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Time to Cop an Attitude

We live in disturbing times amid the sounds of wars and rumors of wars—yet so have countless others over the millennia of time. Despite threats to the security of our nation, to the security of our retirement portfolios, and even to the security of our social security, many others in the world have it worse than we do or have had it worse. We need only think of the ethnic conflict in Sudan, the chaos in Somalia, or the trials of a man named Job.

Job was a wealthy man. He had interests in ranching (7000 sheep), farming (500 yoke of oxen), and transportation (3000 camels and 500 donkeys). Job was successful in business, devoted to family, and faithful to his God, yet his God allowed an adversary called Satan to take everything Job had and then cover him with sores to boot.

In Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl writes, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Many commentators have criticized the epilogue of the book (Job 42:10-17) as shallow, superficial, and psychologically unsatisfying. How can money ever compensate for injustice? How can ten lost children ever be satisfactorily replaced by ten others? Whatever our modern assessment of such questions, two aspects of the epilogue teach us a remarkable lesson about attitude.

First, Job names his three new daughters. We aren't told the sons' names, only those of the daughters. The meaning of those names is Dove, Cinnamon, and Horn of Eye-Shadow. Despite all his suffering, Job never lost his appreciation for beauty. He gave his beautiful new daughters beautiful names.

Second, Job gave his daughters an inheritance among their brothers. He wasn't required to do that in the context of his culture and time. One presumes he did it out of love and generosity, maybe even out of a sense of fairness since he knew well what it was to be treated unfairly.

We Americans are subject to vagaries of political and economic forces that are nearly as beyond our control as Satan's activities were beyond Job's control in the ancient story. The way to find peace amid insecurity, as an individual and as a nation, is to focus on beauty, generosity, and justice. To choose one's attitude is to secure one's peace.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 16, 2006 1:49 PM.

The previous post in this blog was The Two Cultures of American Higher Education.

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