“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” ~Serenity Prayer
Originally posted on Facebook–September, 2009
I fall victim to this enticing word more often than I ever should. “IF” is a thinking person’s word. “IF” is a hopeful person’s word. A dreamer’s word. A hopeless romantic’s word. “IF,” while not always, is also an excuse. Let me explain…
Have you ever said or heard someone else say things along the lines of, “If only I had a good job, my life would be better,” or “if only she (or he) loved me as I love them, I would be happy and content,” or “if only I had more time, I would be in better shape” or “if only I lived closer to my family, would things be better between them and I…”
…these are—for the most part— excuses. I have come to realize that I have reached a place in my life where IF has become a justification for any disappointment or failure I have endured. “IF” is an overflowing cup of frustration in my life. It’s time to empty that cup, and fill it with something much more satisfying than frustration.
There are some sayings—statements if you will—that lately, have been lodged in my mind; entering my thoughts regularly. One is what seems to be everyone’s favorite saying at work: “It is what it is.” Or, if you’re Dennis Green, “They were who we thought they were.” Why is it what it is? Why were they who he thought they were? The simple response here is that “it is what it is” because that IS what HAPPENS. The reason why “they were who he thought they were,” is because they DID what he thought they were going to DO. Expectations were met with ACTION.
Similarly, the other statement that comes to mind is when Moses asks God to identify Himself. God answers, “I AM WHO AM.” I see this as simply God telling Moses, “My actions speak for themselves. Seriously, who else is going to speak from a burning bush?”
God is perfect; therefore, His ACTIONS are perfect and consistent with any circumstance. “IF” is not an action word. “IF” is a conditional word that requires ACTION to achieve RESULTS. Yes, it is true that God has given us “IF” statements, but that is so he can justly—in His Perfect Way—providing us with a love that is undeserved. He asks us to meet “IF” with ACTION.
Maybe it is the devil—the great deceiver—that tempts us to over-emphasize the word “if,” drawing us to seek shelter in its comfortable conditions and prohibitions. Think of how many times a day you use it? How many times are you using “IF” to paralyze ACTION rather than initiate it? I am still going to use it when communicating to others after writing this note; possibly even in it…if necessary:P
Therefore, I have made a conscientious effort to be more cognizant of how I use IF when speaking. In those situations, where IF is working as a subtle—and sometimes not so subtle—excuse, I plan on DOING something to remove that conditional “IF” from my life. Want a truthful statement starting with “IF?” How about this: “If I make excuses for things where I do have some level of control to change them, and I do not ACT to change them, then it is not truly important to me.” I may say it is, but really, how can it be?
For instance, a popular excuse for me is the past. At one time or another I know I have said, “If I had played high school soccer on a winning team, I would have been more heavily recruited,” or “If this was ten years ago, I would be running a 4:41 mile.” Would it not be better to say, “if I focused on the opportunities available to me in the present, how much more could I achieve?…”
…and then actually DO IT?
For those friends of mine that have known me for a while since I’ve been here in Georgia, how many times have you heard me comment about me wanting to get back into the physical condition I had been when I was a teenager and in my early twenties? How successful have I been? Not very, right? Who or what do I have to blame for it? Is it your fault? Is it my age? Is it my work? No. The reason I have not been successful at meeting this goal is that I haven’t DONE what is necessary to reach it.
Did I improve my diet? For short spells. Did I consistently run or lift? Maybe one or the other, but never both, and never both with a proper diet. Regularly, I would settle, as I considered it too regimented to do otherwise. If only I was serious about it…
…Since returning from a work trip to CT, I have tried to implement what I call my “no excuses” policy. If something is important enough for me to regularly speak about with others, it warrants me doing whatever I can to eliminate the “IF” quota of excuses. I have given up soda, and have disciplined myself to run either 20 minutes on an elliptical after a workout, or run a 1.5 mile hill course at minimum, daily. Additionally, I have become more discerning as to what I eat, and how much of it I eat. And guess what? I am seeing results…who would have thought? 😛 This is just one area of my life, and there are many others I need to improve upon. What about you?
Now, I must clarify something here. While I would not want to temper anyone’s “can do” attitude, it is necessary to provide a caution to those who strongly agree with the point I am making in this note. It is possible to eliminate all of the “soft” justifications for why something hasn’t been accomplished in one’s life, yet, not achieve the desired result.
This is not a perfect world. Acting to near perfection does not guaranteed near perfect results. We can only control what we can control. We should try to control nothing more, nothing less. Individuality…personalities…free will…these are reasons why there isn’t such balance.
As mentioned earlier, I believe in an almighty, omnipotent, and loving God. This is a God that could have created us all as robots, required us to love Him, and given us no choice in the matter. Yet, He desires for us to make decisions, giving us the freedom to act on our own volition…even when the decisions we make are not the best ones. When that happens, we live with the consequences. The unfortunate part, is that we also, at times, need to live with the outcomes of other peoples’ poor decisions too!
People live interdependently. Read up on chaos theory or watch “The Butterfly Effect” sometime. We have little control over many of the things we most value in our lives, especially relationships. Healthy relationships require two people to make—for the most part—good decisions as it relates to the other person in it. There needs to be loyalty, forgiveness, patience, and Godly love, to make up for all the poor decisions…because, let’s face it…there are going to be “my bads” aplenty in any relationship. And poor decisions sometimes require people to make decisions that are the best in that particular circumstance, but definitely not desired. Sometimes good decisions force others to make undesired decisions as well. In many ways, we just don’t know until we act….
So with all that being said, I conclude with this encouragement. Do the best you can at controlling the things you can control, as they are few. Accept the things that are outside your control, though they are many. Know the difference between the two, to maintain your sanity. Most importantly, trust God in everything.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28