For the past 5 weeks, my friends and I have been going through a video series together, called Guardrails.
Just like the guardrails on a road or bridge are there to keep vehicles from accidentally veering off into a ditch or into the water, guardrails in life are things, we should put up, that will keep us from entering into the dangerous or off-limit areas of life.
These are things that should both direct and protect us from ruining our lives. They are personal standards of behavior that become a matter of conscience for us. They help to light up our conscience before we hurt other people. Not after, but before! They are there to make us to begin feeling uneasy before it is too late.
So last week, we came together once again to watch the final video in the series and it was about Guarding Your Heart.
Many of us are familiar with the Wise Sayings from King Solomon, one of which is to “guard your heart, because everything you do flows from it.” So, if everything we do – including how we relate with other people – flows from the state of our hearts; from what we’re thinking and feeling inside; how do we then make sure we don’t allow it get to a point where we harm others and harm ourselves in the process also?
We have to identify triggers; certain feelings, emotions and thought-processes so that when we realize our minds heading in that direction, we are quickly able to snap out of them before they lead us to act in regrettable ways towards others and ourselves.
So, here are four feelings and emotions you should identify, and when you begin to think these thoughts and feel these feelings, it should bother you! They are internal tensions that deserve and demand your attention!!
Guilt means “I owe you”.
When you start feeling like you owe someone an apology, some money you not-so-clearly borrowed from them, an explanation, or whatever it is – when you identify that feeling within you, then it is time to address it, because what it does is to begin to alienate you from the person. You can’t look them in the eye; you keep saying nothing is wrong when they ask you what’s wrong. They can feel it, you can feel it too. It’s a palpable tension that demands your attention.
Perhaps there’s this pretty lady in your office that seems to like you, but you’re not really sure she does. I mean, she flatters you every now and then, asks you for help with certain tasks unrelated to yours, she then complements you for being smart enough to solve them, she comes by your desk every now and then for a chat.
Now you, on the other hand, have a girlfriend, fiancée or a wife at home and you consciously hide this aspect of your workday when you both are chatting about how your day went at the end of each day.
That guilt begins to build up. Sure, you read no meanings into the lady’s advances but you not mentioning it to your significant other begins to well up a feeling of guilt within you, and then you find yourself beginning to carry an unnecessary secret that steadily creates a chasm between you two.
So, how do you deal with guilt? Confess. Confess before it becomes a big deal. Confess not to God but to the other person involved. It may damage your reputation in their eyes a bit but, yes, that’s what guardrails do. They keep us within minimal damage. A car may lose control on the Third-Mainland Bridge and crash into the guardrails there. Even though the car was dented and a bit damaged, it was prevented from sinking into the ocean with its driver.
That’s what the guardrail of confessing your guilt will do for you. It will keep you from sinking into alienation from loved ones.
Anger means “You owe me”.
When you start feeling like someone owes you an apology, explanation, reparation, gratitude, or whatever it is – when you can’t stand being around that person because of what they’ve done to you, then it’s time to remedy that.
A good place to start is to identify what exactly it is that they owe you. Recently, my Financial Planner was careless with one of my insurance policies and missed a deadline, costing me a lot of money. He came by my office, with his tail between his legs, to confess to me that he had messed up and to tell me the amount of money he had cost me as a result. Of course I was ticked off by this, I was angry.
While watching this portion of the Guardrails video with my friends, it was mentioned that the response to anger is to forgive. Identify exactly what it is that you feel that person owes you and forgive them – decide or declare that they don’t owe you that exact thing anymore. Let it go.
So there and then, I decided to get past all the minor surrounding issues of “why didn’t he tell me earlier?”, “how could he make such a mistake with someone else’s money?”, “why’s he such a careless and distracted guy?”, and instead identified the exact amount of money he cost me, which I felt that he owed me, and decided to forgive him of that amount. I truly felt free after that, and I feel we can relate much better now.
Anger carried on can lead to pride. You can go from “You owe me” to “The world owes me”, if you’re not careful. And, as you know, pride comes before a nasty fall.
So, do you feel angry towards anyone? Identify exactly what it is you feel they owe you (boil it down to one thing) then maybe call them up and tell them you forgive them for that exact one thing.
Greed means “I owe me”.
When you live by the assumption that everything you have is for your consumption, then you are greedy.
This was one of the reasons I personally decided to begin tithing again, despite the controversies surrounding that topic these days. I wanted to do away with that dangerous feeling that everything I made was mine to spend.
Greed alienates you from people because no one really likes a self-centered person. It’s very draining to hang around such.
Just last week, we were moving offices and began to find silly things like paper plates, tissue papers and stationery hidden in odd places around the office floor. I later came to find out that it was the old admin assistant who used to hide stuff like that so that no one else would get to use them. If there was say an office party and she bought disposable plates, spoons and napkins, she would hide the remainder, after the party is over, in odd places. Why? Well, because she spent money on them, so why would anyone else get to use them but her? Money that wasn’t hers but the company’s, by the way.
But that’s what greed does to you. It turns you into a hoarder too, not only a consumer. You keep on amassing things to the irritation of those around you and, as in the case of this admin assistant, even those who didn’t know you (like I didn’t) would come to think ill of you when they see the things you amassed and ended up not using after all.
What’s the response to greed? Give. Give to others something that you consider to be a big deal to you like ten percent of your income – how about that? Then it’ll keep you from falling into the ditch of thinking that everything revolves around you.
Jealousy means “Life owes me”.
When you start feeling like those around you are getting what you deserve, then it’s time to address that feeling. You know, like when your colleague gets that promotion instead of you, when your roommate has no problems getting boyfriends who come to visit her with lots of gifts while you don’t seem to be able to land one decent guy, when your social media feeds are littered with posts of other people’s expensive vacations, career advancements, weddings and family expansions, while you are there scrolling through and feeling like life is so unfair to give those people all those nice things that it knows you deserve. That’s the beginning of jealousy turning into envy and resentment.
Of all the four dangerous emotions, jealousy was the one that all my friends and I unanimously agreed was what we had a problem with, and needed to deal with. So, I’m quite sure that this is one area you absolutely struggle with, if none else, and you need to deal with too.
So, how do you deal with jealousy? Celebrate! And celebrate loudly!
Go meet that person who got the promotion you wanted and say a meaningful “congratulations” to them. It’s more for your sake than for theirs. They may know you’re ‘beefing’ them but they can easily move on with life because it’s neither their fault nor their problem that they have what they have, and you don’t. But you, on the other hand, would be eaten away slowly by jealousy and that is neither good for your health nor for your relationship with others.
Another way to identify jealousy in your heart is when you catch yourself celebrating another person’s downfall. You know, like the way you were celebrating on Twitter when Linda Ikeji’s blog was taken down by Google?
Yes, even though the best response to jealousy is to celebrate loudly, it doesn’t mean that you celebrate the misfortune of others. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. And also make peace with God because, if you are real with yourself, you will ultimately discover that the root of your jealousy is not because you think ‘Life’ owes you, but because you think ‘God’ owes you. So, make peace with God and be grateful to Him for the much He has given you already, and quit comparing yourself to others.
So, these are the 4 dangerous emotions that should sound an alarm to you internally – in your conscience – when you begin to feel them brewing inside. I came up with my personal acronym for them: JAGG – Jealousy, Anger, Guilt and Greed so that when I feel them I will not act on them, I will not react. Instead, I will respond by celebrating, forgiving, confessing and giving. I think it’s a good way to begin to guard my heart diligently, since EVERYTHING I do flows from it.