A Quick Thought On Choice

There are plenty of things in life that we have no control over.  For example, the weather, the economy, genetics, and most every other person on the planet, just to name a few.  However, there are a number of variables in life that we do have control over.

Of those variables, the lever of control we have is choice.  We can choose our responses, our behavior, our outlook, the words we use, the course we chart for our life.

This knowledge should be a constant reminder to us to make wise choices.  The choices we make today impacts the quality of our tomorrows.

Incorrect Assumptions

A couple of weeks ago in the adult Sunday school class I lead, I made a comment about a section of Scripture.  To preface my comment I stated, “We all know this […]”.  After some discussion, one of the newer people in the class spoke up and said, “You mentioned that ‘we all know this’, but I DON’T know this.”  The comment got my attention.

It’s so easy to assume that just because we know something, everyone else must obviously know it as well.  I was reminded that this is usually not the case.  For me, it’s important to be aware of this reality, so that I don’t inadvertently exclude people from classroom discussions, dialog in a meeting, or even a simple conversation by assuming they know what is being discussed.

I like to include people versus excluding them.  What I learned from the Sunday school class exchange is to stop assuming that folks know something and actually give space to check that assumption.  If my assumption is correct, great!  We can move forward.  If, however, my assumption is incorrect, then that presents a great opportunity for discussion to help bring others along, and event to learn something new myself.

There’s enough division and exclusion going on in the world, that I don’t need to add to it in my conversations and interactions.  How much better it is to test and assumption and gain clarification, than to move forward with the assumption, only to find out that it was incorrect.

Now’s A Good Time

“Look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now!”  ~Hamilton

If I could choose to live during any time in history, I’d choose now.  Yes, there are a lot of things that are crazy and concerning right now, but I’m amazed at the technology that’s currently available to us.  

Just this week my wife and I were discussing a topic we needed to make a decsion on that neither one of is knew much about.  After about 30 minutes of online research, we were able to gather accurate information that helped us focus our thinking and make a decision.  How great is it that we can be completely clueless one minute, and after a few mintes of due dilligenc, we can be informed to the point of being able to make an informed decision? 

And it’s not just internet research I’m grateful for.  In addtion, my list includes things from music platforms like Spotify (gone are the days of creating a mix tape on cassettes!), to being able to work from home, or any other location with a broadband connection, to opportunites to connect with people all over the world. 

I am amazed and grateful.  We are indeed lucky to be alive right now.

I’ve Got Time For That

Have you ever received a call from someone who is feeling down or overwhelmed, who just needs someone to talk to?  I got a call like that earlier this week while I was at work, and I had a choice to make.  Do I hurry to get them off the phone quickly because I’m busy and have a lot of stuff to get done, or do I carve out some time and listen to them?  I chose the latter.   

Before you think, “Good job!  You made the right choice!”, I must confess.  My initial thought was that I need to get off the phone.  It wasn’t until I started to hear how they were feeling about what they were experiencing, that I felt prompted not to ditch the call, but to actively listen to them.  (I think the Holy Spirit is good at prompting me like that.  I’m trying to get better at actually listening to Him.)     

We’ve all been there.  Sometimes we just want to be heard, to be acknowledged, or to have someone tell us, “Yeah, that sucks!”  or offer us a bit of encouragement.  What a blessing to think that we could provide that to someone else when they need it.

That’s something I’ve got time for.    

Listening And Thinking

There are so many things to be divided about lately.  From political ideology, to social justice issues, to how to handle a pandemic, we are at no lack of things to be divided by.  Yet, while it’s easy to become hardened in our thinking, based on our own beliefs and experience, I think all this division also provides an excellent opportunity to understand how others view these things.  If we’re willing to listen to them and think about what they say.

It’s easy to reject someone who’s thoughts are different from ours, without even considering how their experiences might have shaped the way they see things.  I’m not saying you have to embrace thinking that is totally untethered from reality.  (That’s a discussion for someone else’s blog.)  However, if we can actually listen to another person, without feeling we have to defend our position, we gain great insight into WHY they think the way they do.  We still may not agree with their thinking, but at least we have a greater understanding of how they came to think what they do.  Who knows, what we learn through listening to them might even cause our own thinking to be changed.

A lot of folks broadcast their opinion, solicited or not, under the guise that, “I just want to get other people to think.”  That’s nice, but the question that always comes to mind when I hear that statement (or find myself saying it) is, “That’s great, but are you willing to think as well?”

We need to take a look at ourselves in the figurative mirror.  If we’re not willing to consider a different perspective, or to see an issue from someone else’s point of view, then we should stop expecting others to consider our perspective and point of view.  How can we tell others that they need to think about what we have to say, when we ourselves are unwilling to extend that same courtesy to them?

Different Backgrounds Different Outlook

Here’s something we all know, but that I often forget… we don’t all have the same background and experiences shaping how we view ourselves and the world.

I can too easily assume that others have similar backgrounds and experiences as me.  That assumption is an easy connection to another equally false assumption; that what I would do or how I would think in a situation is how others should think.  That’s simply not true. 

