Thursday, January 3, 2013

I Will Give You a Piece of My.....A Piece of My What?

I will give you a piece of my mind… in a New York minute.  Communicating interpersonally in a manner that lacks tact is one of my longtime failings. I am blunt to a fault. My sweet little bride tells me that I get my fists up verbally. I have attempted to take some corrective measures over the years, but I have found another flaw in the process.

In the process of evading communication that is a little too direct, I have avoided saying things that really need to be said. If a dear friend is making poor life choices, I need to say something.  I have an obligation of love. As I have averted the verbal road to bluntness, I have discovered that avoidance is a smooth and fast highway. The avoidance highway has no bumps or dangerous curves. (Or at least it appears that way.)  Appearances of course are deceiving.

Avoidance is every bit as destructive as being overly blunt in approaching people. Unhealthy situations are never addressed. There is no catalyst that can set needed change in motion.  Informal life coaching is factored out. And of course the grievous temptation is to talk about someone instead of to them.
Is there a balance?  I believe there is a proper blend of direct communication that is tempered by a compassionate heart.

I will give you a piece of my heart…in a New York minute.  I will choose to care about you so much that I will give you a piece of my own heart.  If I am concerned about you, I will choose to express such concerns in a loving manner. Be patient with me. I may stumble around with my words. I might even shed a tear. But I won’t be rude.  My words will be spoken in the gentlest way possible. Be patient with me.  I am very accustomed to giving people a piece of my mind. This whole idea of giving a piece of my heart is really quite new.

My verbal fists are slowly coming down.  I am learning to extend verbal embraces instead. I know such a choice is the right highway to be on. It is one that leads to peace, reconciliation, and meaningful change.  It is not a highway that runs relationships into a ditch or causes wrecks later because of avoidance. My choice is to give people a piece of my heart…in a New York minute. How about you?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Searching for a Meaningful Life....Or Living a Meaningful Life

The holidays are usually a time to catch up with old friends. This year was no exception.  There are always conversations that start with: “How is _____ doing? What is going on in their life?” During the course of one of those interchanges a friend of mine described some mutual acquaintances in the following manner: They seem restless. They are probing for something. They spend a lot of time going to self-help conferences…They are searching for meaning and for some reason it remains elusive.

As I drove home, I thought about his comments.  Why is the search for meaning turning up so many dead ends for our mutual friends?  He described individuals that I know to be educated, successful and affluent. They appear to be happily married and have raised children that have the same potential to be educated, successful and affluent. As I mulled over this philosophical puzzle, another conversation that took place over the same meal popped in my head.

My friend also asked about Jan’s parents.  We told him about their latest adventures retirement adventures. He in turn reminded us that Jan’s mother had sent him numerous cards that contained very kind personal notes when he was recovering from a serious accident.  Sending such handwritten comments in the mail was not an isolated incident. She sent them repeatedly during the course of his recuperation.  Her thoughts were heartfelt, thoughtful, and encouraging.

It took me a few moments, but I finally put the content of the two conversations together.  During part of our time of together he described two people that are relentlessly searching for meaning.  They are restless, unsettled, and I suppose unfulfilled in life. They are looking for something that they have yet to discover. And then he in turn he described someone to me who simply lives a meaningful life.

Jan’s mother has a high school education. She has lived in the same house for over 52 years. And she has lived within in the same rural area all of her life. I don’t know if she has ever attended a Christian conference or any kind of self help seminar. She has spent her life loving God and other people. I should actually clarify that. She has spent her life loving God and other people in tangible ways.  Members of her extended family have always called her through the years to share their problems, because she listens. She has written hundreds of kind letters and notes to people struggling with life.  She is genuinely interested in the concerns of other people. Her life has never been cluttered by excess materialism or vain pursuits of any kind.  She has lived a meaningful life.

Are you restless?  Do you feel like there is something that you are missing in life? Is there an emptiness that refuses to be filled?  Perhaps a starting place is the discipline of simplicity. Shed the unnecessary baggage and get back to the basics of loving God and other people in tangible ways.  I am fearful that conferences that are supposedly promoting Christian values in reality are fueling the narcissism of our age. Let’s be alert to those around us that are in immediate need and do something meaningful on their behalf.  Let’s stop searching for meaning and just live a meaningful life. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ditch the New Year's Resolutions this Year: There is a Better Alternative

Recently a friend shared the idea that our personal flaws can be compared to an elephant in the room: difficult not to see and even harder to get past… I concur. Most of us have a clear awareness of the elephant standing in the room of our hearts. We know what our faults are and they are unlikely to be eradicated simply by making a few New Year’s resolutions.  What is the alternative then?  I have a few musings on this first day of the year on such a subject.

Perception is important. All of my close friends have large elephants of varying breeds living in the rooms of their hearts. In other words, those closest to me have obvious faults. But here is an interesting twist.  In the case of those near and dear to me, I get past the presence of such elephants quickly.  As time goes on, I don’t even notice the elephant.  I choose to accept them where they are in life. And I don’t think anything about it.  It has been my experience that such unconditional acceptance in many cases prompts meaningful change in the lives of those we love.

Acceptance is important. Why is it that we can’t get past the elephants in our own lives?  I choose not to dwell on my friend’s faults. Why can’t I step around the elephants in my own life then?  The truth is: I am willing to accept my friends as they are, but far less inclined to do the same for myself. A lack of personal acceptance is therefore equivalent to a lack of meaningful change and growth.

Transformation is important.  My thinking needs to be totally transformed. A friend shared this quote from Ellen Goodman: Take a tour of the rooms with fresh eyes... "Maybe this year… walk through the rooms of our lives not looking for flaws, but potential."  In the past, when I would take such tours all that I saw were varying breeds of gigantic elephants that were leaving a trail of stinky elephant waste in the rooms of my life.  This year will be different. I am going to take the same tour, but choose to extend the same grace I eagerly give to others to myself. In other words, this year, I will not look for flaws, but for potential…I wonder what the consequences will be? Time shall tell. But that is the alternative I choose to New Year’s Resolutions this year.