Bennett Got It Right ....
...Nearly 30 years ago. And ... man oh man ... was he ever right!
Talking about Ink and Airwaves, there's a lot of them, these days, about occurrences such as terrorism, mass murders and the like. Every time I check the news, it seems that there's something like yesterday's shootings at a car wash in Pennsylvania, the sniping attack in Las Vegas, the random killing of worshippers in Texas ... and the list goes on.
Some blame the news media, saying we simply hear about them more and sooner than 50 years ago, but I disagree. There is obviously less regard for the sanctity of life, than we saw a half century ago. I was alive, watching news, reading the papers, seeing newsreels most weeks, at the movies, and I know things in that regard are much, much worse now, than they were then. And ... do I even need to mention abortions?
So ... what's the difference?
I think Bill Bennett, President Reagan's Secretary of Education from 1985-1988, nailed it in a talk, in 1989. Just after leaving his post in Washington, he spoke at the Alabaster Rotary Club meeting. I was a member there, and listened with great interest in the points he raised.
After the meeting, I had the opportunity to speak with him for a few minutes. He was just as nice and as personable as he seemed on TV, and as he appears to be, in the picture up there. I asked him specifically what caused the seeming decline in education we were seeing. He told me the following:
Stop to think about it. Ask yourself what's the difference between the worst crime area in your city, and a modest but comfortable suburb. Houses, streets, geography? I seriously doubt it.
I was born and raised in a distant suburb of Chicago, in a house of perhaps 900 square feet, located on a 40' wide lot ... including a driveway on one side of the house! Modest by any account, yet we rarely heard of crime. People of middle class or below, yet the kind of place where 1st and 2nd graders could walk 7 blocks to school. Without fear. Where kids could play in the street and be greeted by smiles and waves from drivers. Not horns honking and obscene gestures. So .... what's the difference?
Could we believe that there has been a loss of respect for others, among far too many people, these days, as opposed to a half century ago?
God doesn't tell us the stuff He does out of cruelty, ego, a mindset of superiority ... which He would certainly be entitled to, should He choose that ... or any other motive too easily attributed to someone by us fallible humans. No, He tells us what He does out of love. A love so far exceeding ours that we have to be told over and over about it.
Some day it'll sink in. Perhaps in Heaven, but hopefully before.
Grudges: They are really bad for us in about every way I can think of. So God tells us to forgive. Check Matthew 6:14.
Anger: I cannot think of a single thing we can do better or more effectively while angry, than while calm. So God tells us that he who rules his spirit is better than he who conquers a city ... so says Proverbs 16:32. And God also tells us to let anger be put away from us, along with several other counterproductive attitudes. See Ephesians 4:31
Patience: God tells us that waiting on Him will allow Him to strengthen us. At 79, I need all that I can get! Read Isaiah 40:31.
Soft answers turn away wrath: So said God, in Proverbs 15:1.
This one is written on my heart like the 10 Commandments were written in stone. One day in the mid-1960's, I decided I would never become angry. That I would never allow someone to control my emotions in that way. Sure enough, the next day I was really tested. I field rep for the insurer for whom I worked, came to my desk to argue about a decision I had made. I just sat there and calmly replied, told him I was simply doing my job, etc. The more he talked, the madder he got. Clenched fists, purple face and all. Finally, he simply turned around and left.
One by one, other people who'd witnessed his tirade, came to my desk and complimented me on how I had behaved. I thanked them, and made a mental note that keeping your temper really was the best thing to do. And better yet, those folks calmed my insides, as I really was tempted to smack the rep in the face. But that really did affirm my decision to refrain from anger. And, as if a sign from God Himself, the field rep came to my desk a couple hours later, and apologized profusely.
Several years later, I was scheduled to speak to adults in a non-credit evening class at Pelham High School. There was also a CPA to discuss taxes, and the Shelby County Mental Health office, to talk about mental health.
Only problem: nobody showed up! So we 3 would-be instructors stood in a hallway chatting. Somehow the topic of anger cropped up, and I stated my views, more or less what's above. The CPA said "You can't keep all that bottled up inside", to which I replied "You can if you don't let it in!". Whereupon he said to the CPA "You can't really live like that, can you?". The Mental Health officer's reply: