Sunday, June 16, 2013

Other Peoples' Agenda

“A father is a man who expects his children to be as good as he meant to be.”

Carol Coats

Today’s is Father’s Day so it’s probably going to be a busy day.  I’m not sure if I’m going to get much time to write or be by myself because my girls will probably want me around all day.  And isn’t that an odd statement – not that my girls want me around, but the idea that my agenda is already determined by others?  Even if what others want is nice, it’s still not a good idea to let others determine my agenda or my life.
It’s not good for a few reasons.
First, it may not be what I want.  Often this is the case.  Others determine my agenda based on their needs and wants, not mine.  It’s like being a child and having your parents take you somewhere whether you wanted to go or not.  If I didn’t want to go, then I was out of luck. 
I was independent even at an early age and my parents recognized this, so they often let me do things by myself.   By the time I hit adolescence, I was spending the majority of my time doing things that I wanted to do, and I liked the freedom.  We lived in many different places, due to my father’s job in the United States Navy, so I always enjoyed wandering around and exploring the new places we lived.  I would spend hours doing this.  It was wonderful.
So it was all the more frustrating when my parents took that freedom away because we had other commitments and I was expected to be a part of them.  I didn’t like having my schedule decided by someone else.  Often, what my parents had planned was fine and necessary and I would recognize this later, but I never liked it at first.
Of course, this is a necessary part of life for most of us.  To some degree, if we are in family or community, we give up some of our freedom.  Still, I want the freedom to determine how much freedom I will give up to others.
The second reason it’s not good to allow my agenda to be determined by others is that when I give up control of my actions, I give up control of my mind.  Losing control of my mind means I become captive to thoughts and feelings I don’t enjoy, such as resentment, self-pity, fear, and a critical attitude towards others and myself.  When a person goes insane, they say the person has lost his or her mind.  When I experience the emotions mentioned above, I too have lost my mind.  This doesn’t mean that I need to be committed to an institution, but I do need to create sanity again.  I’m not talking about changing the physical circumstances, though that may be necessary; I’m talking about making the choice to control my thinking.  To do this, I must take responsibility for my thoughts, feelings and actions. 
This is the third danger of allowing my agenda to be controlled by others:  I abdicate responsibility.  Nothing keeps me out of Purpose more completely than blaming others.  It’s the same familiar line and it sounds like this:
“I can’t _________________________ (write, dance, paint, exercise, start my business, be in Purpose) because my ________________________ (husband, wife, kids, boss, friends, church, etc) want me to do something else.  They are the reason I’m not in Purpose!  It isn’t my fault!”

This is a sad and pathetic argument.  I know because I used it for years.  (The most pathetic and inexcusable one is when I blame my children for my unwillingness to behave like an adult!  God help me, but what am I teaching them?) 
So freedom is not about circumstances.  And it’s not license to do whatever I want at the expense of others’ freedom and feelings.  What it is about is making choices and even sacrifices to allow others’ agendas to become part of my day when appropriate or creating different choices in order to stay in Purpose.  It may mean a compromise, but I still need to know what I want for myself and for those around me.
As I’ve said, before this is why I have more than one Purpose.  So I can joyfully be with my children or other people I love.  This is part of my purpose. Being in Purpose means that I am no longer a slave to others or to my baser emotions.   I am not obligated to be with others or meet their needs.  I have the internal and external freedom to do so.
I have the internal and external freedom to look for flowers everywhere.  I have the internal and external freedom to create an agenda that allows me to write and allows me to love others.  I have the internal and external freedom to be a good, loving and attentive father.  I have the internal and external freedom to Get Started and to Keep Going.