A Culture of Sorrow: Part One

I called my Mom after work this evening to check and see if she was blogging tonight and when she said she wouldn’t be able to just yet I decided I would throw a little random post your way. Since I’m out of classes, you might find some random or boring (??) discussions on this here blog every now and again. What you’ll find here tonight is meant to be less of an assertion than it is a discussion about some new thoughts I find intriguing.

Last summer I read a book called Ain’t Too Proud To Beg: Living Through the Lord’s Prayer by Telford Work (2007). Dr. Work is assistant professor of theology at Westmont College. I don’t know him personally but I enjoyed him to no end through his writing. His book is a rare and thrilling infusion of disciplines. I don’t want to summarize or review this unique book here, but it is certainly worth a read. Even if you disagree with Work at various points, I promise you’ll learn some things along the way. Plus, in your heart of hearts you know you feel compelled to read a book by an author named “Telford Work.”

As I do with all the books I really love, I picked the book up again last night and started flipping through it and glanced over the places where I had highlighted or made notes in the margin. I loved this book so much that even my revisiting of it took me all the way to the epilogue. The epilogue is composed of several of Work’s sermons. One of these sermons in particular caught my attention.  In this sermon entitled “You Can Say That Again,” Work coins a phrase, “culture of sorrow.” He uses it in reference to our own culture and “the common sensibility that life’s true character is misfortune and that sadness rules over us” (226). He says:

“In our culture of sorrow, sadder is cooler. Joy may be desirable, but it’s not fashionable. What is? Ask the fashion industry! Does that look of aloof, disheveled, emaciated, sophistication strike you as happy? Me neither. But it’s cool! Or name a big pop band that has looked happy in its photos since the Beatles in 1964. Cool means hard stares, angry sneers, lust, and brooding . . . angst, ennui, existential despair, cynicism, political decline, environmental catastrophe, and social alienation . . . Master these and you’ll be the life of the dinner party” (226).

And taking it further, he says again:

“In our culture of sorrow, sadder is wiser. Misery has become our myth, our metanarrative. Joy is liable to be taken as immaturity or ignorance . . . If you want an Oscar, don’t go with a so-called Hollywood ending. Go with a gut-wrenching tragedy like Million Dollar Baby . . . Sadder is deeper. . . What moves a personal relationship from small-talk pleasantries to greater sincerity? Telling the truth, of course. And for us the deepest truth-telling generally involves the disclosure of pain, hardship, and anxiety. Relationships tend to deepen from shallow happiness to more authentic sorrow . . . Sadder is greater . . . Anger, fright, and fantasy bring out voters and volunteers, not joy. Fear and greed drive the economy, not joy. Sorrow acts and we react. It calls the shots” (227).

Brief Tangent: If you’re like me, you are becoming increasingly suspicious of the phrase “in our culture” because it is used so often to introduce all kinds of authoritative but contradictory statistics. I use this phrase “in our culture” out of sheer habit and because it is so delightfully malleable but I always question myself when I use it because I know full well it is typically going to introduce a generalization. Having said that, some generalizations are more legitimate than others. So even if you’re like me, and you’re super skeptical and annoying, you have to hand it to Work because his “culture of sorrow” idea sure seems to describe a significant aspect of our culture even if you don’t agree that it is indicative of our culture across the board.

The other day Colin and I watched “The Road” with Viggo Mortensen. The movie was based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. Now to be fair, I did not read the novel but the movie, in my opinion, was one horrific and unimaginably depressing scene after another. Just when I thought I was watching the worst the movie had to offer we were abruptly hurled into a whole different strata of horror. And the characters didn’t even have names. Not my idea of a blockbuster night. Typically I like an emo and soul probing flick but I couldn’t discern even one strand of hope throughout the film and this led to the hardness of my heart.  Anyway, the book was evidently deemed one of the most important and brilliant movies of the year. I wish I could say that the accolades surprised me but they did not.  In my own opinion what was profound, was not the movie itself, but the very fact that so many people had heralded it as profound—to me that said more about “our culture” than anything else.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of this whole “culture of sorrow” thing… as soon as I read the phrase I was mentally slapping my knee thinking to myself, “Telford Work is just so painfully right!!!” You know those people who can articulate a once rather opaque phenomenon dead on– well that is sort of what reading this entire book was like for me. I just kept thinking, “I would have written this myself if I would have known how to explain it.” That is the best kind of book- when it hits so closely to home that you feel you yourself could have written it even if you don’t have a fraction of the writing ability that the author has.

When Colin and I were first married, people would say things like, “Tell us the truth, what is marriage really like?” I almost felt forced to whine, complain, bare my melancholy soul—or be exposed as superficial, inauthentic, or worse–simpleminded.  Now, of course, it is one thing to be honest when things really are tough and difficult, but even when things were not tough at all, and I was in fact enjoying my life and marriage, I would feel the need to give some token piece of what “reality” was really like or some slice of darkness to build credibility with my conversation partner. Good night . . . as though life is not tough enough without feeling pressure to forge expressions of grief. If you’re bothered by folk who tell you they’re “fine” when they’re really not, what about people like me who have, on occasion, acted as though things were tough when they really weren’t?!?

Egads.

I was laughing a few weeks ago when I was on our trip and someone made the comment, “Everyone on this trip, is just so . . . happy!” I gotta be honest, I was sort-of-kind-of thinking the same thing to myself at first, until I saw my own log in someone else’s plank. I mean seriously, would she, or I for that matter, rather them all be depressed and lethargic rather than happy and peppy? I’ve also, time and time again, fallen prey to the naive mistake of assuming that the most thoughtful and intelligent people I know, the “thinkers” if you will, are mostly those people I know who are usually despondent. Work’s discussion of “our culture of sorrow” gave voice to some of my assumptions that I hadn’t really given much thought to before.

