limits – noun | \ˈli-məts\
: a point beyond which it is not possible to go
: a point beyond which someone is not allowed to go
: an amount or number that is the highest or lowest allowed
Last week, we took a vacation to Montana to visit my brother and his family. Steve, the boys, and I flew from Indianapolis to Denver, then Denver to Bozeman, where we picked up a rental van for the week. In our short time there, we visited museums and lakes, we saw Old Faithful perform her magic, and we floated down the Yellowstone River. We also ate lots of ice cream and took in a movie on one rainy afternoon.
During our day in Yellowstone, we decided to browse the gift shops and buy t-shirts for everyone. There was just one problem: no one could decide. Short sleeve or long sleeve? Plain or patterned? We went to a total of four gift shops throughout the Old Faithful “campus” before everyone had made his purchase. The only reason the decisions were finalized at that point was because of the limits we faced: limits of size, cost, and no more gift shops.
“Maybe we could try a gift shop in another part of the park?” someone suggested as we agonized over our choices.
“No, more choices will just make the decision even harder,” I explained, though I’m not sure anyone was buying it.
Sometimes, I don’t even buy it. I like options. I like to believe I’m choosing from among all the best possibilities. I don’t want to be limited in my selection, and besides that, I don’t really appreciate limits of any kind. I want to be able to stay up late and get up early. I want to be able to speak my mind and be agreed with. I want to eat what I want and be healthy.
“And” is the new “or.”
Of course, “and” is the tool of negotiators and peacemakers. “And” is just the conjunction we need in our politically charged country with its identity politics and polarizing pundits. We could use a lot more “and” to defuse the competitiveness that has become our cultural norm of win or lose.
But we could also use a little more “or” when it comes to our personal habits, responses, and care for ourselves and others. More Facebook or more conversation with our kids? More arguments about the election or more attention to those that are hurting? More streaming news images or more time walking in our neighborhoods. More television or more art, reading, and music? And if we’re really going to make progress, maybe we don’t even give ourselves the choice.
See, this feeling of dread that’s come over me, this feeling of hopelessness and sadness and despair, it doesn’t go away by more Facebook, more spouting my opinion, more time watching the news on television. Not for me anyway. If I’m going to find my hope again, if I’m going to be filled with joy, I don’t need more information. I need more limits. I need to restrict myself to what God had called me to do. To the people, the work, the places God has given me to.
I’m not giving up on social media or throwing our television to the curb. I’m sure I’ll continue to form opinions about the things I see and read. But I need to limit all the input for a while if I’m going to survive all the swirl and churn and stirring around me.
What about you? What limits are you setting for yourself during the tumultuous time we’re currently in?
What’s YOUR word of the week? Drop it into the comments section, or share it on this week’s Facebook post. If you post about your word on your blog, please slip the link into a comment below so I can stop by and join you.
Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.