Life Lessons of 2022

  1. Allow your self-praise to outweigh your self-criticism (hat tip: Carla Chud). Last year, this was a guiding principle in my approach toward others, but I never considered showing myself the same grace. For there to be any integrity or successful application of this idea, it needs to first be solidified within me. I have come to realize just how important it is for me to be in control of my own narrative, which requires me to strive for an unhealthy perfection and favor the voice of inner critic rather than the voice of my Maker.

  2. The world tilts toward an extrovert ideal (hat tip: Suzan Cain). I have been mindful of this truth for some time, but Cain’s Quiet (which I finally got around to reading) illuminated the full impact of the world’s arrangement in accordance with more outgoing personalities. The educator in me has been particularly challenged to ensure that I value and cultivate a learning environment that values the 50% of humanity that too easily remains unseen.

  3. Creativity, in all its forms, is core to human purpose. Long before the Fall, God created and made little creators in His likeness. As Annie Dillard says, “The question of agnosticism is, ‘Who turned on the lights?’ The question from faith is, ‘Whatever for?’ ” Fundamentalist Christianity has built walls around a core set of beliefs, and somewhere along the way, it has lost the context for why such beliefs exist. “In building for the kingdom come, we must move beyond the goal of fixing things and instead set our hearts on the art of making” (Makoto Fujimara).

  4. Knowledge is understanding what’s right; wisdom is understanding when it’s right  (hat tip: lots of wise folks, but most significantly, Lincoln Chud). I’m not sure where I picked up this definition, but it has been the one that has been solidified this year, often in corrective discussions with my eldest, currently knowledge-driven son. As Adam Welcome has said, “if Alexa can answer it, we need to be asking different questions.” There is a significant distance between knowledge and wisdom, and I want to be found chasing after the latter. There were other great takes that stuck with me, like Adam Grant’s: “If knowledge is power, then wisdom is knowing what you don’t know;” and Richard Rohr’s: “Wisdom is the ability to hold onto the good of order alongside the good of disorder;” but I have found the timing element to be wisdom’s most significant mark.

  5. Beware the promise of abundance without dependance (hat tip: Andy Crouch). In this core thesis, Andy Crouch brilliantly ties together the dangers presented by modern consumer culture, technology, and individualism, which I see at deep work in my life and world. Core to the preservation of our shared humanity is work of ensuring we don’t eliminate the need to be needed (and known) by one another.

  6. Everyone grieves differently, and every situation requires a different approach, so be slow to offer answers and quick to offer presentness. The past 3 months have been uniquely full of grief among some of our closest relationships, and there have been many days spent questioning what responsibility is ours to bear. If nothing else, I have gone deeper in the conviction that most people just need to know they are not alone in their sadness. I love the way Oswald Chambers articulates it: “Never make a principle out of your experience. Allow God to be as creative with others as He is with you.”

  7. Be compassionate to all, but reserve true empathy for your inner circle (hat tip: David Blackwell). Sometimes hasty kindness is not the most loving gift, and it can subsequently produce unhelpful expectations. We realized this year that the length of our relational “B List” was probably creating more bad than good. Clarifying circles of priority is painful work, but it produces fruit that can actually endure.

  8. Trust your instinct over your intellect. I first wrote this line in 2006 as a summary of Bono’s biography. This year I have felt the stronger, more consistent challenge to resist over-analyzing and simplify my approach. As Steinbeck hypothesizes, “Laws change, but got-to’s don’t.”

  9. Live the questions (hat tip: Ralf Neumann). Increasingly, mystery becomes less an intimidating stranger and more a welcome companion. I am coming to believe the ongoing acceptance of unresolved places is simply a mark of maturity. Here it is worth quoting Rainer Maria Rilke at length: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

  10. Don’t take so much responsibility on yourself that you don’t have any room left to be yourself (hat tip: Justin Lebeau, Philip Chavanne). All men would do well to pay better attention to the boy inside their souls, but I probably do even more. The Heath brothers warn against the “soul-sucking force of reasonableness.” I must design and protect moments where I am responsibility-free and spontaneity-full.

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