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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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35 Responses to 659

  1. becky says:

    That’s my problem – I do say it. ‘-) I’d rather have someone think I’m an a-hole than to “pretend to be nice.”

  2. Claire says:


    I don’t know, Becky, saying something harsh if I really believed it was true wouldn’t be so bad…the trouble is that the times I’m most inclined to speak out are not the times when my good judgement and wisdom are most engaged. If I said something like this it would probably be out of my own personal pique, not because I really thought it was the best thing to do. So if I gave myself permission to say these things I don’t think it would reflect too well on me. Even if there were good reasons to think that this woman was partly (or even completely) to blame for the marriage breaking down, there’s always time to say that after offering her some sympathy (“being nice”?).

    Then again maybe I’m thinking too hard about this. I certainly agree that more honesty is necessary in christian communities, but I know too many people who make a virtue of “honesty” no matter how much hurt it causes, and I don’t agree with that either.

  3. Forrest says:

    Probably something better to say would be along the lines of ‘That must hurt’?

    Hey Jon, it seems possible that this might be an infinite list.

    There was a time listening to a fellow go on and on about how the public library’s staff were rude and the library shouldn’t do this, that, and the other thing, and it’s wrong to charge for computer printouts, and the copy machine costs too much, and, and, and . . .
    I got fed up and said to him, Ya know, the more you talk, the more it sounds like the librarians aren’t the problem, you are.

    The library staff has been nothing but help and smiles whenever we’ve been there.

    Funny that he said this in a support group after he’d said he didn’t like groups because all the people who came did was complain.

  4. rebecca says:

    There’s a verse somewhere which says: “Everything is permissible — but not everything is beneficial”.

    It’s not a case of there being things that Christians are not allowed to say — but of there being things that are hurtful and thoughtless to say (particularly to somebody in a vulnerable position), and so any thoughtful and sensitive person, Christian or not, should think twice before saying them.

    What would you make of somebody who, on hearing that somebody had cancer, said to them: “It’s your own fault, for eating the wrong foods/smoking/not having any children/etc [delete as appropriate]”?

  5. miriworm says:

    Where’s the wife Jon? Oops should I have said that? :-)

  6. subo says:

    when people say this kind of thing to me, I’m left deeply aware of their well intended thoughts, and little knowledge of the facts, it also leaves me feeling isolated and misunderstood

    I am a big fan of a book “All Cats Have Asperger’s Syndrome” by Kathy Hoopmann, which notes that every parent of a child with some asperger’s traits, will find other people criticising their parenting, as though if only they parented with the advice I gave them, their child would be behaving differently!

    on the other side, having often been shocked by a particular persons behaviour, I’ve tried at times to tell her. She’s never taken any notice, and continues to be as superior, controlling and belligerent, and oblivious of the pain she spreads.

    I was particularly concerned about her animosity to one person in the group, feeling there is a serious risk, again I challenged her on this, only to now get updates on this one persons ‘sins’, of which I don’t care about, and I still feel there’s a possibility these two will end up physically hurting each other, – my words have achieved nothing

    another friend challenged me about it, as she realised I was quite concerned, her comments were ‘we push people away when we need them’, and I’ve tried to offer a little more warmth and understanding to my superior, belligerent friend

  7. duttyo says:

    number 2. To the old lady who sits at the back of the church….’well can’t you just shave it off? it makes you look like Gary Neville!’

  8. beatthedrum says:

    LOL @ Dutto

    I have struggled with in my life, I am a very blunt speaker, “I speak as I find” as the saying goes.

    Over time God has changed me so now I can empathise and not critisise, love and not judge, forgive rather than store uo wrath.

    Darned hard though when sum numpty annoys you


  9. Carole says:

    ‘Speak the truth and shame the divil’ as my dear old mum used to say…and, yes, she pronounced it ‘divil’. But it is, indeed, a rare gift to be able to speak truthfully, constructively and without causing hurt. I have met one or two who have it. Better not to commit the faux pas of the chap in the picture but to follow the time-honoured Christian tradition of expressing it to a third party instead…?

    Only teasing folks! ;)

  10. I’ve just left the church and my ‘job’ as a volunteer art worker. At the core of it was the things I felt to be true but, as a Christian, did not feel I should say. It is a failing of mine that I stored feelings of resentment and anger in my heart and tried to put a brave face on it. All I did was make myself miserable. I should have walked away months ago but the lure of future paid work kept me there.
    I still don’t know what the answer is other than letting God work on my failings.
    Reminds me of something a pastor once said…”Better to be humble than be humbled”

  11. Sophie says:

    A friend of mine says there are three things to consider before saying something out loud. Is it


    Necessary, or


    If it is less than two of the 3, it’s better to keep quiet.

