What’s My Motivation?

They say you never get a second chance at a first impression.  My friend Eric might just agree, but the whole misunderstanding was really our friend Dal’s fault to begin with. 

See, both Dal and Eric love sports, and both of them subscribe to Sports Illustrated, which, as you probably know, publishes their annual swimsuit issue every February.  Dal was flipping through Sports Illustrated one night when he saw a blurb announcing the fact that you can now actually opt out of receiving the swimsuit issue.  You even get the issue credited to your account and everything. 

Let me just digress by saying this is a brilliant move by Sports Illustrated.  It allows them to not alienate their female readers by sending them unrealistic pictures of supermodels in bikinis, and it also allows them to keep their male subscribers who don’t just love sports but also love God, their wives and their kids. 

Now back to Dal.  He was so excited when he read about the Sports Illustrated deal that he called our friend Eric right up and told him the news.  Eric happened to be riding his stationary bike at the time, completely out of breath as he finished his fourth mile.  This would have been no big deal except Eric decided to call Sports Illustrated right away. 

So just imagine this guy, gasping and panting, when the poor Sports Illustrated operator answered the phone.

“Sports Illustrated, may I help you?”

Heavy breathing.  “Yeah, I’m calling about the swimsuit issue.”  Gasp.  Wheeze. 

Suffice it to say that even though he meant well, Eric did not make the best first impression.  I think he’s just lucky she didn’t just hang up on him or call the police. 

You’re probably not as dumb as me and my friends, but have you ever had someone misjudge your motives?  Have you ever been trying to do the right thing, only to have it blow up in your face?

Maybe you offered someone advice about a relationship or their job, but it didn’t go so well.  Now suddenly you’re the bad guy.  Or maybe you were minding your own business, just doing in your best in life, but now somehow someone else’s are all your fault.  If only you were a better spouse, boss or parent, then they wouldn’t be in the jam they’re facing.  At least that’s how they see it.  From your point-of-view, however, all you’ve ever done is try to help them.

If you’ve ever had your motives questioned, you’re in good company.  When David started asking around the battlefield about why no one was willing to stand up to Goliath, his brother accused him of being conceited and wicked.  When Jesus reached out to the marginalized and the poor, the religious leaders accused of being in league with the devil.  When the apostle Paul starting telling the world that Jesus came to give everyone access to God, people tried to kill him time and time again. 

Maybe that’s why the Bible is so down on being judgmental and jumping to conclusions.  It basically says to leave the judging to God because, ultimately, He will expose the motives of men’s hearts.  He’s the only one who really understands them anyway.

If you get off on the wrong foot with someone, don’t sweat it.  Eventually, God will reveal your true character and heart to those who need to see it.  As for the rest, their opinion doesn’t really matter anyway.  You already have a Dad in heaven who knows where you’re coming from.  Of course, you might want to give your accuser the benefit of the doubt too.  After all, you’re no more of an expert on their motives as they are on yours.

So if you happen to be an operator for Sports Illustrated and take a call from a guy on an exercise bike, cut him some slack.  Though a little misguided, he may just be trying to do what’s right.



Groundhog Day

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for celebrating Groundhog Day.  I mean who wouldn’t want to fly to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to watch Phil, the groundhog, predict the weather? How can you argue with the 20,000 people who gather annually at Gobbler’s Knob for this beloved tradition?  I’m sure most of it is great, but one particular groundhog event scheduled for this year sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

They’re calling it the “Best Dressed Groundhog Day Dog Competition.”  According to the folks at www.groundhog.org you can dress your dog as an actual groundhog or in festive Groundhog Day attire.  This is a bad idea on so many levels.  

First of all, what exactly is festive Groundhog Day attire?  Is it the top hat and fancy coat like the groundhog handlers wear?  If that’s the case, there’s no way you’re getting that on any dog with an ounce of self-respect.  Second, if I pass on the festive attire option, where am I supposed to get a groundhog costume for my dog?  They’re not as common as you might think.  And last, but most certainly not least, has anyone thought through the ramifications of unleashing a bunch of dogs around a groundhog?  

I hope Punxsutawney Phil is faster than he looks, because I’ve seen what dogs tend to do with furry, woodland creatures, and it’s not pretty.  Instead of seeing his shadow on February 2nd, I’m afraid the groundhog is going to see his life flash before his eyes. Canines and rodents are natural enemies, and if you throw them together in the same place, you’re asking for trouble.

I’ve seen people like this too, oil and water personalities that when thrown together just don’t mix.  Just as some people experience love at first sight, I’ve known others to experience dislike at first sight.  It’s not just that they don’t have anything in common.  It’s deeper than that.  Even when they try to be civil to one another, sparks inevitably fly. 

I’ve had a few of these myself over the years, and it always takes me by surprise.  I genuinely like people.  Because I’m fairly easy going I can get along with almost anyone.  Almost.  Every once in awhile a groundhog personality comes along that fires up my canine instincts and tells me that we are not going to be best friends.

This doesn’t mean they’re bad people. It just means we’re a bad combination.  For me, these are usually people who come across as arrogant, judgmental or fake.  I’m sure that to them I come as something equally unlikeable. 

The crazy thing is that often times these are genuinely good people who others absolutely adore. 

So what do you do with people like this in your life?  What do you do if you have to work with them, go to school with them, or better yet, what if you’re related?

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years to navigate these potentially combustible relationships. 

1.  We’re all wired differently.  God has created each of with a unique personality and approach to life.  Get on-line and check out anything you can find on the Myers-Briggs personality profiles.  This has been a great tool to help me to learn how other people see the world, how I can learn to speak their language and how they can learn to speak mine.

2.  Everyone has a story.  If I take time to find out where a person has come from, what their struggles have been and what God’s been doing in their lives, it reminds me that this person isn’t my enemy.  They’re a real human being trying to figure out life just like me.  I can’t possibly understand all that they’ve been through and what it’s like to be them, but I can do my best to understand where they are in their journey.

3.  These people can help me.  Bumping up against those who frustrate me gives me the opportunity to grow.  Growth just isn’t always much fun.  The Bible says that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.  Yes, sparks fly, but that’s what knocks off my rough edges.

4.  Grace always wins.  God loves me despite my selfishness.  God loves me despite all of my junk.  I now have the chance to show my gratitude to God by extending the same grace to others.  Just because I have bad chemistry with someone doesn’t mean I can’t cut them some slack.  In fact, it’s people like this that grace is tailor made to fit.  My relationship with God teaches me how to respond to people who are hard to love. 

So we’re not going to be best friends with the entire world, and everyone we meet isn’t going to like us.  That’s okay.  We can still love them, respect them and learn something from them about ourselves.  After all, if Punxsutawney Phil and a bunch of dogs in festive Groundhog Day attire can come together for an annual dog show, then surely we all learn to navigate the difficult relationships in our own lives.

The Boy Who Cried Beagle

I have a friend who has to sleep with a bite guard to keep from grinding his teeth.  He also owns a beagle who loves to chew things.  One night he got up to use the bathroom and thought he had set the bite guard down on his nightstand.  When he returned, the bite guard had mysteriously disappeared. 

All clues pointed to the dog. 

Once he’d scolded the beagle, he turned the place upside-down trying to find where she’d stashed her prize.  But no such luck.

The next day he went to make his bed, yanked back the covers and discovered the smoking gun.  His bite guard had become entangled in his blanket, exactly where he had dropped it the night before.  It had never touched the nightstand. 

The beagle was exonerated, and all charges were dropped.  The courts awarded her a dog biscuit for emotional distress.

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