Individualism is Fine, Done Together

Sara and her sister Jenni

What do you do when you are thrown into a group of people that are all totally different from you, and also totally different from each other? For Deb and I, this usually doesn’t happen all that often since we work from home and really don’t see that many people.

When we do, it is people from church (for the most part, the same circle), or at a sporting event usually here at the local college.

This weekend we flew to Denver to be at our sons wedding and, as it usually happens, many other people flew in as well. People flew in from South Carolina, Texas, Alabama, and other places all to meet up in one location for one event, a wedding.

My wife and I sort of fell in between the ages of the wedding party and the parents, so in the few times everyone went out to do something we tagged along. Inevitably the conversation went to their lives at “home” and I started thinking about how different we all were (are), yet, here we all were together in one place.

There is a great saying from an episode of M.A.S.H. where they are discussing the finer points of individual differences when Frank says

Individualism is great, as long as we all do it together.

I love that. One of the hardest things for us to deal with sometimes is how different we all are and the lives we lead are all quite different. This weekend, among others, there was a teacher, a bar tender, an equestrian, business owner, doctor, programmer, a photographer, a comedian, mothers, and fathers and many more.

There were people who were married, divorced, divorced-remarried, separated, single, and ages that ranged from 2 to 80 year old. People who drank, people who didn’t drink, those who were Christians, and those who were not, and many people who had never met each other before this weekend. I was talking to a friend of the groom, Ben, one morning and asked him if he had heard of a band I liked, and he said, no, but I am going to have to start writing down all these things I am learning. Then it hit me, what a great way to look at it.

If we all had the same views, same experiences, and all liked the same things, it would be incredibly boring. Many times differences just upset us, but I know I should try a little harder to embrace differences and try to use them as a learning opportunity. If we look at scripture and study the differences in people during the times of Jesus’ ministry on Earth, we can see the people then were just as different from each then and yet Jesus was one of the most accepting people in history. This issue here is how we judge other people (see Matthew 7:1-2).

Lutzer in one of his books, Who Are You to Judge, put it this way to his readers:

How can we be guarded from Pharisaism on the one hand and mindless gullibility on the other?

We may disagree with how some people live their lives because it is not exactly how we live our own lives, but I try to remind myself that, that alone doesn’t make it wrong. “To judge” means to exercise discernment and at other times it can mean to condemn (and sometimes both). We (and I) need to guard ourselves against the Pharisaical judgments, and perhaps we might learn something along the way. Thanks Ben.

My Faith Renewed in the Kindness of People Today

Some times we go through our days gripping and complaining about this and that. Even though we know it is an unproductive and “ugly” quality, sometimes the day just gets the better of us. Yesterday, I was having one of those harder days of the week, and then I got this email.

Dear islandzephyr,
Hello, i would like to send you some more money for shipping and supplies and shipping insurance if possible, I would much rather you pack it well and i dont think 10.00 would cover that, I want to paypal you an extra 20.00. thanks paul

This may not seem like a whole lot to some of you who don’t go through the daily packaging and processing of orders, but in 15 years of doing business on the Internet, this is the first time anyone has ever sent an email like that to me.  I have even had people complain about shipping when it was free, but not like this. My standard customer seems to be related to one of my previous rants, called The Complaining Christian Can Leave where we tend to get nickel and dimed to death over petty issues. Not this time.

It just reminded me of how something very short, and positive, can change the whole outlook of a day, and this goes both ways. It had nothing to do with the money, it was just the caring of the other individual. Thanks Paul for showing me another side of who our customers are, a stark contrast to the buyers described in my other article.

The Complaining Christian Can Leave, Please

I really don’t like to do any sort of “non-positive” post, but sometimes it is just to much. I would love to have someone chime in below and hear their opinion after you read my rant, BUT, if you do not want to read a critical article on our faith, just skip this one and check out Blogger Small Group, James 2, for a less irritating post. My wife and I have been earning a living on the Internet for the last 15 years (current Amazon, see our Amazon store here, and our Amazon feedback here), so I can say with some confidence that we have had many thousands and thousands of customers over the years, and one group always seems to stand out to me. The Complaining Christian.

