Books Betsy mentions:
Questions for Reflection
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Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering our Scars podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:06):
Where we have honest conversations about things that make us different.
Beth Demme (00:08):
Our mission is to talk about things you might relate to, but you don't hear being discussed in other places.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:13):
Our hope is that you're encouraged to have honest conversations with people in your life. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:18):
And I'm Beth. On today's show we're going to have an honest conversation titled "Letting Go of Ideas That Don't Work" with our special guest Betsy Ouellette Zierden. Hi Betsy!
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (00:27):
Hi. It's so good to see you both.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:29):
Then we will share a slice of life and the show will close with Questions for Reflection where we invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life.
Beth Demme (00:37):
Betsy, so excited to have you here today. Let me introduce you to those folks who are listening. Betsy is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church in the Florida Conference. And she and Stephanie and I share a church in common that we all kind of have come out of that Stephanie and I have talked about on the podcast before.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:57):
Well, we all met there essentially.
Beth Demme (00:58):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:59):
That's how we know each other.
Beth Demme (00:59):
That's how we know each other. And then, I actually got to serve as Betsy's Associate for about a year. I love the way that you think and I love the way that you love people. And so, I'm really excited to have this conversation with you today.
Beth Demme (01:15):
And actually, we're recording remotely. We're not in our regular podcast studio. I don't think I have ever talked about this on the podcast, but my husband and I have a software business, so we're actually in his office. We're in the conference room of that building. So, I don't think it will sound different, but I guess it could.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (01:29):
So, we're well distanced.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:30):
And that was the idea is that our studio is very small. And I also have a dog in our studio, so we thought this would give us more room.
Beth Demme (01:39):
So, this idea—letting go of ideas that don't work—one of the ways that this first came up is that as Stephanie and I were talking about honest conversations we wanted to have we realized that we have each had to do that. That there are ideas that we have had that we have had to let go of, whether it was ideas about what made us valuable. For me, there was a season in my life where I thought, well, my value is based on my billable hours. How much revenue I can generate. That determines my value. That's an idea I had to let go of because that really didn't work, surprisingly.
Beth Demme (02:14):
I know that you, Betsy, are someone for whom self-awareness is important and for whom personal growth is important. So, are there ideas that you can think of that you've had to let go of? Like, ideas that just didn't work anymore?
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (02:28):
Yeah. So many of them. I mean, one very significant one was when I came to Christ. I was, I'd say, on the fundamentalist side of theology. I didn't believe women should preach.
Beth Demme (02:43):
Wow. Yeah, right?
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (02:45):
Yeah. That's interesting, huh?
Beth Demme (02:45):
And then, God calls you to preach. What do you with that, right?
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (02:47):
I argued a lot and read a lot and studied a lot and prayed a lot. Many, many, many things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:56):
How did you get to that point where you realize that "I can do this. I need to do this. And women need to be in this position"?
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (03:04):
It took some time, but it was also other women and men affirming my gifts. I was a Bible study teacher, for example. And mostly to women. But I would hear "More people need to hear that" or "My husband needs to hear from you" or "That's a really interesting perspective. You should write a book." So, I got a lot of affirmation even in places that were surprising. I was discussing this idea that God has called me at a table in Denny's, and this gentleman that was overhearing us came up to me afterwards and tapped me on the shoulder. And handed me a book by Joyce-
Beth Demme (03:45):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (03:47):
Yeah. And he said, "Listen, God does call women and you need to answer your call."
Beth Demme (03:52):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:52):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (03:52):
And then, he walked out and I'm like, "Was that a real guy or was that an angel?"
Beth Demme (03:57):
Yeah. That's amazing. To get that kind of spontaneous affirmation from a stranger. I mean, that is the Spirit.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (04:03):
Well, I think one of the reasons why it's so hard to let go of ideas is that we surround ourselves with peer groups that hold the ideas that we hold. And then, in order to shift to a new way of thinking, it sometimes involves losing friends, having family members that won't speak to you. I mean, at Good Samaritan, we became a reconciling church, and it took me a long time to embrace that idea.
Beth Demme (04:29):
Yeah. So, being a reconciling church means that we openly affirm people regardless of their sexuality. So, LGBTQ folks are welcome to be not just present, but to be active, to be members, to be leaders, to be teachers.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (04:47):
Yeah. And so, not everybody in the congregation had gotten to the place where our leadership was. So, that was hard, right?
Beth Demme (04:56):
And it was a personal journey for you because you didn't just start out in that place. Just like you didn't start out thinking, "Oh yes. Women can be called to preach." You had to let go of the idea that women wouldn't be called to preach. You had to let go of the idea that, well, them being LGBTQ would be a sin. I mean, that's what I had to let go of.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (05:14):
Yeah. Of course. And that's hard because, again, as you grow and you let go of ideas that have been a part of you, there's pain that goes with it. There's the pain of, as I already mentioned, the peer groups and friends that don't understand. And then, there's also this kind of inner angst. Like, I can remember praying, "I really think this is the way I'm supposed to go. If this is not the way I'm supposed to go and if this is not the way I'm supposed to think. God, don't let me think this."
Beth Demme (05:44):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (05:45):
Things like that because as a Christian and as a leader, I want to be obedient. And so, I guess in a nutshell what I have come to is that love is big. And if it's loving, it's Godly. If it's not loving, it probably isn't.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:04):
So, it's interesting. It seems that one of these things that we want from people is we want them to be able to change. We want people to be able to change. We want our ideas and things to be able to change. But as I've gotten older, I've noticed people don't really change very often. In order to change, you have to want to change, number one. And so, it sounds like what you're talking about is you had this whole upbringing of "This is how it is" but you had this calling and you started doing this research, and your heart was open to "Maybe I can change" and wanting to change and wanting to see if that is a possibility. So, I think that's huge that you were able to put yourself out there in that way because I think that's hard for a lot of people. I mean, is that ... I don't like to change. I feel like I'm open to change because that's the only way I'm going to be able to be a solid human being, I think.
Beth Demme (06:57):
Well, it requires some vulnerability because it requires being able to say, "There's something that I am not doing well" or "There's something that I could be doing better" or "There's something that I've been wrong about."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:08):
Or my belief system is wrong. And when someone attacks your belief system, you're like, "Roar." But what happens when it's you attacking your belief system? Like, what happens?
Beth Demme (07:18):
Yeah. It's true.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (07:19):
It's called deconstruction. There's a whole bunch of podcasts about deconstruction, especially around deconstruction from faith stances. So, but, yeah. It's painful. It hurts.
Beth Demme (07:31):
And I know that you have walked that journey with many people because it's part of the church where we served together. It was sort of part of the identity there, that it's a place folks could come when all their ideas about the Bible and church and religion had fallen apart. And they needed to be able to begin to ... They wanted to be able to begin to journey with God again. But to do it in a way that was emotionally safe, not emotionally abusive. And you really walked with people in that journey very well.
Beth Demme (08:02):
And it made me realize that although I didn't have a big period of deconstruction, there were ideas about the Bible that didn't work that I had to let go of. I had to accept that the Bible isn't actually perfect, which really upsets some people. Really upsets people to think of the Bible as something less than perfect, but God works through imperfect vehicles all the time. It's the only choice God has because only God is perfect. So, everything else that God works through is imperfect, but I had to let go of that idea because I really wanted the Bible to be perfect. It would make things easier somehow.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:39):
So, Betsy, how do you start to walk someone through that process?
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (08:42):
One of the ways that you begin to walk with people is to remember your own experiences. And so, one of the biggest things I had to let go of was I wanted to have a perfect marriage that reflected God's love and grace. And I wanted my family to reflect God's love and grace. And I do believe that that happened. However, 28 years into my first marriage, I got divorced. As a pastor. That was shattering. It was shattering for me. It was shattering for Paul. It was shattering for our children. It's hard to explain. There wasn't a major tipping point or an infidelity. When you hear people say they grew apart, that seems like such a silly cliché. So, that was one of the things that I failed. I failed one of the most important things that I ever attempted. And so, I have grace for those who have failed, right? Or have failed to achieve something that was so important to them.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (09:49):
So, I always come from a place of I would say empathy.
Beth Demme (09:53):
You also come from a place of authenticity. And so, when I was just exploring my calling with the United Methodist Church, and I was with a small group, and we came to Betsy. She was one of our mentors. She shared with us very honestly about how she and her first husband had grown apart. And she did it as a cautionary tale. You allowed yourself to be the cautionary tale to say, "Be aware that as you are getting busier and busier and busier and busier with things at the church, that could pull you away from your spouse." And what I remember you saying, because it was so helpful because I could see it happening in my own marriage. I could foresee it happening. That a great husband wants to support his wife in every way. And so, I could see Stephen wants to give me time to do what I need to do at the church, right? Well, that's more time apart and it's more time of us growing apart.
