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« A Holiness Practicum | Main | Nothing is Not Happening »

Another Story about Nothing

530px-black_eye.jpg“Is it nothing to you?” Lamentations 1:12

“Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing.”

The long title of the little book is as valid today as it was nearly fifty years ago when it swept the country. “Nothing? Oh, really?” W-e-l-l…only if the definition of nothing included breaking a neighbor’s window with a baseball, blacking the eye of a kid on the next block or throwing mud on the sheets hanging out to dry in the back yard! In other words, “nothing” is not nothing. It’s always in the best interest of the kid, however,  to interpret something ominous as nothing, especially if it might trigger World War III .

People tend to dismiss warnings about little things. In personal health, a splinter is nothing; a little discomfort through the chest cavity is nothing; a little lump in the body is nothing; a little dizziness is nothing. But underestimating a problem leads to disastrous consequences. “Nothing” ripped the underbelly of the Titanic and sent hundreds to their deaths; “nothing” blew up the space shuttle Challenger in view of the entire world, tragically wiping out the lives of seven astronauts; “nothing” doomed the presidency of Richard Nixon; “nothing” sent the presidency of Bill Clinton into impeachment.

It seems well documented, then, that “nothing” is a big problem. It concerns more than the well-chronicled tipping point or miscalculation of a significant detail. Things happen that loom large in peoples lives, yet they downplay them as nothing. Anyone who has been in the people business for any length of time knows that when somebody says “it’s nothing”—count on it—something’s up. If you then mindlessly proceed to actually take “nothing” at face value, you will find that “nothing” grows into a big something overnight!

Why do we call our somethings nothings? I suppose some have such low self-esteem that they don’t think they’re worth anyone’s trouble. Others get too embarrassed about creating a scene to talk about it. Some run from anything that looks like a confrontation. Still others think the problem will never get corrected anyway, so why bother? Or, maybe a few of us can’t put into words how deeply we feel about a problem, so we suffer in silence. This stumbling and bumbling around to call something nothing is almost believable, except I’ve seen too many Katrinas or 9/11’s rip through lives, families and communities because of it. My father never complained about chest pains until the evening before he died of a massive heart attack. I’m sure that symptoms showed up long before, but they were dismissed as “nothing.” I personally noticed individuals whom I’m positive were experiencing telltale signs of heart problems. I said nothing, however, and they were gone within a few short days. Beyond health problems, people leave churches, ruin relationships, destroy ministries and otherwise create mind-boggling turmoil—all over “nothing.” Many choke on bitterness and die miserable deaths by internalizing anger over “nothing.” Why do such tragedies happen?

“I don’t have time.” This is such an obvious one that I shouldn’t have to mention it, but guess what? It’s the number one excuse for most people to procrastinate. My answer? When the marriage problem that is “nothing” today lands you in the middle of divorce proceedings, will you have time for financial settlements, custody battles, pickup and drop-off arrangements and bouts with depression? You don’t have time? Will several hours for a nuisance exam cost you more than a year in recovery from major surgery? And, by the way, what do you have planned after your funeral?

“It’s not worth the trouble to get to the bottom of this.” Hmmm. Let’s see. High blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and blood fats , adult-onset diabetes or high blood sugar, obesity, poor fitness, inflammatory illness, low resistance, serious illness …do any of these qualify as being worth the trouble? The longer you treat your “somethings” as “nothings,” the more stress you inflict on yourself. Stress is one of the major contributors to all of these disorders or diseases. (Dr. James Scala,

“I would just embarrass myself and everyone else.” And…?

“I hate fights.” You don’t have to love fights. Normal people don’t. You just have to love doing right things. The one credit you can take with you when you go—which is really what you will leave behind—is a legacy of doing the right thing, even when it was costly, inconvenient or politically incorrect.

“I’ll stir up a lot of trouble and nothing will get done about—why bother?” Never base your decision on the forecast of someone else’s failure. What if they were ready to do the right thing? It would then be your failure that prevented justice.

Quit making your nothings somethings and your somethings nothings. Turn it around. You will do yourself and everyone else a huge favor on both counts.

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