Turn Offs–September 17, 2011

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September 17, 2011

Jason was a friend of mine who died. (Now there was a horrible opening sentence…)

He was a few months younger than me but he insisted on getting old as soon as he saw the age of fifty looming in the near distance. He got some gray in his hair, and rather than dying it, he wore it as a badge of honor, but also carried it as evidence of being decrepit. My teenage sons hated Jason because he spoke slowly and paused frequently—doing his best impersonation of impending dementia, and became infuriated if one of the boys interrupted him because they wanted to fill the space.

He explained to them that they needed to respect him. They, being ardent adherents of adolescence, said: “Why?”

“Because I’m older,” growled Jason.

It is one of the classic turn-offs in the human family. The notion that we are improved because we’re older or somewhat fresher because we’re younger is nether true nor holds any water in the great bucket of life.

Older people haven’t done anything but age. I will agree—with age there is the potential for learning, but certainly not a requirement. Matter of fact, aging can make you become resistant to receiving knowledge and cause you to believe that you’ve retained enough data to make decisions on almost anything. “I am older than you” is one of the most useless phrases uttered from the mouth of a human being.

I live in an ageless mindset. I listen just as intently to my six-year-old granddaughter as I do to a sixty-year-old pastor with a doctorate that’s been at a church for twenty-two years. Because not only out of the mouths of babes come words of wisdom, but also often questions which need to be asked but are shuffled to the side by those who have had too many birthdays—but not enough parties.

Now, I never went to college. Even though I have performed in them and instructed in them, I never took a class in a university. I share that with you neither as a badge of honor nor as a cloak of shame. It’s the way my life went. I was married when I was eighteen, had my first son by age nineteen, and now, forty-one years later, have raised seven children—four of my own making and three I adopted. I have been rich and I have been poor, but I have always been creative and I certainly know that the smartest thing you can do in life is laugh more than you cry.

I, like you, run across people who feel it is their job to communicate to me that they are smarter. I was always uncomfortable with the phrase “I am smarter” because it usually requires a follow-up of proof. And if the proof is in the pudding, then the pudding is in the stirring. And when you stir your ideas all together and they pop out of the bowl, they’d better be both palatable AND usable.

This is one of the problems going on in our country today. Our leadership does not know the difference between paper ideas and people ideas—because there are often things that look good on paper that do not serve the needs and feelings of humanity. It is why I enjoy the gospel of Jesus—it’s heavy on spirit and light on law. It takes into consideration the fragility of mankind, yet without treating us like we’re stupid.

“I am smarter” is the second great turn-off to those around you.

So what is the best way to convey intelligence in a society of touchy, insecure fellow-travelers? Just shut up, do it—and let’em watch. Wait for the question. Never give advice to anyone unless you hear a question mark at the end of their phrase. Here’s a clue—when people see something is working, they believe. You can criticize that all you want to, but you’ll end up expressing your frustrations to an empty room.

And finally, and unfortunately, those who feel they are older and smarter often come up with some philosophy, religious jargon or perhaps even political persuasion that expresses: “I am better.”

“I am better” is why the planet suffers slings and arrows.

Until we dispel the notion of chosen people, manifest destiny, special anointing, preferred races and genetically enhanced beings, we will eventually take our aged hand and in a moment of what we consider to be smartness, push the big red button to destroy ourselves.

Write it down somewhere so you can see it every day: NO ONE IS BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. The reason you need to write it down is because every, single person on this planet has been brought up to believe that they’re better than someone else. You may object to that statement and cite that your parents and even your grandparents were free of that contention, but somewhere along the line, they infused into you the notion that you were better than someone in some way. And it has robbed you of relationships that would have been rich with emotion, and has crippled you with a cross you cannot bear.

“I am better.” It is the final turn off that turns on all the hatred in the world.

I thought you might be interested in this today because these three statements—“I am older;” “I am smarter,” and “I am better”—are what cause us to believe that we are persecuted.

But NOT for righteousness’ sake. Nope. It’s just for a big, fat batch … of dumbness.

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