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Posts Tagged ‘character’

Seriously, think about that for a moment. Actually, I would encourage you to write it down, so that you can really face what it would take to make you happy.

How do you think I would answer that question? Would it be for my cancer to go away? There are at least two problems with that. First of all, it’s not likely to happen. Also, the absence of something (even cancer) does not ensure happiness. So, does this doom me to live whatever time I have remaining without being happy? I don’t believe so. Let me tell you why.

I read a lot during the day, especially when I am weak from chemo and other medications. But it’s at night that I especially enjoy reading. We have an adjustable bed which is very helpful at minimizing both cough and shortness of breath, because it keeps pressure off my lungs.

A couple of weeks ago, I made two relatively small purchases that have already made a significant impact on my life. I spent $69 for a Kindle, and I purchased a floor lamp at Walmart for $35. It uses a fluorescent bulb, and can be directed so that I can read while in bed. So, you’re probably shaking your head in disbelief at the idea that a Kindle and a lamp have made me happy. But you have to understand me. I have always loved to read, and now both the limitations as well as the freedom that have come with my treatment have made that much easier to do. Every night, I go back at 8:30. I raise the head of the bed and read until 10:00 when I normally go to sleep. That time gives me immense pleasure, and I look forward to it. It also helps to relax me, so that when I do go to bed, I tend to be content and in a good mood.

So, what’s the point of my rambling? Just two things. You’re not likely to eliminate all of the stress, hurt, or disappointment from your life any more than I am likely to eliminate cancer from mine. And so you should not waste your time (waste your life actually) waiting for that to happen before you decide to be happy.

It may not be reading for you, but you need to recognize that happiness is not something someone gives you. It doesn’t come from a better marriage, a larger paycheck, a job promotion, or anything external. Happiness is a quality you decide to have. Now you may need a little help. For me it was a Kindle and a lamp. It will probably be something entirely different for you, but I suspect that it will not be whatever you wrote down at the beginning of this exercise.

The reality is that even with all of the trials that go with my treatment, as well as the doubtful outcome, for at least 2-3 hours a day, I can say that I am truly happy. Actually, it’s more than that, because I only mentioned one small thing that gives me pleasure. We didn’t even talk about friends, family, or being able to get out in this beautiful world, even if it’s only for a couple of hours each day. Believe me, I have no illusions that this is permanent. I am all too aware that difficult, probably painful times lie ahead. But for now, cancer and all, I am a happy person, primarily because I choose to be.

Go back to whatever you wrote down that you said would make you happy. I suggest you cross it out and replace it with your equivalent of my Kindle and lamp. Decide what can give you enough pleasure that you will have periods of real happiness in your life. It really is your decision.

 

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In my weaker moments, I like to think that I am an insightful critic, with a keen intellect and powerful discernment skills. Fortunately, something usually happens to wake me up and reason soon prevails. The truth is that virtually everything I believe, even the principles by which I decide what I believe, are second-hand, received from someone else. This post is a good example of that. The idea came from another blog I read. If you want to read the article that inspired me, you can find it here. I highly recommend it.

http://www.alanknox.net/2013/07/so-what-am-i-against/

How often do we read or hear an idea presented and find ourselves reacting against it? It could be a political idea, a religious doctrine, or just a proposal for widening the street. When I was a young adult I remember a Christian leader who published a magazine whose sole purpose was to expose religious error. Admittedly, I usually disagreed with his arguments, but that’s not the point I wish to make. What struck me even then was the intense negativity of virtually every article he wrote. If you read his magazine, you had no doubt as to the myriad of ideas and doctrines he opposed. I could tell you virtually everything he was against. What was not as apparent, were the doctrines and beliefs he was for.

The next time you hear or read something with which you disagree, try resisting the temptation to frame that disagreement in negative terms, even in your own mind. Instead, turn it around. If you disagree with a certain position, is it just because you disagree, or is it perhaps because you are “for” something else, a different vision which you believe is healthier or more beneficial. Why do you react negatively to the point of theology or doctrine that was presented? Is it just a matter of tradition (“that wasn’t what I was raised to believe”)? If so, perhaps we would do well to consider if the alternative might have merit.

Maybe you are genuinely convinced that there is error in a particular belief. It has been my experience that if this is so, we should normally be able to find a good reason for our opposition, more specifically a positive belief, even a vision for a better, more fulfilling alternative. If we cannot frame the issue in a more positive direction, perhaps we should consider if the intensity of our opposition is justified.

It is perhaps human nature that as we get older, we begin thinking about what kind of legacy we will leave when we are gone. I have determined that I do not want to be remembered for what I was against. I would rather stand for positive beliefs and constructive principles. No, I will never convince everyone, but I would rather spend my remaining time on this earth telling people what I am “for” rather than fighting what I am “against.”

“What are you against?” I would much rather ask, “What are you for?”

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I’m not sure just why I’m writing about this or even what to say. My appreciation for history has reminded me that 150 years ago today the battle for Little Round Top took place, on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. I have been watching the DVD of Gettysburg produced by Turner Broadcasting. As with most movies, this one leaves out an important element of the battle for Little Round Top, but in most essentials the portrayal appears to be fairly accurate.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain commanded the 20th Maine at the very edge (or flank) of the Union forces. Despite several intense assaults by Confederate forces, Colonel Chamberlain and his men continued to prevent the Confederates from flanking the Union army.  At approximately 7:00 p.m., with ammunition virtually gone, Chamberlain ordered a bayonet charge down the hill, along with an almost never used textbook maneuver that finally succeeded in forcing the Confederates back, preserving the Union army and perhaps even determining the outcome of the war itself.

Chamberlain was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Little Round Top and ended the war as a major-general. He had suffered a wound which never quite healed, and he died as a result of his old wound in 1914, becoming perhaps the last casualty of the Civil War.

I’m not sure why I felt the desire to share this. I never want to glorify war, and I hope no one reading this thinks that is what I am doing. Actually, some old memories have been reopened which I had just as soon forget. I think I am really trying to talk about how integrity and honor are best seen during times of crisis. Sometimes we hear a person described as a “good, moral person.” I have come to believe those words have no meaning until they have been tested in the crucible of hardship and adversity. Character can only be known when it is displayed even when doing so may cost us greatly. What would you have done on Little Round Top? What would I have done? Perhaps the significance of the answer lies not just with the individual actions you or I might have taken, but with the motivation behind them. Would I have taken the easy way out, and then tried to justify my actions? Or would I have followed my conscience without hesitation, regardless of the consequences?

I guess what I am talking about is an old-fashioned word—integrity. Integrity is like morality. We can never be sure we possess it until we are face-to-face with a situation in which acting with integrity may cost us everything. There are so many areas of life in which integrity is called for. I would suggest each of us ask ourselves whether or not we are men and women of integrity. Is there anything that is important enough for me to be willing to sacrifice my life? Does anything mean that much to me?

Integrity—an old-fashioned word to be sure. But it’s still a word our world could use in almost every avenue of life.

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