Alertness is a very important character trait, but not one that quickly comes to mind such as loyalty or dependability. Alertness is defined as, “Being aware of what is taking place around me so I can have the right responses.” It refers to a person’s awareness of circumstances beyond their immediate focus. Alertness gives us warning of possible danger and notice of possible opportunity. It directly affects our relationships to others and our relationship to all that is happening around us.
My first memory of learning about alertness was from my father, and it had to do with firearms safety. Of course there are general rules like “Treat every firearm as if it were loaded,” but other rules deal with alertness: “Be sure of your target and know what lies behind it” and “Be aware of your surroundings and the location and movements of your fellow hunters at all times.” I was taught to be ALERT to everything related to where a gun could be pointed.
Though the definition of alertness emphasizes that we need to be alert to how the actions of others affect us, it also involves how our actions affect others. We need to be alert to that as well.
Today our society places a high value on individualism. Our laws have not only been written around the rights and importance of the individual, but they have been shaped and reframed by a culture of individualism. Personal choice is championed above all and I have a tendency to focus on my personal rights.
I saw some research done with young people fromAmericaand from other countries regarding choices and individualism. InAmerica; young people will say that “If a choice affects me, I get to make it.” In some other countries, young people will say that “If a choice affects me, I need the guidance of those I trust and respect to help me make the right choice.”
Though our society stresses individualism, we are relational beings. We thrive in relationships with others. We are designed to live with one another. When we are alone, we are operating against our design. Isolation often brings depression and loneliness. Consider for a moment how a strained relationship affects every part of your life.
Sometimes our focus on ourselves blinds us to the importance of our interconnectedness.
I recently read about a problem an author feels our churches have. The author states, “We have a propensity toward assembling for our own good without being moved to serve the good of others.” I’ve got news – this isn’t just a problem for churches. It is a problem for ALL of us. We all need to stop and think, “Am I serving my own good or others?” For example, we can easily miss relational warning signs because our focus is on ourselves, our responsibilities at work, or our personal advancement. You hear people defend their actions by saying, “I’m not hurting anyone but myself,” but that is not possible. We never have the luxury of hurting only ourselves. When we are hurt, others are always affected. Likewise, when we choose to do what is right and what is good, it always bleeds over into the lives of others. We need to be ALERT to how our behaviors affect others. .
Have you ever noticed the positive effect it has on the workplace when the boss comes in smiling? When the boss is happy, everybody just feels better. In the same way, everyone around you “feels” your attitude, and adjusts their behavior according to the environment you are helping to create. ALL of our thoughts, our attitudes, our words, and our actions AFFECT OTHERS in our family, our workplace, and our community.
While being alert to dangers and opportunities is essential, ALERTNESS to how we affect others is vital to all of our relationships. How others’ actions affect us is important, but how our actions affect others is even more so. It would serve all of us well to be alert to both. You have more influence than you think. Be alert to it.
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