If You Knew Who You Really Are…

If you knew who you really are…

You’d forgive.
You’d love life.
You’d smile more.
You’d stop hesitating.
You’d give more freely.
You’d never doubt again.
You’d never fear the future.
You’d be willing to make the hard choices.
You’d recognize others for who they really are.
You’d be content with the reflection in the mirror.
You’d turn every day into something worth remembering.

If you knew who God really is…

You’d make every day something for the world to remember.
You’d be confident with the reflection in the mirror.
You’d see Christ in the face of everyone you meet.
You’d make the hard choices without question.
You’d be excited about the future.
Your faith would move mountains.
You’d give Him your everything.
You’d forever move forward.
You’d make people happy.
You’d radiate love.
You’d forgive all.

If you don’t know who you are, ask God, and He will show you to you. Do what He says, and He will show Himself to you.

And you’ll never be the same again.

Rules for Having a Bad Day

Photo by sabianmaggy on flickr
Photo by sabianmaggy on flickr

Let’s face it, we all have rough days once in awhile. Sometimes they seem to come more often than not, but either way, we will have bad moods sometimes. Sometimes we allow our bad moods to give us license to be unkind, selfish, or even cruel. So I’ve come up with a list of rules for myself to follow when I’m having a bad day. And let me clarify, this is not a list of ways to get back into a good mood. That’s a different subject entirely. These are rules for coping with a bad day or a bad mood.

  1. Acknowledge your bad mood. It’s a rough day. Perhaps it’s one of many, but there it is. You’re in a bad mood. (This rule will help you come to terms with your state of mind so you can focus on following the rest of the bad day rules.)
  2. Be gracious in your bad mood. It’s okay that you’re not cheerful. It’s even okay that you’re feeling grumpy, but you don’t have to let your bad mood control your actions. Be kind and considerate to other people, knowing you won’t feel warm and fuzzy inside for doing so.
  3. You can still be useful without feeling useful. Since nothing you do will feel positive in much of any way, you may want to do an unpleasant task that needs doing, but that you’ve been avoiding. You may even find it a little therapeutic. Plus it’s been suggested by some experts that getting things done during a bad mood sometimes polishes the project considerably better, since you tend to be critical of the smallest defect.
  4. Bite your tongue. Any time you’re tempted to respond with sarcasm or anger, just stop talking. If something has to be said, such as a conversation with your spouse or a coworker, say, “I can’t think about this right now,” or, “Can we talk about this later?” If it’s something that needs to be dealt with soon, include a specific time. “Do you mind if we continue this conversation after lunch? I need some time to sort through some things first.”
  5. Go easy on others. By that, I mean, be softer with people, especially your spouse and kids. If it’s your kids, and they’re getting away with more trouble today, you can lightly inform them that this will be dealt with, just not today. When you’re in a good mood later (be it an hour or a week later), make sure they get the consequences for their trouble—maybe even a little tougher than usual, so they don’t use your bad moods to step on you. But don’t worry about what that will be now. You’re in a bad mood today. You have a free pass.
  6. Go easy on yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over every little thing, as you will be tempted to do. It’s okay to have a bad hair day or a messy house, or whatever, on a bad mood day. Your bad mood pass doesn’t free you from the fulfillment of deeply important habits and resolutions, but it does give you a right to not care while fulfilling them.
  7. This may seem to contradict the last rule, but feel free to put young kids in timeout more today. Not in a spirit of meanness, but in an effort to avoid allowing them to fan the flame too much. Put them in and tell them, “We’ll talk about the reasons later.”
  8. Consider the stress and frustration you’re suffering now as being good for you. Tempers aren’t good for you, and neither is lashing out. But graciously accepted bad moods can help build your stress resilience, including your bad-mood resilience, just by considering it healthy. You don’t have to egg it on by doing things that will make your mood worse. Just graciously put up with your mood, and your psyche will be strengthened for putting up with future bad days.
  9. Regarding the problems that seem to either trigger or exacerbate your bad mood, tell yourself, “My fault, I’ll deal with it later,” often. This will do two things: it will keep you from developing a martyr complex (which is never constructive), and it will keep you thinking in terms of accountability for your actions. If it makes you feel worse to acknowledge that something is your fault or your problem, then put more mental emphasis on the second part: “I’ll deal with it later,” with the addition, “just not today!
  10. Lower your expectations. Cut your to-do list in half. You won’t get as much done, and that’s okay. You’ll do more on your next good day (which will come). If you can take a nap, go for a walk, or otherwise chunk out some time to slow down, do it. It’s my personal observation that it’s not too difficult to become thoughtful and ponderous on bad days. You may even be able to turn your inner grump into a thinker, if you can squeeze in some quiet time. Just don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work. You are, after all, in a bad mood.

