Interesting Conversation with a Brat

A brat is someone who wants something and clamors for something he isn’t willing or incapable to pay for. It is someone who feels entitled to things without understanding or bearing the burden of the cost. A brat is someone who cries for something but won’t allocate the time, money, and energy to achieve it himself.

Brats don’t go far. Bratty nations won’t either – even if that nation is the only Christian nation in the region. A brat is a brat, even if he calls himself a Christian brat.

So I had this interesting conversation with someone. I remembered the saying, How a person responds during difficult times is a great indicator of his character. He said, “That’s true! Look at how bad our leaders are responding!”

I’ll told him, “Seems you’re right. What about you? What is your response revealing?”

He said, “I’m expressing my indignation! I’m calling for justice! It shows that I care about my country!”

I said, “That’s awesome! So how much time, money, energy have you dedicated to justice and love for country? Of your 24 hours, how much goes to meaningful nation-building? Of your salary, how much goes to meaningful nation-building? Of your energies, how much goes into service? As a percentage of your resources, how much is deliberately budgeted for making the world a better place, and how much is automatically allocated for your own pleasure?”

He said, “It’s my life, my time, and my money. I’m free to use it any way I want. It’s a democratic country!”

I reminded him, “You’re absolutely right about it being yours and you being free. But with people like you filling up this country, you’re wrong about us being a democracy, because democracy, yes, has liberty, but it also has two pillars of equality and fraternity, and a truly democratic people fight for those things, even if it means fighting their own inner selfishness.

He said, “Are you saying I don’t love my country? Don’t judge me.”

I ended with this, “Show me what you do with your time, money, and energy, and I’ll show you what you really love. At the end of the day, we are judged by the results of our own lives determined by the choices we make on where we invested our time, money, and energy. It is a double standard to say that we have the right to judge the actions of others yet shielded from our own actions being judged. Any person who judges like that is not fit to judge.”

This conversation actually happened. It happened between the angry me and the educated me. It happened between the frustrated me and the prudent me. It happened between the selfish me and the Christian me. Because to be educated means to show understanding, understanding of the events, understanding of the context, and understanding of the implications, and to be educated means not to jump to instinctive conclusions when understanding is lacking. Because to be prudent means to act in a way that shows care for the future, not simply reacting to today. To be Christian means to respond in love and faith shown in selflessness, not to respond in the natural unloving reactions of the world.

My first instincts were the response of a brat – not the response of an educated and prudent Christian.

As I was first typing my initial angry thoughts, I was reminded of the popular verses of 1 Corinthians 13, but of its lesser known beginning:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Paul was making a distinction between what it means to be a Christian. He’s saying, “I can be eloquent, I can be wise, I can be committed to my beliefs, I can even act on them, but if I am not motivated and if my actions are not regulated by love, I’m wasting them.” He was saying, “You can’t say you want a Christian world, a world marked with love, without having that which makes us distinctly Christian: Love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protectsalways trustsalways hopesalways perseveres.
– 1 Corinthians 13:1-6

How do we know what we really love? Show me what you do with your time, money, and energy, and I’ll show you what you really love.

That’s how we know whether we are brats. We know we are brats when our Facebook status does not reconcile with our investments of time, money, and energy.

The sad thing is, just like you can’t build a building with a wrecking ball, you can’t build a nation with whiners. 

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
– Matthew 7:3

Thoughts on the Events Concerning the SAF and MILF

One thing I’ve decided to be more deliberate with, is to use the indignation I feel for certain things as a chance to reflect on my own contribution to that specific concern. At the moment, it’s the anger I feel for the events that happened with the SAF and MILF.

Here are the questions I’m asking myself:
1. How do I, on a regular basis, contribute to the betterment of the lives of our police and soldiers? Am I a citizen who honors them on a regular basis, like when I’m driving, or parking, or late for work, or being given a ticket? Do I even pray for them? The answer is, not regularly, and I’m ashamed to admit that. If I can’t even do these small things, how can I do the bigger things? Don’t I contribute to the risk they face by not always being law abiding with how I drive? Don’t I contribute to the risk they face by not caring about their daily living conditions? To be honest, I don’t even think of soldiers everyday. I have to change that.

2. How am I contributing to the peace situation between Christians and Muslims? Or have I just accepted that there can be no tolerance? Or worse, am I apathetic to that specific concern? Sadly, and ashamedly, based on my actual actions, I’ve been apathetic. I need to change that by building bridges with Muslims I do know and serving them.

3. How am I becoming a better leader in my own sphere of influence? How am I leading my companies? How am I leading my relationships? How am I leading myself? Am I, in my own small way, showing the faithfulness, trustworthiness, and excellence, I expect from my leaders? Or am I so selfish to expect others to become the citizen I won’t discipline myself to be? Am I giving society a better alternative to the injustice around us? Or am I just a noisy person on social media whose opinion will be forgotten when the next trending thing comes about? Am I even working hard towards someday being in a better position to help through tangible action not just noise?

4. Am I citizen who contributes to society or simply an opinionated person with no quantifiable contribution? Am I an empty drum that rings loud? Am I equipping myself to be that better citizen who contributes or am I living off the goodness of others, expecting the world to be fair and just and secure for me without making the world better for others, starting with my parents?

5. Do I even know our country’s laws? I’m always clamoring for justice, do I even understand what’s just and unjust? Do I know the process of the justice system? Do I hold that system accountable? Do I support people who support justice or do I, in my own ways, through my own shortcuts, support injustice through gossip, through unintelligent damnation of people on social media, through patrimonialism? Or, again, am I apathetic and so dumb to think that complaining changes things even if I don’t do my part? Am I helping to raise a more socially responsible next generation?

I cannot control many of the events happening around me. They’re too big for me. But I can control myself, and I can apply myself to being so wise that I can help the ignorant, so hard working that I can help the poor, so strong so I can help the weak, so faithful so I help others please God, so brave so I can help those afraid, and so humble that I remember that I’m called to be a servant, and a servant does not demand a better world but serves to make that world better. I cannot give the world better if I don’t become better – I cannot give what I’m not. I cannot give the world more if I don’t have more – I cannot give the world what I don’t have.

6. Why am I so quick to demand from others what I myself have not given?

We honor the dead by how we live. We dishonor their sacrifice by living meaningless lives yet feeling entitled to that which we won’t pay for.

Humbling, Liberating Love

“When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
– Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage