40 years of Believing

Joel - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on June 26, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

As I enter my fortieth year of existence outside the womb, I recognize that I have much more living to do and thus much to learn. Here are a few choice things I’ve learned so far:

1) God and people are all that really matter in life ( Luke 10:27 ), and good relationships are intrinsic to true joy. Anyone who says otherwise is undoubtedly selling something.

2) “But I thought…” is one of the most useless expressions in the English language. Learn to accept correction and don’t make excuses.

3) The Joan Schierstedt Axiom of Longwindedness: “The more education a person has, the longer their sentences tend to be.” Judicious use of words is a beautiful thing.

4) Being open minded does not mean being open to everything someone might suggest. A pyromaniac thinks burning your house down is fun. Are you open to that? Shut harmful, foolish ideals out of your life with extreme prejudice.

5) Kids can detect hypocrisy the way a dog smells fear. Be honest with children; sooner or later they will respect you.

6) An answer, when mild, turns away rage. Really.

7) If you’re gonna raise kids, you had better grow a sense of humor too.

8) Some of the best people you meet will never actually be a part of your life. Take the time to learn what you can from the people you meet before time and unforeseen occurrences intervene.

9) Moma Lena said: “Sometimes you may not like the way a person says something to you, but maybe what they said needed to be said.” Learn to listen without prejudice.

10) True treasures cannot be held in ones hand. Gold, silver, diamonds – like us, they are primarily made of dust and eventually return to the dust. So too with golden parachutes, diamond lives, and silver spoons.

11) Unless it existed long before me, it probably won’t exist long after me, and therefore there’s no sense in getting excited about it or wrapped up in it.

12) The difference between a Promise and Dedication is that Dedication is forever, but a promise ends when you come through, or when you break it. So only be dedicated to the things that are worth it, and make promises sparingly.

13) There really is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving. Really.

14) Even the worst guest has his good point: the point when he leaves.

15) Moma said: “The only thing worse than making a mistake is making a mistake and not learning from it.”

16) Secular education is worthless when home training is absent. I have met people who understand (really) Einstein’s E=mc^2, but don’t wash their hands or flush when leaving the men’s room and never ever say ‘excuse me’, ‘thank you’, or ‘I was wrong’.

17) It’s better to be judged by 12 than injured by one. Defend yourself and your loved ones when you have to, but don’t go looking for fights. Turning the other cheek never was meant to get you killed.

18) My sister said: “Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.” Believe it or not, this tidbit comes in handy more often than you might think… Really.

19) Being unprepared can be humiliating; but since you can’t be prepared for everything, be prepared to be humbled often.

20) Uncertainty in life is no excuse for ambivalence in your way of life.

21) Kipling was right: Triumph and Disaster are indeed the same. They are events we all encounter as we move along our personal time line. If we can ‘keep our heads’ and treat these pretenders the same, we can carry on as men.

20) We are all two steps away from doing something we’ll regret: The first step is to think it, the second step is to do it. Thought control is the crucible of good conduct and a clean conscience, public or private.

21) A bonzai tree produces fruit but it doesn’t get very tall. In like manner, many people I respect will never be prominent but their acts of devotion produce much that is of long-lasting benefit.

22) A mother’s love is so strong that even from the grave she can keep me feeling good about myself. You don’t like me? So what. Moma did, and she knew me when I was bald and pooped on myself.

23) Stephen Carter was right (regarding non-clinical depression): “Depression is seductive: it offends and teases, frightens you and draws you in, tempting you with its promise of sweet oblivion, then overwhelming you with a nearly sexual power, squirming past your defenses, dissolving your will, invading the tired spirit so utterly that it becomes difficult to recall that you ever lived without it. . . or to imagine that you might live that way again. With all the guile of Satan himself, depression persuades you that its invasion was all your own idea, that you wanted it all along. It fogs the part of the brain that reasons, that knows right and wrong. It captures you with its warm, guilty, hateful pleasures, and, worst of all, it becomes familiar. All at once, you find yourself in thrall to the very thing that most terrifies you. Your work slides, your friendships slide, your marriage slides, but you scarcely notice: to be depressed is to be half in love with disaster.” I have found that depression and spiritual sickness are often opposite sides of the same coin, and so the thought above applies to those who linger on the edge of spiritual weakness.

24) Sometimes you just have to be cold. You can wrap up, drink tea, eat soup, turn up the thermostat. But at the end of it all, the wind and rain penetrate and find the nerves closest to the skin, and you will be cold. So accept it, and embrace it, and fix your mind to understand that it is permanent, that the cold will come again and again, every year, the same time of year, and there’s nothing you can do about it except to be cold and learn to like it.

25) Tom Clancy was right: “If you decide to kick a tiger in his [tail], you’d better have a plan for dealing with his teeth.”

26) All words in the English language have their place. Even the ‘bad’ words. But if you curse when you’re happy and curse when you’re telling jokes, what’s left to do when you’re angry? Worse still, if cursing is equated with limited vocabulary and education, then the silent man looks smarter every time. So don’t curse unless you have to, and really, when will you ever have to?

27) If you don’t piss off at least one person a day, you probably aren’t doing your job very well. I was taught this by a minister at 28, and those were his words exactly.

28) Nobody, and I mean nobody, really wants to read a list of 40 random things. I learned this when I was 27, and yet here I am writing these words of wise-dum, and here you are reading them and probably grinning and even agreeing at certain points or developing your rebuttal(s), which I will summarily ignore. So it goes.