What we do

Posted: May 15, 2016 in Philosophy
Tags: , , ,

It’s been a terrible, and great, couple of months.  A little over two and a half years ago I (with the guidance of my wife) hatched an idea to start up a blog.  The first year was great, the second year less so, and well, if you’ve been keeping up in 2016, this year has been a struggle.

Tonight I was at the very place where my blog idea came to be, and two and a half years later I was reminded why I started it.

It’s been a slump, the past couple of months.  Emotionally draining would be an understatement.  Very close friends going through the motions of the early stages of divorce, and me struggling with trying to be there for everyone else when I fight my own internal battles every day.  Days, and sometimes weeks, go by where I don’t know my own identity—as a professional, as a father, as a husband.  And as a friend, I feel that more often I fail than I do anything else, as my tendencies to criticize and judge others point out my own inability to treat all people with the respect and love that they deserve, and that I ought to.

As with anything else, we go through these ebbs and flows throughout every phase of our lives, and everyone who is conscious of them insists that they should be immune to them.

But back to being drained…my wife always tells me that before I can help anyone else I need to make sure my affairs are in order, that I shouldn’t over extend my own emotional well-being.  But I don’t agree…in fact, I think if we all tried to put ourselves in a bit of discomfort that all of our collective circles would benefit greatly.

I read a passage (yep, you read that correctly—I actually read something) in C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity that spoke to me a couple of weeks ago.  It was on the topic of religious tithing, but I think could be applied to our emotional giving as well:

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them. I am speaking now of ‘charities’ in the common way. Particular cases of distress among your own relatives, friends, neighbours or employees, which God, as it were, forces upon your notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering of your own position. For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear— fear of insecurity. This must often be recognised as a temptation. Sometimes our pride also hinders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.

There was a guy that I knew not so long ago that every time I asked him how he was doing, he responded with “better than I deserve.”  Now, I didn’t know him well, but I didn’t take him for the religious type.  That’s not to say that he wouldn’t make a phenomenal role model, partly I don’t know, but also I took him as a very upstanding, hard-working and honest individual.  And perhaps some of those reading this know exactly who I’m talking about.  He could have been a very good friend if I had stayed in contact with him.

Regardless, his interpretation of “how he was doing” was one that I had heard from one person prior—and very devout Jewish man I used to work with.  And that about sums up my opinion of where things stand in my own life right now: I am doing better than I deserve.

Whether you call it fate, or God’s plan, or straight up coincidence, I recognize that the trials I have endured have positioned me exactly where I need to be in order to help those who have asked.  And sometimes it’s hard to remind myself that when I help others, it’s not out of a sense of selflessness, but rather because my obligation (and, all of our obligation) is to support, love and respect those around us exactly as we would want to be supported, loved and respected.  Enter my faith, this is second only to loving God with every ounce of me that I have.

And while I have been emotionally drained in the last two months, I’ve experienced some of the most amazing things happen to those around me.  My daughter pledged obedience to Christ and welcomed Him into her life on Easter Sunday.  But it’s not only the great things that have sown more great things; the really, really shitty stuff has given me stuff to be thankful for as well: a new coworker who just moved back to Ohio after some time on the other side of the country, who feels as if on an island, just might be a friend in the making; and although my friends may be on the verge of divorce, my relationships with them have grown in ways they may not have if not faced with this terrible, terrible situation; I pray those relationships will be built up and strengthened in the coming weeks and months.

So, variations on a theme once again: our experiences shape us into the people that we are—but they also enable and empower us to endure hardships, and to help others to endure hardships.  And, pay it forward: take a moment to soak in what you are getting from others, and make sure you give it to others as well.

Lately I’ve gotten into a bit of a habit of thanking God as often as I can remember for all the things in my life, good and bad.  For the promotion, or the lack thereof; for the friendship, or the coworkers with whom I don’t keep in touch anymore; for the great marriage, or the one ending in divorce; for the bonds with family, or the struggles I face with them.  Every little bit of greatness and of garbage that enters my life comes my way regardless of my attitude about it—but how I react shapes my path forward.

If you have opportunity to spend time with me outside of reading my blog, please help me to remember how my attitude and interactions can impact others in negative ways.  I don’t always see it, but promise you that I’m trying to get better.  I spend so much time being a certain character that sometimes it hard to be who I ought to be, not who I seem to have become in some areas of my life.

I truly love that you, whoever you are, have taken time out of your day to spend some time with me.  And as always, be well, and stay tuned.

  1. Lori McCarthy says:

    I really like that quote….”showy forms of generosity vs. really helping those in need.” Excellent advise. I will try to remember that one every day. Thanks for sharing. BTW…I love you very much.

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