The Lost are Easier to Deal With, Really

I am not talking about some garage sale, few customers a week thing. We had over 10,000 individual feedbacks on eBay (meaning we shipped over 100,000 orders), and we currently work with about 100-200 new customers a week on Amazon. With this said, the most difficult customers, most complaining, disgruntled, and overall unhappy people turn out in the end to be Christians. WHY? I don’t get it, but I can tell you, I don’t want your business.

Inevitably after dealing with an unhappy customer I find out they are fellow Brothers or Sisters, and it is always over something really petty. And I am sorry to say, you homeschool moms buying A Beka books on Amazon, you top the list. (I have my own theory on the homeschool book issue but can’t get into that now.)

One Recent Classic eBay Example

The most recent was an eBay customer that was not happy with the selection of VHS tapes we shipped to her. I am not going to try the case here, but we always try to list as accurate a description as possible, and she received exactly what we said, then filed a credit card claim against us for shipping something “materially different”.

Usually this happens when someone doesn’t take the time to actually READ what they are bidding on, but the bidder will never admit to this no matter what, and then the ensuing emails begin.

After emails back and forth, with her accusing us of running an eBay fraud scam, purposely misleading bidders, and misrepresentation of everything, this was her final email to me, and the one that finally told me what I expected all along, she was a Christian (the CAPS are hers, not mine).


Nice. I hope God is watching me actually, thanks. Did I mention this was over a final bid of $10.51. This is a typical response I get from a fellow Believer when they don’t like the outcome. Yet, some of the nicest and easiest people to deal with are the lost. When this conversation first started, from the very first email, I told my wife, yep, here is a fellow Believer, guarantee it, you watch.

We are NOT in Business to Rip You Off

If you think I am ranting about some isolated incident, think again. Overall, our customers are happy. We kept a 100% positive feedback rating on eBay, and Amazon goes around 99%-97% (different system), so overall, our customers are generally pleased with the transactions.

But, there are always unhappy customers in business, no matter what you do. I have many that stand out in my mind over the last 15 years, and for one reason or another, what was most irritating about it is they were Christians. Over the years (keep in mind our products are generally under about $10/order), the complaining Christian has threaten to sue me, file fraud charges, contact the police, and overall rant about how we are just in business to “rip people off”.

I am going to write a piece in my business blog about the “rip people off” syndrome, but I had to personally address the Christian aspect of the topic, simply because it shouldn’t be this way.

We Should Not Be So Quick To Judge or Condemn

I say this for myself, not just the Complaining Christian. Should we not try to follow the example given out in Mathew 7:1-3. In business, I try to deal with people exactly how I expect to be dealt with, in a fair manner, with some expectation of intelligence on the part of the buyer (it’s assumed on the sellers part, to me).

I same “some”, meaning a basic level of understand of what you are doing at its most basic level when buying something on the Internet, like how to read and how the post office ships (i.e., we are not the post office).

1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

We have not operated a business for more than 15 years just so we can steal from people. What this lady from today doesn’t realize is that most of what we sell on eBay right now goes to benefit a local missions store in town. But I shouldn’t have to explain this to her either, it shouldn’t matter, she should have the same response either way.

You Don’t Represent Me or My Faith

What I hate about the Complaining Christian is that they are examples of my faith as a whole body of Believers. We should be the happy-go-lucky people. We have the knowledge of the Truth. We should remember we are representing our faith to all those who see, and we don’t always know who those people will be. For the last 15 years this is something I have not figured out in business on the Internet. Why the Complaining Christian exists in the first place. Please, lets not be the Complaining Christian (TCC, I am going to deam it as). There are better ways to spend our days, our time, our money, our mental capacity.

There are certainly better ways for us as Believers to be effective witnesses?

PLEASE, chime in below and let me hear your comments on the subject.