Become more other-oriented in the new year

I’m not big into New Year’s resolutions. Don’t get me wrong. I am big into change. Very BIG. But I need a reason bigger than the new year to inspire personal change. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, all manner of bigger reasons come at me year ‘round and motivate me to change. However, this isn’t about them. Or me. It’s bigger than that.

If you are someone who allows the calendar to dictate when you should stop doing something old or start doing something new, shame on you! An ongoing clean slate is as available as a clean plate at Old Country Buffet – any time you are willing to get off your lazy butt and get it. It’s up to you to fetch the plate, as well as to pick and choose what you pile on it.

Laziness and selfishness seem to be paralyzing individual and collective behavior. Like the Bible-referenced man who spent 38 years lying helplessly next to the pool of Bethesda waiting for change (John 5:1-15 NIV), we often claim to desperately want something, but not enough to desperately do what it takes to get it.

I’m running into passels of people who have become too lazy to even think about what change would require. A short week ago, I turned 49. I note that number not because it was much of a milestone, but rather, because of its leveraging potential. My already-49 colleague, Theresa Walczak, says age 49 has given her a fortuitous opportunity to shame some of the students at our school into examining their excuses for non-change.

“Hey, there’s something wrong when I can still do something at 49 you’re unwilling to even try at 15,” she sometimes observes to teens in the face of lazy or selfish behavior. It begs the question Jesus asked of the stagnant man lying beside the healing pool: “Do you want to be made well?”

“Well kinda sorta,” is too ambivalent an answer. But it does explain many of the mini-meltdowns (formerly known as hissy-fits) I’ve witnessed people of all ages resort to when they don’t get what they think they want when they think they want it. While I am not sure any of them want to be made well, I sure am tired of working harder at their lives than they are willing to work.

Our self-service world seems to be evolving into a predominantly self-serving world where instant gratification reigns supreme. We’ve gone from the obsessively self-reliant stance of believing we don’t need anyone and therefore, must to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, to a diametrically dysfunctional mindset of thinking a concierge should fetch the bootstraps for us and do the pulling.

Entitlement is not pretty. I am likely to television talk-show pronounce to its practitioners, “You need to get over yourself.” But how, specifically? Having outlined what I believe to be a convoluted problem, I’m poised to offer a straightforward solution: service.

The best way I have found to get over myself is to put others first, or at least in contention for my attention. Not all of the time, because that’s pretty advanced from a remedial starting point, but for a significant amount of the time. Proverbs 11:25 (NIV) promises, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed,” while the late Zig Ziglar put it this way, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

Need a more relatable example? Follow the lead of Rotary International, a worldwide service club that has as its objective “Service above self – in the community, in the workplace and around the globe.” That concept encompasses a far bigger picture than our own, pettily self-absorbed lives.

Don’t wait until January 1 to replace a “have it your way” Burger King mentality with other-oriented service. Start immediately. To ease the transition, remind yourself that, per the above wisdom, serving others is indirectly the most self-serving thing a person can do. Why not try it? Re-prioritize your life by resolving to put others first. It may be the most satisfying new year’s resolution you will ever make for yourself.


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