Ten Ways to Be Better in 2018

Matt NetzerRockpile1 Comment

This post has been updated and adapted from a previous post I wrote years ago, but I figured it might be appropriate timing and some changes might be in order. It’s also interesting to revisit some of the things on this list I’ve done better at, and some I needed a refresher on (I personally apologize to any HEB employees who have had to relocate items I didn’t put back correctly). This post is supposed to be light hearted and the listed items (most of them anyway) should be taken with a grain of salt and maybe a little consideration. Enjoy!

So, I realize this post is dangerously close to sounding like a poorly written Buzzfeed article or a random sponsored ad on Facebook with the “Top 10 great movies that didn’t end well” or “10 life hacks to make a mode of transportation using old toilet paper rolls” or something like that, but I just thought I would think through some simple things that could make me a better person. Some of these may not be life changing, and they may not be something you deal with (like I do), but I’m hoping that I can improve myself, maybe you will relate.

And of course, by putting it on the internet, now you guys can all call me out when I don’t do the things that I’m proposing to do. Somehow, most of my items seem to take place in grocery stores…. or in traffic. I don’t know why, those are just my hang ups… so, since we live in a small town, you can hold me accountable.

Ok, here ya go.

10 Things I’m gonna try to do to be a better person:

1. I will always put my grocery cart up when I’m done with it (or at least into a cart stall). I didn’t used to do this one. Many years ago when I stopped (on my way to our church in Benbrook, by the way) to grab a few things, I loaded up my truck and then did the typical “I’ll just push my cart away from vehicle into the parking lot stratosphere” move I had become accustomed to. It wasn’t until I was leaving that I saw that the grocery store had hired Betty White (or at least a look alike) to gather all the carts from the lot (in 100 degree weather), and now she was chasing (I use that term loosely) MY cart though the parking lot, while pushing about 35 more.  It was also about that time I realized there was a cart stall two spaces down from where I had parked.

That moment I discovered two things:
A.  Thirty-Five carts look hard to push.
B.  I should no longer expect that I don’t have to do things properly just because someone else is “paid to do it.” There is such a thing as trying to be a decent human being, and why shouldn’t cart placement be a good place to start? So that’s why it’s number one.

2. I will not talk on my cell phone while checking out at a grocery store, ordering food at a restaurant (sit down OR fast food), or swimming (this last one was written as a joke before all our phones were waterproof… I might actually do this one now). Pretty simple really, but I just can’t get past how rude it is to not give someone our full attention when doing business with them, yet we do it all the time. I have struggled with this one even since I wrote this years ago and have at time, in the name of convenience and busyness, let it slide. I am reaffirming my commitment to stop being a rude jerk with a cellphone, even though it’s become more and more commonplace to talk on the phone everywhere we go.

3. On that same note, I will keep my phone in my pocket when having lunch with someone, and I will put it on silent.  Ten to fifteen years ago (before everyone age 5 and up had a phone capable of cracking into the DOD) we didn’t have the option to answer calls/messages every waking minute.  Now we’ve convinced ourselves that no call can wait 15 minutes.  I’ve also let this one slip more and more over the last few years… and the “quick text” has made it easier to divide my attention.  This year, I promise I’ll try not to check my phone every 5 seconds when we go out. Please be graceful, because we all know the electronic crack-device that’s buzzing away in our pockets has a tempting siren call, indeed.

4. I promise to let people into my lane of traffic when I am in line for a stoplight and they are trying to exit a neighboring parking lot, or when they are trying to merge from another lane. The extra 30 seconds for me will not ruin my day or force me to miss out on the good fajitas at Super Taco (newsflash, they’re all good). I don’t know when we got into the mentality that letting someone get in front of us somehow means they’ve won at the daily game of traffic, but I assure you that when you are the person that let’s others in on HWY 281… you are the one winning, at life.

5. I will tip generously. I’m actually not a huge fan of our current tipping system. I think we have set it up so that we are paying restaurant’s employees for them rather than paying additional “kudos” for good service. I realize there is more involved than that, but I just hate the idea that people are going home with less than what they’ve earned (I’ve waited tables, I know the joy). HOWEVER, it is the system that is now in place, and the waitstaff gets paid chump change to deal with us ( and we aren’t always easy to deal with). Then they usually have to pay out the bussing staff, host staff, etc. out of their tips regardless of whether they actually received any. So please tip well. If I don’t have enough money to tip, I will eat sandwiches at home and save up for a couple more days until I can afford the few extra bucks. On an updated note, this also means I need to try and remember to carry a few extra bucks to make sure I can tip the good people at Bill’s Burgers or the local sonic… not being able to tip by credit card is hard for me, and I never carry cash. So, again.. I apologize to the good people at Bill’s and our fantastic Marble Falls car-hops, I’ll try and do better.

(On a side note, if you leave a christian “tract” in place of a tip… I will personally drive to your house, cover your car in little paper Christian tracts that are disguised to look like $20 bills… and set them on fire. This will negate everything that I’m trying to do to be a better person in 2018, so please don’t put me in that awful position.)

6. Speaking of waitstaff, I resolve to always say “hello” and offer a smile to my waiter or waitress before barking out a drink or appetizer order or hitting them with a barrage of menu questions. We are humans dealing with humans… yet somehow people begin to treat those in the service industry as robots with no feelings. When I was waiting tables back in the 90’s, I can’t tell you how many times I walked up to greet a table, said “hello” and only received back a quick drink order or a “we’re not ready yet” with no eye contact at all. I can’t imagine in today’s “It’s all about me and I won’t even take my eyes off my phone screen” society, that it’s gotten much better. Paying for a service, goods, or food doesn’t exempt us from common courtesy. Be human. Make eye contact. Say hello.

7. I will answer all emails or texts regarding Craigslist or Facebook marketplace ads i’ve posted (buy/sell ads… not the creepy personals). Ok, this one is a personal pet peeve thing, but I am an online buying/selling junkie. Where else can you get stained couches and high end electronics living comfortable side by side (besides a church youth room)? It’s true, that sometimes I post things for sale or trade, and get ridiculous offers.

“Hey, I’ll give you this 1990 Chevy Lumina with only 436,000 miles (it just needs a new motor) for your pristine 2013, Chevy 4×4. When should we make the trade?”

Ok… so that’s not entirely accurate, I’ve never owned any vehicle newer than 2006 in my life. Regardless, you can’t blame people for trying. A simple, “no thanks” is fine. Personally, I hate clicking that little craigslist “reply” button and seeing that there is no contact number. Because then I realize that when it takes me to the email link, I’ll probably never… ever… no matter how many times I email… hear anything back from the person that is selling something. I realize people on Craigslist and Facebook can be strange, but if you dare enter that world, at least be pleasant and courteous and always answer your messages. This one I admit I must do better at, as well, because we’ve sold or given away quite a few things over the last three years that the church had, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the barrage of messages that follow the word “FREE.” Just do your best, and then delete the post when it’s gone (but that’s a whole other issue).

8. I will slow down. This one may seem vague, but it’s such a huge thing for me personally. Whether it’s my kids walking slowly through the Wal-Mart parking lot (ever feel like your arm has an anchor?), or the fact that changing lanes on HWY 281 automatically guarantees my new lane will come to a complete stop for no logical reason, It brings to my attention my strange need to be in a hurry, when there is no need to hurry. For some reason, these are the types of things that begin to get me instantly stressed. This also impacts the way I treat others once we get INTO Wal-Mart, or when I finally get out of the car after being in traffic. Somewhere along the way, I’ve bought into a lie that my time is extremely valuable, and because of that lie, my time has become LESS valuable overall. How so? I’ve stopped enjoying the time I have when I’m too busying hurrying to make more time.

9. I will put things back where they go in the store. What do I do when I pick up an item in the grocery store, and then I see a better deal one aisle over? I grab it! But what do I do with the original item? Like you, I place the item anywhere on the closest open space near me. After all, why shouldn’t Lunchables and Smirnoff Vodka go hand in hand on the same shelf? This goes back to the same mentality we addressed earlier. I feel that someone else is paid to correct my error or do my work for me. It’s selfish, it’s demeaning, and really… it’s not hard to go two aisles over. I resolve to start putting my own stuff back.

10. Ok, so this last one really is the crux of it, and this is less about what I can do, and more what God can do.

I want to be an overall better person and I’d like to make sure that I’m better in 2018 than I was in 2017 (since I believe we should always be improving). But if I want to do that, I have to start each day recognizing that I can’t actually be a good person… at least not on my own.  I can make a list. I can make some changes. But here is what it comes down to. I’m selfish, demanding, greedy, grumpy, sinful, lustful, angry, prideful, prideful, prideful, sometimes extra prideful, and my overall taste in movies can be questionable (although my taste in 80’s movies is impeccable… there’s that pride again).

I’m just bad at being naturally good.

Aside from my wife and kids (and even then..sometimes I fail miserably), I will always naturally put myself as “numero uno” on my list, when left unchecked. I don’t trust myself enough to try and be a “good person” and frankly, I don’t think I can ever be good enough on my own anyway. This isn’t self-depreciating, I just know it’s always a battle with me, and I assume it is with you too.

Paul (in Romans 7) talks about wrestling with his own sinful nature when he says:

Romans 7:18
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

This seems like it’s a dead end. We can’t do it, we can’t truly be better. But He doesn’t stop there. He finishes out chapter 7 and much of chapter 8 dealing with the idea that we cannot be good enough, but that (paraphrased):

A. It’s not about us being good anyway, It’s about the saving Grace and mercy of Jesus Christ which saves us and makes us whole (thank God).

B. As people of God, if we want to try and be good, we have God’s life changing Holy Spirit to help us … otherwise left to our own devices, we might retreat back to the same old prideful, selfish, angry people that we know we can be.

And yes, we all know people who fit that bill. There are even people who are Christians (sometimes lots of them) who can be mean, spiteful, and who try to get us to like mushrooms on our pizza. I’m glad God loves us, even when we fall way short. But I resolve to at least try and be better at glorifying Him in my day to day activities.

I will try to put my carts back, let people in at stoplights, and stop talking on my phone at lunch. But If I truly want to be a better person, and if I want to be a light to my own community…

Then it has to start with me allowing Jesus to increase in my life and to try my best to “walk in the Spirit” as I go about my day. No, this isn’t a theological breakthrough, but it’s also not easy. Submitting myself to God means I actually have to let Him increase in my life and let him take the reigns (or wheel, if you’d prefer to have a Carrie Underwood analogy) and when I do that, He just helps me be a better person… or as Jesus would call it a “light to the world.”

It’s also true that it isn’t being good that brings us salvation, it is only by His grace we are saved at all. But certainly I’d like to be a light to others in 2018, so that my life only glorifies Him and draws more to Him.

So I will try to be good. Which isn’t going to be easy with that new giant HEB grocery store parking lot being built… I hope they’ll have lots of cart returns to help curb my selfish temptation.

Lord, give me strength.

Thanks for reading, let’s have a great start to 2018!

-Pastor Matt


One Comment on “Ten Ways to Be Better in 2018”

  1. this was an awesome read Pastor Matt… thank you for the laugh, insight and inspiration! =)

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