Beth Demme (10:45):
So, just by you sharing authentically about that experience, it kind of helped me head that off. I went right home and had that conversation with him to say, "Listen, this is what Betsy said. I could see us doing that too. Thinking that it is out of mutual respect, but really that it's starting us down a path of growing apart."
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (11:05):
Yeah. Well, the traditional way of doing church, which is what we've been doing for several hundred years. The pastors were males, the spouse, the wife, for many, many years was in the home, was not working. But there's a huge shift. And yet, the model was the same. And so, Paul would work Monday through Friday. I would work Monday through Friday, and Saturday and Sunday. And there's just little time.
Beth Demme (11:35):
Yeah. Actually, it's sort of an aside, but I think it's important to say that sometimes pastors are the worst about sabbath and boundaries and days off.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (11:45):
Beth Demme (11:45):
And so, it can become a seven day a week kind of work, which also then can pull you away from your family. And that I think can tie into one of those ideas that we have to let go of, that doesn't work. That we don't have to be working seven days a week to be living a meaningful life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:06):
I think one of the things, when I worked for Apple, was work life balance. We always talk about work life balance. And something I realized was like, "That's not a thing." And it's something that you constantly are working on. It's sometimes you have a better balance, sometimes you don't. Sometimes there's seasons, probably for you guys, Christmas season's probably busy. I'm assuming. I don't know.
Beth Demme (12:26):
It is. Actually, Advent comes before Christmas, if you want to know. And Advent is busy.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:31):
Advent? What is this Advent? Oh, I have an Advent calendar. I gotcha. I gotcha.
Beth Demme (12:37):
You eat one piece of chocolate a day.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:38):
No, it's made out of Lego. Yeah, so that was something that I had to kind of realize is there is no perfect work life balance. It's something that we have to constantly work on. And sometimes it's going to be out of balance, but we need to be very mindful of it.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (12:52):
And I think that we, in our culture, it's double talk. I think we say sabbath is important. I think we say work-life balance is important. And yet, our structures do not support work life balance or sabbath or vacations the way other cultures do.
Beth Demme (13:13):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:14):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (13:14):
And then, I think that also flows from something that I'm struggling with right now is your identity is attached to your ability to produce. And so, since I have left the church for this time, a family leave, people keep asking me, "So, what are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing?"
Beth Demme (13:34):
How are you making this time meaningful? You must make this time meaningful. What are you doing? What are you doing?
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (13:37):
Yeah, yeah. So, when I first stopped, I'm like, "Well, I'm writing stories and I'm writing poetry. And really wanted to go travel." And that's kind of not ...
Beth Demme (13:44):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (13:45):
COVID kind of messed that up. But I was pressuring myself, but it wasn't just me. It was everybody around me, "Oh, you should write a book. What are you writing? Have you written a story lately? Can I read your story?" And I said to David the other day, "I haven't stopped yet. I'm spinning my wheels doing things that make me feel productive." And maybe there's some good work in it. But why am I doing that? I'm doing that because who are you if you don't have a title, if you don't have something to show for the time in your days?
Beth Demme (14:20):
You are what you produce. That's not true, but that is how our culture reacts.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (14:24):
And it's why we don't take good care of small children in our culture. I mean, as far as childcare. We don't make money available for that. It's why we don't care for the mentally ill very well. It's why we don't care for the aged well.
Beth Demme (14:43):
Because they don't produce?
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (14:44):
Yeah. And it's a hard thing to really look at, but it's something that's becoming more and more apparent to me as I try to move through the world titleless.
Beth Demme (14:56):
Right? And maybe that is one of the things that we'll be able to see more clearly when we look back on COVID is the ways that childcare impacted people's ability to work. And how doing remote learning impacted parents' abilities to work. And how maybe we produce less, but that's okay because we were putting our attention somewhere else.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:20):
Yeah. I still feel like stay at home moms that take care of their kids full-time, I still feel like they're looked at as they're not doing anything. And I know my mom was at home with me and my brother. And she was busy. She had so much she was doing. So, I feel like there's no ... I don't know, I feel like everybody probably feels like they're not good enough in whatever they're doing. I think for me that's something I've had to let go of is not letting society tell me how I should be feeling and how secure I should feel of my life.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (15:51):
Well, yeah. That's another big concept when you really look at is it's because we in our culture, even in our economic policies and way of being, it's always about more, right? It's produce more. It could be a business. You want to make more money, more revenue, more employees. Or it could be in a church. What are the numbers? It's moving, moving, moving. And it's killing our planet, for example.
