Voltaire said the way to judge a person is by the questions they ask. That, it seems to me, is especially true of questions we ask ourselves. Here are a few that are worth asking.
Is anger going to make this better?
Some people send our anger thermometer sky-high: callous bosses, crabby salespeople, exasperating know-it-alls, disrespectful children, surly spouses.
Conflict arouses anger that seems justified—but that doesn’t mean it’s wise to yield to it. The end result of anger is often more damaging than the incident that caused it.
Anger makes things worse. Always. It’s bad for your heart; bad for your mind; bad for those around you. Bad. Period.
“Refrain from anger and turn away from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil” (Ps 37:8).
Is this the kind thing to do?
When Jeff Bezos was a teenager, he read a treatise that cited the number of minutes a person’s lifespan was reduced by smoking a cigarette. His grandmother was a smoker. He did the math and told her, “You’ve lost nine years of your life, Grandma.”
She burst into tears. Jeff’s grandpa pointed a finger in his face and said, “Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s better to be kind than clever.”
Being right isn’t a license to be condescending, judgmental, and unkind. Catch the sharp, sarcastic words before they come out of your mouth. Replace them with respect and kindness.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up. . . . Be kind and compassionate to one another” (Eph 4:29, 32).
Is this something I should let go?
Sometimes things go sideways, and you get mistreated and wounded. It’s not fair. It’s not your fault. But there it is.
The offense hurts your feelings, but it doesn’t tarnish your character—doesn’t keep you from being a good person. Maintain your principles and values. Marcus Aurelius said: “Just do the right thing; the rest doesn’t matter.”
Someone did you wrong; that’s their problem, not yours. You’ve been criticized and judged; that’s the critic’s problem, not yours.
The question is: How long are you going to carry this baggage? Bitterness and resentment will eat on you only as long as you let them. Let it go.
The only thing that matters is that you do the right thing—that’s the only thing you can control.
“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tm 1:7).
Is it okay to say no?
It’s hard to say no to invitations, requests, demands. We don’t want to disappoint a friend, a casual acquaintance, or even a stranger.
We have a baffling relationship with time. We’re cautious with our money; but not with our time, our most valuable asset.
When someone asks for your time, they’re asking you to give up a slice of your life—sometimes in exchange for something that intrudes on your most important work.
When someone requests a little of your time, ask yourself, “What if I say no?” If the answer is, “I would be more faithful to my calling” or “I would be a better steward of my limited time” or “I would be more productive”—say no.
“Teach us to number our days” (Ps 90:12).