Be faithful in the small things
It's easy to run after the big things. There's glory in the big, massive successes and few men can resist what that glory brings. But, glory is something that doesn't last. Just as quickly as it comes upon you, it leaves you stranded, alone and forgotten.
Maybe some of you don't want glory. You don't want to have to even think about a major, world-changing success. While I could point to your lack of confidence as the source of that, what I will say is: I know you want at least a contented, purposeful life. You want something that fulfills you and gives you a reason to rise in the morning. That alarm clock is much easier to stop or beat to the punch if you have something burning inside you to work on and bring to completion.
Heck, you just want some things to feel in place in your life. You are completely out of control and wonder how to grab just one of the flying birds swirling all around you.
To do so, you must be faithful in the small things. This won't be the only post written about such a concept, and I will never stop saying it. If you are not faithful in the little, seemingly inconsequential bits of life that just seem to be annoyances, how could you ever expect to have control over your life? It's not the big things that make your life seem out of control, it's the little things you let slip and fall apart that CREATED the big things.
“But it's not my fault.” Maybe it's not. Maybe it is. Doesn't matter either way. Want to know why? Because your responsibility is to take care of what you CAN control. Those things you can control will provide you with beautiful opportunities to be responsible over the little things. This gives you the ability to wrestle back control from the chaos that permeates every area of your life.
Christ talks about this exact concept. In the parable of the talents, the master gives 3 servants different amounts of talents (a form of currency, though isn't the word interesting?) and leaves. Two of the servants double their talents, the third hides his in the ground. The master gets back and is proud of the two who double theirs. The third makes the master furious.
You are given each moment with full free will to decide how you are going to spend it. If you bury that moment and reject responsibility over it, why would you ever expect to be given responsibility (or fulfillment!) over much?
“But there's so much, you just don't understand.” I don't need to. Want to know why? Because it doesn't matter how much is going on in your world, you will always have the opportunity to take care of the small things, which will help shape the big things. This is not pie-in-the-sky reasoning. Some people have it EXTREMELY difficult in life. This means they need to be extremely efficient. But if your bills are way past due and you're sitting on the couch...I've found your problem. If you're wife is leaving you and you haven't done a single chore around the house in the past 5 years...I've found your problem. If your son won't talk to you and you haven't sat down once to apologize for screaming at him while you were drunk...I've found your problem. If you have no fulfillment in life and are extremely depressed, but you haven't taken your eyes off Youtube and Xbox for the past 10 years...I've found your problem.
“But you're trivializing my problems. Again, you just don't understand.” Do you not understand the excuses you are throwing out? Is that being responsible or irresponsible with the issue? How many times will you resort to talking about how out-of-control you are? Does that help you solve your issues? Does it magically bring about fulfillment and contentment? Or does it instead build in you a defeated, self-loathing, depressed state and build a pity party for yourself. When you get home and want a snack, but complain every day about how overweight you are; you are proving my point. You refuse to be responsible for your small choices, and then you complain of how a great life is out of reach.
Depression and self-pity are addicting. Think about it. You ever tried to get out of depression? You're so low, you can't even begin to muster the energy to do anything about it, and frankly: deep down...you don't want to. You tell yourself you want out, but the voice of depression is too powerful. It seems to make too much sense. It overpowers the reasonable side of you.
That's an addiction.
And what it won't do? Depression won't tell you to stop looking at the big picture, and take care of one thing that you can control. It'll tell you it's not worth it, why bother. I'm here to tell you that I've come from the deep pits of depression. I've held the gun in my hands. Literally. But, as I reconstruct my life, my relationship with Christ has provided me the assurance I needed; that even if the rest of the world rejects me, He accepts me.
But there's more. I began taking charge over the small things. I accepted responsibility both for my successes and my failures. All of those tasks that I avoided, whether they were simple chores or productive feats to get my life moving forward, I began to reassess whether I was actually doing what was asked of me. And guess what? I realized how extremely inefficient, lazy, unproductive and self-consuming I was. That wasn't the depression talking, it was a realistic, reasonable assessment of my life. So I began to take charge in very simple areas.
I started to focus on my relationship with the Lord. Without prayer, scripture, fellowship and action, how could I possibly expect my relationship with Christ to flourish? That's like never speaking a word to your wife, and expecting to know everything about her. Then you get mad when she doesn't show you love and respect. You are responsible!
I started to periodically set my alarm earlier. No longer rushing out the door. I determined that I would make something of my mornings. Since I don't get home until late most days, my time is very valuable. So I began to take responsibility and treat it as such.
“But it's hard to get up early.” It's more detrimental to your health to be depressed every day. So, do something hard, and be proud of doing it.
I started to limit my screen time. My scrolling on Youtube, Netflix and social media was out of control. You don't even realize you're doing it. Standing in line at the store? Instagram. Stopped at a stoplight? Facebook.(You people are the ones that make me want to drive my truck right up your tailpipe when the light has been green for 30 seconds.) Home on the couch while your kid has their soul sapped by a tablet or console? Youtube. Do you understand what the consumption of such powerful stimuli is doing to you? Then you look up, it's been two hours and nothing around the house has been done. No productive feat has been accomplished. So you feel worse about yourself. What do you do? Back to Instagram. Where you get to look at beautiful people doing amazing things in front of a camera for sponsorship dollars. They live the life. You don't.
Figure out how to limit that consumption. I'm not a fan of the apps and control processes, because frankly: for me they never work. I find an end-around, I find something else to fill that gap that is similar, or I just get rid of it somehow. If it actually works for you, great! Do it. But if you know yourself and that it won't last, what I suggest is to think of something to do before you immerse yourself in it. Take on a challenge. Challenge yourself in all areas of life. Standing in line? Challenge yourself to go the entire wait without looking at your phone. The first step truly is to be cognizant (aware) of the situation, and then you can take responsibility.
A small example of this.
I have battled an addiction to soda (or pop if you're a midwestern/northerner like me) for a long time. I'd quit for a short time, then come back to it like that desperate ex-girlfriend who looks your way again. A couple weeks would be spent building up resistance, only to have it taken from me with that shallow little voice that says, “You've done great. You can have one.”
On December 21st, 2019, I wanted to test myself. I swore to not have a soda for a year. The idea daunted me, but I wanted to try. The Mt. Dew, the Coke, the Root Beer...all of it. So I began my journey.
The first couple of months were the harder times. It was difficult to retrain myself to see the world through soda-sober eyes.
Now, to be fair...I supplemented with La Croix. Most of you would probably rather go without any bubbly than use La Croix. The only reason I did was because I knew the bubbles gave a different sensation than water. No sugar. No caffeine. No taste?
After the first couple of months, I gained traction on making my way to one year. Something else happened periodically though. When I was stressed, run down, burned out or feeling nihilistic; I would start craving a soda. That little voice would say, “Now is the time. You've done well. Have just one.”
Thankfully, I refused every time. I reminded myself of the nasty sugar aftertaste, the gut-rot, the breaking of the streak and how I would be letting myself down. I kept going, and am still going. It has now been a little over a year, and I don't foresee myself having a real soda anytime soon.
Now the takeaway from that little example. I took control. I took responsibility over those small choices, and made the proper one each and every time. This is what produced the progress for me. That year's worth of time didn't come and go through a couple big choices, but through a myriad of small ones spread out over the course of a year. Go to dinner? Order a water or iced tea. Going shopping? Stay out of the soda aisle and build fortitude by ignoring the coolers next to the check-out. Hanging out with a friend who says you “just have to try this flavor of small-brand soda” and doesn't quit even after you explain your quitting? (This actually happened to me) You say, “No.” repeatedly. With pride. It builds your confidence in yourself when you stand against peer pressure and sustained pressure.
Each little choice builds confidence to continue the process. It is in the habit of sitting down, procrastinating, overthinking and avoiding where confidence is shattered. No one became an expert at martial arts by watching karate kid over and over.
The control of your life is doled out in tiny choices. The problem is that the pleasure spike from quick hits is so much more powerful, but it saps you dry. You require more and more to get that same spike. You know that going to cocaine is not a great choice if you want a hit of pleasure, precisely because of how powerful it is. This power creates the addiction, and creates the need for more and more to reach that same level of spike. Being in control and being faithful in the small things means lower pleasure spikes and a more gradual climb. However, that climb is more sustained. It becomes longer lasting and gives the forward motion that carries you over a long distance. The difficult times will still pull at you, and you may stumble with bouts of depression or futility. The beauty is that they can become less and less powerful and shorter lasting.
Some may argue, “But extremely efficient people can be the most depressed. So, you're wrong.”
Let me ask you a question. Do you believe they are faithful in the small things that truly matter. Those people: how much of their family, faith and friends have they sacrificed to be extremely efficient? How much of their body, health and deep priorities have they put aside to become “extremely efficient?”
The ones who are truly content are the ones who find a balance of achieving and taking care of the most important priorities. This principle IS NOT meant for a single area such as business. If you do not approach life with the whole pie in view, you can bring a real crash later on. Sacrificing your kids for business success will harden you, and will hit at a very vulnerable point in your life. You will look back at a life of business success, and if you still have any humanity left, you will regret not spending more focus on your children when you had the chance.
Why? Because you were not faithful in the small things.