There are so many things on my mind as I write that I beg your patience as you read, just in case the path is less than straight.

You may know that writers themselves often don’t know how the words will flow until they begin to put them into visible form. I saw a great illustration of that in a book on writing by the best-selling fiction writer Lawrence Block.

He said that in one of his mysteries the murder was committed early. Half way through writing the book, he still didn’t know who the murderer was.

I get that. Fiction is not my genre, but both non-fiction and song lyrics are the same. I’m often surprised by what shows up on the page, and sometimes even pleased.

Here’s an example I’ve shared in talking about writing.

One evening I was part of a leadership meeting at a church in California. Had it not been for the physical location, a bystander might have thought a street fight had broken out inside a building. Here were men, including me, arguing vehemently for their opinion. Vitriol (defined as cruel and bitter criticism) was nearly uncorked but somehow kept bottled up.

The good side of it was that no blood was shed, but there was a lot of hurt.

We finally gave up with no resolution and went home. It was almost 1 a.m. and I was showering, cleaning my body and trying to clear my mind. As I thought back on the meeting and the contention, hope came to mind. “God can use even that.”

Immediately I knew “Even That” was a song that had to be written.

As quickly as I could I grabbed some paper and a pencil and sat down at the kitchen table.

Even That

The first words I wrote down were these:

     The knife that flashed, then cut me deep
     Wasn’t made of tempered steel.
     Its two edged blade was made of words,
     But the wound was just as real.

The song says that God can use anything, including us, for our good and his honor. Although I wrote that and believe it, I often need to be reminded of it.

For instance, it was reported today that Maui residents have been robbed and looted at gunpoint as fires continue. Are those robbers in “survival mode” or are they simply taking advantage of the vulnerable?

The Boy Scouts of America, an organization much loved and revered for 100 years, is dying. There are several reasons, but one is that they abandoned their own tenets under social pressure.

New York Times columnist and author David Brooks wrote an article for The Atlantic titled “How America Got Mean.” In it he said he has been obsessed for several years with two questions. One of those is “Why are Americans so sad?” The other is “Why have Americans become so mean?”

His answer is in the subtitle of the article: In a culture devoid of moral education, generations are growing up in a morally inarticulate, self-referential world.

God can use even that, but we certainly make it hard on him!

Much better is the story I read today of a high school math teacher who donated a kidney to his student.

Eddie McCarthy of Toledo, Ohio told a Washington Post reporter, “It will be pretty crazy when I watch him walk by. I’ll be able to say, ‘There goes my kidney.’”

In 2000 two-thirds of households gave to charity. In 2018, fewer than half did. I’m bummed by the decline. I’m thankful for those who still give.

Is entitlement part of the problem?

You can see why my mind has been in such a swirl. There is definitely good news out there, but also lots of bad news. I mean who robs and loots people who are already victims?

This is the battle between good and evil. Sometimes it makes us feel helpless. Sometimes we get angry. Rarely do we know what to do.

The answer is simple: do good, and remind others to do good.

Why does that work? Because people behave in ways they think are normal, even if they do so subconsciously. I learned that from a psychologist who was helping me learn to be a more effective interviewer. I wondered how I could determine if a prospective employee was likely to steal from the business.

He said, “Ask them to write down how much they’ve taken from a previous employer.”

“They’ll all say zero,” I replied. He disagreed and said they’d put down a dollar amount, because if they steal they think it is normal. He was right, and I’m still amazed.

Confirming this “what’s normal” behavior bias ten years ago was social psychologist Paul Piff.

You can watch his TED talk, but here is the synopsis. Through research that included rigged games of Monopoly, Piff and his team learned that when people feel wealthy they are more likely to behave badly.

The Monopoly winners won because they — by the flip of a coin — started with huge advantages. They couldn’t lose and didn’t. But they took credit for it and often treated their opponent as inferior.

Likewise people who drove more expensive cars were less likely to stop (this was in California) for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The more expensive the car, the more likely the driver was to break the law. That was still under 50%, but no one in the “least expensive” car category failed to stop.

A nudge to a new normal

The good news is that Piff and his team also learned the solution.

He says they have learned that “small psychological interventions, small changes to people’s values, small nudges in certain directions, can restore levels of egalitarianism and empathy.”

All of us are prone to selfish behavior when we feel entitled. Entitlement is a form of pride, which I wrote about recently. The antidote is humility, and we learn that as we learn to make good moral choices.

Help change the world. Do good, and “nudge” others to do the same.

P.S. You can listen to composer Gary Dugan’s excellent rendition of Even That and see the full lyrics here.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Paul Yee

    Aloha Lewis,
    Thank you for a much needed exhortation (meant in a positive way) in our world. It seems that Scriptures have addressed this a couple of millennia ago and that the human nature battle of good and evil follows us no matter how many eons go by. However, your style and gentleness feels more like encouragement than finger wagging. Dr D shared this article with me.
    Mahalo nui loa (thank you very much),

    1. Lewis Greer

      Aloha Paul! So good to hear from you, and my thanks to Dr. D for passing along the post.

      Yes, one of my recurring themes is that there is nothing new under the sun, and at the top of that list is the battle between good and evil. I’m hoping to encourage more and more people to take the side of good and do good, effectively fighting off evil to some extent. So glad the war has been won, but we’re still in the fight, as you well know.

      Hope all is well with you. Praying for Maui and the whole state of Hawaii.

      Abundant blessings, and Aloha!

  2. Tom Herrmann

    Your commentary is right on in todays world. Thanks. Also, you are a blessed & talented man, I Loved the song!

    1. Lewis Greer

      Thanks very much, Tom! The world is hurting, it seems, and we can make a difference. I know you are doing that!

      And thanks also for your kind words on the song. I love writing lyrics, and Gary is pulling me back in so maybe we’ll do some more along the way. 🙂

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