Planted to Grow

She bought the best looking tomato plants she could find.  Two different varieties.  The tomato plants were beautiful.  So much hope.  So much promise.  They were destined for great results.

She planted them with care.  In pots.  She kept those pots on the deck away from stray animals.  Fearful that the deer and other unknown creatures of the wild would destroy her prized garden.

She watered the plants every day.  They began to grow.  And grow.  Stakes were put in place to hold and strengthen the growing stalks.  Soon the stalks were taller than the stakes.  These plants were going to overproduce.  She could just feel it.

The plants bloomed.  The heat of the summer would dry out the blooms.  She would water them more.  But finally.  Finally, she saw the tiny tomatoes starting to form on the plants.  Now the long wait began for ripe red tomatoes.

As the weeks went by, she noticed that the plants had reached their full height.  But they had also stopped blooming.  There were roughly 10 tomatoes on both plants combined.  No new blooms.  No new tomatoes.  How could that be?  These plants should be producing lots of tomatoes.

She continued watering the plants each day.  She began to notice the leaves were withering and dying.  Was she watering the plants too much?  She didn’t think so.  After all, it was really hot and muggy most days.  They needed water.

Then one day, she noticed the roots on one of the plants.  She realized she had planted her prize tomatoes in shallow pots.  The roots had reached their limit.  They had no more room to grow.

She didn’t know that what is seen above the soil is determined by what’s hidden under it. She didn’t know that the roots are the biggest part of the plant.  She didn’t know that a healthy tomato plant needs a lot of space for a strong root system.  If only she had studied about tomatoes.  How to plant them.  How to feed and water them.  How to get them to produce the best and most tomatoes.  But she didn’t.  She just planted them, watered them and left them to grow on their own.

She didn’t know that during the hot, sun-blazing days, the plants would begin to wither and die because the root structure wasn’t able to go deep enough to sustain life and continued growth.

Sure.  These plants are producing tomatoes.  But there’s not an abundance of the crop.  There’s only a handful of pitiful looking small tomatoes.  The fruit of the vine didn’t live up to its potential.  Simply because of the lack of preparation and proper planting.

The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy.  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long.  They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.  Matthew 13: 20-21


She was raised in a Christian home where God’s word was regularly shared.  Her family read the Bible together.  They prayed together.  They had devotions together.

Her parents tended to their garden of their 7 children.  They sowed the seed of the gospel.  They planted the disciplines of a godly life.  They watered the Biblical teachings by taking their family to church.  Her parents did their part to allow the Word of God to be fruitful in her life.

As she became an adult, she realized she must take ownership for her relationship with God.  Her parents did the work that was entrusted to them.  They introduced her to Christ, and now she must continue the work in her heart.   Now she must till the soil to remove any weeds and thorns of jealousy, anger or comparison.  She continues to dig up rocks and stones in her heart that get in the way of the seeds her parents planted so many years ago.  She has to continually water her soul with the Word of God, so her roots will grow deep and not be parched and wither.  It’s a daily work in the garden of her heart that will produce a healthy and mature Christian.

She knows what God requires of her.  He tells her what she needs to do to please Him.  He wants to have a close relationship with her.  He wants her to study the words He’s written.  He wants her to grow roots deep in His love.  He wants her to spend time alone with Him.  Reading His word.  Listening to the words he says to her.  Learning the lessons he wants to teach her.  Growing closer to him by spending time together.

After all, they are in a relationship.

In any other relationship, she spends time with the person.  Talking to them.  Listening to them.  Finding common ground.  Learning differences.  Becoming friends.  Wanting to spend even more time together.  Falling in love.

Why shouldn’t her relationship with God be the same?  He’s the friend who will never leave her.  He will never give up on her.  He’s always available when she needs him.



Dreams Encouraged

The women will swarm the city this week.  They will come in droves to hear speakers, to receive good gifts, to be honored. They will tour the facility.  They will party.  They will worship.  They will be celebrated, encouraged and rewarded.

This event is the culmination of a year of hard work and achievement.  Many of the women have been working for this for years.  Other women have just started their journey.  Some women have reached the heights of success.  Others are still dreaming of the prize.  Many women are leaders.  Most can only hope.

Each of these women have different goals.  Each of them views success differently.  These women are dreaming of a new life.  They’re hoping for a change in their current situation.  A good change.  A change for the better.  A fresh start.  For some, it’s a second chance.

