Better Than Leaving

By Mark A. Taylor

Last week I came across a quote by a famous poet (although I hadn’t heard of him), and it resonated with an issue I’ve been pondering awhile.

April15_eddy_JNRod Padgett, writing in How to Be Perfect, said this: “Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not possible, go to another one.”

At first we might call the advice absurd. “I can’t go to another country. My family is here. My work is here. I was born here, and things should change so I can be happier here! After all, I’m right about what’s wrong here!”

I understand. Like many, I’m pretty convinced I know how to remedy America’s ills. I copy and forward op-ed pieces about curbing gun violence and fixing the economy. I’m frustrated by years of stalemate in Washington. I’m not happy about higher taxes and lower morality in the forecast for the future.

But I can endure all that in light of the unparalleled freedom and opportunity I enjoy here. For me, that’s easier than going someplace else.

It seems to me Padgett the poet has distilled a principle for all of life.

Forgive your spouse every once in a while. If you can’t do that, how can you stay in your marriage?

Forgive your boss, your coworkers, and your customers every once in a while. If that is not possible, leave your job.

Forgive your church every once in a while. If that is not possible, find another church.

All of life is a matter of choices, and every choice brings consequences. Sooner or later, all of us must look at ourselves and ask, “Why are you whining about this situation you’re in? If you choose to stay in it, then choose also to acknowledge why.”

I’m staying in this marriage because I promised I would, and I’d rather have the joy of keeping my commitment than the fleeting thrill of a fling, especially when I consider all I’d be losing in exchange for so little gained.

I’m staying in this job because the work I do is more significant than the work I’ve been offered, and the pay over there isn’t worth the dissatisfaction of doing something I hate.

I’m staying at this church because its problems are not substantially different from the problems at the other churches in town, and God isn’t there any more than he’s here.

And so I forgive my spouse or my kids because I realize how often they’ve forgiven me.

And I forgive my boss, because he’s kept me even though I’m not the best employee in the place.

And I forgive my church, because all its flaws stem from people no more broken than I am.

But if any of these absolutely is not possible, I’ll admit I must leave. I’ll confront the hard fact that my joy will not be increased with my complaining, and my dissatisfaction will only make a bad situation worse.

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