Growing up, there were times when I didn’t always like something my mom would cook for dinner. It might have been something like pot roast with peas and carrots or cubed steak with green beans; the kind with the little potatoes in them. Sometimes lima beans would be one of the side dishes and then on holiday occasions, she might make chitterlings to go over rice. I absolutely abhorred the look and smell of this dish.
I remember that my mom would say to me, “If you don’t like it, then don’t eat it.” She would remind me that I wasn’t the only person in the home for whom she was cooking and that there would be times when I did not get what I wanted. Unperturbed by my selfish and borderline ungrateful attitude, she would say, “If you get hungry enough, you’ll eat what’s in here.” I learned very early on that rather than whining and complaining about what I wished my mom had cooked instead, I would do better to eat what I did like of what she had prepared and simply leave the rest.
It is so amazing how such seemingly inconspicuous occurrences can re-emerge later as such important nuts and bolts for life. What I learned from those occurrences is that in life, when others are offering to share with us feedback, suggestions, parts of their experiences and knowledge, or other information, rather than criticize what they have offered, we should learn to appreciate it for what it is, take what we find useful, and simply leave the rest. If the message the pastor delivered didn’t quite hit your ears in the exact “right” way or you didn’t exactly “feel” what you thought you should feel, you might decide that the message wasn’t for you. You might decide that she or he needs to preach about something else more suitable for you. Well, you could “not eat”, leave, and complain, or you can be grateful for the message that might have been exactly what someone else needed. You can be critical that the message wasn’t meaningful to you, or you can listen for what is useful that you can take away for a later day.
There are many examples of this in which we choose to criticize others for not fitting with our expectations in a number of areas. “The speaker wasn’t humorous enough. That author is boring. The pastor teaches and he should preach. She isn’t this or he isn’t that.” What’s more is that our criticism doesn’t diminish the value of the other person or what they are offering. It is more of a reflection of our own personal tastes and preferences. I’m glad I know today that I can honor my tastes and preferences without devaluing someone else or what they do. I can take it or leave it. I can take some, leave some. I can take some, leave some, and come back if I get “hungry enough” for it at another time.
The good Lord knows I appreciate my momma for that lesson. She didn’t stop cooking what she wanted to cook because of my complaining. She went right on doing what she is so awesome at doing, cooking for her entire family with sincerity and love. And you know what? I learned to appreciate all of what she had to offer even if I passed on the lima beans and chitterlings.
Be encouraged…or not.
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.