Now before you slap me silly, this post is not the end of the story.  And it isn’t even the end of Work’s sermon. I cannot sum up this entire discussion here.  This is only Part One. In Part Two of this blog (to come in the next week), I would like to explore the place of both joy and sorrow within a Christian worldview. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water (By the way, where in the world did that phrase come from? It is just beyond weird). So, for now, even though you haven’t likely read the book, what do you think about Work’s initial sermon thoughts? Have you encountered this phenomenon before? Is this perhaps a bigger issue for one generation than another?

Have you found that sadder is often “cooler” or “wiser” or “deeper” or “truer”?

Talk to me.

P.S. For those of you who have expressed a desire to buy the book–please know that this subject is not a major issue in the book, it is only in the epilogue in a short sermon.  Also, it is a fairly academic read.  Having made this full disclosure, I still think you will like the book.

😉

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419 Responses to “A Culture of Sorrow: Part One”

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Comments:

  1. 151
    Amy says:

    I totally get that! I am a full time employee of our family business and I homeschool our two boys, ages 7 and 4. I often get such negative reactions to what I do that it makes me think that I must be crazy trying to take on so much. In reality, we have bad days just like anyone else, but I LOVE being with my children all day long and I love that we are all here as a family. A woman came in our business today, looked at my two kids and said, “Boy I hate that school is out. Now I gotta take care of my kids.” I thought to myself, “Who else is supposed to?” Hello? When did children become a burden instead of a blessing? Mel, I know you do not have children yet, but Siesta, they are a blessing! Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

  2. 152
    Kim Safina says:

    The Journey Continues !

    First, I want to CONGRATULATE or should I say ConGRADulate you on your recent academic achievement!!

    Westmont College is an outstanding Christian College in Santa Barbara, California. My brother is on the board ~ teaches there once in awhile between law practice and writing books. He honors the writings and witness of many of the professors that he associates with.
    Great book by Telford Work.

    Regarding your comment/post ~
    “In Our Culture”
    I have, as we all have,suffered through sorrow,pain,hurt, loss,rejection,ego,body image,etc..
    I have LEARNED to accept life with a smile & STANDING FIRM IN MY FAITH.
    I LOVE people and feel for all who are hurting. I share with others how WE NEED TO GET BACK TO THE BASICS OF LIFE and it is by CHOICE HOW WE LIVE OUR LIVES!

    Dave and I believe this for everyone, including US.

    “EVERYBODY WANTS AN EASY FIX IN THEIR LIVES, BUT IT’S A LIFESTYLE CHANGE CALLED D I S C I P L I N E that works!”
    Quote by Dave & Kim Safina
    married 27+ years and best friends!!

    I am looking forward to more of your comment posts ~
    If you need to fill your void of time, come on out and I will put you to work!!! Giggle Giggle!!
    by the way, I am using a new mascara with the other. AWESOME Results!!

    You gorgeous thang!!

    With “Heaven Bound” Blessings,
    Kim Safina

  3. 153
    Sharon says:

    I have to add this scripture… for it stays constantly on my mind. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:10)! The NLT writes it this way, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Our strength in any sadness or sorrow is found in our “joy” of Him!!! I want to “live” in His joy rather than sulk and stew in this world’s sadness.

    Okay… I’ll hush. I feel I’ve overstepped my bounds and said waaay too much. I’m obviously a “sayer” that likes to “say.”

  4. 154
    praise for today says:

    Hi! I once heard that the phrase “throw the baby out with the bath water” came from medieval times. Families bathed once a week or month or something and each would bathe in the bathtub, one at a time, starting with the oldest. The baby would be that last to get a bath and since the water wasn’t changed between bathers, it was filthy and mom’s had to be careful not to “lose” the baby in the water. I don’t know if this is true but I thought it was a good story behind the saying 🙂

    I think Work is dead-on with the culture of sorrow. It seems the only way to “get to know” someone is through their struggles. Why can’t we bond over positive events? I see it but have to admit I’m wrapped up in it. I have to force myself to look at the good in a situation, especially if it is one that gives me grief or pain on any level. I’ve always attributed it to being a fallen human being and do try to live in the joy of the Lord. The thing is, happiness is a fleeting emotion, joy is something that can stand in the midst of tragedy. I haven’t found the secret to never-ending joy, but the Bible does promise us joy when we live by the spirit.

    You’ve given me alot to chew on; thanks!

  5. 155
    Sue in Grapevine says:

    I get what you’re saying. Whining, negativity & being a victim of your circumstances is more socially acceptable.
    It is not popular conversation among women to talk about how great one’s husband is – you may be a allowed a positive comment or two, but then, you’d better shut up. I just want to scream when I hear husbands described as another child of the family or a lower, less intelligent species.
    I pray that God will show me a way to help women learn to respect their husbands & treat (and speak of) them honorably.

  6. 156
    Letty says:

    An intriguing thought this “culture of sorrow.” I believe it partially stems from a desire to be noticed and counted worthy. We are not a society of complimenting or rewarding joy or happiness as they are seen as superficial, giddy, fleeting moments that lack substance. The positive is viewed as requiring no special strength to endure. This is counter to the teachings of Christ as He chided the people to not wear their suffering in public as the Pharisees were apt to do and James said to count it all joy when we do suffer tribulation. The “world” is at odds with God so it stands to reason that the “world” would place a high value on public displays of suffering and hardships whereas those who are focused on the Lord will have joy in the midst of difficulties as they know Who is in control and will never leave them nor forsake them. This absolute truth should cause us to walk in joy but often we are caught up in the “world.”

