Tag Archives: personal strength

hug

When All You Have Is A Hug.

By: Chris Warren.

Luckily, it is rare when I find myself in a situation where someone important to me is in a lot of trouble and pain and there is absolutely nothing I or anyone can do about it. No matter how much I want to help them, no matter how much I care, no matter how much I empathize with them, none of it changes the ultimate outcome. When there is nothing left to give, or more appropriately, nothing to give, all that is left is the power of a hug.

I find myself in such a situation right now; it involves a close friend who is going through a painful and difficult period and all I can do is stand back and watch. She doesn’t deserve it. Then again, does anyone? Fate can be a both a bastard and an angel, often at the same time. It’s also indiscriminate. Good and evil happen to everyone at some point in their lives. Evil can be avoided to some extent with good judgement and money, but sooner or later, the bastard is going to catch even the smart, the rich, and the lucky.

I sat in a hospital lobby with my friend for several hours late into the night while waiting for her husband to arrive. The place was quiet, very well appointed, with deep comfortable chairs and soft light. They even had a fireplace! My friend did about 80% of the talking, describing in great detail the storyline that was soon going to end sadly in that hospital. The whole scene: The nice furniture, fireplace, and personal conversation made me feel like I was in a therapist’s office, except I was the therapist.

Other than listening and hugging, we bystanders in an untenable position. We can’t really help, and we can’t just stand there either. For those who are hurting, an attentive ear and a hug go a surprisingly long way. A hug has warmth. A hug has hope. A hug has meaning that cannot be expressed with words. A hug has power. A hug is what you have when you have nothing else. And that’s a lot.

 

advice

What Advice Would You Give Your 17 Year Old Self?

By: Chris Warren.

The other night I was on the phone with a buddy I’ve kicked it around with since we were young brats. We are still close friends and we sometimes get carried away while shooting the breeze and yapping about whatever. What started as a five minute check-in call turned into a lengthy introspective. It was a sometimes serious, mostly funny conversation, contemplating what advice we would give our seventeen year old selves. As it turns out, it’s not really an original idea.

If I were having a face to face talk with my seventeen year old self, the list of advice would be far longer than can be fit into a few hundred words on a commentary blog. But there are two Big Things old Chris wants young Chris to know:

“First, you somehow got it in your head that you have to go it alone on everything, but there are a lot of people on your side, and letting them in, even just a little, would make your world a lot better. There is no shame in asking for help, nor is there any particular glory in struggling by yourself. Decades from now you will still be doing everything yourself, but by then you will have become a very resourceful person and learned to work it to your advantage.

“Second, take yourself less seriously: You brood over inconsequential junk that you’ll barely remember five years from now. I understand that friends, school, and life seem very heavy to you. It may shock you to hear me say this, but the world you are in now, the one that gives you so much stress, is not reality. It’s not even close. Everything gets harder from here. Your life will never be as easy as it is at seventeen. Toughen up and stop thinking that no one has bigger problems than yours. Not everyone who superficially treats you well is your friend, and not everyone who kicks you in the balls is your enemy. Learn the difference. If you can’t handle your present day problems, then there is no advice that will save you from becoming hopelessly dysfunctional as an adult.”

advice

Today I hear young people say stuff that sounds amazingly similar to things I said and felt myself when I was in their shoes. In their limited life experience, their problems seem very real. I feel a responsibility to help them gain some perspective and make them see that these things do pass.

One of the worst things an adult can do is trivialize a kid’s problem, even if the problem is, in fact, trivial. Yes, I get it: Breaking up with a girl/boyfriend after a two month “relationship”, or not making the team, or not having a date for the dance, or not getting cool new clothes don’t rank high as the most profound concerns in the world, unless of course your world is not that big to begin with. That is the viewpoint teens see things from. My advice to my seventeen year old self was to take myself less seriously. The advice goes the other way for the adults: Take kids’ concerns more seriously, because to them, making the team, or whatever, is a pretty big deal.

When I think back to those times I am somewhat embarrassed about how much I used to let trivial things bother me. I am certain that pretty much everyone my age feels the same way. If we all had the benefit of our adult selves counseling our teenaged selves, would we follow our own advice? I don’t think I would have listened. The paradox is that had I listened to my own advice, I would have missed out on the failures that resulted in the life experience that allowed me to give the advice in the first place. As the cliché goes, no pain no gain, at least until someone discovers time travel. My seventeen year old self will just have to accept the growing pains and wait a few more decades to see that my older self was right about everything.

radical islamic terrorists

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! All Good Citizens To Arms!

By: Chris Warren.

During the early history on the United States, the everyday person existed in a lifestyle of survival. There was no such thing as running to the store for a forgotten item. There was no organized public safety. There were no weekends off. Food, water, shelter, heat, clothing, everything, came out of one’s own hard effort. The settlers had to tap into their confidence, independence, and sense of inner strength, or die. Recent world events perpetrated by radical Islamic terrorists remind us why now is the time for all Americans to reclaim their independent Colonial spirit and personally stand up to the threats that seek to destroy the freedom the United States has sacrificed for over the two-plus centuries of our history.

Much has been said by world leaders about what can, should, or will be done about radical Islamic terrorists (note: unlike Barak Obama and the entire Democratic party, I will use this exact term throughout this article). The radical Islamic terrorists are not “contained.” They are on the move and expanding beyond the Middle East. Next stop: The United States. What are you, good citizen, going to do about it?

That was not a rhetorical question. I’m being totally serious: What are you, good citizen, personally going to do about radical Islamic terrorists? If the answer is some variation of “I can’t personally do anything,” or “Let the government deal with it,” then you are are unwittingly complicit in helping the radical Islamic terrorists achieve their goal and sadly disconnected from the spirit of the Colonial freedom fighters who birthed this great nation.

You are either armed or you are a soft target. It really is that black and white.

The most important and meaningful personal response to radical Islamic terrorists is having a way to defend yourself and by extension your country. You can’t (and shouldn’t) totally avoid “soft targets” such as shopping malls and sporting events. And there is no real defense against a suicide bomber or a maniac who takes over an airliner. But that is a weak reason to do nothing. There are measures anyone can take to have an advantage over most threats and not be a soft target yourself.

Being a hardened target involves carrying a gun at all times and knowing how to use it. The anti-gun American left is entitled to their old tropes and I’ll gladly shut up and permit them to prattle uninterrupted on the condition that they openly admit they are ok with being a walking soft target and they are ok with the thought of having absolutely zero options except luck if radical Islamic terrorists (or gang bangers, or any other form of social excrement) come to kill them and their families. I fully respect the anti-gun liberals’ decision to call 911 and sit quietly in their “gun free zone” piousness while they wait their turn to have their brains splattered on the wall. I will be busy shooting back. You are either armed or you are a soft target. It really is that black and white.

In Colonial times everyone was armed because there was a legitimate need to be. The frontier was a place were the perils were numerous and unpredictable; being caught without a means of defense was often fatal. Imminent mortal danger may seem far removed from modern life in the USA, and that’s exactly what the radical Islamic terrorists want you to think. The need to carry a gun is still as real as it was over two centuries ago. Political and military solutions are beyond the practical control of the average citizen, but there is quite a bit that we can do as individuals. The Second Amendment is the great equalizer.

All good Americans need to embrace the spirit of the Minuteman: Prepare yourselves and answer the urgent call to arms in defense of your own liberty. Do not wait until the radical Islamic terrorists are at your door and then hope others will save you. Protecting freedom is not the sole domain of the police, the military, or the government. It is your heritage. It is your personal duty.

Editor’s note: If you enjoyed this article, then you may also like my other Second Amendment related post, We Walk Quietly Among You

 

Home Improvements Help Us Remodel Our Selves.

By: Chris Warren

Homeowners who hire a contractor for every little job cannot understand the pride and satisfaction of completing a do it yourself project that will make a house more enjoyable or increase resale value. Some of us take on a lot of home improvements that we probably could afford to contract out but choose to do ourselves anyway because there is a certain “it factor” that makes these tasks an attractive challenge.

