I haven't written much lately. The obvious excuse is that over the past two years, I've been raising a new set of twin boys, while still raising the two girls I already had. Combined with work, my marriage and some health issues that hit our family, there has been a lot to occupy my time. But the truth runs a bit deeper.
Without detailing the stresses beyond the general description above, the result of many battles over the last two years has taken a serious toll on me. And to take some responisibility on my part, I have allowed the stress to affect my attitude. I've found myself viewing things quite negatively and allowed anger and depression to creep into my life.
I've sought some counseling, and while far from out of the woods, I'm getting things pointed back in the right direction for myself and my family. And truth be told, this post is not about my circumstance as much as it is an epiphany that is giving me motivation to be better.
To fully explain, I need to travel back a few years to another epiphany: one about money. Back in college and the early post-college days, as a group of friends would get together, someone always had a little more expendable income than the others, and someone else always had a little less. This would lend to others in the group covering portions for each other. Some of us tracked the debt specifically to be reconciled; others left it general to be caught up whenever. I think most people follow some sort of similar practice, and we develop an attitude over time that someone is either generous or someone else is somewhat of a mooch.
I was one of those who did not explicitly count pennies to know how much I owed someone else or how much someone owed me. Nonetheless, I had a general feel for the balance among my group of friends. By the time I had a "real job" and a semi-stable budget, I felt like I was fairly even with most of my friends. However, one day an event was brought to my attention which I never realized happened. Something of "random good fortune" had actually been a charitable act of one of my friends. It was then I realized I was not as "even" as I had thought.
From that day forward, when it came to "non-accountable" monies dispersed on behalf of friends or theirs on me, I developed an entirely different approach. I decided that I needed to be generous beyond what I felt to be what kept me "even." I needed to chip in a little more than my share all the time -- not stupidly, irresponsibly or when I couln't afford it. But when we all wanted to do something and the event was within my budget, I would buy an extra round of drinks, get an appetizer for the table, take an extra turn buying delivery pizza -- something to be ahead of what I perceived to be the average of the group. Again why? Because if I was a little ahead, then I was probably only really even from all the things I missed or forgot to track.
There was a time I believe some in my circle of friends saw me as the mooch. But with this new approach and a little bit of time, I went from that label to one whose generosity and willingness to pay his own way was never questioned. It was a great change; I felt good about it, and I did it responsibly, not for the glory of the label.
So this brings me to my current epiphany, which parallels the first. However, rather than being about finances and charitable accounting, this is one more about my attitude and behavior -- but the principle is really the same. I began thinking about people's love banks -- at first my own, but then others as well.
As a quick explanation for those unfamiliar with the term. it is believed to be first coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov in her 1979 book, Love and Limerace. The love bank is simply the idea that every person has an "account" with every other person. Everything we do or say or don't do or say will create either a deposit or withdrawal in the love bank account of the person with whom you are interacting. Loving acts and kindness place emotional goodwill into another person's bank, while meanness or even apathy drains the account. The account balance, be it high or low, heavily influences how we feel about other people.
Perhaps you see this coming. My latest epiphany takes the concept of being generous in the degree of always trying to be ahead of "even" from a truly financial practice to one of an inter-relational one. I realized I needed to be making deposits in others' love banks in such a way that I wasn't just "even." I wasn't just paying back a kindness they had done, but actually trying to exceed it.
Again why? Because if I only sought to pay my fair share, I would inevitably fall short of what I really owed through my own human failure to remember and account for everything. I need to aim to go above and beyond, if only because that attitude will probably only keep me to the "true even." And I don't want to be in debt to anyone, financially or emotionally.
The truth is there are some persons whom I will never be able to repay their kindnesses. There are some people I may never be able to repay certain financial gifts either. I can't allow my ego to get caught up in that silliness either. For some things, I must be a gracious recipient of a gift; however, I should not allow myself to settle in to always being the taker. I have a duty to give back, even if it is not directly to the original person.
Anyway, that was my revelation. And it is helping me on my road to emotional recovery from the stresses in my life. I am still working on turning it from a plan into action; perhaps I will always be in that process during this life.
But finally, in a broader sense, I believe this viewpoint has given me a little insight, not only on how to improve things for me personally and not only on how to enhance the relationships I have, but also it would seem that I have stumbled on a little bit of sense of how things are supposed to work from the God's viewpoint.