Archive for category choice
I wise mentor once said to me, “If you want to know what people really want, watch what happens.” Words are fine, actually more than fine. I love words. I make a living putting words on the page in a particular order to get a particular message out. But when it comes to character, watching what happens will tell you more about a person than their words.
Watching what you do will also tell you what you really want, no matter what you insisted upon verbally. I can tell you I’m over your slight when you stood me up at the movie theater. It’s OK. All is forgiven. But if you call me again and get the cold shoulder, you’ll know what I really think.
Words can be used as a subterfuge, to disguise our real desires and inclinations. Words can be true and direct, or they can misguide. But it’s much harder to cover up with our actions. Our actions display what we really want.
This is true even of larger issues. People have ended relationships–marriages, jobs, business associations, sports teams, etc.–not by stating openly that they want out. Rather, they acted out until someone else–a spouse, boss, coach, etc.–ended the relationship for them. This gives the one who wanted out the advantage of being “out” without taking responsibility. They can say, “He left me!” “They fired me!” “The coach threw me off the team!” But it’s what they truly wanted all along.
The tricky part is, sometimes we act out what we really want, yet we are so adept at self-deception that we don’t realize what we’re doing. We can complain about happened–and mean it. We can feel the pain of loss and the grief of separation–and it’s real. But something down deep really wanted the outcome we got.
As my wise mentor said, “If you want to know what people really want, watch what happens.”
Do you ever feel like not going to work?
Do you generally go anyway?
The answer to both of these is yes, but the second question begs another.
Why? We may respond that people are counting on us and we don’t want to disappoint. We may consider that we, for the most part, enjoy our work greater than our initial morning lethargy. We may go to work because we like or need the money. However you may answer this question isn’t as important to the reality that it represents.
What We Choose
These three questions reveal that we chose to be people of principle. There is some principle or ideal that we are committed to living that shapes who we are and what we do, over and above how we feel.
In our modern world we struggle with what to do with our feelings. Yesterday I talk with a man who talked about doing things far our side of his desired character justifying it all with “But you know how angry I can get.”
The Rightful Place of Feelings
Our feelings are real. Our feelings are strong. An initial flash of anger comes on strong, but what we do with it is vitally important. We have the choice to feed our anger and ensure that it remains inflamed or we can remember the principles by which we live. Some count to ten. Others seek to apply Ephesians 5:26 dealing with the anger so that it doesn’t persist. Although our feelings are real and powerful they are not the most important or operative reality.
If they were, our world would look completely different. Imagine what it would look like to act on every feeling. In a moment of insecurity we may write off good friends having misinterpreted a laugh. In a flash of fear we can unreasonable restrain ourselves from reasonable risk and the blessings of an opportunity. Recently the folks at Sprite encouraged us to “Obey your thirst.” While our thirst is important, we process our thirst through a principled and relational reality to act on it appropriately.
There is a constant temptation to get swept away with our emotions. We see so many others do this that it helps to be reminded that we choose to be people of principle. On June 2, 2010 Armando Galarraga, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, was throwing a perfect game.
No No Hitter
In the 9th inning a ball was hit, fielded by the first baseman and flipped to Galarraga covering first clearly getting the out. The umpire inexplicably called the runner safe. Fans booed, other players argued, but Galarraga show a flash of surprised, then smiles and walked to the mound to complete a one hitter. A once in a lifetime opportunity for a perfect game derailed by a bad call wasn’t enough to derail this man of character.
May we be intentional about the principles by which we live, have a health approach to our feelings, be prepared for those moments when emotions swell and be found to be people of character.
What do you think?
Thanks for reading.
As a boy I remember sitting in the car hoping that my favorite song would come on the radio. Having just begun to care about music I couldn’t wait to hear the song that caught my ear. Every other song that played filled me with hope that we must be getting closer to my song.
Then I discovered that it was possible to buy the record and have the ability to play my song at home whenever I wanted. But the record was filled with other songs that I really didn’t want and I dreamt about some machine at the record store where you could buy just the songs that you wanted.
When Dreams Come True
It was dreams like this that have given rise to iTunes and personal listening devices to orchestrate the sound track of our lives. (For the record I didn’t invent iTunes or get any royalties from my boyhood vision.) Now we can have exactly what we want: the perfect song at the perfect moment. Even in a car full of people listening to “Fireflies” for the thousandth time, we can satisfy our desire to hear that plaintive 10,000 Maniacs song that speaks to the moment.
The technological advances of our time are incredible and the abilities that we have been give to personally shape our world, or at least our experience of it, is unparalleled. We have been given amazing power to manicure our lives through the abundance of choice.
Is This the Good Life?
It would seem that the logical end to this reality would be greater contentment and enjoyment of what is, yet I wonder if we haven’t inadvertently begun to focus on what is not. The incredible array of choice gives us the thought that each moment, each meal, could be better, resulting in an epidemic of discontentment.
It was not that long ago that merely going out to dinner was a treat. Now with the amazing panorama of cuisine at our disposal and the steady supply of cooking shows that inform us of what is “spot on,” we seem to be less satisfied with what once was considered a great meal. I know that there are times that I finish a good meal and think, but the red sauce at the other restaurant is better.
Why Do We Seem Discontented?
The challenge of the culture of choice is that we are wooed into a sense that we can shape every moment and meal into perfection. With our idealized perfection in mind it is not surprising that we feel disappointment and discontentment when things don’t meet these lofty expectations.
This modern malaise is problematic not only for moments and meals, but in relationships and our work. When we apply our “perfected ideal” to others there is no room for another person to be the real them and little room for healthy relationships. Occupational discontentment is exacerbated by the perpetual thought that the grass is greener—lavishly greener—elsewhere.
I am not saying that these technological advances or choices are bad. Like all of creation, they are good. But we need to continue to beware how we let this culture of choice shape us. The first step toward contentment is our awareness of how the abundance of choice impacts us. Do we merely live in the plethora of options or do we being to expect the world to conform to our expectations?
The second step is intentionally focusing on being content. In Philippians 4:11 Paul writes “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” This verse encourages us as contentment can be learned. We can practice fighting our selfish temptation to shape each moment and letting the music play. We can train ourselves again to enjoy the blessings of what is and not focus on what is not. We can enjoy the freedom of a good baked potato merely being good.
Part of the cultural crisis of character is the wide spread lack of contentment. May we discover both, the goodness of abundant choice and the richness of contentment.
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