  7. 157
    Mary Ellen Hale says:

    Hi, Melissa ~ What an interesting person you are! I intend to check the library for Dr. Work’s book and read it for myself…another interesting soul, it seems! I watched The Road the other night too and couldn’t wait for the morning to come!!! Such a dark, foreboding, hopeless tale. My college freshman daughter read the book in one of her classes so I’m hoping to discuss it with her. The only profound aspect I could find was the deep tenderness “the man” displayed to “the boy” which sadly seems rare in our “culture of sorrow.” I feel we actually live in a WORLD of sorrow that can only be profoundly affected by the joy that Christ Jesus came to bring! (I am somewhat of a melancholy soul, so without the joy of the Lord I’d probably be nicknamed Eeyore!) He truly is the Light of the world. Next movie night I’m watching The Little Rascals”>)

  8. 158
    Sarah says:

    I found this post to be quite interesting – not random or boring at all! I love anything that digs deep and causes good discussion and forces one to reexamine.

    I’ve found myself in similar situations as many of you – I recently married in March ’09 and since then people ask me too about how’s marriage or what’s it ‘really’ like…and I feel compelled to share the struggles thinking that somehow if I don’t people will think I’m not being honest or transparent. So I’m giving them what I think they want, but the irony is it’s a fake transparency!

    I’ve also seen what an unfortunate role this has played in my new marriage. My husband is the only man I’ve ever had an honorable and God centered relationship with since the moment we met. All my other relationships prior were very worldly since I had yet to give my life fully to the Lord. And so I sometimes found myself questioning if my love for my husband was as good as my past loves – the ones so defined by misery, despair, angst, manipulation and heartbreak. The sorrow and struggle added so much interest and passion to the relationships that when I finally found something good – a God honoring and glorifying relationship – I began to question the depth and sincerity of the right way to love and care for someone and rather than rejoicing in it I was scared that it was just plain boring. God is ever so lovingly showing me how a relationship centered in His love is so much deeper and more gratifying than any other love. And that there is still passion and intrigue in God-centered love; with plenty of mystery to be found in two people becoming one. I hate it that I’ve bought into the lies that sorrowful relationships and experiences are more admirable and credible. But God is renewing my mind 🙂

    Side note – I find it odd that it’s misery that we find so easy to relate to one another with. Just think about it – when you’re talking with or bonding with a stranger, isn’t it more common to have it happen over a common gripe? Standing in line at the post office you’ll see strangers begin to get friendly and sociable with one another, but only in shared complaints about how long the line is or ridiculously oblivious the people are or even how horrible the weather is outside. Rarely will someone lean over to discuss what a beautiful day it is, but if it’s raining cats and dogs we’ll gladly gripe together…

  9. 159
    Shawn says:

    Hey Melissa. Throwing the baby out with the bath water comes from the French. The entire family would bathe in the same water, from oldest to youngest, and then they would throw the water out…. Since the baby was the last one to bathe, they’d say…… 🙂

  10. 160

    Melissa-

    ugh. I can already feel my brain being fried…but here it goes.

    People believe in what’s comfortable to them. Culture has taught us to settle. Its taught us to settle in our pain, and our sadness; not just accept it but live with it as if its some sort of beautiful god.
    I think the reasoning with all this is that people just can’t be trusted, everything seems “too good to be true”, and how far from the truth would that be?
    Its more believable these days to listen to a sad story, they a happy one. We can thank all of those before that story that messed that up!

    But it also goes to show that “VOID” the world has in not knowing Jesus is evident…they can see the pain, the sadness, the sorrow…but don’t see that it can be taken away, they don’t see that there is healing in His arms…
    they don’t see that there is light through the darkness!

    They don’t see that good can come out of the situation.

    I also think it comes down to, people dont’ know how to “feel” anymore, I don’t think they really know how much pain, and sadness is inside them, because they are so overwhelmed by things they see and read…they don’t realize how deep it goes…therefore they hold it in, and
    later make for some pretty angry people.

    I think that is what is going to come out of all this, I think people where they think they are coming into being a “spiritual” generation, will find out how “empty” it all really is without God.

    My pastor has a good quote I think that could be added here, “If Jesus has made a difference in your life, you might want to let your face know.”

    Because when it comes down to it, are we being people that share the joy of Jesus? Are we living like it? Do people see our lives as constant drama? Do we seem like we are in despair all the time? Who wants to look to a God that doesn’t seem as if He makes any difference at all?

    We will allow ourselves to be apart of the “fake” generation, if we don’t realize what is apart of us right now!

    So in conclusion(LOL), its up to both sides of the story, we are both at fault.

  11. 161
    Marjie Scheib says:

    OK Girl, you just got on my “Top 5 People to Invite to a Dinner Party”
    I love the way you think and write and express yourself. As I was reading this it felt like you were standing right in front of me talking. That is my favorite kinda read.
    Perhaps you could do a Book Review on here once a month?? I love a good read that leads to a good discussion. Add good coffee and you have the makings of a great time.
    This observation is so on target. Just listen in on a group of teenage girls talking, any group of teens for that matter and you will hear a constant One-Upping of how their lives are just full of drama and heart ache. Now I know there is plenty of real heart ache out there but it is totally cooler to be worse off than the next one. Adults too….
    Thanks for the thought provoking post. Keep them coming.

  12. 162
    Jean says:

    Hmmmm. I am really thinking about this. My thoughts on The Road were exactly the same, but I hadn’t put it into a cultural context. If he is right (and I suspect he is….) then my consolation prize (thinking myself deep and wise when really I’m jut unhappy and/or ungrateful) goes away. Perhaps it’s time to trash that consolation prize and go for the gold – pure joy.

  13. 163
    KGM says:

    “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure.”

    (I have heard this quote from Ravi Zacharias on a number of occasions, but I am not sure that it originates with him.)