Beth Demme (16:21):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (16:22):
You know? Larger houses, bigger houses, bigger cars, more cars because it's not sustainable. It's not sustainable for the human spirit. It's not sustainable for our institutions, our organizations, our families. Or our human bodies.
Beth Demme (16:38):
Yeah. I was listening to a podcast this morning from the New York Times. And actually, it's a journalist who reports on the economy. He was pointing out that the amount we spend on services is down ... I can't remember the number. I think it was around 6%. Overall in our total economy. So, that would be things like people going out to eat.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (17:04):
Beth Demme (17:04):
Mani pedis!The hospitality industry. All that's down. But what's up almost an equal amount is the amount we spend on goods. So, we can't fill our time with experiences, so we're filling our time with stuff.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:18):
I like stuff.
Beth Demme (17:19):
I like stuff too. I mean mainly I think people are filling their stuff with Lego.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:24):
I agree with that.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (17:26):
I'm guilty. No, I've got Legos. But I did buy a new TV, which I don't need a new TV, but my daughter had this one called the frame. And it goes flat against the wall with a frame. It comes with this art subscription. So, you can put any art up and it's gorgeous. But I don't need another TV.
Beth Demme (17:45):
Steph, what about you? What are some of the ideas, big ideas, that you have found that didn't work that you had to let go of?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:50):
I don't know. I've let go of them already. They're gone.
Beth Demme (17:53):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:56):
It is interesting. As I've gotten older, I've noticed there are things that I've said, "I'm never going to do" that I've done. Nothing illegal. I haven't done anything illegal so don't-
Beth Demme (18:04):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:05):
... come at with me that. So, I said, "I would never back to Tallahassee" actually. So, I lived here in Tallahassee, Florida until 2006. And I moved to Orlando. Really loved my life there, but I had two nephews that were living in Tallahassee. And I was like, "I got to be close to them." That was the reason for me. And so, I moved back to Tallahassee. And now I'm pretty sure I'm not going to move away.
Beth Demme (18:35):
Even though the nephews have moved away.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:37):
That's the funny part is my nephews and niece have now moved to Orlando where I used to live. So, yes. Yes. That is an interesting thing and I have no desire to move back to Orlando. But yeah. So, I had to let go of that. It was very childish. Like, "I'm not moving back to Tallahassee because that's where I grew up. I'm going to fly free." That was the reason. It wasn't very valid of why I didn't want to come back to Tallahassee. And so, I guess I had to let go of childish thinking or immature thinking maybe. So, that was one.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:11):
Another one was I'll never work for myself. So, that was a big one. In high school, I took an externship program and I worked for this company that had a production company. And there was three people that worked there. I was like, "This is not fun. I do not want to see the same three people every day of my life." So, I was like, "I'm never going to have my own small business." And so, I had to let go of that when I started Mother Daughter Projects. So, I was like, "Okay. I'm doing it." So, those are probably two big things that I had to tell myself like, "Wait. Why am I holding onto this thing that really has no meaning? If this is the right thing for me, then this is what I'm going to do."
Beth Demme (19:46):
And the idea of working for yourself means letting go of an idea about security, about what it means to be secure. And also, that what we were talking about how you define your value. "I'm valuable because I work for Apple. Society says I'm valuable because I work for a great company."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:04):
And it's interesting you say that because that was never a huge thing for me, but it was things that people put on me.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (20:10):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:10):
There was people in my life that said ... There was some particular person in my life that told me like, "That is such a bad choice to leave Apple and move to Tallahassee to be close to your family. Like, that's such a bad choice. You should never leave Apple. Apple's a great company." I'm like, "It is a great company, but I've done everything I can here and I want to be with my family." When I moved to Tallahassee I went and worked for the church, which was making less than at Apple, but it wasn't about the money for me. It was about being with family. It was about different experiences.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:45):
Sometimes when people put that stuff on me, I feel like I'm disappointing them. And then, it's like, if they can't see that this is the right move from me, then they're going to be disappointed. And I'm sorry. They obviously can't love me well enough to see how important this is for my mental health, for everything in my life. And so, like you said, I've lost a lot of people in my life and it's hard. It's hard when you realize that there's family and friends that you're never going to really be able to speak openly with anymore. But I have to make sure that I am mentally well and taken care of and in the right place for me. And not for someone else.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (21:28):
Well, it sounds to me like you had kind of a good handle on what your values are. Until we know what our personal values are, it's too easy for us to design our life around the values of the culture, the values of our family of origin, the values of this or that institution. I see institutions being dismantled because they've gotten top heavy, they don't work any longer. And I'm not talking about just the church, although we've mentioned that before. But large companies, for example. There's so much.
