Is It Honest? Is It Wise? Is It Helpful?

The longer I do this “adult” thing, the more I realize how meaningful and affecting words are to others. I’m still quite far from being the type of friend, spouse, father, or leader I’d like to be or hope to become, but there are a few things I have learned over my years of surviving this life.

It’s really hard, if not impossible, to think about what you’re going to say before you say it. I mean, you might have plans to say something, but far too often the dialog in your head doesn’t match reality. But with enough practice and repetition you can build the habit of giving yourself the time to think and give an appropriate response.

Here are three things I always ask myself before I speak:

  1. Is it honest?
  2. Is it wise?
  3. Is it helpful?

Honest: Because if you’re answering from a place of hurt, or anger, or frustration, or fatigue, your words will not be honest. They won’t be founded on the purpose of a having a conversation, they’ll be skewed by our intent to vent, or unload, or win, or inflict pain; and there is no good outcome when your words aren’t honest.

Wise: Because measured, informed, and knowledgable words understand the impact and effect of their utterance. How might what you say be received and perceived? How could change or shape the conversation toward positive outcomes? Flippant words can create more confusion and resolution.

Helpful: Because a conversation isn’t about waiting for your turn to talk. It’s about listening, reacting, and responding — but you knew that. Not having an answer is just as helpful as providing advice or insight. What’s most helpful is dependent what is needed and wanted.

When you take into account all three of these questions before speaking or writing, you might see your conversations completely change. 

The smell scape of hotels fascinates me. I also wonder where they get their scents from because I sort of want it as a cologne. “Odeur De Lobby”. Or “Hotel, For Men”. That idea is free, you’re welcome.

A telephone

We recently bought a phone for our home – so that in the case of an emergency our youngest could call us or 911. And by phone I mean an old school, coil corded, landline dependent dinosaur of communication past. We wanted something very simple. We didn’t need it to be cordless. We didn’t want a charging base or wireless handset or anything remotely digital. Just a cradle, a receiver and handset, and some buttons. Simple. Well, it wasn’t so simple.

We scoured Target and Lowe’s and Amazon looking for what we imagined would be both easy to find and inexpensive. Neither was true. Like records players today, the once voluminous and affordable has now become rare and costly. The more simple and sturdy the phone, the larger the price tag. 

Eventually settled on a black, wall-mounted, push button. One that reminded us of our childhoods. Yet it’s absent the heft and rigidity that I remember – the kind of quality that allowed an angry 13 year old to slam down on the receiver or pull on the cradle or swing the cord without the entire package disintegrating. 

I suppose we’re officially in the “they don’t make it like they used” phase of our aging. I don’t like it.

There can be comfort when you’re in the fog of the unknown. There can also be unease. Without definition we either imagine context and invent boundaries or we wait for clarity. The fog will clear and you might find you’re not where you imagined.

All of our experiences are etched into us, burnished and acquired over time. They are like the stories carried in the varied grains and undulating grooves, deep furrows and harsh gashes that are confessed on wood. They are our character and strength, beautifully our own.

Those aren’t my memories

I find it interesting that Facebook says that I “have memories” to look back on. It would be more accurate to say that Facebook has a memory of me. More often than not what they show isn’t something I remember, whether it’s a photograph or a post or a link, it’s something I posted and forgot about. No longer my memory.

The things I remember, like the way my newborn son smelled immediately after I held him in my arms after being brought into the world, the way he little cries sounded both powerful and delicate; or how cold I was and how I kept telling myself to remember every moment when I stood under a tent in a suburb of Philadelphia watching my mother’s casket lower into the ground. These are my memories. These are things that Facebook can never recall in the same way my mind can because they are me.

Some kids just look old. Whether they’re a newborn or a preteen there are some kids that look like they’re about to go on a smoke break or fix your leaking air conditioner or exterminate a squirrel. I think it’s all about the nose.

Everything Is Not Lost

A friend and I have been talking about our journey through belief (and disbelief) and what it means to be within or without an old community. What it means to be lost.

When a child is lost from their parent it’s not as if they no longer belong to a family. Being lost is temporarily being unseen. And when that child is reunited with their family, it’s not as if they have limitations and expectations and interrogations into how or if they’ll be allowed back. They’re warmly received because they’re reunited. They’re home again.

For those who do (or did) follow Jesus, I feel many consider those who are “lost” as strangers, outsiders, refugees; not one who already belongs, not a child of their own family.

Jesus talked about people being lost, like a sheep lost from it’s herd. But today most of us have no context for what it means to tend to sheep, or what a does, or even the basics but of farming, especially what it means thousands of years ago compared to today. I think the metaphor is easily ignored and misunderstood. 

I don’t think Jesus is saying that being found is dependent upon the use or merit or worth of the sheep to the shepherd. Or that our worth is only measured by our beliefs or gender or race or origin. I believe Jesus intended the herd to represent all of creation, all of humanity. Everyone is already a member. There are no requirements for their acceptance into the herd. In fact, there acceptance has nothing to do with you at all, because your aren’t the shepherd. 

We are all — every human — at times divided and rejected and invisible, and at times united and accepted and known. We are children of a place and of a home.

There are moments when you feel clear and connected and confident, as well as moments when you feel feebile and fumbling and fractured. That’s a normal part of leading others. But the moment you feel apathetic and disengaged and  is when you should be concerned.

Dear Humans Of The Future

I don’t know how much information you may have on our civilization from the period in which I live. Most of what we write, say, and do are stored as 1s and 0s on millions of computers. I’m assuming most of the data is lost, perhaps even this; but for the sake of optimism let’s assume you have discovered these words. There is something I feel I need to clarify for you, because I’m guessing it’s very confusing.

You may rightly assume we had a international holiday called “Amazon Prime Day”. While it would seem reasonable to believe that “Amazon” refers to the mighty river that flows through what was or is South America (perhaps by now you have eliminated the need for borders and countries), but alas it does not. 

Nor does “prime” refer to a mathematical formula (I’m not skilled enough at math to properly describe it fully, other than to say it’s a number that cannot be made by multiplying two other numbers greater than 1, like 11 for example). No, Amazon Prime is not a sacred celebration of nature and science. It’s a day in which people looked for discounts on items and objects they want to out into their dwellings and stare at, talk to, walk on, or out inside of them.

I don’t know if Amazon exists anymore. At one point is was one of the largest companies in the world. Or at the very least, the most influential. They didn’t see it that way, but a large portion of society bought their goods “online” (please don’t make me explain that — if all you know is that it was a series a tubes, that’s fine by me) from Amazon. They could find nearly anything they wanted and get it within a day, as long as you were an exclusive member. This was referred to as “Prime”. They then decided to have one day a year July 15th (when I write this to you future beings), to discount some things and get people to buy stuff they didn’t need (that pretty much sums up 85% of all things we did).

This might better explain why our planet is nearly uninhabitable. It was very hard to convince people that escalating temperatures, melting ice, and rising oceans was more important than saving money. It’s hard to pass up a deal on a huge device that can make potatoes crispy without all that cooking oil. Sorry about that.

Paul Armstrong