In honor of my Mom and to all the Mom’s around the world, the following is a tribute. My Mom taught me so much as a child and many of these lessons have stayed with me for life. A few in particular have grown to become absolute fundamentals that my life is now based on.
A common thread running through these lessons includes the principles of honor and respect. In the following I will share both the original lesson and what each means to me today.
Yes Ma’am & No Ma’am…Yes Sir & No Sir
From my earliest memories I was taught the importance of saying these short and simple words. They are such a part of me that I find myself particularly with women saying Yes Ma’am & No Ma’am even when they’re younger than me. If they are older, male or female, the words come automatically. It shows reverence and respect and in my humble opinion, I think it is greatly appreciated on the part of the recipient.
Saying Thank You
Learning to say “thank you” has to be one of the most critical lessons I learned from my Mom. It was drilled into me so much that like Yes Ma’am & No Ma’am, it became an absolute automatic. Further, I was taught from an early age to write thank you notes for any occasion where I was blessed by someone else. Thank you notes are a lost art in today’s world and yet they are a timeless and classic expression of honor and respect.
Being Happy With What You Have Rather Than Complaining About What You Don’t Have
As a child I grew up in a loving middle class family and never lacked for any material thing. My Mom always taught me to be thankful and to never take anything for granted.
I learned early on that not everyone grew up in the same type of home as me. Some had it better…and some had it much worse. This early perspective taught me the value of being grateful for my blessings both material and intangible. After all, the most valuable things in life are those which money can’t buy.
On a higher level, this lesson is an expression of gratitude and a spirit of gratitude is one of the most admirable character traits that anyone can ever develop. According to Zig Ziglar, “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” And my mentor, Andy Andrews, teaches that “It is impossible for the seeds of depression to take root in a thankful heart.”
This lesson also teaches that happiness comes from within and is not based on some outside thing, accomplishment, or circumstance. Always strive to improve yourself through self-directed growth but never fall into the trap of thinking that happiness is the “pot of gold” at the end of the journey. Happiness is the journey.
Right and Wrong
In chronological terms, this may be one of the earliest lessons we all learn. In my case, while I was always fairly well-behaved, I did receive my fair share of spankings. Proverbs 22:6 says to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” I am so thankful for my Mom not sparing the “rod” when I was a child because of the lessons it taught me for life.
Most people fail to make the connection with the significance of the wisdom of Proverbs 22:6. The higher lesson is teaching a child the discipline to do the right thing even when it’s not necessarily what they want to do because they understand the negative repercussions that will come from the wrong behavior.
This is a lesson that will bear fruit for a lifetime because as adults, we all have a choice each day in how we conduct ourselves and in the decisions we make. There will always be hard choices to make that without the backbone of discipline, the path of least resistance will likely be taken. High achievers in every area of life only get there through hard work and discipline.
Telling the Truth
Learning to tell the truth was one of the harder lessons to learn because there is an element of trust involved. I can remember Mom explaining that telling the truth especially when you’ve done something wrong will get you in less trouble than in telling a lie…and ultimately being caught. It only took a few occasions where I tried to “hide” the truth with the “skin of a lie” only to be found out, that I discovered how much worse getting caught in a lie can actually be.
Now as a follower of Christ, I read and study my Bible daily and I know how much God hates lying. The Bible is full of warnings against the danger of telling lies. Between my loving reverence for my Mom and a healthy fear of the Lord, today I strive to live my life above reproach in every area.
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.
For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.
Finally, not telling the truth seems to only make it worse when you finally get caught. The Bible teaches the principle of “sowing and reaping” and states that you will always reap later than you sow and greater than you sow. I believe this explains the multiplying effect of lying today and getting caught tomorrow and that’s a price I never want to pay.
Play Nice With Your Friends
How many times did our Mom’s say to “play nice with your friends”? Little did we know how valuable this simple direction would turn out to be. Getting along with people is a priceless asset at any age. Whether in business or in your personal life, we are relational beings and we must get along with others to be happy and contributing members of society.
My mentor and leadership expert, John C. Maxwell, teaches that “One is too small a number to achieve greatness.” Anything of significance in life will require the help of others. Being able to connect with and develop relationships is a critical skill in achieving a fulfilled and successful life.