Beth Demme (22:02):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (22:03):
Government. Oh my goodness.
Beth Demme (22:04):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (22:05):
Yeah. So, we're in a really weird time in history where we're all just examining what's important and how do we embrace what's important. At the same time as we're letting go of things that we once really held as the priority. And man, it feels weird. Like I said, it sometimes hurts too. And you mentioned how you don't like change. I actually do like change. I'm just a changemaker kind of person. So, I'm usually out ahead. I'm usually ahead of the curve.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (22:40):
So, right now I've got a whole new kind of idea. Like, creativity is popping about what I think things could look like. I'm not alone. I mean, there is lots of thinkers right now having conversations about what's next. What does the community look like? What do schools look like? What's education going to look like? What is governance look like? What's church going to be like? So, I enjoy those kind of conversations, even though there is some discomfort in the not knowing. You just have to kind of live in that not knowing place because letting go before you pick something else up is living in the not knowing.
Beth Demme (23:25):
Yeah. And it feels like a place of insecurity. Like, I don't have the security of knowing what is next. I don't have the security of knowing how this is going to look. I don't have the security of knowing how this is going to work out because I'm not following a formula. Not following whatever the plan of working your ranks up through Apple. There is security in seeing that path laid out for you. And then, it's insecurity to not have that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:50):
Yeah. I think COVID hasreally forced us all into that reality. So, I do think it's going to be so interesting to see what the future holds. To see when we have all and forced to not be secure. And to not know what tomorrow looks like. I am excited to talk about the future and see what it holds because I do think there is a bright future. And I think we're going to come out of this however, whenever, I don't know. And what that looks like, I don't know. But I think it's going to be better than what we had before.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:25):
So, Beth, I'm curious for you though. What have you had to let go of?
Beth Demme (24:28):
Like I said, ideas about the Bible being perfect. There was a time when I said I definitely did not want to teach people about the Bible. And then, I realized I really love doing that actually. I had some preconceived notions about what people who taught the Bible were like. Had some very specific Bible teachers in my head. And I thought, "I don't want to be perceived the way I perceive them, so then I shouldn't be teaching the Bible because I don't want to be like that." And just realized eventually, I really do have a passion for it. I'm really weirdly passionate about that one set of books. And kind of leaned into that more and found spaces opening. Found space and found grace.
Beth Demme (25:11):
And then, I also said that I absolutely did not want to go to seminary. My prayer was, "God, I'll do anything you want me to do as long as I don't have to go to seminary" because I didn't want to go back and be graded. I didn't want to ... that really was it, I did not want to have to be graded. And I had to let go of that because then I realized seminary was my next step. And so, I did seminary. And now I'm done.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (25:32):
And you got good grades.
Beth Demme (25:33):
Yes. I got straight As, thanks.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (25:35):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:36):
Well, at the end of this podcast, I'm going to grade you. So, just ...
Beth Demme (25:39):
Yeah, I know. I'm always grading myself. That's probably something I should let go of.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (25:44):
And when you step into a pulpit, you know you're being graded.
Beth Demme (25:47):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (25:48):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:48):
I can't imagine. You guys are brave.
Beth Demme (25:52):
Well, it's one of the challenges of having a blog or doing a podcast is that it's recorded forever. It's recorded forever. I remember when I was serving the very first church I served, which was just a little teeny tiny church over in Gadsden County. And we didn't record anything. And there was so much freedom in that because I could just get ... And when I was done saying it, it was gone.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (26:15):
It'll be over.
Beth Demme (26:16):
Right, it was gone. And then, it was "Oh, I have to record this for the denomination. I have to record this for the Board of Ordained Ministry. Oh, now it'll be here forever." And it was so much more pressure in that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:28):
Beth Demme (26:28):
Yeah. I've become the worst person ever to watch a TV show with, I realized. My husband and I've been watching the latest season of The Crown.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (26:37):
Oh yeah, me too.
Beth Demme (26:38):
And so, it's like, "Oh, I have to Google that. Did that really happen?"
