Thursday, October 15, 2009

We Was Robbed!

"We was robbed!"

I think I first heard it as a young boy when I became a dyed in the wool, true blue, through and through, Dodgers fan.  They were then the Brooklyn Dodgers and had the uncanny habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on a regular basis.  However, they never owned up to the fact that it was their own fault and ineptitude that the Yankees always beat them in the World Series, or the Giants, coming from 13 games behind, snatched the pennant from them on a sad September afternoon many years ago.  Oh why couldn't I have been a Yankee fan?  Life would have been so much more pleasant over the years, but I got stuck with the Dodgers.

Especially in those Brooklyn days after blowing yet another game or series, the Dodgers inevitably would excuse themselves by saying, "We was robbed!"  In other words, the umpires were against us, there were too many bad hops, the baseballs were doctored up, the Yankees have all the money, or the pitcher was throwing up spitballs, etc.

One of the most blatant scriptural examples of the "we was robbed" mentality is found in Mosiah 10.  Mormon quotes Zeniff in describing why the hatred the Lamanites had for the Nephites was so intense and never ending.
"They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, believing in the tradition of their fathers, which is this—Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged ["we was robbed"] in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged ["we was robbed"] while crossing the sea; And again, that they were wronged ["we was robbed"] while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea..." [Mosiah 10:12-13] [emphasis added]
And so, generations of Lamanites had bought into the "we was robbed" way of looking at life, which resulted in hatred, war, misery and suffering.  They simply would not admit the truth of the matter which was "... that Nephi was more faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord—therefore he was favored of the Lord..." [Mosiah 10:14]

The "we was robbed" mentality weakens us and keeps us from achieving our true potential.  Sometimes as parents, without realizing it, we promote this kind of thinking in our children.  It's the coach's fault that my athletically gifted child is not starting and sits on the bench.  It is the teacher's fault that my intelligent child is not getting straight A's.  It is the piano teacher's fault that my child prodigy is having difficulty playing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

One of the greatest gifts we can give our children and ourselves is to completely eliminate from our approach to life the "we was robbed" mentality and take ownership for what we are doing or not doing with our lives.

My son, Rich, is an avid Dodgers, Lakers, and UCLA basketball fan.  I couldn't have had any influence on him in that regard when he was just a little kid could I?  John R. Wooden, the great former UCLA basketball coach, and arguably the greatest basketball coach of all time, is one of our all-time favorite heroes.  Rich sent me an e-mail that contained a quote made by John Wooden that he thought was very important and that I would enjoy.  The quote is found in a book Coach Wooden wrote entitled, "Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court."

In the book, he shared some advise his father gave to him as a young boy that influenced his life forever, both as a basketball coach and as a human being.  It was simply this: "Don't whine, don't complain, and don't make excuses."

Of course, this philosophy is the antithesis of "we was robbed!"  I can't help but think Coach Wooden's philosophy of not complaining, whining, or making excuses will take us a lot further in life than thinking "we was robbed."

Many years ago, in fact it was in the late 60s, I taught seminary at the Utah State Industrial School in Ogden, Utah for three years.  This school was actually a coed prison/Reform School for juvenile delinquents.  They were incarcerated for a variety of reasons -- none of them good!  They were some of the unhappiest and depressed young people I had ever encountered.  They had totally brought in to the "we was robbed" way of looking at life. It is true that, for the most part, they had less than wonderful parents and came from very dysfunctional homes.  Using this, and many other negative things in their lives as excuses for their lawless and dangerous behavior, and the inevitable misery that followed, very few of them would ever take ownership for their unhappy lives. They all had the same goal, which was to get out of the Utah State Industrial School so they could be free and happy!  The facility was not very high-security and these kids were extremely creative in escaping, and running to "freedom and joy."  Within a week, or at most a month or so, they would be returned to the school, worse off and more miserable than when they ran.  They constantly whined, complained, and made excuses for their bad behavior and resulting misery, because they felt, "they was robbed."

We tried desperately to teach them the following significant truth about life: "The Way out Is the Way through!  They wanted out of misery, and out of the reform school, so they could have freedom and joy.  Hardly any of them ever got the message that they couldn't run from their problems but had to face them head on, deal with them, and that the only way to the freedom they desired was to internalize and implement the truth that ultimately, "The Way out Is the Way through!"

It is so much easier to teach a great truth than to live it.  After I had my accident many years ago, I found myself slipping into the "we was robbed" mentality.  I felt I had been robbed of my body, my vocation as a teacher, my service as a stake president, and how could I ever be an effective husband, father, or grandfather again given my physical limitations.

Eventually, the principle I had taught my juvenile delinquents so many years before came into my mind and heart -- "Jack, the only way out is the way through!" 

Immediately after the accident the neurosurgeons had told me I had suffered a "complete" injury to my spinal cord.  That means it had been severed and there was absolutely no possibility that I would ever get anything back.  It took months and even years to accept this truth.  I tried to run and escape from the prison that had become my body even as my reform school kids had done from theirs.  I eventually was able to empathize more fully with their challenge. 

Finally, the day came that I could say to myself, "Jack, you are paralyzed from the neck down and are on life support and that is the way you will be the rest of this day, tomorrow, next week, next month, and for as long as you live."  When I was able in my heart to make that admission I began to work my way out of misery and unhappiness to the freedom and joy I longed to have. 

The "we was robbed" way of looking at life, coupled with whining, complaining, and finding excuses for our inadequacies, failures and unhappiness is a one way street to nowhere.

To face life head on with no whining, complaining, or making excuses, and working through our problems, will enable us to truly be free, productive, and fulfilled. 


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