Life might be nicer if everything was fair all the time. If it were, however, life wouldn’t be a challenge. We’d all probably end up bored.
If everything for everyone was fair, we wouldn’t need to ever feel guilty. We wouldn’t have more than someone else. We wouldn’t have less. We wouldn’t have to think about sharing and there might not even be a word for the concept. If someone else screwed up, it would be their fault. We’d bear no responsibility.
There’d be no free will, of course, because we’d somehow be barred from making the wrong decision. Mistakes result in inequality and that results in unfairness.
We wouldn’t have to pay attention. We’d concentrate only on our own affairs and what we wanted to care about.
Not having to pay attention to others, and what’s around us, would free us from many obligations.
Everyone knows some unfairness
I grew up with one parent. Our income was below the poverty level. My father died when I was five years old. I was an only child. I acutely felt all kinds of disadvantages when I was growing up.
On paper, yes, it really sucked.
Yet, as I grew into adulthood, I realized I had it better than others in different ways, even people coming from families where their income absolutely dwarfed ours.
As I gained maturity, I gained the realization of my advantages.
For one thing, my mom loved me. She did her best. For another thing, we owned our own home. Nobody in my life was a drug addict or alcoholic. My mom also ignited within me a love of reading. That’s a hugely valuable gift you can give to a child.
I was actually rich in intangible ways growing up.
While material riches are meaningful, they’re not particularly important. You can’t quantify some forms of riches because they’re intangible. Cataloging material advantages and disadvantages and what is and isn’t fair is complicated because of these intangibles. Your list risks being meaningless without true advantages and disadvantages in areas like love, good values, friends, and family.
If you want to help people the most you can, show and teach them how to be resilient. Give them hope. Introduce skills to them. Support them as they use their creativity as they solve their problems and use yours to help them see what they can’t.
It worked for me in taking me out of mental and physical poverty as it has for many others.
I promise this relates to a point I want to make about the Osteens.
A good conversation
One of the best pleasures in life for many people is a great conversation. I had one of those the other night. A friend from Louisiana told me the story of his life. It didn’t come out as a linear story, one-sided. That’s a lecture or sermon. Rather, it came out as a patchwork as a good conversation works, an exchange.
My friend grew up living with a mother who had divorced his father. His father was uninvolved and uncaring even after he tried to talk to him when he saw him mowing a lawn when he was 13. Today, his half-siblings won’t forgive his father. My friend, on the other hand, tries to do what’s right. His dad is an old man now and needs someone.
All his life, his mother made one bad decision after another. I got the impression his whole family had those tendencies. A DNA test revealed that his grandmother was likely impregnated by a traveling salesman.
He made me reflect on my life. True, I lacked a lot of male influence in my life growing up, though I had an uncle who did his best and my mom’s cousin did his best to help me out too. After I grew up, I realized my father couldn’t help dying. He had heart disease and it ran in his family. The men in his family tended to die in their 50s until medical science invented cardiac bypasses and various types of medication.
None of that matters, really, to my psyche. They didn’t reject me. My mom loved me. I knew my dad loved me. My family loved me.
Not only that, but my mom coped with a lot of the challenges in her life with her faith. She taught me God loved me. She proved it to me, though the significance of the proof took years to sink in.
My friend from south Louisiana experienced much less love than I did growing up.
So that’s one thing we get from others as well as a: perspective. Perspective is valuable because it can shape our decisions. It also helps us to be grateful for what we have. If we can’t appreciate it, we’re prone to take everything for granted. My friend faced numerous disadvantages growing up but he had one big one: resilience.
Pulling these points together
I love Sirius XM. I’m a fan. Even though it has many competitors, I joke that it’s an irreplaceable service for me. I believe that an AI and algorithm can’t hope to replace a DJ who loves and knows his music. I don’t want to hear something similar to what I’ve been listening to. I want to grow as a fan of music.
I don’t just listen to music when I’m taking a drive, however. I also listen to talk shows. Dave Ramsey and his crew provide a counterpoint to the endless consumerism we face. Dr. Laura rudely helps people cut through all of the lies they tell themselves.
