When life gets complicated, one may find himself becoming more self-centered in an effort to maintain control. As his thoughts and feelings become overwhelmed with the effort of simply maintaining stasis, he can neglect the needs of those around him – especially if their needs vary drastically from his own, or if they are in a season of life unfamiliar to him.
In my observation, people desire the companionship of their peers most when things are going particularly well, or unusually badly. When life is glorious, I wish to share my strength and joy with those I love; I want to do things for them and relive the stories of my success with them. I hope for them to be happy for me and celebrate happiness with me. When life is difficult, I need my precious ones near me, for them to be willing to come down in the sad place where I am and just be with me; to stave off bitter loneliness and fear with gentle affection and support.
Though it seems only natural that one would rejoice when one’s friend rejoices, and mourn when the other morns, these matched emotions can be challenging to conjure when tested in the lab of “real life.” Don’t we know that when we are down and another obtains what we lack, how our human nature prefers to snap towards jealousy, rather than joy? Or that when we are glad and our friend insists on being miserable, how we all too often resent him for bringing us down?
Maturity must allow us to put aside our own preoccupations and meet our companions where they are, even if we cannot relate - in the moment - to their distinct emotions. Similarly, it is important for each of us to build up a support network of empathetic individuals that are willing and able to lay down their individual circumstances to celebrate life with us, for better or worse. The alternative is an ailing society plagued with isolation and bandaged with busyness.
You played the flute but no one was dancing. You sang a sad song but no one was crying.
“Torches Together” MewithoutYou
A few days ago I stumbled upon this viral video of a Missouri preacher speaking about gay rights. Since then, I have become preoccupied by the similarities between the contemporary arguments against gay marriage and those opposing interracial marriage from the first half of the twentieth century.
When history plays out and love, tolerance and freedom overcome fear, offense and bigotry, let the record show I fought on the side of love.
In my non-profit service and my professional work, my patience and grace are continually tested by clients’ and constituents’ apparent belief that everyone owes them something – whether they work (or not); whether they are nice (or not); whether they contribute to their world in any way (or not). This entitlement complex has infected our society at every level. Even seemingly responsible, level headed adults have been observed to say by their words and actions:
When you find yourself thinking of this meme, take heart.
It is my belief that renewed interest in various forms of crafting, as well as basic homesteading and survival skills, along with a rise in libertarianism, is indicative of a cross-cultural resurgence in the ideal of personal responsibility. I have recognized these three themes across generations and geographical regions for the last few years. Such shifts are truly counter to a culture that values instant gratification and dependence on others as communal banks to which every individual is somehow endowed unfettered access (government, the wealthy, non-profit agencies and even credit institutions).
The truth is, when we surrender our responsibility, we simultaneously surrender our freedom. By accepting food stamps, we accept being told what we can consume. By accepting a loan from a family member, we accept the social stigma that comes with being indebted to that person.
Conversely, when we take responsibility for ourselves, we earn the freedom to use our resources as we please. By working to supplement our nutrition with homegrown herbs and vegetables, we enjoy a measure of freedom from the commercial food industry. By attempting to create beautiful things for our home, we receive the freedom to truly express ourselves, without being dragged along by trends and fads. By proactively securing the safety of our lives and property, we release our families from dependence on a fractured security system.
It is these small acts of personal responsibility, when exercised by a multitude of individuals, that creates a counter culture mindset and gives us the hope of a future more like our past, with this ugly bout of irresponsibility a bittersweet memory of our adolescence.
We live in a global neighborhood. There are a million ways to spread your love from your mailbox, to the corners of the world. This holiday season consider some of the following: