According to Webster’s, a promise is a commitment by someone to do or not do something. None of us are strangers to the concept. I would suggest that we make promises several times a week, every week of our life. A promise doesn’t have to be stated as such. You make a plan to meet a friend for dinner. You have promised you will arrive when you plan to. It is no less a commitment because you don’t say the word.
The question my book raises is “How different would your life be if you were held to all your promises, big and small?” You get pulled over by a police officer and he takes your license back to his cruiser. While you wait, you make a promise to whoever you make promises to at a time like this. “Please, please, don’t give me a ticket. My insurance will go sky high. I promise I will never speed again. Just no ticket.” So the officer comes back and gives you a warning. You are so excited that you speed off down the road at the exact same speed you were traveling when you were pulled over.
You see, we make promises at the time of crisis in hopes of deflecting the dangers. Once the crisis passes, so does our commitment to our promise. The problem is that sooner or later our broken promises catch up to us. The important people in our life start to question our intentions, our word. Others outside of our close circle lose their respect for you. Finally, the guy in the mirror doesn’t take himself seriously. When a promise becomes a manipulation, all integrity is lost.
Words have meaning. They carry weight. They require respect. When you use words for effect rather than with accountability, they become empty noise. What disappears in time is trust. No relationship at any level can exist without a level of trust, whether it’s romantic or parental, serious or casual, social or business. Trust is built over time, brick by brick and each brick represents a word. Walls of trust can’t stand when the bricks turn to dust.
In The Promise, David makes a promise that saves his life, only to discover that he will be held to his promise. He could have complained, tried to wiggle his way out or make excuses. He didn’t. He stepped out in faith, he kept his word and lives were changed all over the world, including his own.
How about you? When will you know that the bond of your word will change a life? Yours, a parent’s, a spouse, a child’s or even a perfect stranger. How will you measure the value of a moment when you have to choose between action or inaction, between faith and doubt? When will your promise save a life?
I will make a difference. I will fight for what is right, defend those in need. I will care and I won’t give up. I promise. How about you?
Many people have asked me, “When did you decide to write a book?”
The truth is it was never a decision I ever had to make. In fact, it wasn’t even a consideration. All I knew was that I had a message inside of me, a belief in a way I wanted to live my life. Not only did I want to adjust my own life to my beliefs but I wanted to share the message with as many people as I could to help them see the world through a different set of lenses.
But how? How do I find a platform from which I could speak to people in a way that would force them to, at the very least, peek into the reflection in their life’s mirror? How was I to tell others how to live their life? What were my credentials, my degrees? What proof did I have, what experiment did I conduct to validate my theories? Show me the numbers!
I am not a preacher but I am on this earth by the gifts of God. I have no pulpit, no congregation. I am no longer in education but the world is my classroom. I give no grades, nor do I hand out diplomas. I am more a student. I have learned life’s lessons the very hard way. No year has been easy, no month a piece of paradise. I never had to beg for a meal or steal clothes to stay warm, but I set my standards high and had to fight for every inch of the road. Someone asked me recently, “What is you greatest accomplishment so far?” My answer is that I am still standing, still above the daisies looking down. For every freight train that has roared through my life, I remain on the tracks. David Hynes once said, “As long as your get ups exceed your knock downs by one, you are still in the game.”
So, my message. After exploring every option, after knocking down every option I could come up with, the only choice left was to put my thoughts down on paper in a way that would entertain as well as inspire.
The message is truly simple. In a world overstuffed with anger, a world where its inhabitants are more concerned with their own feelings, their own needs, their own happiness, obsessed with their own passions, can’t we do better? In this world where empathy is dwindling, the message implores the listener to redeploy their priorities. Take your eyes off of yourself and fix them on those within your sphere of influence. Focus on their needs not yours, their desires instead of your own, their wants, their priorities. Wouldn’t your relationship be better if you focused on your partner first? Wouldn’t your children be emotionally healthier if their vision was yours? One of the truest statements in life is you get what you give. Put others first and they will pay you back in kind. Be an example to the ones you love, even the ones you just know and you will find it comes back to you time and again.
The true measure of a man is not the size of his house but the number of lives he touches in a positive way, the number of people he lifts up. It’s never too late to start.
