HOW TO BE A BETTER PERSON #1
ATTITUDE IS THE KEY TO BEING A BETTER PERSON
The Apostle Paul called it, “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). I would like to think of it as being “my attitude.” It is particularly my attitude toward my behavior. In fact, my behavior is the fruit of my attitude. It makes public what is within me and within everyone of us. I am not looking for the obvious or the glaring but a little “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These things are not magical or mystical that God only can bestow. Rather, these things we all can adapt and practice on our journey through life. We do need to practice these things to be better persons. I shall deal with each one of these necessary characteristics of behavior in my series. To begin with, however, I would like to share my latest experience on the influence of attitude on behavior. It is with the intent to test my attitude and invite you to do likewise.
We had the privilege of traveling abroad with four adults and three children. Ours was a test of attitude and first hand experience with other human beings. It is understood that children behave accordingly, but adults do not. Children, of course, imitate us grown ups. At least, I did when I was a child. I found out then that I could not be an adult and at 82, I cannot be a child. Somewhere in between, there is a painful period of developing an attitude that can best serve us on our traveling through life and even in our daily behavior. I was brought up in a culture that did not allow me to be a smarty, even if I was right. I would not dare to take a seat on a bus while an old person had to stand. On our trip of two weeks, only one young man gave his seat to me. I watched a group of high school youngsters beat the adults to their seats. Off and on the airplane, people hurried. Only one older couple remarked, “Let them go, we have five hours to change planes.” We had no five hours and we were pushed a bit. One person helped us with our luggage and when I thanked him, he said, “My parents brought me up that way.” What a marvelous tribute he is to that gentleman’s parents.
We live in a world that does not regard what children do as being a big deal. In fact, we encourage them to stand up for their rights, as if they are the only ones that do have rights. We teach karate early when we should be teaching attitude. It is unfortunate that we need to defend ourselves in an uncivilized society. It is even more unfortunate that self-assertion and self-defense have become the norm of our culture. It is almost natural to reciprocate by violating “the Golden Rule.” It did not feel that I was resonating the mind of Christ as a Christian (Philippians 2:5-11). Within me arose the desire to justify my need for behaving inappropriately. Why should I get out of the way when I am headed in the same direction? Only, when one is handicapped and impaired by age, the getting out of the way is a problem. In Vienna, we asked a young man for direction. He saw us straggling, followed us in his delivery van and took us to the rail station. He was from Poland of a different kind of upbringing. We were assisted by several such angels and again, they were not natives. What has become of the stranger in our midst (Leviticus 19:33)? We have advanced technologically, but have we become better persons? Our attitudes have not kept pace with technology.
We have definitely lost control of our attitudes! We have allowed others with unhealthy attitudes to teach our youngsters what we as parents should have done and be doing. We are in the midst of a time when children lead and not their parents (Isaiah 11:6). And should parents resume their natural responsibility to build character, our society forbids it. Why are we surprised when children make choices that are costly and harmful? By nature, they were not meant to choose until they show the ability and attitude to do so. When a child is pampered, like the wise Salomon was, that neglected to spank his son lost him (Proverbs 13:24). He felt that there is a lack of love for the child, that is if we do not put a little pressure on you know where (Proverbs 23:13-14). “Folly was bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). The rod was not a stick but a soft end of a branch. A parent was not to provoke the child, but remind it of how pain feels when we hurt others (Ephesians 6:4). It was to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). How else will a child learn obedience to his own parents or to anyone else (Ephesians 6:1-3)? It should be apparent that we are not doing well without having fostered healthy attitudes in our offspring (Deuteronomy 5:16).
Can we reverse the trend? Many believe that some genius shall rise up or God will do it. I cannot subscribe to such presumptions because God has already endowed us with the ability to alter our attitudes. In fact, He has ordered us to tend for ourselves and for each other. Each one of us can perform a miracle with our lives. We can also be instrumental in helping others to develop their attitudes. It is not a matter for a lack of miracles, but a lack of willingness to work on our own attitude, and of course the attitude of our children. If we want to see a better and kinder world, it will not happen without us becoming better persons. Jesus the Christ and the Apostle Paul have left us some vital directions for improving our attitudes. Please follow my blog for the following weeks.