25 Lessons (Re)Learned in 2017

A redacted list for my year:

  1. Be direct. And do so with kindness. If I want or need something, say so directly. We polite southerners are not good at this. Being  "nice" may in fact be a form of deception. (Though being polite and  indirect may also be a form of charity and kindness.)
  2. Fight. Conflict. Avoidance. Stay in the ring, and be willing to stir up yet more anger if truth-telling requires it. But, if irrationality is prevailing, say very little, and wait until another time.
  3. Focus. Cal Newport, Deep Work. Read it. My reading notes here.
  4. It is remarkable what my sons will tell me. When I intentionally sit with one of my sons, especially over a meal that is just the two of us, or late at night when the house is quiet, and ask them a good question and simply listen, it is on occasion exceptional what they share.
  5. Journal in the third person. It sometimes helps to journal about emotionally fraught matters in third person. It feels stupid; but it provides a helpful objectivity. 
  6. “Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.” — David Augsburger
  7. Broken friendships can be renewed, and become better and more beautiful friendships, because more honest, than they were before. 
  8. Cherish. Our loved ones and friends want to be cherished. 
  9. Make up a good story. Even though I can’t read minds, this does not keep me from making up stories about about what others are thinking, stories out of which I often end up feeling hurt. This is stupid. I might as well make up one that is helpful, enjoyable, or pleasurable.  —Rosamund Stone Zander
  10. Live in trust of enough and plenty, not a fear of scarcity; and then practice grateful, generous stewardship.
  11. “Helping” may be enabling. My help may hurt, thereby enabling others to continue in their character defects. 
  12. Transparency is not required at all times, even with those closest to us. To be transparent is a gift, both to the one being transparent and the one who receives it. But it must always be suffused with prudence.
  13. Envision them in a hospital gown. It helps to see other people’s character defects as their “illness,” to picture them, sometimes, in a hospital gown. This allows me not to take personally some of the things they may say or do in their “illness.”
  14. “Be the board.” Envision my life as a chessboard (rather than seeing myself as one piece on a chessboard), and ask how various things / difficulties / rules / challenges “got on my board.” And then ask how I might re-configure matters to deal with what is now “on my board.” This requires the courageous act of taking immense amounts of responsibility… —Rosamund Stone Zander
  15. Always look for my part, instead of focusing on the faults of others. What character defects of mine contributed to the situation in which I find myself? Now, work on those. 
  16. Integrity may demand compartmentalizing. Charity, too, may demand compartmentalizing aspects of one’s life, because it is unkind to expect one’s friends always to be mindful of one’s burdens. It is also unkind to oneself. So, integrity may demand compartmentalizing: so long as the compartmentalizing does not become an excuse for self-delusion.
  17. Yes, life is hard; but apathy and cynicism are a refusal to accept this fundamental truth, and robs us of the beauty that can arise out of the hardship. — Josh Graves
  18. Regret is an attempt to control the past. And thus foolish. — Chris Gonzalez 
  19. Zero emotional reactivity. When dealing with long-standing matters that may raise emotional drama, refuse to play into the drama. If I exhibit emotions in such circumstances, I am contributing to, and thus partly responsible for, the ongoing drama. 
  20. The need for approval destroys the possibility of happiness. “God gives us freedom to make our own lives within the situation which is the gift of His love to us, and by means of the power His love grants us. But we feel guilty about it. We are quite capable of being happy in the life He has provided for us, in which we can contend and make our own way, helped by His grace. We are ashamed to do so. For we need one thing more than happiness: we need approval. And the need for approval destroys our capacity for happiness.”  — Thomas Merton 
  21. The past can only be healed in the present. Do not dig up past failures of others. Simply address the troubling matter in the present, forthrightly, and clearly state what one might request to happen otherwise. (And see #15.) 
  22. Do not own what’s not my own. A friend told me of his parents’ divorce that occurred when he was young. He cried weekly for a year or more. Then, having grieved it, he let the divorce thenceforth be their issue, their matter to own, and no longer his. He would no longer own it, no longer cry over it. And, he could tell me as a 48 year old, that his parents’ divorce thereby became a major stepping stone in his own maturity as a human being.
  23. A loss of temper is akin to getting drunk. It has a momentary pleasure, a brief indulgent rush, but it leaves one with a nasty hang-over, and self-doubt of exactly what one said or did, or why.
  24. Maturity: among other things, a new lack of self-consciousness—the kind you can only attain when you have become entirely indifferent to yourself through an absolute assent to your fate.     
             He who has placed himself in God’s hand stands free vis-à-vis men: he is entirely as his ease with them, because he has granted them the right to judge.”
                        — Dag Hammarskjöld  
  25. Default to gratitude. Fall to sleep recollecting the day’s gifts, counting them on one’s fingers.

 

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Some pictures from year-end moments...