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (26:41):
Beth Demme (26:41):
Like, we watched the episode last night where they have these relatives they didn't know about. These women who had been basically put into an institution because they had a hereditary disability. And so, I was like, "I have to Google that immediately. I have to know. Did that really happen in the royal family?" Oh yes. Yes, it did.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (26:58):
Oh boy. Well, I know when the bombing of the Lord Batten?
Beth Demme (27:04):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (27:05):
Beth Demme (27:05):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (27:06):
Yeah. We had this great conversation at the dinner table about the IRA and Northern Ireland and current situation and past situations. And I didn't know all the facts either, but surprisingly, our 15 year old did. And I'm thinking, "How do you even know that stuff?" He just is curious. So, he can-
Beth Demme (27:25):
He Googled it.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (27:26):
... open up his phone and find out stuff.
Beth Demme (27:29):
Yeah. And a lot of that has been true with understanding the history of race in America and understanding systemic racism. It's like, I have that information available to me.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (27:41):
Talk about letting go. So many of us have had to let go of ideas about who we are in relation to people of color. And that the whole how to become an anti-racist, that book. So challenging. And so timely and so important. And there's lots of pushback. "I'm not a racist." Well, let's redefine that. And let's talk a little deeper about what is underlying that.
Beth Demme (28:12):
I have been practicing saying things like, "I grew up with racist ideas. I learned racist ideas. I learned an incomplete history."
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (28:24):
Right. That's a good phrase.
Beth Demme (28:26):
And so, kind of owning that and not putting it on my friends and my siblings in Christ who are people of color, but putting it on myself to be like, "I need to do better. I need to know more." That is uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable to say that. And it makes people uncomfortable when I say it because I'm not saying the people who taught me were bad people. They taught me what they knew. And they learned some of the same things that I learned.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (28:53):
Well, it's like fish in water. We swim in this water of systemic racism. And because we're part of the system and we're part of the system that actually benefits in some sense from the systemic racism that is our culture, we don't notice it. And so, now it's been pointed out in very vivid ways that a person that has a heart and any sensibility whatsoever can't deny any longer. So, that's a terrific, important and very hopeful shift even while it's painful.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:30):
Yeah. I think that's actually a great point for what we are talking about today is letting go of ideas that don't work. We were raised by good people. That they had the knowledge that they had. And that knowledge, it was from this system that just kept progressing. And they didn't know that it was wrong. And now we know that that is wrong, we know that systemic racism is a thing and that we are part of that, and we can be a part of that change. And so, I think that's like, we're letting go of that idea that we're not racist and we're realizing that we learned a lot of how to be racist. And recognizing that.
Beth Demme (30:04):
And to make that shift. That it's not enough to not be racist, but that now we have the opportunity to be anti-racist.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:08):
Beth Demme (30:09):
And making that shift is important.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:12):
And it's not a personal attack on us. It's not a personal attack on ... It just is a fact and we can change that. By seeing it, recognizing it, we can change it. It doesn't have to be a "You are so wrong for believing these things." No. I mean, think of things that you thought of when you were five years old. You don't still probably think that. Do you think boys have cooties? I don't know.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (30:31):
Depends on the boy.
Beth Demme (30:33):
I mean COVID. Some of them COVID cooties.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:36):
Okay. Bad example. Before COVID.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (30:41):
I mean, let's take a different example that's maybe not as hot button or as painful as the systemic racism. One of my favorite shows was Mad Men. I love Mad Men because I love the clothes and the whole ambience and the whole genre of the mid-century.
Beth Demme (31:04):
Had an elegance to it.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (31:05):
Elegance. And yet, if you watch that, it's appalling how women were treating. It's appalling and it was the norm. It was just the norm. And that was what? 1960.
Beth Demme (31:16):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (31:17):
So, we are in some sense moving towards accepting the gifts and the resources and the humanity of everybody.
Beth Demme (31:28):
So, what do you guys think of the phrase, "Let go and let God"? What do you think? What does it mean to you? Is it an overused cliché? Is it even true? Like, would you ever say that to somebody?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:38):
What does it even mean though?
Beth Demme (31:39):
Yeah. What does it mean?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:40):
What does that mean?
Beth Demme (31:41):
We want you to tell-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:41):
Two pastors here. Explain it.
Beth Demme (31:43):
[crosstalk 00:31:43] Betsy. What does it mean?
