Be Flexible, Foolish, & Funny…

I just came from a vacation.
And I have jet lag.
       When you move from one time zone to another time zone, it’s a killer. I got sleepy all the time. I felt sleepy at 8am, at 11am, at 6pm, at 8pm. And then when it was time to sleep at 10pm, I was totally awake. After tossing and turning in bed, I finally slept at 1am, only to wake up at 3am, totally awake again. It was nuts.
       Why did this happen?  
Because though I’ve moved to a new time zone, my body was still operating in the old time zone.
       It’s the same with your life journey.
You’re moving from one spiritual zone to another. From a Doubt Zone to a Faith Zone. From a Scarcity Zone to an Abundance Zone.  From an Impurity Zone to Purity Zone. From a Selfishness Zone to Selflessness Zone.
       But because you’re moving from one zone to another, you’re also experiencing a “lag”.
       Sometimes, you’re patient. Sometimes, you blow your top.
Sometimes, you have it all together. Sometimes, you fall.
Sometimes, you walk straight. Sometimes, you stumble.
Sometimes, you act in love. Sometimes, you act indifferently.
I have a simple message for you: Don’t be too hard on yourself.
       Don’t condemn yourself. Or you’ll get worse. You’ll be trapped.
       God forgives you. God understands that you’re moving in the right direction; you’re just experiencing a lag. And He says, “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Get up. Stand up again. And move on.”
Hold that thought for awhile because I’ll get back to it later. It’ll be very crucial when you decide to be a Peacemaker…

Two More Strategies To Be A Peacemaker
Last week, you learned two very important strategies on how to avoid unnecessary conflicts from your life: First, be faithful. That means making constant deposits in the emotional bank account of the people in your relationships. Second, be forbearing. That means accepting the weaknesses of others.
Today, I’d like to give you two more strategies, plus one Bonus strategy.
       Here they are…

3. Be Flexible
       Let me tell you one of my most favorite quotes. It’s from St. Augustine, written some 1600 years ago. He said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
       I love that quote.
If you follow it, you’ll avoid many unnecessary conflicts.
       There are two kinds of conflicts: (1) Conflicts of Principle and (2) Conflicts of Preference.
I’ve realized that most of our Conflicts are Conflicts of Preference, pretending to be Conflicts of Principle. It’s just our self-centeredness and pride that’s causing the conflict.
Think about it.  Why fight over preferences and non-essentials that don’t matter after 6 months? Or after 1 year? Or after 5 years?
       Be flexible when it comes to your preferences.

Should Wives Submit To Their Husbands?
       One day, a man came up to me and said, “Brother Bo, please tell my wife to follow the Bible. The reason why we fight a lot is because she doesn’t follow the Bible’s verse that says, ‘Wives, submit to your husbands.’”
       He didn’t know that his wife was right behind him. She stood beside him and said, “Do you know why my husband and I fight a lot? Because my husband doesn’t follow the Bible verse after that verse. It says, ‘Husbands, love your wives the way Christ loved the church.’”
I laughed. She was right.
How did Christ love the church? He died for her.
I’ve been reflecting on my marriage, and I really thank God I have a phenomenal marriage.
Why? My wife submits to me when it comes to Conflicts of Principle.  But because I want to die for her, I submit to her when it comes to Conflicts of Preference.
Lucky for her (and unlucky for me), 99% of the time, life is about Preferences! So 99% of the time, I submit to her.
       Don’t get me wrong.
I always tell her my preferences…

Express Your Preferences, But Don’t Fight Over Them
In fact, because I take my role as leader in the family very seriously, I plan for the family. Where to go. What to do. Obviously, I already weave in my preferences in the plans that I make.
In fact, I tell this often to single men: When you’re courting a woman, she is attracted to leadership.
I’m saying this because you may get the wrong idea that to be a peacemaker, you have to be like jello. “Darling, whatever you want, that’s what I want too.”
I tell single men to be a leader in the courtship process.
Believe me, many women are frustrated because their men don’t know how to lead.
Here’s a typical conversation women complain about.
Guy: “Where do you want to eat tonight?”
Girl: “You haven’t planned for it yet?”
Guy: “No, I want to go where you want to go.”
Girl: “You decide.”
Guy: “No, you decide.”
Girl: “It’s up to you…”
(Repeat 86 times.)
Guys, you’ve got to lead.
Here’s a better scenario. Express your preferences. Be a leader.
Guy:       “I know you like Italian, so I’m bringing you to this nice Italian restaurant I found in Makati that serves the best pasta. You’ll love their Aglio e Olio.”
Girl:        “Okay. Let’s try it.”
Guy:       “After that, let’s watch a movie. The actor that looks exactly like me has a new movie out now…”
Girl: “And who is that?” (raising her eyebrow)
Guy:       “John Lloyd. I’m a little bit hurt that you had to ask. Isn’t it obvious?” (fake hurt look)
But let’s say after he says “Italian”, she says…
Girl: “I’m not in the mood for Italian. Can we go Japanese instead?”
The answer should be…
“Guy: “There’s this great Japanese restaurant I’d like to show you too in Makati. Its sushi is to die for, and the Miso soup is the best I’ve ever tasted…”
In Courtship, we give up our Preferences.
In marriage, the courtship shouldn’t stop.
Husbands and wives, you should still be wooing each other everyday, trying to win each other’s hearts.

What Is Your Goal?
I just came from a 2-week vacation.
As my way of being a leader, I planned for the entire thing. I chose the flights we flew in, the hotels we stayed in, the rental cars we rode, the restaurants we ate in, and the places we visited. All written down two months before we flew out.
But whenever she told me that she preferred something that disagreed with my plans, I threw away my plans. Why? Because my wife is more important than my plans.
After 13 years of marriage, here’s one of my most important goals: I wake up every morning and ask myself, “How can I make my wife happy?”
If that’s my goal, why fight over Preference?

Parents, Choose Your Battles With Your Kids
Parents, don’t fight over Preferences with your children.
If my son comes up to me one day and says, “Dad, I want to wear an earring,” I won’t declare World War III.
I’ll listen. I’ll ask him to think through his decision.
But I won’t fight him over it.
I won’t fight over musical tastes. No matter how terrible his modern music may sound to me. I won’t fight over hairstyle. No matter how atrocious it may be to me. I won’t fight over the type of clothes he wears. No matter how hideous they may look to me.
Because they’re preferences.
I’ll save my ammo.
I’d rather focus on building my relationship with him. Teaching him how to love God. Teaching him how serve others. Teaching him how to be a gentleman. Teaching him how to earn money. Teaching him how to choose a wife.
Here’s the fourth strategy, the most difficult of them all.

4. Be Foolish
       Jesus said, If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.(Matthew 5:39)
This is one of the hardest Bible passages to interpret.
Its nuanced meaning is lost, because we don’t know the culture of that particular time and place.
       Dr. Walter Wink, a Bible Scholar, explains it in this way: In ancient middle-eastern culture, being slapped on the right cheek is very different from being slapped on the left cheek.
     First, the left hand cannot be used for slapping, because it was used for unclean tasks.  (I won’t have to expound on this one. Use your imagination.)  Only the right hand was used for slapping.
       To slap you on the right cheek, one has to use a backhand slap.
       And a backhand slap meant something very specific to the Jew; A backhand slap was how a master slaps a slave, or how a Roman slaps a Jew. The right cheek slap meant, “You’re beneath me! I shame you. I humiliate you.”
       When Jesus said, “Give your left cheek,” it meant something totally different. If I’ll slap you on the left cheek, I can’t use the back of my right hand. I’ll have to slap you with a fist or the front of my hand. Which had a totally different meaning to them. In their culture, it meant, “We’re equals.” You’ve reclaimed your dignity and refuse to be humiliated.
       What’s the point? When someone abuses you, God wants you to defend yourself. Not allow yourself to be humiliated.
       But He wants you to do something utterly foolish:“When people hurt you, don’t slap back. Don’t strike back. Don’t seek revenge. Don’t punish. Don’t get even. Instead, do good. Hopefully, your goodness will shame them, and their conscience will move them to change their lives.”
       St. Paul says the same thing. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (Romans 12:14)
       Conflicts are vicious cycles. Conflicts perpetuate forever and last for 500 years because no one disrupts the cycle. Someone has to step in and say, “I won’t retaliate.”
       Be foolish and show kindness when someone showed meanness.
Finally, I promised a “Bonus” strategy for avoiding unnecessary conflicts.
       Here it is…

5. Be Funny
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
       Here’s the truth: Nobody does. (Ha ha!)
       People who take themselves too seriously end up with a lot of conflicts.  Why?  Because they get easily offended. Their pride gets easily pricked.
       Here’s my advice. Don’t take it too seriously when people disagree with you. Or when people offend you.   Or when people criticize you.
       At the end of the day, they don’t matter.
       When a driver cuts in front of my car, I don’t get mad. I just smile and say, “He must be in a hurry to get to the toilet.” I don’t take it personally. That driver has problems, not me.
       Don’t make people with problems ruin your day.
       Why expend energy getting angry? It’s not worth it.
For example, I used to be bothered by people who criticize me.
       One day, someone told me to read a blog of a Christian leader. He told me, “Bo, that guy said some nasty things about you.”
When I looked at it, it was true. In his blog, he was lambasting me for being a false prophet—a prophet of the devil. He criticized me for teaching people how to become rich. He said I was dragging people to hell because I was teaching materialism. (He also called other preachers false prophets: Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, T.J. Jakes. Wow, I’m in good company!)
       I could have retaliated in anger. I could have answered him point by point and debated with him online.
       But I decided it was useless.
Instead, I prayed for him and his family.  I blessed him.
I read his other blog entries… And there, I discovered he was financially hard up. He was active in ministry, but the lack of money for his family was a burden. He had no stable job. His wife had no job too.  Honestly, my heart went out to them. I wanted to donate money (anonymously) to his ministry.
       Here’s what I realized from that experience. Most often, people criticize you because they have personal problems that have nothing to do with you.
       When people don’t like you, it’s not about you. It’s about them.
So why be affected by them?
       I repeat: Don’t let people with problems ruin your day.
       Do you get affected by people who don’t like you?
       Don’t be. Instead of retaliating, do the foolish thing and pray for them. Show kindness.
And then live your own life to the full.
Smile. Laugh. Have fun!
You only live once. Don’t let the grumblers steal your joy.

Peace breaker Or Peacemaker?
       Friend, you have a choice.
       You can live your life as a Peace breaker or a Peacemaker.
At the start of this message, I talked about how you’re moving from one Zone to another. And how you’re experiencing a lag.
So I told you God’s message about not to be too hard on yourself.
       Here’s God’s other message for you today: Don’t be too hard on others too. Because they’re experiencing a lag, just like you. They still fall. They still falter. They still stumble.
Understand them. Accept them. Love them.
And you’ll become a Peacemaker.
       May your dreams come true,
       Bo Sanchez

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