I have ministered in black churches, and attended a church that was predominantly black, and I have a black son-in-law. We have black faculty and students in our university. I have never experienced a problem in any of these relationships, so it has been hard for me to understand the level of intensity we see sweeping our nation.
How do you value your time? Most people are keenly aware of their pay scale while they work at a job, whether it is in an hourly wage or some other means of compensation. Yet if someone has a hobby such as woodworking, they tend to describe their projects in terms of cost of materials and say that it doesn’t include the value of their time. So if they are doing something they love it isn’t enough of a burden for them to make the value of their time a part of the equation. Doesn’t everyone have the same number of hours in a day and the same basic needs to fulfill?
Do you have a comfort zone? Is it big enough for your life or would your life be better if your comfort zone was larger? How can you enlarge it? Do you avoid anything that makes you uncomfortable? That is an understandable reaction, but it works against your growth and enlargement. If you never push yourself to try something you are uncomfortable with you will never enlarge your comfort zone to be big enough for your life. Can you see that if being comfortable all the time is your top value it leads to a diminished life?
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Do you resent it when you see the advantages that other people have? Do you think that they resent yours? Are you aware of the ways in which you are privileged? It is easier to see advantages when they belong to other people, and to think of your own as normal. Another way to express this is taking them for granted. But your advantages are gifts from me. Does this put you in a position to be ungrateful for your blessings? Ask me to open your eyes and reveal them to you. Blessed are those who know that they have obtained my favor, for they shall live lives of gratitude.
Do you push back against everything you consider to be false, or do you pick your battles? There is an understandable impulse to respond to every false expression, but you may encounter too many to refute. Consider the example of my own life. I faced false accusations that I challenged, such as the time that I was accused of being demon possessed. But when I was on trial for my life I remained silent in the face of false witnesses. Statements by those who are wrong do not compel you to answer. You can choose a receptive time to speak the truth, and be proactive rather than reactive.
Are you familiar with the passage of scripture that is normally read at the time of communion, so let a man examine himself, lest he partake in an unworthy manner? Have you ever abstained from communion on this basis? This was not my intent. The call to examine yourself is not an occasion for judgment and condemnation, but of review and reckoning. Note that the passage does not call you to abstain, but to examine. If you find issues to resolve do so on the spot. It is beneficial if this process brings you to an awareness of the magnitude of my grace in your life.
Do you hear the term ‘narcissism’ more frequently these days? Do you think this problem is becoming more prevalent, or is the term just coming into more widespread use? Selfishness as a part of the human condition is nothing new, but the public manifestation of it can increase or decline. If you know that narcissism is bad, then what is the opposite quality you should strive for? The human condition also includes a longing for self-transcendence. Don’t you identify with a desire to move beyond your own self-interest? Can you get there on your own?
Do you know that you have a unique identity? Do you know that you also have a unique destiny that only you can fulfill? You should look at being yourself as a full time job. Yet how many people do you know who are trying to be someone other than who they are? You could call this hero worship, or emulation, or adoration, or attachment, or being a fan. That the concept goes by so many names shows how prevalent it is. But you cannot live someone else’s life, and if you attempt to do so you cannot live your own. Do not reject the gift that I have given to you alone.
Do you understand that you bear the responsibility for what you say? Blessed are those who speak in such a way that they are prepared to stand by what they say. Do you apply a lower standard to words of others that you repeat? Does it make it easier to speak ill-considered or imprudent words if you can attribute them to someone else? Yet if they come out of your mouth you have made them your own. Have you heard of statements referred to as not worth repeating? There is a valid basis for this sentiment. But there also are words that are worth repeating.