Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Problem of Selfishness

I wonder how much of a good and redemptive life is simply noticing our surroundings and making the conscious decision to respond with something more than selfish voyeurism? How much good would we do, how much better could our neighborhoods, workplaces and cities become if we made the simple decision to engage each other with empathy and kindness instead of apathy and disregard? I think the culprit is selfishness.

In reality, the primary problems most of us face can all be categorized as problems of selfishness. While this isn’t a new or unique problem it seems especially exacerbated today. It has become commonplace to treat the people we interact with each day as a problem to solve, an obstacle to overcome, or worst of all, a commodity to consume. How easily do we objectify each other for personal gain or pleasure when we all want the same thing? All of us desire to be heard. All of us desire to be known and seen as valuable. All of us desire to be viewed as people of worth.

We were all made in the image of a personal, creative, active and knowable God. It should come as no surprise when we treat each other in this way, as creative people with something to offer who want to be known, deep needs are met.

When we stop thinking the world revolves around us, is all about is, it non-magically becomes a larger and much more enjoyable place to live. As G.K. Chesterton put it in his great work Orthodoxy.

How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny selfishness and their virile indifference! You would begin to be interested in them, because they are not interested in you. You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which your own little plot is always played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers.

This isn’t to say life will be without frustration or annoyance, our world is full of people after all, but instead of being mastered and overcome by such things we are able to see them in their proper light, as people, circumstances, situations all given to us for our strengthening and God’s joy. We will truly be able to say, “This is the day that the LORD has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

So how do we make progress along these lines? A couple of suggestions…

Begin well: The most transformative discipline I have added to my life this year is beginning the day with some journaling. (I hope to I will write about this in detail soon). By beginning with reflection, mediation, prayer and goal setting, I am able to anticipate and respond to the challenges and people in front of me instead of having to surprisingly react.

Practice detachment: When I feel myself beginning to get frustrated or out of sorts with something, I recognize it for what it is and make the decision to step back out of the emotion and respond. FULL DISCLOSURE: Still working on this.

Count everything as joy: When we realize the things in front of us as given by God for our good and His joy, it helps us keep proper perspective. God’s desire for us in this life is that we look like His son Jesus and His primary way of growing us is through hardship, trial and in relationship with others. (Note, one usually goes with the other).

Regain wonder: You would be surprised at how much the simple act of allowing yourself to be amazed and impressed can change the way you feel. If you forgot what that is like, come spend the day with my kids and watch them encounter our world. So so amazing.

Lean in: When you ask someone how they are doing, really mean it. Take a second to lean in to their response. Be helpful and kind to others. Smile.

Recover childlike faith: Being a cynic is the easiest thing in the world. Trust that God isn’t out to get anything from you other than your heart.

 

 

10,000 Pushups

Over the course of July it wasn’t uncommon for someone to ask me why I’m doing 10,000 pushups. Here’s the skinny…

Doing 10,000 pushups in a single month is ridiculous. There is no meaningful reason that exists for why someone would do that many pushups in a single month. So, why?

The genesis of the idea came last year from Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. Sasse mentioned while on the campaign trail, he routinely challenged his staff to complete this insane number over the course of a month and I thought it a great challenge to attempt while we were moving last summer. I needed something to keep me engaged physically as I knew my gym attendance would be a bit sporadic during that season. Since I am not one to suffer alone or in silence I began challenging others to join me, because as the saying goes, “misery loves company”. Yet, this type of motivation only lasts so long, and since the overwhelming majority of your pushups happen when nobody else is watching, there has to be more to keep you motivated than the simple challenge. It was at this point, both this year and last I began to learn a few things. Here are the 5 top things I have learned.

It’s good to do hard things

We live in an unparalleled time in history when it is quite possible to live your entire life without challenge, difficulty or being placed in situations that require you to bear down, grind and get things done. While this may sound good on the surface, one consequence is a lack of opportunity for character formation. Where it wasn’t uncommon even a generation ago to spend formative years working on the farm, throwing hay, or performing manual labor of some kind, it’s increasingly anomalous now. When we don’t subject ourselves to hard things, it shouldn’t surprise us when we are soft people.

Not everything we do in life is fun.

When it is 11pm at night, you only have 50 pushups in so far for the day and you need to do about 275 more to stay on track, it’s no picnic. But the truth of the matter is, I can choose to be happy, ticked off or indifferent, but either way the pushups have to get done. The only difference is what my attitude is while grinding them out. In reality, the things that are fun are things I say that are fun. I tell myself, I tell my body and brain what is fun. Nobody outside of me gets to dictate what is enjoyable. 300 more pushups to do? Awesome! Kid pukes in your bed? Smile, laugh and grab the bleach. This isn’t the “power of positive thinking” it’s a mindset essential to persevering when life gets ludicrous.

Plan your work and work your plan.

Doing 10,000 pushups is difficult, not impossible. Like setting any kind of goal it requires you to plan your work and work your plan. It’s good to set goals that seem ridiculous to show yourself and others you CAN CRUSH THEM!

There is not a single problem, goal or challenge in your life that cannot be overcome by the Leadership of the Holy Spirit through Prayer and Personal Discipline.

Not to over-spiritualize this, but if this is true in the physical realm of pushups, how much more true is this in the spiritual realm? If I can be disciplined to do 10,000 pushups of no eternal consequence, what else am I capable of that has eternal consequence? If I can be disciplined to do 325 pushups a day for a month, can I be disciplined to be a better neighbor, father and husband? Yes. If I can be disciplined to take time and do pushups throughout my day, can I be disciplined to take time and pray throughout my day? Again, yes!

It’s not really about the pushups.

Pick your thing, challenge others to join you and GO GET SOME! Why wouldn’t you? With the desire you have to lose weight, go back to school or start a new business or area of ministry, the best time to begin was yesterday; the next best time is right now. Next month or next year are still going to happen, the only difference will be if you crushed your goal or not. Friends, there are seven days in a week and someday isn’t one of them.

Discipline Equals Freedom

One thing I’m continually learning (thanks jocko) as I move through the years is that, hard work, hard, unrelenting, persistent work beats dumb luck every single time. If I want the freedom for my life to work a certain way it will require discipline to reach that point. There is really only one way to do 10,000 pushups. One at a time.

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