You are what you read. I had a crusty old Marine Sergeant once tell me, “Tracey, trash in, trash out.” It’s as applicable to a warrior as it is you and I. Three years ago I read a book that changed my life. It was titled, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, by Dr. Steven Sample. The author cuts himself off from reading all newspapers and news articles for six months. I took his challenge one step further and stopped watching all TV news, local and national. It’s been three years now, and I came to the same conclusion as Dr. Sample. I have a newfound sense of peace. If I have a need to know I research it through sources I have determined that I can trust to a high degree. As Dr. Sample so eloquently put it, I have reclaimed my “intellectual independence from a group of editors and reporters whose core values and interests were not necessarily congruent with my own.”
So what do I do with all my time now that I’m off of trash TV and the lame stream media? I read! I write! I serve! I started my doctoral program two years ago. I do prison ministry. I pray. I Sabbath. I journal. I keep little sheets of paper everywhere because my mind is churning out ideas at an unprecedented rate. That old Sergeant was right! The core books of mankind are referred to as super texts. These are written works that have influenced the lives of humans over the course of millennia. Why? Because they speak to the timeless truth of our nature, not the trashy rants that are trending. Read old books; they are critical artifacts. They are our collective, unifying link. They remind us that the more things change, the more they stay the same. And they’ll keep your heart and mind focused on the great thoughts that have changed the world and not the divisive gossip that breeds a toxic strain of hate.
Action Step: Turn off the news (and social media) and turn on your mind.
You are what you grieve. Everyone is living in such a state of self-justified rage that it’s going to impact not only our mental but our physical health seriously. I read another book that changed my life titled, Unoffendable, by Brant Hansen. He has a great line, “Are we going to live in perpetual shock at the nature of man?” And forget about your righteous indignation. Remember what the good book says, “There is none righteous, no not one.” That includes you and me. The truth is, we can’t possibly know the truth about what a person did or said (see the previous paragraph) and unless you are God, you can’t possibly know the person’s motives or heart.
Do I work to stay true to my values and convictions? Yes. Do I get spun up when I see someone that doesn’t conform to my way of living life? No. Take my father for example. No one could ever get offended by him, yet he was unabashed in what he believed. He was also unabashed in how he hugged people and told them he loved them. When people shared their thoughts he would listen and believe me, many of them were a far cry from his convictions. However, he showed them respect by listening. Do you know what that afforded him? It gave him the opportunity to share his insights then. Due to the fact he had been so respectful and accepting to them, they couldn’t help but listen and feel a connection to him.
Action Step: Stop jumping to conclusions and start bounding to inclusions.
You are what you leave. Many of us have so many hurtful or harmful influences in our lives we’re left with no space to experience love. We have to set healthy boundaries in our lives to protect our heart, mind, and soul. For those of you struggling with this, I recommend yet ANOTHER book that changed my life, Necessary Endings, by Dr. Henry Cloud. This includes leaving behind the guilt and shame from our past. We need to stop being paralyzed and realize that reliving the past suffocates any chance we have to give and receive love. How can you respect yourself when you submit to daily self-flagellation? It’s time to turn that pity party into a goodbye party once and for all.
Did you know when we engage in negative self-talk, we are giving the enemy highly classified intelligence where to strike us next? Do you realize what it means to have an authentic relationship in your life that will not enable or ignore you, but speak truth to you because they love you and want the best for you? If you do not have these types of conversations going on in your life, if you do not have people that truly have your back, then it’s time to prune the resource suckers out once and for all.
Action Step: Don’t play the victim, be the victor.