My former boss passed away this week. His death was unexpected, and I’ve spent the past couple of days reflecting not only on how much he did for me, but on who he was as a person. The word that keeps coming to my mind is “honorable.” My boss was an honorable man.
Honorable isn’t a word you hear very often anymore. It sounds old fashioned. It seemed to go out of favor with the baby boomer generation, and it has yet to return. That is unfortunate. Being honorable is a quality that we desperately need to value again.
We live in a world in which loud-mouthed, crass behavior is mistaken for leadership. Success is defined by one’s money rather than one’s morality. And “straight talk” is valued over good manners. Whatever happened to being honorable?
My former boss was an honorable person. His top priority was his family. He adored his wife. He raised two sons with whom he was exceedingly proud because they were “honorable men.” He loved being a grandfather.
He not only had an impeccable work ethic (in before 7 a.m. every day, and at the office every Saturday morning), but he had an interest in the well-being of his staff. When I got divorced, he sincerely wanted to know if I was OK. He asked me if I could make ends meet on my salary. He told me that he would understand if I needed to look for higher paying work. He and his wife recommended books for my daughter to read, and when my daughter stopped by the office, he taught her to shoot rubber bands, like a real grandpa. He was a true leader because he not only demanded great things from his staff, but he demanded even more from himself.
As a society, we’ve made progress in two important ways: We’ve established that women’s and racial equality are the expected norms (even if these norms aren’t always achieved). However, there is one area in which we’ve gone backwards – We have stopped valuing honorable behavior. Our morals have become flexible. Serving one’s family and society have taken a backseat to serving oneself. Being dignified in how we speak and dress today is considered to be old fashioned. And we’ve stopped taking pride in how we conduct ourselves, both publicly and privately.
I think many of us want honorable living to become a priority for society once again. Perhaps that is why we are drawn to films like the Harry Potter series and the Avengers. We crave stories about honor. We want to see people grapple with right and wrong. We want to witness people going above and beyond the call of duty to serve society. We want to see fictional people exemplify the qualities of courage, decency and compassion because we don’t see enough of that in real life.
I was blessed to have a real-life example of what it means to be honorable when I had the privilege to work for my former boss. If you have someone in your life who lives honorably, watch how that person operates. Listen to what they say. Consider how they treat others. Then try to live your own life honorably, and hopefully you too will be both an example and a blessing for someone else.
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When we keep our focus on God, we are able to feel joyful, or at the very least, peaceful about life. The problem is that our natural inclination is to focus on other human beings, rather than God. That is a recipe for frustration. Other human beings aren’t reliable. They are fallible. They have moods. They make mistakes. Human beings can be intentionally or unintentionally cruel or inconsiderate. As a result, giving them the power to affect our happiness puts us on a continual emotional rollercoaster.
The only way to get off that rollercoaster is to keep our minds focused on God. That is very hard to do. For me, it is a daily struggle. But I know that when I shift my attention away from people and shift it to God, something amazing happens. I feel calmer. My problems are put in perspective. And I feel less alone because I know that God is with me.
Now we all commune with God in different ways. I commune with God by writing. When I write, it isn’t a frantic activity. It is a meditative process. It allows me to feel connected to God in a way that no other activity can accomplish. When I write, I will jot down a sentence and then pause. I’ll think. I’ll try to listen to the guidance that God might be trying to impart to me. And then I’ll continue with another sentence. When I write, no matter what is going on in my life, I feel relaxed and at peace.
The key, then, is to find the activity that allows you to feel in connection with God, and that gives you a respite from your worldly frustrations. For some, that activity might be prayer or meditation. For others, it may be listening to uplifting music. For you, it may be walking in nature, or walking your dog. For someone else, it might be reading something spiritually uplifting.
Most of us know what our special activity is – the one that give us that feeling of calm and well-being. The activity that helps us feel closer to God. The challenge is to find a way to incorporate that activity into our daily lives.
Most of us aren’t monks or nuns. We aren’t paid to be spiritual. Instead, having a spiritual life is something that we have to add to our already lengthy To Do List of worldly responsibilities. But the benefit of having a spiritual practice is that it makes the rest of life run smoother.
A relationship with God is the foundation on which we can approach life with a peaceful frame of mind. Without that relationship, we easily can be overwhelmed and frustrated. We can lose hope when we don’t see a solution to our problems. And we can feel so terribly alone when we have to face a difficult situation.
When we commune with God, we are reminded of what is important (family, friends, living honorably) versus what is unimportant (our social and economic status). We are reminded that God provides, even in the most unlikely situations. We remember that when we cannot see a way out of a situation, God can create one. And we are reminded that God isn’t concerned with how other people around us are acting. Rather, he is concerned with our behavior, and whether we are being kind and patient.