One of my other favorites, however, is the Joel Osteen channel. It’s a counterpoint to much of the others. You have the realism and reflection of music, the howling emotion that provokes a lot of it. You have the no-nonsense attitude of Dave Ramsey and Dr. Laura in addition to the point of views of the other business, conservative and liberal talk shows. None of them, however, do what Joel and Victoria Osteen do in the way they do it. They provide “unrealistic” hope. Their children seem to be following in their footsteps.
The podcast, however, is moving to the IHeart network, however. It’s not clear how this will affect the channel on SiriusXM.
What makes the Osteens’ ministry valuable
Not everything useful is complicated. Some useful things are extremely simple. Most of Joel Osteen’s messages are that way: simple. No lofty theological discourse for Osteen, as is the case with some other preachers like Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
Osteen’s sermons are also hard-hitting, punchy. He has two basic points he hammers in different ways: God loves you; God has got great things in store for you. It’s not rocket science. Encouragement doesn’t have to be.
The sermons follow a format. He usually starts his messages with a clean joke or story. Then he has the congregation recite a few sayings. Then he illustrates some variation of God loves you and he’s got great things in store for you, tying it all together by the end.
Sometimes it’s Victoria Osteen delivering the sermon. She follows the same format. Their kids do too.
You might not listen to the Osteens, but you need to hear what they have to say from someone in your life. It’s good for you. Our waking lives are often drowned in too much realism. Our waking lives are real.
God’s love is real, too, but it’s not necessarily pervasive if we don’t stop and think about it if we don’t count our blessings. Joel and Victoria Osteen’s function is to provide this for their listeners, readers, and viewers.
When you’re living in the unfairness of day-to-day life, it can get discouraging. You can’t see the steps leading out of your despair. The Osteens offer simple encouragement that can have a profound effect, more potent than any government program, though those can help too.
Their detractors say they’re always asking for money, accusing them of greed. For example, they’ve criticized them for being late to open their church in 2017 when a hurricane rolled through Houston.
People like these seem to say something like that about every church. I’ve listened to many hours of programming on Sirius and a few times on TV and I’ve never heard him directly ask for money once. Seriously. Seeing them live at Lakewood Church in Houston requires an admission fee. They follow a different policy from other churches. Nevertheless, you can always choose to go to another church. You should if you either can’t afford the admission fee or don’t want to pay it.
Detractors accuse the Osteens of preaching the gospel of prosperity. This term is meant to be insulting and cast it as something dubious. As a former poor kid, I feel it’s a needed gospel as long as the minister isn’t preying upon you. The Osteens make thousands of hours of their content free and their books are readily available at libraries everywhere. While some ministers are guilty of psychological manipulation, the Osteens don’t fall into that category. Do you need encouragement? You can listen to thousands of hours of recordings of them being encouraging.
It’s smart to distinguish types of prosperity. Call them blessings. How are you blessed? With quality friends and family, like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life? Brains? Luck? Money?
Yet in spite of this, it’s hard not to get stuck on money. We live in a physical, material world. Money is also easy to measure.
Charity consists of more than donating money. The Osteens encourage this view, for example, being generous with others with your time. As far as I can tell, encouraging others in their purpose and mission in life is, perhaps, one of the greatest acts of charity.
Dreams usually reflect our lives back to us. Divine dreams inspire and offer hope. Some dreams literally reflect your fears. It takes an interplay between our conscious and subconscious minds to come to some resolution. The correct course of action isn’t always so cut-and-dried.
Yet it all starts with believing you can as it did for both my friend and myself. That credence you give yourself and aspirations can seem unrealistic. Believing in yourself and realizing you’re deserving can come with an understanding God loves you and comprehending the significance of Joel and Victoria Osteen’s preaching.
Of course, the Osteens address a mass audience. You can balance this optimism by learning to think in bets and putting the scientific method in your life. The two halves make the whole of a balanced outlook. Both are important.
What they’re continually talking about is elemental. Once you truly realize how worthy you are, how much God loves you, how there’s hope, you can mentally deal with your situation. It all starts in your head and heart.