Be Careful Who You Play With
As an extension of playing nice with your friends, the wisdom of choosing your friends wisely is some of the best advice I ever received from my Mom. It seemed simple enough when we were kids, however the significant importance of choosing your friends and associates wisely can not be overstated.
Your associations in life will make or break you. Jim Rohn said it best with “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was famous for saying “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”
This is one lesson from my Mom that is truly for a lifetime. It causes me to constantly compare where I am in life relative to my moral standards and goals and to be aware of how my associations are influencing my behavior and results for better or worse.
If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Don’t Say Anything at All
This is another classic “Mom” saying that should be held on to for life. It’s simple advice and yet the results can be profoundly positive or negative. My mentor Jeffrey Gitomer teaches to “Say why you like things and people…not why you don’t.” A negative statement may in fact be the truth and yet if it doesn’t bring value to the situation, then what’s the point?
I’m not suggesting that we should all run around all “Polly Anna” with our heads in the clouds never speaking a negative word. However I prefer to ere on the side of caution especially in a mixed crowd where you really don’t know everyone. You never know when your one negative statement may truly offend someone else. Whether in a business setting or in your personal life, the wisdom of Philippians 4:8 is hard to beat:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
Further, you can’t have a quality relationship with someone who you speak negatively about behind their back. Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” We literally speak our world into existence, and when you talk negatively about someone in their absence, you are poisoning your attitude towards that person. It will be impossible to have a 100% positive relationship because of your negative thinking towards them.
Finally, if your negative comments ever get back to the person you were slandering, the potential negative consequences are great. Regardless of the circumstances, this is a habit fraught with danger.
My Mom’s primary love language is “Acts of Service” and therefore the way she shows affection to others is to do things for them. Her daily living example of doing things for other people taught me the incredible value of always being willing to serve. Of all the things she taught me, it was her actions that influenced me far more than her spoken words. Abraham Lincoln said, “There is but one way to train up a child in the way he should go, and that is to travel it yourself.”
While my spiritual gifts and strengths are different from my Mom’s, I learned the valuable lesson from her that we are called to serve others. God has given each of us a unique skill set and from my Mom’s example, it is a daily goal for me to be a good and faithful steward.
The hardest lesson of all and yet one of the most beneficial is the act of forgiving. My Mom taught me early on the value of this often times difficult act. It could mean forgiving someone else for some way they have wronged you. Or it could be you asking for forgiveness where you have wronged someone.
In either case, timing is critical and I believe the sooner you address the issue the better. When I have done something where I feel an apology is due, I try to go to the person as soon as possible. For the record, I prefer not to say “I’m sorry”. “Sorry” is a state of being and if you say it often enough…you become it.
My preference is to offer an apology followed by asking the other person for their forgiveness. Trust me, this is way harder than just saying “I’m sorry”. But the relief you feel when the other person grants their forgiveness will allow you both to move forward with closure and peace of mind.
Harder still is when you’re the one granting the forgiveness. Without going into extreme examples, this can be one of the most difficult things we are called to do in life. And yet being will to do so can be one of the healthiest acts we can ever take for our emotional well being.
My Pastor, Dr. Jack Graham, teaches on the negative consequences of harboring a “root of bitterness” towards another person. The offender may be guilty of a truly horrible act and yet to hold on to your negative feelings can ultimately do you more harm. Pastor says a root of bitterness is like acid slowly eating away at the inside of its container.
The following from Ephesians 4:31-32 offers sobering wisdom from God’s word:
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Living with a general spirit of forgiveness is one of the wisest lessons you can ever learn. It has been hard for me and yet is has paid great dividends over the years.
Closely tied to forgiveness…a Mom’s love has no equal. She knows more about you than anyone and loves you anyway.
My Mom always allowed me the freedom to pursue different things and then encouraged me every step of the way. From golf, to bodybuilding, to a variety of business opportunities (bless her), to dating long distance which led to an engagement and relocation to Colorado….every step of the way she was my cheerleader.
This taught me the wisdom that can only come from failure when my pursuits crashed and burned. It also taught me self-reliance and the all important quality of accepting 100% responsibility for your decisions and where you are in life.
I can never begin to repay all that she has done for me. She holds a special place in my heart that can never be replaced by anyone else. I love her with all my heart because she’s my Mom.
Happy Mother’s Day!