Tell Me Somthing Worthy of Praise

What I really, really wish I had known, and what I learned along the way—too late in some respects—was how detrimental certain conversations were. They stole time and emotions and strength that belonged to others, especially my husband and sons.

I felt obliged to listen to complainers, especially when the offenders were older relatives whom I sought to respect and naively thought I could help. Listening made it worse.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

To protect my mental health and emotional energy, I now limit my time with whiners and grumblers. There is a difference between the two. You know.

I have no guilt about ignoring texts, not returning calls, and skimming emails. I am not the thief.

I embrace those whose lives—like mine—are filled with tears and regrets and struggles and stories that need to be heard. They carry the hope of moving beyond their pain. Listening ears, understanding words, and available hands can help these.

Has your listening ear been abused?


My Best, Not Yours

To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. … But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. … “so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, have what is yours.”

Matthew 25:15,18-19, 25 (ESV)

In the Parable of the Talents, the servant claims he hid his talent because he feared his master. That motive always puzzled me. Comparing my talent to another’s would stymie me.

It’s hard to admit my best does not look like another’s best, especially when five-talent people claim they are the standard. However, the master tells the first two servants, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Surely he would have said the same if the servant with one talent had earned one talent.

If God doesn’t give identical talents or expect identical returns, why should I expect my best to equal another’s? Why do others expect my best to equal theirs?

Are comparisons hurting or hindering you?


Round Up the Usual Suspects

Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.

Captain Louis Renault, Casablanca

“Round up the usual suspects” is a great line for a movie, but I think it regularly—perhaps daily if I’m honest.

I couldn’t find the stamps I had ordered weeks earlier. Before rounding up the usual mailmisplacing suspects, who live in my house, I checked tracking. I only checked to provide evidence for the roundup. However, the stamps had been lost in the mail system. USPS was not a usual suspect.

I get tired of being rounded up. Why am I the usual suspect when a key is missing? Especially when missing keys have been found in another’s pocket. More than twice.

What should I do? My friend Beth begins by assuming goodwill toward the usual suspects.

Do you have any usual suspects?


People Who Cause You Pain

I regularly jot down inspiring quotes or phrases, and then, I forget them. When I come across the words later, I am moved again. And I forget again.

However, I never made any attempt to record the quote on a poster in the office of my sons’ guidance counselor. I knew I would remember it, and twenty years later, I do. I regularly repeat these words to others.

People who cause you pain are in more pain than they are causing.


Intellectually, I agreed. I have been aware of the problems facing both loved ones and acquaintances who behaved badly. However, this quote had an amplified meaning recently when I learned of someone’s past despair. My family still experiences the consequences of her detrimental actions.

Her pain during those years was overwhelming. When she apologized decades later, she said her actions were her way of coping. I wish I had known how much she was suffering.

Is anyone causing you pain?


What I Always Needed

I have received “check-off” gifts—i.e. I checked you off my list.

I have received gifts I wanted enough to request.

I have received gifts I would have requested if I had known they existed—and would be bought.

And I have received “What I Always Needed” gifts—the best kind.

I once filled a small box with paper of various types, colors, and sizes. I added child safety scissors and wrapped the package. I presented it to my three-year-old nephew, who opened his present, sighed deeply, and declared, “What I always needed.” 

He cut for hours. My husband and I remembered for years. We still repeat Jamie’s words.

Which were the gifts “I Always Needed?” Those that reached a deep place in my heart.

One was an email from a long-distance, childhood friend. She included details about how much I meant to her, but her ending meant the most. “I always prayed you would be happy.” (See here)

Six were inscriptions in school yearbooks. They were unexpected, nourishing words from teachers and friends. Almost fifty years later, I still reread them.

Some were from you, Readers.

How were your gifts this year?  Any that “You Always Needed?”