(Like cereal some shifting and settling may occur while shipping, so the views espoused may have changed since the writing transpired. This writer reserves the right to change his mind, evolve, adapt, modify his views, adjust and be proven wrong. )
Chapter 1: The big lie.
They are lying to you. Not because they are mean or malicious, they just thought you needed to hear it. Your mother, probably your kindergarten teacher, your grandparents, even the wise and benevolent Mr. Rodgers are lying to you. The lie is “You are special.” You have been told it so often and in so many ways you now believe it. “I am special”. At the time of writing, there are close to 6.7 billion people in the world and you believe, above all others, you are special. Therefore the normal rules do not apply to you. You know the rules that everyone else has to follow? You are the exception. You have a pass and the rules that everyone else has to follow do not pertain to you.
Sorry, no, you are not special. You have to follow the rules. There are no exceptions. Not even you can get around them.
But you say, “No one explained these rules to me why should I have to follow them”. Okay, stop right there, ignorance of the rules is no excuse. Besides, I don’t believe you missed the memo on the rules. You got them, you just want to claim that you are special and above the rules. Just to be clear let’s go over some of the rules again.
Obviously you are subject to the same physical rules of the universe. First example: gravity. What goes up eventually comes down. To test this rule grab a heavy object, throw it straight up in the air over your head, if it hits you on the head, shoulders or feet you have proof that the laws of gravity still apply to you. You may do this as many times as you want but I am guaranteeing you that after that heavy object lands on you once, you will be convinced.
Another rule that applies to you is you need oxygen to live and it cannot be combined with two hydrogen atoms to be in a usable form. Not convinced, still think you are special? For this experiment you will need a body of water large enough to stick your head into. This could be a lake, a river, a bathtub or a bucket of water (when using the bucket of water insure that you can pull your head out after putting you head into. If necessary take measurements and do not forget to take into account your ears). Now that you are near the water, stick you head into it and in a few moments, maybe at the longest three minutes or so you will have enormous desire to breath. If you attempt to do this while your head is still under water you will not like it.
A big rule that applies to you is some day and there is really no earthly way to get around it, everyone who lives will eventually die. Just ask George Washington. Oh no you can’t ask him, he is dead. Okay let us ask Abraham Lincoln’s barber, the guy who said, “Naa you don’t need a shave today.” Opps, sorry again you can’t ask him either because he is dead. Everyone dies, as unpleasant as that sounds, as painful as it may be and as much as we will miss our loved ones when they are gone, someday in some way everyone you know, along with yourself will be dead.
We could go on and on like this, eating a rancid and moldy sandwich is bad for your health, not taking care of your teeth could lead to you not having any, but I think you are getting the point, the physical rules of the universe apply to you as well.
Let us go on to the less obvious rules, the rules of living with other people. These are more ambiguous, less rigid, and not as easy to define, but they are out there. Even though they are not as easily seen and observed, consequences to breaking these rules are out there just the same.
Start with something that many of us experience, ‘standing in line’. You are there waiting to do whatever is at the end of the line. Maybe it is buying stamps, returning an overdue library book, getting your lunch, getting on the water slide at the park, something that you want to do or something you just want to get over with. But at the same time as you other people decide to do the exact same thing. So you stand behind them waiting your turn to do the ‘thing’. Then someone for some reason moves past you to a spot in the line, to the ‘thing’ before you. Is this right? No it is not right. But for some reason, they think that they are special and the rules of the line do not apply to them.
Heck maybe even you have cut in line, and your reason, a special circumstance applies to you that do not apply to them. You may even say “excuse me I have an appointment to get to”, or “I only have to do this one thing”. But you and that person who goes in front of you is breaking the rules of the line. Everyone knows what the line is for, the people in front of you got there before you, and the people behind you got there after you, very easy to understand, most kindergarten kids understand it. You may let a person in front of you, and that is your choice, but you gave them the permission to not have the rules apply to them. The consequences of breaking the rules are not always the same, sometimes you just think a bad thing about the person who cut in front of the line, something like “Big jerk.” Or there are some circumstances where people lose their very lives for cutting in front of a person. Rare as it is, in the course of human history it has happened. So the punishment for cutting in line is there, they are not always consistent but there are consequences for breaking the rules of the line whether they be visible or invisible.
Another universal rule of human society, don’t take other peoples’ things. There you are watching a parade or a game and you get up to just get a cool refreshing drink, you will be right back. And when you come back after only being gone for a minute or less someone has taken your spot. Granted you have no legal claim to it. You did not pay for that location, there is no contract with you and the real owners of that piece of property, but you had been there most of the morning, you buttocks had been warming that spot for the last three hours and now some jerk is there. Heck, everyone around there had seen you sitting there and would testify that you were there when they had arrived, and now this guy is sitting in your spot. He has taken what you believed was rightfully yours. Gets me a little miffed just thinking about it. Again the rule: Don’t take something that does not belong to you. Consequence for breaking the rule: being called a jerk or someone could come up and punch you in the nose, a wide variety of effects for you or some else breaking a rule of society.
To sum up the rules society likes to live by: Do onto others as you would have done onto you. If you do not want someone taking your lunch, don’t take someone else’s lunch. If you do not want someone to talk badly about you behind you back, don’t talk badly about other people behind their backs. If you don’t want someone punching you in the nose, don’t punch anyone else in the nose. If you do not want someone else to start a genocidal thermo-nuclear war against your nation, don’t you start a genocidal thermo-nuclear war against another nation. Do you understand how the rule, do onto others as you would have done onto you works?
