Monday, November 08, 2010

Whining & Wilting

Every morning you get to make a decision about how you are going to face your day. You can usually anticipate what your schedule will be, you may know ahead of time most of the people you will encounter. And you may be able to predict that there will be some surprises in store. So you get to choose: will I be whiney today when things don't go the way I want? Or: will I wilt and give up when things end up being harder or more difficult than I want?

We expect circumstances to play out in our favor, and when they don't, we whine. Or wilt, if the consequences are heavy and confusing. We become unprepared for how hard life can be, and then we have no real alternatives to whining and wilting. People around you refuse to change, and you are stuck with a way of life that is draining. Or worse. So what to do?

There's a story of the Apostle Paul in Acts 24, being unjustly accused, and he's thrust before a corrupt governor. Paul's been in prison for two years, the odds are stacked against him that he will get the right sentencing. He's given a chance to speak and defend himself - what will he say?

Consider: what if he had spent the past two years whining and wilting? Would he be ready for this moment to defend himself? It was customary for Roman officials to allow family and friends to provide for prisoners - to bring food, clothes, medicine, books, and any other items the prisoner needed. With two years of this, Paul could have spent his time being ungrateful and complaining, he could have made a big fuss and thrown a fit. Or given up. Wilting would have been normal for a lot of us.

When you read the story, you notice something about Paul: he used his wits. When presented with the opportunity to defend himself, to speak the truth, and put himself in a position where justice would prevail, he used his wits. Paul spent all that time in jail preparing himself for the one moment he was maybe going to get to defend himself. Instead of whining and wilting, he used his wits to do the next right thing.

The challenge to Paul was how to think calmly and clearly in the midst of his demanding situation; to be mentally sharp and inventive with his problem solving. In the time leading up to his time in the court, he thought through the potential scenarios. He thought through what the governor might be like, he thought through what the accusers might be like, he thought through what his options might be - and then when given the chance to speak he used his wits to help make the next right thing happen.

If Paul had spent his time in prison whining and wilting, he wouldn't have been mentally sharp and inventive, he wouldn't have been able to use his wits. The ability to think calmly and clearly in the midst of a demanding situation results from doing your homework instead of whining. Paul had become an astute observer of people - he was able to calmly discern what the quirks and habits and patterns were of people with power, and thus able to be inventive with his responses in the midst of disturbing situations.

Life rises and falls on your ability to successfully deal with people. And this includes yourself. You can whine and wilt at how difficult other people are to deal with, or you can use your wits. You can whine and wilt at how hard it is for you to change and mature and grow up - or you can use your wits. Get to know how other people operate - get to know how you operate - and then use your wits to help the next right thing happen. Whining and wilting are guaranteed ways of undermining your ability to do the next right thing.

Using your wits - thinking calmly and clearly in the midst of a demanding situation - this will help you do the next right thing. This is a skill that must be cultivated, bit by bit, scenario by scenario. Becoming mentally sharp and inventive happens over time - if you put forth the effort. Especially when you hang out with others who are also using their wits. It's usually always hard to do the next right thing, but it's worse when you're all whiny, and impossible when you are wilting. So use your wits instead to do the next right thing.

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