There’s the old story of a man sitting in front of the tv watching the lotto numbers be read out and exclaiming, ‘Dammit, I didn’t win again!’
The response then comes from his partner, ‘I keep telling you Albert, you have to buy a ticket first!’
The arrogance of someone expecting to win something that they haven’t even entered is funny for the onlooker and sad for those involved.
But at some level we all do that. We can all expect an outcome without putting in the work beforehand. Expecting to get a promotion without putting in the hard work previously. Expecting to lose weight without eating well and exercising. Expecting to win an event without training. Expecting that the world will come calling without spending the time creating and preparing. Expecting to win the respect of others without first showing respect to people.
First, we do the work, then the outcomes happen. Not all outcomes are guaranteed though, but if the work is done first then the likelihood of an expected outcome is much higher.
One outcome that is guaranteed is the outcome of generosity. Once you are generous you feel good, you help the world be a better place and create good things all around you. You don’t even need to buy a ticket, just give some money away.
There are times when my spirit feels crushed. There are times when I don’t seem to have the ability to cognitively think my way out of a downward emotional spiral. The feeling of betrayal and anger, bordering on hatred, can burn a deep hole in your being. In those moments I feel disorientated and lost, desperately searching for a sure footing and a strong sense of my identity. Can you still act generously out of anger? What if I always feel this way? What if this is my new normal?
The Dark Moments are terrifying. To not see a way out. To know that things will get better but to not feel that. To know what I ‘need’ to do, but not do it. These are the time when generosity is most important.
Generosity is not all light and fluffy. It is also the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, when you are feeling the emotional weight, when you are not sure if you can carry on, when the voices of detractors are loud and echoing around your head. It’s the work of choosing to act generously, even if it is only to yourself and say, ‘it’s okay to feel this way’, and then to seek help.
Remember that to change course or accept correction leaves you just as free as you were. The action is your own, driven by your own impulse and judgement, indeed your own intelligence.
I don’t think that I know what freedom really means because I have never been held captive. Not in a physical sense anyway. As a white male, living in a western country, I am possibly the most free person on the planet. I don’t want to take that for granted.
But, the greatest trick that we pull on ourselves is to think that we are trapped by something when we are not. The government, our family, our job, our friends, the weather, the global pandemic. But none of those things can hold me captive unless I want them to.
- The government may put a mask mandate or vaccination mandate in place. They are unable to force me to do either. It is my choice to say yes or no to them. I am free.
- Just because I have a wife and young children doesn’t stop me from doing what I want to do, whenever I want to do it.
- My employer cannot make me turn up to work every day. I can choose to do so or not.
- My friends may not agree with choices that I make but their opinion cannot stop me from living my life.
- Hot weather is not able to stop me from going for a long run. Cold weather is also unable to.
- A virus cannot stop me from going out and enjoying life.
What I am not free from are the consequences of my actions.
- Sure, I can choose to ignore government mandates, but the consequences of that choice could cost me.
- I could ignore my family and prioritise other things, but the consequences of that choice could cost me relationally.
- I could ignore my job and go to the beach all day, but the consequences of that choice could cost me financially (also, sand).
- I could ignore my friends and lose them.
- I could ignore the weather and burn or freeze.
- I could ignore the virus and get sick.
I am not free from consequences, but I am free to choose which consequences I want.
So, in my freedom…
- I am choosing to protect my family and community by getting vaccination and wearing a mask when necessary.
- I am prioritising time with my family to build quality, long term relationships.
- I am committed to my job which I find fulfilling, which will serve me, my family and the organisation I work for in the long term.
- I heed the advice of my close friends, whom I’ve chosen wisely, which will help me make wise choices.
- I will run whenever I want, regardless of the weather, but sometimes I will do it indoors on the treadmill, so that I can keep running for a long time to come.
- I am choosing to restrict my movement in the short term to stay as healthy as I can for as long as I can.
2022 is the year of freedom to choose the consequences that I want, which is an unbelievable gift that carries a weight of responsibility.