This morning I read a tweet that said, “We are not defined by twitter.” I thought about that for a minute…. and found myself disagreeing with the core of what he was trying to say.
The whole story is this…… @daveramsey sometimes like to get into little one-liner matches with people who wish to argue with him. Haha. I think it’s mostly sport for him, but every once and a while there’s an interesting truth or lesson to be drawn from the exchanges. This was one of those times.
It started when @daveramsey tweeted, “If you have thousands of tweets and 7 followers what does that mean?”
A local Nashvillian responded, “Absolutely nothing. We are not defined by twitter.”
At first glance, most people would agree with this statement. We hate the idea of our identity being dictated to us by an outside entity, be it a corporation, social network, government, or anything outside our control. This is understandable. I completely agree with the sentiment that WE decide what defines us.
However, the core of what he’s saying is “What I say on Twitter doesn’t matter. It doesn’t define who I am.”, and I have to emphatically disagree with that………….. but we do agree that defining ourselves is important, right?
So then, the obvious big question is:
How do we go about defining ourselves?
I believe, and I think most people would agree, that it’s by our actions… our behavior.
If I’m kind to people, a hard worker, self-reliant, resourceful, and honest…. I am choosing to define myself by those traits. If I’m cruel, lazy, a mooch, unimaginative, and dishonest, I am choosing to define myself by THOSE traits. Either way, people will see me in the light of what I have chosen to be.
I’ve heard the phrase “Actions speak louder than words.” a million times, and I can’t help but feel that this catchphrase is unrealistic.
Words ARE actions.
When you speak, you’re communicating ideas to others, and those ideas can either build or destroy, just like actions can. They can be powerful.
Your words are part of the fabric of what you are choosing to be.
So when it comes to twitter, facebook, and other social networks….. I agree that they don’t define you in and of themselves. I agree that no CEO in a suit (or in this case, Adidas flip-flops) can tell you who you are… and no, I don’t think that your number of followers defines you either.
However, the definition of YOU is still up to you. What you say on these social networks is an extension of who you are. Words ARE actions. I’m not saying that you need to treat every tweet like a press release… but I am saying, in all things…. be true to what it is you want to be.
Be true to your definition of you.
If you’re a wonderful person in real life, you will be a wonderful person on Twitter.
If you’re a miserable person in real life, you will be a miserable person on Twitter….
…and you might end up with more enemies than friends, both online and off.
I was fascinated to come across this article today.
James Verona, a 59 year old man in North Carolina, had worked as a delivery man for Coca-Cola for 17 years. That career ended a few years ago, and he was unable to find new employment. Then he began to have medical problems. A growth on his chest, two ruptured discs, and a problem with his foot.
Having run out of money and options, he decided that he will rob a bank, go to jail, and get free medical care in jail.
So he went into a bank, and slipped a note to the teller saying, “This is a bank robbery, Please give me only one dollar.” He then told the teller, “I’ll be waiting in that chair over there for the police to arrive.” They did arrive, and arrested him.
He wishes to serve several years in jail, where his medical needs will be attended to. When he gets out, he will collect social security, and live in a condo in Myrtle Beach.
The police charged him with larceny, not bank robbery, because of the $1 amount, so it appears he will serve very little jail time. Verona has said that if the jail time is not enough to treat his medical problems properly, he will simply repeat his offense.
I’m fascinated by this. I almost don’t know whether to consider him a scammer working the system and draining taxpayer dollars, or a hero who simply found a way to make the most of an unfair system.
What do you think?
Is this more indicative of problems with the health care system or the justice system?
Information has never been more readily available to most of us than it is today. News travels across the globe in seconds, not hours; long lost old high school friends are at our fingertips on social networks; and the answer to nearly any question is just a google away. As more and more aspects of our lives are connected online, some of us find ourselves asking what kind of a future we’re moving into, and what exactly are we leaving behind?
Now, I know what you’re thinking…. PLEASE don’t tell me this is another blog post written by a self-righteous white male twenty-something who is going to preach at me about the evils of technology from his Apple computer and broadband internet connection. I would be thinking the same thing if I were you. That’s not the point I’m interested in making. I’m not going to tell you to throw your iPhone into the lake, or delete your facebook account… so chill out.
I don’t think technology is evil at all…. I think it’s incredible! The truth is, all these amazing developments in the flow of information are overwhelmingly adding more to our culture than they’re taking away from it. Having said that… I do believe there is a very real trade-off we’re making for all this instant gratification.