Our experiences and backgrounds shape how we interpret what we see in the world, so it’s obvious that those with differing experiences would see things different that I would, and vice versa.

I like to frequently remind myself about this so that I don’t look up one day and realize that I’ve turned into a cranky old man, simply because I assume that the problem with everyone is that they don’t see the world the same way I do.

On The Other Side

“What’s it like on the other side of me?”  ~ Pastor Amy

During the sermon at church last week, one of our pastors referenced this question that she often asks herself in relation to what it’s like for others to interact with her.  I though it was a great question I should start asking myself!

We all know what it’s like to be us.  We’re aware of our opinions, our values, and what we think.  However, are we aware of how those opinions come across when we’re talking to others?  Are we aware of possible no verbal signals, attitudes, tones of voice, judgement, or perceptions we may not mean to send, that others experience when communicating with us?

Pastor Amy’s question causes me to think about how I treat others (intentionally or unintentionally) when communicating with them.  It reminds me that communication is so much more than just words.

There Should Be A Website For That

Wal-Mart shoppers often get a bad rap.  There are websites out there that show pictures and behaviors of what some people think are stereotypical Wal-Mart shoppes.  However, I had a couple experiences last Saturday that shatters the typical stereotypes you’d see on such sites.

First, I was on the isle looking at plastic storage bins.  (So many choices!)  As I was comparing a couple options, I could see a shopper out of my peripheral vision push their shopping cart down the main isle.  I didn’t think anything of it until I heard a voice saying, “You don’t want to buy that one, because the plastic handles break off.”  I turned and noticed that lady was pointing to one of the bins I was looking at on the shelf.

“Really?”  I said, in a tone that invited her to tell me more. She told me that she had bought that particular bin recently and after using it for a short timeframe the handles had both broken off.  I told her I which plastic bin I was considering, as I pointed to its location on the shelf.  She said that one would be a much better choice.   

After grabbing the bin, I headed to the pet section where I was looking for some litter box solutions for our cats.  I had a couple of products in my hand when I heard another voice to my right.  “I just bought that one, and it’s really good.”  I turned to see another lady pointing to one of the products in my hand.  “Oh, really?  So, you like this one?”  I said, as I held up the product she was pointing to.  She asked if I minded a recommendation, to which I responded, “For sure!  What have you got?”. 

She told me about her recent purchase and how it has been working well for her cats.  We talked for a few minutes about some other options, and she bid me “good luck”. 

I think it was so great, in light of all the division and discord between people these days, that each of these ladies decided to offer their assistance to me for no other reason than to see that I made a good purchase. 

There should be a website to showcases people like that!

The Lens You Look Through

I was talking with a friend at the gym this week about working from home.  While there are a number of positives, the biggest negative for me is not having the face-to-face contact with people.  Sure, there are a lot of alternatives, like instant messaging and video calls, but they don’t quite measure up to the experience of an in-person interaction.

My friend agreed, but also mentioned how for her grand kids, video conversations are what they’re use to, and are more common for them than face-to-face conversations.  She also mentioned her grandkids are growing up with Face Time and other video chat tools, and see these types of interactions as normal as we would see an in-person visit from our grand parents back in the day.

That was an interesting reminder to me about how differently we all look at the world through the lens of our own experience.  What may seem mainstream to me, could be unusual to others, and vice versa.  And that’s ok!  We all have different life experiences that shape our lenses.

I think it’s important to be mindful f this in our interactions with others.  It’s easy to assume everybody sees the world through the same lens as I do, but that’s simply not true.  When I take time to listen to others, I gain a better understanding of the lens they view the world through.  If I listen close enough, I can even understand how their lens was formed.

I’m thankful we aren’t all the same.  While that might make some things easier, it would certainly be less interesting to live in a world where everyone looked through the same lens as me.

Slowing Down

I’ve been working on learning to play the electric bass part of the song Far Cry from the band Rush recently.  It’s a quick tempo song with some cool rhythmic elements that I think sound really cool.  One thing that became painfully obvious when I started learning to play the song was that I would have to slow the tempo way down, if I have any hopes of mastering it.

When I stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense.  I can’t look at a challenging song and play it perfectly at the same tempo on my first attempt.  There are note progressions, fingering, and rhythms that all need to be discerned and practiced at a slower pace in order to gain an understanding of how they all fit together within the song.  Once those elements are understood individually, I can then integrate them together as I begin to play parts of the song.  Albeit still at a slower tempo.

This slowness feels clunky and awkward.  What I really want to do is pick up the bass and play the tune like a pro on the first or second attempt.  However, that’s not the way mastery of a topic works.  Mastery requires that we start out slow as we begin the work of obtaining knowledge and understanding.  From there we can begin to apply this knowledge and steadily increase our pace. 

Here is where I think most people give up pursing a goal.  They see the talent in a musician, athlete, or some other person that has slowed down and put in the time to achieve mastery and think that this person must have been “born with it” or is “gifted”.  In fact, what they are seeing is this person’s reward for having slowed down and spent the time in that slow and clunky stage. 

What’s lost on many of us is that we too can be considered “talented” or “gifted” if we’re willing to put in the required time in the slow and clunky stage.