This is an open letter to anyone who has ever asked questions like “What am I supposed to do?” Or, “Do I matter?” Or, “Is this all there is?”
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
Life is hard. Let’s start with a foundational truth: Life is hard, as it must be. And once you latch onto that truth, life instantly starts getting better and better. You grow and stretch, and you can teach and be a model for others to do the same, so that they too can grow and stretch. Observing that life is hard is not “tough love.” It is pure caring. The truth is always pure caring.
Today’s Key Point: There are people, groups and political parties telling you that life is designed to be easy, and that if life is not easy for you, that is proof you are a victim. They compound this self-serving and completely misleading claim by adding that you are therefore owed compensation, in the form of money, school or job preferences, and other unearned advantages. All to come at the expense of the people who they claim made you the victim in the first place. This is a formula for: 1. Generational victimhood and 2. Generational power for those selling this dysfunctional view of how the world works.
Success in life does not start with a lie, looking to convince others that they are victims; it starts with us convincing ourselves that we are the solution. Here are the steps to becoming that solution:
- Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
- Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.
BTW, this is not a 50%/50% proposition. Both need to be emphasized, making this a 75%/75%, or even a 100%/100% proposition. In other words, emphasize both. With those lessons planted firmly in our minds, let’s look at other parts of living well.
Congruency: All parts of our lives must fit together. No one with a weakness for chocolate who is on a diet to assist in returning to health would keep large amounts of their favorite Godiva treats or Reese’s peanut Butter Cups at home. For the same reason, no one who is digging in to learning to work harder and take more responsibility should hang out with friends who are not similarly committed. They will drag you down. Every time. Remember the crab lesson? A single crab in a bucket or cooking pot can easily escape. If there is more than one crab in the container, the other crabs won’t let an escapee out; they will pull at his legs making it impossible to leave. And we humans often do the same thing. If we are down and out, we hate to see others succeed, especially if they are our friends.
Gratitude: It all starts with gratitude. Gratitude is the bedrock, the touchstone–cornerstone–for any effective philosophy, religious dogma, or simply a way to get through life, or even just the day, successfully. Ingratitude makes for a grim and unproductive outlook on life, love and politics. Without gratitude, there is an inescapable emptiness; a feeling of being ungrounded. This makes a fertile ground for resentful thoughts of unfairness, e.g., “Why me?” Or worse, comparing ourselves to others.
If you immediately question what–if anything–you have to be grateful for, let’s take a peek at that.
- Did you get up this morning?
- When you did, did you have ready access to running water, maybe even hot and cold running water?
- When you go to the store, for groceries or whatever, do you have multiple choices in almost every category?
- Oh, and did you have transportation to and from the store?
- And did you wake up in the most prosperous, diverse and free country on earth?
Moral compass: Some people call it your True North. No matter; the questions are
- Do you have one?
- If you have one, what is it?
- Why is that your True North/Moral Compass?
- Do you follow it?
If you don’t have a solid moral compass that you follow, then nothing else matters. Nothing. You will simply be a cork on the oceans of life, following the changing paths of the tides, currents and waves. I know; I have been there. And I still have to fight to stay with and strengthen my adherence to my moral compass. A physical compass works because when used at all correctly, it points to a fixed point outside of itself, allowing the user to stay on track. A moral compass works in the same way as a mechanical one: Both point to powerful, fixed points outside of ourselves that we are willing to follow, even when the going gets rough. My moral compass is Christ. What is yours?
Rights and Responsibilities: With every right, comes an equal or greater responsibility. We live at a time when freedoms and rights are increasingly being touted everywhere, with little or no mention of responsibility. Here are a few examples of rights and their attached responsibilities:
- Voting. With the right to vote, comes the responsibility to cast a well informed, deeply researched ballot. Research all the candidates, dig into the propositions on the ballot, and consult sources other than the ones that tell you what you already believe.
- Guns. With gun ownership comes the responsibility to get initial and follow-on training, and the need to practice–and practice. And never stop practicing.
- Children. The responsibilities here have to be the easiest to understand, and the most often violated. And the right to have children appears to be an absolute right, with, legally, no attendant responsibilities. How many times have you heard of people who have multiple kids by multiple partners, all on welfare and all virtually ignored by the biological parents? Yet they are permitted to have as many more dependent humans as they’d like. All parents have a responsibility to instill their values into their kids; terrible parents and dedicated parents both do exactly that.
Legacy and inheritance. What is it that you want to leave behind? Money? Real Estate? Jewelry? There is nothing wrong with those leave-behinds; they can be useful and appreciated. But what about your character, your example? Did you grow, learn and contribute as you lived? Will those who come after you cling to the memory of who you were, or will they simply grab onto what you left them? Will they believe that your life was about them, or your stuff?
A short podcast cannot do justice to the question of how we should live, but it can give us a great start. Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty.
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, @willluden, Facebook, facebook.com/will.luden, and LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/willluden/. And you can subscribe on your favorite device through Apple, or Stitcher, or any place where you enjoy your podcasts.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.