This past Thanksgiving was “Black Thanksgiving” for me. I had already written my Thanksgiving article for this year and so did not mention it. I’ll share more details about it next Thanksgiving. I mentioned in an earlier blog that “There are Three Kinds of Lies” was by far my most popular article for the first year anniversary of my blog (Nov. 2011) but by the end of the calendar year, my first ever post, “Real Thanksgiving, Better Love” was the most popular post of 2011. I am running about 500 to 600 views a month, most from the USA and Spain, but a lot from England, Australia, and other places all over the world. I have been encouraged by feedback from family and friends, but also from varied others, such as a Memphis electronics store salesman, a Chili’s manager, and a British government official.
I have talked about the importance of always taking two steps forward after slipping up and taking a step backwards (OR after falling and finding yourself one step backwards). I also talked about the fact that while taking action and the application of principles is important, deciding to make changes is the key. We all have the same impediments to making positive differences or changes. Moving from a rut or from mediocre to Good and Better in many different areas of our lives, including love, is difficult.
The root problem is that the heart is deceitful above all else. If we follow our heart and base our decisions on feelings and emotions only, we make being happy or feeling good right now a priority. That sometimes leads to short term happiness, but often is just an escape and usually leads to long term regrets. I believe that the deceitful heart in turn leads to two critical impediments to long term success and happiness, two things that cause us to pick paths that lead us to actions we regret but can never take back.
The first critical impediment to long term success is selfishness. I have commented that in the words of my friend Ron Driver (and many others), selfishness is the root of the chains of addiction. A man (I) demonstrates his priorities and what is really important to him by what he spends his time and his money on (it is intentional that time is listed first). I even shared that at least in my life, selfishness is the root of all evil – it’s not the love of money or anything else. Family turmoil last year and a comment by another friend, Tom, convinced me that in addition to time and money, there is a third item I have to be careful not to be selfish with: feelings and emotions. It is too easy to let external issues and conflict drive a wedge between me and my wife that shuts down communication. The only proper solution is to openly share and discuss not only the issues and conflicts, but our reactions and feelings about them as well. We must examine ourselves, not just prior to communion as instructed by the Bible, but frequently and in all areas of our lives.
The second critical impediment to long term success is denial. In There Are Three Kinds of Lies I took the liberty of improvising on a popular Mark Twain quote. The third kind of lie in my version is the damned denial and self deception rather than damned lies and statistics. If someone comments that you have a problem, especially if that someone is close – like a spouse – then you probably have a problem. It doesn’t matter how well the deceit in your heart allows you to lie to yourself, it doesn’t matter all the evidence and proof to the contrary you can amass, you have a problem. Until you arrive at the point that you admit you have a problem, no advice, principles, or truth will penetrate the denial and deception. This in turn makes it impossible to take action, to make application, and most importantly, to make change.
Be careful with “change” though. Often, as part of our self denial and deception, we think that the solution to being uncomfortable or unhappy is to change what we view as the source of the unhappiness. If our boss does not seem to understand or appreciate us, or does not have what I said were the characteristics of a Great Boss, then the obvious solution seems to be that I change bosses. I could change jobs to be under a different boss, or I could undermine the boss in hopes that he would be replaced. If we have issues with our spouse, if we seem to have become involved in different interests, don’t feel as romantic as we used to, then maybe its time to look for An Other or The Other.
We have to discern needed changes, then decide and determine to make them. I must strive to limit my selfishness and fight my self deception. I recently saw a phrase for the first time that memorably states this, one which resonated with me since I have been to Egypt and cruised the Nile: Denial is not a river in Egypt. It runs through the heart of all of us.