Closing The Gap Between Knowing And Doing

thinkingMarcus Aurelius, in his book Meditations, has a line that states “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” While I agree that there is entirely too much pontificating on what truly makes a man a MAN, I think there is some value in spending time thinking on how to become a better one. If you have read any of my prior stuff, you should be prepared for a “stream of consciousness” type feel. Sometimes I edit, sometimes I don’t. There, you’ve been warned. I have discovered that sometimes writing takes on a mind of its own and the words flow freely so at the risk of making this a “Jerry Maguire” moment”, here we go.

By reading the title above, you’ll see it is somewhat of a call to action for us men. Even though I have spent the last several months narrowing down my reading and study choices to things that benefit me spiritually, there is still a gap that exists between knowing a ton of enriching information and actually putting it to use.

Recently, my wife, son and I went to a heavily crowded venue and I spent the evening in a funk (I despise large crowds; the herd mentality seems to bring out the worst in people, in my opinion). Toward the end of the night, as we waited over thirty minutes trying to get out of the parking lot and I got more and more aggravated, my wife called me out as not putting into practice the Stoic philosophy that I’ve been delving into recently (although I don’t necessarily feel I fall neatly into any one single category, I have become fascinated by the Stoic philosophy and realize that my internal dialogue in many situations throughout the years has always leaned towards Stoicism). She was absolutely right and in more ways than one. Very quickly, I can think of some ways I am coming up short and I would venture a guess that I am not the only one. As the roles I play in the lives of those around me are varied, I can only hold your attention long enough to address a handful of them. In addition to the four I mention below, I am a son, a brother, a friend, a coworker, the stranger behind you in the grocery line and next to you at the stop light, and so many more things.

As a Christian…
I don’t dig into my Bible nearly enough. I can quote verses out of context with the best of them, and even highlight some both in my physical Bible and my YouVersion app. Should I not be applying some of those same verses in my day to day life? 1 Timothy 6:11 says “But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (Holman Christian Standard)”. Am I actively pursuing those six things? Romans 12:9 says “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good (New Living Translation). Am I showing my care for others on a regular basis? Am I being the best example of a Christ follower as I could be? If you met me and we went our separate ways after some time together, what sort of impression would you take of me? If I told you, unabashedly, that I am a Christian, would you cringe? Or would you want to know more? A fellow fan of GK Chesterton and CS Lewis posted the following in a FB group dedicated to CS Lewis and The Inklings; “It feels like those who spend their time learning about CS Lewis and his friends rather than pursuing the wonder that they uncover in their books are mistaking the plate for the food.” Am I guilty of putting a writer on a pedestal higher than the subject they write about? Idolatry is not only the Old Testament version of worshiping a golden calf, by the way. Just look around at any celebrity or sports figure that is “idolized”. See that word within? Am I doing that as an author fan boy?

As a father…
I lose my patience too easily and put some incredibly stringent expectations on my son. I know that I am doing this, yet I continue to do so. Why? What do I hope to gain from this, other than a strained relationship with an incredible boy whose biggest misdeed is having different interests than I do? Being completely honest, as a twelve year old did I put as much thought into my day to day activities as I expect him to? Do I tell him I love him enough? I know I don’t. I’m completely conscious of it, but am I actively taking steps to change that?

As a husband…
I fall short as well. I love my wife, but I don’t know how well of a job I do expressing it. I allow my mind to wander to places it shouldn’t at times and deprive her of the entirety of myself. She is the mother of my son, and my best friend. Is there a way I should make it more obvious to her that she and my son are my focal po‌ints and motivation for getting out the door every morning? Do I tell her how beautiful she is on a regular basis? When/if everyone else leaves, I am intrinsically connected to them for the entirety of my life. Am I showing the depths of my appreciation to her? Am I making the effort to ensure no unnecessary tension exists between her family and I? Am I the best son in law and brother in law that I could be?

As a new Stoic…
Am I truly allowing my emotions to control my behavior? Epictetus says “Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.” Am I taking to heart his words of philosophy? Is my impatience winning in the battle to control my Stoic “passions”? Seneca says “Be careful, however, lest this reading of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady. You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind. Everywhere means nowhere.” Is my desire for knowledge and advice outweighing my capacity to process all of it? Am I directing my pursuits in the right direction? Am I balancing out secular knowledge with studies of my relationship with God? Seneca also says “…philosophy teaches us to act, not to speak; it exacts of every man that he should live according to his own standards, that his life should not be out of harmony with his words, and that, further, his inner life should be of one hue and not out of harmony with all his activities. This, I say, is the highest duty and the highest proof of wisdom, – that deed and word should be in accord, that a man should be equal to himself under all conditions, and always the same. ‘But,’ you reply, ‘who can maintain this standard?’ Very few, to be sure; but there are some. It is indeed a hard undertaking, and I do not say that the philosopher can always keep the same pace. But he can always travel the same path.” Am I one of the few? Can I continue to aspire to join the club of men who actually do what they say they’ll do?

I have found that writing is therapeutic for me. If you weren’t expecting some self-examination in this posting, I apologize. If you are, like me, in a constant state of self-examination and re-examination, I hope this has let you know that there are other men out there like you.

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