suspicious of anyone who tried to become friends with someone I was already friends with, especially if they tried to befriend him without also befriending me. Of course, I also didn’t want to be their friend. I already had my friend, and in many cases they probably did attempt to befriend me and it was me who pushed them away.

That was pretty much me

How does that fall in line with a need to be liked and have lots of friends? Simple. I didn’t even realize it at the time, but I didn’t want to be liked by all. I just felt like I had to be in order to be normal. I saw how easily my brother made friends. I heard my parents fret over how withdrawn I was, and I felt pressured to have friends. I did this by trying to be the center of attention. I don’t know how this is possible, but when I was a kid I was both arrogant, assuming people would be interested in talking about and/or doing the things that interested me, and shy, believing that I was a freak. Half the time I talked non-stop, tried to hard, was boorish, overbearing and obnoxious. Other times I would be so quiet people would assume I didn’t like them. Half the time I talked obsessively over topics I thought interested them. Other times I couldn’t shut up about my own interests that they could care less about.

I had two outlets to make friends in; school and church youth group. School was a bust after around grade six. That’s when I really started to get bullied. Some of what I was bullied for wasn’t my fault. Some of it was. Some of the bullies hated me for things I did or said. Some hated me because they were jerks. I had usually had at least one good friend per grade up until then. In grade six, I had one friend, and he rode the bus with me, but was a grade ahead of me, so we didn’t see each other during the day.

Actually, it was in the sixth grade that I began to really understand how two-faced and cruel some kids can be. There was one kid in particular who was in my grade, in several of my classes, and lived near me. We hung out in each others’ back yards, took bike rides together, etc. We even hung out during lunch on occasion. But once, when a more popular guy asked him if he was my friend, he said “No.” I was crushed. I felt betrayed. We weren’t close friends, this guy and I, but I at least thought he considered us casual friends.

Another kid who was nice to me for a while similarly started avoiding me and being quite rude once he realized that hanging out with me wasn’t good for his reputation. Truly, the sixth grade was one of the worst years of my school career. One of, but grades eight and nine are comparable.

Sixth grade, by the way, was the year of Scouts. I joined a local troupe because a kid I’d met at school who was nice to me for a bit was a part of that troupe. But Scouts turned out to be just another area where the younger kids got picked on by the older ones. I left many meets in tears. Even the guy I thought of as a friend would take part sometimes. I was starting to feel like there was no group I belonged to.

By the time I was midway through High School, my distrust of people who tried to “horn in on my friendships” had morphed into a general distrust of anyone. And it seemed like any time I let my guard down, something would happen to remind me why it went up in the first place. When I was in the tenth grade, I joined the drama club. I ate lunch in the drama room, with the other drama kids of all grades. I was cast in both plays put on that year. I had little reason to believe that I had not found my niche. I assumed that the drama club kids were my friends.

Until one day when I wasn’t there, and one friend I had, just one, told me about the things that were being said about me when I wasn’t there to listen. See, my tendency to try and be the center of attention hadn’t really been tamped down, but hey, this was the drama club. Everybody in it was an attention hog! That’s why we were in drama to begin with! I still wonder what behavior of mine, specifically, caused people in drama club to dislike me, but I’m sure that, just like with grade school and junior high, some of it was my fault and some of it wasn’t.

I knew that I wasn’t liked by everybody in the club, and that didn’t bother me because I knew even then that there would always be someone I wouldn’t get along with (two guys in particular were pretty openly my enemies), but what stung was that many of those who had joined in saying horrible things about me were people I considered real friends. Not once had any of them said anything to my face about what they didn’t like about me. They were content to be friendly to me when I was there and make fun of me when I wasn’t.

I joined choir instead of drama for eleventh grade, but ultimately my experience there was more positive. Probably because by then I had learned to assume any new person I met did not want to be my friend. I might even have come off as unfriendly precisely because I assumed no one there was my friend. I did end up having one friend, just like always, and he and I had a very odd friendship where we spent a lot of time insulting each other.

I had spent most of my life at that point being a study in contrast. I thought I wanted friends, but my motivation for having them wasn’t an interest in being around others. In fact, I didn’t particularly like being around a large crowd of other people. Generally, the one friend I would attach myself to would be just as much an outcast as myself and/or would have similar interests, so I had that much, and when I was hanging out with my friend, I would feel pretty good about my social interaction. That was all the social interaction I needed. It was only later, after I went back home and saw my brother hanging with all his friends and my parents again encouraging me to get out and be more friendly that I started to feel like I was a lonely loser with no friends.

In my final year of high school, I managed to find a small group of people (around six or seven of us) who were interested in the arts and creativity. I usually had a pretty good time hanging out with them. I never felt like they weren’t my friends. But my brother hung out with them, too, and he also had a set of his own friends. Both groups began to kind of blur together after a time, and if there was still a division it was that my group was mostly older and his group was mostly younger. Some hung out almost exclusively in one group or the other. Some, like my brother and myself, divided our time between both.

Then one day I happened to read an email my brother had sent to who I had thought was a mutual friend. At this point we had moved. I was a high school graduate and we didn’t live anywhere near the place I had graduated from. In this email, my brother was saying that he had been listening to me talk about moving back to our old town as soon as I could, that I wanted to live closer to my friends and people I knew, but he was concerned because “Josh wasn’t really part of the group, and I’m not sure if he ever understood that. I just feel like it might be a shocker for him if he goes back.” I’m still not sure if he was talking about the intermixed group as a whole or just the group of kids from his grade that were more his friends than mine. After all, the guy he was emailing was technically part of both groups. In fact, I think I spent as much time hanging out with that guy in my group of friends as my brother did in his group.

Nonetheless, it was a huge blow. It was happening again. No one was really my friend.

To be honest, I started wondering, what good were friends anyway? I had always been happiest spending time by myself, and literally every activity I loved; reading, writing, singing, listening to music, even biking, could be done alone. I realized I never felt lonelier than when I was with a large group of people trying to force some social interaction.

Even today, I have a tendency to believe that people who are nice to me are just being polite, and have no interest in being my friend. I tend to make excuses not to go to social functions, to interact with people if I don’t have to. I tend to want to stay home and just hang out with my family. In my first marriage, my wife used to tell me I needed to make more friends, and my reaction was “Why? I have you.”

I said at the beginning that I don’t care for most people. I’m not sure that’s true, really, I just feel better when I have one or two close friends and get uncomfortable the more people I have to interact with at once, plus my default mode is assuming they don’t have any interest in being friends with me.