    Perhaps this “culture of sorrow” could be linked to our nation’s abundance and a cultural worldview devoid of purpose and meaning. Do we as a culture create, celebrate, embellish the painful aspects to impart meaning into our primarily pleasure-seeking lives?

    Thanks for getting us thinking.

  14. 164
    Donna says:

    I thought I was alone in the world; thinking that movies were dishing out gloom, saddness, and horror as “something good”. I found that if a movie review hated a movie and ripped it apart; generally that was a movie I could watch and not feel like Eeyore with a dark cloud over my head when it was over.
    There is JOY in the Lord and I’m sure there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT!!!!! 🙂

  15. 165
    Rachel says:

    Can’t wait for part 2!!! I thought this was profound.

  16. 166
    Amber says:

    Wow! That was so awesome. Like you said, I feel like I could have written that part. Just in the small thing of someone asking me how my day is, I feel like I have to have some complaint or sarcastic comment. I would feel beneath or “silly happy” if I stated that everything was fine. Even in saying “everything is fine” I feel like it has to be a ho-hum attitude that really says “I’m coasting until the next wave hits.”
    We should even more so now give God all the glory for our abundant life in Him!

  17. 167
    Mamahop says:

    I learned this at a very early age, as I would “make up” problems I was having because my friends that had problems got all the attention from the camp counselors, school counselors, etc. So, even though I had NONE, I made them up just to get the attention. I think as an adult I fall into that same trap sometimes and possibly have driven my children that same direction, as I forget to give POSITIVE attention to those not having problems. Hmmmm, good reminder.

  18. 168
    Cali_Christine says:

    I will be adding this to my book list which is getting long! I agree with you about feeling like you need to talk negatively sometimes when really you are doing great. I have that issue with friends who enjoy “husband bashing”. Sometimes I get in there with them about the things he does not do but forget about all the things he does do. I have been trying lately to work on that and actually not be around those ladies as much. I found myself spending more time with my friends who LOVE their hubby’s and I love talking about how wonderful mine is with them. Thanks for sharing I look forward to reading this book.

  19. 169
    Michelle says:

    Yes, I think ‘sadder’ is cooler in this present day. I mean just look at the obsession of our culture and the celebrities and thier downfalls and affairs and so forth and TMZ — that is one sad show, showing more saddness and we seem to thrive on it. Sad.

    It does seem ‘cooler’ and I don’t like that.

    And personally, right now, I am going through a great sadness/challenge. My husband and I are separated after 22 years of marraige and I am praying and trusting HIM — but the ‘christian’ friends around us seem to want to hear more about the sad than the good — and now, that his sin has been revealed and time has passed — it seems I sometimes find it ‘cool’ to bring it back up — and that is awful!

    I mean — it is the enemy — right?
    I have to choose each day to love my Lord and love my man — through this, and I choose to make the happy ‘cool’ and forget about the sad. As when I do — I feel I am giving Satan some sort of credit for this awful set of consequences me and my two kids now live with – and he lives with them too.

    I will be honest –I had to read your post – 2x — it is deep — and TRUE —

    I don’t want to think ‘sadness’ is cool. However, what is cool is how God can bring beauty out of it – anything and turn our mourning into joy — now that is cool.

    I think too many of us are ‘too quiet’ and we NEED to really promote and talk about WHAT is cool – Jesus and his live/life for us.

    I am standing on that pledge of faith- He is WHO HE says HE is. HE can do what HE says HE will do. I am who God says I am. I can do all things through Christ Jesus and God’s word is alive and active in me. I am believing God.
    He is really cool-
    michelle
    Florida

    PS – please pray for my family — anyone who reads this — we want God’s restoration and we (my son and daughter and I) want my man – their dad — back in HIS arms.
    Amen. Thanks.

  20. 170
    Amanda says:

    Melissa, you could have hit home to a greater truth. I’ve truly walked away from two close friends over the past few years because I literally could no stand the constant complaining of “life”, family, husbands, etc. I absolutely believe God wants us to have joy daily, a constant, as opposed to an occassional. I also have noticed we celebrate “downing” mother-n-laws in this country. When we did get there instead of being glad to extend our family with our husbands and his family and friends. I feel the media and movies pull a lot more influence over our lives than any of us would like to admit. Yes, there are life situations that are tough, families that are difficult and mother-n-laws we’d rather leave behind, but it doesn’t HAVE to be this way. Isn’t joy really choosing to TRUST GOD has it ALL under His control; isn’t our sadness and depression really saying we Don’t Trust Him???? Thank you for your thoughts. I would say Work hit the nail on the head. I, for one, want to remove the nail!!
    Happy Day, Truly,
    Amanda 🙂

    Olive Branch, MS

  21. 171
    Amy Martin says:

    This is so interesting to me…I have often felt guilty for being happy in my marriage and in general with my life! I have had some hard things happen and feel that I have grieved the sorrows in my life appropriately. And yet, I feel like I am letting people down if I don’t join in the marriage or parenting conversations that seem to be towards the negative. I don’t want people to think I am a “fake” but I am happy!

    God has given me this one life to ENJOY all that he has blessed me with…and I intend to! I will be reading this book!

