Apologizing & Pride

A man who apologizes when he is wrong finds it much easier to forgive those who wrong him. Pride prevents many men from seeing their errors. Thus they rarely apologize and struggle to forgive others. So it is that self-righteousness, the same defect of character that prevents a man from seeing his own errors, binds him to the resentments that do not serve him well.

Chasing Happiness

What is happiness?  Really.  Seems everyone wants it but what is it really?  I define it as the absence of negative emotions.  That means if I am not lonely, sad, frustrated, anxious, jealous, angry or afraid than I am happy.  So how does one get there?  Well it seems the people that are most worried about being happy, those out there chasing it and trying to find it are the most miserable people in the world. 

 

People that are busy doing what is in front of them – working, cooking, cleaning, washing laundry, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, reading a book, going to church, etc. tend to be the most content and happy people in the world.  If they are asked if they are happy, they tend to shrug their shoulders and say something like, “Yea, I suppose so.”  They live in the moment.  Sure, they think about the future to a degree.  They make plans to pay bills, have a retirement account, etc. but they don’t let their thoughts about tomorrow consume them.  Nor do they fret the past.  They forgive themselves for their own mistakes and forgive others for theirs.  They live life one day at a time and live and let live.  These tools for happiness are found in the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew chapters 5 to 7.

 

I have found five basic elements to a happy life.  These are not necessarily in order of importance.  1. Have good relationships with friends and family.  2. Have a clean conscience.  3. Help others in need.  4. Have a spiritual relationship with God.  5. Be able to provide for ones basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.  One doesn’t need to have a big screen TV, fancy car, exotic vacations or any such thing.  There have been happy people as long as the world has been in existence.  Those living in ancient societies didn’t need cell phones, pizza, air conditioning or cable TV to be happy.  They did, however, have the five basic elements I have suggested here.

 

The problem with chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is that the rainbow keeps moving and there really isn’t a pot of gold there.

 

 

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

What’s love got to do with it?  The famous singer that survived an abusive, alcoholic marriage has announced in 2013 she was getting married after about 30 years of being single.  Love to her meant pain and enslavement.  But that isn’t love.  That is more like unhealthy co-dependance, infatuation and obsession.  Love gets a bad name because people confuse it with emotions.  Love is a principle, not an emotion.

The opposite of love isn’t hatred – it is selfishness.  Of course selfishness often causes hatred.  A truly loving person is one that is generous, patient, kind, attentive to others, thoughtful, a willful listener, etc.  I have to choose to love someone and when I do that, good feelings follow.  Love doesn’t take me hostage and demand that I engage in a relationship with someone.  Obsession has taken me hostage.   Infatuation and lust have taken me hostage but love has never taken my hostage.  When I approach a relationship for what I can get out of it, that is not love – it is selfishness.  When I love someone, I approach the relationship to see what I can give to it.  It has been said that selfish people love things and use people while loving people use things and love people.  What a contrast!

Love can cause a host of emotions.  It can cause someone to mourn.  We see that at funerals.  It can cause someone to feel disappointment.  Perhaps when someone they love fails at a goal they had worked hard for.  Selfishness can also cause a host of emotions.  It can cause anxiety, anger, jealousy, envy, etc.  We are naturally selfish creatures and it takes a spiritual experience to change that.  God is love and it is through a relationship with God that we can learn to love others.  Loving others becomes a choice we make followed by action. 

As a child I never felt loved.  Yet when I wrote my autobiography I was overwhelmed by how much others in my life loved me.  I realized that there were many family and church members that invested emotionally in me.  I hadn’t seen it as a child because I was so damaged by all the dysfunction in the home but as an adult looking back I was deeply impressed by the love that surrounded me.  I think that a lot of time when we don’t feel loved it has more to do with our own state of mind than those around us.  I have found that as I have chosen to actively love others, I have become more aware of how much others love me.

Wisdom and Folly

“Look inside yourself and you will find wisdom,” are words often repeated in movies and some well-intentioned people.  But is there really wisdom inside of us?  Or is the source of wisdom outside of us?  And what is wisdom?  This is a topic the Seventh-day Adventists were studying this first quarter of 2015.  The Biblical meaning of the word wisdom is a spiritual experience with the true God.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7).  This spiritual experience cannot come from within us because God created man – not the other way around.  Wisdom, in the Biblical sense, is more than just knowledge.  Wisdom comes as we experience the true God in our lives.  That happens as we trust Him by living obedient lives.  Let’s paraphrase the verse quoted above.  The fear of the Lord, or acceptance of the true God, is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise the spiritual experience (wisdom) gained by following His instruction.

God spoke to us through the prophet Isaiah saying, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  The wisdom so many of us long for is not deep inside of us.  It comes from God who is a separate and divine Being.  Through the prophet Jeremiah, God says,“Can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil.”  Pride rejects this type of reasoning.  Pride looks for self-sufficiency.  It is self-flattering to believe there is some inner-wisdom inside of us that we simply need to access.  However the Bible teaches we need a new birth – a spiritual birth.  This new birth results in the “fear of the Lord” which is the beginning of knowledge.