But I don’t want you to come away thinking that I’m an introvert because I’m afraid of rejection. I think it was spending all this time as an adult just working through what I really want out of friendship. Today, I’m married and I love my wife, and spending time with her, but I don’t tend to reach out and make a ton of friends beyond her. In fact, I mostly prefer to hang out with family. I’ve realized that I prefer to be an introvert and not try so hard to make friends. It’s made me less obnoxious and oddly happier. I’m more secure in who I am as a person. I am friendly. I have people I relate well with and can talk to, but I don’t have a ton of friends and I don’t really need or want a ton of friends.

Christians and Modesty: We’ve Heard a Lot About It, And a Lot of What We Hear is Wrong

I have struggled for a while wondering if I should even write this post. I mean, I know I’ve made no secret on this blog that I’m a Christian, but I didn’t want this to become a “religion” blog. Not only that, but articles on this subject are becoming ubiquitous.

I honestly don’t know how many articles I’ve seen shared on Facebook recently about Christians and modesty, written from a multitude of perspectives, and even different takes on the subject. Some lament on how modesty seems to have become a lost virtue and others on how we’ve become too judgmental about how unchurched women visit our churches are dressed.

But I’ve noticed something about all these articles. They make two assumptions and both assumptions are wrong.

First, they assume that Biblical modesty is all about how much skin a woman shows in public. This is wrong. That can be part of modesty, but that’s not the be-all and end-all of it, nor is it really what the Bible stresses about modest dress. For example, 1st Timothy 2:9-10 states “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” (emphasis mine)

I don’t think that the Bible is condemning any form of braided hair or jewelry, either. But let’s look at another verse about modesty and apply context clues and what the Bible teaches us about the character of God.

1 Peter 3:3-4: Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (again, emphasis mine)

A few things: first, where in either of those verses do you see any mention of “do not show too much of your flesh?” It’s simply not there, and in fact nowhere in the Bible does it talk about how much or how little a woman is allowed to show. There are verses that refer to “dressing like a prostitute” but even these do not go into detail about what that means. We know that there were certain perfumes, adornments, make-ups, colors, etc., that prostitutes wore in Biblical times, so even verses like that don’t really have anything to do with uncovered skin. Another passage talks about women who look upon men with “lustful eyes” and walk about with “mincing steps” and bangles on their ankles, but still don’t talk about how much or how little skin they reveal.

And please, don’t try to tell me that skin coverage or lack thereof is not mentioned in the Bible because it didn’t need to be. I hear that a lot; that all women back then covered up much more than we do now. Umm…

That’s a couple of Egyptian women from Biblical times. Or how about:

No, that’s not a prostitute. That’s a woman getting ready to be seen in public.

But that’s Egypt. What about the areas Jesus was actually around? Well, here’s a Roman woman:

Here’s some more:

Jewish women did tend to conform to the Mosaic codes, which, yes, did mean draping themselves in long robes, among other things, but the Mosaic codes were given specifically to Jews, while the word of God is for all, Gentiles included.

So I include those pictures just to make it visually true that, if the same God who commanded the disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel were concerned about how the women of these other cultures were showing too much skin, He definitely would have instructed Paul to relay that message to Timothy, or Peter to relate it to the churches. What does He say? To clothe themselves in “respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire”. But what’s wrong with braided hair, gold, pearls or costly attire? Nothing, in and of themselves, but think about this; how modest is it to wear something specifically for the amount of attention it will bring you? How much does a ton of adornment and special hairstyles help to show the hidden person of the heart, or the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit?

And now we come to the crux of what God means when he commands women to dress “modestly”. Not “be sure your hemline doesn’t come above your knees” but “draw attention with your inner beauty that comes from a heart for God, not with your hair or physical appearance or wealth.” Again, let’s put these verses in context with what the Bible tells us about the character of God. God told Samuel that it is man who looks at the outward appearance. God, meanwhile, looks at the heart. Peter reinforces this by reminding us that the “hidden person of the heart” and “a quiet and gentle spirit” is very precious in God’s eyes.

Modesty is about intent, not about how much of you your outfit covers.

Let’s use a couple of real-world examples.

Jenny and Amber are getting dressed for the day. The girls don’t know each other and are from two different walks of life, but both of them end up choosing the exact same outfit to wear; a spaghetti-strapped tank top and a pair of shorts. Jenny has chosen this outfit because it is a hot day and she plans to do some cycling and working out. Amber has chosen her outfit because she likes the attention she gets from boys when she wears clothing like this.

Jenny is most likely modest. Amber definitely isn’t. Despite wearing exactly the same thing. Jenny is not trying to draw attention with her clothes. Amber, however, is.

Let’s use another visual aid. Lauren is a young Christian woman who loves God and never misses church. She’s very active in her church and loves serving God and interacting with her fellow believers. All who really know her will tell you that she is a young woman after God’s own heart, and it shows in all her words and actions. She cares much more about her personal relationship with Christ than she does the more legalistic mindset, and so, one warm, sunny summer weekend, she wears this to church:

As she comes into the building, she is noticed by Helen, who is the wife of one of the deacons. Her husband is a lawyer and makes a lot of money, and Helen greatly enjoys the affluent lifestyle her husband’s career affords her. Her mother also taught her how a godly woman is supposed to dress, and she tsk‘s to herself that young Lauren over there has chosen to brazenly display herself like a prostitute. She is almost certainly driving the young men of the church to lust in that whorish outfit. Shame on her! Helen, meanwhile, is wearing a tasteful, and very expensive, designer dress that shows she is so much more pure and holy than that harridan Lauren. She’s wearing this:

She tends to hang around in the church foyer for as long as she can so that all who enter the church can see her outfit and know that Helen is a proper Christian woman. It makes her feel very good about herself that she’s such an example to the younger women of the church. Besides, as much as this dress costs, the extra people noticing doesn’t hurt.

Which one of these two women is modest, according to God’s word? I’m just gonna let you decide.

The second improper assumption I’ve seen in the many articles I’ve seen on modesty is that the writer, male or female, always takes the approach that their standard of modesty is the only standard of modesty. Again, this is more than just wrong; it comes close to blasphemous. God is not concerned with how much neck or arm or shoulder or leg you’re showing. What He is concerned with is why you’re doing it.

Now, some of you might be objecting strenuously to that idea because it seems to suggest that women can dress however they want and God doesn’t care. That’s not at all what I’m saying. But I am saying that if we’re strictly defining modesty by our own standards, then we are hypocrites.

Standards of modesty are in constant flux and they always will be. For example, did you know that when it initially ran, this advertisement for Coca-Cola was considered scandalous?

And would you like to know why? Because the woman’s feet are visible. Yes. Her shod feet can be plainly seen. Horrors! Society will crumble if we continue to allow such brazen displays of women’s attributes!

The attitude we have these days to women who, for purposes of comfort or personal preference, choose to leave their shoulders, thighs, knees, or arms bare in places like church is no different. After all, such clothing is hardly church-appropriate, we think to ourselves. But why isn’t it? Because the Bible says so? I’ve already shown that the Bible says no such thing, and in fact God is far more concerned about why you’re wearing what you’re wearing than what it is

The attitude we, and yes, I include myself, have toward clothing would find nothing scandalous about the woman in the Coke ad today. If anything, she’s almost over-dressed by today’s standards. But if you were to transplant a Christian from that day and age (early 20th Century) to today, they would likely find every woman in church to be dressed scandalously. Do you think that’s silly? If you do, why does it offend you when you walk into your church and you see a teenaged girl dressed like this:

Now, I’m gonna confess something to you, and it’s an uncomfortable thing to admit. And that is that when I walk into church and see girls dressed similarly to that (and I do see it, a lot) it makes me a little angry, and if I’m honest with myself, it has nothing to do with how “revealingly” the girl is dressed. Because really there’s nothing too revealing about this outfit. Sure, it’s got more leg showing than I’d like, and I can sometimes be an old fart that doesn’t appreciate the modern “distressed” look of jeans. But really, look at the outfit. What’s revealing about it? All her parts are covered, and she’s not even showing cleavage. The shorts are a little tight, but not painted on, and the shirt is actually loose and a little flowing. Her midriff is completely covered, and it even looks like there’s enough material there that it still would be even if she raised her arm higher.

And in the interest of full disclosure, my wife sometimes wears outfits like this and has no problem with our daughter doing the same.

But still, when I walk into church and see this, it bothers me. It bothers me on a deep level that I have only recently delved. See, when my wife wears clothing like this, I appreciate it on a number of levels including sexually. This kind of clothing draws my eye, and it has since I was old enough to be sexually aware. Of course, I always find my wife beautiful and sexually attractive, no matter what she’s wearing, but she knows, and even likes, that my eye is more naturally drawn to things like bare arms and legs. I am not saying that seeing clothing like this “turns me on”, because I don’t really get “turned on” merely by visual things. I am definitely not saying that this kind of clothing automatically makes me attracted to its wearer.

But it does, however, cause me to notice it in a way that I don’t notice clothing that is more covering.

It causes my brain to instinctively react the way it’s always reacted. No, I’m not “aroused” by the outfit. I’m not “turned on”. I’m not attracted to the wearer. But there’s that trigger in my brain that says I should be.

And that angers me. It angers me, but it really shouldn’t.

This is for more than one reason. For one thing, I’m doing the same thing I have decried others for doing; judging the modesty of the woman or girl in these outfits by what my standard of modesty is, or perhaps, what I think their standard of modesty should be. For another, I am assuming intent on her part that most likely isn’t there. Third, I’m blaming her for how I react, when my reaction is in no way her fault.

But some of you might be saying “Okay, sure, your reaction is your fault. But if she wasn’t wearing that sort of outfit, you never would have had that reaction.” Which is sort of like saying “it’s not her fault, but it is.”

“A godly woman should not dress in ways that cause men to stray, even a little!” I hear you cry. I’m not making a strawman argument, either. I have seen this very sentence said even in articles that suggest we need to treat the “immodest” woman with Christian love. But really, let’s examine that phrase. Women should not dress in ways that cause men to stray? Really? Can you find me that passage in the Bible?

Women should not choose their mode of dress solely based on how much attention it will get them, true. But how have we twisted this into blaming the woman for a man who looks at her and feels lustful?

I’m gonna level with you; there is not a single outfit on the planet that you could wear and be completely safe from the lusts of a man. Maybe not all men, but there’s almost certainly several times in your life when a man looked at you and was driven to lust, no matter what you might have been wearing at the time.

Think of the woman in the Coca-Cola ad. No one in today’s world would suggest that her outfit in any way was made to inspire lust, but there are foot fetishists even today. Not only that, but lust is a sin that is in the heart of every man on the planet. Yes, all men. It’s still a sin, still very wrong, but we’re each and every one of us fallen creatures, and the sin nature that has been in us since birth will never leave us until we get to Heaven.

Seriously, I may not find a woman’s ankle sexually suggestive, but I guarantee there are other men who do, and they may very well be looking at the sandal-shod women at church and feel a twinge of lust. Others may be attracted to necks, and thus, no matter how high your neckline is, unless you’re wearing a turtleneck, and maybe even if you are, a neck fetishist may be looking at you and reacting sexually, even if just on the inside.

This is not the woman’s fault. If she did not leave the house in her outfit hoping to inspire lust (or just generally attract attention to her clothing and adornments instead of her heart), she is modest.

Let’s also just quickly touch on the idea of what’s “appropriate for church”. This is only sort of related to the topic at hand, but let me put it to you this way; if you’re uncomfortable wearing an outfit to church, you probably shouldn’t be wearing it anywhere. Because what you’re really saying is that you’re okay with people seeing you in that outfit, but you’re ashamed of God seeing it. But of course, God can see you everywhere, so if you really don’t think the outfit is appropriate Christian attire, why do you wear it at all? By definition, that outfit, regardless of what it is, is immodest when you wear it because you know you’re wearing it for the wrong reasons. You know that when you have it on, you’re hoping people will notice the outfit instead of your heart or your spirit.

Let’s return to the teenaged girl above. There’s a reason I chose to mention teenagers, and that’s because teens, all teens, not just unchurched ones, and yes, even your teen, have a tendency to want to do things their peers will approve of. This is reflected in much of what they do; how they speak, what TV shows they watch, what music they listen to, and yes, what clothes they wear. The teenaged girls in my church who I feel angry at for dressing too revealingly most likely aren’t concerned about inspiring lust in men. Most of them are probably far more concerned about whether other girls find their outfits trendy enough. Now, this is still wrong, because they’re more concerned about the approval of their friends than they are about the approval of the Lord, but even this is not a sin of immodesty. It’s a sin of holding man above God. And that, I think we can all agree, is something we are all guilty of, male or female, no matter what age and no matter what we’re wearing.

