There are lots of things I love and hate about this country. True, the good outweighs the bad. For example, I can complain about my issues with the government right here without fear of being black-bagged and killed like “V for Vendetta.” Everyone knows America has problems and everybody vouches for their favorite issue: healthcare, foreign policy, republican/democrat/whatever, gun control, gay rights, you name it.
My point here is not to fight for or against any specific issues, but rather to illustrate some habits that affect all issues. These are all simple things I wish we grasped as a country that I think would benefit us as a whole. These will apply to politicians, blue-collars, white-collars, parents, single folks, everyone on every side could benefit from these pointers, so here is my list of things I wish America would grasp.
10. Slow Down
When did business start to equate success? We feel like the more we do, the better people we are. The truth is, we’re only running ourselves ragged. We all need rest in our lives, but we’re too busy being busy! Part of it is out culture: GO, GO, GO! But that’s why this is on the list: if we all learned to slow down and breathe once in a while, we couldn’t HAVE a go, go, go culture!
Imagine a world where no one honks behind you because the light has been green for 0.001 seconds. Imagine a time when hours flew because you were having fun, not because you were in a hurry. Imagine a theme park where there’s no special pass to bump you to the front of the line because nobody demands it.
It can happen. We just need to slow down.
9. Calm Down.
Everyone loves to get hyped up about everything so that nothing has significance anymore. The Swine Flu was going to kill EVERYONE. Brittany Spears was going to stay popular FOREVER. Casey Anthony was the most horrible person who EVER lived.
But the Swine Flu came and went, Brittany went stale, and now we have the Aurora shooting to put Casey Anthony in perspective.
Everything is so hot in the moment that the whole country loses its mind. I wish we could let things simmer a bit, let our emotions drain a little, then think objectively. The things that are truly important will stick around because no matter how fickle Americans are (and we are), some things just cannot be avoided.
Most things, however, are not nearly as big as we make them. We’re a culture of fads.
8. This Country is Not Run by Your Approval
Here’s a funny fact about democracy: it’s majority rule. Not everybody gets their way.
You don’t have to like the president, but you DO have to follow him. You don’t have to like this or that law, but you DO have to obey them or end up in jail. You don’t get to pick and choose what you want to do in this country just because you have the right to vote.
Obviously, there are exceptions to those statements, but for the majority, we blow our rights out of proportion. Just because we have freedoms doesn’t mean we aren’t bound by something. You can’t just steal something because you felt you deserved it. You can’t just not pay your taxed because you don’t feel like it.
You don’t get to pick and choose the rules you follow. No one has that kind of freedom, and I pray nobody ever does.
7. Loving someone does not mean giving them everything
Only a child equates love with getting everything he or she wants. So why do adults act this way?
My grandmother felt my mother was harboring unforgiveness because my mother didn’t want to attend her brother’s church when it had nothing to do with love or hate; God had called her elsewhere. People think if you don’t sign their petition or vote for this right or that right, you’re not showing them love. Basically, some people act like you have no love in your heart even if you disagree.
Love means wanting the best for someone, and that means filling needs first, then wants. If you give a child everything they want, you spoil them and you seriously injure them.
Love can often mean withholding things.
6. Beauty is Relative
This is a culture that glorifies youth and an unattainable measure of perfection. People in the US spent about $10 million in cosmetic surgery last year for all the tummy tucks, face lifts, Botox, implants, and anything else that would make them look young and pretty again. I’m not saying all cosmetic surgery is evil, I’m just saying it shows a nasty trend that our country glorifies youth way too much.
There are two problems here: one, it doesn’t really work. A 50-year-old woman with Botox doesn’t look 20. She looks like a 50-year-old with Botox. My mother started losing weight and working out and she looks fantastic. But she still looks like she’s in her 40’s, which she is!
And that’s the other problem: we assume beauty stops at 30. Beauty is a multi-faceted entity. There are many kinds of beauty: soft beauty, cuteness, nerdy charm, smoking sultry hotness, physical grace, heavy beautiful, pierced-and-tattooed vixen, old-timey pretty, elegance, radiance, the glow of an expectant mother…these are just to name a few and that’s just county PHYSICAL beauty!
The problem is we only scratch the surface and we only glorify that smoking sultry hotness I mentioned. Everyone is beautiful, but not all in the same way. And that’s the true beauty of it: everyone shines in their own light.
5. New Laws Won’t Save You
Whenever anything bad happens, people freak (see number 9). Usually, the mass poppuli has one answer: stronger/better laws. They want new laws so this never happens again. For example, ever since the Aurora shooting, we’ve been hearing about making stronger gun laws, which will stop the madness. Well, again, there are two problems with this mentality.
