Sunday, May 22, 2016

McCallumism #1

"Emotion follows motion." Nearly fifty years ago, I first heard these words that literally transformed the way I look at life. This phrase was one of many McCallumisms to which we freshmen at Houghton College were treated by Dr. Floyd McCallum. Pithy statements that packed a punch of truth, they helped us shape our thinking in ways that have stood the test of time. How often have we said to ourselves, "I can't do ______; I just don't feel like it?" Dr. McCallum turned the tables on us. I listen to people all the time who believe they have to feel a certain way before they can act with integrity, when in fact, it's the other way around. If I only act on my feelings, I will end up speaking angrily when I need to be patient, or tenderly when I need to be firm. If I have to feel loving before I act loving, there's a lot of loving that will be left undone. Too often, we allow what someone else says or does to determine how we feel, thus abdicating control over our lives in the worst possible way.

Years ago, a woman came into my office seething with rage. Her ex-husband had done something that infuriated her, and she wanted to talk about it. I let her vent for a few minutes, then asked her, "Do you want to be married to him again?" That question was like lighting a match to a barrel of gunpowder. She exploded. "NO! I don't ever want to see him again!" A few expletives and sputtering later, I softly asked, "Then why are you carrying him around with you all the time?" She was suddenly quiet. "I hadn't thought of that," she said. She was following her emotion, which was leading her around by the nose.

Husbands and wives do it all the time, meting out kindness and tenderness only when they feel like it, then wondering why their marriage is barely limping along. Brothers and sisters wonder why they don't feel close to each other, as each waits for the other to make the first step towards reconciliation. No one seems to understand that if we act kindly, we'll feel kind. If we act in a disrespectful manner, we will feel angry and hostile. However, if even when we're sad, we practice gratitude, our sadness will be tempered. And if we treat someone kindly even if we are feeling angry or impatient, it not only affects the other person, we ourselves begin to feel better. To a large extent, our feelings are the result of choices we make. We are as happy as we choose to be.

A traveller came to a city gate and found a beggar sitting in the shade of the wall. "What kind of people live here?" he asked.

"What kind of people are there where you come from," the beggar replied.

"They are cruel, selfish, and rude, caring only for themselves," the traveller answered.

"You might want to move on," the beggar responded; "The same kind of people live here."

As the traveller continued on his journey, another pilgrim approached the city gate and asked the beggar the same question.

"What kind of people live in the city from which you hail?" the beggar queried.

"They are kind and considerate, generous and helpful," the pilgrim answered.

"Then enter, kind friend. You will find the same kind of people here."

I am grateful tonight for Dr. Floyd McCallum and his McCallumisms, especially this one: "Emotion Follows Motion."

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