Archive for the ‘Behavior’ Category

Memory Bank

Posted: December 23, 2013 in Behavior
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MyOldBankWhile visiting my parents for Christmas last weekend, my mom told me that she had found an old bank I used as a child and teenager. She said that she tried opening it, but couldn’t get past the combination lock. I immediately told her what the combination was, even though I haven’t seen or used that bank in perhaps 35 years.

It really is fascinating what the mind remembers! I may well forget to pick up something at the store my wife told me to get only minutes before, yet I’ll pull out of the memory bank a lock combination I haven’t needed since the 1970s.

By the way, we opened the bank and found some bills and coins that have been tucked safely away all that time – nothing terribly valuable, but a fun find this many years removed. I brought the bank back to Louisville with me and it will be a treasured reminder of the many years it sat on a bookshelf in my bedroom at the farm.

Like seeing this old bank, holidays bring back lots of memories – for me, mostly sweet memories of times gone by, experiences with family and friends – recollections that bring a smile to my face and sometimes a touch of sadness. More memories came rushing back today when I looked up online the home that used to belong to one set of my grandparents just down the street from where we lived before my parents bought their farm. I noticed yesterday that the house was for sale, and the 20+ photos online in the listing brought a flood of memories back of good, good times in that place.

Of course, there are many for whom holidays bring more difficult memories, especially for those experiencing the first major holidays without a loved one who has recently passed away. My heart goes out to all for whom this is a difficult or bittersweet time.

Perhaps it’s dependent on one’s general outlook on life, or maybe it’s what happens to most people over time, but it sure seems that as time passes, more good memories surface to crowd out the sad ones. I won’t try to psychoanalyze that fact; I’ll just be grateful for it.

I can’t begin to understand how the brain works, but every now and then it fascinates me. In the past 24 hours, it has blessed me with many reminders of wonderful days and people and experiences. It even spat out a lock combination from deep recesses not visited for decades.

The human mind is amazing. How much more so must its Creator be?

A Life Well Lived

Posted: December 16, 2013 in Behavior
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A-Life-Well-LivedI attended the funeral today for a wonderful, sweet, giving, godly, 94-year-old woman from my church. Her equally kind and faithful husband preceded her in death several years ago. I greatly admire their whole family – their closeness, example, faith, and their love for each other.

As I sat in the service today and listened, remembering interactions in years past with this great couple, it struck me that every remembrance – every remembrance without exception – of this man and woman is a good one. Never did I see anything but love and graciousness from either of them. Never did I hear an unkind word from their lips. In life they were a model for others to emulate, and in death their memory is a challenge to be a better person.

When people like these two saints pass from this life to the next, it serves as a reminder that lives can be well lived, but to do so is the exception rather than the rule. Each of us considers himself good, but to whom do we compare ourselves? We can always find others whose behavior is less admirable in some ways than our own, leaving ourselves with an inflated sense of goodness and pride. But it is when we look to those rare, exceptional models that we realize how far we have to go to become all that we might.

Today I am thankful for these two examples of grace and faith, for their lives well lived, and for the challenge their example is to others, including me. May the God who transformed them do the same in all his children.

Glass Half FullI saw a few related communications this week on various media that I want to pass along. They triggered a fun memory from a Bob Newhart TV scene that seems appropriate to throw into a post on the topic. I’ll end on a deadly serious note.

The first of the items was a Facebook post from my friend, Pat, who shared from someone else a photo of a glass half filled with water along with the following text:

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired:”How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” 

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

Remember to put the glass down.

Pretty good advice, huh?

The second related item came in a morning newscast on TV while I was getting ready for work one day. One anchor was telling a story about people addicted to social media sites and all that some are going through with professional help to address that addiction. When she finished her story, the other anchor said: “or they could exercise self-discipline and log off.” My wife and I both laughed out loud at the simple, down-home advice that stood in stark contrast to the complex remedy for a formal diagnosis just discussed in the story.

Both the glass illustration and the “exercise self-discipline and log off” advice brought to mind a Bob Newhart TV scene from years ago. Take a few minutes and watch it:

Bob’s “stop it” advice makes us laugh, but the truth is that we don’t always want to stop our self-destructive behavior. Maybe we’re more comfortable with our familiar issues than with the unfamiliarity of changing behavior. Maybe we like our sin and don’t want to give it up in spite of the consequences. Maybe we really do need professional help with some behaviors that we honestly would love to stop but have not yet figured out how to do on our own.

I’m not taking lightly actual addictions or diseases. I’ve known too many people whose lives have been torn by the struggles and downward spirals caused by them. I’m no doctor, psychologist or therapist, nor do I play one on TV. It rings true, though, that not every behavioral issue is an emotional or physical illness deserving of a formal diagnosis and professional treatment. Sometimes we have to decide that we’re going to grow up, let go of things which hinder us, do what we know to be right, and move on to better ways of living.

