I Don’t Know

Many Meanings

The phrase can mean you’re not sure which choice is best or the one you want.

“I don’t know if I want that one or the other one.”

It can mean you have a preference but may want to let the person asking decide.

“I don’t know if that’s the best choice, but it’s up to you.”

It can also be a lazy answer because you don’t want to put forth the effort to think about the best decision.

“I don’t know why I did that.”

Saying “I don’t know” can mean you know the right choice, would rather make a different choice, and your will and your conscience are duking it out.

“I don’t know if I’ll tell her or not.”

It can also mean you really don’t know the answer.

“I don’t know why that happened.”

Saying “I don’t know” can send the message that you do not understand something or that you aren’t happy about something. It can be a way to avoid a conversation you don’t want to have because of laziness or discomfort.

Maybe you’re really not sure and just need time to think. Or, maybe you don’t want to tell the truth for some reason. Could be you know the response your real answer will get, so you don’t give it.

There are a lot of reasons to say “I don’t know” when asked something. And likely, we’re all guilty of all using each one at some point.

What Experience Shows

Here’s what my experience says about the use of “I don’t know.”

  • Most of the time, you either really do know and don’t want to tell the truth, or you’re too lazy to make a responsible decision.
  • If you truly don’t know, waiting is usually the best choice. Waiting is active though and involves seeking wisdom. Don’t move forward if you don’t have to without knowing until you’ve prayerfully sought the right path.
  • Sometimes, you really don’t know, and that’s okay if it’s from an honest place and not a lazy or deceptive one. Again, just wait it out. Sometimes, not knowing means you’re not supposed to act.
  • Simply waiting when you really don’t know is usually the best option. Many times, the situation will resolve itself or present the right choice if you just don’t force a decision and wait for it to present itself.
  • Sometimes, you have to make a decision even when you don’t know what to do. Pray about it, then make the best decision you can. God doesn’t expect perfection. Plus, there’s often simply not a right or wrong decision.

A lot of scripture get at these truths, so we can know for sure what God desires when we find ourselves saying, “I don’t know.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your path.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

God wants us to trust in and lean on him. He wants to give us wisdom for our decisions. He wants us to know which paths to take. And he wants us to have and experience good things.

Trust. Ask. Receive.

Why Are YOU Saying it?

“I don’t know” often shows authenticity and can be a builder of trust and an encouragement. After all, no one likes it when someone acts like they know it all and refuses to admit that sometimes, the truly don’t know the answer.

The next time you find yourself going to “I don’t know” for your answers, ask yourself if that’s really true. Seek out your true intentions. Here are some common ones.

  • Not brave enough to make a decision.
  • Afraid to make the wrong decision.
  • Don’t trust yourself to make the right decision.
  • Afraid of not being accepted if you answer truthfully.
  • Don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
  • Easier than saying “I’m afraid.”
  • Don’t want others to disagree with you.

It’s okay to not know sometimes, but it’s not okay to always not know. It’s not okay if your go to answer is consistently “I don’t know” because you’re hiding the truth.

Instead of automatically answering “I don’t know,” get into the habit of asking God for wisdom. Ask him even when you don’t have a specific situation or question. Make this asking a daily habit, and then seek to know him because knowing him more is the only way truly have the wisdom you need.

Understanding the Symptoms of Vacation Brain

5-14-13 Vacation brain

Vacation Brain discussed the mindset that happens when one fails to live life deliberately. The symptoms of vacation brain include increased comparisons, God neglect and flesh focus.

Let’s address each of these symptoms in detail.

Increased Comparisons

On sea days, cruisers spend a lot of time lounging around and being entertained. The entertainment staff provides an almost constant schedule of entertainment opportunities. However, my husband and I found people watching to be more intriguing than most of what they offered.

Unfortunately, I too easily started playing the comparison game while people watching. I naturally found individuals “better” than me in some way, and I deliberately looked for those “worse” to help me feel better.

