Posts Tagged ‘Behavior’

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.

TearOne of the changes I’ve noticed about myself in recent years is that I’m far more sentimental or emotional than I used to be. It doesn’t take a lot to get to me. Thank goodness nobody else but my dog is with me in my “man” cave when I see some sappy commercial or moment on TV that makes me tear up. It might be something in the news or a commercial designed to tug at the heart or some random thought that comes to mind that consumes me. I even cried one evening a few weeks ago about something work related. That may have been a first for me in 40 years of employment.

Is it normal for people to get more emotional as they get older? Do we become more reflective and aware of substantive matters of the heart? Is it some other change within that has nothing to do with age or gender? Am I too stressed and suffering the emotional consequences? I don’t know.

It isn’t that I mind being more sensitive. That can be a good thing. I just wish I understood the change better. Any thoughts on the matter?

I sure hope I don’t have to start calling my “man” cave a “wuss” cave soon.

SchedulePerhaps the biggest lesson I am learning this year is one that I’ve known for a long time, yet must continually re-learn. While it has been good and helpful for me to spell out my many goals for the year related to body, mind and spirit, and to post monthly progress updates here, I have increasingly felt as the year has progressed that I simply have too many of them. I did not allow myself time to relax or to do many unplanned things for fun either by myself or with others. I’ve been busy and I’ve accomplished most of what I set out to do. I suspect all but my two reading goals will be met by the end of the year.

But being busy doesn’t prove that any of that time is meaningfully spent. Filling all of one’s waking hours with activity is no guarantee of significance, either in the short term or long term. So, in a nutshell, here is the lesson I have had to learn again for the umpteenth time:

Do not equate busyness with significance.

This applies in any area of life…

In work, are you doing a lot of things that keep you busy and seem to keep the boss happy? If so, that’s good in a way, unless you have a sense that your time could be better spent doing something with greater significance and long-term impact. Different people can find satisfaction in about any kind of work, so what others consider significant may vary from what you consider it to be. Do what you think is significant.

In education, we can spend so much time studying, pursuing degrees, and learning more for that next certification or license. A real danger is that we eventually look back and wonder where the time went and if it was all worth it, especially when so many graduates don’t even end up actually working in fields that they spent years and tens of thousands of dollars preparing to do. Is such an education a smart path, or could a more significant path be chosen?

In home and family life, busyness can easily be the enemy of relationships. With everyone in the household having their own busy schedule, little time is left for each other. That can’t be what is best for the relationships and for modeling healthy families to the next generation.

In volunteer involvement with other organizations, it is possible to get so busy that we do harm to ourselves in our perceived effort to serve others. I see it all the time in the church when calendars are filled with activities and people feel like they must participate in as many as possible to be a good church member or faithful Christian. Trust me when I say that being super busy inside the walls of the church may be the worst thing for Christians, keeping us from being salt and light outside the church walls in a needy, dark world. Certainly many avenues of volunteer service are significant in improving the lives of others, but it can also be an unhealthy drain on the one giving all the time as well as a potential distraction keeping you from doing something more significant.

Whether the busyness that fills our lives comes from work, school, extracurricular activities, or even volunteerism, we must evaluate the significance of how we spend our time and not just assume we are making a positive, significant difference in our world just because we’re busy. A genuine analysis on that basis might lead some of us to radically change our involvement in activities and organizations. It might cause us to alter our schedule so that we do what is most important instead of what we or others deem to be the most urgent. It might help us actually move from mere busyness to true significance.

And somewhere in that schedule change there must be some down time for rest, relaxation and personal renewal. Without it, you will wear down and burn out unnecessarily. How will you continue to be significant at all if you allow that to happen?

PieSome of the best days of my life – past and present – are days spent with my parents on their farm in Winchester, Kentucky. We moved there when I was in sixth grade. I live about 90 miles away, so at best I get there once a month to spend a day. It is always a good day when I’m there. I should be there far more often than I am.

I’m writing this at the end of the day September 30th – my dad’s 79th birthday. I wish you could know my dad. He’s a great, great man which is only fitting since he’s been married for 60 years to a wonderful woman, my mom. They are kind, generous, funny, active, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people. If you are a guest in their home, you will be treated right. You will definitely be fed until you just have to refuse any more.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a day of my vacation there. As expected, the food was plenteous, but I knew that would be the case. I was somewhat prepared by eating light the day before the trip. The first meal came within a couple hours of arriving. Various snacks and bottomless Ale-8s to drink were readily available between meals. Evening saw another full meal with bigger portions than anyone ever really needs.

At the end of the evening meal, Dad cut me a piece of pie. Well, it was more like 2-3 pieces of pie – a Dad-sized portion. When he put it in front of me, I remarked, “That’s crazy!” I won’t forget his response as he walked away: “That’s not crazy. That’s love.” And he’s right.

We all have our ways of showing love for others. One of the precious lessons of life is to be able to recognize such love in whatever form it takes when it comes your way. We are different in how we express our feelings for others. Some are more verbal than others. Some do little acts of kindness. Some do periodic big things for those they love. Many do a combo of all the above. Whatever unique ways your loved ones have of showing love, I hope you recognize it when demonstrated, and I hope you return it in a way they recognize as well.

Some ways of showing love may not make a lot of sense to others, but that’s OK. They only have to make sense to the ones giving and receiving it.

That’s not crazy. That’s love.

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.