  22. 172
    Mindi says:

    Wow! I’ve nothing to add but wanted to say that I’ve enjoyed the comments to the post as much as I enjoyed the post itself…

  23. 173
    Cindy says:

    Wow Melissa…you have me thinking. This is really resonating with me…I’ll have to think on this some and get back to you. THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post!!! 🙂 (Happy Face) Cindy

  24. 174
    Kathy B says:

    Do y’all remember the song from the dog food commercial?
    My dog’s better than your dog,
    My dog’s better than yours.
    My dog’s better ’cause
    He eats Kennelration.
    My dog’s better than yours.
    Same song, second verse:
    My life’s harder than your life,
    My life’s harder than yours.
    My life’s harder ’cause
    I’m more wise than you are.
    My life’s harder than yours.
    You’re at a dinner party and someone starts a rousing chorus of this all too familiar song. My husband works harder, my kids behave more poorly, my budget is tighter, my family is weirder. Unfortunately, it’s usually not until I’m in the car on the way home I bother to hear the Holy Spirit whisper that I jumped in and sang with as much if not more gusto than anyone else. Bummer. Literally.
    I can speak for myself that often I’m motivated by nothing more sophisticated than competition mixed with an ugly smattering of ungratefulness. With the help of the Spirit’s introspection I believe He reveals I’m seeking for others to think well of me. Ironic, don’t you think?
    Best cure? Big fat daily dose of ongoing, “Thank You Lord for…” That, and some serious singing lessons.

  25. 175
    Jennie says:

    Melissa – wow, I am going to have to get the book but I have been having a sense of sorting out this “culture of sorrow” or as I have been referring to some circumstances and the reactions going on around my particular community is “making my own suffering so I have purpose (or excuse for being a loser)”. Sort of a hypochondriac syndrome. I believe that if we don’t recognize where the sorrow comes from (fallen world against God), and cannot find purpose in the sorrow (following Jesus who reconciled us to his sorrow not ours) our culture as it is, will worship this selfish sorrow that they choose as some sort of sacrifice in a prideful self-redemption. Are we all looking for a sacrifice for our falleness and want to redeem ourselves? Jesus simply is the only one for this. What do you think about these musings?

  26. 176
    FloridaLizzie says:

    I loved what you had to say about this thought-provoking concept. I have never cared about being a cool person. I don’t like hopeless movies, and after I saw “The Blind Side” this year I remarked that it was too good and positive a movie to ever win any big awards. Well, how delightful to be wrong. Maybe our culture is just beginning to be fed up with always being full of angst and melancholy when we have so much to be thankful for. I loved your comments about people saying they are fine when they aren’t, and never thought about the reverse. Great discussion. Can’t wait to read Part 2.

  27. 177
    Enfant de Dieu says:

    Sadder does seem to be cooler, especially on the radio. I wonder if it might have to with the fact that so many people either don’t know how to find joy in Christ or aren’t willing to do the work involved in receiving that joy, so miserable becomes the in thing. This may not be true everywhere, but it seems to be the case where I live.

    And as for The Road, I haven’t seen the movie, but the book was a requirement for my existential philosophy through literature class. I’m guessing the movie is not quite as depressing since it’s in color; there was no mention of color in the book, just a big grey world. We were actually wondering how they were going to make it into a movie.

    God bless,
    Elizabeth

  28. 178
    Cassandra Durkie says:

    I’ve noticed that when someone asks you how your day has been the only acceptable answer is a dejected “fine”. James MacDonald had a wonderfully different response, “If you know that you know Christ, then every day you wake up and you put on the helmet of salvation. It’s like, somebody says ‘How are you doing today?’ What do you mean how am I doing today, I’M GOING TO HEAVEN! I don’t CARE if I had a good week or a bad week but I got the helmet of salvation on and when this whole thing is all done I’m going to live with Jesus Christ FOREVER. Put your mind around that.”
    So my day has been AWESOME! How was yours?

  29. 179
    Sally says:

    I didn’t read through all the comments to see if anyone else commented on this , but I believe I heard one time that the expression, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” came about before running water and indoor plumbing. Back in the day, the one family tub was filled up with clean water on Saturday nights for the weekly bath. The most respected member of the family, Dad, got the first bath, and then each had their turn after Dad. By the time the baby was bathed, the water was not clear, and one could lose a baby in the murkiness, hence the expression.

  30. 180
    Forever His says:

    Hey Melissa,

    Don’t know if this has been answered but according to the American Heritage dictionary of idioms the phrase “throw the baby out with the bath water” was first recorded in 1853 when it was translated from German by Thomas Carlyle. The German proverb was Das Kind mit dem Bade ausscutten (Pour the baby out with the bath). Meaning to discard something valuable along with something not wanted.

    Hope this helps.

    Lawan
    Phil 4:8

  31. 181
    Billsgirl says:

    Melissa,

    Just reading your post now… I’ve notice this “culture of sorrow” for some time. There are times when I feel “guilty” that I am not despondent, down and negative when talking to someone.

    Why are you not “cool” when you can see the glass half full and marvel in Christ’s wonders?

    Just some random thoughts from me this afternoon…

    Blessings all,
    Mary Ann, Woodbury, MN

  32. 182
    Barb says:

    Dear Melissa, You are such a deep thinker! 😀
    Much of my life I have compared my situation with someone else’s and seemed to find how mine was worse. I realize that is because I didn’t choose to look at my blessings. Now I am much older, tho not necessarily wiser, but tried to be more thankful about what I do have. And of course things I have learned from your Mom have helped me learn how to change my focus.

    It seems that we humans often find ‘the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence’! And then there is the envy, etc that comes along with what we perceive as ‘they have it better’. Coupled with the ‘entitled’ mentality – means, if you don’t make it sound like you have it so bad – then someone won’t rescue you.

    And it seems that what is often more ‘newsworthy’ is whatever bad has happened, not so much reported about the good that is going on!

    What I have also been noticing is that if I talk about what is good – then I sometimes feel like I am bragging or it is taken by others that I am bragging – instead of someone just being happy for me about this good thing – it seems to spark feelings of envy, jealousy, and perhaps fear of not being good enough or it looks like they are missing out on something. So it seems better to be quiet about my joy – but then what is left to talk about – oh, it’s just better to listen and try to direct to thoughts about what is good to focus on in their lives instead of focusing on me at all.

