Shrug      – August 2016

What is a shrug?   Webster’s third definition is “a sweater that is cut so short that it only covers the arms and the shoulders.”   BTW it also covers the heart.   When we feel unimpressed with something, we are said to shrug it off. I taught my son James to say “No big deal” after crashing his bicycle.   Then he climbed back on to try again.

My son’s soccer coach, a fellow named Shawn, was standing next to me at a game once. He had done a great job of shaping these eight-year-olds into the good team we were watching. Suddenly one of the tikes took command of the ball, set off at a rapid pace, eyes sparkling, and feet kicking up dust. Problem was, he intended to score by putting the ball right down the throat of our own goalie, thereby racking up a point for the opposition.   Shawn looked at me and just shrugged. If he had used words, he would have said, “You do the best job you can at training them, but they have to play the game themselves.” He didn’t have to say a thing.

When I have to hike two miles to work because my car broke down, it really bothers me. Yet on vacation, I can take a two-mile walk along the shore or on the mountain trails and consider it pure joy. Same mileage, maybe even the same terrain, yet the consistent element in it all is me. Only my attitude about it has changed.

It is very human to be concerned about the unfortunate things which happen in our lives. At a men’s meeting once I was sharing a particularly tough event which happened to me that week. After the meeting a fellow came up and thanked me for sharing.   He said, “I felt real bad when I got here, but your situation was so much worse that now I consider myself just fine.” Before, he had been comparing his current situation with his past.   Now he had another standard – my misfortune.

This comparing and contrasting is fine when we must choose between two possible courses of action, between two products, or how to spend our time productively. It is not so fine when asking for a raise, imploring God for our needs and wants, or judging others. If my car, though it breaks down occasionally, is adequate, then who am I to ask God for a nicer one? My work may be better than the next guy or gal but asking for a raise may not quite fit with the company’s plans. Comparing another person to one who is more this or more that, is a form of making them into a commodity. The God-created uniqueness of each of us makes such comparisons a disapproval of His work.

Though we labor and strive for improvement, many times in an unselfish way, I think that perhaps a shrug is the best course of action in many cases.

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