So true, sustained joy and peace begins with God. It is not something that we can buy. No other human being can give it to us. It only comes when we place our focus on God.
This week, consider how you can make your relationship with God a daily priority. When our relationship with God is the foundation upon which we build our lives, life goes smoother. Pick the activity that allows you to best feel the presence of God and incorporate that activity into your daily routine. In doing so, over time you will be blessed with the joy and peace that comes from a life lived in connection with God.
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“Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.”
― Nicole Reed, “Ruining You”
In life, we will succeed and fail often for reasons that are entirely outside of our control. For instance, you can be incredibly nice and love someone deeply, and they may not love you back. You can work harder than anyone else in your office and still not be promoted to management. You can eat healthy foods, exercise and abstain from alcohol and nicotine, and still get sick.
The bottom line is that life is not fair.
That is a tough pill to swallow for many people. As a result, some folks become paralyzed after being dealt even one unfair blow by life. They can’t come to grips with the fact that our efforts don’t always yield the results that we expect. But if you let life’s unfairness paralyze you, you will never reap the beautiful blessings that God has in store for you.
For example, my first marriage ended in divorce. To me, it felt very unfair. I had worked hard to be a good wife and mother. However, no matter what I did, I could not make the relationship work.
Now I could have been paralyzed by that experience. I could have decided that if one person didn’t appreciate me as a wife, then no one would. I could have given up. However, I knew that I wanted to be married. I knew that I wanted to experience traditional family life. So, I didn’t allow one seemingly unfair experience stop me from believing that I could one day be happily married. And then one day, out of the blue, God presented me with a kind, thoughtful, generous man with whom I now have a wonderful friendship and marriage. But that wouldn’t have happened if I had decided to give up after one failed marriage.
What I’ve learned over the years is that you can do all the right things and objectively deserve a certain outcome, and it may not happen. Life isn’t always fair.
When we are faced with life’s seeming unfairness, our faith needs to jump in. When life doesn’t go according to our plans, we have to step back and say, “God, not mine, but thy will be done.” We have to let go of the outcome that we are clutching to and know that God has a good plan for us. Then we have to keep trying, working hard and doing the right thing, knowing that in the end, God will take our efforts and do something wonderful with them.
If you have gone through unfair circumstances, please don’t be discouraged. Accept that life is neither fair nor straightforward. It doesn’t always go according to plan. But know that if you remain faithful to God, He will take your unfair experiences and use them for your benefit.
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“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
In this day and age, at a time when it has become socially acceptable to immediately tweet and post every thought we have, we’ve forgotten the value of the old adage, “Bite your tongue.” There is value in not expressing every little thought that pops into our heads. There is value in being judicious about what we say and don’t say to others. When we are careful with our words, our relationships are happier and the world generally is a more peaceful place.
The problem with expressing our every thought and feeling is that our thoughts and feelings are fleeting. I may be irritated with someone at this moment, but more likely than not, that feeling will be gone by tomorrow. So, what is the value in expressing my irritation? I will only create conflict by doing so.
For instance, yesterday it snowed in my neck of the woods. When I finally got home after a long day, I arrived to a driveway that hadn’t been shoveled. I was mad that no one had done it, and I let everyone know it. But today, that feeling of irritation is completely gone. I can’t even muster up the smallest amount of annoyance over the issue. Was it worth expressing my irritation yesterday, or should I have bitten my tongue? Should I have let the matter go and said nothing?
Yes. I should have let it go. Not every issue needs to be addressed.
Of course, important issues need to be addressed. We can’t slide everything under the rug. If we do, resentment grows in our relationships like a cancer. But as we grow in wisdom and maturity, we learn which problems are worth addressing and which are worth letting go.
Moreover, we don’t always communicate most effectively with our words. For example, I have a teenage daughter and older stepchildren, all of whom are at different levels of emotional maturity. Trying to correct their behavior by speaking to them directly is about as worthwhile as slamming my head into a wall. So, my husband and I instead try to lead by example. Sometimes they get the point, and sometimes they just don’t. But in many situations, setting a good example is far more effective than merely talking.
It is also worth remembering the old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” We don’t always have to express ourselves with our words. So, if I don’t like what someone is saying, I can choose one of two options: I can argue, or I can walk away. Arguing is always a waste of time. It always is far better to walk away. Walking away conveys your displeasure effectively. And it protects you from saying something that you will later regret.
Our goal each day should be to use every one of our words to build others up. If we aren’t doing so, then we should be biting our tongues. Today, consider asking God to give you wisdom so that all your words give grace to those who hear them. And ask God to give you the strength to bite your tongue when needed.
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