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Just a thought: Addressing the mess you’ve gotten into

Life can be messy. There is no count of how many hours of sleep we lose because of messes we get in.

Do you find yourself in a mess often? Are you in a messy situation right now? Maybe you’re just one choice, one word, one act away from creating a new mess.

Each of us wakes up from time to time living in the great big middle of a “mess.” It is a part of life that no one can completely avoid. Sometimes we create the mess ourselves. Other times the mess comes as a result of the 10% of life we can’t control. Either way, when we are in one of these situations and we examine the options ahead, none of them look good.

Let me take a step back here and provide you a bigger picture. From time to time we do stupid things. Stupid things may be an intentional act we do or it may be an innocent act that ends up becoming a stupid one. Examples would include poor financial choices, poor family choices, poor health choices, poor relational choices, poor professional choices, and poor spiritual choices...you get the idea. There are instances where we had the power to avoid a mess and instead we create one or magnify one by throwing fuel on a fire.

We don’t want to have anything to do with most of life’s messes. It may be something we think through over time or it may be an impulsive choice that leads us onto a path we don’t want to be on. Sometimes we find ourselves in a bad situation with no good choice available and we try to lie our way out, causing a bad situation to grow worse.

We lie to a spouse about something we shouldn’t have done. We constantly overeat unhealthy junk food when we desire to be healthy. We call in sick when we should be at work. We make a big charge on a credit card for instant gratification knowing it will take over a year to pay it off (and we probably didn’t need the item in the first place). The end result is that we wake up somewhere we don’t want to be. We created a mess. 

Then there are messes we find ourselves in that are beyond our control. That is the 10% I mentioned earlier. Life is 10% what happens and 90% how we respond. We get knocked off track by an event we didn’t expect and suddenly everything in life is upside down. The end result is the same as stated above, we end up somewhere that we don’t want to be.

Often we are very astute about other people’s messes. Often we look at others in a different light when we see their messes. We judge others by their actions, we judge ourselves by our intentions. 

It’s important to be a student of other people and learn from them. Don’t criticize other people’s messes – offer grace and compassion. Offer your hand to help them out of their mess. You never know when you may need a hand up yourself. There will always be someone with a bigger mess than you have. 

So what happens next when you wake up where you don’t want to be? You decide. Every mess you are involved in comes with bad options, one option being making your mess messier.

At the root of most of our messes is the breakdown of a virtue. And as a general rule, if you ignore virtues, you will eventually create a mess.You can’t clean up a mess by making a bigger mess. In other words, you can’t take a mess created by a lack of virtue and clean it up by another virtue failure. Telling one lie makes a mess worse when you have to cover it by telling another. You might make choices in a mess that you feel are justified or expected by others, but the more important question is, “Is my next choice virtuous?”

Close your eyes and fast forward yourself out of your existing mess to get a glimpse of your future. Someday the very difficult and painful mess that is dragging on and on today causing you to lose sleep nightly will be neatly summarized up into merely a sentence or two. When this happens will your addressing the mess have been done with virtue? For example will your story one day read, “I got fired and I told my boss off before leaving,” or “I cheated on my spouse and then lied about it?” Or maybe it will be “I made a stupid choice, but I came clean, apologized, and over time restored the trust I almost lost.”

Getting out of a mess can be very emotional and even painful, but a virtuous response has the hope of containing the mess rather than making it worse. 

At the end of the day, your response to the mess becomes a part of the real story of your life. You own it. It will become permanent forever. What story do you want told about you for the rest of your years? Which of your options do you want be in the sentence or two that will summarize the mess you are in now?

The message here is to choose a virtuous response. Your response in a time of mess reveals your inner soul and the values that mean the most to you. 

Don’t choose a response that will make you a liar for life. Don’t use someone else’s bad behavior as an excuse for you to behave badly. Just because your parents or friends made or make bad choices doesn’t mean you have to follow in their footsteps. Even when others around you behave poorly, you can choose virtue and rise above. You don’t have to get even with anyone. 

My challenge to you today is first to steer clear of messes the best you can. Live a life that has minimal messes. Recognize that messes will occur to everyone and sometimes you will find yourself in the middle of or between messes. When they happen, don’t make them worse. Choosing a virtuous response is always the best exit strategy and begins the process of mending relationships.

When in the middle of a mess and presented with all poor options, choose one that includes virtue. It is the best path out of the mess you are in.

Just a thought...Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.

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