Now, some of you may be taking away from this that I am saying that it doesn’t matter how much skin women have showing; that they could walk around in public in a bikini top and spandex bike shorts, or a plunging neckline and micro-miniskirt and still not be sinning as long as they don’t have the intent of drawing the wrong sort of attention to themselves. Well, honestly, I don’t see how anyone, at any age, could dress like that and not be trying to draw the wrong sort of attention to themselves. I fail to see how it’s possible to dress like that and still be making any attempt to draw the focus to your quiet and gentle spirit.

But our focus on modesty-as-keeping-covered has turned the modern church into a society that equates this:

With this:

…and focus far more energy on outer appearance and not nearly enough on the heart.

When Christian women renew focus on modest hearts, on drawing more attention to the secret person of the heart and their quiet, gentle spirits, then and only then will God’s commandment of modesty be followed.

14 Realities of Being a Preacher’s Kid

I was a PK for most of my childhood. When I was born my father was a Southern Baptist minister in training, He would start pastoring his own church before I developed a longterm memory, and only ever stopped to finish Seminary, and even then was pastoring most of the time that he was also in school.

It could be just me, but it seems like there are many aspects of life as a PK that are rather unique to the “position”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these realities of my own upbringing probably don’t translate over to other kids whose fathers went to a so-called “normal” job. I know they don’t translate to my own children, and I’m also fairly certain that most other careers don’t become such a part of kids’ lives the way that a preacher does.

I want to make one thing clear: I am NOT complaining about my poor childhood as a PK. I think I turned out okay, and I bear my father no bitterness about his career. In fact, I’m a member of his church today, as is my wife. I’m writing this post mainly for nostalgic and comedic purposes. That is, I was thinking about it, and thought others might get a kick out of reading about it. If some of it sounds like complaining, let me assure you that while I find some aspects frustrating, I still overall think I had a pretty good upbringing. If you were a PK yourself, or a PGK like my wife and kids are (guess what the G stands for), you might agree with much that’s on this list. If you’re not, you might still get a bit of a chuckle.

14: You learn the word “secular” and assume it means “not godly”. Chances are pretty good that you rarely or even never heard the word “secular” growing up. You might not even hear it much, if at all, today. Secular is defined as “denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.” In other words, anything that is spiritually or religiously neutral. Since most things in today’s world likely qualify, you probably have no need of the word “secular” in your daily life, and honestly, that may even be true if you attend church. If you were a church-attender as a child, I would say the chances of the word “secular” being a regularly spoken word in your house was slim to none. I know for a fact that many of the kids I went to church with didn’t know the word at all. If you were a pastor’s kid, you likely heard it every week. In my house, for example, recording artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, MC Hammer or Metallica all fell under one big heading: secular music. For some reason, music was where the word was most heavily applied. When I was younger, there was a pretty strict rule that “secular” music was not allowed in the house, and even after my parents relaxed a little bit on that rule, they still put anything “secular” through a rigorous screening process looking for any hint of inappropriate material, and even then the radio was NOT allowed. By the time I was 13, I had decided that “secular” meant “ungodly” and actually thought of secular music as somehow lesser than Christian music, and not just in meaning but in artistry. Or, to put it another way, I was the reverse of most kids, seeing Petra or Michael W. Smith as “normal” music and the music my friends listened to as borderline pornography. Borderline pornography that I had an intense desire to listen to myself.

13: You pick up on all the repeated things your father does in services. I heard several sermons more than once growing up. One that sticks out is one about the lame man who was healed and began “hopping and leaping and praising God”, which, if you didn’t grow up in church, and maybe even if you did, you won’t know is from a song. But moreover, I could dictate what Dad was going to say multiple times. I knew, for example, that the sermon had really, truly begun, when Dad would invite the congregation to “take your bibles, if you will…” He changed that later in life and mixed it up more (“turn with me in your bibles”; “let’s open our bibles”), but he said that so many times while I was growing up that it now seems odd when he doesn’t say it. Also, whenever he would perform a baptism, he would always say the same thing as the recently-saved person would leave the baptistry: “Buried with Him in baptism, rising to walk in newness of life.” He would always stress the word “walk”, which I used to think meant he was admonishing them not to run in church (like my mother often did me).

12: Your dad is at home way more often, but then, he’s never really NOT at work. There’s a misconception that pastors work only one day a week, or possibly two days if the person understands that pastors usually actually prepare their sermon in advance. At the very least, they seem to think that the job of a pastor involves less work than a normal job. And, a casual observation of my family during my childhood might even seem to confirm this myth. And it is a myth; being a pastor not only isn’t a job that involves less work than, say, an accountant, it actually involves MUCH MORE work. To be honest, Dad was never really off the clock, even when he was supposed to be, such as family movie night, or meal times. Our phone would ring randomly at any hour of the day (or night), and Dad NEVER let the machine get it if he could help it, because he knew it was most likely someone who needed to talk to their pastor. Some bosses have an “open door” policy. Dad had an open LIFE policy, and more than once got up in the middle of the night to go visit someone in the hospital or meet with a wife who had just left her abusive husband, or who knows what. True, Dad didn’t spend a set amount of ours at his church office, but my dad was also involved in a lot of church planting, which meant working from home. We always had a home office for Dad, which was lined with books, and this impressed me because when we did have a church with an office for Dad, he had tons of books there, as well. So, yeah, Dad spent some time at home, but he spent much of it working. And it didn’t seem to matter what was going on, Dad was always at work to some degree or another. This was a bit hard to explain to other kids, who all seemed to be under the impression that my father never had a real job. Even with adults, it often turned out that…

11. Being asked what your dad does was an awkward situation. This was true on at least two levels. It was both because the nature of his work was hard to explain and because most people felt like they knew what it entailed, even if they weren’t church attenders. First, it is not possible to explain that your father is a minister without people starting to ask you odd questions about your faith, and what you believe in, etc. As an adult, I welcome these questions (which, strangely, don’t get asked much anymore) but as a kid I dreaded them, because I wasn’t sure how to explain my faith to an “unchurched” person. I always felt like they wouldn’t understand church terminology, which I was steeped in, and yeah, I always felt a little bit like I was being made fun of. Yes, even by adults. This was especially true when the adult in question (such as a friend’s parent or something) was a militant atheist. I also got asked a lot if Dad’s job was basically just showing up on Sunday to deliver a sermon, and nothing else. Even worse, most people acted floored when I told them that, no, Dad did quite a bit more than that. I’m sure most kids have been asked by adults what their parents do, but I’m reasonably sure that other jobs don’t have the adult asking all kinds of follow-up questions, each of which makes the kid less comfortable, both in the assumptions the questions often make (“So, I guess you pretty much live at church, right?” “Are you home-schooled?”) and the distinct tone of incredulity in their voice as they ask more questions.

