The SVP for my division at work has been toting a quote with us lately, trying to use it as inspiration. I'm going way, way out on a limb here to comment on it, but its Sunday night, I'm on my own time, and, well, shoot, it needs to be said.

Its a Chuck (Charles) Swindoll quote, and she always prefaces it with something to the effect that "she thinks he's a motivational speaker..." etc.. She keeps it on her desk and had it printed up for all of us. I didn't put it on my desk. Funny thing is that I'm probably the only one of the 100+ people working for her who actually knows who Swindoll is. Here's the quote:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company ... a church ... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude ... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you ... we are in charge of our Attitudes.

I may be relying a little to heavily on my far-too-faulty memory, but I'm pretty sure her quote was edited to not include "...a church ... a home." Makes sense, using it in a business sense, but it kind of betrays a bit of who Chuck is and what the quote is really aimed at.

But Chuck's aim, if I may be so bold, was a bit off in the first place. At the end of the day, its just another one of those warm fuzzies that really doesn't do you a lot of good because, while on the surface it may seem to make sense, if you drill it down, you realize its ludicrous.

In reality, we as humans are much more a product of what happens to us, what is done to us, what we experience, than we are of our own choices. To suppose otherwise is a rather recent, western, individualistic, and poignantly prideful point of view. In fact, we are much more the product of the relationships we have had and the models we have seen - the things that people have done to us, the ways we have been treated. We were not created to be solitary beings, we were created relational. There's no way to get around that.

An anxious heart weighs a man down,
but a kind word cheers him up.
-- Proverbs 12:25

An easy verse to trivialize. Often all we need is love. We need the touch of kindness.

What we don't need is some stoic resolve that shrugs off the world and determines to maintain a level attitude regardless of how we are treated. That's not just brash, its practically inhuman. It can't be done.

There is nothing wrong with reacting to the ways in which life treats you, but your reaction is not 90% of the picture. To so over-value attitude leads quickly to a gross misunderstanding. Let the reader understand that I in no way am trying to make excuse for inappropriate reaction to poor treatment, or shrug off the responsibilities of grace and mercy that we bear. Yet, in exercising these duties, we must not always expect that our attitude will remain completely within our control.

Even in laughter the heart is sad,
and the end of joy is grief.
-- Proverbs 14:13

"Since humans die, joy inevitably ends in grief. The party always ends, all relationships of love die and cease. Some member of a family will see every other one around the dining room table die."

Everything we want in this life will eventually be taken away from us in death. And I'm supposed to rely on my attitude to get me past that?

Our inner spirit is so much more complex than the "attitude" position allows for. The various world views will tell us that our problems are physical, or emotional, or relational, or existential, or moral...but these all reduce the complexity to one simple facet. We can't do that. As Hamlet said to Horatio, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.
--Proverbs 14:10

We are alone. No one will ever fully understand us. We can't even ever hope to fully understand our own selves. Because our most fundamental relationship has been damaged, we cannot, in this life, experience a complete joy. We know that something is missing.

Attitude isn't the answer.

No comments: