Happy New Your Resolutions

my recommendations for what you can do to make my 2017 better

I’m a big believer that the only significant changes I can make in this world are the things under my control. Thus, the only change I can guarantee is the change I bring to my own life. I have dutifully reflected on this past year and selected a number of areas where I can bring about change . . . with me. Thus, I have new year’s resolutions.

However, during a moment of irritation, I also began working on my list of things that  others could do. Please note, it was during a time of irritation. So this isn’t a path to world peace or anything so noble. These are simply things that would make my life better.

New Your Resolutions

10. Use your turn signals.

I’m doing a lot of big city driving these days. I will go out of my way to make a space for another driver who politely asks to come into my lane by moving his or her hand ever so slightly to activate the turn signal. I’ve noticed that many, many others react the same way.

But a good number of drivers out there ignore this courtesy — and legal requirement. I’ve also noticed that the more expensive the vehicle is the more likely that the signals will not be used. I checked with a friend who sells fine cars. He has assured me that all vehicles, regardless of price, are equipped with turn signals. And I personally checked the window stickers on a number of cars and SUVs — there is no special surtax leveed that would excuse you from signaling.

Please, signal. It’s just one of those forms of communication that makes life better — and safer.

9. Stop using crude and foul language.

I’m fully aware of the First Amendment. I know it’s your right to say things that are vile and distasteful to me. But stop it. Regardless of how much sophistication you believe the f-bomb brings to your cell phone conversation, just know, it doesn’t. What those words say to others, regardless of their context, is that you: (a) are stupid, (b) received your entire training in linguistics watching R movies that target the basest desires and cravings of our society, (c) are rebelling against society and you say these things to show your disrespect, (d) are rebelling against your upbringing,  and/or (e) were brought up in an environment where others were influenced by (a) through (d), above.

The number one excuse for using profanity is that it allows us to communicate our emotional well-being at any given moment.  Let me suggest here that there are other words you could use:

  • I’m angry.
  • I’m frustrated.
  • I’m sad.
  • I’m happy.

That’s just a starter list. Saying those kinds of things allows your listener to understand where you are coming from instantly and is far more likely to lead to bringing their empathy to the surface. Hearing one of those expressions doesn’t cause us to think, “Hmmm, I wonder if he just hit his thumb with a hammer?” We have a pretty good clue about what you are experiencing.

Please, clean up your language.

8. Carry poop bags and use them.

If you walk your dog — and there are millions of you out there who do — pick up those packages, large and small, created on your adventures. Yes, it’s a natural occurrence. But you can’t blame your dog.

Please, pick it up and dispose of it.

7. Recycle.

We all use disposable containers. Many of them are recyclable and some, if not appropriately disposed of, are safety hazards for humans, animals, and plant life. And no, you can’t blame your local municipality if they have no recycling program. They should, but that will be on my mid-year list of “responsible things society should do.”

Please, recycle.

6. Adopt and embrace the Oxford Comma.

Miscommunication abounds. Do your part to contain it by appropriately using the comma — and other forms of punctuation. If I have to read what you’ve written more than once to decipher it, 8 times out of 10 it’s because you didn’t punctuate properly. And if you’re one of my students and I’m grading your paper, I really don’t care that your writing and grammar teacher told you it was okay to drop off commas. If you’re unclear and a comma would have helped, I’m subtracting points on technical writing.

Please, punctuate safely.

5. Don’t make up facts.

For example, in #6 above, I have no idea if punctuation is the culprit in 8 out of 10 written communications errors. It would have helped if I had prefaced it with, “In my opinion . . .” or IMHO (although my personal experience is that my opinions are rarely offered humbly).

Making stuff up to strengthen your position is a pretty good indicator that your position is lacking.

Please, don’t add to all the falsity that is circulating out there.

4. Don’t use the word “actually” unless it is actually necessary.

Sadly, when I find  myself listening to a speech or a sermon or a lecture or I’m eavesdropping on someone at the next table in a restaurant, I often count the number of times the word “actually” is used.

Using “actually” as a seasoning for your conversation is like telling your companions that most of what you say is suspect. It ranks right up there with such phrases like “to be honest” or “if the truth be known.” Those are simply signals that you are a person who might not be delivering credible information. For some of you who use this word with reckless abandon, I am learning that I must wait to hear a morsel of relative and factual information until you introduce it with “actually.”

Please, use the word “actually” sparingly.