I eventually realized the danger of living in a constant state of comparison and what it did to freeze my progress and growth. I mean, I could easily feel good about myself or berate myself depending on where I placed my focus.

This idea of how constant comparisons can negatively impact our lives gets more attention in the series Battling Boredom.

God Neglect

A cruise offers activities for virtually every interest. Comedy acts, dance shows, trivia contests, video games, casino gambling and club dancing are some examples. There’s no chapel on the ship that I’m aware of, and no Bible studies make the daily itinerary.  In other words, any focus on God does not appear to be a cruising priority.

I am not suggesting that everyone on a cruise ship totally neglects God. With over 3,000 people on the ship, I am certain some people spend time with Him. In fact, one couple at our dinner table on our second cruise prayed together each night, and we had some faith-related conversations with them.

I am suggesting that the cruise ship atmosphere does nothing to promote one’s faith. Routines are broken, and everyone seems to be living the good life. Unless an individual deliberately chooses to incorporate God, most of what is offered on a cruise ship does more to promote desires of the flesh than anything else.

While I believe that a God focus remains the responsibility of the individual, I also understand how the pull of our culture, especially in such an amplified way, can significantly impact an individual’s choices.

Flesh Focus

The draw of abundance is as clear as the surrounding ocean on a cruise ship. Opportunity for gluttony, drunkenness, laziness and poor stewardship abound. To make the ease even easier, cruisers receive a “sail and sign” card that allows them to “pay” for everything. In other words, no actual money exchanges hands when buying drinks, gambling or purchasing anything while on a cruise.

So, focusing on the flesh really requires little effort, and to some extent that is why cruises are so immensely relaxing. When this focus becomes a habit, though, an unhealthy life becomes a trap. Our fast-food, immediate gratification society cultivates this focus on the flesh, which then grows naturally if we do nothing to resist.

The post Are You Living a Cruise Ship Lifestyle? looks at how these symptoms undermine a productive and fruitful life.

DISCUSSION: As with any illness, symptoms can manifest themselves differently from one person to the next. Can you name additional symptoms of vacation brain?

Thinking on Words

A friend recently said she planned on “wafing” at work the next day. At first, her word left me floundering to understand her meaning. But when I thought more about my friend and her approach to work, I somehow knew what she meant. The relationship created the meaning necessary to understand her words.

My friend also said that putting the word in quotes made it okay to use even though it is not a word. If that’s the case, then a lot of words need quotation marks.

Our conversation got me thinking about how people in general use words, both intentionally and unintentionally, how we create the meaning of the words we use, both real and made up, as well as the impact of relationship on the meaning of our words.

So, strap in, hold on, and journey into my thought process on the topic of words.

Words

Did you realize“unforgiveness” isn’t really a word? Not in my dictionary, anyway. “Impactful” isn’t either. Kind of disappointed since I use those words often.

Technically, adding “un” before “forgiveness” means taking back or undoing forgiveness. A very “churchy” (yes, another non-word) word, the assumed meaning of “unforgiveness” involves not forgiving or refusing to forgive, not so much an undoing of forgiveness given because of it not actually being given in the first place.

Impactful,”used to portray major impact or effect, is actually in some “online” dictionaries, but it’s not an official word according to Dictionary.com. And anyway, why not just use influential or effective? Unfortunately, I’ve used “impactful” so much over the years that I naturally think of it when describing something with great impact.

How many other words do I use frequently that don’t actually exist?

Words4

People constantly make up words. Some eventually become official words. (I’m still not over “ain’t” officially becoming a word.) Don’t we have enough words? Are we just too lazy to learn the ones we already have, so we make up new ones instead? Isn’t that kind of like being unable to find that thing you know you have somewhere, so you buy a new one instead of taking the time and making the effort to look for it?

Marketers, Tweeters (technically a real word) and “Facebookers” make up words all the time. Where do you think the Word of the Year “selfie” came from? (In case you’re wondering, second place went to “twerking.” Sorry, Miley!)

