Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Beauty of Gray (or rather White)

The new year has started and people are saying goodbye to 2009 and looking ahead in anticipation to 2010. From what I’ve heard and read, the majority of the reviews of the last year have been negative, due to the economy, the resulting recession or tragic personal events. Reflecting on these views, I can’t help but remember a relevant message I heard from Rev. Brent Hawkes.

I have to admit my eyebrows were raised when I was given stickers at the church door. They were round stickers, coloured red, white and blue. Then when Hawkes asked us to imagine an alternate reality, I was ready to roll my eyes. But I hung in there and the message was one that made such an impact, that I keep returning to it months later in conversations and private thoughts.

Hawkes told us about an imaginary world where we all had the same job, as members of the judiciary. He asked us to randomly put red stickers and blue stickers (six in all) on people and things around us. After doing so, he said that all too often we are quick to judge or label events, people and things in our lives as good or bad (and let’s be honest here, usually it’s negative). And that 90% of the time, our judgments turn out to be incorrect. We realize later that things weren’t as bad as we previously thought. After we got to know the person, we grew to like and admire them. We emerged from the difficulty stronger than before and were even thankful for it!

“If you made mistakes 90% of the time in your present job, how long would you keep it?” he mused. One would either be fired or quit first out of frustration. However we continue to make judgments in our lives, despite our terrible track record. Not only is this effort pointless, it can frequently be detrimental. At this point, he asked us to retrieve the six stickers we had distributed earlier. I got back all six but somehow had an unequal number, instead of three of each. Many people were short a sticker or two because they’d forgotten who they gave it to or where they had put it. This illustrated that at times our hasty judgments have long-term effects. We can’t always take them back.

In light of our failure as judges, the pastor then challenged us to let God do the job of judging and get back to doing the work we were given the talents to do. The white stickers were for us. Whenever we were tempted to fall back into being a judge (an occupation for which we are unqualified and unsuccessful), the white stickers were for that situation. Most of the aspects of our lives are neither good nor bad. They simply exist. They just are.

This challenge gave me a great deal to think about and I kept those white stickers in my pocket for some time. Imagine my surprise when one of them rubbed off onto my wallet, which I had just been guilty of judging as insufficient. I was moved to place another white sticker on a picture of my ex-partner and myself. We were together for six years and now we aren’t. That’s just how it is. By not labeling circumstances in my life, I stay in the present, where I am more effective and can grow.

So as you assess your life and make those New Year’s resolutions, I would challenge you to avoid judging. Let go and let God. Or call it Zen or Destiny if that helps you any. But resist the temptation to colour the year that’s ended or the one ahead. Think neutral. 2009 was the year that was. 2010 is the year that will be. I will try new things and maybe I succeed or fail. Maybe the results will be beyond my control. That’s okay. It’s not for me to judge. That’s not my job anyway!