Okay so living by rules is a good thing, they can sometimes be ignored and something bad might not happen to you. But it might.
Everyday Lisa drives her car to work, and along the way she crosses a major intersection. She has a stop sign and has to stop before crossing over the major road. But every time she crosses the road she never sees another car. Maybe the other road is never used, maybe she is the only one driving to work at that time of the day. But the stop sign still exists, the rule to stop and look both ways after stopping still applies. But after a while Lisa decides just to slow down instead of stop. Then after a while longer she does not even slow down, she just strains her head looking for other traffic, and after a while longer she doesn’t even look, she just drives on through. Maybe she will get away with it forever, maybe she will never suffer any consequences. But someday there may be a fully loaded cement truck coming and Lisa (by not following the rules) will meet up with it. Ignoring rules is never a good idea, saying they don’t exist is even dumber.
Chapter 2: Backing up to figure out how we got here.
So how did this mess start, people thinking they are special? Well part of it is inherent in the human condition. Part of being a person. We want to believe that we are special that for some reason, we are different from everyone else on the planet. We want to believe that we are significant, that what we do matters. But this only accounts for a segment or a part of the current mindset.
People would get over this thing about being special very quickly if they were only reinforced with the delusion by their own mind. A while ago very few people had this “special” delusion, and if so they got over it very quickly. An example of this: Farmer Joe out in his field behind the plow with his favorite mule, Betty, in front pulling said plow. Now Farmer Joe has been lucky all his life, everything goes his way. It rains when it should rain on his farm, it is sunny when it should be sunny and every year he is able to get a little more out his land than everyone else around him. So on this day he is out in field and he and Betty are going along just fine. He stops in the shade to get a drink, and thinks to himself, “I am special.” As this thought crosses his mind a bee stings Betty the mule on the backside and in reaction to that she kicks Farmer Joe in the head when he least suspects it. Joe is laid up for a month, that year he almost loses the farm and barely survives. Joe comes to realize that that he is not special, he is not really better than anyone else and the rules apply to him. He also realizes he should be more careful around the backside of mules.
Life used to be much more physically difficult than it is today and people did not have time to sit around and delude themselves that they were “special.”
Fast forward to modern day life. Farmer Joe’s family survived and now his great, great grandson is working at a job where he does the same thing day after day. A repetitive, dull, boring but an all right job. At the end of the work day Joe Jr. goes home and does not work, he does not have to sharpen his plow blades, or feed a mule named Betty, or bring water in from the well or the hundreds of other things the modern world has done for him that makes his life easier. No, now Joe Jr. gets to sit around and think all the time, I am special because I am different from everyone else, because well meaning people along the way, who thought they were doing Joe Jr. a favor and told him “you are special”.
After World War II America and the rest of the world started to change. America of the 50’s was a far different place then it was before the war. The middle class of America grew tremendously. Desire to live in cities decreased and the suburbs grew, with a larger part of the population having an easier life style. Dishwashers, in home laundry machines and other labor saving devices became common in a growing number of homes. Television sets became more and more common; the age of leisure was coming. So was the influence of people outside the home, people parents did not know personally, had no clue what their basic beliefs were but were handing out advice in books and TV and America had time to listen. And the parents in the 50’s were taking the advice from total strangers and were using it to raise their children.
People like Dr. Spock in his best-selling book “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” a man most people had never met in real life came up with what was at the time a revolutionary concept of parenting. While good in some ways it was thought to come up short in others, eliminating strict bed times, being more permissive and encouraging parents to be confident and use common sense. TV shows like “Leave to Beaver”, “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Father Knows Best” were examples of good parenting. Sure most of these sources had good intentions, and showed wholesome families but could not answer questions, or give specific advice that you would get from talking to someone who you knew and trusted. These shows were entertainment, about having you come back and watch week after week and buying the products advertised. Before this if you wanted to know something about raising a child you either went to your grandparents, mother, father, aunt or uncle or a trusted older friend you had known all your life. These people lived close to you, maybe in the same house, or a short walk away. But due to changes in economics and geographic freedom you did not have those people close by you anymore. You probably had people of about the same age range as yourself as your neighbor, about the same education level and about the same economic level. Some of these people were reading Dr. Spock’s book and most likely when they gave others advice, they did not relate all the intricacies of parenting he had been trying to get across in his book. So the parts about “permissiveness” and “no structure” might have been shared but not the parts about teaching responsibility and consistency.
Materialism became more and more and American ideal. People who had grown up in the forties during the Great Depression now had kids of their own and did not want them to have to scrimp and save the way they had. So they got them things. Dad was now driving into work from the suburbs to his job, and that took time, so instead of spending time with their kids they spent money. Legos, Matchbox cars, the slinky and towards the end of the fifties the iconic and still played with Barbie Doll.
Enter the teenager. Not the youth, the young person but a new group altogether, totally unique in the history of the world and ripe for marketing by the advertising of Madison Ave. Before 1944 a boy of 14 or 15 was considered a kid, a child albeit an older child, but their main goal at that time was to become an adult. But with the new found wealth of the fifties and the mass production of cars the teenager was born. Add rock and roll into the mix and you have teen-age culture. A new group whose goal is not to become an adult but to become a better teenager, to be free of their parents, free of responsibility, and happy with other teenagers.
