December 7, 2012
Holiday gatherings, and the month of dread which comes beforehand, are some of the most frustrating and depressing times for many people. These are supposed to be celebrations and reunions, but one of the biggest contributing factors which makes these events problems, is that so many people are measuring themselves and others with the wrong measuring sticks.
Tradition is to compare and judge others’ lives against one’s own life, based primarily and superficially on physical accomplishments, because these are the easiest things to put into words and are most similar across humanity in western cultural terms.
Examples: awards and educational degrees earned; prestige or money from jobs and number of promotions; home size, toys, and cars; money spent on gifts; kids and their growth, involvements or accomplishments; fun activities and places visited; number or class of friends; club memberships; books read or written; childhood dreams realized; etc.
But you can HAPPILY look like a failure by all of those standards, IF you have gained (or know you are gaining) understanding of humanity and of God, your reason for existing, and what will outlast the fleeting years at hand. For if understanding a good chunk of those things is what you pour your time and resources into, you can feel confident in your abilities to be an honest benefit to fellow humans and to the entire universe.
Communicating a meaningful measurement of your life is often hard, because there’s so much value in the fleeting moments which are like little pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and just as hard to remember or explain their context.
Examples: the times you made someone smile, were kind to a clerk, gave a hug, answered someone’s nagging question, realized the answer to your own questions, forgave someone, lovingly sacrificed your own desires for someone else’s good. The times God’s Spirit embodied you and shined through to lighten and enlighten the world with love.
So gather with grace, confidence, compassion and love for everyone, wherever they measure up at the moment–or think they measure up–on any yardstick. Hope for meaningful progress.
November 10, 2012
Do you tend to grumble because you have a spouse, sibling, coworker or friend who can never seem to manage to do their fair share of whatever it is in which you are both involved?
Somewhere in the world there are some really lazy, selfish, or stubbornly incapable people whom you might want to avoid, in order to keep your sanity and not be prevented from accomplishing an important goal or your life’s purpose.
But, I propose quite often the problem with one person’s unhappiness in an “unfair” relationship (working or familial), has more to do with one’s own perception and intrenched assumptions, than with the other person’s shortcomings. Let me explain.
Imagine you have twelve hours to drive to some place unfamiliar. You have this other person on the trip with you, but he can’t drive. He falls asleep in the passenger seat.
Eight hours into the trip you’re feeling tired and wishing he would do his share of the driving, to let you do some of the happy dreaming over there in the other seat. But no, he doesn’t even have a driver’s license because he’s always been afraid to try, even though you think his poor vision isn’t all that bad; after all, he doesn’t have trouble doing anything that else he really wants to do.
You come to a fork in the road which isn’t on the map, and you’re not sure which way to go. You pull over, wake your friend, and see what he thinks. You take his advice because it makes sense, and forty minutes later you see a sign which lets you know you are on the right track—your friend had been right about which way to turn.
Suddenly he wakes up again, and just before a freeway exit he asks if you know you are just about out of gas. You would have passed the exit and run out of gas because you were too tired to think of checking your gas gauge. Thanks to your friend, again, you are on your way with a full gas tank and no time lost.
When you arrive at your destination, you are so happy to be on time that you are no longer angry about having to do all the driving; you’re not even tired because you’re psyched about getting on with the purpose of your arrival.
Now of course by normal thinking, it certainly sounds like the work of the trip was unfairly divided. But consider your assumptions.
- You assume that your friend was happily dreaming for 12 hours. But what about the fact that your friend often wishes he could drive himself about, without having to depend on others? What about the headache he had all the next day because he slept uncomfortably in that car seat, instead of home in a bed, where he could have been if he hadn’t wanted to be along with you? What about the nightmare he had about you falling asleep while driving?
- You assume that you did all the work of driving. What about your friend’s two major contributions, without which you might have been several hours late? Don’t you think knowing which way to turn and when to get gas is just as important as controlling the car, as far as arriving at the correct place and time?
- You assume that your friend could actually drive just fine, if he weren’t too lazy to take responsibility. Maybe that’s true; maybe not. But even if that were true, it’s actually his loss, not yours. If he won’t learn and use a skill, he’s that much less capable and less experienced. But if you can manage to do more where he does less, than you are that much MORE capable and MORE experienced. You might even thank him for affording you the opportunity to stretch yourself.
So the truth is, you did what you could do, your friend did what he could do, and together the trip was a success. Remind yourself what matters.
If life were meant to always be “fair” as defined when we are acting like children who complain, “That’s not fair! I did it last time; it’s his turn now!” then we would all be identical in every way.
