Friday, December 31, 2010

What I learned from 2010: A Retrospect on a Crappy Year

It would be no surprise to me if 2010 did not go down in history as one of the crappiest years ever! I think the animal that should have represented this year on the Chinese calendar was the dung beetle. Rolling up poop, that's what this year was all about. There just seemed to be enough pain, sorrow and despair to go around! If you didn't lost your job you certainly knew someone who did. If you didn't have someone close to you die this year you certainly knew someone grieving a lost love one. The word that best describes 2010: Adversity (and poop).

Adversity, however, has a funny way of being a great teacher. Though this year has been a stinkfest for the record books, I have been able to dig through the manure to find some little gold nuggets I will be able to use for the rest of my life (eww!). Here are just a few:

1. The importance of community
It seems that everyone is talking about community these days. Hard times always bring out the best and worst in people and that usually brings people together. This year saw its fair share of hard times. I got through this year relatively unscathed but I sure did walk a whole bunch of people through some pretty rough stuff. Thank God I had a group of people around me to love and support me so that I could love and support others.Therein lies the essence of community. How do you survive in community?

Being in community is not as easy as you think. Just because you join a club, a church small group, a team or any other organization, doesn't mean you get a free ticket to do whatever you want and everyone has to automatically accept you for “who you are”. People will tolerate you if you are a complete jackhole, but it doesn't mean they will accept you. It is not the job of the community to accept and love you. They could be just as messed up and dysfunctional as you (and chances are they will be, maybe worse). It is your job to add value to the community you become a part of. It is also your job to be open and honest with the members of your community and to lean on them when you need to. You don't have to go it alone.

2. Just because you don't like someone, it doesn't make them a bad person
I think this is what Jesus was talking about with all of that "love your enemy" stuff. Somehow, this year, I learned that I was not the utmost authority on what goes on in a person's head! Wow, that was a huge burden off my shoulders! You can never tell what is going on in someone's heart so it is impossible to judge the intentions behind the actions of another human being.

But we have a funny tendency to put ourselves in the center of our own lives. To be honest, we tend to put ourselves at the center of THE universe! When we do that, every slight against us, perceived or otherwise, becomes a full on assault on our world. That's a pretty small world you are a king of your world and you become a petty tyrant. We need to think of ourselves more holistically, like we are part of something bigger than ourselves rather than the center of the universe. That is when you truly experience growth.

3. I learned how to say the word "no"
Easy word to say right? Won't get you a great score on Scrabble but man it can sure help get you out of a pinch! The word "no" gets a bad rap. Say it enough and you become Mr. Negative, but if you never say it at all you will lose all credibility or become resentful, burning yourself out. I used to think that people would not like me if I told them “no” or that I would miss out on some great opportunities. Well if someone isn't going to like you for saying "no" they probably didn't like you too much in the first place. And the truth is, me saying “yes” sometimes made me miss opportunities! Great opportunities!

On that same note, people are going to say “no” to you and if you don't like them anymore, you really need to check yourself, your heart and your intentions. Remember, it is not a full-on assault on your being, it probably means either they have something they seem to think is more important (see “you are not the center of the universe”) or they just don't want the added responsibility. And if they don't want
it, do you really want to depend on them for it?

I might add more to this list later because, like I said, this year has been one for the record books of crappy, no good years and through it I became a better person.

So raise your glass to 2011, the year I hope I don't learn a DAMN thing!

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