Ginormous” and “bestie” were also spawned “online” with “selfie.” The word “ginormous” combines gigantic and enormous, related synonymously, so why not just use one of the legitimate words? Can something truly be so gigantic and enormous that it needs both words to be described? Once something reaches enormous, does it need to be more? Or, is this simply our human tendency to add dramatic flare to everything?

Maybe my obsessive need to eliminate the little squiggly line under words creates an over-sensitivity to word choice. Or maybe my frustration over increasing laziness with the words we speak, over taking the time to communicate clearly and accurately, creates a need to consider the details of the words I use and the intentions behind them.

Words5

Take a minute to think about the words you use. Actually, think about how much you actually think about your words. Or, do you just let the words come forth without giving them much thought?

Scripture says a lot about using care with our words, and taking the time to consider these instructions strengthens character and relationships by bringing greater awareness to the fact that the words we speak – as well as how, when & why we speak them – reflect the atmosphere of the inner self with striking accuracy.

In January, we will look at how what we say, the way we say it and when we say it holds tremendous impact. In addition, we’ll look at how who says something matters along with the impact of the amount of words we speak (how much we say or don’t say). Finally, we’ll also look at the value of controlling our words along with ideas on how to incorporate this aspect of self control into the details of our lives.

DISCUSS: Take me on a journey into your thoughts on the use of words. Tell me what you think a detailed focus on this topic should include.

The Importance of Time & Purpose in Rooting Out Laziness & Idleness

The Value of Time & Purposelazy

One of the factors determining whether idleness and laziness define a person’s life involves having an awareness of the value of time. Zen Buddhist Yoshida Kenko said,

 “A man who fails even for a short time to keep in mind the preciousness of time is no different from a corpse.” (Essays in Idleness, 1330-32)

Idle times happen in everyone’s life. Some surprise us (waiting for the tow truck), and some make sense in the natural progression of the day (5 minutes between meetings). But an idle mindset infects all areas of life.

When idle times arise, valuing time moves a person toward opportunity for rest or for productivity in another area. True rest rejuvenates and restores and prepares for productive activity. Productive activity can be going back to school when you lose your job or incorporating more rest for recovery from illness. Both show the value of time even though one area of life remains idle.

Time becomes devalued when a person chooses lazy habits instead of productivity. Someone with a lazy and idle mindset generally operates without purpose except to satisfy the flesh and to avoid responsibility and growth. Ecclesiastes 4:5-6 sums this state of mind up well.

“Foolish people refuse to work and almost starve. They feel it is better to be lazy and barely survive than to work hard, especially when in the long run everything is so futile.”

 In other words, without a purpose that gives value to time, being idle and lazy makes perfect sense.

idleQuality Time and Purpose

Someone once said that laziness is not doing what you should be doing. No longer can we relegate laziness to the couch potato whose house is falling apart because of neglect. At the heart, a lazy and idle mindset fails to give time proper value. Let’s explore that idea further by looking at how devaluing time easily creeps into our thinking.

First, productivity isn’t the answer. Sometimes I pop from one activity to another without any real focus. I think the more tasks I accomplish, the more productive I am. And, of course, the more productive I am, the more significance I have. Right? Wrong!

Quality over quantity dominates with regard to productivity and creating significance. In fact, lack of significance in productivity is simply well-disguised idleness. I can accomplish tasks and cross items off my “to do” list and not actually be doing anything of significant purpose. When this happens, I am being idle because I fail to make meaningful progress.

Second, losing track of time can be productive. Think of taking a long walk or going for a family bike ride on a Sunday afternoon versus spending the day in the same room with each individual focused on a different electronic device. Quality connection creates significance that makes all the difference.

Finally, many activities can show the illusion of activity with no real purpose or progress. Meetings, planning, and organizing come immediately to mind. Much of these take place under the guise of organizing that only wastes time and energy. No significant progress go forth without a distinct awareness of time along with a driven focus on purpose.

What’s the key?

The key to being productive, whether in rest or activity, involves quality of time combined with significant purpose. Stay aware of time and in touch with purpose, and laziness and idleness cease to exist.

John Maxwell sums up this idea well in his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. In the chapter on The Law of Design while talking about systems, Maxwell says this about time:

“Time has a way of getting away from most people, yet time is what life is made of. Everything we do requires time, yet many people take it for granted. How you spend your time is more important than how you spend your money. Money mistakes can be corrected. But once time has passed, it’s gone forever.”

So far in this series, we spent time Defining Laziness and Idleness and discussed The Dangers of Laziness and Idleness. We’ve also looked at what’s involved in Overcoming Laziness and Idleness. This series concludes Tuesday with A Look at Rest & Productivity.

 DISCUSSION: How can you give more value to time? How could you let purpose drive you?

The post How to Use Those Usually Wasted Minutes During your Day on Dan Black on Leadership provides some terrific suggestions for giving purpose and value to idle times.

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Overcoming Laziness & Idleness

idleBecause I have two boys involved in different sports plus school activities plus church activities along with a husband who travels frequently for work, our weeks are very full at times. After an especially busy week, my oldest son said, “I want to be lazy tomorrow and watch TV all day.” This began a conversation about the importance of rest and why a habit of laziness needs avoided.

We all need regular rest, even more so after particularly busy times, but we all also need to avoid establishing the habits that lead to a lazy mindset. In order to live productive and significant lives, understanding how to overcome and prevent laziness and idleness is important.

Habits Leading to Laziness and Idleness

Pockets of laziness and idleness exist in everyone’s life. Through our choices, they either become dangerous  with far-reaching impact or opportunities for growth.

The path to a lazy and idle lifestyle almost always includes the following bad habits:

  1. All talk with no action. (Acts 17:21)
  2. No progress. (Proverbs 26:14)
  3. Making excuses. (Proverbs 22:13)
  4. Failing to plan ahead. (Proverbs 6:6-9)
  5. Caving to culture. (Proverbs 26:15)
  6. Instant gratification. (Proverbs 26:15)
  7. Lack of purpose. (Ecclesiastes 4:5-6)
  8. Being enabled. (1 Timothy 5:13)

While we must first identify any pockets of these bad habits in our own lives, we are not exempt from identifying them in the lives of others. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 tells us to warn the lazy of the dangers of that lifestyle. Before we can do that, we must understand why rooting it out is essential as well as be actively  overcoming it in our own lives.

Why This Lifestyle Needs Overcomelazy

The most important reason to fight against a lazy and idle mindsets involves obedience. Consider the following:

  1. God expects fruitfulness. (Ephesians 2:10) Laziness and idleness mindsets oppose fruitfulness.
  2. Got gives us new natures. (2 Corinthians 5:17) We’re no longer bound by the desires of the flesh.

Knowing God expects fruitfulness and that He also equips us for it, we must step into obedience of His will and overcome any lazy and idle ways in our lives.

Overcoming Laziness & Idleness

Overcoming for some means a complete lifestyle and mindset change. Perhaps you have pockets of laziness and idleness in your thinking, and you want to grow out of them. Regardless of the status of laziness and idleness in your life, the approach to overcoming is the same

The following mindsets can renew your mind and create a lifestyle of productivity and purpose.

  1. Stay enthusiastic. (Romans 12:11) Fill time with enjoyable activities and encouraging people, and stay connected to your purpose. Enthusiasm will ebb and flow, and these things help prevent losing focus.
  2. Love others. (Hebrews 6:11-12) Truly loving others keeps life exciting and prevents dullness and indifference. Loving people gets focus off self and on love. Loving others amplifies purpose.
  3. Develop an awareness of time. (Proverbs 20:4) Those with lazy and idle mindsets lack awareness of time’s preciousness. Overcoming idleness and laziness requires valuing time.
  4. Enjoy sleep’s benefits instead of sleep itself. (Proverbs 20:13; 19:15) Enjoy sleep for it results – energy, alertness, restoration. Consider that a love of sleep is simply a way to avoid responsibility and awareness.
  5. Be productive. (Matthew 25:26-30) Just like laziness and idleness are learned habits, so too is productivity. And remember, productivity is really well-disguised idleness when it lacks purpose.

As my family discussed, everyone needs regular rest. At the same time, we must balance our thinking with an awareness of the habits that produce a lazy lifestyle and stay connected to our purpose for productive living.

In addition to today’s discussion on overcoming laziness and idleness, we’ve spent time Defining Laziness and Idleness as well as talked about The Dangers of an Idle & Lazy Mindset. Next, we’ll look at The Importance of Time & Purpose in Rooting Out Laziness & Idleness and then conclude our series with A Look at Rest & Productivity.

DISCUSSION: What other habits lead to a lazy and idle lifestyle? What other mindsets help reverse the process?

Check out my guest post GPS Leadership at Dan Black on Leadership. Dan’s blog is a great resource!

Another good blog to read, especially for some though-provoking conversation, is CycleGuy’s Spin.
Check out my guest post, Abundance, there too.

Thank you to Bill & Dan for inviting me to guest post… tremendous honor!

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The Dangers of Laziness & Idleness

The post Defining Idleness and Laziness provided in-depth definitions of idleness and laziness and notes their almost twin-like definitions. The graphics accompanying this series sum up those definitions.

Today’s post delves into what makes an idle and lazy mindset so dangerous. Be warned. This is not a feel-good message. Scripture clearly shows the danger of an idle and lazy mindset, an understanding essential to overcoming and preventing their grip.

A lazy and idle mindset…lazy

  1. Lacks purpose. (Proverbs 12:27) An idle person completes activity without purpose, kind of like a hunter shooting an animal and leaving the carcass to rot. Is this what happens to my brain when I watch television?
  2. Brings destruction. (Proverbs 18:9) An idle person pulls others down. In my more idle days, I wondered why people avoided me. Perhaps they wanted to avoid feeling destroyed by my negativity.
  3. Shows ignorance. (Proverbs 26:16) I’m ashamed to admit the times when I just knew my way was the right way only come to find out later that it was the lazy and foolish way. Yet in my ignorance, I just didn’t see that lazy habits controlled me.
  4. Results in poverty. (Proverbs 10:4) While this can apply to monetary wealth, it also applies to relational, emotional, spiritual and physical health too. Laziness in any area brings desperate hunger for real connection.
  5. Results in lack. (Proverbs 24:33-34) When I taught college classes years ago, several students every semester were surprised at their poor grades. Their laziness in studying and doing homework showed up in lack on the report card at the end of the semester.
  6. Makes one a slave. (Proverbs 12:24) Someone with a lazy and idle mindset has fewer options. Choices regarding work become limited when laziness exists, and opportunity for advancement sees significant limits within an idle mindset.
  7. Breeds dissatisfaction. (Proverbs 13:4) Junior high boys tend to have at least periods of idle and lazy mindsets. As a result, satisfying them at times becomes impossible. Most, thankfully, grow out of this; although, that seems to be the case less and less these days.
  8. Allows selfishness to determine actions. (Proverbs 21:25-26) During my lazy times (past and present), I am motivated by selfishness. I’m usually avoiding something when I’m lazy, and my selfish desires to satisfy my flesh chooses those actions.
  9. Leads to neglect. (Proverbs 24:30-31) Outward signs of laziness always show themselves, and they often do so through a lack of concern and an inattention to responsibilities.
  10. Breeds gossip and meddling. (1 Timothy 5:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:11) Gossips meddle and meddlers gossip, and they usually do so to avoid focusing on issues such as laziness and idleness present in their own lives.

I do not believe I have a lazy and idle lifestyle (not anymore anyway), but I do have pockets of idleness in my life that show themselves in one or more of the above ways. I believe that most people, if they are honest, find this to be true of themselves.

A Note About Laziness in Leadershipidle

One of the dangers of a lazy and idle mindset involves the impact on others. This holds especially true for anyone in a leadership position, from presidents to parents. Isaiah 56:9-12 provides tremendous insight on the negative influence of lazy and idle leaders. It says they…

  1. Fail to warn followers of coming danger.
  2. Give a false sense of security.
  3. Dream but fail to follow up with action.
  4. Are greedy and impossible to satisfy.
  5. Frustrate and discourage their followers.

Laziness and idleness produce nothing positive for anyone, but they are especially detrimental in the life of a leader. Even if you don’t consider yourself a leader, know that any laziness and idleness in your life does impact someone other than yourself. We can’t escape this ripple effect.

The next posts in this series Overcoming Laziness and Idleness gives direction for avoiding these dangers, something with which everyone struggles.

DISCUSSION: What other dangers do laziness and idleness pose?

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Defining Idleness & Laziness

lazyThe posts The Benefits of Time Travel and God’s Perspective on Time Travel talk about God’s view of time and how He wants us to view and value our time. Evaluating your stewardship of time is always valuable, and resources like Life of a Steward can help you do so consistently and effectively. Today’s post begins a series that addresses the value of time related to a struggle most people have occasionally and many have regularly.

Probably one of the most poignant and effective lenses for assessing time management involve idleness and laziness if for no other reason than because the Bible – especially Proverbs – addresses these topics frequently. (This repetition means they are important).  Idleness and laziness present serious mindsets that devalue time. Understanding the meanings behind laziness and idleness can help root out any areas in which we are poor stewards of our time through lazy and idle habits.

Laziness and idleness connect in many ways, and the Bible even uses idleness and laziness interchangeably at times. Take 1 Thessalonians 5:14, for example, where we are told to warn the lazy. The NLT uses lazy, the NIV idle, and the NASB unruly. Other words used include irresponsible (Holman), undisciplined (NET), wrongdoers (Aramaic), those not living right (God’s Word) and disorderly (ASV).

As our graphics for this series indicate, the dictionary provides similar definitions of both laziness and idleness.

idleThe Pulpit Commentary also explain laziness/idleness referring to them as “unruly” or “disorderly” in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. Pulpit explains that this scripture is a military reference expressing the character of soldiers refusing to keep rank. Instead, they neglected their common duties and basically abstained from working. These individuals broke ranks but still expected to be treated as if they were doing their duty.

Gill’s Exposition says these individuals busy themselves with other people’s matters and are contentious, quarrelsome, turbulent, headstrong and unruly. It goes on to say they also cause animosity and division. Think about the consequences that lazy and idleness have, especially in a military or war setting.

When considering the differences, idleness seems more deceptive because there can be the appearance of busyness with no real progress. Laziness, on the other hands, seems obvious and easier to identify because being slothful or a sluggard stands out.

Laziness also indicates a greater degree of idleness and is always held in contempt; no one ever thinks laziness is good. Even when I say “I’m just being lazy,” and it’s not a habit for me, I feel a sense of almost shame.

Laziness also seems worse because it happens by choice, while idleness can sometimes be due to circumstances. For example, a person can lose his job and be idle, and we can have an idle 5 minutes between one activity ending and another beginning with not enough time to start something new. Idle periods sometimes happen in our lives and not because of our own choices. Laziness always happens by choice.

The differences between idleness and laziness are subtle and perhaps unimportant. Once someone succumbs to either of them as a lifestyle, do the differences really matter? Yes, idle periods can happen apart from our efforts, but we ultimately choose an idle and lazy mindset.

Today’s post laid the groundwork by defining laziness and idleness, and the post, The Dangers of Idleness and Laziness, begins the journey of application by taking a deeper look at  the far-reaching impact of a lazy and idle lifestyle.

DISCUSSION: How does having a deeper meaning of laziness and idleness change how you think about them?

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