While sometimes we feel afraid of standing out from the crowd for fear we’ll make a mistake and be ridiculed, or for fear of being a bit lonely, truly everyone wants to be unique, special, better, needed, appreciated. We’d be so bored if somehow everyone’s life could be just like everyone else’s, so why ridicule or resent someone for not having the same skills or personality traits we possess?
An important key to finding happiness in any relationship, is to look for the virtues and utilities of the other person. Whether they are greater or lessor as compared to yourself or anyone else, does not mean they are not valuable. Appreciate the valuable, and it will appreciate in value.
Now reconsider that person in your life who can’t or won’t do his or her “fair share,” and see what there is about him or her for which you can be thankful and happy. What is his or her valuable contribution, whether great or small? Appreciate it. Build on it.
February 14, 2012
Hoping to rocket to success in order to help the world with one’s platform or one’s profits, might be blinding oneself to a lot of important things and people which should be dealt with along the way. The world is not just all those people out there. It’s also the person in front of your nose, and the person in front of my nose.
* * * * * * *
For the top of our goal lists:
Not everyone is meant to operate alike, and no one can help every person who crosses his or her path. Maybe some ought to zoom ahead to semi-stardom in order to broadcast their insights to crowds, while others are intended to deal one-on-one, and yet others are to make a slower ascent while helping a few along the way. But I believe that for everyone there is a right way to move ahead, so that we don’t cause harm in our wake—our goals should include recognizing our own right way.
Take time to find our way:
I intensely do not like being told to slow down (especially by anyone who doesn’t seem to aspire as high). I have great aspirations, and I know there is a lot to do to reach my goals. I want to help everyone, and do everything, and I only have so much time. I don’t just want to reach some high point just to be there, but because I want to be as helpful as possible; I want to rightly acquire enough resources to help others beyond my own family. But I can’t do everything, and sometimes I do need to slow down enough to sort it out. We can’t read the road signs if we are going so fast that they are a blur.
This way, that way, their way…Or a unique and better way for each of us:
It’s easy to be wrapped up and bogged down in each day’s chores and the closest people’s demands on my attention, never moving toward bigger things. It’s also tempting to excessively react to that by charging ahead too fast, at great expense of health and missed opportunities for good. And, there is a danger in copying whatever seems to work for moving other people ahead, without listening to God’s nudges which tell me which methods are not right for me. We can certainly learn from others’ methods of success, but we should also be seeking God’s help in creating our own innovative and doubly positive personal paths.
Live this moment, trusting it will properly connect:
It takes effort to maintain balance between all the responsibilities which pull at me. I have to trust that I’ll reach my proper destination in good time, if I’m not afraid to invest the moment I have in the good opportunities that I have, even when those opportunities seem off track. But it’s easier when I remind myself of the core of my goals—to help people, which means to match needs with resources as best I can, or to at least point the way. I’m not really off track, if I’m helping someone who needs help. Sometimes we have more to share than we thought; different things to share with different people: knowledge with the ignorant, answers with the questioning, food with the hungry, guidance with the indecisive, confidence with the shy, time with the lonely, love with the dejected. If I am too determined to show everyone what I think is my one big gift, I’ll offend people I could have helped with my other gifts. If our goals are to help people when we “make it big,” shouldn’t we be pleased to help people along the way, even if that slows us down? Jesus came to save the world, but He didn’t refuse to take time to help individuals.
Success isn’t in how many seeds we plant, but in how many grow healthy. There can’t be much growth if everyone wants to plant, and no one wants to cultivate, feed, water, and prune. The world needs friends, not just preachers.
Sure we have to earn a living and pay our bills, and buy what interests us or fills our needs—just as we expect others to work and pay for our labors. But more goes around than money. Energy goes around. Love goes around. Hate goes around. We can choose what winds we’ll ride on—the generous and providential winds, or the selfish and fearful ones.
Of course it’s unwise to give away all of our resources including all of our time, but it’s also wrong to withhold from those who need and can’t pay. We can measure and limit our gifts as a pro bono or tithing percentage, OR we can seek spiritual prompting from the One who knows the pasts, futures, and hearts of everyone.
Check Your Reality:
Are you on the right track, even if it meanders?
© 2012 NPM
July 23, 2011
I want to share thoughts that aren’t yet part of my books.
I want to make people aware of what is in my books, and the value of them.
I want to help people with my writing.
I want to post rather freely, but not shallowly.
I want to earn so much that I can help many people—not only with my words, but also with the tool of money.
I want to be free to give, but not give everything for free.
I want to receive positive feedback, and valuable interaction.
I want to radiate goodness, and attract appreciation.
I want to point to the source of goodness.
I want to think personal, and think big.
I want to act on my beliefs, without crushing anyone else.
I want my blog to attract customers for my books & artwork, and friends for my spirit.