“People never improve unless they look to some standard or example higher and better than themselves.” (Tyron Edwards – 1809-1894)
There are groups and individuals with which we have contact. Some inspire us, some attempt to control us, others categorize us. How do we find those who will give us fresh perspective, give us affirmation, give us friendship? Are we looking? Recently, I was talking with a group of folks with whom I meet each week. We were discussing why, even when we know better, we cling to opinions and behaviors that do not always bring us positive changes. We remain stubbornly steadfast in holding on to that which we know limits our experiences and our growth.
Not surprisingly, when I inquired of the group why they remained stuck with the same limited choice of alternatives, fear was mentioned as a source of non-action. We know there are other alternatives for us to consider, but we are afraid to choose options with unknown outcomes.
I have always believed the maxim – in the end, good always wins out. Part of the reason for my confidence in this belief is based in my faith and my experience.
The other part of my reason for embracing this saying is, when confronted with having to make a decision, I am comfortable choosing an unknown alternative.
As an example – first semester sophomore year at college. When grades were posted, my reward for the slight attention I had made at being a student during the semester, resulted in an abysmal gpa. It was so bad that I still cannot bear to share it with others. I got what I deserved. Or put another way, I didn’t get anything that I didn’t deserve.
Two or three choices were in front of me. The school’s advice to me was, “go away.” Clearly they did not see any good in my failure. My parents’ choice for me to consider was how the second semester tuition bill would be paid. My choice for moving on consisted of two sub-choices: 1) cave in, crash, and accept the verdict I was indeed a failure, not just as a student but as a person of sacred worth or 2) try something else, find new folks to hang out with, decide to stop being a victim of imaginary bogeymen intent on my destruction.
I chose a better way. I read about that better way in the book of Romans, Chapter Five, Verses 3-5. The apostle Paul said, “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces HOPE (emphasis mine) and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
I didn’t fully understand or believe the last few words of that scripture because I hadn’t yet experienced God’s love. I had, however, experienced my own unacceptable level of suffering. It was on-going and it had to stop. I fixated on the word hope.
“People never improve unless they look to some standard or example higher and better than themselves.”
Hope seemed higher and better than anything or anyone else at that moment. Thus, I chose HOPE. From that moment on, every failure presented me with a source of new hope, every achievement was confirmation of hope’s promise and power.
What this meant was dropping fear of unknown consequences as an acceptable excuse for inaction and unwillingness to change. Instead of dropping out of school or continuing the same kinds of behaviors that led to my failure at school, I chose a new way – the way of hope. It has made all the difference.
For those of you who find little comfort in scripture, let me remind you of the other determinant I mentioned – experience. What has your experience taught you? Has it been your experience that you are lead to consider living by the proposition – in the end good wins out?
And if good doesn’t win out in the end, what end are you hoping for?
Finally, I said that in my younger days, I did not understand or accept the last part of the scripture from Romans because I had not experienced God’s love. I believed God’s love was only for faithful believers. That’s what I had been taught in church.
God, the Creator, the Great Spirit, the One, by whatever name you use to define the source of hope, that being offers every person the same unconditional love. Another saying I believe in (and that guides me) is, “there is nothing you can do to make God love you less and there is nothing you can do to make God love you more.”
I believe this because I have experienced God’s love through the care of others who have come to my rescue countless times. They have brought me back from the brink of succumbing to bad decisions and from times of feeling alone and isolated. Friends, some family members, fraternity brothers, a particular dean or two, mentors, coaches and an occasional stranger have helped me see that fear is not a good excuse to limit my options.
Find an exemplary standard and live into it. Experience the power and promise of hope. Choose life affirming options.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled and don’t let them be afraid.”