10. You’re at every church event, even those not meant for you. Ah, the memories of getting up early on a Saturday to head to church for a picnic, which, naturally, I was to help set up for. Or how about those summer programs, or Serve the Community Day, the latter of which I always seemed to be the only kid to show up for (other than my brother)? In fact, a great majority of church events, be they special dinners, special services, choir practices, business meetings, etc. were attended by my brother and myself over the years, and in most cases, we were the only kids there. We went to funeral services for people we’d never met. We were there at adult Bible studies. Well before I was in the youth group myself I was at youth events. I even ended up at a youth camp at one point, despite being only 9 or 10, and yes, I mean as one of the campers. One event, which I barely remember except feeling like a complete sore thumb, was for senior citizens, and yet there I was, all of about eleven or twelve years old. Now, I don’t mean that my brother and I went to a nearby room and hung out or did homework while the event went on. We were there, dressed up, sitting with the adults and you better believe we were expected to pay attention. This was especially true at special services, such as one at my father’s Seminary, which had four sermons, all delivered by old men who were afflicted with “Southern Preacher Syndrome”, which is a tendency to confuse good preaching with long preaching. This expectation that his sons would attend whatever event he was at stayed with my father until I was nearly grown and moved out. When I was fifteen, he dragged me along on a Men’s Prayer Retreat, which my brother got to miss out on because he wasn’t quite old enough. Needless to say, I was the only teenager there. One other man had brought his son, but the son in this case was over twenty, which to a fifteen year old might as well be 45. In fact, I was at so many church events, that after a while…

9. You begin to feel like an employee of the church yourself. At least, without the best part, which is getting paid. At most or all of the aforementioned church events, particularly the ones like meals, serve days or “fun” days, my parents, and therefore my brother and I, were usually among the first to show up and absolutely the last to leave. My brother and I were naturally expected to pitch in and help, whatever was going on, and yes, even if we probably shouldn’t have been at the event in the first place. There’s a comedian named Tim Hawkins, who likes to talk about how in church, telling someone they have a servant’s heart actually means “start stacking chairs.” I laughed probably a little harder at this than a lot of people might, because I have MANY memories involving chair-stacking, or setting up/breaking down tables. But then, plenty of other church members were there, too, and they weren’t employed by the church, either. So why did we feel like church employees that weren’t paid? Well, for one thing, there were plenty of times that just our family would be there, either cleaning up inside the church, vacuuming, dusting, etc., and even when others were there, my brother and I knew there was a difference; that they were there by choice, whereas we had to be there. And, as with so much else, we often were the only kids. In those situations, we thought the other adults were looking at us funny and wondering why we were there. I had no idea at the time that it would have looked far stranger if we had stayed home.

8. Sundays are the strangest, often hardest, days. For your average kid, Sunday is another day to sleep in, maybe later in the day finish whatever homework you didn’t finish either on Friday or Saturday, and spend the evening snarking because tomorrow you go back to school. You might watch a little TV or go to a friend’s house. For a church kid, it’s basically the same except you might, mind you I said might, get up a bit earlier and spend a couple of hours at church. For the pastor’s kid(s), Sunday is probably your busiest, most stressful day of all. I would wager that it’s more stressful even than it is for other churchgoers even if those churchgoers have kids themselves. For a PK, Sunday means getting to church very early and standing around like a doofus for at least half an hour before others start showing up. You are intensely aware how awkward you look when they finally do show up and you end up being the unofficial greeter. After that, you’re at that building until around 1:30. This means Sunday School, church service and then standing around while your parents talk to every single parishioner (we just called them the church members) and then we would help Mom and Dad do some minor cleanup, taking the coffee/tea supplies back to the kitchen, etc., and then making sure all the doors were locked. After that, the protocol would change here and there. Sometimes we would go home for lunch, or go to a restaurant, but if it was the latter, it was usually because there was a special guest we were taking out to eat, and that mean maintaining church behavior. If a church member had invited us over, it was strict church behavior plus lack of surrounding distractions, plus feeling like we were under a microscope (my brother and I, at least, not my parents) and possibly being served something we would have to pretend we liked, which I have a hard time doing even as an adult. Sometimes it meant having someone over to our place, which did have the benefit of familiar surroundings, but still required church behavior. Over the years, my brother and I came to really value our Sunday afternoon meals at home with no company, even if Mom literally served roast beef every time (which I got very tired of as a kid, but love today). Sunday afternoon, once we got home, assuming we didn’t go home to eat, might be more restful, except for a few issues, like: there was still homework to do, and this was usually when we did it, even though we didn’t get the rest in the morning other kids did, plus we were not allowed to watch TV or listen to music that wasn’t Christian, even if we had finished our homework, not to mention that we still had evening church (at least up until I was about 17), which meant that we spent the entire day in our church clothes. Speaking of, I don’t know how many times it would happen that we might spend part of the afternoon with a church family that might have kids our age, meaning we could play around the neighborhood with them. Because we had come directly from church, we’d still be in our church clothes, even while the other kids were dressed in normal street clothes. We felt about ten kinds of absurd playing in slacks and cuffs (and sometimes, ties).

7. You will end up being mentioned in sermons. Both by name and just by implication, my father worked stories about my brother and I into his sermons. Sometimes he’d actually say which son he was talking about. Other times, he would just mention “a certain redhead” which unfailingly had church members coming up to my brother or myself asking if the story was about me or him. The stories could sometimes be cute, or funny. Often they were embarrassing. I was mostly embarrassed whenever Dad would tell a story about me and get details wrong in ways that made me look stupid or immature. For example I remember once after having watched a religious cartoon, I found a flaw in its theology, which focused heavily on how much God loves everyone, even mean or spiteful people, but never talked about repentance for said mean or spiteful behavior. I was about 11 years old, but even at that age it bothered me that the cartoon stressed God’s love so much with no mention of repentance that it almost seemed to suggest that we’re all perfect the way we are and have no need to turn from evil ways. Dad was impressed with my insight, but when he told that story in a sermon, he changed the details. He suggested that I actually went to him and asked “So, Dad, if God loves us just the way we are, does that mean we never have to repent or turn from evil?” And when told no, I supposedly said “Well, that cartoon said it.” I went from being a kid insightful beyond my years to a little moron who questioned biblical truths because cartoons said so. I was not happy.

