Once upon a time we children screamed delightedly when on our birthdays a parent administered a playful paddling, a lick for each year, then added another, saying, "and one to grow on." Somehow we were aware of potential in this disguised blessing.
Neither a country nor its citizens can operate with deficit mentality without creating deficit reality. Denial fuels red ink and with a $1.5 trillion and growing national deficit, America's 233rd birthday on July 4 felt like a serious spanking with many extra hits. We have quenched true increase. Uncontrolled capitalism runs amuck when the leaders and those they represent spin like kids playing a blindfold game.
A new study by Ernst & Young warns that middle-income Americans entering retirement should reduce their standard of living by 24 percent so as not to outlive their assets. Seven years from now the number leaps to 37 percent. Rather than seeing the next birthday as blessing, some feel cursed, facing lack instead of abundance.
In his influential book, "The Science of Getting Rich," Wallace D. Wattles wrote: "The object of all life is development; and everything that lives has an inalienable right to all the development it is capable of attaining." Wallace believed a religion of competition stunts growth; he taught that the full expression of oneself gives more life to others.
When marriage partners refer to the spouse as the "old ball-and-chain," they express lack, deficit, restriction. Louise Keoghan, married to Phil Keoghan, author of the bestseller "No Opportunity Wasted," spoke of her husband's can-do philosophy and emphasis on life as adventure: "We don't stop each other...he never said 'no'" (Spry Living, November 2008). Marriage was intended to give life, not take it away.
Sometimes we need to start over. A biblical story features Jesus coming upon a woman about to be stoned for adultery. Her accusers pause to ask what Jesus thinks. Not answering, he writes in the sand, finally speaking: "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7 NIV). All go away and Jesus tells the woman to "go now and leave your life of sin" (v. 11), a paddling and "one to grow on."
Those who thrive practice forgiveness of themselves and others. Frank McCourt, recently deceased Pulitzer Prize winner for his memoir "Angela's Ashes," wrote of his poverty-riddled childhood in Ireland. Evincing an uncanny lack of self-pity, he grew despite society's cruelty and indifference. For over 30 years he gave away what he learned to the children in the New York school system, using a non-competitive, no-test method to teach English, encouraging students to write about their own lives.
The aforementioned Keoghan's advise a mental "Dead Excuses List." Visualize it in detail, stomp it to bits, never to be used again. The only thing left is to go forward.
The men's Christian organization, Promise Keepers, has declined since its peak in the 1990s. For the first time in 19 years it will invite women, the poor, and Messianic Jews to its yearly event on July 31 and Aug. 1. Well, duh. Let us hope for it what we hope for us all: a benign swat for each year and "one to grow on."
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If you are a seeker of simple truth, we can find it together - side-by-side.