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What’s the alternative to telling someone to shake it off?

What’s the alternative to telling someone to shake it off?

Shake it off!

“Git r done”

Rise up!

Just do it.

Pick yourself up by your bootstraps!

There are many expressions intended to lift us up when we are down or facing a daunting challenge, “Shake it off” has found some popularity in recent years (thanks TS) and I’ve added a few others to the list above.  Each of these rallying cries holds at its core a fundamental belief that all one needs is enough grit and the world can be one’s oyster. In these ways, we can hear the world telling us all we need to do is grab by the shell and “shuck it!”

This feel-good story is absolutely true for some select people and they are indeed extraordinary! We watch them soar despite the odds stacked against them and we are inspired. This is not a post about those exemplary humans.  Today, I am interested in talking to you about those who do everything the very best they can, yet somehow continue to suffer a seemingly endless series of “bad hands” and tough blows. Do you know anyone like this?

Likely you do, and another dimension of this shared experience is that we are all experts at other people’s lives and what they should do to fix them!  We all know the sister in law who can’t seem to pull it all together financially, We feel strongly that she should buckle down, read a book on financial peace, get out some cash envelopes, summon some discipline and “just do it,” right? We have all had that friend with a “broken picker” who can’t seem to stop finding romantic partners that are all wrong for them, who leave them drowning in a puddle of tears, ev-er-y sin-gle time! We strongly assert that our 3rd cousin, the one who can’t hold down a job, despite, some really great opportunities he squandered, should simply “pick himself up by his bootstraps” already!  We shake our head ever so condescendingly at the woman who can’t control her children at Walmart.  Why did she have all those kids if she can’t control them? We sit in judgment of the lady at the food truck we serve on. You know the one who is just plain grumpy all the time like she is forever sitting on some sort of cactus.  We get frustrated when, no matter how many times we try to make her smile or laugh and despite being surrounded by a group of people that just want to love her, she can’t seem to just “shake it off” and be happy.

This is one of those universal circumstances where we all have a strong opinion about how others should conduct their lives to maximize prosperity and happiness and minimize pain.  When you see someone in this circumstance, do you lecture them, run the other way, or do you “lean in” with grace and compassion? Maybe you don’t do any of these things and you simply avoid people like these? Too often our well-intended actions and our inactions with folks like this can prolong a cycle of pain instead of relieving it. I know and love more than a couple people that fit this description. I am embarrassed to admit I haven’t always leaned in with understanding and compassion. I have not always taken action, in fact, I too have been known to avoid people like this. Your honor, I am guilty of the very crime I bring before you.

Well…what are we going to do about that? It seems to me we have two choices. One path looks like the status quo. The other path is less pleasant (or may seem so at first) and it looks a lot like giving up our time and attention to someone who needs to know they are loved unconditionally. It looks like trying a little harder to love people where they are – in the mess.  It looks like, letting a little of that mess into our lives, even if it is a broken record of a mess.  It looks like a whole lot of listening and a whole lot less lecturing.  It looks like trying to love people and “role model people” out of their mess instead of walking by them, or away from them, as they wallow in their rut. Dang, John! That doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, does it?!

I’m not sure if fun is always the only motivating factor for our actions?  Sometimes we have to sacrifice a bit of our pleasure and our time to be there for someone who needs us.  I heard a young man describe it this way the other day: ” I learned that I need to ask a whole lot more questions, especially when I am certain that I know a lot about a subject and I have a very strong opinion.” He went on to say something else as well, and that prompted me to write this post.  He shared with me that he has learned that sometimes people don’t need a great deal of his knowledge or advice.  Sometimes they just want to have a cup of coffee with someone who genuinely wants to listen to them without any agenda. Sometimes they just want to be seen, heard and to know someone cares. He has found that after he builds a relationship in this way, he has a much better chance of helping them out of their rut.

What if we both learned something from this gentleman? We both need to do some self-examining it seems? If you are a believer, you may want to pray about this like I plan to do? If your not, maybe you just want to reflect on this a bit in a quiet time? I know I don’t have all the answers on this, I just know that I need to do better in my own life. Personally, I am tired of telling people to shake it off or to “shuck it.” I want to find a better way to care for these folks. When it comes to this opportunity to meet people in their mess, the world’s your oyster! (you know what you can do with that, my friend! 🙂 )

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2 Replies to “What’s the alternative to telling someone to shake it off?”

  1. Hmmm…norhibg new here…sounds like how Jesus told us to treat others…amazing how we “rediscover” timeless truths we should have always adhered to for millennia…

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