REFLECTIONS ON FAITH AND LIFE FOR THE YEARS OF WINTER…
I had the shingles shot a few years ago. I thought that meant I was free from the possibility of shingles. Not so. My brother said, “We’ve got to put new shingles on Mother’s and Dad’s roof,” and so we did in the hot and humid… Oh, wait. That did happen, but that is not the kind of shingles the shot is supposed to save me from. Getting up on a high, steep roof myself, though, and doing it myself, rather than waiting for a roofer, that fits in with my action bias.
The shot I’m talking about is not roof shingles but that red painful rash that usually gets on your face and other places you don’t want it. The shot only reduces the possibility of getting shingles, and makes the shingles less painful if you do get it. Doesn’t eliminate shingles entirely. Even after the shot, if your immune system gets suppressed, through age or stress, you can get shingles. I’ve had some stress, and I’ve got some age on me. So I got shingles.
When I took the last pill to eradicate my shingles, I started feeling uneasy. I felt the same uneasiness when my 13 months of chemotherapy were over. The chemo was miserable and painful. I was in distress all the time. But I was doing something about the cancer. Going from doing to waiting, waiting to see if the chemo worked, was very uncomfortable. It’s because of what psychologists call my “action bias.”
I always opt for doing over not doing. I am biased in favor of action over inaction. It is easier for me to do rather that not-do. In health, it is easier for me to take a walk than to refuse a cookie. In driving, I’d rather take a short-cut that may well end up taking longer than wait for the traffic ahead to clear, because then I’m on the move, I’m doing.
I don’t think an action bias is necessarily good. Sometimes I have made quick decisions to do something, so that I could be doing rather than not doing, that have turned out poorly. But that’s who I am.
Oh, but wait. How often we have heard, “I’ve got to be me.” It’s never because the person saying it is explaining good behavior. “Yes, I gave that homeless man my coat, but I’ve got to be me.” No, it’s always to explain bad behavior. “Yes, I was rude and insensitive and acted like a jerk, but I’ve got to be me.”
The trick to good living is not to say, “That’s the way I am,” in order to excuse myself to others. It’s to understand myself so that I can make adjustments in the way I am, so that being me—in this case, my action bias—hurts neither me nor others. Insight is an action, too.
No, I don’t have to be me, and you don’t have to be you. We are the way we are, yes, but part of the way we are is a God-given ability to be aware of ourselves so that we can make allowances that help us be balanced instead of slanted.
Now, even though it’s hard, I’m going to stop this writing action…