I found myself at the firing range this week to work on my accuracy. The course of fire I follow offers a perfect score of 150. Each and every time step to the line, I visualize a 150 score from 30 rounds worth a maximum of 5 points each. I follow each round to the target and the moment a round strays from the 5 point range I realize immediately that a 150 score just disappeared. The miss doesn’t occur at the target, it occurs at the moment I pull the trigger. Once the round leaves my barrel, I can’t stop it, nor can I walk out to the target and remove the hole or move it from the 3-point zone to the 5-point zone. I can’t fill it in or cover it up, what’s done is done and each miss moves my score lower.
Words are a lot like bullets. They move pretty quickly and can either hit their mark or miss the target completely. They can wound, they can even kill in the most extreme cases. Once you let them fly, once you pull the trigger, you can’t pull them back into the barrel. If there is a purpose to your words, like target practice, each miss drops your score and your ability to make a meaningful point.
With a weapon you have choices. You can leave your finger outside of the trigger guard or for that matter, leave the gun in your holster all together. If time isn’t a factor, you can slow down, take a deep breath, be extra sure of your aim and then let it fly. Words offer the same options. You can slow down, take a breath and think about what you want to say before you let those words fly. Of course, you can decide to leave your weapon in your holster and not engage at all, hence the old adage “It is better to be silent and thought a fool then to speak and remove all doubt.”
In the same category as guns and words comes love. Once you have fallen in love, there is no way to take it back. As I stated in a previous blog, love is an action and not just an emotion, the action of giving away a piece of your heart. Like a bullet, once that piece of your heart is gone there is no way to get it back in the barrel. It’s also true that giving away your heart can lead to enormous, debilitating pain. Having been burned once, many of us choose to leave our love in our holster, never to draw it out again.
As for me, no one has given away more parts of his heart than me. Lost love doesn’t just slip away, it crashes through your life like a freight train. I have had more trains pass through me than the old Central Terminal. Those close to me have suggested I keep my heart in my holster, that maybe I should just ride off into the sunset atop my trusted steed. That just isn’t me, I am not one to give up, remaining the optimist. I still step up to the line and visualize a 150, even in my love life. Besides, the steed makes a mess of the living room that I have to clean up.
We, as human beings, are on this earth to love, to care about each other and yes, as the Shepherd Chronicles point out, to lift each other up. Rise above the current state of affairs. Don’t allow yourself to be pulled into the angry rhetoric. Give your heart away. There is no greater feeling than doing so and receiving someone else’s heart in return. I can step up to the line and visualize a 150 but if I never pull the trigger, if I don’t try, I will never engage the target, never achieve my goals. Not pulling the trigger may prevent me from missing, prevent me from being hurt, it just simply leaves you alone at the starting line while the race is being run. Try! Engage! Risk! Love!
David is the main character in my Shepherd’s Chronicles Trilogy. For those of you that have not yet had the chance to read The Promise or The Rules, the first two books of the series, David strikes out to keep a promise and in doing so, travels the country and interacts with others, helping them find their way back to their path in life. His actions support one of the major themes of the books, that the true measure of a man in not in his worldly possessions but in the number of lives he touches in a positive way, the number of people he lifts up.
When I get the chance to talk about my writing, I always urge the listeners to take on lifting others up as a practice in their own lives. It may sound like a big deal but in reality, it’s easier than it sounds. Let me give you one example.
As many of you who follow me on Facebook know, I do a lot of my writing at Panera’s on Niagara Falls Blvd, pretty much at the same table each visit. There is a regular crew of customers that I have gotten to know and enjoy. There is one guy who comes in often that I rarely get to interact with. Sometimes he comes in alone and every once in a while he comes in with a young man who is both physically and mentally challenged.
A few mornings back, he came in alone and sat near my table. I went over to him and introduced myself. After telling me his name was Ron, I asked, “Do you mind if I ask about the your occasional breakfast companion. I apologize if you think I am being too nosey but I am just curious.”
Ron beamed as he told me about his son Anthony, how he is 26 years old and is working hard to make his own way in the world. His pride in his son was clear. I asked Ron if he would mind introducing Anthony to me next time we were all here. He assured me he would.
A few days later, Ron and Anthony came into Panera’s and they came right over to my table. Ron introduced his son to me and then left us alone while he ordered their breakfast. Anthony and I shook hands and we got to know each other. We talked about what he likes for breakfast and how much he enjoys coming out with his dad. His love for his father was obvious. I told him how nice it was to meet him. Our conversation was brief. I watched him turn and walk to his father’s table, struggling as he does to move with a regular gait, kind of dragging his one leg behind him as he crosses the room.
After finishing their meal, Ron and Anthony cleared their dishes and headed for the door. Ron got there first and held the door for his son. As Anthony approached the threshold, he turned, smiled, waved and said “bye-bye” and limped away. It occurred to me that in all his visits, it was the first time I had seen Anthony smile.