Many of these women have worked very hard to build their business.  Most, if not all, have struggled.  Some have remained faithful and have reaped the rewards.  Others aren’t sure they have what it takes, but they still put forth an effort.  Many more have fallen by the wayside.  Not because the task is impossible, but because they didn’t persevere.  They gave up when the going got tough.  They moved on when moving up didn’t come easy.

To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.  Ecclesiastes 5:19b

I see myself in each of these women.  I’ve tried to be successful at my dreams.  I’ve persevered. For a while.  I get discouraged. I lose faith.  I back off.  I dream again.  I start the cycle once more.  I wonder if I have what it takes to be successful.  I wonder if I have what it takes to achieve my dream.

Why do I have dreams if I can’t accomplish them?  Is it too late?  Am I too old?  Do I have what it takes? How will I know if I don’t keep trying?

I shared my dream with others last year.  They encouraged me.  I dusted off my dream and began pursuing it.  It’s hard work.  It’s tough to stay motivated.  It’s invigorating.  It’s rewarding.  It’s challenging.  It’s fulfilling.

But I’ve started.  That’s the first step.  Just doing it is a great feeling.

Here’s what I wonder.  Am I successful only if I beat everyone else at the dream?  Am I proclaimed a winner only if I get the top prize?  Is it enough to pursue it and possibly never finish?

Here’s what I know.  I need to remain faithful to the dream.  I need to work at it.  Pursue it.  Try to do my best at it.

I celebrate the fact that I have dreams.  I feel empowered to pursue the ideas I envision.

I am encouraged by others to pursue the dream.  It’s my dream and I own it.

I am rewarded with peace and contentment when I am faithful to the dream.  I measure my success by knowing I’m pursuing the gifts God put within me.

Petty Tyrannies

Her words do me in.  They are sharp.  Cutting.  Unpredictable yet predictable.  Unpredictable because I never know when she will strike.  Predictable because it’s happening too often lately.

She says we’re not the target.  It’s the situation that causes her to be this way.  But those around her are the victims.  Easy prey.

I’ve tried to quietly analyze her.  What causes her to strike?  What is happening in her life that makes her so stressed?  Why is she so tightly wound?  Do I even want to know?

The thing is.  Others notice.  Others hear the words.  Others avoid her.  Her reputation precedes her.

Stress causes people to act out, speak out and mistreat others when it is never their intention.  Our differences will divide us.  If we let them.  We can choose to work and live together in harmony.  Give each other space.  Help each other out.

Free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.  Romans 14:9 (MSG)

I’m the peacemaker of the group.  Usually.  But sometimes I find myself striking back when the words are too cutting.  I find that my sharp words come out when I’ve been wounded.  Hoping to inflict as much damage as I’ve received.  Even if I’m not the intended target.  A person can only take so much.  I tell myself.

But does that really give me the right to strike back?  Does that make it right?  Is getting even ever justifiable?

I’ve begun to realize that I’m prone to getting even when backed in a corner.  I say words that I will later regret.  My thoughts have a bent toward retaliation.  Even though that’s not the way I choose to live or treat people.

I don’t think of myself as evil.  I’m protecting myself.  That’s what I tell myself.  I’m making sure that I’m not walked on.  Not trampled on.  Not chewed up and spit out.

I want to think I’m better than that. I want others to think I’m better than that. I want to think that others don’t see the real me.  I want them to see the good in me.  I want them to believe in me.  I want them to trust me. I want my reputation to be honorable.

If I have to justify my petty tyrannies to others, then I know I’m doing wrong.  Why don’t I repent and choose to do better, be better instead of continually explaining away my shortcomings?

I remember Jesus in the garden when Judas Iscariot betrayed him with a kiss.  When Jesus was arrested, he went quietly.

I remember Jesus was put on trial.  Listening to the lies.  The false charges brought against him.  He stood there quietly.

I remember someone shoved a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head.  He was beaten and stripped of his clothes.  He didn’t fight.  He didn’t try to escape.

I remember Jesus was ordered to carry the cross that he would die on.  He carried that cross up the hill with the little strength he had left.  He was nailed to that cross.  He knew he was going to die.  I wonder if he wished he was already dead.  So he wouldn’t have to suffer more.

