“No”—What A Concept!

Frustrated-guitar

“NO”—WHAT A CONCEPT!

   When my kids were little (and even not so little), we played a little game. Not that it was all that fun but apparently they enjoyed it because they played it all the time. Evidently, the rules involved one or both of them—double-teaming is always an option—asking me for something to which I would say “no”. “No, you can’t stay up till midnight,” or “No, you can’t skip school to play video games,” or just plain “NO.” And that’s when the fun would happen. Basically, the object of the game was to get mom to say yes. And there were lots of strategies to win the game…

The Rules…

   There’d be the whining, as in, “C’MON, MOM! YOU PROMISED!” (I didn’t.) This tactic was often accompanied by puppy-dog eyes or followed up with, “I SWEAR I’LL NEVER ASK YOU FOR ANYTHING EVER AGAIN!” (If only…)

   There’d also be the begging. “PLEASE, CAN I, MOM?? CAN I, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEEEEEZE!”  “Maybe you can, but you may not.”

   There’d be the appeal to the Constitution. “THAT’S NOT FAIR—I HAVE RIGHTS!”  “Not until you’re 18. In the meantime, you’re suffering under the delusion that this is a democracy.”

   There’d be the guilt trip. “I’LL JUST DIE IF YOU DON’T BUY ME THE THOUSAND-DOLLAR SNEAKERS!”  “Problem solved. I guess you won’t need the sneakers.”

   There’d be the deal-making. “IF YOU LET ME GO WITH DAMIAN TO SHOOT BB’s AT OLD PEOPLE, I SWEAR I’LL TAKE OUT THE TRASH NEXT MONTH!”  “How about this for a compromise: You skip the devil’s spawn and take the trash out now.”

   There’d be the accusations. “YOU’RE THE WORST MOTHER ON EARTH!”  “And several planets.”

   There’d be the threats. “I’LL RUN AWAY FROM HOME!”  “And?”

   And as a last resort, there’d be the tantrum. This involved no real words (or none that I should publish)—although there would be yelling, much foot stomping, and even the occasional head bang on the wall (theirs, not mine). Ultimately, there’d be the evitable melt-into-a-puddle-on-the-floor scene. My response?

   “No means no.”

   It doesn’t mean “maybe,” it doesn’t mean “if we keep asking, she’ll cave,” and it certainly doesn’t mean mom didn’t really mean it.

   No means NO. Repeat as necessary.

There’s A Concept…

   Why is it so difficult for people to accept the concept of “NO”? And it’s not just children—although I see way too much of the above in school every single day. Rather, it’s also adults. And not only do adults not accept “no” from other human beings, but a “no” from God often also seems to be perceived as just another option in the salad bar of life.

   Still, while adults don’t throw tantrums per se over the word “no,” we do seem to have our own adult versions of rejecting a “NO” from God: Sure, we plead, we bargain, and we appeal to His “fairness,” but when that doesn’t work, some among us have even been known to try to lay a guilt trip on God by sobbing hysterically or punching a wall because, well—that’ll show Him. So, a tantrum is not entirely out of the question; it’ll just look a little differently than kids’ tantrums. Often an adult tantrum takes the form of the old-fashioned freeze-out: I just won’t talk to God for a while and that’ll show Him. And God’s response?

   “Sorry but—no.”

But What If We Don’t Like That?

   Too bad.

God’s Nature

   The Lord is unchangeable. That means that if we don’t like his “no,” it doesn’t matter; it’s not going to change. He doesn’t cave to the manipulation of deal-making, accusations, cold shoulders, tantrums or even the threats to quit him and go all atheist. Instead our choices are either that we adjust our attitudes and accept the “no” or—we don’t. There aren’t any other options. And if we reject his “no” and then plow on ahead to do or get that thing anyway, that means this: We will reap the consequences of rejecting his instructions. Why? Because he’s mean? No. We’ll reap the consequences because there are consequences to reap; God doesn’t say “no” just to amuse himself—he says “no” because there’s something bad lurking at the end of the shadowy tunnel. Deadly even.

It’s Hard

   We live in a culture where the word “no” doesn’t really mean “no.” Rather it’s a signal that it’s time to begin the negotiations—whatever manipulative form those might take. Nobody really means “no” anymore—so they say—which is why we now have the “Me Too” movement, the Anti-Bullying movement, and rioting in the streets: When we hear “no,” like spoiled children, we simply turn up the heat a couple hundred degrees to force the issue and get what we want. As a result, anarchy becomes the norm and—not to get too political—drug laws mean nothing, borders and boundaries mean nothing, and even crime convictions mean almost nothing.

