To Search or Give up? To Keep or Throw Away?

…A time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…Ecclesiastes 3:6.


In some ways it seems too simple to continue commenting on the list given by Solomon because the points written are just such basic commonsense that to say anymore is almost intellectually insulting.  Yet, though we acknowledge the wisdom of these basic truths, we don’t always know when or where to practice them.

For instance, a show like “Hoarders” would never even get off the ground in popularity unless we all had some sympathy for the people we’re watching obsess about stuff.  I know it sounds weird to say, but I think there’s a little hoarder in all of us in one way or another, because those who react strongly to “too much junk” in their garage or home are the same people who collected it in the first place.  Their worry isn’t that they have the stuff itself, it’s that they appear to be wasting space they could use better for some other purpose or thing.

Almost every reaction is equal to its counterpart action, except in the realm of emotional energy, for most of us overreact when it comes to certain things.  If we were hurt as children by other kids making fun of us, we’ll be crusaders for eliminating such behavior in people wherever we go.  If we experience poverty or witness the awful tragedy of starvation elsewhere in the world, those of us who have a strong empathy bone will crusade to eliminate hunger and poverty in the world.  Much of the time, the emotion the thing or situation inspires in us is stronger than warranted; although I will say watching children suffer cannot get enough attention.

The problem with most reactions is they aren’t sensible solution-based responses but rather over the top.  The way to solve most problems is to methodically approach them with a plan of action which takes care of the root issue causing the tragic consequence.  In the case of most starving children, poverty isn’t caused by the rich countries exploiting the poor necessarily; instead it grows out of the political climate in which these kids live.  I lived in South Africa for a number of years, and what I saw forced me to take a deep breath and reassess what caused such awful conditions.

Let me explain.

Apartheid (pronounced “apart-hate” in Afrikaans, meaning “separate heads”) created a climate where abuse could continue without much interruption from the rule of law.  At first, it seemed like a great idea to give the tribes homelands (separate states not the abuse), a solution which the Americans practiced with the Indian tribes by giving them reservations on which to live autonomously, to keep them spread out so they wouldn’t be close enough to war with each other.  What it ended up being (and probably was intended to be by the white powers of the day) was a way to keep the African people in a place outside of the white habitat.  This didn’t bother the blacks until they began to adopt Western culture in certain ways and technology.  Yet the poverty and disease amongst the African people didn’t directly result from white people’s interference or strategy.

Indigenous societies only function well within the paradigm of their traditions and historical framework.  Introduce a new culture and the two create either a vacuum for the native culture or a hybrid in which both adjust their framework to adopt certain aspects of the another.  In South Africa the blacks didn’t remain in the homelands but became increasingly urbanized without the necessary adjustments to the Western emphasis on education and holding down a regular occupation.  Certain African cultures are by nature a very fluid and they view time in a rather easy going way.  The same can be said of most tropical cultures for the need to be constantly on guard against cold weather doesn’t exist so the food supply isn’t as much of a problem as in northern regions.  This said, Africans are not lazy, though they might appear to be by Western standards, they are just more laid back about time itself.  When they began to mix more and more with the White culture through work and services, it changed the paradigm and their traditions began to get fuzzy around the middle.  What the country ended up with was townships.  This produced another problem which the white government wrestled with internationally.

The point is, letting go of our traditions for the sake of adopting a new paradigm is a struggle we all go through to some extent.  We can’t judge a third world mentality by our “sophisticated” modern society because we too hold within even this traditions which science and education have shown to be both hubris or, at the very least, hair-splitting and unnecessary.  The South African Natives’ rate of adjustment has been remarkable since the change of government.  The people are beginning to see the difference between the ideal and the reality.

Again, the main point is that the reaction of the European settlers to the native cultures overreached and over reacted, as did, in turn, the native cultures.  We can blame the whites for their disregard of the blacks’ humanity without losing sight of the nature of the tribal wars spurred by the same problem.  This isn’t a lesson on African politics or inspired by any desire to convince you who was at fault, but what I want to point out is that the Africans failed themselves by clinging to the traditions of their past which wouldn’t fit into the new paradigm.  The Europeans failed everybody (including themselves) by refusing or may be just ignoring the humanity of the native tribes.  The European cultures felt superior to the natives; the natives felt superior to the Europeans.  Wars broke out and those with the guns won.  History is written by the victors until someone comes along with better information.

The European culture clung to their attitudes towards the natives long after they should have adjusted their thinking, and lost the country to the change that inevitably came.  If both sides had integrated and appreciated one another’s strengths as well as historical significance, South Africa would’ve turned into a truly amazing place to live.

But here’s the kicker:  The abuser is now being marginalized and condemned by not only the ruling party but the world at large.  When we cling to things too long the value goes down except in our emotional attachment to them.

There’s a time to stop sharpening tools that have metal fatigue (you didn’t know metal did this?).  There’s a time to hold onto a tool what hasn’t been used enough.  There’s a time to let go of friendships which are toxic or at best, a drag on life in general.  There are times to hold onto even painful friendships because the person we’re involved with is going through a season which won’t change them except for the better.  There’s a time to search for new things and time to just be content with what we have now; to search for that missing person and a time to give up because the resources and time spent don’t produce any evidence or the person.

These are sometimes hard decisions to make.  It’s tough to navigate the waters of when, where and how long if the evidence isn’t clear.  The best we can do is judge by what we know works for us personally and won’t harm anyone in the process.  Sometimes we can’t avoid hurt to another by our choices because the circumstance demands choosing the best of bad options.

Whatever the case, we must develop godly wisdom to make these decisions.  I’ll end with James 3:17, 18But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.


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4 Responses to “To Search or Give up? To Keep or Throw Away?”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    Does this mean I have to give up my blazer from my college days in the 80’s? Are you sure? I have so many fond memories……
    And it fit so perfectly padded shoulders and all. 😦

  2. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    I doubt that would be one of the things God would require of anyone (I still have a couple of shirts I wore in the 80s from my touring days) 😉

  3. Ula Says:

    I loved how you described the more subtle results of Apartheid. When I listen to stories of people who lived here in Cape Town especially during the times when racial integration was “normal”, South Africa was indeed an amazing place to live in. I still hold that, despite all its challenges, I would never want to live anywhere else in the world. Every country has challenges.

    What you said about over reacting to correct the wrong is very real for us. The previously oppressed Black people are sometimes in a hurry to get back what they lost through Apartheid and so often thing are done in a corrupt way to rectify the wrongs. That’s one of the biggest challenges of our government today.

    Loved the post. Thanks Jonny 🙂

    • jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

      I thought you might relate, Ula. I love South Africa! If I could split my time between two cities it would be Portland and Capetown…San Fransisco used to be on the list but it’s gotten too expensive and Perth? It’s just too far out of the way 😉

      Human nature doesn’t change no matter what the desire to be better inspires us to do. I have quite a few friends over there who have had to live through all the changes just like you and their faith is stronger still. America is headed for some hard time soon, I believe, as well because we’ve allowed ourselves to become arrogant about our blessings.

      Thanks for the input, sister

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