In centuries past, humanity’s greatest thinkers were all gripped by questions that moved them, and filled their imagination….. questions that started with the words “I wonder……”
Newton wondered what caused things to fall to the ground. Galileo wondered if the Earth was perhaps not the center of the universe. Einstein wondered if light and energy could potentially be two forms of the same thing. They all spent time observing the world around them, and their observations eventually led them to ask questions which they were driven to find answers for. Of course, their pursuits of those answers are why they left such a mark on the world as we know it today.
The key here is that each of them spent a great deal of time……. just……… thinking.
It seems as though the sparks of wonder and curiosity tend to creep into our minds gradually….. They find us in long car rides staring out the window, and late night conversations with sympathetic imagineers. They find us in the lazy Sunday afternoons and long walks with the dog. They find us like the sun beginning to burn off the fog at the lakeshore in the early morning hours. Imagination seems to wait for us to stop moving………. and only springs into being when we’re at rest.
The danger with the information we’re bombarded with each day is that it can cause us to never actually be at rest. We’re constantly checking our email, or watching our twitter feeds to see what our friends are doing. We’re checking up on our spouses’ facebook pages to see who they’re befriending and who’s writing on their walls. We’re scanning news websites for news and opinion pieces disguised as news.
Our lives are filled with soundbytes.
These morsels of information satisfy us for only a moment before we’re left looking for the next thing. Smartphones make everything even more accessible. Now we don’t even need a computer. We bring it all with us. When we leave the house, we’re bringing the totality of human history and knowledge along, so long as we have a solid 3g signal.
Again, I’m not bashing any of this. I think it’s amazing…. I simply want to be aware of the things I’m in danger of giving up in return for these incredible abilities.
So, that little rabbit-trail brings me to the main thing I wanted to share….
I’ve made a small social change recently that’s opened my eyes to some of the effects of having an iPhone on me all the time…..
When I go out to lunch or dinner with Jess, my wife, I’ve started leaving my phone in the car. Since I tend to be glued to that little thing, I decided that this was the only way to give her my undivided attention. Really, didn’t think it would change anything, but I was wrong.
The difference was profound. Once I stopped instinctively reaching for it every 60 seconds, I found that I was far more engaged in conversation. I didn’t just listen and respond…. I watched her mouth form words, and found myself interested in the little movements of her face as she spoke. I wanted to know more than what she thought about things, I wanted to know why she thought them, and how she found herself feeling this way, etc.
I felt as though I had been spending most of our time together swimming on the surface of deep lake, without ever realizing how far down it went. It was amazing.
So, while I’m not planning any kind of crusade against technology, I am determined more than ever to prevent it from robbing my life of real depth and wonder. I want to be ready to set it aside at times, and allow myself to be inaccessible to anyone other than the one in front of me.
I plan to remember to sometimes just sit and be…. and let the sparks of wonder and imagination find their way to me.
Last night disappointed Canucks fans took to the streets of Vancouver following their team’s loss to the Boston Bruins, and the dashing of their Stanley Cup hopes. This video shows some of the mayhem. I’ve always been pretty proud of being born in Vancouver… and this kind of thing is sad to see.
I wanted to conclude here, with another thought, and this one may or may not make you feel better….
The awkward years never entirely end.
Sucks, doesn’t it? But it’s the truth.
Here’s what I mean by it….
The things that we worry about the most during this time, we tend to worry about our entire lives.
Who am I?
What is my purpose?
Am I capable of fulfilling it?
What if I can’t do it?
What if I’m not good enough?
As we grow up and into adulthood, these questions tend to linger in the back of our minds. It’s easy to look at successful people and think that they don’t worry about these kinds of things, but that is a lie. They absolutely do worry about these things. In fact, I sometimes think that success ups the ante on these questions. The more successful someone is, the more others tend to rely on them, and the more crucial it begins to feel that they need to have the the answers to these questions.
The truth is that nobody has it really figured out.
Think about this.
Most children tend to think that their parents know it all, and have all the answers. You can see why they would think that. As children, we had so little life experience that an adult appeared to have infinite experience. As we got older, we began to question our parents’ judgment. We began to assert our own thoughts and opinions. This felt great at first.
