Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Things I've Learned the Hard Way in 2008 (That Will Hopefully Make Me a Better Person in 2009)

I have learned many things in 2008. I want to share some of those things. Other lessons I will keep to myself for now, but they will influence how I act and treat other people for the rest of my life.

So, in no particular order:

1. Always tell the truth. Sometimes bluntness and honesty will alienate people, but if you lie (for whatever reason), it will alienate people even further when the truth comes out (and it will come out). NEVER lie to people you love! Lying is a form of manipulation and control, and it is never right to try and control other people.

2. When you have someone’s trust, protect it like it is a precious treasure. Once that trust is lost, it is hard (sometimes impossible) to win it back.

3. The bond between a parent and child cannot be broken, and is induplicable among human relationships. In other words, give your children all the love you can!

4. When people tell you that you are wonderful, talented, etc., don’t believe your “own press.” The moment you do, you have become vulnerable to pride – which always comes before the fall.

5. When people are hurt they will act in unpredictable ways and do things completely out of character. Forgive these actions freely.

6. If you want people to forgive you, you have to offer forgiveness to others first.

7. True love is unconditional. Love freely. If that love is not reciprocated, it will soften your own heart.

8. There is a huge gulf between the virtues that some Christians claim to have, and what they actually practice.

9. In times of crisis, your list of true friends will shrink to just a few. Treasure these people for the rest of your life, and remember who abandoned you.

10. Counselors serve a purpose, but do not put too much trust in them. This also applies to “Christian” counselors. Take their advice, but do not abandon common sense.

11. Human beings have an extraordinarily high tolerance for emotional pain.

12. Indecision is worse than making a bad decision. Don’t vacillate. Choose!

13. Material things have no intrinsic value. Money and fine things are only valuable if you can share them with people you love.

14. Loneliness is as destructive of the human spirit as cancer is to the body.

15. Happiness can be found in small things, and usually comes from within. Do not depend on another person or persons to make you happy.

16. Never make big decisions or serious financial commitments when you are emotionally hyped up or as an act of rebellion.

17. Every family has a pathology. You must figure it out or you WILL repeat it.

18. And finally, to quote a very wise family member, “Charles, you are the dumbest smart guy I’ve ever known!”


Still Hurting said...

This is an excellent list, one that I hope many read and donnot easily dismiss. The only alteration I would suggest is to #7: instead of soft, I would say it hardens or deminishes the heart until there is nothing left.

Mark said...

Did you accidentally turn on comments again?

I appreciate your comments. We need to sit down over a cup-o-joe sometime soon.

Good luck in 2009.

Charles North said...

I turned comments on for this one because I'm interested in some feedback.

Kerrie said...

Number 2. is very true. Forgiveness is possible, necessary possibly for the one that was offended in order to move on. But trust may never be reinstated.

Number 8. may be true because many times those values that are preached/taught/believed are much easier to talk about than put into practice when we are put to the challenge. And instead of freely doing what Jesus did, as humans, we put lots of qualifiers on situations to justify our own shortcomings in acting like Christ.

9. Don't remember those who abandon you in a bad way. Some are not gifted with the ability to endure. Some are put in our life for just a season and do serve a purpose. When you can see and appreciate even the smallest thing that they have done, it releases you from the diappointment in them as being human.

11. ...a high tolerance for pain and a unique ability to receive healing from that pain by the Lord.

Charles North said...

Thanks Kerry. Remembering who abandoned you is important though. Not in terms of revenge or anything sinister like that. People who you thought were close friends and institutions who treat you like trash in times of crisis and need cannot be trusted. This is especially true if you once put a lot of faith in those friends and institutions. The trust issue (number 2) is a two-sided coin - or maybe I should say double-edged sword. Eventually the tables are always turned.

Kerrie said...

It makes me think about Peter denying Jesus in the worst possible time of need (also Judas). I suppose Peter (and Judas) treated Jesus like trash. We know Jesus must understand how it feels to be betrayed by friends.

I wonder if those who betray someone in this day and age, end up also feeling the grief/regret/sorrow that Peter felt later?

I wonder if Jesus needed to "trust" Peter again or if He just forgave him and depended on God to "right" things and deal out His own justice if any justice was warranted?

I wonder if we all took that attitude what miracles in relationships we might not see?

Helen said...

When you have been burned by the same person so many times,its not abandoning them it is just cleaning your own life up and seeing that the person is not good to be in your life,right now. Its called taking time to heal. Trust is hard to earn back when it has been broken so many times.

Charles North said...

That's really good Kerrie. That may be the perfect model for forgiveness and trust among all forms of human relationships.

Helen - I hope I didn't come across as having a self-righteous attitude or pointing the finger at anyone. These lessons I have learned are about myself and selfish things that I have done wrong. Number 1 and 2 were born out of deep remorse about things I have done to hurt others. So I understand. I'm also trying to clean up a lot of hurt in my life, and it's a terrible thing to know that I am responsible for the hurt I am feeling and that others are feeling.

Charles North said...

One more thing. I believe (because I'm starting to experience this) that healing can be found in number 6 and 7.

6. If you want people to forgive you, you have to offer forgiveness to others first.

7. True love is unconditional. Love freely. If that love is not reciprocated, it will soften your own heart.

casey said...

of course new beginings can begin at any time, but there is just something about the new year. a clear and distinguished new start, a feeling of being able to start fresh. last year was difficult for many of us. the word i heard God telling me over and over was focus. simply look at him, put my focus on him. the word he has given me so clearly this year is peace. my storm is still raging, but through faith i have peace. it is the same thing i pray for you and holly, peace. may the peace of God be with you this blessed new year.

Charles North said...

Okay, I've been thinking about something all day. I posted this list of lessons as a way to say to family and friends, "I intend to change, and here are specific ways I need to and intend to change." Change, especially in behavior, has to be very specific. I posted this list as a way for people to hold me accountable. Plus, I really wanted some feedback and outside perspectives from people who know me.

So, I want to revise what I said about remembering those who abandoned me. It seems to me that the need to be forgiven by offering forgiveness outweighs the desire to "remember those who abandoned me." I do realize that time and distance are needed to heal some hurts, and that this doesn't necessarily equal "abandoning" in all cases. If someone is genuinely hurt, then I understand why they would act in defensive ways, and those actions should be forgiven -- and forgotten.

Mark said...


Just a couple of thoughts...

Remembering those who did not abandon you when things went awry is a noble thing. It is always good to know who your core is. Remember that and treasure those people.

Self actualization is a very important step. You may never be able to restore the damage done in the past.

You can live with regrets or "forgetting what is behind... press on..." Or, in the words of Willie Nelson, "Regret is just a memory written on my brow and there's nothing I can do about it now."

Charles North said...

Wow. The Apostle Paul and Willie Nelson making the same theological point!

"Self-Actualization" is the highest level of human awareness. It's at the top of a very high and steep mountain of experience. I'm nowhere near the top of that climb!

Kerrie said...

1. Bluntness and honesty can be done in a loving way.

Those who take such offense at the truth, may not be the best choice in friends over the "long haul".

The wise friend will weigh what is said and take what applies to heart...and more than likely the relationship will not result in division but be strengthened.

David said...

Charles, I appreciate most of this list. I do have the same caveats as everyone else about the remembering those who abandoned you list, but am all for you trying to learn and move forward rather than dwelling on the past.