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (31:43):
Well, I mean I know it's a phrase that's very helpful to many people that are going through 12-step groups because one of the reasons we feel so badly about ourselves often is because we are not in control and we try to be in control. And so, the whole concept is just let go. Let go of the idea that you can be in control. Let go of the idea that it's all on you. And let God take care of you. So, I think yes, it's a cliché. I think, yes, it's a good phrase. I also think sometimes using self talk in ways that remind you of important concepts like letting go and letting God are helpful to some people.
Beth Demme (32:27):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (32:28):
And when you let go and let God ... I have a really bigger, larger concept of God than I've had ever in my life, and I hope I continue to grow in my understanding of God. So, let go and let God is a phrase that can work for all people with their different concepts of God. Make sense?
Beth Demme (32:50):
Yes, that does make sense because I think we do have individual concepts of God, as much as we have tried to systemize religion. I think we do end up with personal understandings, very personal understandings of who God is, how God is, what God is. And so, you're right. If we say, "Let go and let God" we're not imposing any specific kind of formulation of what the divine is.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (33:17):
So, there you go. There is a good question. Have you let go of your concept of God?
Beth Demme (33:22):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (33:22):
That is so ...
Beth Demme (33:23):
And have you?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:23):
That's a better phrase. Oh, I like that.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (33:26):
Well, it's a different phrase, using similar words. Is God a man?
Beth Demme (33:36):
Yeah. That's scary. Even saying it that way is scary to me because ...
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (33:43):
Is God a Christian?
Beth Demme (33:45):
Right? And when we ask those questions, it's like, "Well, if I let go of my concept of God, am I letting go of God? Am I using my free will then to somehow turn away from God?" And all I know is that as you've said, I rely on my own experience. And every time I have done that, God has met me in that space, right? So, as much as I might feel like that's a dangerous question, I truly know God loves questions.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (34:15):
Jesus sure asked a lot of them.
Beth Demme (34:17):
Yeah. Do you think it's a cliché, Steph? It is a cliché. That's kind of the bottomline, right? It is a cliché.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:24):
It is a cliché. And I agree with what both of you said. I feel like it's all in the way it's ... Like, if I said it to myself, I don't think that'd be a bad thing. But if one of you said it to me, I guess it would have to be the context. Like, if we were talking about something and you are like, "Well, let go and let God" I'll be like, "Well, that's not very helpful."
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (34:47):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:48):
Yeah. I guess it really all depends on where it's coming from and I feel like it's a phrase that's used very just off-handedly.
Beth Demme (34:55):
Dismissive. It can be dismissive.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:58):
And just like, "Let go and let God." Like, that is not helpful to me at all. And like, as if it's that simple. As if it's that simple to just "Oh, oh, that's true. Thank you. That's all I needed to hear. I just need to let go of it" because as much as it's such a simple phrase, and it is something that we forget and need to be reminded of, I don't know ... If you say to someone, depending on where they are in their space, I don't know that it's a helpful phrase. So, I try to avoid saying cliches. Things like that. Depending on who I'm talking to. Especially a lot of times people are struggling with their faith and that is not going to be helpful to tell them just, "You know, let go. Just let God." "What do you mean? Who is this God?" Yeah, I think it's just being mindful of when it's used.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (35:48):
I was trying to find it this morning, but I'm very disorganized, but there is a poem that was shared with me. A Courage to Leave, which is a Parker Palmer growth opportunity, education opportunity. But the phrase I remembered was "The leaves know when to let go." And the whole poem was all about fall. And so, I thought, "Wow." Driving over here I thought, "Wow. What a great topic for fall because nature lets go. The leaves know when to let go." There is another phrase in that poem, "The fruit is ripened on the vine. The unpicked fruit ripened on the vine falls to the ground. It knows when to let go." I loved that because the concept is letting go is in a sense death. It's the death of something that then brings forth life.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (36:50):
So, right now we're sitting at your window, and looking out the window. You don't have any fall leaves yet on those trees, but just think of that as you're driving around town. The leaves know when to let go. And I think we do too in the depths of our heart. In the center of who we are, we also know when it's time to let go. And it doesn't make it easy. It does not make it easy. As you know, it's hard for me to let go of Good Samaritan, but I knew in the center of my being it was time for someone else to take up what we had created together as a congregation. And to give it fresh energy. So, it's kind of like pruning I suppose.