The truth is that I don’t need to blame others or any condition for my bad behavior. I’m knowingly, willingly responsible for it when it happens. I need to accept that responsibility and make better decisions going forward. And for those times when I find it too difficult to do all alone, I know people and Someone higher who can help when called upon.

I’ll close with another video that was in the news this week by Matthew Cordle. He confessed in a YouTube video to driving the wrong way on a road and accidentally killing a man. His behavior was reprehensible, but at least he’s owning up to it and now facing the legal consequences.

Sometimes we need professional help to change our behavior, but sometimes we just need to stop it.

Fred StobaughMany of you saw in the news or spreading through social media this past week the touching story of 96-year-old Fred Stobaugh and the song lyrics he wrote for a contest in memory of Lorraine, his recently deceased wife of 72 years.  The inspiring story came as a result of a song contest held by Green Shoe Studio where they invited anyone to submit a video of an original song. Fred didn’t do a video, but he put the lyrics in a manila envelope and sent them off to the studio, not expecting to hear back.

The studio was so touched by the story that they decided to have his song professionally produced as a gift for Fred. Fast forward to this week and the video of that story has received millions of views while the song “Oh Sweet Lorraine” was in the top ten downloads for the past week on iTunes. If you haven’t seen the video yet, take nine minutes and watch it here, then continue reading. I promise it is worth your time.

Who could watch that video and not be touched by it? We walk away from it perhaps with a tear in our eye, but surely with a longing in our heart for more such stories. We long to be on the receiving and giving end of such experiences. Just as Fred was taken aback by the gift of the song, so were the people of the studio moved by Fred and their opportunity to show him kindness. We long to have a love story like Fred and Lorraine. We acknowledge the rarity of 70+ year marriages and feel blessed to witness them, encouraged that maybe the same is possible for us.

Why is it that such a story goes viral? When the national news headlines are more frequently stories of war and potential war, stories of violence and wrongdoing, why does a story like Fred’s get millions of views and make the top ten downloads on iTunes? I believe it is because we are tired of news about war and murder and all that is wrong with mankind. We grow weary of filing our minds and ears and eyes with yet more stories daily that discourage and depress.

Rather, we long for feel-good stories that give us at least a brief respite from the evil in the world. We need reasons for hope. We cling to stories like Fred’s because there are holes in our heart and our experiences in life that shout for something more meaningful, more purposeful, more worthwhile and eternal. We long to fill our minds with that which is healthy. We know that we need to realistically understand our world and its troubles; we just don’t want to dwell constantly on all that is wrong around us, nor should we. We need models of what is right and good, and we need to lift those stories high for all to see and hear. We need more than the constant reminders of what harms us.

It was a bit ironic that much of the other music-related news of this past week was around Miley Cyrus and her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Commenting on the contrast between Miley and the touching story of Fred Stobaugh, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee had this to say:

“Miley Cyrus took a lot of flak this week for her raunchy performance at the MTV Video Awards. But she was hardly alone. Most of the performers stripped down, cursed and gyrated in crude ways. They think that’s what it takes to sell a song. But they’re wrong… This week, among all the sex-drenched tunes by Lady Gaga and Robin Thicke, you’ll find “[Oh] Sweet Lorraine,” 96-year-old Fred Stobaugh’s song of undying love for his late wife, perched at #9 on iTunes’ top 10 chart. I hope it makes it to number one, as a reminder that all a song really needs to be popular is for it to touch our hearts.”

Nearly a year ago, a similar feel-good story and video made the rounds of singer Katy Perry performing a duet with Jodi DiPiazza, a young girl with autism.  That YouTube video now has over 7 million views. You can watch it below:

Our hunger for such stories won’t end, because the longing in our heart to be fully human demands them. I wonder what the collective attitude and mindset of society would be if we spent more time highlighting what is good and right with the world rather than dwelling on all that is wrong?

By the way, if you’d like to send a note of encouragement and thanks to Fred Stobaugh, here is his address:

Fred Stobaugh
P.O. Box 4063
Bartonville, IL 61607

My challenge to you this week is to share some positive, uplifting stories with others. What positive stories can you share?

Broken PlateImagine you’ve been hurt by someone.  Now imagine that person says, “I’m sorry.”  What happens?  Does everything jump back to the way it was before you were hurt?  No.  Damage is done, and at best it takes time to forgive and move on.  You may never forget.

I was reminded of this by a simple, yet profound tweet today from Jeff Perera by way of Carrie Young:

“Throw a plate on the ground.
Did it break?
Say sorry to it.
Did it go back to the way it was before?
Do you understand?”

People are fragile.  Handle with care.