Category Archives: Commentary

Reputation And Character

“Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.” ~ Thomas Paine …

Most of us grew up thinking that our reputation meant everything in life. In grade school, we felt the need to conform and to fit in. In high school, it became a popularity contest for some of us. And perhaps much of this is due to the messages society throws at us about placing a huge importance on what others think of us. Unfortunately, for many who spent a lot of time developing a wonderful reputation, they often found that it does not follow them in life.

It can be easy to get caught up trying to build up a reputation and impress others in your life… and that is ok. Time and time again I have found myself doing so–when I went off to college, when I moved to a new city, every time I start a new job, when I join a new club. The problem is when my reputation becomes my primary concern, and does not mirror my true character within. Perhaps I start saying or doing things so that others will think more highly of me. I often run into this type of individual in hockey, the type who likes to be crude when others are around to get a laugh, but when left one-on-one with me, is very careful what they say and do. At that point they have a conflict of character–who they are, and how other people see them, does not align.

Having character means doing what is right no matter what. It requires us to make morally healthy decisions even when it is not easy… and that takes strength of will. It means deciding what is right and then acting accordingly. It means deciding what is wrong–like stealing, excluding others, gossiping, treating others badly–and then not only avoiding those things in your life, but also standing up against them whenever and wherever you encounter them. And as time goes on, these decisions grow easier to make as our character strengthens and we start to realize that it is much more important to truly be a man of character in God’s eyes, than to simply appear like one in the eyes of man.

As you interact with those around you today… let your true self show.

Questions to consider:

What do you feel are some of the greatest differences between character and reputation?

Why is it often easier to develop a reputation than it is to develop character?

How do you feel about individuals who are chiefly concerned about their reputations? How deep is your trust for them?

For further thought:

“People of character do the right thing even if no one else does, not because they think it will change the world but because they refuse to be changed by the world.” ~ Micael Josephson

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Spread Happiness

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” ~ Gautama Buddha …

Sometimes we find ourselves thinking that sharing somehow takes away from the total reserves we have available to us–that in our giving some of what we have away, we simply have less left over for ourselves. But that is never the case when it comes to happiness–an intangible gift of the heart that cannot be lessened even in our giving. Just as the flame of a candle is passed on to another candle, when we share of our happiness, our talents, our abilities, our love, our compassion, and on and on, we retain our own supply whilst passing it on.

We all need each other to share happiness with us at different chapters in our lives–chapters in which we experience suffering, loss, and grief, chapters in which we find ourselves lost and alone, chapters in which we feel overwhelmed with unhappiness and pain. And that is the amazing thing about it: when our brothers and sisters candles go out, and they feel lost and alone in the dark, we can be there to light their fire once again. And it will not decrease our own happiness one bit. In fact, it will actually add to it, as we will now find we have added positively to the life of others and the world around us.

This quote brings to mind the song “Candle on the Water,” sung by Helen Reddy in the Disney movie Pete’s Dragon. There is a stanza in it that goes, “I’ll be your candle on the water. This flame inside of me will grow. Keep holding on you’ll make it; here’s my hand so take it. Look for me reaching out to show.” We each can be a candle for those in need. And we need never feel insignificant, for even the smallest of flames can light countless candles.

Spread happiness to those you meet today.

Questions to consider:

How can we be sure that our own happiness will not decrease if we share it with others?

What are some ways you can share happiness?

What does sharing happiness mean to you? How important is it in your life, and in the lives of those around you?

For further thought:

“Happiness is like a kiss. You must share it to enjoy it.” ~ Bernard Melzer

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Live Optimally

“It is not death that we should fear, but we should fear never beginning to live.” ~ Marcus Aurelius …

The tragedy of life is not our passing from it; rather, it is our inability to live life fully whilst we are alive and able to. I have often found it a bit odd that most of us find death so tragic, while right here in the midst of life, there are individuals who are walking around in pain–physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual–yet so few of us react similarly to this pain of living. In truth, nearly all religions teach that when someone dies, they move on to something better–heaven, union with God, a beautiful spiritual afterlife. So why do we feel that it is so tragic that someone–who has perhaps lived their lives to the fullest–passes on, while inside of ourselves we let beautiful things die all the time?