Rules for a Bad Day

See With New Eyes

Think of someone. Anyone. It may be a family member, it may be a neighbor, or it may be someone you don’t really know well at all. Just think of someone.

Now, what do you know about this person? What is he doing with his life right now? What are her motivations? What keeps him going day after day. What is her prime directive?

We tend to know the answers to these questions for ourselves, but we rarely know them for others. To be fair, all the time and effort in the world probably wouldn’t fill in all the gaps in your understanding of another person.

But we can shrink those gaps.

So give it a try, with one person. What is it that makes them the unique, fascinating individual that they are? If they don’t seem unique and fascinating, it just means you don’t know them all that well. I guarantee, there is as much depth and heart in that person as there is in you. There is so much more you can learn from the person than you’ll ever have opportunity to fully explore. But chances are, you’ve never even scratched the surface. That’s okay. This is your opportunity. Do it now. And don’t stop at a recognition that they are an eternal being with endless potential. Try to find out what they are now. See what you can learn from them, and try to truly understand why they believe what they believe.

We all have power to do that with just about anyone we meet, but we rarely have the time or interest to do it. But give it a try, with just one person. See what happens.

My suspicion is that your eyes will be open to a new way of looking at life that you may never have considered otherwise. Either way, you are certain to learn a great deal about yourself, simply by trying.

The Next Time

The next time some guy cuts you off in traffic, pray for him—like really, really, pray for him. Pray that he might have all the good things in life that would make his life truly incredible.

The next time your kid breaks something of yours that you love, take her in your arms until you’re ready to let the item go. Then tell her she’s better than any silly whatever-it-is.

The next time you’re stuck in traffic, find something beautiful, such tree, a cloud, or a sunset. Stare at and absorb it until the joy of it almost overtakes you.

The next time you see a casual acquaintance, talk to them like you really care, like they’re your best friend in the world.

The next time you get a ticket, fine, or extra charge for something, humbly accept it and genuinely wish the messenger a good day.

The next time you spill, break, or accidentally delete something, step back and laugh. Laugh and laugh like a loon until you really feel like laughing. Then laugh more.

The next time you have a private prayer, pray until you cry.

The next time your spouse says something that bothers you, take a moment to collect yourself, and then walk up to her and kiss her like there’s no tomorrow.

Sometimes changing a life doesn’t mean doing it right every time, just the next time.

I Will Never Become Angry Again

I read a really good blog entry yesterday by a mother who was unhappy with the kind of parent she’d become, and how she was able to change. Her story is touching, and got me thinking.

Our family has a tradition of giving something to Christ each Christmas—such as a resolution or change that we know the Lord would appreciate. Last year, Jenni and I both independently decided we wanted to give up our anger towards the kids. We’d both been shouting at them more often than we knew we should, and we were determined to stop. So we decided that we’d give up our anger. Obviously, there would be feelings of frustration and disappointment, but we wouldn’t allow ourselves to become visibly angry. I should say up front, we’ve never laid hands on our kids. We don’t even spank (and no, I’m not making a statement about whether or not spanking is okay—we just don’t do it at our house). But we have been known to get unnecessarily loud and use mean voices. I don’t think we’ve been verbally abusive, but we’ve been bad examples of how to handle a negative situation. It has only ever exacerbated the problems we’re reacting to.

This last Monday for family home evening we talked about last years gifts to Jesus, and Jenni and I just looked at each other and laughed. We both failed. We’d become visibly angry almost regularly lately.

But then I read the blog entry and it got me thinking more about it.

When I was a teenager (mind you, the quintessential time for emotions to get out of control), I didn’t get angry with people. I got frustrated with stuff, but never people. I had a teacher in college who laughed when I said regarding some negative current event that had taken place, “That makes me so mad!”

I turned to him, and said, “What’s so funny?”

“Sorry, it’s just that I can’t imagine you mad!”

Then I laughed, and realized that I didn’t show anger in public anytime that I could remember. I do remember thinking, “I wish that were so in private, too.”

Jenni was told similar things when she was young, and even someone in our ward said that they couldn’t picture the two of us angry.

My first thought was that I must be quite the hypocrite to make my public life so drastically different than my private life. But that too, got me thinking. If I can choose in public to not become visibly anger, why should I be unable to do it at home.

There’s a talk by Elder Lynn G. Robbins, called Agency and Anger that is an absolute masterpiece. One line of that talk is,

“Understanding the connection between agency and anger is the first step in eliminating it from our lives. We can choose not to become angry. And we can make that choice today, right now: ‘I will never become angry again.’ Ponder this resolution.”

I highly recommend you read the whole talk, but that paragraph sums it up pretty well. Anger is a choice. It’s true there will be frustrations, disappointments, and unmet expectations, but how we react is still our choice.

So I decided to renew my gift to Christ. The way I figure, I was setting out to overcome my anger, and it’s not the next year’s Christmas for two more weeks, so I have two weeks to fulfill my effort.

