Last week I was scrolling on social media, and I came across a “meme” and it was a list with two columns with answers based more in perception than anything else. The message was more a matter of gratitude rather than expressing regret as a measure of action. This little message blew me away, something so simple, and yet it completely reversed how I interpret what I do. Now, this isn’t to say, I wasn’t thankful for the gifts and time people ever gave to me, nor was I thankful for the patience I’ve received over the years, but what it exposed for me was although there is a measure of penitence to an apology. The depth of the pool of repentance comes when we ultimately realize, our apology isn’t about saying we’re sorry so much as it is about thanking the other person for the love they’ve shown us in one way or another. When we stop worrying about messing up or generally capitalizing on selfishness, we find a desire to put “other” before us and achieve a humble existence. In other words, we grow closer in our relationship with God.
The first line of the list said, “I’m sorry, I’m late” on one side, and on the other, the more appropriate response was “thank you, for waiting on me”. Both responses indicate a measure of sorrow and seeking of redemption, but one response above the other indicates a recognition of the other person and their sacrifice for us. This perception, in one manner or another, is what life is all about. Our sacrifices and the recognition of the sacrifices by others, creates within us a humility, allowing us to see the individual actions of another and how they might impact all of us. In other words, I can see how my actions actually impacted another, and when I realize they had to struggle due to loss of time or worse, situation, then shame is exposed as if by a bright light. Isn’t this what goodness is all about, a recognition of the light and it’s exposure to those dark areas of sin we all possess?
Our thanks in life should never be about what we see, but instead what those around us see. I don’t necessarily mean, we should be bothered by another, when we are trying to do well and they just don’t like what we do. However, how our actions impact another should be quite relevant and going out of our way to mitigate the negative consequence on others. I think back to a phrase I heard many years ago, “better to act and beg for forgiveness, than to risk being told ‘no’ to begin with”. This is such a loaded statement, I’m sure I could probably write a dissertation on the positive and negative impacts of such a life’s philosophy, but what I will say is when we seek to manipulate a situation out of selfish desire to see a goal realized, we run the risk of creating a negative impact on all those people like a ripple effect on a lake. We may never realize, by pushing our self-motivated agendas a short-fall might occur sometime later, which we will never know nor will we be subject to the negative consequences. Instead, another innocent person might be subject to the consequence and face hardships because of it. We see this happen daily in companies and in countries all over the world, and as a result we continue to seek more and more regulation and rules/laws to regulate the push for selfishness and immoral behaviors instead of attacking the root problem. The light of God isn’t in their lives and the absence of light breeds darkness and in the darkness, the presumption of any selfish person, is they can do as they wish because no one will ever see.
Companies are accused all the time of putting the profits ahead of the people, to satisfy expectations by those who would otherwise seek selfish goals to meet some finite expectation of today, rather than think about the degrading impact of tomorrow. I’ve heard many arguments over the years about the relevance for making smart financial decisions, within the structure of a company, and although this is correct, preparing for such a day isn’t usually on dais for question. I once had a business professor who stated clearly, “the role of a manager and a leader is to put themselves humbly into the lives of those around them. When they can do this, then future of an organization becomes a labor of love and not the first payment on a boat.” His words, like the list, changed my perspective on how I wanted to approach life and the people around me. This was at a time when I embraced turmoil and self-aggrandizing efforts, and because of his care for his students and because of the influence of God in my life, I realized I could say, “thank you, for having patience with me”.
This is where it all comes down to, sacrificing what we want, for an understanding of what others need. We as fathers and husbands provide this for our families. We counsel our children about lessons from day-to-day, and we must say thank you to those wives, willing to be patient as we learn just how to traverse life and marriage all at the same time. I once approached my life as a matter of momentary instances, to be thought out thoroughly, some work our way and some don’t. I compartmentalized events into good and bad, but I never saw the string of responsibility connecting everything I did and the subsequent ripples my actions caused others in life. Like my son, who loves to do a cannonball in the pool during those long summer days, and the torrential flood of water which splashes those who sit on the edge of the pool, my actions were much like his, but emotionally draining. When he jumps in, and comes up for air, he usually looks around and says, “oh, sorry” because his focus was on achieving the perfect height and splash radius for his entrance into the pool. For everyone else, who is now dripping with water, we look at him with disdain because he disrupted what was enjoyable. Though, there are two perceptions to be taken with this, the first is, he isn’t wrong for wanting to jump in, it’s a pool, and that’s what you’re supposed to do, meanwhile we should understand this and be willing to see his perspective. Simultaneously, he should know, just because we want to do something, what is the best course of action, when we put people before ourselves and their needs into consideration with our very own? The usual result is a verbal argument by himself and his sisters, or a few words of instruction by myself or my wife, until it happens again. On all of our accounts, we’re unwilling to look at the whole of the situation and this is eerily similar to life as we live it. So many times we are unwilling to thank another for simply being or loving us. We forget to put them ahead of us in what we decide to do.
Think about the politics of where we’re at, all too often we talk about this side or that side and how they are destroying everything we know. The irony is, both sides are doing the same thing, we constantly see politicians corrupted by power and selfish desire to have rather than to give. We see politicians who would rather push a personal agenda sometimes devoid of moral behavior, and as constituents we are so willing to accept immoral behavior to allow for what we truly want, like a law or revenue streams not previously possible. We all are attempting to get something, but have we really asked what the cost of our desire is, or are we all hoping we can say, ”sorry” later?
I think this is what the politicians in our culture believe, they can capitalize on the turmoil between voters and the immoral stance of their constituents and if they are ever called out on what they’ve done (assuming it’s non-criminal), then they will just apologize and it will be business as usual. Instead what they should be doing is thanking those people who voted for them and remove themselves from such an important position. The result, some would argue is two-fold, the first being the call for the resignations of many in office, and the second being a deluge of politicians leaving office and creating a virtual vacuum of disruption for all of us. This is of course true, but the house we live in is falling in ruins, and we must have the courage to clear off the foundation and rebuild, and do so in a proper fashion. This starts with the ability to place our needs last and put those needs of others first. This might start with a thankfulness to those who gave their lives, which you might be able to sit in your chair and read these words. This is a thankfulness for those who gave everything they had or would ever have, to realize the truth of what men and women should be, even in the face of great evil. Their thankfulness to those who gave to them, much like they gave to us, strengthened the string of events which has eventually led to our culture today, but the string is fraying. Our liberties and freedoms are waning under the guise of immoral behavior touting a platform of choice. Over and again, we bring into focus a need for consistent choice-making and foundations of principled lives of those who wish to lead us.
As we head into another holiday season, we will be bombarded with music and advertisements pushing a season of giving, a season of spirit, and above all a season where if you use financing you can get more stuff. However, I challenge you to look at this as a season of rebirth, much like the birth of the greatest man who ever lived this earth, Jesus, we are called to become reborn in our lives through action and proper reaction to the events which surround us constantly. We have an ability to place upon us the weight of right and wrong, and always know wrong is ugly and disdainful, but brought to us in beautiful wrapping. “The road to hell, is paved with good intentions”, a phrase I’ve heard uttered for many years, and a phrase which sums up our culture so quickly. Good intent doesn’t pay the bills for those workers laid off before the holidays. Good intent, doesn’t tell the person, who waited hours for you, you understand how they felt by simply saying “sorry” as if it were a passing turn of phrase. Good intent doesn’t offer redemption, just strings words and actions together to make us feel better about choosing wrongly. Don’t be this, intend to put yourself in the shoes of another this Holiday season, be thankful, be mindful of everything around you, and be reborn.
Although, I write about my family sometimes, I never truly give them credit where credit is due, and to show them just how thankful I actually am. So, if you will permit me, I would like to do this with the few lines I have left today.