   When we compromise the word “no,” chaos and lawlessness rule—in our families, in our schools, and certainly in our streets. Moreover, the refusal to accept a “no” will destroy us as well; we’ll morph to self-centered and selfish little people having maturity levels on par with a titsey fly. The result across the board? Wrecked and ruined lives. And all because we refuse to accept the word “no.”

   The word “no”—regardless of whether it’s decreed from God, mom or Uncle Sam—is often all that stands between us and abject misery.

   Perhaps it’s time we pay a little more homage to the word “NO”.

 

 

 

 

  

  

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No Death, No Resurrection.

Resurrection

NO DEATH, NO RESURRECTION.  

   In my twenties, I lost a job. I worked as a receptionist at a place with a sales’ force which received tons of phone calls from clients—mostly not very nice people. These folks would call regarding something they weren’t at all happy about and would demand, in very loud and angry tones, to talk to this one or that one—and half the time they wouldn’t even identify themselves. To make matters worse, many times when I picked up the phone, they’d start yelling at me so I’d just connect them to the offending party.  To add to the fun, the sales manager was a jerk. In fact, he was the poster child for “jerk” (“child” being the appropriate word). Others barely tolerated him because he was indiscriminately arrogant and rude to everyone—although it did seem that those with the least important jobs were treated to the most tyrannical tirades.

   Regardless, the other part of my job was to type stuff—which was much easier since the typewriter had a much more pleasant disposition. So one day, this sales manager came in and tossed a paper at me, ordering me to type it. He said it was some kind of description of a house he was building or buying or something and for me to get it done immediately. Did I mention that he also said it was the original and that there were no copies? I looked at the pile of things I needed to type for the office and then at his paper and politely suggested that after I got all of the work-related things done, I’d be happy to do his personal typing. Well, that didn’t fly. He turned bright red, threw up his arms and began to shout that I would do it and I’d do it now.

   I kind of didn’t. The other unfortunate thing that happened was that while I was away from my desk for a moment, someone took it. Apparently, it was done by one or two anonymous people who hated him and had decided that a little payback was in order…

People Skills 101

   Long story short—he fired me. And all of his other meltdowns paled in comparison to that day. He didn’t believe I hadn’t lost it but, I have to say (and I know this isn’t very nice), that if I had to get fired, it couldn’t have been for a better reason.

   Still, I had a problem—no paycheck. And it’s difficult to get a recommendation for a new job when you’ve been fired. Needless to say, I was somewhat panicked but I ended up doing something I would never have done if I hadn’t lost that job. I went back to school and got a graduate degree in education. I didn’t do it the next day—I prayed and began to research costs, available programs, and the length of time it would take, but God showed me all of that and confirmed over and over that that was the path I was supposed to pursue. Two months later, I was in school.

   Bottom line? I wouldn’t be a teacher now if I hadn’t been fired then.

It Takes A Death

   Sometimes it takes a death before something new can be birthed—especially in God’s economy. It’s all part of the “New Wine” I mentioned a few months ago: God often does things in ways that we’d never predict—not in a million years. He uses new methods that require us to lay down our old ways of speculating about how we think he’s going to work in order to be able to wrap our heads around the new way he’s doing that new thing. In other words, we need to have a “new wineskin” mindset in order to receive the new thing he’s working out. We won’t always understand what he’s doing or how he’s doing it, but that’s why it’s called “new;” it hasn’t been experienced before.

   One of the ways he brings about a “new thing” is to kill off the “old thing”. This means  we end up experiencing the death of something we hold dear: a job, a ministry, a business, a book in process—any endeavor or dream that we’ve poured our hearts and souls into and suddenly—poof—it’s gone. And during the symbolic three days before the resurrection, we grieve, we despair, we doubt ourselves, we quit—in other words, we have no idea what’s happening and even less idea what’s about to happen.

   In short, we have not the slightest conception that that death might mean the birth of something lifechanging.

But How Do We Really Know?

   The thing about walking in faith is that we really don’t know. We don’t know what will happen in the future and so, after the death of a dream, we often envision only the worst: everlasting failure, pain and regret. However, we’re forgetting one thing:

To have faith doesn’t mean we have to summon, like cash, some random amount of belief that we can use to pay for whatever we want.

   There’re no price tags in heaven saying, “A new job costs this amount of faith” or “A healing is that much.” But we act like that. Have I prayed enough? Have I “believed” enough? Have I recited the right number of scriptures? But what’s enough?

   A grain of mustard seed.

   Jesus said that if we have the faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains—symbolic for the impossible. The essence of faith is simply this: Do I trust God? If we believe that we have a heavenly father who truly loves us, then what do we have to fear? If one thing doesn’t work out, something else will. Which of us, as parents, would deliberately do harm to our children? Which of us looks around and says, “What can I do to hurt them today?” Still, even if we did have bad parents, we need to remember that we’re sons of a Father-King who has said, “’Even if your mother and father abandon you, I will not forsake you.’”

   God has only our good at heart. That means that if there is a death of a dream, there will be the resurrection of a new dream—it just might not be the one we thought it would be. But there can be no resurrection without a death.

   And that’s how we know.

 

Say What??

free-angry-man.jpgSAY WHAT??

   Real-life scenario (with changed names): Jack comes flying into the kitchen, ranting that the cable was out and he was missing the Cowboys beat up on the Patriots (on par with a blue moon). Jess, his wife, asks whether he remembered to pay the overdue cable bill.

   Jack snorts. “The cable bill is not overdue.”

   “Well, yeah, it is,” Jess says. “We got a late notice three weeks ago and you said that it had slipped your mind and you’d take care of it.”

   “I did not.” Jack’s face flushes rather red. “I didn’t even know it was overdue.”

   “Jack, I remember you stood right there and promised to pay it. The cable company probably disconnected the service.”

   Jack turns up the volume. “I did not say I was going to pay the cable bill—I didn’t even know about it!”

   “Jack, stop yelling. You obviously forgot.”

   Jack utters a naughty word. “I DID NOT SAY THAT!”

   Sixteen-year-old Jonathan wanders into the kitchen. “You did, dad. I heard you say it.”

   “You’re both wrong!” Jack slams the door on his way out.

I Should Say What??

   Why can’t Jack simply admit he was wrong about the cable bill? Apart from the fact that he’s probably ticked that he’s missing the game, what’s the problem with simply manning up and telling the truth? Jack knows he messed up. Jess knows Jack messed up. And Jack knows Jess knows Jack messed up. So who’s Jack trying to convince?

   Himself.

   There’s an odd dynamic at play when someone can’t admit they’re wrong: They often take extreme measures to insist that they’re not in error, that someone else is wrong and that whatever the problem is, it’s not their fault. And in the process, things can get ugly. The ritual of self-defense in the face of perceived accusation is one of nature’s most ferocious exhibitions. In fact, it can get quite bloody.

   But why?

Moral Failure Or Mistake?

   In order to comprehend why people go to all the trouble to defend themselves in the face of the clearly indefensible has more to do with the psychology of self-image than anything else.

The fact is that people who cannot admit they’re wrong when they know they are is because they haven’t learned to distinguish the difference between being wrong about something and feeling that there’s something wrong with them for having made a blunder.

   The unconscious message they hear in their heads is on par with “I’m stupid or I wouldn’t have made a mistake,” or “I’m an inferior person for having made an error.” In other words, they personalize their mistakes, interpreting them as evidence of an internal character flaw or intellectual inferiority rather than an external action like a simple misjudgment.

   I once tutored a student who would make math mistakes then fly into a rage, replete with yelling, fist pounding and swearing, all the while screaming, “I’m so stupid! I’m so stupid!” Any attempts to comfort him with the notion that he wasn’t stupid and that the whole point of school was to learn things he didn’t already know, fell on deaf ears.

   The fact is that being wrong is not a moral failure and therefore, it doesn’t qualify as evidence of such.

   Having said that, I’m not suggesting that the tantrums people throw to avoid their own self-condemnation, especially if they’re violent demonstrations, should be dismissed. As the saying goes, “That’s not okay.” Therefore, the tantrums are the issue, not necessarily the mistake. Still, regardless of the extremes to which people will go to avoid seeing themselves as deficient in some way, the dynamics are the same: People who cannot admit they’re wrong are defending their self-images, not their mistakes.

The Paradox.

   While there will always be those people who will rub it in your face should you dare to admit you’re wrong, it helps to realize that there’s something more wrong with them for needing to do that than there is with you for having erred. “I told you so” is evidence, at best, of insecurity and, at worst, it’s indicative of a mean streak. To want to make people feel badly about themselves is cruel.

   Nevertheless, those people are (hopefully) not the norm. Regardless, the fact is—and here’s the paradox—people will generally not only forgive you for admitting you’re wrong, but they’ll admire you for having the good character to do it.

   Isn’t that odd? Still, it’s the truth. We all know that admitting we’re wrong is not always easy, but it is generally well received; it demonstrates that not only are we not deficient in some internal way, but rather that we’re mature, reasonable, and humble human beings. And humble is huge. Regardless of whether people are consciously aware of it, we respect someone with the humility to admit when they’ve messed up. So—that being the case, why don’t more of us cop to being wrong when the shoe fits? Fascinating question.  Maybe because it can be a scary proposition?  If that’s the case and you need a little courage, consider that practicing the “W word” when the situation warrants may well help you to see yourself in a more positive light. After all, it takes a person of character to admit fault. And one more thing…

   Uttering the words “I was wrong” has never been listed on any certificate as an official cause of death.

  

If Not for Shelby…

Stalker IIIIF NOT FOR SHELBY…

So Rick got perp-walked out today, hand-cuffs and all, apparently for dipping into the employee association account to the tune of a felony-level little sum which, if not for Shelby, we’d never have known about (although you’d think, after three years, we’d have known about it). And if not for Shelby, who’d have guessed that Ashley’s notary license was purchased on-line (and for only $59.99)? Not me. We’d also never have known that Sarah’s bruises weren’t really from a car accident, like she’d said. Turns out a seat belt imprint on your neck doesn’t really leave four purple stripes around your throat—but, according to Shelby, an ex does.

Thank goodness for Shelby. If not for Shelby, we’d never have known that Marissa in billing hasn’t spoken to Kelly in production for almost three years. Apparently, it’s something about Kelly’s husband who used to coach Marissa’s son’s soccer team but wouldn’t give him enough field time. Marissa said it was because Kelly’s husband didn’t like “little Jackie” (ple-eeze!) and Kelly said it was because little Jackie couldn’t keep track of which end of the field he was supposed to kick the ball to.

So unfortunate.

And then there’s the mysterious case of Jonathan’s hunting buddy… If not for Shelby, no one would ever have known that Jonathan’s “hunting buddy” —the one he meets up with a few times a year for a “guys only” hunting weekend—really isn’t qualified to be on that weekend (if you get my drift) although there’s no intel yet on “his” identity. (Not that Saint Wifey has a clue, either.)

No doubt Shelby will uncover further information. We wait with baited breath.

Shelby came to us about six months ago, our latest company intern, a perky little thing, if you like that sort. But she talks non-stop; I don’t know how she ever gets any work done. Still, I guess it makes some semblance of sense that she’s a social media major—she certainly is social. But she talks incessantly: sports and politics with the guys—as if anyone really cares who does or doesn’t take a knee—and she gets the girls all rabid about which stores jack their regular prices before the “Really Big Sale”. Even the witches from HR (who think they’re better than everybody else because they have access)—she even gets them chit-chatting about stupid stuff.

Which leads me to believe Shelby could chat up a telephone pole if she really wanted to. (Who knows what she talks to when no one else is around?) Last week in the break room, for example, she actually had Meghan (the HR queen bee) melting down over some boyfriend or other—and the dead pine tree in my yard is more communicative than Meghan is. I didn’t even know Meghan wasn’t still married. Or maybe she is…

I’d really part with a fair amount of cash to know how Shelby does it.

Like yesterday, she let slip that Cam in accounting was interviewing for a new job.

“He tell you that?”

She rolled her eyes. “Of course not.”

“Then how—”

“It’s the tie. Cam never wears a tie.”

He doesn’t?

It’s bizarre what Shelby knows—she’s either got some kind of super-human spider-sense or she’s a bonafide stalker. Although I don’t know which is creepier. Still, if not for Shelby, we would never have known half the stuff that goes on behind the scenes around here. It’s such a shame that she had to go and fall all the way down those concrete steps in the basement stairwell. I’ve always said those stairs were too steep and that one day, someone was going to fall down them and break their neck.

Now we’ll never find out who Jonathan’s “hunting buddy” really is…