Then comes the fateful day where we see our parents make a mistake. A big one. One we don’t think we would have made. It’s a terrifying experience. In our heads, we already know that our parents don’t know everything, and they’re not perfect… but this experience brings that knowledge down to our hearts, and it leaves us feeling incredibly uneasy… because it shows us that our parents struggle with these questions just as much as we do. They STILL do.
They ask themselves questions like…
Am I a good parent?
Am I doing a good job raising my kids?
Would their childhood be better if we had more money? Or less?
Am I spoiling them? Or am I too hard on them?
Would their childhood be better if we lived somewhere else? Or if we moved less?
Are they missing out on anything?
Am I teaching them about God the way I should?
Am I turning into my father/mother?
Look at these questions….. Do you see that they’re just variations of the questions we asked ourselves before?
Who am I?
What is my purpose?
Am I capable of fulfilling it?
What if I can’t do it?
What if I’m not good enough?
The only difference is that now life has superimposed specifics onto the questions. The stakes have been raised, because the questions don’t just involve them anymore… the questions involve their children… You.
So our search for the answers to these questions never really ends.
While that thought seems daunting at first, it’s also liberating…. because it means that everyone on earth continues to struggle with these thoughts to this day. Everyone. Including the cool kids at school, the boss at your job, your teachers, politicians, presidents. Each of them is searching for these answers too. You are not alone.
I tend to think that part of the process of moving on from the awkward years is partially the acceptance of this fact. We know we don’t have it all figured out, and we know that nobody else does either.
As we get older, we continue to learn, and life gets a little less awkward as time passes. Haha. If we stay humble and constantly ready to learn, we get better at dealing with people, better at relationships. We start to figure out things we are good at and interested in, and follow those hints towards a life purpose.
Through all of these steps there will be hard times. There will be new awkward phases that come and go with new challenges and lessons. I’ve heard that the average person changes careers five times in their life. I’d be willing to bet most of those career changes are produced by an awkward year or two.
We all worry about the future. I certainly do. I wonder if (and hope that) the boys and I will do the HN band thing for another year, five years, ten years, or however long - and I wonder what I will do afterwards. I wonder how I will provide for the family and children that I would love to have someday. These thoughts are constantly in the back of my mind.
If I can give any advice for these times - and I’m speaking to myself as much as anyone…. I would share these thoughts….
Stay close to God. He is the paver of the path.
Stay humble. Pride will delay blessings far more than failure will.
Stay kind. Be good to those around you, a blessing, not a burden.
Stay positive. I’m constantly amazed at how far unstoppable joy will take you.
"My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing." - James 1:2-4, Common English Bible
Thanks for bearing with me on this incredibly long rabbit-trail.
I wanted to continue here, with a truth and a picture:
Everyone has awkward years.
I certainly did.
This is me with a few buddies during my awkward years.
I’m the second from the left. Yep. The guy with the glasses, the sideburns, the attempted soul-patch, the greasy hair and the white coral necklace. CORAL. What was I thinking? Giving the camera that sideways stare like I knew it all.
These were some of the most lost years of my life. I was aimless. I felt like I was waiting for life to begin. I was done high school, but real adult life was nowhere to be found. The longer this period of time went on the more self-destructive I got.
For a period of about 3-4 years between finishing high school and joining Hawk Nelson, I didn’t have a whole lot of purpose in my life. Sure, I was part of a church, and I was active there. I had a job and I had friends. Even still, there was always something missing. I needed direction. Goals. Something to put my mind and hands to.
I knew I wanted to do music, so I started a band, and then another band, and then another. I was restless, and never really finished things I started. Nothing seemed to click. I started to doubt myself - my own abilities and gifts. It started to seem as though life made sense for everyone but me. I didn’t seem to fit anywhere.
These years seemed completely pointless at the time. So the question is - were they?
I don’t think so, and here’s why.
I look back at these years all the time. Partially because there were some fun times (I was incredibly reckless), but mostly because these years remind me that God always has a plan. During these awkward years of my life, God was working behind the scenes. He was preparing me, and also preparing the people He planned to bring into my life.
At the time, my wife would have been about 15, probably living out some of her own awkward years down in California. Who knows what would have happened if we had met during that time? God knew that we would be married in the future, but also knew that neither of us was ready. He had a lot of work to accomplish in each of us first, and He was waiting for the timing to be right.
