What people decide to be.

I firmly believe that we are defined not by our circumstances but by our actions. We are what we decide to be. The decisions that we make while in the midst of difficult situations say more about us than the situation itself ever will. Sometimes people do things that are contrary even to their own professed beliefs. Sometimes people have opinions that they believe to be the truth, and they use those opinions to judge others, or to judge you. Sometimes people are mean-spirited, and sometimes they are the nicest person on earth who just doesn’t see a glaring truth.

The truth is, people are going to behave hypocritically. They will hurt you, they will make wrong decisions based on pure emotion, they will have the best intentions and still screw up unfathomably. As cliche as it is, people are messy. People are not just good or bad. People do not make only good or bad decisions. Even the most selfless person you know has their moments of completely self-absorption. Maybe much more often than you think. But when someone is so far to the negative extreme that you cannot stand them, you have to keep telling yourself: that’s who I was.

Some people need change so badly, and it seems that they’re the only one who’s unaware of that. Maybe they’re making the same stupid or wrong decision over and over and over and over, and you’ve tried to tell them, over and over and over and over, and you think, Maybe this time they’ll hear me. But they don’t. And it happens again. Maybe this person is close to you, and that’s why you keep coming back to them. But they can’t hear you.

The truth is, anybody can decide to change. We can’t do it for them. They have to decide it. But sometimes people’s patterns of choices become such a part of them that it’s not that they can’t change, but that it would require a miracle for that to happen. Who they are is so deeply entrenched in the choices that they make, that to extricate the person from the decisions would be to make a whole new human being, a whole new life. This is frustrating, and upsetting, and difficult for those of us who watch it happen. And even if that person were extricated from their pattern of making choices, the fact that those choices were so deeply ingrained before would no doubt leave behind residue and scars, that may further influence backsliding.

But it’s important to remember, this is what sin is to us. It is so deeply ingrained in the human race, that change is impossible without a miracle. And Jesus is that to us. When you meet someone who’s the biggest jerk you’ve ever known, remember that you were there. When you meet someone who is the nicest person alive but who keeps making wrong decisions over and over again, remember that you were there once too. Remember where you came from, and realize it wasn’t your own power that got you where you are now, and that’s how you can keep loving people even if they never choose to change.

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How to live an interesting life.

“Have you ever read the diary of Anne Frank before?” I asked, once I saw that the lady sitting across from me had put down her book. We’d both been sitting at Brakemasters waiting for work to be done on our vehicles.

“No, I havent,” the old lady replied.

“It’s a hard read,” I said, “not because it’s difficult to understand, but because of what’s happening.”

And that began a nearly six-hour conversation about loving reading, books, language, life, and several movies, which continued until the Brakemasters manager came to tell me that my car was fixed.

Toward the end, the lady said something that intrigued me. I’d been telling her about my major, about what I was reading at the moment, about artwork that I do, about why I drink coffee versus tea and how it depends on my mood, about riding horses, and hiking, and my family. As I was almost ready to leave, she said, “You live a very interesting life.” I told her, “And I’m only twenty-one!” and the old lady chuckled and put her hand over her eyes and said, “Oh, well that makes me depressed.”

Despite her obvious thought that her life was somehow boring or uninteresting, I was very interested in what she had been telling me about herself. She has four children who must love her very much, because she’s living with family at the moment. She was a nurse for a very long time. She loves to read, but often it’s too noisy or too busy at her home to read. She was divorced at 30, and she was telling me that she had to struggle raising four children on her own.

But in all honesty, I was a little envious. She’s lived her life. She has so much that’s behind her, and so much to look back on. I have a life that’s full of potential, but that also means that my life is full of uncertainty. It’s full of things that aren’t. This old woman’s life is full of things that were. And having been is the surest kind of being. These things that make up her life, that make up who she is, just are. They are stored away, and they make for a rich story to be told and remembered.

While I found her story interesting to hear, I had always thought that my life was invariably normal. This seemed to be the way that the lady viewed her life as well. I think that the “interesting” part comes from where we place our interest, not the events in and of themselves. Being a nurse is not, in itself, interesting. Being divorced is not, in itself, interesting. Riding horses, coming from a particular family, and reading books, is not, in itself, interesting at all. It depends on what you find interesting. And when you’re living something, it seems indisputably ordinary, because it’s all that you know. For others, it could be fascinating. So, in order to lead an interesting life, you must first be interested in it.