Reasons, Excuses, and Fear

(This blog post is more or less the transcript for an episode of my podcast- The “Faith & Doubt” Podcast. You can find the podcast here. The podcast includes some additional banter from me not included in the blog post. So you might want to check it out too. At any rate, thanks for your visit.)

Ever feel like your productivity switch is stuck in the “Off” position?
Photo credit: Jeff Turner

It has been quite some time since I recorded a podcast. There was one several months back, but that one was a spur of the moment thing, and I was in a goofy mood. But other than that, I’ve been quiet.

Then something happened I didn’t expect. My son was away at an activity this past weekend and somebody walked up to him and asked him where my podcast has been. When he texted me and told me I was pretty surprised. I know a few people listened, but mostly I thought they were listening because they knew me, not because I had much to offer. I certainly didn’t think anybody was missing the podcast. But it turns out someone was missing it. It kind of provided a little jolt for me. So here I am today, recording a podcast.

Today I want to tell you what happened, where I’ve been, and give you the reasons- or excuses- behind why I haven’t been recording any podcasts.

But first, I want to talk a little bit about the difference between two words- reason and excuse- and how they relate to a third word- fear.

I believe the reason and excuse are closely related but are not interchangeable. I’m not going to look the words up and get too technical, I’m just going to explain how I’ve come to understand the words.

Photo Credit: Jeff Turner

Let’s look at reason first. “Reason” is the cause for something happening. There’s not much emotion involved. For instance, let’s say you’re driving along when you come upon a car stalled on the side of the road. Being the nice person you are you stop to be sure the driver is OK. When you ask them what happened they tell you they’re not sure, the engine just stopped running. After a quick look at the situation and checking out the car, you find it is out of fuel. The reason the engine stopped is because there was no more fuel in the tank for the engine to keep running. No fuel is the reason the car stalled. Plain and simple. But then you turn to the driver with a confused look and ask, “Why did you let the car run out of fuel?” They look at you and pause for a moment before answering.

Now let’s talk about excuses.

When the driver finally answers your question they say, “I was just running behind this morning and didn’t have time to stop for fuel.” At which point the passenger in the car, who had to this point been quiet yells out, “Yeah! You were running behind because you were playing Zelda all morning! A VIDEO GAME is why you didn’t have time to stop for fuel!”

See the difference? Reasons for given events are pretty cut and dry. Excuses are ideas we use to explain why we didn’t avoid certain unwanted results. When an engine runs out of fuel it will stop running. But it is an avoidable problem simply by the car operator filling the tank with fuel. That part was in the control of the driver. Excuses are what we come up with when we are trying to save face; when we are trying to excuse our behavior. It’s what we do when we are looking for valid reasons- good reasons for why we did or failed to do something. As I see it, excuses are what we provide when we’re trying to protect our ego. Perhaps we’re even trying to protect our integrity.

Today as I’m sharing with you my reasons for lagging on the podcast production, I’m aware my reasons may be just excuses. That’s my confession to you. Some of them are probably excuses. I’m not proud. It is what it is. In the end it boils down to fear. I got intimidated, scared, embarrassed, and filled with self-doubt. And it robbed me of the joy I feel when I publish a podcast. So as I go further, I’ll leave it up to you as to whether these are reasons or excuses.

First, let me provide what I believe is a pretty fair reason for my silence. A family member had a stroke. It was a major stroke and they ended up moving into the room where I recorded my podcasts. I had begun to make some changes to that room to make it a better creative space. (Though to be honest, I’m not sure that wasn’t just me finding a way to delay working on a new episode.) At about the time I was working on the room the stroke happened and we needed to turn it into a living area. This particular family member is doing better and will soon be moving back home. That said, having someone live in  your home makes harder to have a quiet space to be creative.

When someone in your family has a life-threatening event it changes, well, everything. It did for us. But honestly, I think I could have made it work another way if not for the fear I’ve been experiencing.

I listen to a lot of Podcasts like mine. I listen to the Robcast- a podcast by Rob Bell. I listen to The (De)Constructionists– two goofballs just like me who want to talk about this stuff. I love The Bible for Normal People podcast. It’s put together by two theologians who I’ve learn a lot from. And I listen to the Ask Science Mike Podcast. Mike is a guy who was an evangelical Christian like me who lost his faith completely before having a mystical experience which brought him back to faith- albeit a faith that looks different than it did before. I liked his 1st book too- Finding God in the Waves. There are a few others I listen to as well. But these are the ones I listen to most. All of these deal with issues of faith and doubt to a certain degree. I just began to feel like my podcast wasn’t offering anything more than what was already available to people. I mean, they’re good podcasts. If I had to choose one I’d want to most resemble from a production standpoint, it would be The (De)Constructionists.

Then there is the actual production of the podcast itself. I’m not real good at technical stuff. Computers intimidate and frustrate me. When something doesn’t work right it takes me about 4 hours to figure out why and fix it. Editing take a long time for me, and I’m not yet comfortable paying for someone else to do it. I like adding music to the podcast, but I have no idea how to navigate the copyright laws and such.

And then there’s me being somewhat of a perfectionist, at least when it comes to the podcast and blog. I don’t like to put out stuff I don’t feel is finished. But some things I don’t know how to do. So, well, I just don’t do it and there’s nothing ever to publish. Even if I do it for a little while, I stop. I’m scared of looking dumb, nontechnical, incapable, or unsophisticated. Which leads me to share with you what was one of the most fear-based experiences I had this past summer. It’s the thing that really kept me from creating.

I had arranged an interview with an musician. Some of you who had been listening might remember I teased it. The time for the interview came up and I dealt with some scheduling difficulties and such. I wasn’t sure where to set up my equipment or even how it would work in a setting out of that room in my house. Then, the night before I was supposed to have my interview I went to one of his concerts. It was a small venue and as I was walking in he was giving his technician instructions on how to adjust certain audio levels. Stuff like, “I need you to turn up the B9 signal 12 degrees to where the pitch reverbs again once the 9-er sets in.” I totally made that last sentence up, but what he said was so technical. He clearly knew what he was doing from a technical standpoint. And to be honest, it scared the living shit out of me. ( BTW, I’m sometimes going to use what some would call strong language. This is intentional. If it triggers something in you, just know I am using it because something has been triggered within me and I want you to understand I’m having strong feelings about what I’m expressing. Words bring meaning- even vulgarity.)

I have this little box I plug my microphone into. It has four knobs and 6 switch-y things. I only touch the knob which turns the volume up and down. When I heard the guy I was supposed to interview go into such technical detail on stage, my desire to interview him was quickly trumped by my desire to not look like an idiot- technically or otherwise. So I sent him a message to reschedule and here we are several months later… There were a few other things that got in the way too, but mostly, it was fear.

I’ve come to understand that fear isn’t always a bad thing. The reason we have fear is to protect ourselves from harm. But sometimes we let fear have too much control. Sure, by rescheduling the interview I avoided the possibility of looking like a technical idiot.  But I never rescheduled the interview. So, I never had what I thought was going to be a pretty cool conversation. I missed out on something important because I gave into fear.

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it. I froze. My podcast froze. Except for one episode where I bragged about being able to do The Floss.

Clearly there’s nothing polished or artistic about this GIF. Are your eyes bleeding yet?

Then I got lost in my belief that I had nothing new to offer the conversation. I was fearful of looking like I was trying to be those other podcasts I listen to. So I just didn’t put anything else out there.

I also got lost in wanting to look polished. I have all these ideas about what it would look like when I produced good art. And I told myself I wouldn’t do anything until I could have it just right. So instead I produced nothing.

And then some kid asked my kid where my podcast went. Frankly, my kid had been asking me that for months. But this was apparently just the jolt I needed to get moving again. Someone cared.

So here I am. And here’s what I hope you’ll see in the coming weeks:

There will be a slight change in the name to the podcast. I’ve added the word “Change” to the title. I don’t think “Faith and Doubt” entirely encapsulated what I want to do. The doubts in my faith produced some changes to my faith. These are the things I’d like to discuss more. Sometimes it might even look like these things aren’t related to my faith at all. Everything is up for grabs here. So the new name for the podcast is “Faith, Doubt, and Change.”

I’m also working on some new podcast art. That’s the picture assigned to the podcast. Yes, a dumb picture got in the way of my production. I feel silly just admitting that!

This is a book about being creative. Liz talks about fear a lot and how to look at it in a healthy way. Read it.

Finally, I actually do have some things I want to share with you. Fear (as one of my favorite authors Elizabeth Gilbert would say) is going to have to take a back seat for now. Fear will be allowed to go along for the ride, but he is not allowed to drive the car or even touch the radio. Because if I’m going to be who I want to be, and share what I want to share, I’m going to need to be able to be vulnerable.

So I do have some stuff I’m working on.

  • I’m working on this one thing about professional sports fandom and how I’m considering giving it up. I don’t like the person I am when it comes to my favorite teams.
  • I want to share my thoughts about human sexuality. I think about it in ways I haven’t heard before. It has affected me a lot and has changed how I view all sexuality- same sex attraction included.
  • I’m working on a piece about words I didn’t quite understand and you may not either. This’ll probably be a quick break from faith based stuff. But I usually always end up back there. We’ll see where it goes.
  • Recycling.  I am more convinced than ever that my willingness to recycle is an indicator of my level of commitment to my faith.
  • Finally, next time I think I want to discuss a phrase I heard recently which doesn’t sit well with me. The phrase is “Making Jesus Famous.” Yeah, I don’t love that. But I do love the person and people who said it, so I’m working to make sure I don’t hurt anyone.

So thanks for being patient, and thanks to that kid who asked about the podcast. I’ve missed it too. I pray fear no longer keeps me from producing what I love. I pray that for us all.

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