3. Accept that you don’t know everything and that you are not always right.

I have personal experience with this one. I don’t know everything and I should not be seen as someone with impeccable judgment. (I know that’s ironic, given the fact I’m posting about the stuff that others should do to improve.) I do accept this. And I balance my impulse to push my beliefs and opinions on others with some temperance. I often wait. Before I speak. Before I act. Before I vote. Before I judge — at least publicly.

Please, wait. (I’ve actually waited a long time before publishing this post. [See what I did there? I reinforced this resolution by violating #4.])

2. Give others the benefit of the doubt — but don’t abandon accountability.

A good number of you immediately began thinking of our current political situation when you read this. I have to admit that it was foremost in my mind when I added it to the list. This is a hard one, especially when it comes to enforcing accountability. How much margin can we give others?

My leading response in my law practice was, “It depends.” And so it is appropriate that it be prominent in this conversation. Some things matter more than others. For you to locate and enforce the line of accountability, you must reflect on your values, on accurate information, and on what is at stake. Don’t let others make this decision for you.

Please, listen for understanding, be curious, and stand up for your values.

1. Finally, once and for all, accept the fact that it’s not just about you.

When you are making decisions or investing your time and resources, pause a few seconds to ask whether you are simply acting out of selfishness and personal ambition. In the book of James, we are told that the root of all conflict in the world is our focus on self above others.

Don’t hear me say that you shouldn’t act wisely and responsibly in regard to your own earthly affairs. In an essay on charity, John Wesley once penned that we should address our finances to take care of ourselves, our families, and, only then, on addressing the needs of others. His prioritization was not based on selfishness, however. His point was that we should be good stewards in regard to our own needs so we don’t become a burden to those around us.

Perhaps our problem has more to do with our perception of what our true needs are.

We are all faced with decisions that will impact our own well-being over others. Sometimes those decisions will bring us a small gain while costing others greatly. Our most appropriate consideration should be that which benefits the most people.

Please, do your best for all.

 

That’s my list for you. And each one of them, from the most silly to the most profound, is on my personal list of new year’s resolutions, too — along with an assortment of alterations to exercise, diet, and general demeanor.

Happy New Year!

No News is Good News

but almost all news is no news

We have become a society that lusts for news. We perch hungrily for the latest scandal and are eager to see our enemies demeaned by the latest bit of information we squeeze from an ill-written headline. Increasingly it seems, no news is good news.

good news

photo credit: Oliver Klein, unsplash.com

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know my political choice for president. Not surprisingly, the majority of people I know don’t read my posts. So I’ve been fielding a lot of conversation about that.

Those visits usually begin with, “Well, I guess you’re happy about the presidential election results.” And then, I must honestly reply, “No, I’m not.” Living in conservative West Texas, I can usually expect the person to physically step back from me and then set my watch for about two minutes of disbelief and, sometimes, horror.

Evidently, the two minutes is about the average amount of time it takes for people to recover from shock and to realize, “Oh, it’s not a big deal, because my candidate won.” Something about winning and smugness usually prompts them to say, “Well, I love you anyway.” I wonder each time if they would be saying that if the results had been different. It’s easy to be magnanimous when you’re the winner.

Oddly, I bear no ill-will towards most of these folks because they, like me, took the information they had, applied some standards, and made a choice. That’s the way this works and, despite complaints, it is a pretty good system. If you read my personal call to action right after the election, you know that my first step was to be willing to admit I’m wrong . . . occasionally . . . every once in a while. Maybe I was wrong about Mr. Trump. I just want to be clear, the evidence is still out. I borrowed the “I just want to be clear” statement from President Obama. I can see why he likes it so much.

In the past, things seemed to be clear to me. Recently, when I’ve had conversations with people who show genuine interest in why I voted as I did, I’ve come to expect a measure of frustration and futility. It seems that we, as a nation, have no place to turn for accurate news. The main stream media — on both sides of any issue — have proven to be largely biased. Cable news and internet news is driven by advertising and sensationalism.

So, no news is good news.

I know that there are journalists out there who are working hard at their craft in investigation, fact-checking, and writing. I’ve read a lot of well-researched, coherent articles in the last six months written from many perspectives on the political spectrum. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have time to read anything in-depth, much less think about the message enough to ask questions and to engage in a personal level of inquiry.

