I have been talking for a long time. Some will say too long. Over 40 years’ worth of dialogue and details about what has gone through my mind, out of my mouth and into the ears of the world. You are welcome.
As I reflect on all those words, I realize that some words have come easily – regularly – while some have been much more difficult to utter. I often say “but,” “no,” “what do you want?” and “who dat?” Not so frequently spoken are words like “please,” “thank you,” “help” or “please forgive me.” I bet you have similar lists of words you frequently say, as well as words you rarely say. Those lists are worth reflecting on because they may point us to a deeper understanding of who we are and how we see the world. The words that actually come out of our mouths may be the purest form of expressing our feelings, thoughts, and “2 cents” about the world around us.
I have a terrible time saying these words: “good for you.” I don’t know if it is because of my nature or nurture, or if it is based on my education or my experiences in life, but I have the hardest time saying them. Even when I think someone deserves something good to happen, I have to work to get those words up from my heart and out into the open. And when I judge someone’s success to be because of politics, family positioning, luck, or plain old cheating, I will almost never offer those words. Saying “good for you” or even “congratulations” is like trying to speak another language. It sounds so odd and feels so awkward.
This isn’t a new development. I think (know) that I have been like this since childhood. High school and college didn’t provide better results. It has gotten worse as I have matured (gotten older). Even people I like will rarely get an “awesome” or “atta-boy” from me without sarcasm or bitterness. I always want to know why I didn’t win or why I wasn’t considered. Encouragement is not my gift. Judging “what is fair” or what “should be” seems to be.
So what does that say about me? Am I mad, jealous, greedy, cynical, or something else?
I fear that it is a character flaw. And it is one that I cannot afford to continue to embrace or protect. Not being able or willing to celebrate and bless the accomplishments, success, and/or victories of others will isolate me even further than I often feel. Maybe learning to celebrate and rejoice is the most important lesson we can learn as children. Only, it is likely a lesson we will need to keep on learning and relearning because, as we grow up, we grow more and more interested in celebrating ourselves.
Today is a new opportunity to learn new words. My new words are “good for you.” I hope to say them over and over again to my children, my wonderful wife, my work team members, my friends, and the stranger I meet along the way. There is no limit on how many times or ways I can affirm, celebrate, and encourage the success and progress of people I encounter. Only I can limit how much enjoyment I get in watching or witnessing others enjoy life. In the end, I am the one most damaged by taking things so personal and by being bothered by the good news of other people.
There is a lot of good happening in the world. Let me take notice and tell others when something good just happened in their lives. They might be depending on me to lead their parade of successful celebration. Someone might need me to share in the excitement of their gain because no one else wants to or even cares enough to notice. Maybe I will learn that seeing the good in others’ lives will help me notice all of the good things going on in my own.
And that would be really “good for you/me/us.”
“For the rest of his life, Oliver Twist remembers a single word of blessing spoken to him by another child because this word stood out so strikingly from the consistent discouragement around him.” – Charles Dickens