You can choose to be critical or gracious. You can sing one of two songs: a sad, negative ballad or a happy, positive tune. It is hate or love, looking down on people or looking across at people, living by the rules or living in freedom.
In the recession, many people without jobs or adequate funds are afraid, sad, negative and hopeless. I totally understand and sympathize. I lost my job during 2008. I know. I now have a new job, but I get it. It’s scary. But how we respond to the recession is a choice. I met some people this week in difficult circumstances who are hopeful, positive, forward leaning — even more generous.
Yesterday, I spoke to a woman who is under resourced. She recently found a way to make $200 extra dollars by involving her children in a friend’s business, helping with advertizing. Her eyes gleamed with excitement as she spoke of her children’s success. She was focused on them, on what they were learning, not herself.
Sometime we may not even be aware that we are making a choice. We are. We aren’t destined or fated or predetermined to be afraid, rule-dominated or cranky. Loss and hurt and bad luck don’t destine a particular outlook. We can choose to see hardship as fuel to propel us into the next good thing.
I forgot to give someone back the keys I borrowed from them yesterday. Her response: “It’s okay. I’ll borrow my husbands.” Gracious! No key rule imposed on me.
The world is populated with mistakes. And there is a rule against every one of them. Rules say what people can and can’t do, should and shouldn’t do. They have value in creating order. “Give back what you borrow” is a good rule. But “It’s okay when you forget,” is a crucial rule for lasting relationships.
Order isn’t primarily a function of imposed rules but instead a function of the desire for progress, improvement and freedom. An orderly way of relating best stems from a positive, intrinsic, internal drive. When we love, we bring about an order that is beyond and better than imposed rules.
Take for example how women have been defined in our culture. Women, like men, have been defined by by gender rules. These rules don’t always operate, but they do so often enough that they are powerful behavior shapers. Women should be thin. Women should be nice. Women shouldn’t be paid as much for the same job as men. Women shouldn’t intimidate men by being more competent. Women shouldn’t do certain jobs or play certain roles.
Recently a friend told me. “I was told by some male leaders who were not very open to female leadership that I wasn’t a leader.” She is now leading a highly organized and well-funded non-profit effort to feed people during the recession. So much for that judgment. It wasn’t based on reality or openness. At the heart of the matter, it wasn’t gracious, open to possibility, to freedom.
Limit or empower. Shut-down or open up. Live under the rules or beyond the rules. Be critical or be gracious. It’s my choice — today.