When things spin out of control, stick to your principles

Live one day at a time, according to what God has written on your heart.

Lee Eric Smith, lesmith@tsdmemphis.com | 10/31/2015, 10:05 a.m.
Live one day at a time, according to what God has written on your heart.
Lee Eric Smith

I was on the phone with a good friend who was at the edge of divorce – a divorce he doesn’t want, but seemed imminent. Divorced in 2012, I have been there, got the T-shirt, washed it plenty of times.

In my circle of friends, I’m sort of known as “The Spiritual Guy” (wonder how THAT happened). So at the beginning of the phone call, he said point blank: “I need a pick me up, something positive.”

We complained together, disappointed over how things should have been different, yadda, yadda, yadda. I’m not out to minimize his feelings or mine. Contrary to popular belief, men can and do need to vent their feelings. But at a certain point, a man wants to be able to take action. It’s like, “Enough of the complaining. What can I DO about this?”

Thus I posed him this question: “Who do you want to be in relationship to this situation?”

“I don’t understand what you mean,” he replied.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the past year, it’s that we can’t control what life throws at us,” I said. “All we can control is who we’re being in relationship to it. I didn’t want a divorce. I didn’t want to be an absentee father to my daughter. But things happened and here I am. Even now, I may have some influence on how it all shakes out, but no actual control.”

He was quiet, but listening intently.

“So instead of focusing on what I can’t control (and getting frustrated by it), I choose to focus on what I CAN control,” I continued. “And that lies in the question: ‘Who do I want to be?’ Enough has happened in the past year for me to park my soul in a thicket of bitterness, anger and rage. But that’s not who I want to be. It’s certainly not the example I want to set for my daughter.

“I don’t want to be angry and distant all the time. More than ever, I want to apply the teachings of my friend Jesus – I want to be the kind of man who meets the day with love and kindness.”

At this point, Spirit just took over.

“I don’t want to live in fear and dread of what may happen weeks, months or years from now,” I added. “That’s not what Jesus (or countless other great spiritual teachers) have taught us. I want to live in the moment – to be grateful for THIS day, for the air I breathe, for the time I have to spend with those I love. I want to use my life TODAY to try to add something to the fabric of humanity.”

“I follow you,” my friend said.

“Now here’s the thing about that: I don’t even have any control over how others will perceive me, what the fruit of my efforts will be,” I continued. “As hard as I tried to make my marriage work, it still exploded in my face. There’s no guarantee that if you stick by your principles, your standards, that you’ll end up with your ideal life.