So after the fifties came the very turbulent and changing sixties. Children who had been given many wonderful things were now teenagers and they had a lot of time on their hands. Their parents were well off and wanted their kids to be like Ozzie and Harriet’s teenagers, polite, nicely dressed, respectful, employed and hard working. But the kids were seeing things that did not go well with the suburban dream. They learned that other kids were being sprayed with fire hoses just for saying they should be treated the same as everyone else and the only difference was skin color. They were seeing more and more of their friends going away to Vietnam and no one was quite sure why. So they rebelled, they broke the rules, they grew their hair, used drugs and played really loud music. Some great things came out of the rebellious times, civil rights legislation, lowering of the voting age, and some really great music. But parents were confused about what happened to the kids, the kids were confused because they saw their parents and did not want to become like them everyone got angry because no one likes being confused all the time.
This cycle continued, in the seventies people were trying to figure out what heck just happened and turned into the Me decade, and this lead to the excesses in the eighties where “greed was good” more was better, then to the nineties which was labeled the information age, and the cycle of change continues.
Part of why America has been down this road of self indulgence is that nothing has made us stop and change our lives. World War II saw about 8 percent of the population join the military. Roughly translated that is about 1 out of every 13 people you might know were in the military. Everything at the time revolved around the war effort, rationing of sugar, gasoline, rubber, shoes and other commodities and women in the workplace. Heck the government even considered canceling baseball the national pastime and passion.
Fast forward fifty plus years. After 9/11/2001, an event just as traumatic and horrific as Pearl Harbor in 1941, and less than 1 percent of the population was in the military. Today the only changes most people not associated with the military see since 9/11 are increased security at the airport, and this did not happen all at once. There has been no rationing of food or oil, no bond drives, no scrap metal collections to make bullets and bomb, and definitely very little change if any in television programming schedule due to the war in Iraq or Afghanistan.
But what has not changed in all these years are people trying to figure out how to raise kids without turning them into full blown nut jobs or indecisive wishy-washy door mat individuals.
In the 50s and going full force into the 60s people came to be particularly worried about self esteem, and with it came the phrase “you are special”. Self esteem is how you feel about yourself. Do you feel as though you are worthwhile? Do you feel as though you matter, are you important. We as a society started becoming more concerned with how a person felt about themselves more than the actual results of an individual’s contribution. Well meaning but destructive.
Let us examine seven year old Timmy for a minute. Timmy is a good kid, loves to play soccer but he is terrible at soccer. When he wants the ball to go left it goes right, if he runs towards the ball somehow it ends up tripping him. Timmy could not score a point if the goal was guarded by mannequins and at the bottom of a downhill slope. Timmy is just bad at soccer. But Timmy’s parents sign him up for soccer, the coach plays Timmy and Timmy has a blast running around the field (mostly in the wrong direction) and he gets out in the sun and fresh air pumping through his lungs. So Timmy gets exercise, has a good time, and his parents take a bunch of pictures they can embarrass him with later and he gets to keep his jersey. So everyone goes away happy.
No, unfortunately it does not end there. The end of the season Timmy gets a trophy, not most improved (because let’s face it, Timmy got worse as the season went on), not most spirit (he fell asleep on the bench several times and never cheered anyone on and was oblivious to whether the team won or lost), no Timmy got a trophy for participation. Why? Because the coach felt badly for Timmy and even though Timmy got a bunch of good things out of the season (exercise, fun, a jersey, some new friends) he now has a trophy because he showed up. Instead of Timmy just being taught to cheer for the truly exceptional kids (who scored the most goals that season, or maybe was the best defensive player not allowing the ball within 50 yards of the goal) no Timmy got one for showing up and putting on the jersey (which he put on inside out twice and backwards once, and the coach had to tell him).
So guess what? It is basketball season, and another trophy awaits Timmy at the end of the season, even though every time he gets the ball he will double dribble, pass to the wrong team and score one goal (for the other team though).
The same thing happens in school; Timmy just goes through the motions because no one is really honest with him. Teachers don’t use red markers to show mistakes on papers, because kid’s feelings might get hurt. As if giving a kid a red D, is different than giving a kid a purple D! It is still a D grade. The kid learned less than seventy percent of the required material.
What does it hurt to get a little plastic trophy for participating? Well not much except the entire fabric of society. Fast forward 20 years, Timmy now Tim graduates college with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science (after 6 years), he applies for a job, shows up every day and does what is required. But he has a sense of entitlement. He believes just showing up is exceptional, he has developed a sense of entitlement, when asked to work over the weekend, instead of being grateful for the overtime, he complains. He believes he deserves something because all his life he was falsely informed he was doing great when he was just getting by. Now the real world and his boss have to deal with his entitlement attitude and all the boss wants is results. While Tim is thinking, moaning and complaining about how unfair life is because he just got by, someone has to carry his work load because Tim (it should still be Timmy because he never grew up) is not working very hard he is not contributed anything.
Instead of aiming for excellence and achievement, we are now accepting mediocrity and participation as the level to celebrate because we are worried about hurting a kids feeling and damaging his or her self worth.
We had a saying in the army, started by one of my commanders, ‘when you see a failing and do not correct it, you have just set a new standard’. By letting things slide downhill, but allowing low standards to become the norm we are doing harm to ourselves and whatever project we are trying to complete.
I will let you on a little secret, most people’s self esteem, their sense of worth is just fine. As a baby you are the center of you own little universe. You cried when you were hungry, tired or just wanted attention. You did not care if your mother just came home from working the midnight shift at the diner and wanted to sleep for a few minutes, no you wanted fed and you wanted fed right that second. You did not care that you father had just unloaded a tractor trailer load of bags of concrete by hand because the forklift was broken you wanted picked up to play airplane and if he would not pick you up you were going to throw a little fit. Until you were taught patience and thinking of others before yourself you were a little self centered egotistical monster. Unfortunately most people’s teaching and training about how to relate to other people stops somewhere around 3rd grade. Sure people refine their techniques maybe learning how to work with or work over people in different ways, but they don’t go much deeper than that. Most people stop developing at some point and figure that is good enough when they are not encouraged to grow any further.
