Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Making the Call

“I've been coming here every summer of my adult life, and every summer there she is oiling and lotioning, lotioning and oiling... smiling. I can't take this no more!”

“Make the call.” Said with an authoritative voice, the short command can add drama to any situation. Whether the Chief of Staff is prompting the President to order a strike or my dad is telling my mom to pick something from the menu as the waiter taps his pen on the pad, “make the call” always adds a sense of urgency.

“I’m going to make the call.” Said with anticipation and nervousness, this phrase brings up images of a high school boy calling the cute girl from math class who sits two rows across him. He’s going to ask her to prom, but he isn’t sure she will say “yes.” Mustering up enough gumption to ask the Wendy Peffercorn of your school deserves such a definitive statement.

“I have to make a call.” Sometimes, we have to make decisions. Sometimes, these decisions affect just us.  Other times, they affect others we don’t even know. The hardest decisions, though, are those we make that affect loved ones.

It’s interesting to me that no matter the scenario, “making the call” brings an issue to a head. The President is going to risk civilian casualties, Squints is going to jump off the diving board into the deep end, and a young man decides that taking a job far away from his family and friends is the best decision. When “making the call,” there is no hiding in aloofness or ambiguity. In a world where appeasing every side of an issue is a praised asset in many professions (we call it “political correctness”), we, by default, stray from “making the call.”

I think that our society is simultaneously becoming more divided and becoming watered-down.  In politics in the U.S. and across the world, peoples are divided.  Other peoples hate one another as much as ever, threatening to destroy entire nations. Yet, compared to our ancestors, we are surprisingly docile. My great grandfather used to beat men up if they wronged his wife or daughters. He would become furious and instead of calling him to “share a piece of his mind”, he would let his fists do the talking. And this was acceptable, as opposed to frowned upon. While I am not advocating violence as the answer to contested issues, I do find it interesting that we used to dual instead of debate. We used to put our lives on the line instead of hiding behind fake screen names, committing libel on anyone who opposed our cause. I wonder if we would debate things such as how much one man pays on his tax returns if we had to put our lives on the line for it.

Whatever the cases may be, “making the call” has never seemed more difficult. The pressure to please everyone weighs heavily on our hearts. And if a decision doesn’t feel good, then it probably doesn’t belong. Making decisions that sting won’t win popularity contests or elections, if there is a difference. That’s why candidates pander every demographic imaginable and why I can’t seem to get comfortable in my own skin. You see, when I try to please everyone, which I have done for years, I always end up failing. I crash and burn in my own spun-up webs of promises and words. My time can’t be spilt appropriately in order to make everyone feel special. My actions always seem to irk one acquaintance the wrong way if I’m trying to please another. Not everyone can be my best friend. Not everyone can have my full attention. But in order to fulfill my supposed duty to others, making sure their day is a good one, I have found myself tripping over my own laces.

What I must realize is that to truly please others, you have to be true to yourself. I also need to come to grips with the idea that pleasing everyone is impossible. While this is a revelation every 4th grader hears during story time, I think that we’ve lost perspective. Our daily lives have become a balance beam stunt with two back flips and a split leap. Then, at the end of the night, we dismount, just trying to stick the landing before collapsing. Our business decisions have become about pleasing stock holders, for not only do they own the company, they own us. Our beliefs have become muddled as we try to desperately not to utter them in a way that could offend. And our social networks billow to hundreds of “friends” with the capability to eye your every move.  

“And when I stopped doing that and started thinking about what feels natural and what feels right to me and started pleasing myself, then it became good.” 
 -Terrence Howard

We cannot escape these avenues of social interaction. And we don’t want everyone to hate us for being selfish or arrogant or stuck in our ways. But I assure you that if you escape, even for a few moments, the pressures of this society, you will find clarity much easier to come by. With that clarity, ask yourself and God what it is you believe, whom it is you should and want to invest time in, and how far it is you’re willing to go for those beliefs and those people.

If all that seems a little much, start with the small things. Is it good to grab lunch today? Probably an affirmative. Do I believe that my family deserves a phone call at least once a week? Hopefully true. Once these questions are being answered, you can start venturing into the bigger decisions in life. Should I forgive this friend for their wrong? Should I pursue the girl I have a crush on? Is this the job I should take? All of these things are tough decisions, and the answers aren’t always clear-cut. But unlike our society, you can come to a clear decision, even if it doesn’t make everyone happy. Your answer should reflect clarity, truth, and love. If those characteristics are there, you may have successfully fled the ambiguity and aloofness of our society. One way to guarantee it: let Jesus decide for you. It is incredible at how that simple surrender can relieve burden. Then you are able to find truth in a difficult situation, own it. Lead with that decision. Make the call.

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”
― Émile Zola

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