It is interesting that Solomon personifies wisdom in Proverbs 8.  Solomon lists six traits of wisdom that are also traits of Christ.  In verse 35 he wrote that wisdom is the giver of life.  Speaking of Christ, the Apostle John wrote, “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”  In Proverbs 8:15 it says that wisdom grants kings their power.  There are many places in the Bible where it is stated God sets up kings and brings them down.  Jesus Himself said that to Pilate.  In verse 17 Solomon says wisdom is sought after.  Of course, God too is sought after so this is yet again another divine trait attributed to wisdom.  In verse 18 wisdom is said to be the source of riches.  In Deuteronomy 8:18 we are told that God is the source of riches.   In verses 27 to 30 Solomon identifies wisdom as being present with God during creation.  That sounds much like what the Apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Then in verse 30 to 32 wisdom communicates with men.  The Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, wrote, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  Jesus is the member of the Trinity Who communicates directly with mankind. Just as the Apostle John wrote, “God is love” it seems Solomon, in chapter eight of Proverbs, is writing, “Jesus is wisdom” which would mean to reject Jesus is to reject wisdom.

Solomon presents two paths to the readers of Proverbs.  The first is the path of wisdom.  That is the spiritual experience one gains from submitting to and obeying the true God.  The other path is the path of folly.  Those choosing the path of wisdom are told to forsake folly in Proverbs 9:6.  Folly seeks it own.  Folly leans on its own understanding.  Those following the path of folly are as the Apostle Peter stated “willfully ignorant.”  They flatter themselves with their own knowledge.  The Apostle Paul contrast these two groups in his first letter to the Corinthians.  “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.  ‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”

Race, Culture and Religion

Understanding our roots tends to give us a sense of direction in life, increase our self-esteem and motivate us toward goals.  Many adults find themselves from broken families that do not get along.  Reaching out to aunts, uncles and cousins that were never close is not always welcome.  Many people today have half-siblings they have never met.  Connecting with these relatives can be rewarding when they are receptive.  If they are not receptive, sometimes it just helps to learn about them from information one can gain from relatives or online.

Multiracial people have yet another dynamic.  In addition to establishing relationships with family members, many find themselves trying to define who they are racially and culturally.  For Christians, our first identity should be in Christ.  The Apostle Paul proclaimed their is neither Jew nor Greek if one be in Christ (Gal. 3:28).  While it is healthy to form a cultural identity based on our ancestry, many find their identity as sons of God more important.

I was born in the Midwestern state of Iowa in the United States.  I am from English, Irish and German ancestry but identify more as an American than any of those other nationalities.  In much the same way, I was raised in an Adventist Christian home and I identify more as an Adventist Christian than I do as an American.  When I am traveling in a foreign country, if I come across a group of Americans and a group of Adventists in the airport, I am going to feel more with “my own” sitting and talking with the Adventists than I would with the Americans – regardless where the Adventists are from.

Knowing our roots, where we came from and establishing relationships with our family members is important and has psychological value to it.  However the bonds of faith are likely to be just as important, if not more, than the family and cultural ties that identify who we are.

Sleeping and Emotional Health

Sleep deprivation has emotional consequences.  People become more irritable and are also more likely to suffer depression, have a negative attitude and it impacts the way brains function so one becomes more controlled by emotion and less by reason.  There are many helpful tips to increase the quality of sleep.  Getting enough sunlight helps as does exercise as simple as walking for twenty or thirty minutes each day. 

Adults should get between seven and eight hours of sleep.  When this doesn’t happen the lack of sleep can be made up on the weekend or with an afternoon map.  That is recommended.  Those that celebrate the weekly Sabbath might use some hours during the day of rest to catch up on some lost sleep during the week.  If not, the lack of sleep will accumulate over time like a financial debt and cause emotional and other health issues. 

Suffering from occasional insomnia is common especially in adults over forty years old.  Those that have racing thoughts as they are trying to go to sleep may find it helpful to write down all their worries and concerns in a journal before going to bed.  That helps make them more fixed and less likely to take free rein in the mind.  Then they can read a book until they are so tired they must go to sleep.  If the thoughts just will not stop racing, they can try to control the thoughts be telling themselves something about their physical condition and repeating it over and over until they fall asleep.  For example, one might repeat the thought “my head is on my pillow” over and over.  One should not try to make up sleep for insomnia by sleeping in or taking a nap.  Just let the body self-correct.  After the accumulation of so many lost hours, the body will often tire and fall asleep at the regular bedtime again.  Doing aerobic activity two hours before going to bed has helped some fall to sleep faster.

The power nap can be helpful in reducing stress.  Those that get an hour break for lunch may want to consider spending the last fifteen minutes taking a nap.  Good sleep has a strong connection to emotional health.  The old adage says early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.  

Emotional Empowerment

Humans are social creatures.  Each of us is born into a family which is itself a small society.  Birth into a family gives us certain rights.  We have the right to protection and the right to nourishment from the time we are born.  Later, as we become adults, what were once our rights become our responsibility toward others.  The child that had the right to protection and nourishment later has the responsibility to provide these for others like his wife, children and aging parents.

As the child develops he or she will go beyond the family and join other social groups.  This often begins at church and later school.  Eventually he or she joins the workforce and may join other groups such as professional associations, athletic clubs or charitable organizations.  There is a great amount of satisfaction a person receives from interacting with other people.    

Unfortunately because sin entered the world, the devil often uses other people to hurt each other.  Sometimes they hurt each other physically but even more often they hurt each other emotionally.  This type of behavior cannot be stopped because it is part of the sinful experience man must live in.  There have been many attempts by society to stop physical violent and even emotional attacks.  There has even been some success but all such incidents cannot be expected to end until sin itself comes to an end.

There are psychological tools available to deal with emotional wounds.  People can heal and can lean how to deal with future or continued emotional abuse.  While a person cannot change other people, they can learn how to put such abuse in perspective to the point where the bad behavior no longer inflicts emotional damage on its intended victim.  That is called empowerment.  Empowerment allows someone to move away from being a victim and teaches how a person can actually love his enemies.