Studies of convicted felons in the US show that their self esteem is just fine, they don’t feel bad about themselves, just the opposite, they think they are just fine the way they are. Sure most of them want to change the way they do things so they don’t go back to jail but that does not mean they don’t like themselves.
All we have to do in America is look around and see we have created a mess here. People are afraid to go out at night on the streets of major cities due to crime. Parents won’t let their kids out of the sight because of fear of what might happen. Teenage pregnancy, high security schools, drugs, abuse to children, fraud, theft, bullies and all the other bad things going on out in the world that come to us every night on the news.
Things on this planet are a little screwed up. We could go into all the stats and figures, we could parade terrible stories of crimes committed by seemingly nice people doing terrible things but that would be waste of time and play upon emotions and bring everyone down. Let us just say this world is, more screwed up then a soup sandwich, or more screwed up than eating a taco on a stick, more screwed up then using white out on your computer monitor. The world is a mess, bad things happen all the time; let’s just leave it at that.
Chapter 3: Everything is going your way.
You wake up this morning and like the last couple of years things are going well for you. You are good looking, school is easy enough, and lots of people know you and want to be your friend. In fact just this past weekend you had a blast, went to all the right places and were seen by all the right people.
You are on the football/baseball/soccer/basketball/swim team. You are a cheerleader/majorette/homecoming queen. You are a National Honor Society member/an Eagle Scout/class president/and or a leading member of your church youth group. You are on track to get into the college of your choice and maybe get a scholarship.
You are what some people label a “golden child.” Everyone loves you, or so it appears, things go your way without trying too hard, or so it appears. The image you put on is one of confidence, surety and overall having things together.
You will probably go on to college get a good job and think back to high school as one of the best times in your life. And all in all you probably think you are special. You think that the rules for you can be bent, heck maybe even broken because you are a starter on the team or a senior, or a very good student or whatever it is that places you apart and above everyone else.
Let me clue you in on a little secret you are not special. Let us go with the quarterback of the football team just as an example. Most of these stats will apply to all the other golden children as well; just substitute your sport or activity.
According to some counts there are around 37,000 high schools in the US (private and public). So for illustration purposes let us say half of them have a football team. That means there are 18,500 starting quarterbacks in the nation in any season. Yes, that is right you are only one of those. But you say I am going to go to college and be a quarterback, not everyone is as good. True not everyone is that good. But there are still close to a 1000 college football teams in the US. Okay so you are extremely gifted and will be going to the big time, the NFL. There are still 32 starting quarterbacks every Sunday in football season. So if you make it to the pros, you average life time career as a quarterback is about 16 years. Again the rules apply to you, even though some people may allow you to break, bend or disregard the rules so you can toss an oblong bladder filled with air at another person who is closer than you to a set up upright tubes sticking in the ground. There are still others out there that don’t care that you can throw an oblong bladder filled with air, no matter how far you can throw it. Especially if they are in front of you at the Department of Motor Vehicles and they only have fifteen minutes till it is time to pick up the kids from daycare and you want to cut in front of them to renew your license.
My point is not to belittle your gifts, or to make you question your worth, but to show you that even though some people may treat you special for what you are capable of doing you are not. At some point your career on the field will end. Whether it be at the end of this season, or at the end of your time in college, or upon you last throw before a 350 pound linebacker takes out you knee at the Super Bowl, your time on the gridiron will end.
When your time on the playing field does end someone will come along and take your place; there will be another starting quarterback after you leave, and there will be another one after he leaves. The same applies for valedictorians, class presidents, and the editor of the school newspaper, one per year and then next year there will be another one, and another and another.
You say, “so what”, I will make the most of it now and I will be special now. Well if you want to delude yourself, go ahead, except now in the back of your mind you now suspect you are not special. You are living a lie and it will lead to nothing but unhappiness if you continue to push yourself into believing that you are special. You are a human being, and because of that, and the fact that you live among other people this means the rules apply to you.
So live like the rules apply to you. Don’t treat others like they are beneath you. Because we are all the same, the rules apply to you, and me, and every other delusional and misguided smuck walking around the planet. You may think you are getting a pass but in the end, everyone ends up in the same way; replaced, interchangeable, and forgettable. Your name may be remembered but usually just as an answer to a question in a game of trivia.
Chapter 4: My life sucks, and that is not an exaggeration.
You wake up this morning and a part of you said “oh no not again.” You are pretty darn poor, you clothes stink (and I am not only talking figuratively they actually smell because they have not been washed in a while), you will be lucky if you get to school because at least the building is warm. Not that the people are warm, no one cares about you, people make fun of you and the teachers are not sure what your name is.
You might be the victim of some sort of abuse or neglect. Maybe you are hit, starved, touched, or just plain ignored and are going through life with no one to care about you or anything you do.
You are not looking forward to college or anything else. You don’t believe in anything and especially not yourself. Well let me clue you in on a little secret. You are not special. That is right you are not special. There are thousands, possibly tens of thousands of people around the world just like you. Over 6 million children were reported to be abused in the United States in 2009.
Some stats from the National Child Abuse Hotline
A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds *More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse.
- Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.
- It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
- More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
- Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
- About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
- About 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
My point, you who are suffering any type of mistreatment, abuse or neglect are not special because you are not alone. Not that you have said or done anything to deserve this type of treatment. Let me say that again, you do not deserve to be hurt. The person who is hurting you is wrong, just like the person hurting anyone else is wrong. The person hurting you is not special; there is no exception to any rule that allows them to hurt you in any way, shape or form. Others are hurting right now just like you, so you are not alone.
There are people who were hurt when they were kids that are now trying to help others. There are people who have never been hurt and know the rule, that no one should ever hurt anyone else. By realizing that you are not special you realize that you are not alone. By realizing that you are not special you realize you don’t deserve to be hurt.
Please read this whole book before you do anything to hurt yourself or anyone else, and please get some help, it is out there keep looking for it.
Chapter 5: The rest of us (or approx. 80% of the population).
Let me introduce you to someone I have known for a long time, he was average height, average weight, had decent hair, was not the best looking kid, but he wasn’t ugly. He had and older and younger brother, so he was in the middle. Wore glasses his whole life and braces until the 10th grade. Went to a middle sized high school, in a mostly suburban area and got mostly C’s and B’s with a few D’s in algebra (in his defense there was this one girl who wore mini-skirts to class a lot).
His older brother was a winning long distance runner on the track team; he tried it, wasn’t crazy about running around in circles and did not go out for track after freshman year. Soccer was a new thing in the area and there were only enough kids for four teams and both his brothers were on the same team as him so he did not stand out there. His younger brother entered high school and was a very gifted actor/singer. When he went back to see his younger brother perform in a musical the Principal came up to him and mentioned how big an impact his younger brother had on the school making people laugh.
Meanwhile he studied karate, which his parents didn’t understand so while his parents went to his brothers’ track meets and choral concerts, he tested for his belt advancement and no one watched. His older brother got a varsity letter for track and his younger brother was well recognized for his comedic talents but the middle brother was sort of invisible. He was very proud of both of them and still is, but a little unsure of himself in comparison.
He was on the stage crew, learned to run the lights, handle the spotlight, and rig up microphones. He liked working behind the scenes and seeing how it all came together, his job to make the production seamless and the lights and curtains unimportant. But when he pulled the rope to open the curtain and brought up the lights skillfully no one ever knew it was him except the stage crew. It wasn’t like his parents could come back stage and be impressed by turning on a light switch, heck they could do that at home. Most times they had to tell him to turn off the lights when he left a room.
He had friends among the band, the choir and people he had known since elementary school who had joined the football team. He didn’t really have a girlfriend to speak of until his senior year and then he messed that up, and went with a friend to the prom. He drifted through high school unsure of what his place or where he was going but mostly happy and content. His parents took him on nice vacations and to church and he saw different part of the US in either a Volkswagen mini bus or the back of a pick-up truck.
No doubt about it this guy was average, nothing really special about him. He would not have stood out in any way, but he wanted to be special, he wanted to be noticed. He would write stories in his head with him as the star, sometimes on the starship Enterprise, sometimes in a fantasy world, sometimes as a cop or fireman on a TV show. He wanted to figure out girls, just to be with someone because that was the thing to do and girls were strange, wonderful, alluring, confusing and mysterious all at the same time. (He is still trying to figure girls out.)
But he was not special, but he so wanted to be. He disobeyed his parents a few times: he drank alcohol when he was a freshman and sophomore but he stopped when the older kids he got it from moved on. He hid things from his parents; which lead to lies, and he was caught a few times which created tension and bad feelings along with mistrust.
Not that he thought about the rules, they were just something you followed because you had too, it was expected of you. (Maybe though if someone wasn’t looking he would break the rules and go his own way, but his own way coincided with a lot of other people breaking the rules in the same fashion. So even when he was breaking the rules he did not stand out too much.)
In case you haven’t figured it out that kid is me. Me who asked out a cute freshman cheerleader to the home coming dance and was told those dreaded words “Let’s just be friends”. (Friends, I don’t think we ever said ten words to each other the next four years.)
Sound familiar? About eighty percent of people are like this from high school on. We are not the ten percent who seem to have everything handed to them. We are not the ten percent who we would not trade places with on our worst day. You are medium, average; you are not outstanding in any way shape or form, but sometimes wish you were.
Most people go through life wishing someone would notice them, and then it happens you rip your pants or spill something down your shirt or drop your lunch in the your cafeteria. It seems like everyone else got the memo, or went to a secret meeting and got told how to act, how to handle Life but you were left out.
You know that the rules apply to you, mostly because people tell you they do. Don’t run in the hall or you will get detention. Don’t speed or you will get a ticket. Study hard and get good grades and maybe someone will buy you that new game. You wish you were special and sometimes you get to be because no one is paying attention and for that small moment the rules don’t apply to you, or so it would seem. People even tell you that you are special, but this is because they love you, your mom, your boyfriend/girlfriend, your great aunt Marie, maybe a teacher, because they love you and want you to feel good. It is not that the rest of the world wishes you ill, it is just that the rest of the world doesn’t see you at all. There is no escaping it, you are not special, the rules apply to you and to me and sometimes it sucks to know that.
Chapter 6: Get a clue.
Okay so now where are we, hopefully by now you realize you are not special, either because the rules kick in eventually and they do apply to you or because you are not alone and there are people like you all around the world. Or maybe both.
So how do we fix things, maybe in our self and maybe have a positive effect on the world around you.
Clue 1: You can’t control anyone else; the only person you can control is yourself.