6. Everyone forgets your name. You’re just “Pastor So-and-So’s kid.” This gets more common the older you get, for some reason. Everyone wants to know the name of the pastor’s cute little baby, toddler or five-year-old, but even there, if he has a brother close to the same age, he’ll get called by that name, too. Even as an adult, I’m asked if I’m the one that plays the guitar, if I’m the one that just became a first-time father recently (I’m asked this with my twelve-year-old right beside me sometimes) or if I’m the one who lives up north, even though I’m there every Sunday. Everywhere I go within the church community, the shadow of my father looms. People I’ve never met will hear my last name and ask if I’m my father’s son. After I admit that I am, we then for some reason talk about nothing but him for a while. People I’ve known for years but haven’t seen for a while will talk to me for several minutes straight, usually asking me to say hi to my father, but will then say “I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name.” Sometimes they’ll call me by his name, or think that his first name is my last name. For example, if my father’s name was Wallace (it’s not), people would refer to me as Josh Wallace. But that’s as an adult, as a kid between the ages of 10 to teenager-dom, we didn’t even get asked our names half the time. We didn’t need names. We were “the preacher’s boys”. The only difference was I was “the big one” and my brother was “the little one.”

5. In a majority of situations, you are expected to not act like a child. I’m sure that every PK reading this is nodding their head right now. I know most kids have the odd situation where they’re told to be on their best behavior, but for a PK, multiply that by a factor of ten. I mentioned “church behavior” earlier. I didn’t really explain what that meant, but it means that you act as though you are a perfect child. No, worse; act as though you are an adult, and a particularly saintly one at that. It doesn’t just mean watching your mouth and sitting up straight. It means no getting silly, no staring off into space, no singing or even idly humming anything but church music, not even acting like you wanted to fidget, pretending you weren’t tired and needing a break even though you really did, pretending to love food that you hate, etc. And doing this on Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon if we were in other company, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening or anywhere that I might go with either of my parents. This wasn’t entirely my parents’ fault, of course, because as any pastor reading this knows, pastoral families get judged more harshly than other families for any lapses, and these lapses can include having kids that behave like kids. If your kid is a teenager, it’s a little easier to impress on them the importance of trying to keep in line (but can make you want even more to step out of line as a result). As a kid, it just means you wonder why you’re not allowed to get involved in impromptu games of tag your friends have started in the church foyer. Of course, once you get older, it’s also worse because…

4. Everyone unfailingly thinks you must be extremely religious. And maybe you are, compared to other kids. But not all PK’s want to be thought of as hyper-religious goody-two-shoes, and I certainly didn’t. Understand; I don’t mean people thought I was a spiritual kid, and I wasn’t. But people assumed that I was religious, which is more about strict observance of external practices than it was about spiritualism or faith. I’ve never cared for religion. Don’t get me wrong; I have faith, I believe in God, and I definitely am still a Christian. But I was never a very religious person, and in fact, people who place too heavy an emphasis on the “religious” aspects of Christianity have always bothered me. But frequently in my childhood, I would run into people who just naturally assumed that I was a very religious person, and often who would be very surprised to learn that, no, I don’t know the Bible backward and forward, no, I don’t necessarily love singing hymns, no, I am not a goody-two-shoes who never swears or laughs at off-color jokes, no, I’m not easily offended, no I don’t necessarily only read/listen to/watch religious stuff, etc. As an adult, I watch shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, and I love ’em. I listen to rock music (actually, I listen to a great variety of music, both Christian and secular). I read, and write, fantasy and horror. My brother is actually the front man for a local rock band. This throws a lot of people for a loop. After all, shouldn’t a pastor’s son be hyper-focused on their religion? Well, no. However, that doesn’t stop people from assuming…

3. You’re an example, one way or the other, to the other church kids. Oh dear. The dreaded E-word. My parents expected me to “set an example” and warned me that I would be an example either way. Sunday school teachers and youth leaders talked about my “example” as well. Basically, it’s expected that your behavior will set the example the other kids will follow. If you’re perfect, they’ll be closer to perfect. If you’re bad, they’ll be bad. This is a ton of pressure to put on a child, but literally every adult in my life expected it of me. I probably got this a bit worse than even my brother, because I was the older one, and also because he was generally better behaved. This was probably one of the biggest causes of some of the other expectations on this list, such as that I wouldn’t act like a child or was abnormally religious. Unfortunately, it also often meant that I took blame for other kids’ behavior, even if they were older than me. And it didn’t help at all that…

2. The other church kids think of you as a narc. There’s a song by a little-known Christian rock group called “DA” (it stands for Daniel Amos) which is titled “Hide the beer, the Pastor’s Here!” Yeah, well, among church kids, it was more like “put away your Walkmans and stop telling that dirty joke, the pastor’s kid is here!” More than once I remember conversations stopping when I walked into a room. This was mostly after I became a teenager, but it happened a few times as a child as well. It wasn’t constant, but it happened enough to be hurtful, as did the number of times I would hear someone say “I wait, I can’t say that, Josh is listening” or even “cover your ears, Josh” or “Don’t tell your dad I said that.” This would usually be a dirty joke or sex talk (I’m sure some of the kids might have been sexually active, but not nearly as many as the ones who talked about it). They, again, probably assuming I was a goody-two-shoes religious boy, apparently thought I would “report” on them to my father! They apparently had no idea that I wanted to be included in their sex talk, “worldly” music, etc. not because I was a little pervert (at least no more than your average teenaged boy) but because I desperately wanted to feel like just a normal kid. When I would try things like tell dirty jokes or talk about dirty things myself, or try and learn lyrics to popular songs to prove I listened to them as well, the other kids would assume I was a “try-hard” or that I was putting on a personality in order to win them over. And they were right, but not for the reasons they assumed. Most of them probably assumed I was judging them, regardless of whether or not they thought I would tell my dad. It may have also contributed to my pathological need to be liked which drove away so many people. And then, there’s the adult version of that:

1. You’re constantly asked if you’re going to follow your father’s career path. This might be less true if you’re a pastor’s daughter, but even they probably get this to some degree. I don’t know how many times I was asked if I was going to be a preacher when I grew up. All I know is, it was a lot. Sometimes other kids would ask me, but mostly it was adults who assumed it to be true. Of course he’s going to be a preacher! He’s a preacher’s son! It’s all he knows, or something! I’m pretty sure lawyer’s sons aren’t asked if they’re going to be lawyers when they grow up, or, if they are (same for any other career), these questions stop when the person reaches their late teens. Not with me, though, at least among church members. I was asked even as a 16-year-old if I was going to be a minister myself. Reactions when I said no were genuinely baffled. I mean, it was like they never expected I might have other goals in mind. I’ll be honest; I’m not sure if my brother got this to the same degree, but it could have been because he was younger and therefore fewer people focused on what he wanted to do when he grew up. I’ll have to ask him if he remembers anyone asking him this. But this came back to my mind recently when a man I went to church with from ages 14-16 came to visit Dad at the church he now pastors and I attend. Now, it was pretty clear that I was a member of this church, as I was standing at the visitor information desk with my wife. It was also obvious that I was not on the ministerial staff at this church because this man sat through two services in which all I did was sit and listen. Nevertheless, he asked me if I had followed in Dad’s footsteps and become a minister myself. And yes, his face displayed shock when I told him no.

You Don’t Have a Right Not to Be Offended

What has happened to our society? Why is everyone so thin-skinned?

I’m about to say something controversial, and really, the most controversial thing about this statement is the fact that it can now be considered “controversial”:

You do not have, and never will have, the right to not be offended.

Yeah, I know. How dare I, right? It’s a terrible thing to say. Offensive people are the problem, right?

Well, no, they’re not. They’re a problem, sure, for the offended party but the problem? Not by a long shot. They’re never going away, and we used to understand that. We used to know how to deal with it maturely and sanely, and we don’t anymore. That is the problem.

Let’s take an example that’s everyone’s favorite punching bag, even though he recently died. Fred Phelps, founder of the Wesboro “Baptist Church”, which I put in quotation marks because what Phelps had was no church was not recognized by the American Baptist Association.

Fred Phelps was a monster. That’s something most sane people can agree on. Phelps took homophobia almost to its farthest extreme. Short of straight-up murdering gay people, Phelps did all he could to communicate his utter hatred of anything that could even slightly be associated with homosexuality and, by extension, the whole of America for “enabling” it. You’ve seen photos of him and his hate group holding signs saying things like “God Hates Fags”, “God Hates America”, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”, etc. Horrible stuff from horrible people. They picketed funerals of soldiers, because they died protecting this godless nation. They picketed funerals of any person whose name made the news, because whether or not the deceased was gay themselves, they lived in a country full of “fag enablers”.

So, clearly, they’re the problem, right? People like that shouldn’t exist. Well, maybe they shouldn’t, but here’s the problem; in a free country, there is no way to legislate people like this out of existence. Fred Phelps and his ilk cannot be arrested, detained or murdered just because they are offensive, and they shouldn’t be.

Should they be hounded, mocked, counter-protested, etc.? Sure, go for it. Or, well, you could have gone for it. I hear that the Westboro crowd has gotten much quieter since the passing of their patriarch (you knew the “church” was made up mostly of his family members, right?). But seriously, they deserve derision, scorn, contempt, mockery. But you will never hear me advocate laws that prevent them from pursuing their activities, especially not on the grounds that “it offends people.”

We don’t live in a perfect world, and there are a myriad of ways to offend people inadvertently. Once you start making it illegal to offend someone, you’ll have people being arrested for parking their car too close to someone else’s driveway. Heck, we already have elementary school kids being indefinitely suspended from their school for inadvertently chewing their pop-tart into a vague gun shape. What’s next, suspending kids for twirling pencils because the motion is reminiscent of gun-twirling? Oh, wait.

My point is that nearly everything is offensive to someone, and therefore, trying to make it illegal to offend anyone is a fool’s errand at best, and outright impossible at worst.

But, then, of course, it’s also hypocritical. Because those crying the loudest about being offended don’t want to make offense in general illegal. They just want to pass legislation making it illegal for anyone to offend them. Not you, not members of another protected group, just them.

So, really, it’s not offense that offends people. It’s the idea that anyone might disagree with them.

White heterosexual christian American males (WHCAM’s) are often accused of hating anything that’s different from them; women, blacks, Hispanics, Chinese, Aboriginals, Muslims, atheists, gays, etc. It’s as if all WHCAM’s are Fred Phelps by default. But Fred Phelps, while he may have protested everything that offended him, was just one man, backed up by a very small group of people, most of whom were just family of his. He hardly represented WHCAM’s as a whole. I’m a WHCAM and I am just as offended by Wesboro “Baptist”‘s antics as you are.

Let’s put this in perspective. Feminist groups (which really have nothing to do with female empowerment, but that’s another post) don’t care if they offend you with their anti-men views or advocacy for abortion on demand and late-term abortion. They care solely about making sure that they get what they want, and they don’t care who they hurt to get it. They do it all in the name of “speaking for women”, even though there are thousands if not millions of women who whole-heartedly disagree with the modern Feminist stance.

Atheist groups who, in lieu of their actual goal of making western religions illegal, do all they can to silence any public professions of faith, making it illegal for schools to put on Christmas plays, forcing courthouses to take the Ten Commandments off their wall, whether or not citizens in the given town might actually want that, making it illegal to display crosses or Nativity scenes in public areas, etc. and they do so without worrying about who they’re offending.

Gay pride parades, I’m just gonna come out (ha ha) and say it. They’re porn. They’re softcore gay porn. If you don’t believe me, you’ve never even seen a photo of one. Mostly nude men wearing little but socks on their wangs simulate sex acts with other men, and this happens on a public street where anyone of any age can watch. I don’t care who you are; that’s offensive. And if you think that’s homophobic to say, well, then, are you in favor of the same sort of displays on public parade floats between men and women? Even if you are, we live in a world where dirty magazines are still kept behind the counter in a plastic bag, where web sites ask for age verification before they display graphic sexual content, where TV stations like HBO still put 18+ warnings before their programs and you can’t get into an R-rated movie if you’re a minor. These things may be easy to circumvent, but the effort is still made to keep overtly sexual material away from young children. Except at gay pride parades. I can’t be the only one who sees a problem there. I might only be among the few who aren’t afraid to say it.

