Saturday, June 14, 2008

Choices

My buddy Rick observed to me recently that my blog is sort of written in a memoir style, "but you always add a little lesson." LOL! Love it. OK, Rick, tonight's lesson is -- Choices.

I was carrying my sprinkler around the yard tonight, sort of doing an inventory of my day. I thought about the various people I had contact with this morning at Race #2 of our Kids Triathlon Series. You could easily call it the Human Frailty Cafe. Something happens to parents when their children are placed in a competitive environment. Something happens to volunteers, too, when they are given responsibilities and sense of too much power.

In fact, my favorite Kids Triathlon horror story goes something like this: Kid is riding her high-dollar bike on the bike course. Bike skids on the crushed granite and kid eats the pavement. Mom runs out onto the course and picks up ... the BIKE. Then she yells at her daughter, who is whimpering on the ground, "Get your *** on this bike an GO!" Wow! That's intensity.

Before the race started today, I had a discussion with a volunteer who felt compelled to "yell" at a guy who was riding his bike on our course. We use a city park and, unfortunately, we have to share the space. I was trying to explain this to her, that we have no right to order anyone off the park grounds, that all we can do is explain the situation to them, and was treated to an explosion of, "Well fine, then let's just let the kids get hurt instead! That's a much better option." (Hmmm, I thought to myself, hadn't I specifically asked in the first place that this individual be placed in an entirely different area of the course for this very reason?)

Last week, I heard a parent speculating that a girl who took 1st in the oldest age division did not do enough laps on the bike course. I laughed. I wrote about this young lady previously. She is practically a triathlon pro. The reason she waxed every other competitor and finished ahead of the 2nd place racer by more than a minute is because she is a top-notch athlete.

Today, I had a Dad approach me and ask who the USA Triathlon official was. "Well, I'm the race director, so that would be me." He then very gently and patiently explained to me that his son had been blocked out on the bike course and pushed on the run course by 2 other boys. Here, the parent who had a valid reason to be livid, was just as sweet as he could be, practically apologizing for reporting it to me.

And that's today's lesson -- choices. That's what choices are about. "Therapy speak" tells us that we do not have control over situations or people, but we DO have control over how we react to them.

Christian artist John Waller sings a great song called, "The Blessing." Here's a sampling:

Let it be said of us
While we walked among the living
Let it be said of us
By the ones we leave behind
Let it be said of us T
hat we lived to be a blessing for life

Let it be said of us
That we gave to reach the dying
Let it be said of us
By the fruit we leave behind
Let it be said of us
That our legacy is blessing for life

This day
You set life, you set death right before us,
This day
Every blessing and curse is a choice now
And we will choose to be a blessing for life

The song ends with Waller echoing, "Cause blessings ... and curses ... are choices ... blessings, curses, choices..."

Making choices about how we respond to people, whether we will be a blessing or a curse; whether we will speak a blessing or a curse; is a good indicator of our understanding of God's unconditional love and forgiveness for us.

James puts it like this in his epistle:

9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. -- James 3: 9-12

So what's it going to be? Blessings or curses? We have choices.

Control your mouth! This is something I find myself saying to my kids on a regular basis. I know, however, that I am living on borrowed time, as my kids -- my teens especially -- are bound to reply before too long, "Yeah, well practice what you preach!"

Jesus told his followers: 21"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. -- Matthew 5:21-23

The choices we make and the words we speak matter. Yet there's even more to it than that...

I'm reminded of Vicki, a woman I worked with many, many years ago. We would find ourselves gossiping about company shannigans until I'd exercise a little self-control and stop myself in mid sentence. But Vicki would always try to bait me with, "Come on ... you thought it ... you might as well say it." She was referring, of course, to the teaching of Jesus that we need to be just as concerned about our thoughts as our actions. To be sure, curbing our actions is an important first step, but the real battle ground takes place in the space between our two ears -- our thoughts.

Sometimes we "speak" curses against people by our body language. Our church's worship leader, Michael, shared an interesting newsletter article with me recently entitled "The contemptuous eye roll." Michael is one of those people who smiles when people are rude to him and usually has a playful come back instead of a curse or curbed-tongue response.

The article, quoting Traci Duez, says, "We don't talk about contempt much in our society unless, of course, we're talking about courtrooms and lawyers. So, what is contempt? Contempt is a feeling of being better than another person, of being superior, usually morally superior but it can also be felt toward some who is weaker in intelligence, strength, and so forth. Basically, contempt is devaluing another person and overvaluing your self." (Ouch! Double ouch!)

Duez goes on to explain the contemptuous eye roll as involving pulling one lip corner to the side and creating a dimple usually accompanied by an eye roll. (A fascinating side note, Dr. Paul Ekman, a professor of psychology who Duez says has become the world's most famous face reader, says studies show that there are many facial expressions that can predict when a relationship will fail but one of the most telling is the contemptuous eye roll. Just counting how many times somebody did that facial expression when conversing with their partner was an excellent predictor of whether they would get divorced or not!)

(If you want to read the full article, go to www.breakfreeconsulting.com/newsletters/200806-eyeroll.htm)

Now would be a good time to insert some kind of soul-searching vignette that illustrates my own experiences with speaking, thinking and facial-expressing blessings vs. curses over people. However, suffice to say that if I write about it, I struggle with it. The battle waged between my two ears provides most of the fodder for this blog.

Blessings ... and curses ... are choices. It's just that simple.

2 comments:

Traci said...

Hi Tammy,

Great blog! I wanted to comment on the excerpt from the newsletter from Break Free Consulting. You see, the quote that you attribute to Dr. Eckman (note the spelling) is actually part of article that is written by Traci Duez and not something from Dr. Eckman.

How do I know? Well, I'm Traci Duez and I wrote the article. Please tell Michael thanks for passing it on!

As a former youth pastor, I love your life lesson. And, it is so true that there is a battle being waged between your two ears (and everyone elses). My calling, now, is to help people sort that out so that they can align with the principles that Jesus taught us. Check out my website for a free assessment of how you think, ok?

Blessings,
Traci
traci@breakfreeconsulting.com

wayne said...

My mom used to say "You can rejoice about the dollar you found or complain that it wasn't more. It is still a dollar". That used to drive me crazy until I got old enough to understand. Thanks so much for this insight.