He had no strength left to fight, yet he was willing to die so he could save everyone fighting against him.  He could have called on heavenly forces to save himself, but he died alone so everyone else could live.

I remember Jesus on the cross.  A soldier slit his side.  A thief on one cross insulted him.  Another thief recognized Jesus and asked for forgiveness.  In his dying moments, Jesus forgave him.  He told the second thief they would be together in heaven later that day.

 Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.  Romans 15:2-6 MSG

I see a pattern in my life that doesn’t match up to Jesus’ example.  If I’m going to be like him, I need to think like him.  I need to act like him.  I need to embrace his willingness to forgive at all cost.  I need to love others as he did. I need to ask how I can help.  I want him to look at me and tell me that he’ll see me in heaven when my time comes. 

Love of My Life

I think back to the day I married him.  35 years ago.  Some things have changed.  Some things have remained the same.

I think of the things that drew me to him.  I think of the things that I love about him.

His love for God

His humor

His musical talent

His work ethic

His honesty

His straightforward answers

His knowledge of the Bible

His love of pepperoni pizza

His patience

His love of sweet iced tea

His gift of helping others

His Christian heritage

His love of the color green

His playful spirit

His ability to avoid vegetables

His positive attitude

His leadership

His appreciation for good food

His love for family

His business insight

His mean sax playing

His ability to cut his own hair

His fondness for watching movies

His need for noisy distractions

His love of dogs

His taste for Peter Pan peanut butter

His eagerness to explore unsafe areas of new cities

His giving spirit

His love of a good joke

His interest in history

His beard

His respect for his dad

His act of honoring his mom in her final years

His willingness to serve others

His support

He’s the love of my life.  He’s my best friend.  I would marry him all over again.


Words Matter

He enjoyed his work.  The actual work, that is.  He had built strong relationships with co-workers.  People respected him.  People asked for advice.  They asked for his opinion.  They valued him.  They sought him out.  He felt accepted.  He mattered to them.

Then there were others.  They didn’t show respect.  They micromanaged.  They second guessed.  They nitpicked.  They changed the rules without explanation.

Little by little their words chopped off pieces of his heart. His love for the mission was muddled.  His tolerance was short.  His attitude grew cold.

He felt underused.  Devalued.  His years of experience were pushed aside.  His expertise was left unused.  His strengths and skills were overlooked.

I’ve been there.  I’ve had people in my life who were insecure.  Trying to prove their worth by belittling others.  By putting someone in their place when they didn’t know their own place.

Words are powerful.  They can make you feel like a million bucks.  They can make you feel penniless.  Empty.

His love language is words of affirmation.  Too many important people in his life have not affirmed him.  He’s crying out for acceptance.  For validation.  The people who should have said those words never said them to him.

How can a person live life to the fullest when others’ words have damaged them to the point they believe those words?

Be kind to yourself, or you may have less tolerance for people who criticize and belittle you.  No one should be made to feel worthless.


They’ve made me feel like a prisoner
They’ve made me feel set free
They’ve made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king

They’ve lifted my heart
To places I’d never been
And they’ve dragged me down
Back to where I began

Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

You can heal the heartache
Speak over the fear
(Speak over the fear)
God, Your voice is the only thing
We need to hear

Words can build us up
Words can break us down
Start a fire in our hearts or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

Let the words I say
Be the sound of Your grace
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

I wanna speak Your love
Not just another noise
Oh, I wanna be Your light
I wanna be Your voice

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

Let the words I say
Be the sound of Your grace
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

Words can build us up
Words can break us down
Start a fire in our hearts
Or put it out

I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

My Crush

I remember his name.  I remember that he piqued my curiosity.  I’m not sure why it was him.  But it was.  I thought he was the most handsome guy I’d ever seen.  I listened to his every word.  I noticed what he wore.  I thought about him every day.  I watched him playing sports. I tried to memorize his schedule, hoping to run into him.  I listened for his voice.  When I walked past him, I hoped he would make eye contact.  I wanted him to notice me.

I could imagine our first date.  He would hold my hand.  Smile at me.  Whisper sweet nothings into my ear.  We would pack a picnic lunch and sit under a tree.  Just the two of us.  It was a sweet dream.  Never a reality.

I’ve crushed on many boys during my youth.  Most of them didn’t seem to know I was alive.  Some were personal friends.  Others were classmates.  Still others were long distance crushes.  They were all very real to me.