I didn’t do much. I didn’t change the world. My total investment in time was less than five minutes. My physical investment was walking six feet to introduce my self to Ron. In the big picture, not much changed for me or anyone else in that restaurant, but for one young man, he felt a part of a world he was always struggling to keep up with, appreciated for who he is, proud to be a part of his father’s world and accepted as one of the crowd. The smile he shared was as genuine a smile as I had ever seen and he made my day as much as I had made his.
Yes, it’s easier than it sounds. Try it for yourself. Make a difference, reach out, be an agent of change, care. You will discover that the joy you give others will come back to you in ways you never imagined. Who among us couldn’t stand a little extra joy in our lives?
I debated over calling this blog as stated versus The Lost Art of Compromise. Either way, it ain’t what it used to be. The dictionary definition of compromise is – “an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.” Families, relationships, businesses and countries have been saved by its use. Wars have ended as a direct result. We watch as it’s use diminishes over time.
It appears as if compromise has been associated with weakness, that anything less than a total victory is a failure, that in our winner take all society, anything less than winning is an attack at our self esteem. In my younger days, we used to call adults like this stubborn, children spoiled brats. Congressmen used to be praised for being able to work both sides of the aisle. Now isolationism is a badge of honor. My way or the highway is the new battle cry.
Where did it all go wrong? At some point over that last ten years, that ability to negotiate has become obsolete. Let’s see how this attitude affects relationships today. When a subject comes up that forces husband and wife to opposite sides, without compromise, one walks away the victor, arms raised Rocky style over their head while the other hangs their head in defeat. This not only defines the current battle but also sets the stage for the next confrontation where both parties dig in, refusing to give up their firm stance. Future disagreements are less about the current state of affairs and more about the total picture, the battle vs. the war.
It all boils down to one word or a lack of it’s existence, EMPATHY! It is the ability to see the world through anybody’s lenses other than your own. Lacking empathy prevents you from feeling somebody else’s pain, to make you wonder why they feel the way they do, to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, to recognize that, there but for the grace of God, go I. It seems that the ability to empathize correlates directly with the year of birth, where people in their 40’s carry more empathy than people in their 30’s. For most in their 20’s, most not all, but for them, empathy is a relic in the same bin as black and white TV. It’s the “me” generation run amok.
How does it change? As my books, “The Promise” and “The Rules” demonstrate, it happens through action, through recognizing that the true measure of a person isn’t the number of arguments you win, but by lifting others up, giving them value. You lift others up by listening to their point of view and not to listen while you formulate a response that will crush them. but listening to hear their words, understand their perspective, feel the heart behind their opinion with a willingness not to change your entire view, but with a willingness to compromise, to find a common ground. It’s that willingness that will, in the end, define who you are as a person. Isn’t it better when you both walk off the field a victor?
In a meeting to plan marketing and social media for my books, The Promise and The Rules. Looking forward to future success in the literary world.
Part 3 of the local book club, discussing the importance of crossroads in our life, not only recognizing them when they appear, but acting them at the right moment.
See all three videos at garyfriedmanbooks.com
This is part two of the video made at a local book club in West Seneca, NY. It is the second part of the message that drives not only The Promise, but book two, The Rules, as well.
What you are about to watch is from a local book club meeting. They had read The Promise and invited me in to address their group. The is Part 1 of the message behind The Shepherd Chronicles
For all the books authored, poems written, plays performed and movies filmed about the subject, LOVE may well be the most misunderstood emotion we experience. It is intangible. Beyond definition. No scale can measure it, no chart can track it. For all we know it may be different for each of us that experiences it.
Here may be the reason why. LOVE is not an emotion in the purest sense, it is instead an action. I have told my children that LOVE is the greatest sacrifice one person can make for another. It is the action of taking one’s eyes off of themselves and instead keeping them affixed on the needs, desires, wants and heart of your partner. The romantic LOVE we experience cannot last in its original form forever. It morphs into something deeper, from red hot to a warm glow. It shows its presence in knowing glances, soft touches, and the continuing obsession to make your lovers life better every day, every moment, every action, a point when you stop being two and blend into one.
Without the focus, the devotion, the dedication, the sacrifice, the acceptance, it will drift. In other words, if you stop acting the part, it cannot survive. If you feel it start to fade, don’t question the intangible, don’t try to explain the unknown, just grab onto it with both hands and save it. For we never know when it will pass our way again.