January 27, 2010
"Ideals and Reality"
The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
Tonight our president will give his first State of the Union address. Many will be anxious to hear what President Obama has to say as he reflects upon his first year in office and as he outlines his plans to address the many challenges ahead. No matter what one's politics are, there is one thing we can all agree on as we watch our President right now: there is nothing harder in life than trying to turn one's ideals and plans for change into reality.
We don't have to be elected President of the United States to find out how hard it is to effect change. Each of us in our personal lives, our family lives and our working lives have experienced this challenge countless times. It is hard enough to effect change in ourselves sometimes, let alone effecting change in others. The collision of ideals with reality has happened to all of us as we have embarked upon a new phase of our life, whether it's marriage, parenting, leaving home, a new job, a move, or retirement. I remember so well saying before my wife and I had children, "We will never be the kind of parents who just pop in a video to keep the kids entertained." That lasted until a few years after they were born and we discovered we could get a couple extra hours of sleep on Saturday morning by doing just that!
My advice for our President (and I'm sure he is anxiously awaiting this :) ) is the same as it is for any of us who find ourselves dealing with the clash between ideals and reality. First, do not blame others for things not going well. Take responsibility for your mistakes and learn from them. Second, stay true to your ideals, but remember that when the change you are wanting to make involves others, then compromise and building consensus is required. Third, practice perseverance, because any significant change we seek to make usually takes far, far longer than we initially imagine. Finally, don't ever loose your sense of humor because it is the oil that lubricates the inevitable friction that occurs whenever change and growth is occurring.
As our President and our nation pause to reflect on its current state, it might be a good idea for each of us to do the same. If you were asked to give a "State of Your Life address" today, what would you have to say? What ideals and plans for change do you have for your life right now? How hard has it been for you to makes those ideals and plans a reality? What mistakes do you need to acknowledge and what can you learn from them? How well are you doing at building consensus with others in your life, especially those whose help you need in effecting chage?
It is not easy to stop take a thorough and honest look at ourselves. It is essential to do so though if we intend to live the lives that we are each called to live, whether we are the President of the United States, or regular citizens like you and me.