Okay say you want someone to comb their hair. You can go one of two ways: “Comb your hair or I will punch you in the stomach”. Simple direct and if they want to avoid the possibility of being punched they will comb their hair. Or “comb your hair and I will give you a cookie”. If you have access to cookies and want a person to look better this might be your choice. Or you could combine the two “if you comb your hair I won’t punch you and I will give you a cookie”. So the person combs their hair, you did not make them, but you did encourage them. Heck they could have opted for the punch in the stomach, and that sure would not have been controlling them. And their hair would still be a mess.
The same is true in reverse. Someone wants you to pick up trash along the roadside. You can choose to pick up the trash or get kicked in the shins for three days, or maybe you will get paid for the job. Either way you have chosen to do something, no one made you do it.
In some cases someone makes you choose something you really did not want. Like you either give me your wallet or I beat you up. Me I would give them the wallet, but if you value your wallet and don’t mind pain maybe, just maybe you can take a lot of hits and the person will get tired and go home. Good luck with that. (In fact in this day and age, they might have a gun, so just give them the wallet, you can always get another.)
So you can’t control other people, and the things you do are a choice.
Clue 2: Take responsibility for yourself and your actions.
Now that you know that no one makes you do anything, you have to own up to what you do.
Outside killing time, just hanging around you pick up a golf ball and start bouncing it up against the wall. Now mom has told you not to play around the big picture window, but heck you are at least three feet away from it. Besides you have complete control over this little white ball. Then it happens after your start getting a little inventive, the ball gets away from you and bang, crash and all that huge one piece of glass turns into five hundred and fifty-two multiple sized pieces of glass.
You can one of two things, deny it was you, or take responsibility for it. You can claim you weren’t there, a mysterious one armed man was throwing rocks, a spaceship came by and broke the window, your little brother did it, or any number of things, but the important thing was it was not you. Now then say someone does believe the lie, that your little brother did it. Well wasn’t he supposed to be down the block playing, how did he get home, therefore another lie is called for, and so on and so on with the lies. Or you can just admit it ‘I broke the window with the golf ball’. Not any other options really.
Most times the rule of not breaking other people’s things is a lot worse than breaking someone’s trust and lying. Lying is big rule, one almost everyone gets mad or at least upset if you break that rule. So own up to it, take responsibility for whatever it is you have done, good, bad or indifferent.
Mistakes, are yours. No one else wants to take credit when you screw up, but there are a lot of people who want to suck up your successes. Say you bake a cake. It is delicious, three layers, nice thick frosting, and so moist maybe you added a gallon of pudding who knows, well only you do. You serve it and everyone loves it. Sure enough someone will speak up and say, ‘well they used my kitchen’, or ‘I drove them to the store to get the eggs’, or even ‘I taught them how to turn on the oven’.
An old saying “success has many fathers while failure is an orphan” So embrace your failures learn from them, they are yours, and clean up after yourself learn from those mistakes. So get a broom and dust pan, or someone is going to step in that glass and cut their foot.
Clue 3: Realize there are rules and they apply to you as well.
If you have not figured this out by now go back and read the book over.
Clue 4: No one gets out of here alive.
Okay this one is tough. It is a little depressing, everyone dies, and no one lives forever. The time on this spinning little ball of mud, going around the sun is limited. So how does this mesh with everything else. There are rules and they have consequences, but if in the end everyone dies how does any of this really matter. You come into this world with nothing, kicking and screaming and go out with nothing (hopefully not kicking and screaming); and you don’t get to take any of the really cool stuff with you.
So where does this leave you?
Is Life just like Shakespeare said in Macbeth?
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
I don’t think so. There is more to life than just going through the motions and hoping everything turns out okay.
Chapter 7: A big rule
This next part is dependent on a couple of assumptions, if you don’t agree with them, then sorry for wasting your time, hope you didn’t buy this book and waste your money. Hope you got a few laughs and maybe a few things made you think. If you are not sure what you believe in, maybe this will help you figure it out.
Premise 1, there is a God who created the universe and all that is in it. He set up the rules which apply to this universe and all it contains.
Premise 2, God wants Man to know these rules and how things work, either by direct knowledge or by observation. The way he has directly revealed himself is through the Holy Bible.
Premise 3, God wants you to personally experience him, he desires a relationship with you, and he wants to advise you, guide you, comfort you, and help you. He loves you and wants you to have full and great adventurous life here while alive and spend eternity with you after you die.
So God set up rules. He set up the rules like gravity. He set up the Laws of Motion, an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. Sure Newton “discovered” them but they were always there. God even set up rules for the best way for people to live together and get along. But unfortunately like so many other things when you don’t understand a rule or don’t obey it because you don’t like chaos ensures.
Like when a company builds a bike. The directions that come with the bike say it should only be rode by one person at a time. So if someone is pedaling, it is best if no one rides on the handlebars. Having two people on a bike built for one is not the best way to get the best results from the bike.
A car is even more complicated. What type of gas to put into it, regular, unleaded, diesel. What type of oil, how much, how often to change it. Not to mention belts, tires, spark plugs, anti-freeze, wiper fluid, adjusting the seat, tuning the radio, setting the clock, and oiling the hinges of the door.