Most jobs are very simple in regards to the mechanics of the work required. Like all things though, the real world experience is often much different. I recently installed some exterior lighting on my house. The basic procedure is easy: Run some wire. Screw light to side of house. Connect wires at both ends. Done. It all looks so easy in theory!

The headaches come in when you have to run the wires through walls or other not so easy to reach places, or when the hardware that came with the light is not compatible with your application, or when you are trying to make something both functional and not look like sloppy crap nailed to the side of the house.

home improvements

My dad has been doing his own home improvements longer than I’ve been alive, and he’s really good at it. He holds himself to a very high standard of craftsmanship, and after he completes a job, he will scrutinize every little detail and find something he would have done differently. It’s a learning process that I’ve adopted myself with very good results. Wise men never think they know it all.

In my circle of friends I’m known as the guy who always has a tool in his hand and hardly ever pays others to do things for me. Doing my own home improvements has the unexpected benefit of teaching me patience and discipline. All jobs look easy in concept. In reality, none go exactly as planned with no setbacks. The principle transfers to other areas of life. Having a plan is great, but there must be enough built in flexibility to address the inconvenient reality that life events seldom fit exactly into our preconceived plans.

Once someone is programmed for achievement, it is very difficult for them to set boundaries of when they will give their best effort and when they will not.

Home improvements are a perfect metaphor for how the real world works: I had the knowledge and tools needed to install an exterior light. I had a visualized plan of how I wanted to attain the goal. Once I began the task, I ran into unplanned setbacks. Some of these delays were due to my own oversight (drilling two holes when I only needed one). Others were out of my control (bad weather, incompatible hardware). Nothing gets done by getting angry at myself or cursing the weather. Keep moving, solve problems, find a way to get to the end.

One reason why athletes who are successful in their sport also tend to be successful in other areas is because they redirect the drive and motivation from the playing arena into their entire life. The same could be said for military people. Once someone is programmed for achievement, it is very difficult for them to set boundaries of when they will give their best effort and when they will not. A properly trained athlete or soldier is in “on mode” all the time, even years after they are no longer active in sports or the military.

Home improvements such as hanging a light do not rank high on the glorious achievement scale, but the commitment to complete them with skill and pride is very meaningful to those who spend countless weekends and vacation days toiling on their homes instead of paying a contractor.

Deeper than money saved is standing back and admiring one’s own finished project and the feeling of independence and empowerment from not having to rely on paid help. Every time I walk past that light I’ll know how it got there: Not from farming the work out to others and handing them a check when it’s done, but from my own determination, sweat and ingenuity. I’ll need all the can-do positive energy I can get when it comes time to replace my hot water heater, which I suspect will be soon.

 

materialism

A Shopping Mall Buddha And The Materialism Of Now.

By: Chris Warren.

I have fifty two items on my Amazon “wish list”. I don’t know how that compares with the average shopper, but I’m going to guess that I am a lightweight by Amazon standards. My wish list is just that..things that would be nice to have but are not particularly a priority. Some of the items have been on my list for years. The older I get, the easier it is to want stuff less. And the stuff I do want has a higher, long term purpose. Materialism for materialism’s sake is the source of a lot of the world’s problems.

During a recent weekend road trip I found myself hanging out in a very huge, very famous, and very upscale shopping mall. I’m not much of a mall person, but I do like to people watch and enjoy the experience of being around the energetic liveliness. As we strolled past the $1000 Coach purses and $600 North Face jackets, I noticed that pretty much everything that is sold in this mall is not necessary for daily life. I could not spot a single item that was truly needed and did not have a more reasonably priced alternative. I’m sure all those people in the North Face store were not there to provision themselves for an ascent of Mount Everest.

No one chooses to be poor, but materialism is a deliberate, conscious decision.

I don’t understand what motivates anyone to be sucked into the vortex of materialism. I try hard not to be judgmental, but it sure isn’t easy. Ultimately, I understand that how others spend their money is none of my business. At the same time though I don’t feel too sorry for all the people who are up to their eyeballs in debt from impressing themselves and everyone with their trendy, premium brand stuff. No one chooses to be poor, but materialism is a deliberate, conscious decision.

Reaching a stage in life where it’s pretty certain that I am not destined to be rich is in a way, liberating. It does not bother me that I can’t (or more accurately, shouldn’t) buy the North Face jacket. It does not bother me that some of my neighbors have spent more money on cars than I have spent on a house. It’s not that I’m poor, it’s that my priorities go beyond the materialism of now. My focus is on things that matter, like securing my retirement and making room in my future plans for friends and family members who are not as well situated as me.

materialism

The Buddhist religion teaches that desire is the source of evil. If we remove desire from our hearts, then evil would by default not exist. I admit the previous synopsis oversimplifies one of the world’s great religions, but it does call attention to a valid point of Buddhism: Desire (from which materialism is derived) is a driving force behind pretty much everything bad.

I think we’d be in a better place if people desired less stuff. Unfortunately, we live in a society that celebrates materialism, and social media is eager to feed the pig. For months, one of my “friends” filled the internet with weekly photo updates of their new house construction; it read like an over the top real estate listing. The news feed was briefly interrupted only to announce their new boat and ski trip to Aspen. This person is not an outlier. Facebook is brimming with photos of new cars, exotic vacations, and expensive dinners. It seems no one can resist running to their computers to show off their bling.

Maybe I was a Buddhist in a previous life. Maybe I’m just simpleminded. For sure I’m not the kind of customer a mall operator loves to have around. They might get me for a $6 slice of pizza or sell me on an occasional good deal, but most of the time it’s easy for me to keep my wallet in my pocket and walk on by. Buddha has been dead for about 2400 years and his message is still relevant. There is great personal peace in being happy with what I’ve already got and feeling no intense pull to have more. Removing oneself from the materialism of now settles and warms a soul like no six hundred dollar North Face jacket could ever approach.

fate

When Fate Slams On The Brakes.

By: Chris Warren

Most people appeal to God or whatever they believe in to deliver on a big request. When the request is not granted, they are disappointed. It may take some time to realize it, perhaps even years, but in most of these cases being stopped by fate from getting what we wanted was the answer to a prayer.

Back in my younger years I went off to college with the intent of becoming an electronics technician. I had an unbreakable interest in electronics since I was in grade school and was very eager to pursue it as a career. Unfortunately, my passion as a hobbyist/experimenter did not translate into the classroom. By the end of my first year, I was washed out.

I changed direction and decided I wanted to be a high school English teacher. I had an aptitude for language and this time had the grades to prove it, so I thought it would be a good fit. Everything went as planned until I landed a teaching assignment at a small high school in rural Illinois and was given a class of my own. The students liked me, and I was an effective teacher, but I quickly realized that this was not what I wanted to do for the next thirty or so years.

Barely out of college, fate already put the brakes on my life plans, twice. Or maybe I was just clueless. Being stopped from making a bad move is good, but it does not really get you anywhere, either. At some point, you have to release the brakes and find a better route. My story has a happy ending: I went back to college and tried electronics again as more mature and disciplined student. I finished the degree program with excellent grades and ever since have prospered in a field doing what I’ve loved since I was a little kid.

Fate is as much about forcing us to look for a better way as it is about stopping us from going the wrong way. In that regard it’s a double-blessing. Stopping for anything is against what modern culture teaches us. We are conditioned to keep moving and making progress, yet high-achieving people will often say that being stopped from proceeding on one path and diverting to another is a major factor in their success.

What I get out of this is that fate is nature’s, or God’s, or whatever’s, second chance. There is no benefit in avoiding trouble if it does not lead you to something else. And most good things come only after some sort of hardship. Maybe that’s why so many people who are successful without any sacrifice (lottery winners, for example) disproportionately end up with broken relationships, broken careers, broken bank accounts.

I’m at a point in my life where I feel like it’s time to evaluate what my next move will be. I’m not unhappy and I don’t feel like I’m just sitting on the brakes, but fate has saved me from enough mistakes to make me more circumspect. Fate, it seems, is not a mysterious external “power” after all. It’s an intervention, a moment of realization, a warning, and a compass. It forces us to look for opportunities we might not otherwise notice and choose a different path.

tool idiot

You Can’t Fix A Tool Idiot.

By: Chris Warren

Everyone knows a tool idiot, or perhaps are one themselves. I don’t intend the term to be as disrespectful as it sounds. A tool idiot is a wannabe do-it-yourselfer who either grossly overestimates his or her ability to do a job, uses the wrong tools for the task, or has the right tools but does not have any skill using them. Tool idiots deserve credit for at least trying, but in many cases might have been better off not trying.

One recent hot summer morning I noticed the neighbor up the road cutting a tree down. He was clearly having difficulty, which is to be expected when one tries to cut down an entire full sized tree with a small electric saw. I gave a fleeting thought to going over there to help him, but hey, my own to-do list is already longer than the weekend. I also know that property is a rental so I wasn’t interested in working at someone else’s house for free while the landlord collects a rent check every month.

Late the next day I was driving by again and the same guy is hacking on the same tree, and most of it is still upright. My misgivings about providing free labor notwithstanding, I couldn’t take watching him struggle any more. I told him I would run home, change into work clothes and come back with the equipment needed to end his long, hot, miserable weekend of fruitless toil.

Within an hour of my return that tree was down and carved up into pieces small enough to carry. As I was leaving him on his own to clear the substantial mess, I was too polite to mention that for fifty bucks he could have rented a gas chainsaw and saved himself a day and a half of sweating his ass off while getting very little done.

He was both surprised and grateful at how quickly it all happened once the right knowledge and proper tools were applied to the task. Maybe it was divine intervention that he didn’t rent a gas chainsaw because I’m pretty sure he would have ripped a limb off with it, and I’m not referring to the tree. My floundering neighbor is a classic example a tool idiot: Well-intentioned, but hapless.

My dad is the exact opposite of a tool idiot. He owns, has owned, or has used pretty much every tool ever invented. He is the consummate handyman. From attic vents to sump pumps and everything in between, he has always done his own home repairs. Dad can pour cement, wire electric outlets, unclog drains, lay carpet & tile, put up fences, and tear down walls. He’s done several major renovations. He works on cars. Dad not only does it all, he does it with amazing skill. Even the stuff he screws up comes out twice as good as what the average person could pull off.

Guys like my dad are very hard to find now. The days of having do-it-yourself pride has been transplanted with a generation of tool idiots and a false belief that anyone can do it with no experience, no skill, and barely any effort. It’s a naiveté borne by television shows where some dude guts & remodels a whole house without even getting dirty.

People who barely know how to turn a screwdriver and whose garages are devoid of any sign of a homeowner with technical skills will spend a weekend watching HGTV and decide that’s all the “vocational training” they need to be master of all trades. Back in my dad’s time there were very few tool idiots. It was expected that most guys did their own fixes & upgrades because life wasn’t as simple as looking up a contractor on your smartphone and having them appear at your door within a few hours.

I’m not anywhere near my dad’s level, but I have a comprehensive collection of tools and can competently handle most homeowner issues myself. When I get stuck, I call my dad. He always knows what to do, and what not to do. When I look at a someone else’s project and I think to myself, my father would never do it that way,  I feel validated knowing that my daddy didn’t raise a tool idiot.

 

right now

The Rule of Right Now.

By: Chris Warren

This summer there has been so many natural and man made calamities that I’ve become desensitized and hardly notice them anymore. There is no way to completely avoid being a victim, but there are plenty of ways the average person can, right now, decrease the odds of being involved in a tragedy and increase the odds of living through it if they are.

I call it the Rule of Right Now and here’s how it works: Wherever you are physically located while reading this, stop for a moment and look around you. Ask yourself: What is the most likely emergency/disaster event that could happen to me? And what is my plan if it happens right now? The Rule of Right Now states that we should train ourselves to always be aware of what could happen and have some kind of plan for dealing with it.

If you are at home in a safe neighborhood, coming up with a scenario may be difficult. That is the exact it can’t happen here complacency that makes victims unwitting participants in their own misfortune. Getting your head into right now requires some practice, and if you feel uncomfortable with the process, then you’re probably on the correct path.

The biggest barrier to being ready is denial. Denial creates at least as many victims as the tragedy itself.

The Rule of Right Now is universal. It goes beyond acute personal emergencies (such as a fire breaking out in your house) to very serious, widespread disasters that can effect an entire region or country (such as an economic crash). The biggest barrier to being ready is denial. Denial creates at least as many victims as the tragedy itself. A majority of people do not put even the smallest thought into what they would do if something horrible happened because they refuse to accept that anything horrible can happen in the first place.

It’s important to understand that the Rule of Right Now should not be interpreted as an endorsement for paranoia or an expectation that we should obsess over every conceivable disaster. Paranoia is a barrier, a distraction, to preparedness. It’s not sensible to be concerned with way out there scenarios that have a cosmically low probability of happening at the expense of ignoring obvious hazards. I personally know people who are think they are bad ass survivalists prepared for a Mad Max style societal collapse but do not have a functional spare tire in their car!

Every single time I board an airplane I memorize how many rows away and how many seats over the nearest two emergency exits are from where I am sitting. It’s not enough to glance at a card or look around the cabin and passively think, oh yeah, it’s over there, with no thought as to how I would find it if I could not see it. I also take notice of who is sitting between me and the exits. Even if completely blinded by smoke or darkness or injury, I will greatly improve my chances of escape by “counting” my way to an exit. That is how the Rule of Right Now is supposed to work. It does not require deep thought or intense training. It’s about having a thoughtful, controlled, predetermined response to plausible incidents.

Situational awareness is the act of knowing who and what is around you at all times. The Rule of Right Now goes a step further: You also have to contemplate what could happen and how to react to it. In my airplane example, I come up with a clear plan to get to the exit, as opposed to having only a generic awareness of where the exit is and calling it good enough.

Being prepared for disaster does not have to involve stockpiling guns and freeze dried food (although I strongly recommend doing exactly that if you are able). It also means paying attention and having a plan at all times. It means not having one’s head in the sand, nor consuming oneself with an unlikely future while overlooking the very real possibilities of today. Before anyone sees next time, they must first find a way to get through Right Now.

A Master’s Long Journey On A Trail Of Failure.

By: Chris Warren.

If failure builds skill, then I should be an expert at a ton of stuff. The problem with this theory is that failure doesn’t by default make someone better. You have to want to be better, evaluate your shortcomings, and find a way to do it differently next time. Then go and actually do it. Failure is an effective teacher only when the student doesn’t stop trying.

Regular readers of my blog know that I am an very devoted amateur radio hobbyist and work professionally in the communications electronics field. I’ve spent this summer doing a lot of upgrades to my equipment and more than once I’ve been made painfully aware that for all the skill and expertise I’ve collected over many years of working on electronics as both a hobbyist and a professional, there is always something new tripping me up. Even more humbling is when I make mistakes performing easy tasks that I’ve successfully done before with barely a thought but at the moment cannot seem to grasp.

Someone who is admired and respected for their skill in a particular area make it look so easy, yet behind every flawless performance lies thousands of mistakes no one ever sees. Olympic athletes spend years falling down, missing the shot, not making their time, pushing through injury and illness. They take it all in and do better next time, until “next time” is the one single now-or-never Olympic event that is the denouement of their life’s effort.

On a far less Olympian but equally meaningful plane, there are everyday folks working as carpenters, auto mechanics, electricians, musicians, and teachers who are experts in their field and work largely unnoticed. After all, they don’t give gold medals for being the best accountant. The work may not be glamorous but it is important; the world runs better because these people did not quit the first time they failed at what they are now masters of.

failure

Every now and then I am invited to give a public talk about the technical aspects of solar energy and how it can be applied to everyday life. I always bring along some of my equipment for a live demonstration of how it all works. My solar power station attracts a lot of interest and many flattering compliments. The system is a point of pride for me because I designed and built everything myself from the ground up. I want all my electronic projects to say, “the person who made this is a highly skilled craftsman who cares about his work”.  A master does not brag about how good he is. He lets his results speak for him.

What the audience does not see behind me is is the decades-long trail of failure littered with burned out components, incorrectly wired circuits, blown fuses, ruined electrical connectors, a discharged fire extinguisher used on one of my alleged brilliant ideas, and spending hundreds of evenings and weekends in a college engineering lab doing it over and over and over until I had it right. I’m no genius. Usually I was the last to leave the lab because I was the slowest to figure it out. But I did figure it out.

For those who are driven to be accomplished at something, failure to keep trying is worse than failure at the task itself. Nobody wins all of the time. Show me someone who claims to have never been a failure and I’ll show you someone who has also never succeeded, or is a liar. The world rightly places a high value on success and winning, yet there is little talk of all the failure and pain and sacrifice that is the unavoidable price of being a master.

We live in a society that wants reward without risk, recognition without sacrifice, and no hurt feelings. The reality of life is indifferent to what society wants, or perceives as success, or how artificially low the bar is set to create as many winners as possible: Everyone knows which kids showed up early for practice every time, gave it all they had, and really earned the trophy, and which kids just can’t cut it and are being pandered to for the sake of appearances. Whether it’s winning an Olympic gold medal, beautifully playing a musical instrument, or expertly troubleshooting a complex electronic circuit, the hand of the master is guided by wisdom gained from the humiliation of uncountable failure.

forgiveness

Charge It To The Forgiveness Card.

By: Chris Warren.

Every day, often more than once, there is a celebrity, politician, or large corporation making a public apology for something or another. Some of these pleas for absolution are sincerely offered for genuine slights, others are purely for appearances. On an interpersonal level, there are two sides to everything, and the other side of “I’m sorry” is “I forgive you.” Sometimes forgiveness is given as a one-way sentiment when the offending party is not the least bit sorry and is not asking to be forgiven. No matter which way we work this, it’s a lot easier to offer an apology than it is to respond with forgiveness.

Being sorry (usually) carries no price tag other than an implication that the offensive behavior will not be repeated in the future. Forgiveness requires a much larger investment of faith. When we forgive someone, we are basically extending them credit. We are trusting them not to do whatever it is they did that incited  the apology in the first place.

When all is right in the world, forgiveness is given and received in equal amounts. We subconsciously do a little emotional accounting to decide if the offender has enough “credit” to warrant forgiveness. A frustrated parent is not likely to believe any recycled assurances to be on time, next time, when a teenager is caught sneaking into the house late at night after promising many times before to be in by curfew. Meanwhile, the typically punctual kid who slips up once in a while will probably get a pass. A fair person will also take into account their own previous misdeeds: It’s easier to be lenient with others when if you can admit you’re less than perfect yourself.

One of the biggest fallacies about the apology-forgiveness transaction the presumption that the damage is fixed and everything can return to normal. Forgiveness in itself does not really “fix” anything. All it means is the someone has let go of their anger. Some damage cannot be fixed. Compensation, when it’s possible, is at the discretion of the forgiver.

It’s a tiresome but truthful maxim that love is what makes relationships work. Yet no one ever talks about how forgiveness is what makes love work. Every relationship is going to have moments when each side commits some kind of violation against the other. There are only two solutions: Extend forgiveness and move on, or don’t forgive them. Both options may or may not include ending the relationship. Withholding forgiveness but staying in the relationship anyway is a dead end conclusion that assumes living in resentment and mutual disrespect is a legitimate path.

The whole point of my mental hopscotch here is that love cannot exist without forgiveness, and vice-versa. By the way, this concept is a basic tenet of several major world religions, including Christianity. It’s not that difficult to grasp. Apology-forgiveness recognizes that we are all imperfectly human. It recognizes that you can’t be indefinitely angry at someone while at the same time claiming to love them. Forgiveness gives both wrongdoers and the wronged at a path out of their respective dilemmas, even if it’s only a partial path. Forgiveness does not promise a perfect outcome, nor is it an assurance that “everything will be the same,” nor that all damages will be undone.

There are uncountable books and television shows and websites dedicated to the pop psychology of anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise but very few dedicated to forgiveness. Forgiveness is the neglected stepchild of human emotions. A truly wise and loving person kindly gives others a forgiveness credit limit equal to what they expect for themselves. No one wants to be placed in a position to forgive but everyone wants to receive it. Forgiveness exists because it has to.