Guardrails

This week in the US there was a news story about a college admissions scandal where parents were paying large sums of money to have their kids admitted to prestigious colleges and universities.  I’m left scratching my head at the decision making process of the adults involved.  My guess is that none of them had a guardrail in their life to keep them from making their bad decision.

A guardrail in your life, just like one you see on the highway, is something that protects you from going too far in the wrong direction.  For example, a guardrail can be as simple as a question you might ask yourself before making a big decision.  A good guardrail question for the adults in the college scandal might have been, “How would what I’m about to do come across if it were broadcast on the evening news?”

A person’s faith can also serve as an excellent guardrail.  When you’re considering a decision, take a moment to see if your potential decision squares up with the teaching of your faith.  If it doesn’t, you should seriously reconsider whether your decision is worth pursuing further.

It’s easy to judge the adults involved, but let’s also remember that without some kind of guardrails in our own lives, we are all capable of personally destructive acts.

Now is a great time to look at your life and see what kind of guardrails you have in place to keep you from getting off course.  And keep this in mind:  guardrails will only help you if they are in place before you need them.

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Test the Perception

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him”  ~Proverbs 18:17 ESV

I recently got back from a trip to Houston to visit an aunt and uncle that I have not spent much time with in the past. There was, and apparently still is, a rift between them and one of my parents (the 3 of them are siblings). As a result, I didn’t see this aunt or uncle much growing up. Once, maybe twice, but that’s it. One thing I learned from this trip is that you can’t make an informed judgement about people based solely on the first perception you receive.

Growing up I’d only heard of this aunt and uncle through the lens of how my parent saw them. During the trip to Houston I realized that he perception I’d been given wasn’t entirely accurate. I had so much fun spending time with them! They were enjoyable to be around and were genuinely nice, kind people. I’m thankful that in this case I didn’t default to letting someone else’s perception of them become my own. If I did, I would have missed out on the opportunity to connect and build relationships with 2 kind-hearted members of my own family.

Is there an area in our own life where you are blindly accepting the first perception you hear? If so, I urge you to test that perception. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that the initial perception you’d been given isn’t 100% accurate.

Confront It

Whatever you’re trying to avoid won’t go away until you confront it.”  ~Unknown

This quote really resonates with me.  There are things that I’d rather not deal with, but hoping that they just go away is a bad plan for a couple of reasons.

For one thing, it’s a waste of brain power.  Just because I decide not to take action doesn’t mean my brain isn’t still thinking about it.  Whenever I put off action I know I should be taking, my mind seems to double down on the mental reminders.  I’ll use more brain power reminding myself of the fact that I’m not taking action than I would if I actually took action.

Also, just hoping that something you’re avoiding magically goes away accomplishes nothing more than sowing the seeds of worry and stress.  The more you avoid taking action, the more stress and worry you experience.  This seems like a waste of not only your brain power, but your time as well.

I’m working to get better at doing those things I tend to avoid, versus putting them off.  I don’t need to clutter my thoughts with worry or waste my time reminding myself for the nth time that I need to take action.  Instead, I choose to confront avoidance with decisive action.

So what have you been avoiding?  What have you been putting off with the hopes that it would just go away?  An appointment you need to schedule?  A conversation you need to have?  A decision you need to make?  Whatever it is, I encourage you to confront it and take the action you likely already know you need to take.  It’s time to free up our brain power to focus on other topics.

Giving Thanks and Praise

Imagine how you’d feel if you helped someone out of a dire situation and they didn’t acknowledge your assistance, or even say “Thank you”. It’s not that we need to recognition, but rather we’d just like to be acknowledged and know that our help was appreciated. In my own mind I’d sarcastically be thinking, “You’re welcome!”

This got me thinking of the importance of thanking and acknowledging God for the assistance He’s given me. When I’m praying for specific requests, I need to make sure that I not only thank Him but also acknowledge what he has done. He’s been too good to me that I should fail to give him praise.

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” ~Psalms 9:1

Acknowledge The Help You’ve Received

“If you see a turtle atop a fencepost, you know it had help getting there.” ~Unknown

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of our accomplishments. In fact, I think it’s good to celebrate our successes and achievements. What we don’t want, however, is to fail to acknowledge those who helped us along the way.

The quote at the beginning of this post serves as a reminder that any significant accomplishment or achievement we’ve had is likely due, in part, to assistance we received from others. As such, it’s important that when we experience success, we acknowledge and thank those that helped us get there.

Think about a recent success you have had. Now think of the person or people who helped you be successful. Have you thanked them for the part they played in your success? If so, nice job! If not, why not let them, know today? They’ll be grateful for your appreciation.

Don’t Miss An Opportunity

If given a choice, I think most folks would rather life be filled with only good experiences.  Who looks forward to broken relationships, health issues, and any number of unexpected bad news items?  Wouldn’t life be better without these negative experiences?   I’m not sure it would.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not eager for bad news or events to make their way into my life, or anyone else’s for that matter.  I just think that our experiences, especially our negative ones, can be some of our greatest opportunities to learn and grow… as long as we don’t miss the opportunity.

When bad things happen, we often want to ask questions like, “What did I do to deserve this?” or “Why is this happening to me?”  These questions are usually not helpful, because the answers are often respectively “Nothing” and “It just is”.

Some better questions to ask, once we get past the initial shock/pain, would be: “What does this situation make possible?” or “What do I need to learn through this experience?”  I like to express that last question in the form of a prayer:  “God, what do you want me to learn as a result of this experience?”

If I’m going to go through a negative life experience, personally, I’d like to gain something from it versus just having a bad experience.  This gain could be anything from:

  • A greater understanding of what other people are going though
  • A deeper faith
  • Increased compassion for others
  • A greater understanding of ourselves
  • A greater dependence on God
  • A million other things we can’t even think of

 

I hope that your life is heavy on the positive experiences and light on the negative ones.  However, every life will have its share of the latter.  When they come, be on the lookout for what you can learn or how you can come through it better than you were at the beginning.

 

Don’t miss the opportunity.

Enjoy It While We Have It

This week I learned that a good friend from church will be leaving the area, so I won’t have regular weekly contact with him as I have in the past. The news bummed me out a bit because I really enjoy this friend’s fun, positive personality. We’ve had some fun memories, and not seeing him will feel like something is missing. That said, I am grateful for the time and good memories I’ve had with this friend.

I’m reminded how important it is to appreciate the things we enjoy, whether it’s friends and family, activities we do, communities we belong to, or the season of life we’re in. While it often feels like these good things will last forever, they seldom do. That’s not meant to sound dark or depressing. Life is full of change, and sometimes change means something good is going away. It’s also important to remember that any good thing you currently enjoy in your life was also brought about by change.

Knowing that things change, let’s all be extra appreciative and grateful for those things we currently have that bring us joy.