I have found the one in whom my soul delights.  Song of Solomon 3:4

I know someone who has a crush on me.  He knows everything I think.   He sees everything I do.  He hears everything I say.   He wants only the best for me.  He knew me before I was born.  He says he loves me.

He teaches me lessons.  He gives me tests.  He lets me make my own decisions.  He fights my battles.  He protects me.  He provides everything I need.  He’s an artist.  He’s a creator.  He is original.

Sometimes I feel like he’s trying to get me out of my comfort zone.  Then I realize he’s the one who made me.  He knows my strengths and my weaknesses.  He knows I need some pruning, and he knows there are parts worth keeping.

I’m not sure why he chose me.  After all, I sometimes ignore him.  At times, he’ll ask me to do something and I get so scared.  I think he asks too much of me.  Other times, I just don’t feel good enough for his love.  I want to be like him, but I feel like I’ll never measure up.  He still says he loves me.  No matter what.

There are some things about him that I just love.  I can talk to him anytime.  Anywhere.  For any reason.  Plus, he is always faithful.  He is always available anytime I need him.  He never leaves me.  If I mess up and confess, he forgives me.  Every time.  He’s the best.

He has one son.  He asked his son to die for me.  So he did.  He died for me.  He. Died. For. Me.  I read that he died for you, too.  He said he did it because he loves me.  He lives in a place called heaven.   He asked me to move in with him someday.  He’ll let me know when that day comes.  Until then, he’s getting my new home ready.  He’s also preparing a feast for me.  He said the invitation is for anyone who will accept it.  All we have to do is believe.

I’ve accepted his invitation.  Now I wait and do my best to become just like him. I want him to recognize me when he sees me.  I want him to welcome me home with open arms.

This guy’s a keeper.


Liar Liar

I know someone who lies.  It’s just what they do.  They tell small lies.  They tell big lies.  I’ve heard them tell whoppers.  More than once.  And they never bat an eye.  It’s as if they’re telling the truth.  In their mind, maybe they are.

Others have noticed.  When the storyteller isn’t around, someone will mention that story.  They knew it wasn’t true.  It was too obvious.  It was an almost unbelievable story.  I don’t know how she thought up such magnificent details on the spur of the moment like that.

If someone makes a point of lying just to look better than others or to get out of a tough spot, does it ever feel natural?  Does lying ever feel good?  Do habitual liars feel guilty?  Do the lies just taint any truth they may later tell?

I always assume that people are telling the truth.  I’ve made a habit of being truthful.  I don’t like lies.  Oh sure, it would be easy to lie.  In the moment, it would be easy.  But there are always consequences.  Consequences are never friendly.  They’re heavy, unnecessary lessons to be learned.

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.           Proverbs 12:22

I sometimes think about it.  That lie I told.  That lie I never confessed.  To anyone. Ever.  I knew there would be trouble if I admitted it.  I wasn’t sure what the punishment would be.  So I didn’t tell.

I’ve thought about that lie over the years.  The first few years after the lie, I wondered if I should send a note and confess.  By then I lived in another state, and it no longer mattered.

I did something I shouldn’t have done and then I lied when asked about it.    I didn’t think about getting caught or being questioned about it when I did it. But people knew that someone had done something they shouldn’t have done.  And it was me.

When the group of us were sitting in the room being questioned, I assumed everyone suspected me.  I was the youngest.  The least experienced.  No one blamed me.  But I knew.  I knew they thought it was me.  I knew that I wasn’t going to confess to anything or to anyone.

The thing is.  I knew when I was doing it that it wasn’t right.  But someone before me had written wrong instructions.  I followed the instructions.  So was it really my fault?  Even though I knew better?

I knew their instructions were confusing. I could have corrected their mistake.  I had seen their mistake before and avoided it.  Maybe they didn’t see it as a mistake, but their intentions were misleading.  I knew better, though.  I just didn’t act on it.  I took the instructions literally.  Why didn’t I avoid it this time?  I always had before.

So I lied and said that I wasn’t the one who did that thing.  I felt bad about it.  I didn’t want to get in trouble.

Afterwards, no one ever spoke of it again.  Ever.  That was a huge relief.  I still felt it in my heart, though.  I knew I should confess.  I never did.  I. Never. Did.