    This is more rambling than I had wanted to do – but must get back to work and wanted to comment.

    lovingly, Barb

  33. 183
    gayle says:

    Sweet Melissa, the phrase “don’t throw the baby out…” came from pioneer days when they used a bucket for bathing starting with the oldest and going down to the youngest. So by time it was baby’s turn the water was dirty and the baby would be hard to see…rather disturbing, which goes with the theme of your post today.
    I think the sadness comes from the cynicism which I think comes from 24/7 news that tells of all that is wrong with the country, the people and the earth! Wears me out!!!
    I was blessed to be one of the ladies on the trip and a week of happy, joyful, Spirit-filled, tearful interesting women filled my tank to the top and I am so missing the environment, the teaching and the fellowship. Glad to have had a chance to know you a bit. If we are set apart by our joy then let it be. I’ll accept that mantle any day of the week. Shine on!

  34. 184
    Christine Roskamp says:

    Melissa,

    This is soooooo true. You are right, he simply knew how to express it. People look at me oddly when I am asked how I am doing and respond with fabulous,great, marvelous or any other word that is postive or uplifting. I also say it with a smile and that really blows their mind. I think it is rather delightful because I am sincere in it as I am a happy go lucky person and there are times when I see the person ponder it for a minute then sometimes smile back or chuckle because of the positive vibe they get. Hopefully they can pass that along to others they meet through the course of their day.

    Thanks for this post. Keep ’em coming. :o)

    Houston Siesta

  35. 185
    JoAnn in Houston says:

    As we know, there are definitely true sorrows in every culture. I can only speak for the culture in which I live, i.e., “the Western” culture and instead of “culture of sorrow”, I believe it’s more like a “culture of drama”. In alot of ways, I believe it’s driven in large part by the media. We get shown alot more. In simplier times when TV was just coming out, there are those who said, “TV will be our destruction”. Little did they know, they really had vision. However, at the same time in those simplier days, was the radio just as addictive? Was radio bringing only the bad instead of the good.

    Let’s face it, because of our sin nature, we are a “depraved culture”. We’ve read evidence of that ever since Adam and Eve ate the apple. What makes us want to get a glimpse when passing a car accident? What’s the real reason people can sit through Nascar and watch cars going round and round in a circle for 2 hours? Maybe they’ll crash ??!!! How exciting. But, what’s the measure of this depravity vs. those awful Roman games in the coliseum. Which is worse, the knowledge you are going to see something horrible or the possibility you might see something horrible. What part of our nature is fed by such things if it isn’t our sinful nature. And, has it really gottem worse through the ages or has man stood up in alot of ways.

    Let’s face it, we also live in a “Me” culture. Those who crave attention, for whatever reason, don’t really care if it is from positive or negative attention. It’s about insecurity, and I think we are all susceptible to it for a myriad of reasons. Bottom line, in my opinion, it’s all about choice, it’s all about self-control, it’s all about being intentional about what we allow to influence us. Who or What will we allow to steal our “Joy”. It’s not an easy task as a Believer in Christ, to stand firm in the truth , but it surely would be an impossible task as one that doesn’t know the hope there is in our Savior; our Shepard. Putting hope in ourselves only takes us back to “It’s all about Me”.

    Maybe it’s the age old circumstance of just plain old “good vs. evil”. And, us Believers know who will WIN.

  36. 186
    Jeanne Messer says:

    Melissa, As I pondered your blog, I realize that what you say is true. I have chronic back pain and often times I have people comment to me about happy I am. I have friends who are aware of my constant pain and tell me that I must be on meds in order to be smiling all the time. This is not true for I rarely take meds for my pain, because I don’t want to get addicted to them. Also, I don’t want to live my life on meds even if I have to live my life with chronic pain. I had never really thought about it as “culture of sorrow.” It seems to me that people expect others to be in some kind of sadness/sorrow most of time. And then when you are not people assume that something is wrong with you! Why is this? I think people don’t know how to handle a joyful person. Even us Christians! We talk about “having joy” in Christ but most of us don’t know how to LIVE this way! I also battle depression and it took a long time for me to realize that I had a chemical imbalance and that it wasn’t just a faith issue or my imagination! On this note of a “culture of sorrow,” I have learned that even though people expect you to be sad, when you are not they wonder why and it opens up a door to share CHRIST! I have also learned to be careful what I share with certain people b/c people really don’t want to know or care. Saying “How are you?” is just a phrase and when someone asks this they are not really expecting a response beyond fine. People have enough going in their lives and focus on themselves which leads to this “culture of sorrow.” We need to take our eyes off of US and focus on what is really important…CHRIST and others.

    Thanks again for sharing. I am looking forward to the next part.

    Blessings to you,
    Jeanne Messer
    Honolulu, Hawaii(b/c husband is Air Force)

  37. 187
    Shelly says:

    I agree that our culture is set on life is preferred to be tougher, sadder, and the more stress the better (hence our reality tv pop-culture). But I personally am longing for the day where when someone asks me how I am, I can truly say “Wonderful!” (or as my Nana would say every single time she is asked, “Elegant Dear, Elegant”-and she ALWAYS means it and she is always full of jubulent joy!). I however seem to go through my life (i am 40) with one incredible trial after another. I have Jesus and pure joy mind you, I just struggle to “consider it PURE JOY, when facing many trials..” etc (james 1). I fight the envy that creeps up when I hear people are doing awesome and they are happy. Not that I want them to be unhappy, its just that I so desperately want to have a sucession of weeks where I am blissfully happy. I do believe one day that will happen.

    It is the culture I believe to portray hard times but I also think we are living in a world where eventhough technology has taken off, and life is physically easier, mentally the world is taking a huge hit. But thats another story.

    May God Bless you Melissa with an abundance of joy and happiness. Great post.

  38. 188
    Carrie says:

    I totally know your post was about so much more but I don’t have the time right now to comment on that part. However, I just have to say that I hated “The Road”! I read the book (haven’t seen the movie, however, I’m always up for a movie with Viggo looking scruffy). So depressing, lethargic, and utterly without hope. It’s kind of how I picture hell to be. Scary thing is my husband loved it. I’ll be picking his brain later tonight as to what resonated with him.

    Looking forward to part 2 and Work’s book is on my list. Off to a Flag Day parade…small town at it’s best! 🙂

  39. 189
    Nancy says:

    It gets more difficult every day to live in this culture of sorrow and be the bluebird of happiness kind of person. Not only are light, happy people percieved as naive, we’re the ones that seem “sick” to the cultured sorrowful. Ever try to point out the positives(as in, “at least you can be thankful for___) in a difficult situation to someone who is only wants to cling to the dark side?…they think you’re the one that needs the medication.

    The other thing that throws a kink into my thought process about this is that of all the sorrow our culture shares and feeds and encourages, many of us (be we happy or sad) are still keeping our TRUE dark sides secret. Maybe we’d rather complain and moan and groan than confess and deal with how sorry we really are.

    When you’re swimming in the lake of sorrow, it’s a lot easier to pull somebody else off the rescue boat DOWN into the water than it is for the person on the boat to pull you back UP out of the water. But as we know, easier is not always the best/right way.

    Thanks for making me think.

  40. 190
    Fran McCurry says:

    I do think sadder was cooler for me before I came to know Jesus. Joy in the Lord overrides angst of any kind in my life now, no matter what I have faced. Hope is the key for me.

  41. 191
    Robin says:

    Sadder is cooler and wiser in our culture. Think of it this way often times a joyful spirit is considered childish and those that are joyful need to “grow-up”. It is a shame really because both emotions are so infectious. I for one would much rather be spreading joy!

    By the way, I completely agree that “the best kind of book is when it hits so closely to home that you feel you yourself could have written it” even though you have zero to no writing ability.

  42. 192
    MrsRitz says:

    Work is definitely on to something. My husband and I serve as collegiate missionaries in PA and we have noticed this very acutely on campus, even with the Christian students we work with. There ALWAYS has to be some measure of trauma or sorrow in their lives to espouse on. Facebook statuses are 9 times out of 10 melancholic or depressing. When we ask for prayer requests or praises, they feel compelled to come up with something that is tragic – if not in their own lives then in the lives of someone they know, but rarely do they openly praise the Lord for His sheer goodness. The forlorn gets way more air time than the fabulous.

  43. 193
    Melanie says:

    While I don’t disagree with what you’ve shared from this book , I just wanted to add something going along with what people have posted, partly because I wonder if I’m not the only one. When I’ve taken the personality tests , yes , I come back with results showing the more ” Melancholy ” personality. So first of all , my personality makeup is not the happy-go-lucky type. And to be real honest , the majority of my life has been a run of hardships. To get to the point , I recall years ago , thinking , like when I’d make small talk with the grocery store cashier people , and they’d ask ” How are you today ? ” and I’d force myself to be at least polite and say ” fine ” or ” okay ” or whatever…. and I’d ask them how they were and many times they would respond with ” Great ! “. I kid you not , I used to think they were lieing ! lol And it used to make me mad. lol Because I thought ” WHY lie about it ? ” Because I honestly believed that no-one was doing ” great “. I thought it was something they said to be ” perky ” ( as another siesta said ). lol it wasn’t til years later that I learned that not everyone had lived the kind of life I had , ( health problems , family problems etc etc ) and that people actually DID think their life was ” Great ! ” I feel rather foolish as I admit this.

    I never felt ” cool ” having problems , but I’m only just now coming out of the mindset that I don’t really ” know ” another person ( woman friends ) til they tell me what their problems are so I can relate. I’m just NOW ( in my 50’s ) realizing that while my life has been a run of heartache and misery, not everyone else’s has. I can’t relate to it very well , but I now know this , so I don’t ” discount ” someone just because they’ve had very fortunate lives.

    And , my sister used to tell me ” you just don’t WANT to be happy ! ” . How that used to bug me ! I finally pinpointed what the problem was. Her idea of ” happy ” was like that of the worlds’ – finding the next bargain at a store , stuff like that. As a Christian , I wasn’t looking for ” happiness ” per se , I WAS looking for JOY. Which I find mainly in the Lord. I have joy deep inside , and yes I laugh a lot and do enjoy myself. But like you Melissa , I “enjoy ” reading a deep book , whereas a lot of people enjoy reading ” fun ” books – like the latest books on the fiction bestsellers list. There’s nothing wrong with that , but give me a deep book that makes me think and THAT brings me JOY , when I can learn TRUTH. I love it !! It makes me want to dance and sing. lol ( Seriously )

    These are just some thoughts of mine that came up in this conversation of siestas.

    God loves us melancholies too , and we don’t think we’re cool , and we don’t LIKE it that we see the glass as half empty. Not that that was the point .

    I’m just not struggling with containing my happiness like some of my siestas are . I’m always very thankful for every good thing going on in my life though , and when those things are happening , I’m glad to say so.

    I AM most “happy ” when I am enjoying the fellowship of my Christian sisters. The happiness is contagious . But joy , on the other hand , I experience in its fullness when I’m totally alone and in fellowship with God.

    I really enjoy your posts Melissa. I’d like to read Mr. Word’s book. ( or try. ; ) )

    Thank you.