And I’m going to do it. Especially toward my kids and Jenni. I won’t become visibly angry. I’ll be firm with the kids as necessary, and I’ll see that there are consequences for bad behavior, but I won’t shout. I won’t let my temper flare. I simply won’t do it.

I’m doing this for me, I’m doing it for my family, but I’m mostly doing it for the Lord (after all, it was His birthday present, right?).

And just to keep myself accountable, I’ve created an anger calendar. It’s a simple PDF with Elder Robbins’ quote and three pages laying out every day of the year. I’ve taped it to my bedroom wall, with a multicolor pen stringed to it. Every day that passes that I don’t get angry, I’ll X out in black. If I become visibly angry, I have to X it out in red. My goal is to first make it a week (I’ve already made it one day-WAHOO!!!), then a month, then the full year. If I can make it a year, I think I can make it a lifetime. Maybe I’ll even reward myself for each progressive state.

And, just in case you’re interested in trying it out yourself, you can download the PDF for yourself. I’ve long known that no change ever happens in the future—resolutions start today or they don’t start at all, so the beginning date is the first day of this week.

What do you think? Want to join me, and try it for yourself? If you’re not ready to commit long term, start with today. Just try for a day. Then try for a week. If you can make it a week, maybe you can keep it going.

We Are Like Weeping Willows

Weeping WillowI love weeping willows. They’re my favorite of the willows—probably because of the memories I have of swinging in the branches of my grandma and grandpa’s giant weeping willow tree. So it was with great delight that I learned that willow branches of any kind are easy to root, even from the smallest cuttings. So I studied up and figured out what I needed to do, and then toured the neighborhood to scope out the local weeping willows.

The first one I found had dropped a 3 foot branch (keep in mind, three feet of weeping willow is a pretty thin wisp) in the road out several yards from the massive mother tree. So, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, I picked up the branch and took it home.

Then I went to work, stripping off the leaves and cutting it down every 6-9 inches, and placed the sticks in a jar, like headless roses in a vase, and waited. And waited. And waited. By the time a month had passed, I had a whole crop of small weeping willows.

The next time there was a good wind in the neighborhood, I did another neighborhood run (I’d scoped out several other weeping willows in town by then), and picked up several (there were too many to take them all) 2-4 foot branches that had blown out into the road. Weeping willows are notorious for dropping branches, so when there’s a storm or rough winds in the neighborhood, it’s like weeping-willow-gardener Christmas.

Since then, I’ve started new trees from several more twigs, and I’m even “branching” out with some other kinds of willows. And while I do lose a good percentage of the sticks I try to root, there are enough succeeding that I can’t help be amazed by these wonderful little phenomena.

That got me thinking about people.

We’re all kind of like those old weeping willows. Beautiful, lush, often ignored or forgotten, waving long branches day after day. When the winds of life blow, or storms come, we break a little, and eventually recover. Most such stormy times have strengthened us to become the large willows we are today. And what happens to the branches broken off? Most the time they either end up in the trash or compost heap. But once in a while, and perhaps it takes an insightful passerby, but occasionally, the scattered fragments of our broken hearts are gathered, cleaned, divided, organized, and nourished, and left to grow. And the result? New life, new growth, and new opportunities for new trees.

It’s usually easy to see ourselves as old forgotten trees, doing our thing day after day, unnoticed by everyone. And when times are tough, it’s hard, but we’re strengthened. But it takes a deeper, humbler, and more determined examination to see the potential of our own influence on the lives of those around us.

Right now, I have probably 25 little weeping willow trees (those are just the ones that have been successful) growing from the cuttings of three medium-sized branches. Each, I hope, will go on to new homes to beautify and keep the company of someone, somewhere, who may have otherwise never had them. The tree didn’t shed its branch to create new opportunities and life for others. It shed it’s branch because it was forced to against its will. And yet, from that commonplace and uncomfortable situation, the tree influenced, if only in the distant future, dozens of other trees, homes, and people, without even knowing it.

Your life is like that. You have more influence than you think. You’re touching lives. You’re providing opportunities, and you’re creating new life, even when you feel like you’re doing nothing.

The trick—the whole reason for this post, is to draw your attention to a simple thing that none of those mother willow trees can do, but which you can. You, as a person, have the power to see, reflect, and rejoice in the influence you have. You won’t see all of it, of course, but if you pay attention, you can see much of the good you’re doing. If you look deep enough, you’ll find enough to provide a lifetime’s worth of rejoicing.

The other reason I share this idea is to say, don’t be afraid to shed your branches. Don’t be afraid to have an influence. Sure, most of your efforts will be thrown out, forgotten, or ignored, but the more influence you try to have, the more chance you’ll have to start new beginnings for someone else. And those new beginnings may grow, expand, and branch out to bless the lives of other new beginnings for other people forever.