Sunday, January 13, 2013

Who are you?

It’s a question that’s not being posed to you as it were coming from me.  As if you came up to me, and I asked, “Who are you?  And what do you want?”  It’s a question you ask the reflection when you look at the mirror each morning.  That’s of course assuming you look at the mirror in the morning.  That’s a pretty safe assumption though, as I’m sure some of you might spend too much time looking in the mirror.  I’m obviously kidding, but it’s a question I feel we’re not asking ourselves enough. 

When I say enough, I really question as to how many times we look at ourselves and ask who we are.  Do we ask that on a weekly basis?  A monthly?  Time goes by so quickly, and it’s so easy for the year to come to a close before we assess what we’ve been doing for those past 12 months.  And frankly, I can understand why we don’t ask that question more often.  It’s not an easy question to answer.  Not easy because it’s so hard to find the basis of the answer.  Do you base your answer on your actions?  Or do you base it on your words?  How about your motives?  Quite often we intend to act on something, but for whatever reason fail to do so, but we sincerely meant to follow through. 

I guess when it all comes down to it, do your actions match the words you say you are?  When someone else asks who we may be, we may very well be quick to give a general positive overview on the person we are, but we can be very honest and say that we’re not totally honest in our response to that individual.  Which is not altogether bad, because who wants to hear the whole dirty laundry list of someone we just met?  But really, do our actions match our words?  And sure, we’re not always going to follow through on what we say we’re going to do, but as a rule, can it be said that the way you describe yourself would be recognizable to those around you who see how you act? 

It’s an age old question.  In the Bible, Paul would lament over the fact that he didn’t do the things he knew he should do, and the things he shouldn’t do, he found himself doing.  Of course, that’s a little different, because that was a man that was trying to live up to a standard, God’s standard, and found himself failing.  Which, when you think about it, was a pretty good answer to our question.  He would look at the reflective surface, and honestly admit that he wasn’t the man he should be. 

This question has been going through my mind a lot lately, and I figure it comes down to two reasons.  The first is that I live in a town and, to various degrees of success, work in an industry where there is a lot of talk.  I have, over the last 5 years, met so many people who have talked of who they know, what they’ve done, what they can do, and at the end of the day, is all hot air.  Their actions were, in some cases, almost the opposite of what they said they stood for and do.  One of the comments I would get a lot from my colleagues was they appreciated the fact that I would give them the straight skinny.  Whether it was good new or bad news, an encouragement or a harsh critique, they respected me for giving it to them between the eyes.  They may not have always liked what I said, but I was just being upfront with them, and they dug that.  As I said before, “honesty:  we may not always see eye to eye, but you’ll always know where I stand.”  So with all the talk that I’ve heard, I wonder how often, if at all, do others look in the mirror and ask themselves this question.

The second reason is to present a challenge; to myself definitely, but also to you, if you’re so inclined as to accept challenges from people whom you barely know.  It hit me pretty hard last night as the temperature dropped pretty low for SoCal.  I hate the cold, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I get cold easily.  Born and raised in SoCal, 65, for me, is on the chilly side.  I was thinking about all the people on the street having to deal with the bitter cold on top of being hungry, and I wondered if I’m doing enough to help them.  Enough, there’s a loaded term.  You ask the rich, greedy man how much is enough, and he’ll answer “more.”  But you know what I mean.  I can say that I care for the homeless, but if I’m not doing much to help them, does it really mean I care for them?  Before you answer what seems to be a simple question, think of this simple analogy.  I care about the Dodgers.  Root for them, excited when they win, bummed when they lose, but I haven’t done one thing in the past, at least, 7 years to help them.  Haven’t attended a game, bought any merchandise, not one dollar to support the team.  Does it mean I don’t care about them?  That’s different, you say, you don’t personally know the Dodgers.  True, but you can also say that about the homeless.  Let’s take a different approach.  How many of us have old friends that we care about deeply, but seldom have contact.  Life is busy, you work, they work, you have family, they have family, and weeks and months go by without a word.  You haven’t done anything at all for them for months, but you still care very much for them.

The challenge is to look at the reflection and ask that simple question, and other questions will flow.  Do your actions support who you say you are?  If not, why?  What are your motives behind your actions, and what are some excuses we make to explain our lack of action.  C.S Lewis had a great quote in “The ScrewTape Letters” (great book, by the way):  “The more often you feel without acting, the harder it will be to act the next time, and in the long run, the harder it will be to feel.”  I think about that when I pass by those holding signs and asking for a bit of help.  The more often I pass them without doing anything, the easier it becomes to act the same the next time.  It’s at those times when I need to hold up that mirror.