If I had joined Hawk Nelson early on in these awkward years, I never would have been given the chance to grow into leading worship at church and youth events, and I doubt I would have come to feel so deeply about worship music. I have a suspicion that I will return to being a lot more involved in worship music sometime in the future, and I’m sure I’ll draw on those years of my life for inspiration. God had work to do in me before sending me out on the road with Hawk Nelson.
Also, God was teaching me the value of patience. Only a spoiled child gets whatever he wants whenever he wants it. Marriage means more to me because it took me a while to get there. A career is more valuable to me because I floundered for a while before finding it. Those years help me appreciate what I have. I’m grateful for those years.
God uses these awkward years to build you into who he made you to be. It’s so difficult to see at the time, but in retrospect, it’s amazing to see how God is constantly preparing things behind the curtains.
I needed the awkward years. To grow and put down roots.
Think about it this way.
When a tree is first planted, it doesn’t seem to grow much for the first few years. This is because it’s growing below the ground. You can’t see it, but the roots grow out and deep first…. only once the tree has a strong root system can it start to grow its branches and leaves above ground.
So if you feel like that is where you are right now…. and you’re not sure what your purpose is at the moment… this is it. You’re growing below the surface. You might not even be able to sense it yourself…. but it’s happening right now.
God is preparing you for the future he has for you.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11, NIV
In the last couple of days I’ve run into a few people in a certain phase of life I call “the awkward years”. Most people go through this phase at least once in their life… often times when graduating either high school or college.
It’s the phase of life where the main focus of our lives has suddenly come to a conclusion, and we’re left wondering… “What now?!” Sometimes it can take a few years to find a sense of direction, and during those years life can sometimes feel purposeless, and maybe even hopeless.
During these times, there can be so much pressure. We feel as though we need to have it all figured out RIGHT NOW. We feel like the world is big, and we’re so small. Worst of all, we feel as though we’re the only ones struggling. Everyone else seems to have everything so figured out. We start to feel alone, and it feels as though it will always be this way.
I have some thoughts about this phase of life, and I wanted to share them with you. I’ll stagger it into several posts to keep it from getting too lengthy….
I wanted to start here, with this thought:
God doesn’t make mistakes.
We sure do, but God doesn’t. In fact, it seems as though one of his favorite things to do is take a mistake or wrongdoing of ours, and turn it into something glorious.
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." - Genesis 50:20, NIV
Before you were born, God had a plan for your life. Think about that for a second. Before your PARENTS were born, or before THEIR parents were born, you were an idea in God’s mind. He specifically thought about creating you. At the same time that he was putting the stars in the sky, and igniting the sun, he planned on creating you. It’s a spectacular thought.
Now when you think about God having a plan for your life…. it has to be understood that this is not the kind of plan than you and I are used to. We tend to think of a plan as a linear, step-by-step process. I’m going to get up, get ready, go to work, get coffee at lunch, go back to work, get groceries, pick up the dry cleaning, and go to a birthday party, and so on. If you accidentally burned your house down at 10am, none of the post-10am plans would happen. It would all be thrown out the window.
God’s plans aren’t like that.
We are such linear creatures, human beings. We understand life’s little steps, but we rarely get a glimpse of the overall picture. When God makes plans, He sees it all, both the big picture and the minute details. His plans for you are huge and tiny at the same time. They also involve more than you… His plans include everyone you will ever come into contact with, and His plans for each them involve you also. They are infinitely intricate and elegant.
While that’s hard enough to comprehend, it’s even harder for us to grasp this next bit - God’s plans include our free will.
In order to have relationship with someone, you need to release them from your control. God created us for relationship…. with each other, yes, but ultimately with Him. He didn’t want mindless little robots that would do his bidding simply because that’s all their capable of. He wanted relationship with beings that CHOOSE to be in relationship with Him. That means that these beings would be capable of choosing just the opposite. The existence of that choice was necessary in order for the relationship to be real and meaningful.
The incomprehensible elegance of God’s plan for your life is that He’s capable of fulfilling it EVEN THOUGH we each have moments when we choose that second option. Regardless of what we’ve done, the times we’ve walked away from Him, and the moments we’ve chosen to live as though we know better than He does… He loves us…. and His plan is bigger than all that. He loves turning evil into good.
You can never go so far away from Him that this stops being true. God created you for a reason, and life is the very messy business of discovering it. It seems to take a lifetime, but God doesn’t make mistakes. You are not here by accident.
No matter where you are right now, God sees you. He loves you. And He’s always there… ready to take the darkest parts of you, and say… “Watch what I can do.”