Who’s Watching You?

How much better the world would be if we didn’t act based on who’s watching us? Why do we try so hard to win the approval of others? What if we just did what we do and lived how we live? What if we truly were who we are in every circumstance?

Because people might not like us, that’s why! Maybe we aren’t all that impressed with ourselves so we think in order for someone else to find us valuable we have to be something we aren’t.

It really isn’t a uniquely human trait. We share the tendency to show-out with many other species that inhabit our planet. Men seem especially prone to this behavior but it isn’t expressly a male trait. Women are equally guilty but they tend to be somewhat more subtle in the approach. I think that’s so they have deniability, but they would never admit it!

From gorillas to lizards, the animal kingdom is full of examples of individuals making a spectacle of themselves in order to grab a little attention. Humans are no exception! We like to think we’re more evolved and civilized, but let your gaze fall upon that special someone sitting in the crowd at a competition and we all tend to crank it up a notch. Similar to a gorilla trying to tempt a mate, we puff out our checks and beat our chest as if to say, “Look at me!” Usually something unexpected follows, typically something funny or embarrassing. Rarely does it work out the way we hope, but we do it time and again anyway!

It’s fun to watch people at the mall or in a park because, if you watch closely, you can usually tell who’s competing for whose affection. It’s our mating ritual of sorts! I’m still guilty of it and my wife and I have been married 20 years! Let her walk by the court while I’m playing racquetball and you better believe I’ll run a little faster, try a little more and hit the ball a lot harder just to impress her and prove that she choose wisely! I might as well be in the forest shaking trees and grunting like an animal!

Women do it too, though they tend to be a little more reserved in the effort. They’re more like runners getting ready to take off on an endurance race cross country. They push a little, poking with their elbows, jostling for the best spot to start the race. They play on the reaction of the males seeking their attention while playing off the efforts of the very one they are hoping to attract. It’s a strange process, but it isn’t limited to male-female relationships!

 From the schoolyard to sports teams to the workplace, even in church, people are always pushing for favor! We try to catch the eye of that one person, hoping they’ll see us in the middle of the moment doing just the right thing in just the right way to elicit a complement or validation of some kind. We’re addicted to it. We crave affirmation like a junky craves a fix. We play it off, but deep down inside, most of us crave it.

How much better would it be if we always gave everything? No matter the situation, no matter who’s looking, with no desire to impress, we perform at 100% just because it’s the right thing to do? The world would be a different place for sure! But it’s difficult to always go full out. We hold back ever so slightly so that we still have something left for what we really want to be doing. Maybe the real problem isn’t consistency in our character but the motivation with which we do what we do. No, I imagine until the end of it all, we will see young men making fools of themselves’ to win the attention of that young lady gently jostling her way to the best position for him to see her act like she’s uninterested. No wonder we’re so confused and relationships are so hard!

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A Smile That Isn’t

No doubt about it! A smile livens up the room! There are so many kinds of smiles from cheesy to roguish. It says something about the person. In fact, we assume that the person wearing the smile feels like this: beaming, joyful, happiness, twinkle, elation.

We make a lot of assumptions based on a smile, even more when a smile is lacking. The problem with those assumptions is often the person who’s always smiling is doing it to hide a deeper pain. We use our smiles like women use makeup. We cover up our true selves in an effort to put forth something more attractive to the world around us. 

Don’t get me wrong, smiles are great, but they are more than the way we hold our mouth. Smiles should be felt. They should rise up from a place deep inside. A smile should be the outward reflection of our inside condition. Regardless of how goofy it might look, then it’s a true testimony to the joy you feel.

Think about the last time you were so moved to laugh that you couldn’t stop. I mean side-splitting laughter. It happens a lot at my house and is typically preceded by one of the family making a ridiculous declaration or some embarrassing moment that I can’t discuss here. However, the result is truly amazing. You laugh so hard, you’re moved to tears. Your entire body is consumed in the moment of good humor. And what expression adorns the face in that moment? Most definitely, a genuine smile!

Have you ever tried to laugh without smiling? I don’t think it’s possible. In fact, it would be a little disconcerting. It certainly wouldn’t be jolly.

When I was in choir, my director had a favorite saying, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Though when a smile is forced to hide the pain it loses the sparkle. We shouldn’t just assume that the smile we see is a sign that everything is well with the bearer. Look beyond the smile to see the real person. It may be a distress signal. It might be camouflage for the world around the person. It might be, deep inside, the person is fighting to make it in this life.

Go beyond the smile to see the real person underneath. Don’t make assumptions because of what you see. A person is more than what the exterior shows. It’s what’s on the inside that truly tells the story of the people we see everyday. Go deeper. Make an investment in the world around you! Smile more, but smile for the right reasons! There is so much in this life to smile about and a true smile comes from joy felt inside.

The Hope of the Prey

The human capacity to do hurtful things is unimaginable. People take advantage of others in their most vulnerable state. It saddens me to know that no one is off limits, in fact, those who deserve a certain respect seem most often to be the target of societies predators.

I have seen a number of things through the opportunities I have been given that make me incredibly proud to call myself a part of this human race. I have also seen things that bring me a great deal of pause. I question the morality of those who would take advantage of a child or the elderly amidst tragic moments in life. Not just the morality, but their humanity.

I feel we all have a moral responsibility to watch out for the weak among us but some, who live by a different code than I do, see them as opportunity for personal gain. I feel a sense of outrage when I hear of an elderly widow taken advantage of by a group of people who meant nothing but harm through their own personal gain. That people would take advantage of others in the midst of disaster or personal loss and tragedy is sickening.

I ask this question, “How would they feel if it were their mom, dad or child being mistreated?” The sad answer is, they probably wouldn’t care or their outrage wouldn’t move them to action, only remorse that they hadn’t acted quicker on their own behalf.

The elder population should be cherished for their experience and wisdom, not targeted to make an easy dollar. Our children are our hope for the future and they shouldn’t be exploited, they should be encouraged to become something greater than even the child could dream!

Unfortunately, throughout history, there have been those who lacked the moral fortitude to stand on principle. None of us are perfect, but most have an imprint deep inside them that guides their conduct. Be it a conscious or a moral absolute, we all have deeply ingrained ideals for what is societally acceptable. Some of us chose to ignore the leading of that still small voice, but it still exists.

Whether it be a natural disaster or the loss of a loved one, there are those moments in the lives of those around when they need us to be morally strong. They need us to make the right decisions in moments when they are weakened by circumstance. Those moments bring out the best in most people and the worst in others.

I’ve seen it countless times while serving as a pastor. Some people only care about what they can get out of those around them. I pray for them because that’s a sad way to view the wonderful people we encounter each day. Better that we think of what we can do to serve those around us. Let their experience mold us as we mold those who look to us for answers. Not to be cheesy, but a circle of life kind of thing. Not for us to prey on each other, but to pray for the best in the lives of those who cross our path.

There is a hope for the future! It’s you and I, standing in the midst of human depravity and bringing a message of encouragement to that person who has been steamrolled by life. Instead of sitting back and questioning, “What can I do, I’m weak or poor or whatever,” charge forward, arms outstretched and stand alongside those who have no one. Be that one! We can make a difference if we determine in our hearts to not stand back and hold what’s most important to us close and forget about the world around us.

Imagine if each one made a moral stand when they saw those society calls weak being preyed upon. I saw the result in Pensacola! It was beautiful and hope was given to people who had none. Ultimately, isn’t that what we are called to do? It’s doesn’t require that you be financially secure or the strongest or the wisest, it requires your willingness to be a servant to the world around you. You are the hope of the prey.