Why put off fear for tomorrow when you can tremble today?
These are tough times. There’s no question about it. Hurricanes, terrorists, gas prices, organizational scandals and a host of other things. My heart is broken day after day as I listen to the news, and I’m sure the same is true for you.
So it would be easy to fall prey to fear. It would be easy to blame someone or something for all these problems. And it would be very tempting to just give up.
Well I’m here to say you can’t do that, and you don’t have to do that if you’ll simply apply one or more of my “Tuesday Tips.”
=> STOP PRETENDING.
Unfortunately, too many people “play pretend.” Too many people “pretended” that unethical corporate accounting was okay, but eventually it devastated the savings of millions of people. Too many people “pretended” New Orleans would never flood, when everyone knew that someday it would. Too many people “pretend” that televised sex and violence — aimed at kids — won’t make any difference — when everyone can see that it does.
So the first step in dealing with the tough times is to see reality for what it really is. Stop pretending. If you see cheating at work, stop looking the other way. If you see moral decay in our society, stop saying it’s none of your business. You’ve got to call a spade a spade.
Too many people are like the Bedouin shepherd in his tent. He lit a candle, bit into a date, but found a worm inside. So he put down that date, picked up another one, only to find another worm. Again he put that one aside. When he bit into a third date, he saw yet another worm. So he blew out the candle and ate the dates.
Do you ever do that? Do you ever pretend not to see what you see?
Stop pretending. You may not like what you see in your organization, your job, your marriage, your kids, or your church. But it’s the first step in making things better. And then..
=> REACH OUT FOR HELP
There’s the old story about the guy standing on the roof of his house in a terrible flood. As the water rises, he prays to God for deliverance. A rescue worker swims to the house and offers to help him get to dry land. The man refuses, saying he is waiting for God’s help. Next, a boat comes by and offers him a ride, but the man remains on the roof, awaiting a sign from God.
Finally a helicopter swoops down and lowers a line as the water reaches the roof of the house. Still the man refuses the help and is soon swept away by the flood. As he is being engulfed, he cries out to God, “My God, why did you forsake me?” A voice comes back saying, “I sent a rescue worker, a boat, and a helicopter. What more did you expect me to do?”
Sometimes the help you need is close at hand, perhaps in the form of a sympathetic friend, an unread book, or an employee assistance program at work. God works alone in our souls but also through the intercession of other people.
When we’re in pain, our instinct is to close in on ourselves, to protect ourselves. Sometimes we have to fight that instinct long enough to find a connection with someone who can help us move through our troubles.
=> HOLD ON TO HOPE.
Not all trouble can be eliminated; not all needs can be met; not all pain can be ended — at least not as quickly as we might wish. A troubled marriage, whether our own or a loved one’s, may be a source of pain for a long time. The death of a loved one may hurt for a very long time. Some cancers can’t be healed. Some hurts don’t heal easily.
When you can’t change a bad situation, you can change your attitude toward it. You can hold on to hope. That’s what the women under apartheid in South Africa did. When asked about the people who oppressed them, they would say: “They have taken everything else from us; our land, our homes, our future. Why should we also let them take our heart? We refuse to hate them the way they have hated us. We refuse.”
Some people, actually lots of people, have a hard time holding on to hope. They waste their time on worry instead. If that describes you or someone you know, I recommend my CD on “Eliminating Worry.” It gives you 12 specific things you can do to get rid of worry and get on with your life and your job.
As author Harold Stephens says, “There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.”
My CD on “Eliminating Worry” will help you solve the problem. Get yourself a copy and practice the techniques. It may be the cheapest therapy you’ll ever get.
And finally, in the tough times at work, at home, wherever you may be…
=> ACCEPT AND EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS.
In times of great need, it is not unusual to feel abandoned. When tragedy strikes, our reflexive response is to ask, “Why this? Why now? Why me?” These questions have no easy answers. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be asked. It only means that we may never find satisfactory answers.
You may also feel a great deal of anger and grief during times of great trial. There is no easy fix for these feelings, but it does help to feel them fully, to respect them, and give them their time and space.
But the best way to get beyond these feelings is to express them appropriately. Many people do not. They stuff their feelings instead, and go back to “pretending” everything is okay.
One of my “Tuesday Tip” readers, Ed Reese wrote about that. As an Army National Guard serviceman, he encountered plenty of difficulty that almost no one ever spoke about. Ed wrote: “Our biggest problem was the lack of feeling expression. I packed four men home in flip-top boxes and didn’t look for help for years. Most of my comrades never sought to examine their feelings. In one of my National Guard units we lost six men in a tragic accident, and out of 1,100 people, not one sought the available counsel, not even the men who picked up body parts for several days. The failure of most of us to seek counsel even under post-traumatic stress is fearsome.”
The truth is, when you express your feelings appropriately, when you talk to someone who cares and listens, the negative feelings begin to lose their grip over you.
Yes, these are tough times. But you can make it through them. You really can — if you use some of today’s tips.
Action: Take an honest look at yourself. Do you spend more time on worry or concern? Worry keeps you stuck. Concern moves you forward.
If you’re spending too much time on worry, catch yourself the next time you find yourself worrying. And then ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do about this worry?” Then do it. Focus on the action you can take rather than the worry that holds you back.