The reason people might be afraid to say it is because they don’t want to offend gay people. But on the other hand, gay people don’t seem at all worried about whom they are offending, but will get in your face and scream if you dare do or say anything even slightly offensive. Even Bill Maher agrees with me on that one, and he and I agree on very little.

Speaking of Bill Maher, you might know about his “documentary”, Religulous, in which he finds the most extreme and fringe members of various western religions (in all fairness, he’s against even “protected” religions like Islam) and holds a camera up to them so that he can show how stupid they are, and by extension, how stupid the idea of religion is in general. In this film he seems to actively seek out the weirdest example of religious people, people who couldn’t articulate why they believed or even what they believed, and then released this documentary as though it was an exposé of how religions are all ridiculous (hence the title). This offended millions of religious people. In fact, religious people are repeatedly lampooned in pop culture, in music, books, magazines, tv shows, movies, stand-up comics, you name it.

Also publicly derided often are; stay-at-home moms, practicing Jews/Isreali’s, Republicans and conservatives in general, rich people (but not our entertainers, no never them), white people in general, old people, men in general, gun owners, fat people and anyone with a traditional view of marriage, family and/or childbirth.

It’s perfectly acceptable nowadays to mock these people, and they frequently are. If any of them speak up about it, words like “butthurt” are used. Personally I have never understood this term, but it’s generally accepted that “butthurt” is how you describe alleged thin-skinned whiners who get upset when you have a laugh at their expense.

You know, like Feminists, gay activists, liberals in general, followers of eastern religions or atheists. Wait, I’m sorry, the idea of “butthurt” is never applied to these groups, even though they complain far more often and loudly. Apparently they all have legitimate grievances whenever they speak up about things that offend them. “Butthurt” is only applicable when a group of people we want to offend gets offended. “Butthurt” is when people we hate won’t shut up.

But that’s another topic for another post. What I’m driving at here is that if you want a world in which you are never offended, it then follows that you must be prepared to never offend anyone yourself. You can’t have it both ways. If it’s okay to offend some people because you don’t like them, it shouldn’t be a problem if they also offend you.

And therein lies the problem whenever anyone starts making noise about how offended they are and that the person who offended them must be punished in some way. Like when rappers like Snoop Dogg got all “butthurt” about stupid comments made by a stupid man, Donald Stirling, who owns a third-rate basketball team and whose name I never heard on the general news (I don’t follow sports) until he made those comments.

Uh…Snoop? You might want to stop referring to women as “bitches” and “hoes” if you want Donald Stirling to stop saying things that offend you. I’m not saying Stirling is right; he’s an idiot, and I don’t personally care if he loses his team and dies penniless. But if he can’t say anything that offends anyone else, then no one can. That’s the only way this kind of thought process can ever work.

But of course, it still wouldn’t work, even then. Because offense is in the mind of the offended, more often than not. I’ve seen far more phony allegations of racism (or sexism, or homophobia) in the past five years than I’ve seen actual, purposeful expressions of these ideas. If we literally made offense illegal, mere existence would become impossible.

Am I saying that anyone; racists, sexists, homophobes, etc. should just be able to say whatever they want? In a word, yes.

Now, here’s what I’m not saying. I do not believe they should be able to say what they want with no repercussions whatsoever, just not legal ones. If a man wants to spout off racist or sexist comments in public, he could, and should, lose all friends he may have once had. If a business owner does such a thing, he could and should lose business as a result. If a politician says something offensive, it’s up to the voters to decide at the polls if they want a man who says these things representing them.

But if we allow society to shut up everyone with controversial views, we will never have an honest conversation about anything.

Take racism, for example. MSNBC has made a cottage industry of accusing practically all right-wingers of racism, and then turns around and complains that we never have an “honest” talk about racism. Gee, I wonder why that could be, MSNBC? Could it be because any time anyone expresses a different opinion than you about anything, let alone race, you respond by calling them racists?

Let’s use another example. Say you’re on the high school debate team and you really, really want to talk about the school lunch program. However, whenever anyone expresses a different opinion than yours, about any subject in a given debate, you respond by calling them fascists. How on earth then do you still think you have a right to get upset that no one wants to talk to you about the school lunch program?

For what it’s worth, persnickety Christians who insist everything on television, movies, music and books be “family friendly” irritate the living daylights out of me as well. If anything, they may have started this whole “the world should never offend me” nonsense. Christians like this rarely understand how many different ways they offend people. And again, I’m not saying that they should be worried about this. The Christian faith by its very nature is offensive to many. People don’t like to be told that they’re a sinner, or that unless they accept Christ as their savior that they’re going to Hell. “You are not just okay the way you are” is an offensive message. But if Christians are going to keep believing that, they need to understand that it offends people and should spend less time worrying about all the ways western culture offends them. It’s entirely counter-productive to protest Harry Potter or Disneyland’s “gay days” or something while still not caring at all that your stance offends many as well.

This “never offend me” attitude has led to countless lawsuits, and the lawsuits all come from the same perspective; “I’m suing you because you offended me and I don’t care how many people I offend in the pursuit of justice for me, because only my opinion matters.” In a rational society, if a bakery refuses to provide a cake for a gay wedding, the gay couple should have the right to say “You’re an asshole and not only am I taking my business elsewhere but I’m telling all my friends to avoid this place as well.” But that is as far as it should ever go! Such a situation should never involve either party seeing the inside of a courtroom. Because nowhere in any law currently on the books is there a law that insists this bakery must provide a service to anyone who walks through its doors, nor should such a law exist. This doesn’t mean the gay couple has no right to be offended, and to do something about it, but to take legal action? We still observe religious rights in this country, and if the baker was denying that one particular service on religious grounds, then whether you agree with him or not, he has every right to do so! If I had been him, I would have counter-sued on grounds of religious persecution.

And you can’t call a case like this “discrimination”. Discrimination would only count if he had denied the gay couple any service at all because he hates gay people. Of course, even this shouldn’t be grounds to sue, because it’s a free country, and that means people are free to be assholes if they want.

In a free society, people need to be able to handle hearing and seeing things that offend them. All people, not just anyone who isn’t you. You have the right to be heard. You have the right to refuse to give business or friendship to people who offend you. But you do not have the right to force others to never do anything that offends you in the first place. And if this column offends you, get a helmet.