Regina Brett’s 45 life lessons and 5 to grow on | cleveland.com

To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.

It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here’s an update:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

To reach this Plain Dealer columnist:

rbrett@plaind.com, 216-999-6328

via Regina Brett’s 45 life lessons and 5 to grow on | cleveland.com.

A Preface to A Future Post…

God is so great that he sees every detail of our planet all the time. And God is so just that there is not a single injustice which doesn’t infuriate him. So if he knows everything and hates all that’s wrong, of course he “feels indignation everyday” (Psalm 7:11).

And this is not meant for terror — not if we treasure Jesus (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9). Rather, it’s actually meant for our comfort. That’s what Paul is getting at in Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'”

John Piper explains,

All of you have been wronged at one time or another. Most of you, probably, have been wronged seriously by someone who has never apologized or done anything sufficient to make it right. And one of the deep hindrances to your letting that hurt and bitterness go is the conviction — the justified conviction — that justice should be done, that the fabric of the universe will unravel if people can just get away with horrible wrongs and deceive everyone. That is one of the hindrances to forgiveness and letting grudges go. It’s not the only one. We have our own sin to deal with. But it is a real one. We feel that just to let it go would be to admit that justice simply won’t be done. And we can’t do it. So we hold on to anger, and play the story over and over again with the feelings: It shouldn’t have happened; it shouldn’t have happened; it was wrong; it was wrong. How can he be so happy now when I am so miserable? It is so wrong. It is so wrong!

This word in Romans 12:19 is given to you today by God to lift that burden from you. “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.” What does this mean for you? Laying down the burden of anger, laying down the practice of nursing your hurt with feelings of being wronged — laying that down — does not mean there was no great wrong against you. It does not mean there is no justice. It does not mean you will not be vindicated. It does not mean they just got away with it. No.

It means, when you lay down the burden of vengeance, God will pick it up.

This is not a subtle way of getting revenge. This is a way of giving vengeance to the one to whom it belongs. It is taking a deep breath, perhaps for the first time in decades, and feeling like now at last you may be free to love. I long so much for you to know the freedom to love.

Excerpted from Do Not Avenge Yourselves, But Give Place to Wrath, paragraphing and italics added.

For another helpful look at the wrath of God, see Tony’s post: “The Avenger.”

Topic: The Wrath of God

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I don’t mean to make light of the topic, because it’s heavy on my heart. However, in looking for appropriate artwork, I ran across this Far Side cartoon and thought it perfectly illustrates what it means to lay down the burden of vengeance, and God will pick it up.

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Do Not Avenge Yourselves, But Give Place to Wrath

February 20, 2005 | by John Piper | Scripture: Romans 12:16–20 | Topic: Sanctification & Growth

Series: Romans: The Greatest Letter Ever Written

Romans 12:16–20

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

We have grown accustomed in the modern Western world to take for granted that we have the inalienable human rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We assume that our rights should be protected by law and by force if necessary. And we feel a bewildered, almost speechless, rage when our rights are violated and nothing is done about it.

Such rights do exist, and they exist largely because of the Christian worldview that once permeated much of Western culture and to this day is the fading reason why so much freedom endures in the world. But we need to make clear that such rights were not assumed in the first century. Christianity was born in a world of totalitarianism. For 300 years there was no legal legitimacy or protection for Christianity. To convert from one of the pagan religions and say Jesus is Lord was to risk your life. This was not strange. This was the world in which the New Testament was written. Peter puts it like this—and the same thing could be written over every first-century church—“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). In other words, it was not strange to be persecuted. What is strange historically, is that we are not.

April 9 (H)…Hell Hath No Fury…

…like a woman scorned.

While many attribute the quote to William Shakespeare, it actually comes from a play called “The Mourning Bride” (1697) by William Congreve.  The complete quote is “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

Congreve(1670-1729) was an accomplished practitioner of the wit and cynicism made famous by his contemporaries Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. His last play, “The Way of the World,” (1700) is considered a classic of Restoration comedy.