We settle for the headline. We allow our hunger for outrage to be fed by illogical, inflammatory missiles that, most often, have little to do with actual events. Or, we revel in the mucus of stories that are simply created to do harm to some ideology or some individual. Fake news sources are profiting from our willingness to allow misinformation to be the main event in the blood sport of public rhetoric.

 It’s time to take back objectivity. We need to open our eyes and look for truth. We need to be able to trust again. We need to receive good news. Please don’t fall prey to the purveyors of sensationalism. Such behavior is an addiction. 

 

Get to know people. Talk to them. Differ with them. Make honesty and truth a vital component of any relationship. Perhaps the media will pick up on that and learn that good news — “good” meaning accurate and balanced — sells.

The Beautiful Side of Opposition

When I hit the “publish” button on my blog site a few days ago, it was with some fear and apprehension. In that moment I had chosen to not only signal my lack of support for Mr. Trump for president, but also to report that I had voted for Mrs. Clinton. I knew that many, if not most, of my friends on social media and in real life would be surprised. In fact, I assumed that some would be angry. I made that post expecting another migration of “friends” from my Facebook account. I underestimated the opposition.

I did have a few people express disappointment in me. One, a friend from my school days, was forthright in her statement that I was in favor of socialism. I get that. To her credit, she put that aside and remains connected to me. That story was just one of many, however, that let me hear disagreement and acceptance. That is the beautiful side of opposition. That is the miraculous side of difference.

[ASIDE: By the way, I’m not a socialist in the political sense. But in terms of my feelings toward others, I am a “socialist.” As I stated in the earlier post, I think we’re all better together. And I was simply calling for us all to stand up against “anti-socialism” — in the people sense. If you are struggling to find a pigeon hole for me, I’m a compassionate capitalist. I think our vocations can build prosperity for all of us through personal and community effort. I believe that the majority people are searching for a way to contribute and that, in some cases, we have largely failed in making those opportunities available.]

 

Some of the most special moments were in comments I received from those who voted differently, but who obviously read every word I had written. And then took time to respond. That’s conversation. Uncomfortable in some contexts, but ultimately life-giving. Often their direct statements of difference were packaged in expressions of love and friendship. Beautiful.

And then there was the affirmation of those who felt aligned with what I wrote. Thanks to those of you who also left your comfort zone to do that and those of you who have been my examples in sharing their thoughts and positions freely and without fear.

With a few exceptions, notes of encouragement from all perspectives refreshed me, reassured me, and restored me to my confidence in people. We have a lot of work to do as we witness the aftermath of a time in our country when we were made to believe that power could be captured only by being divisive and seeding conflict. Indeed, the destructive behavior we are witnessing post-election attests to the fact that the simple act of a choosing a leader does not quiet the storms evoked by real needs. Or the fears.

Fear still reigns in our country. It’s not enough to say, “Don’t be afraid.” Instead, we should attack fear by standing together.

Stand for justice. Stand for mercy. Stand for people.

The beautiful side of opposition emerges from the darkness when we do that.

Voting Early

fear and relief in one action

People are rushing to the polls and voting early.  They’re driven by fear and seeking relief.

It’s not so much the same fear that has driven so much of this political season — the fear of others, the fear of loss to entitlement. It’s the fear that yet something else will be revealed about one or both of the major party candidates that will give the voters pause on their electoral decision. It’s a fear of being forced to wade back through the grit and the slime that has dominated this presidential race.

And it’s not really relief about the candidate they’ve chosen and the job he or she will do. There is that, of course. But it is a relief from doing what can be done and letting the rest of it go. It’s a relief to know that our personal role in this entire debacle is coming to a turn in the road.

Now that we’re done voting early, it’s time to take that turn on move on. There will be things to do. For one thing, we all have to come together to find a new source of leadership. This, what we have, has proven unworkable — regardless of how you vote or which party you claim.

Yes, your fear is subsiding and you feel some relief from voting early. But it’s time to get up and move toward something better. History repeats itself. People have been in worse spots before. And they have emerged, fearless and calm. Shall we ?

Freedom’s just another word for another race to lose . . .

Starting-LineAlmost all conflict, all anger, all war, all anxiety comes from fear. Fear adds an edge to all we do. It’s a voice that says, What if?

But another voice that emerges from conflict, anger, war, anxiety is that of hope. It, too, is a voice that says, What if?

If the election and the campaigns leading up to it have instilled fear . . . don’t ask, What if? as in fear. Ask, What if? as in hope.