To my parents, how I love you, thank you for raising me the best way a boy could be raised. You held me when I was young, and you embrace me now I am older. Your instructions in my life have proven to be invaluable, and your freedom to allow me to make mistakes have taught me more than I could have ever imagined. Mom, you are the strongest woman I have ever known, tough and tender when it counted, more tough at times, but love isn’t a squishy pillow, it’s a choice and you choose to do it right, thank you so much! I saw you fight for those in life, who couldn’t fight for themselves, and I was never more proud of anyone in my life when I found this out. Dad, your ability to approach life with wisdom has inspired me since I was a teen, to seek the truth, your forgiveness of my poor behavior when I argued with you humbles me. You thoughtful tone when I hear the word “son”, warms my heart. My perception of a Father in Heaven comes from your ability to be patient as a father to his son. I love you both beyond a measure of any type, thank you for raising me properly.
To my mother-in-law and my step-mother, I am thankful for your presence in my life. To my mother-in-law, you have always been kind to me and thoughtful, even when I was awful, you loved me and you didn’t have to, and for this I am eternally grateful. To my step-mother, you have treated me like one of your very own kids from the beginning, and although, your entrance into my life was later, this has come with no less a profound significance to understanding what life throws at us and how we can choose to deal with it.
To my sister, you are wonderful, you are brilliant and motivated, and yet you allow yourself to be open and flawed for all the world to see, I love this about you. You accepted me for me, and then asked my opinions of things, even when I was the most boorish. We haven’t always gotten along, and to this I’m forever ashamed. I always could have tried harder, but I allowed my selfishness to get in the way, rather than seeing the thankfulness from your presence in every way.
To my brother, I haven’t spoken with you for some time now, and perhaps these words will get to you one day. We definitely haven’t seen eye to eye over the years, and my bullish desire to seek out my own goals, was sadly to the detriment of our relationship, but I would like to say, I think we could one day be better. I’m thankful to God for your presence, if for nothing more, than the pathway to walk with you one day as God intends us to walk. I remember your lessons for me as a kid, how I looked up to you, and in many ways wanted to be like you. This wasn’t meant for us, I guess, but I know God’s light shines upon you, please look up, please seek it, and please know I am forever thankful for you!
To my kids, y’all are the greatest gifts God could have ever bestowed upon myself and your mother. Smart, loving, kind hearted, obnoxious, and all around the very best this world has to offer. Constantly, you teach me to be a better father, and for this I am thankful. Day in and day out, you provide me with an abundance of love, and my cup is overflowing, and your willingness to accept the faults of your father astound me. In matters of self and growth, I feel like I have so much to learn from each one of you. I am thankful for your energy, for your tears, for your anger, for your inquisitiveness, which provides to both your mother and myself, so much joy. When we realize how much God has given us, our thankfulness abounds into a feeling of contentment and humility all at once. I see each and every light from you and I want you to know, it’s so very beautiful.
To the love of my life, my beautiful wife. Thank you, once again, thank you!!! You are a rock, you are the strength I need in my most dire of situations. Your forgiveness of me is like none I have ever experienced. You kindness in truth and of our life together has sustained me more than you will ever know. More important than anything else, is your love of God. I don’t know why God placed you in my path, all those years ago, and when I wonder about what I would be like had we never met, the thought freezes my soul. I shudder at knowing that if I had never had the courage to say, “Hi”, we might never have known one another. At the same time, I realize God’s blessings give us a pathway of light for us to walk down and see those vipers of sin all around us. Many years ago, we stood before the priest and committed to the covenant with God, we would be joined as one, and we would walk this life together. For a time, I forgot how to be thankful, for God, and for you, I am truly sorry. However, your faith has been unwavering in God, and in me; you are the most courageous woman, you tackle what is before you and you don’t give up, just because everyone says you should. This is rare, and my decision to love you has come from all of this, your beauty, your kindness, your thoughtfulness, your intelligence, your love of our children, your love of life, your love of the family, your love of me, and most importantly your love of God. By my estimation, you could have found a million men, just like me, but you choose me, and I am thankful for your patience, for being there, for helping me, for the courage to point out my mistakes, for your understanding, and for your love. Thank you!!!
Today or tomorrow, if you get the chance, turn to those you know and love, and thank them for their willingness to see you and accept you. In one way or another, love isn’t something in a box, it’s the two words spoken before any apology, “thank you”. Have a wonderful holiday season, be reborn. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!