The late 17th and early 18th century is often considered the golden age of satire. Writers took advantage of classical forms to cleverly castigate the royal and aristocratic classes. This was the era when the poet Alexander Pope could sum up his literary competition in a book entitled “The Dunciad,” and Jonathan Swift modestly proposed solving the Irish famine by encouraging them to eat their own children.

Source: Ask Yahoo

Gruesome of coure, but satire is not satire unless it harpoons the object of its scorn, unless there is an underlying truth to the humorous (but nevertheless hurtful)  language.  And even though we laugh…and we do…at the idea that a woman scorned is more damaging that Hell itself, truer words were never spoken.

 …like a mother scorned.

Oh, that this were not true, and that it were not a natural progression of being (already) a woman scorned.  I confess this is conjecture only, but I have often wondered if one of the reasons that weight (particularly my weight) was such a major focus for my mother was that it was also a major focus for my grandmother.  Could it be that my grandmother’s own scornful attitude about excess weight was expressed so often – to her own daughters – and perhaps in criticism of their weight – that it created (or encouraged) a visceral scorn for the very same in them?  Is it possible that their own bodies & weight were critiqued routinely…and imperfections point out?  Could it also be possible that my grandmother criticized my mother for allowing me to be “overweight?”  Is it possible that she made critical, embarrassing comments about me to my mother, which were then passed along to me?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  But I do know this…

…like a daughter scorned.

Indeed, the poem could have very easily read “nor hell a fury like a daughter scorned.”  Put in a situation where she at the mercy of a weight-obsessed mother, largely unprotected, and (because these are private matters, handled where others can not see) backed into a corner of indignation & fury but expected to behave respectfully & properly, the choice is to crumble or fight.  And crumble I did…while choking back the bitterness, frustration & anger because it was expected of me.  And in fact, not learning to (really) fight my way out of that corner until I was past 30 years old.

This happens no longer, and for that I am eternally grateful.  But I am still battling the bitterness.  Some days are good…really good.  Some days aren’t.  My prayer is that as the months and years go by, the good days will outnumber the others to such a degree that this painful part of my childhood and adolescence will be only a memory, no longer bringing with it this emotional turmoil.

…like a friend scorned.

I know that Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, was not speaking of the friendship between women, but he certainly could have and uttered the very same words in reference to a friendship gone awry.  I have marveled many times at the ease with which men carry on friendships, have (major) disagreements, and seem to move past them and forward with their friendship as before, with little change in the tenor of their relationship.  Maybe there are women for whom friendship is that unflappable, but I think it is more rare.  We are emotional creatures by nature.  Our disagreements can, in an instant, turn personal & bitter, and sideline what seemed the most solid of friendships.  Usually temporarily.  Sometimes for years.  Sometimes forever.  When you’re the one doling out the scornful words, with no thought for the repercussions, the backlash is unexpectedly stunning.  Where did the vengefulness come from?  Oh, I did it.  That is a crushing realization, especially so because it can’t be undone.

Looking retrospectively at the friendships I have had over the course of 40ish years, how grateful I am that my hand has tolled the death knell on only a handful.  It is a devastation responsibility to live with, even when done reluctantly and out of necessity.  How grateful I am, too, for those friendships that have weathered a fall out over harsh words and strife, righted and reconciled…and continue on.  And how grateful I am, really truly grateful, for girlfriends who, whatever our past has been, are as close to me as my own heart, and who will always be.

Where Does the Anger Come From?

What makes a person

so certain of his/her superiority
so assured of his/her own “right” position
so confident that s/he is the sole possessor of truth

that nothing – no thing – is unworthy of a fight to the death
no individual – no person – is worth more than that fight
no relationship – none at all – is more valuable than being right?

Where does that kind of anger come from?

Who has hurt that person so much that
Even the slightest of slights is sinister in motive
Vengeful in origin
And purposely designed to malign?

What makes a person

so incapable of grace
so bereft of mercy
so resistant to reconcile

that no difference of opinion can be overlooked
that no slight can be forgiven
no apology can be wholly accepted?

Where does that kind of pride come from?

How can one nurse such contempt for others
That there is never a benefit of the doubt
Never an option for redemption
Never an avenue for restoration?

What makes a person this way?

I wish I knew.