All Right… November 3, 2012


I was glad she called.

Janet did all the talking with her, but I listened carefully. I have known her for over thirty years. Most of the time I found myself in the position of being a benefactor of finance to her well-being. That’s good.

I listened carefully as they exchanged information and caught up on the phone. What was I listening for? What I’m always listening for–especially when re-winding the tape of my own daily dialogue and speeches. Are things really getting better?

After all, if you ask anybody if they want to see improvement, they will give you a resounding yea and amen. Everything sounds good until you sit down and count the cost of what it takes to achieve it.

Here’s what we all share in common: We want to be all right.

In other words, we are hopin’, wishin’ and prayin’ that whatever we are doing will work our fabulously, so that our first guess at an answer will be sufficient to the need. Nobody wants to take a second crack. Nobody wants to back off, reconsider and come up with a different angle. We just want what we’re doing to work.

It’s the underbelly of the Golden Rule. We DO love ourselves–rather exclusively.  Jesus was simply suggesting that we extend that courtesy to others and in the process, realize that we are both strengthened by our resolve and weakened by it at the same time.

So as I listened to this lovely woman talk on the phone, I realized that even though she is delightful, intelligent and talented, she is stuck in the mud of her past errors and transgressions, because to escape them would demand that she acknowledge them as errors and transgressions.

There is only one thing that hurts more than making a mistake, and that is admitting it. Yet the lack of coming clean leaves us all dirty.

Human beings love to be all right–matter of fact, it’s the easiest way to manipulate individuals and flatter them, by lavishing praise on them for their selections, planning and decision-making. We all puff up and become prideful at the notion that what just popped out of us was not only sufficient to the need, but actually might have been divinely inspired. Simultaneously, deep in our hearts we know that what usually merely “pops” from us is not worthy of public inspection.

It is the game. Can we get along with each other, steer each other in a particular direction, or avoid repentance by continuing the lie that our present course of action needs no revision?

During the conversation, this dear friend lamented several times mistakes made by her–but rather than taking complete personal responsibility for them, she placed herself in the position of “victim.” She didn’t want to be the architect of her own foolishness.

It doesn’t matter who you blame, the end result is that you are admitting failure.

I don’t know whether religious people could do without a devil. That’s why they fight you tooth and nail when you suggest that the main evil perpetrated on earth has human fingerprints. If we don’t have a devil to blame for all the stupidity that befalls us–if we don’t contend that some sinister Master Villain from hell is manipulating our lives through irresitable temptation, then we would actually have to come to the conclusion that the human body, heart, soul and mind that we were loaned is our responsibility, and that we failed to make payments. Many find this beyond their capability.

The other day, one of my friends asked me what I had learned through the experience of being in a wheel chair and continuing to travel and perform. My answer surprised him. “I feel stronger.”

Because I’m not trying to hide a weakness, disguise an infirmity or limit my possibilities by the number of physical steps I am able to walk, I can openly proclaim what is good about me–and what has proven to be inefficient.

Do I like it? Of course not. It reminds me of the homeless person who was given a box of pizza by a stranger on the street as a gift of mercy, and upon opening it up, eyeballs that there are pieces missing and objects, “Where’s the other half?”

Sometimes we need to be grateful that we’re given half a box of pizza because we’re hungry–and it’s what is available.

Simply put, you can’t be wrong and still be right. Truth alert–no one is all right until they learn how to be wrong. It’s that simple. And the sooner you learn how to be wrong and beat everybody else to the punch in admitting it, catching it on your own, the more ingenious you appear to be.

This is how I evaluate my business, personal and spiritual affairs.

  • I would not vote for a President unless he or she was willing to admit that they were wrong instead of finding a way to spin their decision, to make it seem right.
  • I would not go to a church pastored by a man or woman who spent more time explaining their choices instead of changing them.
  • I would not participate in a creative project with anyone who couldn’t change his or her mind, or rewrite what they have done.
  • I would not have close friendships with other human beings unless they were well-practiced in the art of quickly back-peddling when it became obvious they were heading for the edge of a cliff.
  • I would not be willing to believe in a God who didn’t think it was really dumb to have killed everybody with a flood.
  • I will not put my faith in any institution or collection of fellow-humans who don’t put repentance at the top of their letterhead as a mission statement.

I’m just like the next guy–I want to be all right. But I don’t want to call folks up on the phone with an absence of several years between our last visit and have them leave the conversation shaking their heads, saying, “That Jonathan. He’s still making the same mistakes he always did.”

The only things we can truly change in a human being is the heart. The soul refuses to be tampered with unless there’s an emotional experience. The mind does not revise its thinking without being renewed by a spiritual encounter. And the body just keeps doing all the things it was trained to do by the brain until the brain has received new orders. And the only way to change the emotions–the hearts of human beings–is to convince them once and for all that being wrong is the only way to ever be all right. Every minute you spend avoiding that conclusion is a painful detour into useless oblivion.

Janet hung up the phone and the visit was over. I breathed a prayer.

“Dear God, help my friend. Give her some way to know that the best way to be all right is to find out where she’s wrong.”

And then, to make my prayer of value, I said “amen”–and went out looking for my own stupidities.

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