Some people never take the time to find their true, authentic self, and let that person shine forth. Many others build up walls against the world, and never allow their compassion and love to touch the hearts of others, or for others to reach out to them. There are individuals who have become fearful and judgmental, or who have let their childlike sense of wonder fade away. Still others have hidden away their talents and abilities because they do not have the time, or because they have other work and obligations to do that have a higher importance.

Deep down within our hearts, I believe none of us wants to reach the day of our death and realize that we have never really began to live. Yet so many of us do this very thing… and it often times takes some life-changing event to awaken us to all that we have laid before us. The good thing is that most of us can begin to live at any given time. With a simple choice, we can utilize our talents and our abilities, we can become an active participant in our life and the lives of those around us, and we can focus on all of the potential that lies before us each and every day we are alive.

Find or reignite your fire in life today.

Questions to consider:

What parts of your life have been lukewarm?

How can you reinvigorate those parts? What are some of the benefits of doing so?

Why do we often lose sight of the value and purpose in life? Is money, power, stability, or fame what you truly seek?

For further thought:

“The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.” ~ Benjamin E. Mays

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Find Happiness In What You Have

“Happiness isn’t about getting what you want all the time. It’s about loving what you have and being grateful for what you want.” ~ Zig Ziglar …

People tend to choose to see happiness as something we must chase after and capture, as if it is something to be won or obtained. This view, however, only serves to disenfranchise us of the power to experience the happiness we already possess. True happiness can only be found in sincere gratitude for the things we have and the things we want.

We often feel that we know what is best for us, even though we are shown time and time again that this is simply not true. In my life, this is most evident when I come before God asking for things to be my way. Most of the time, what I ask for is not what I get; though usually what I get, is exactly what I need at that point in my life. And although it may not have made perfect sense at the time, in retrospect, it was necessary for my growth, understanding, and acceptance.

When it really comes down to it, our unhappiness and dissatisfaction in life is not born from what we have or have not–it is born from how we see the things we have or have not. When we fail to see what we already have as enough, or carelessly place our focus on what we lack, we create our own unhappiness. On the other hand, when we see our life–and everything in it–as an irreplaceable gift and a blessing, we cannot help but know true happiness firsthand.

Jesus of Nazareth put it best when he said, “not my will, but yours be done.” Looking at life with a similar attitude enables us to practice acceptance for the way things are in life, and show gratitude in spite of our wants and desires. This inevitably leads us to happiness, for we have left no foundation for unhappiness and dissatisfaction to take root.

Find happiness purely in the things you already have today.

Questions to consider:

Do you love your current possessions? Do they meet most of your true needs?

Where does our dissatisfaction with the things we have in life come from?

How often do you closely consider the things you have with an appreciation for the value it adds to your life?

For further thought:

“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers. Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs. That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” ~ Pat Alger, Larry Bastain, Garth Brooks

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What If “Nothing Happens”?

“I believe that many who find that “nothing happens” when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.” ~ C.S. Lewis, On the Incarnation …

We often feel that practicing our faith should yield discernible results; that sitting down in reflection, reading a good book of devotion, or time spent in prayer will touch our hearts and minds. But what if “nothing happens?” What if we do not feel moved? Perhaps, it is then time to roll up our sleeves a bit, and get ourselves dirty in theological studies.

I tend to like to feel that my faith is something I can simply pick-up and carry with me whenever I like. However, C.S. Lewis is right; faith requires a steadfast devotion to studying it, understanding it, and living it throughout our lives. Just as saying that I have compassion for others is not the same thing as going out and caring for those in need and truly feeling that compassion, I must become an active participant in my faith if I wish to find my “heart sing.”