    I remember when I was at CU at university, people would basically tell other people off, and pass it off as ‘love’. Not sure it was a very encouraging environment. I once spent a lot of time worrying about how much a fellow CU member in my hall drank and we had long conversations about it with and without him (mostly without). What a nightmare, he was only going out and having a fun time, I don’t think he really had a problem with drink. But those were narrow and judgemental days. I’m glad I’m out of that circle now.

  12. Robb says:

    We can all fall into the trap of assuming that the 2% of someone that we see is the whole story Sophie. It’s how we deal with that in a self aware manner. I remember the same things from when I was at university.

    We have to remember that they are (we were) only 19 and trying to work out what the world looks like. Hopefully by the time we’re 119 we will be closer to wisdom. Perhaps one day God will perfect us… if there is time ;)

  13. jonbirch says:

    ‘speak the truth and shame the divil’… my grandma used to say, ‘the pathway to hell is paved with good intentions’… …i’m doomed! :-)

    botticelliwoman… that whole ‘storing things up’ feels horrible doesn’t it? a real life killer.

    sophie… nothing more enjoyable than a bit of judgmentalism and self righteousness, eh? aaah, youth. ;-)

    ‘darned hard though when some numpty annoys you’… hahahahaha! :lol:

  14. jonbirch says:

    yeh robb… many never achieve any real self awareness… certainly, at 19 self awareness is a rare commodity… not unheard of though.

  15. Robb says:

    Thing is…. it’s really easy to slip into that same judgementalism about them being judgemental…


    Hopefully if wisdom is given to me for my 119th birthday I will remember that “elder”ness means “being with” rather than “doing to” or even…. “judging”.

  16. Sometimes we do have to point out things that are true – even when it hurts the other person. But what is our intention. Is it to put the person down – or to prove to them and ourselves

    “I’m not a hypocrite, I’m better than all the other Christians who are afraid to speak up”

    Usually, If I have a relationship with someone, and I know from this relationship that they care about me, then I’m prepared to accept the blunt statements, because for me this is when the truth has been spoken in love.

  17. Robb says:

    Some of this I would guess is also cultural. People are often taken aback by the blunt truth we often use in yorkshire. We revel in the phrase ‘a spade’s a spade’. When you are part of the culture you hardly bat an eyelid. I suppose that the culture of “christian truth” perpetuates itself because you just assume that it is normal when you arrive in an alien church culture and that is how it opperates…

  18. Caroline Too says:

    it’s that old expression…

    telling the truth in love

    have you ever noticed that nobody ever tell anyone anything nice or encouraging in love

    funny that, you’d have thought that every now and again, love would spot something nice and encouraging to say!

  19. Caroline Too says:

    If I want to say something potentially harsh, I try to follow a few steps
    1) ask does this person know deep down that I love them…whatever

    2) I then probe around, ask a question or two to see if the person is in a listening mood… will they hear the ‘maybe’ in what I say or just the criticism?

    3) then I hold my breath

    4) then I usually find myself not saying anything

    5) very very occasionally, I take the risk …

    that I have only got severe bruising suggests that I’m not always wrong :-)

  20. becky says:

    2. Claire – that’s my dilemma. Am I speaking the truth in love or just venting because I’m PO’d? I set up an accountability group for the book I’m writing now because I was really coming down on Emergent Church ™ and a few others that I feel have gotten so far behind from the gospel that it’s unreal. They helped guide me by noting where I went too far. I found that very helpful to keep me focused. They also tell me when it’s time to “knock it off” when I’m starting to stew in my stuff.

    Also, I learned this the hard way — you REALLY have to know someone before you can confront them on their issues. And even then it’s dicey. I tend to handle it horribly by letting my anger get the better of me.

    This cartoon brings to mind a good friend of mine – our friendship almost came to an end over her advanced alcoholism. We had a bad blowout because I couldn’t be around this toxicity anymore. Our friendship was able to be restored and she’s now in the early stages of recovery. At this point, she’s NOWHERE near ready to admit that her alcoholism contributed to the dissolution of her marriage, her sketchy job history, etc. She goes to church infrequently and when she shows up, what she needs is a smile and a hug – if anyone said a comment like this to her right now, she’d run for the hills. I pray that someday in an AA or other therapeutic environment, she can deal with these demons.

    What’s helpful here (for me at least) are doing personality tests like the ennegram and Myers Briggs – yes, they’re flawed but I learned that at my core, I need to be in honest and truthful places (hence my love of this site). I feel from that loving relationships can flow. But others put a much higher premium on “being friends” so to them it’s more important that people “get along” than we deal with the real differences. No one side is “right” though I confess that one of my frustrations with the church is this need to maintain harmony at all costs cause you know it’s going to implode.