One, they don’t to just prevent future tragedy, they want to undo the tragedy that already happened. That doesn’t work. New laws won’t bring back the victims of Aurora or Columbine or any such horror. Mourn, grieve, cry, scream, but you must accept what’s happened, and accept that new laws won’t undo it.
Two, the laws you want already exist. It’s already illegal to shoot somebody. It’s illegal to carry a gun into a theater. It’s illegal to carry an automatic weapon. And yet that man in Aurora did all three. How do you make it plainer than that? By making it MORE illegal? How does that work? Law breakers break laws, it’s a horrifying fact. They don’t care about the punishment or they think they won’t face it, so new laws won’t make them any less callous.
4. Stop the Wrongs, Don’t Equalize Them
The only example I can think of for this is the double standard for sex. Even today, we seem to think that if a man has sex with a dozen women, he’s a stud. If a woman has sex with a dozen men, she’s a slut. So, the women got angry and now they push for equality. “If they can do it, we can do it” and this is praised as freedom and equality. While a woman should not be called by any name you wouldn’t call a man, I have one question:
Why did no one try to stop the men who were doing what was we called wrong in the first place?
When you allow wrong for some for too long, you soon have to give it to everyone. When that happens, the things that are wrong are not stopped, they are simply allowed for everybody.
3. Let Kids Face Pain
I’m not talking abuse or neglect, I’m talking about normal life situations. We try too hard to shelter our kids from pain that they never learn how to deal with it and they grow up with a mindset of pain-free entitlement. This is DETRIMENTAL to children because they think that all pain is the result of something horrifically wrong, and not the result of their own foolish choices or the normal effects of life.
When your son gets an F on a test, there’s a 99% chance it was his own fault, not the teacher’s. When your daughter trips on the sidewalk and breaks her arm, it’s not the city’s fault for allowing cracks in the concrete, that’s just life!
Pain promotes growth and endurance. Let your children embrace their mistakes and learn to fix them. Let them understand that life hurts (because it does) and that it’s okay! Pain is not the end of the world, whether emotional, physical, or whatever! And that leads to my number 2…
2. Don’t Run Problems; FIX THEM!
When you go your whole life trying to avoid trouble, you’re running from life itself. You never do anything, never take any risks, and you basically live in a stupendous form of denial. But problems happen, no matter how far you run, no matter how deeply you bury your head in the sand, problems will arise.
So don’t run from them. FIGHT them! Fight the good fight, it’s the only way you’ll ever conquer them!
Is your marriage in shambles? Don’t ignore it, fix it! Are you an addict? Stop medicating the pain and heal it! Are you scared of getting in a car wreck? Don’t hide at home, wear a seat belt!
Do you want to do anything in life? And I do mean anything! If so, then stop running and fight. This country is full of people who want to procrastinate, ignore, or just plain run from the troubles of this world, but they are eventually consumed by them. Don’t run any longer. Fight, fight, and fight some more.
But in that, there is one last caveat…
1. Don’t Fix the Issues, Fix the People
New laws won’t stop another Aurora. Prohibiting alcohol didn’t stop its consumption. More speed limit signs won’t stop the people who blazed past the first three. Why not? Because you can only fix a problem by fixing the people. If you make it so a person respects human life, you won’t need to tell him not to kill. If you get a man to despise alcohol, he will not need you to prohibit it. If you help a woman see the value of a speed limit, she won’t need the signs.
While this applies to everyone, I want to give a special nod to the Christians in my audience, my brothers and sisters. Burning down the clinics won’t stop abortions. Fierce maintenance of marriage laws won’t stop people being gay. If you illegalize premarital sex, do you really think that will stop anybody? No, because you cling to legalism, which saves nobody.
Jesus targeted the people. When he saved the woman caught in adultery, he didn’t speak against adultery, he protected one woman and showed her love that made her follow him instead of whatever man she could find next. When he restored Peter after his betrayal, he never once said “Betrayal is bad.” He merely loved Peter, and that made him loyal enough to supposedly die on a cross, upside-down.
Pastors and teachers, don’t teach to uphold principals, teach to change lives.
Americans, don’t cling to legalism. If you want change, start on the ground level and move the hearts of the people. Only then will anything ever happen.
Whenever I pray for this country, I also thank God for it, that I was born here instead of anywhere else. There are problems here too numerous to count, but there are benefits, too, so I thank God that I have freedoms to disagree, to speak, to vote, and to influence the world around me, and I pray that God protect us, correct us, and empower us to do things beyond the means of humanity.