The shameful reason why we live small

by | November 26, 2012

There are infinite ways to live big, but only one way to live small.

I was driving home one evening when I saw flashing lights from a barrage of police cars and emergency vehicles.

They had closed the street off, necessitating a turn-around detour through the local rec center parking lot.

Annoyed, I thought, “They’re not doing a good job of redirecting traffic. They need to have someone further up the road so we don’t have to waste time turning around in this parking lot.”

I drove home and tucked my four beautiful kids into bed, oblivious of the girl who would never be tucked in again.

The next morning Queen Karina said, “Did you hear about the twelve-year-old girl who was killed last night crossing the street in front of the rec center?”

Oh. My.

“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion,” says Daniel Goleman in his book, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. “When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection — or compassionate action.”

Believe it or not, there are lives beyond our own, problems bigger than ours, pain worse than ours, burdens heavier than ours.

We don’t need to have our pain alleviated, our burdens relieved. We simply need to put them into perspective by recognizing those of others. By doing so, our problems shrink and our vision and value to the world expand.

Forgetting about our own problems and helping other people solve theirs is the doorway to a life of meaning and greatness. Thoughtful, compassionate service is the key that unlocks opportunity and unleashes joy.

As Christ counseled, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”

Our energy can be spent whining about problems, or creating solutions. Our focus can be on meeting our own petty needs, or on relieving the heartache of others.

And that choice determines whether we live small or big.

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