  21. Pat says:

    Robb @15: ‘In love’, can I just mention that…..I found being with rather than doing to a really helpful way of thinking about this – thanks :-)

  22. Fr. Eric says:

    You are a priest, aren’t you? LOL

  23. subo says:

    as a kid i used to puzzle over a thing a friend said to my Mum (frequently). “Never give a fence, or take a fence”, why not use the gate i used to wonder

    talking of AA, I was ranting to a longstanding AA devote, about how blind counsellors seem to be to addictions, his reply was to tell me a story of supporting a women through the destructive events of her alcoholism to the point of attending court to support her during a charge of driving under the influence, his decade of loving support finally won her over to AA. I felt suitably chastised, though still have a hunch that some counsellors …

  24. becky says:

    23. Subo – that’s what I finally did with my friend. I walked in her shoes. It was very hard to do but I was in a situation where I needed a place to stay and she needed someone to support her. Had I not been there, I think she would have lost her kids and might have died (the alcoholism was that bad). However, I did this knowing full well she was an alcoholic.

    What gets me about some counselors is their inability to admit this problem is an issue – for example, my friend was downing 1 1/2 liters of wine per day and yet she found a psychiatrist who would prescribe psychotroopic meds – it’s potentially lethal to drink that much and take the meds she was taking.

    Back to Jon’s cartoon – my overall point is that 1) yes my friends’ drinking definitely was a major contributing factor in the divorce but 2) telling her that in a church setting well drive her from church.

  25. Bo says:

    I think the first and most important step in telling someone that what they are doing is wrong, is to realise that it’s hard to do it right.
    That alone should prevent the most obvious mistake, which would be to just blunder something out.

    With that realisation, take some time to think about the person, how could he/she best be encouraged to seriously reconsider his/her actions?
    Some people must have a very convoluted message, with lots of “I think”, “perhaps” and “maybe”s in it, where other people prefere and require a blunt message: “You’re an alcoholic, and you need to change your life”.

    Of cause the most important part of this is to seek God in adjusting your attitude, it’s very, very easy to add an amount of frustration, arrogance and condemnation when you point out someone’s shortcommings.

    My own most recent experience with this was regarding a fellowship my congregation is a part of.
    They were encouraging prophetic words during worship, and I had known the entire meeting what they needed to hear.
    But, I also knew that I could not express this in a constructive way.
    So I sat and prayed for a while, until a message was given in tounges, and God touched my heart, so I was able to give the interpretation of the message, which of cause was what I already knew was needed to be said, but now I could do it in a constructive, loving, non-condeming way.

  26. edu50774 says:

    I love that word numpty. I forgot about it…gotta figure out how I can use it more often!


  27. Laura says:

    ooops…used the wrong sign-on.
    Guess I’m a numpty, huh?

    Wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I said I wanted to start using it more often. :oops:

  28. Laura says:

    I’ll get my coat.

  29. becky says:

    I just had a major blow out with a “religious rock star” in which he un-friended me from facebook – in a nutshell I was accused of slander. (As a satirist when I hit someone’s sacred cow, it moos very loudly). Nah, what I was doing was noting to him some addictive behavior that I knew was heading for a crash and burn. And when he didn’t listen (most addicts don’t), I warned some people I knew to be careful so they don’t get wrapped up in this toxic behavior. In hindsight – my response could have been more Christlike that’s for sure. But as I learned once again, those engaged in addictive behavior aren’t going to listen until they’re ready to hear. I thought this guy was receptive but I was wrong. (Mild understatement.)

  30. Laura says:

    Sorry about that Becky. Sux!

  31. subo says:

    “my friend was downing 1 1/2 liters of wine per day”, – thats bad,

    i think i sense a highly developed long vision, Becky, you see the kingdom and don’t let the weeds obscure your sense of hope

  32. becky says:

    32. And Prozac – a psychiatrist wrote the prescription knowing she was an alcoholic – that’s what gets me is the “being so nice you enable the hell out of someone until they die.” I am VERY grateful at a few points in my life someone told me to “get a life” or I’d be dead.

    Thanks for the encouragement – right now I just got clobbered with a weedwhacker as it were. This was someone I befriended and really tried to help him with his career in the states so I thought could assume the role of the blunt guy in Jon’s cartoon – and tell him the truth but I realize he had drunken the Christian Kool-Aid and won’t listen.

    I reflect on the prophets and except for perhaps Isaiah, they were are prickly sorts. Now is the church is all prickly people then it’s really unpleasant. But if a church has no satirists to keep her honest, then she goes off into Kool-Aid country. That’s why ASBO matters.

  33. rebecca says:

    I saw Becky’s comment (#32) yesterday, and wasn’t sure whether to respond, but I’ve decided that I will. “[Enabling] the hell out of someone” does sound like a “nice” thing to do — the key phrase being that you are getting the hell out of someone, rather than exactly how you do it. But the important thing is to do it the right way for each person. In some cases it is far more appropriate to *shake* the hell out of them. It takes wisdom to know the right way to treat each person.

    Quoting I know not who: “Those whom God loves, he shakes the hell out of”. And of course “those whom God loves” means everyone.

  34. michelle says:


  35. jonbirch says:

    ‘ouch’, indeed.

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