What is even more complicated than a car? Well hopefully your life. At least I know mine is. How do I treat people, how should I react when people treat me badly? What should I do with my life? Should I get married, to whom, and when? What about kids, one, two, a half a dozen, how the heck should I raise them. What should I wear, loose and comfortable, tight and immodest, what exactly is immodest? Should I get a job I like or one that makes me tons of money? What should I do with all the money I make? Where should I go on vacation? The choices in life are endless, intricate and impactful on so many other areas of my life. By making one choice it will affect so many other things in my life. By saying yes to one thing I am also saying no to something else. If I go to college A I cannot at the same time go to college B.
God is the manufacturer of this world so maybe God’s rules are the same way; to get the most out of life it is a good idea to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
God wants people to have a full, exciting, fascinating, vibrant life, but most people don’t seem to be experiencing this. Question yourself. Is your life good, of course it could be better, but if you were to die tomorrow would you look back and say that was pretty darn full? I loved people and I was loved. I brought some joy to some people’s lives and I lived life with a purpose.
So why don’t we know what God wants for us in our lives. What is the barrier between him and us. How come he just doesn’t print up a to do list and e-mail it to us?
Well God set up rules, rules that not only we should live by, but that He has to abide by as well. One is free will. We as people have the ability to listen to God or not. He put us on this planet and gave us a choice. We can choose to have a relationship with him or not. We are not robots, programmed to do a certain sequence of movements, in accordance with His wishes. He put us down here and said, “have at it, I can help you or you can go your own way, your choice”.
The other rule after free will is that God will not have a relationship with anyone who is breaking any of his rules. He can’t be around sin, never had any sin, never will. Sin is separation from God, without him we are left alone without hope, and being without hope is probably the worst thing that can happen to a person.
Picture a pure container of water, nothing in it by H20. Nothing, 2 parts Hydrogen to one part oxygen, pure undiluted, free of anything else but water. Now how much of any other thing does it take to make that water impure. If you said any amount of anything else you would be correct. Everything and anything that is not water would make the water impure. A grain of salt or a bucket of dog poo, the result is the same any impurity in that water, makes it impure.
God is pure and never breaks his own rules. And one of those rules he set up is “no varying from my rules”. So if we can’t vary from his rules and he can’t be around rule breakers and we are all rule breakers, he can’t be around us.
But you say I have never broken any of God’s rules. Au contraire, mon ami, if you have ever done something that you felt sorry for doing later, if you have ever had a selfish thought, done an unkind thing, or even just said; Me first I don’t care about the rules or anyone else, you have broken a rule.
Most likely we all have broken the 1st of the Ten Commandments, and most likely every day. Exodus 20:2 You shall have no other Gods before me. Anytime we put anything of more importance in our lives before God than we have created a god, and with that sin enters our lives.
So you ask yourself if sin is that easy, if the rules are that strict what hope is there for anyone. Well God has got a plan. He said there are rules and there are consequences for breaking the rules. But I, God, can make a way to forgive the breaking of the rules, all it takes is a sacrifice.
There has to be some sort of payment for breaking the rules, we can try and pay the fine ourselves, but we would have to pay the price for every time we mess up. Had a bad thought, pay up. Been selfish, pay up. Hit your brother with a wiffle ball bat to teach him a lesson, pay up. Eaten the last ice cream bar when your mom said she was saving that for your Dad, pay up. That could get a little expensive, and God said I want something that is important and costs you every time you screw up. You messed up the way I wanted things, so I want you to remember how important I think the rules are. God asks for blood. Blood is life, it is what fuels our muscles with energy and oxygen. Without blood we die. It is basic and everyone understands that blood is important. In the Old Testament of the Bible, sacrifices of animals were required. Animals are what fed the people, and by making the sacrifice an animal it brought it down to a level everyone could understand. You eat or you get right we me, God, whom all good things come from. Well people got right with God.
But from the beginning God had a bigger plan. A one-time sacrifice, one and done. The sacrifices before were imperfect and just did not cover everything. God basically said, these animals are just not cutting it, so let me set up the perfect sacrifice, since there are not enough animals in the world to cover all the screw ups you people continually do. The perfect sacrifice will cover all the mess ups, all the sin, every time someone falls short of my perfect standard I will make it easy to cover. No installment plan, no paying as you go, no more killing of cute, innocent fuzzy/feathery little animals who did not do anything to anyone.
Enter Jesus. Jesus was a man but Jesus was also God. As a man He lived without sin, no one could find any fault with him. He knew the Word of God forward and backward, and was devout, respectful to God, loved His fellow man and always flossed his teeth like his dentist told Him. Okay the part about the dentist is not true but you get the point. He did not screw up. He loved God, his Father in heaven and in the book of Matthew we find out what God thought of him. Matthew 3:17 “And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased”.
So we have the perfect person, Jesus, a man without sin, who is living breathing, and can do something no one else can do. Approach God and ask to pay the price for us. To make the payment which no one else can pay. He does so willingly, and without a hint of anger towards the people who shed his blood. In fact while on the cross He asks God his Father to forgive the people who put him there because they didn’t know what they were doing. Was it easy, no in fact the night before he died knowing it was going to be painful and hard he asked God in the garden of Gesthame if he could get out of doing this very difficult task.
Matthew 26:39. Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will”.
But He always followed God’s will. And He went and died on the cross. Three days later he rises from the dead to show that He was who He said He was, and to show us that death is not the end, but a new beginning with God.
So the payment is paid. There is no further payment needed. He was the perfect sacrifice to pay for all the sins of the world. Is that it you may ask. Well almost, you see he did it, but we have to accept it. It is something you did nothing to earn. It is a gift God gives to you as an individual, but you have to receive it. You have to accept.