Beth Demme (37:32):
Pruning involves cutting. That sounds painful.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (37:36):
Yeah. And it doesn't mean it doesn't leave scars.
Beth Demme (37:43):
We have so much fun making this podcast and we've heard from some of you that you are wondering what is the best way to support us? So, we've decided to expand the podcast experience using Buymeacoffee.com. You can go there and buy us a cup of coffee, or for Steph, a cup of tea.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:58):
Beth Demme (37:59):
Or you could actually become a monthly supporter and that will give you access to PDFs of the questions for reflection, as well as the pictures, outtakes, polls and more.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:08):
The kinds of things that we would put on social media if we had a social media channel, but we actually don't for the podcast because we decided from the beginning that we didn't want to add to more white noise in your life. So, one of the great things about Buy Me a Coffee is that you'd be able to actually get an email when we post new content. You can go straight there. You don't have to deal with ads or being bombarded with other content. You see exactly the content you're looking for without a bunch of distractions.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:31):
We plan to post probably once or twice a week, and we're excited to get your feedback as members on our Buy Me a Coffee page, which we are lovingly calling our BMAC page.
Beth Demme (38:41):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:42):
So, you'll be able to find a link in our description to find out more and to sign up.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:49):
Well, Betsy, we want to say thank you so much for being on the podcast. And I want to mention that we met in probably 2000 ish? You think?
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (39:00):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:01):
And I was a teenager.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (39:02):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:02):
What was I like as a teenager?
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (39:04):
You had a very cool Coca-Cola room.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:09):
That's true. That is true. There you go. That's me as a teenager.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (39:13):
It was so interesting. I remember coming to your house and touring your room. Even your bathroom. All Coca-Cola.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:19):
Yeah. I had a whole theme because my brother had gone to the military, so I got his room. So, I had his room, my own bathroom, and then, my bedroom. So, there you go.
Beth Demme (39:29):
You had two rooms and a bathroom?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:31):
Beth Demme (39:31):
Why would you ever move out? That's more than you need.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:33):
I bought a house, so I have even more rooms now.
Beth Demme (39:37):
So, we always like to ask our guest this question. What book, TV show or podcast are you excited about right now?
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (39:44):
Well we mentioned The Crown. So, I'm enjoying that. And last night we watched the Diana episode. And oh my gosh, she was magnificent. Considering how badly she was treated, right?
Beth Demme (39:59):
I had no idea the level of dysfunction that she was experiencing. And I understand the show is not a documentary.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (40:07):
I know and we-
Beth Demme (40:08):
But historical fiction is very educational in its own way.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (40:11):
Right. Right. And we all love Princess Di. So, I'm enjoying that. I like to do the shows where you learn a little bit of something at the same time they are entertaining you.
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (40:24):
As far as books, it's kind of heavy, but I want to mention it because it's really ... Margaret Wheatley. Have you heard of her? She's a leadership professor, guru, writer. But this is the book. Who Do We Choose To Be?: Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity. And she's one of those thinkers that's rethinking everything. And she pulls from this one, Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies.
Beth Demme (40:57):
One letter makes a big difference.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:58):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (40:59):
Well, you know, it's all these layers of thinking about how do we let go of what we have and create something new. And Margaret Wheatley, her emphasis on leaders is it's easy to pull back right now. It's easy to step out because it's so hard and the future is unknown. But we need leaders that believe in people, that believe that we are at our heart generous and creative and kind, which goes well with my Wesleyan theology. Yes, we are made in the image of God. Yes, there is a fall. But ultimately, you were made in the image of God.
Beth Demme (41:39):
Betsy Ouellette Zierden (41:42):
Generous, kind, and creative. That's who we are. That's who we can be.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:49):
At the end of each show, we end with questions for reflection. These are questions based on today's show. And Beth will read them. We have a little pause in between. Feel free to pause the podcast and answer them, or you can find a PDF on a Buy Me a Coffee page.
Beth Demme (42:00):
Number one: what ideas have you had to let go of in your life? What brought you to the point of letting go?
Beth Demme (42:08):
Number two: are there ideas that you are still carrying you need to let go of? What's stopping you?
Beth Demme (42:14):
Number three: has there been something that you had said you will never do that now you're doing? As you reflect on it, do you think your original reasons were valid? Where did they come from?
Beth Demme (42:24):
And number four: have you had to redefine what success looks like for you and/or let go of society's definitions of success? How do you feel about that?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:35):
This has been the Discovering our Scars podcast. Thank you for joining us.