  44. 194
    Sarah Burk says:

    I’m a teacher and just a week ago, another teacher was coming in for the morning and she said, in a rather dispondant voice, “Thank goodness this is almost over! How are you this morning?” And I replied with a rather peppy, “I’m…I’m JAZZED!!” I think this caught her a bit by surprise. She said, “Jazzed, huh?” I told my husband about it later and he laughed…all I could think was: I could be really all over that ‘I’m so ready for this to be over’ or I could be excited about what the day would bring. It’s much easier on my heart and blood pressure to be happy and I think it makes people wonder, what I’ve got (it’s Jesus).

  45. 195
    Joybreaks says:

    Anyone ever tell you three that you all have a beautiful, yet unique style of writing? I absolutely love it! Beth, yours is truth, mixed with humor…and Melissa, yours is insightful and soul-searching. Amanda, yours is just downright real with homespun anecdotes. I could use a lot more adjectives with all of you, but I am trying to keep it short. In essence, you all are such cool, intricate parts of the Body of Christ, and quite frankly I would miss your writings if any of you stopped. Thank you for the three way mirror. I see Jesus from all aspects. What a team!

    In Christ,
    Carol Skipper
    AL

  46. 196
    Casey says:

    I agree 100%

    I have never understood why the brooding look for every boy band! And since when did it become cool to be emo? What is that? And why did we need to shorten the word…to further maim our body from what God has ordained for us. He gives us joy, not happines. Joy is the choice to be happy in spite of it all–not because of it. I will have to take a peek at that book. You have peeked my curiosity. Way to get us thinking and reading Melissa!

  47. 197
    lynn Miller says:

    Melissa,

    This was a great post. i agree with Telford Work’s writing about “culture of sorrow”. i feel because there is sorrow and Christ Himself is often referred to as a Man of Sorrows; as usual humanity has tried to glorify the sorrow. As usual we have built yet another Tower of Babel, The Tower of Sorrow. i love it that i have the privilege as a Christian to take my sorrow to CHRIST and HE Strengthens me with HIS LOVE, JOY, PEACE, LONGSUFFERING, GENTLENESS, GOODNESS, FAITH, MEEKNESS, and TEMPERANCE. i love to hear the testimonies of funerals of faithful Christians who have died unexpectedly, there should be immense sorrow yet the joy in the funeral homes is talked about on and on for many years after. This is to me, sorrow that someone has allowed CHRIST JESUS to turn into what HE intended, joy in the trial of suffering. Thank you for your love, devotion and service to our MIGHTY SAVIOR CHRIST JESUS. You make the Body of CHRIST shine all the more Brightly!!!!!!!!!!!!

    lynn

  48. 198
    Linda LaFrombois says:

    Hi Melissa:

    I always love your posts.

    You shared that Work wrote: “Relationships tend to deepen from shallow happiness to more authentic sorrow . . . ” (227). I think there is something Scriptural to our being knit together through sorrow, if we don’t make sorrow and misery our goal. I keep thinking of how Paul wrote that he wanted to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection, and share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death. Those are some pretty grey/black words (except the resurrection part, which had to start at a point of sorrow; namely, death). Jesus, Man of Sorrows; the High Priest that is well acquainted with our grief. It seems couldn’t even begin to relate to Jesus until He first related to us in or at our sorrow and grief. Then once we had/have that touching point – starting point? – we could move with Him into His joy. Maybe when He touches our pain, and doesn’t exploit or increase or despise it, we are first able to trust Him – and not until then.

    I believe it’s the same with our friendships. The greatest joy and depth in relationships seems to come after a mutual or similar sorrow has been shared – whether that is joy in a sports team victory after sharing the pain of drills and training and playing your heart out; or sharing similar work struggles or marriage struggles or kid chaos struggles. We find that meeting point and there’s joy in it – joy in finding someone who relates and understands, and still likes or loves or pursues or stays. Perhaps from there – from finding that touching point of pain – we can truly trust each other’s happiness and joy, and move forward in it together.

  49. 199
    Song Catcher says:

    Very interesting train of thought and thread.
    It seems to me there are two distinct kinds of sorrow gluttons. Someone previously referred to one as the “water cooler” party pooper. We all know them and most likely avoid them. They are a living walking version of a bad country song. Poor, broke, wife left with the mailman, dog died and the hemorrhoids are flaring up again. It’s just another version of the old standby put everybody down to boost myself up. An infant version of Munchausen syndrome, it’s a cry for attention and a way to feel “seen”. In a world where most people feel so inadequate and lonely, any attention is good attention.

    On the other hand we have the Doomy Gloomy von Savant. They approach life with the attitude that with all of horrific and horrendous things in the world only the naïve and ignorant are happy. Hence the adage ignorance is bliss. From my encounters, I find most of these black cladded naysayers are so entrenched in memorizing the latest percentage of destruction they rarely raise their heads to see that oncoming train. And once again it’s a cry to be ‘seen”. Look at me, chained to a tree in my eco friendly hemp activist T Shirt and 28 rubber armbands promoting the “cause”, all the while shouting obscenities and growling at passersby.

    Don’t get me wrong, the earth is an amazing expression of Gods almighty love for us and we should be conscious of how we live our lives. And there are many worthy organizations and causes that provide unbelievable opportunities for us to minister to others. But joy, love and happiness is where it’s at. I know this all sounds way off track. But in John, Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” As Christians we have a spark of that light living within us. It’s what gives us strength and compassion, allowing for laughter and tears. “We” have no need to be seen if others see Christ in us.

  50. 200
    April says:

    I definitely think that sadness/angst is “cooler” in our culture that joy, peace, and happiness. One of the ways I’ve noticed this phenomenon at work is the genre of television show where the brilliant problem-solver is also broken/in pain because of some terrible incident in his or her past. Even our superheroes have become darker.

    Modern culture seems to like its heroes flawed.

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