Time spent studying great religious works, in prayer or devotion, or performing any act that challenges our faith… adds tinder to the fireplace of our soul. Set aside some time each week to further your faith through studies and devotions. And do not be satisfied with simply reading the words–break out a “pipe and pencil” and work your way through it, asking yourself questions and spending time in deep thought and reflection. The effort you put forth will open up your heart. You will find yourself feeling happier and more fulfilled, for you will possess a deeper understanding of your faith, and answers to the questions you seek.

Spend at least 15 minutes reflecting on devotional texts today.

Questions to consider:

How easy is it for you to study topics you really enjoy? What have you gained from those studies?

Why do we tend to look at spending time in study of our faith as drudgery rather than opportunity?

How can “working our way through theology” offer us a more personal perspective?

For further thought:

“Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.” ~ Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor

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Empower For Positive Change

“One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” ~ Malala Yousafzai …

Malala Yousafzai was a young Pakistani schoolgirl who stood up to the Taliban and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. As a result, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, yet she survived. Her story of standing up to fear and evil has changed the lives of millions throughout the world. She knows firsthand the power and responsibility we all possess to change the world for the better.

Part of Malala’s message is that we can make a difference; and making a difference does not mean we have to write a book or put our life on the line, it can come simply from making positive changes in our own lives that have a ripple effect on the world around us. Feeling compassion for those in pain and suffering, showing genuine concern for the needs of others, sharing joy, happiness, and cheer with those you meet–all of these things can have a profound positive effect in the world.

Malala additionally hints towards our responsibility as teachers to those who share this world with us. Especially as parents, we have a duty to teach and empower our children to be godly stewards of this Earth. That includes standing up for what they know to be right and good, accepting personal responsibility for their lives and their actions, always being true to themselves, and walking tall in confidence with an unshaken faith.

Fear is strong… but the power of heart is always stronger.

Empower a child by reinforcing their potential to make a positive impact in their life or community.

Questions to consider:

Think of some of the role models in your life that have inspired you. How have they lived the ideals of responsibility and duty?

Have you taught others of their power and potential to change the world? In what ways could you do so?

Are the majority of your decisions made out of love or fear?

For further thought:

“We need to teach the next generation of children from Day One that they are responsible for their lives. Humankind’s greatest gift–also its greatest curse–is that we have free choice. We can make our choices built from love or from fear.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

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Remain Focused On Your Inherent Worth

“What is behind your eyes holds more power than what is in front of them.” ~ Gary Zukav …

This is so true indeed! Our value and our worth is beyond measure. Yet many of us tend to place our worth outside of ourselves–on how we perceive ourselves, or even worse, on how others perceive us. But our beauty already lies within us. It is there in our hearts… in the way we treat ourselves and the way we treat others. It is there in our minds… in the wholesome knowledge and understanding we gain. It is there in our words… those that lift others up, those that spread kindness and love. It is there in our actions… in the concern we show to others and the goodness we pour forth into the world.

Society teaches us at a young age to rely on others to tell us that we are valuable and worthwhile. Therefore, we tend to seek out–and believe–the perceptions of those around us, as if it were the only confirmation of our value. Unfortunately, though, we are never taught to tell ourselves this very same thing–that we are valuable and worthwhile–and believe it.

We do not need others to confirm our value–we were worthwhile from the very moment we were created. Recognize this truth within your life. Allow your true self–the one that does not need the approval of others–to shine forth for all to see. Each day, yell out to the world, “This is the authentic me! This is who I am! The beautiful, incredible soul within this body.”

Remain focused on your inherent worth throughout the day.

Questions to consider:

What power do you have behind your eyes? How do you use it?

Why is it often difficult for us to recognize and acknowledge our own value?

Why do we tend to lean on others to validate our worth and value in life?

For further thought:

“The hardest battle you’re ever going to fight is the battle to be just you.” ~ Leo F. Buscaglia

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