Say I give you a car, a nice red convertible. When do you have it? When I tell you it is yours. No, how about when I park it in your driveway. Closer, but still not yours. How about when the car keys are two inches from your hand as you sit in the driver’s seat. Nope still not yours. You can know that it is yours, you can be happy that you are going to get it, but it is still not yours. The car is yours when you take full possession of it, when your receive it from me.
The same is true with this gift from God, you have to receive it. You have to accept the fact that you have messed up, that you cannot pay the penalty on your own and that Jesus’ death on the cross is the payment for your sin so you can be in God’s presence and begin to experience his guidance, love and wisdom.
It is a matter of faith, trusting in what Jesus did for you on the cross and what it means to you. You can trust someone to make a good strong bridge or you don’t, if you trust in the bridge builder then you are trusting in the bridge, if you don’t trust him then you won’t go on that bridge. The same with Jesus, if you trust what he did you can take that step and walk on that bridge to God or you can stay on the far side and look for another.
But let me warn you, Jesus said in the book of John 14:6. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There are no substitutes, no imitations, no other way of crossing the gap between you and God that exists due to sin.
Chapter 8: The answer.
If you want to have the payment made, if you want to get to know God then I encourage you to pray this prayer or something like it. Prayer is just talking to God.
“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take a position of control in my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”
Can we trust him to answer the prayer, why would he lie? It is not like God is getting paid extra if you start to follow Him. He loves you and wants to be with you, He created you and has a great plan to help you live a full and wonderful life in this world and after you die you will be with Him forever.
Don’t rely on feelings; feelings are fleeting and sometimes illusionary. While riding a roller coaster you feel scared before you take the big plunge, the feeling is there you are at a great height and about to drop. But you are still safe. You would not have gotten on the roller coaster if someone had died right before you got on. But everyone in the cars that just exited the ride got off safe, so you will to. You may not feel any different after praying the prayer, but it does not change the fact that you trusted God to pay the price of for breaking the rules.
I encourage you to do a couple things if you prayed the prayer or something like the one above.
- Talk to God all the time, pray. He is listening.
- Read the Bible every day, it will help you get to know God and His character.
- When you know something is right do that thing, and follow God’s lead moment by moment.
Remember the rules apply to you, you are not special. But God did make you different from everyone else. You fit a specific niche that he made you for, he designed you for a purpose. He made you with a mission that only you can fill. So get to know God, figure out why he placed you here in this time, and in this space, knowing the people you know, and with your unique outlook and way of expressing yourself. He did not make you like anyone else for a reason.
Chapter 9: Why this book was written.
In the spring of 2004 I started working with a local Boy Scout troop. A friend of mine was the Scoutmaster and asked if I wanted to help out. I had achieved the rank of Eagle Scout when I was a boy and wanted to give back as my father had with a lot of other boys beside myself. So I started going to meetings and on trips. As a career law enforcement person I had been trained in how pedophiles got children into situations that gave them access to do bad things. One of the main tricks was to tell them “You are special” to groom the children into trusting them and building a “secret” relationship with them. As a man who had no boys in the troop I knew it was imperative that I set myself apart from the boys and do nothing that would give any indication that I might be grooming them. So jokingly at first, I would state loudly and clearly too every boy, as a group and individually, “you are not special”. After starting with the Boy Scouts I went from working as a Corrections Officer at a maximum security prison to a Parole Agent in a major metropolitan city, and in my day to day dealings with persons convicted of some very serious crimes I came to realize that these inmates and parolees believed they were special. That for some reason at one point in their lives they did not believe that the rules applied to them.
One day in the institution I was talking to a long term inmate and the conversation came to the point of why he was incarcerated. He stated he had killed a man, but in he said it was self defense and I could tell he truly believed this. So being the naïve Corrections Officer that I was I asked him what that meant. He stated that he went in with a gun to rob a store, and the owner of the store pulled a gun on him as well. During the course of what happened next the store owner was killed. So now this inmate believed it was self defense on his part. He believed that it was not reasonable that a person would want to defend themselves by shooting at the robber, the robber was just defending himself. Luckily the judge and jury saw it differently and he was locked up for a very long time.
This conversation got me to thinking about our perception about ourselves. Do we sometimes think the rules do not apply to us? Do we believe that there are exceptions to the rules and we can just disregard them with no real consequences? Are there special people out there? When I had become a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. I had accepted His payment for my sins many years before, and knew that the consequences of sin was separation from God, either by turning our back on him, or just never acknowledging He was there.
I am not a good Christian; I do wrong things all the time. I am selfish and arrogant, I can sometimes be mean to people and rude. I am coarse and crude. I say hurtful things and hurt people’s feelings especially people I love like my wife, daughter, family and friends. This is not what God wants me to do. He wants me to see people like He does, flawed and hurting, sometimes doing mean spiteful selfish things, but He also wants me to love them. Love them like He loves them; love them like He loves me without reservations, conditions or controls. I separate myself from God, by turning my back on Him and not doing what I know He wants me to do. But when I go back to him He is always there, always forgiving me, and always wanting me to know Him better and live the life He planned out for me.
I have been living a great adventurous life since 1987 when I became a Christian. I have seen wonderful things, been to great places, and met fascinating and interesting people. Does my life always go the way I planned? Heck no. Is it always easy and pleasant? No way, no how. But since I turned my life over to Jesus Christ I have had a peace about life and what lies beyond and that I would not trade for anything.
I know the reason I am here. I know my purpose in life. I know who I am and it is all due to my relationship with Jesus, I am not special but I am loved by the One who laid down His life so I could live for eternity with Him.