I’ve learned from that lie.  I’ve learned that I don’t want to make lying a habit.  I don’t want to have to constantly remember the story I told and who I told it to.  I don’t want to have to be on my guard.  Always watching what I say and who I say it to.  Wondering if others can tell I’m untruthful.  I don’t want consequences.  It’s easier and safer to just tell the truth.  That way you don’t have to remember.  The story is always the same.

So Close to Eternity

Today on Father’s Day, I think of two men.  Two men who never knew each other.    Different values.  Different lifestyles.  Different beliefs.  Different worlds.  They both were fathers.  That appears to be their only common ground.  I don’t know why the first man even comes to mind.  But he does.

I remember when Saddam Hussein was killed.  Some witnesses videotaped his death.  His hanging.  I saw parts of the video on the news.  It was graphic.  It was disturbing.  It was unsettling.  He died.  People wanted confirmation that he was gone.  There it was.  Ugly and haunting.

He seemed so calm in the last moments of his life.  He wasn’t fighting his captors.  He was as a lamb being led to the slaughter.  Quiet.  Reserved.  Defeated.

I wonder if he had been drugged.  I wonder what he was thinking.  When they opened his cell door for the last time, did he know he was going to his death?  Did he know that in just a few short minutes he would be in eternity?  A never-ending place where he would reap the rewards or punishment for his life on earth.  Did he know?  Was he ready to meet his Maker?

If he knew, what was he thinking?  Did he try to make peace with God?  Did he ask forgiveness for the atrocities he had committed?  Did he shake his fist at God and curse him?  Did he believe in God? What were his final thoughts?

It isn’t mine to know.  It isn’t mine to judge.

The Lord knows the thoughts of man.  Psalm 94:11

I remember another man’s death.  I wasn’t with my dad when he breathed his last breath, but my sisters were there.  He had been on hospice for 3 months.  During those final months and days, my dad exhibited peace and contentment.  He knew he was dying.  He knew he was going to heaven.

Some days he would want to hold your hand and tell you that he loved you over and over.  Other days, tears would roll down his face.  At times, he would look up to the corner of the room with a far-off look.  He was seeing a place he had only read and heard about.  Heaven.  He would sometimes see people.  Others who had gone before him.  He would call them by name.

He had said he was waiting for my  mom.  He never wanted her to be alone.  He waited for her.  In those final three months of his life, he portrayed a sacrificial love for the woman he had pledged his life to 60 years earlier.  He kept his vow.  Till death us do part.

His heart was weak.  His body was frail.  His voice was soft.

His love was strong.  His faith was sure.  His eternity was secure.

During his final days, he would reach with outstretched hand to heaven.  Trying to touch it.  Wanting to enter those pearly gates.  As the end drew near, he would lie there with his eyes closed.  No longer speaking.  Not in this world.  Not in the next.  Hovering between two worlds with a smile on his face.  He was seeing heaven.

He had made peace with his life.  He had waited for his beloved to go before him.  He was ready to meet his Maker.

His last words.  So close.  So close.

Acquainted with Grief

She walked over to me that Sunday morning after church.  In a quiet voice, she said, “How do you do it?  How do you get through each day?”

A year earlier, I had lost my older brother.  Five years before that, my husband had lost his sister.  I am acquainted with grief.  She knew that I knew what she was asking.  My friend had lost both of her parents just a few months apart and was having trouble coping with the loss and the pain.  I recall feeling bad for her, because I couldn’t fathom losing my parents, let alone just a few months apart.

As we talked through our hurt and loss, we shared a common bond.  Grief does not discriminate.  It hits everyone who has lost a loved one.  It’s not a club you want to join, but you can’t refuse membership once it’s offered.  Membership is free, but you’ve already paid a great price.  You’re in the club in that moment of loss. With that one phone call.  Or with the knock on the door.  He’s gone.  She’s not going to make it through the night.  The test results are in, and it doesn’t look good.  There’s been an accident, and there are no survivors.

Little did I know at the time of our conversation, that only a few years later I would once again be circled by grief as I lost my parents eleven days apart.  Eleven. Days. Apart.

I am acquainted with grief.  I am acquainted with loss.  I am acquainted with the replaying over and over in my mind of how the scene of death played out for my loved ones. What were his last words?  When was the last time I saw her alive? Those thoughts filled every moment of every day for months on end.

What I realize now is that we really do need each other.  In those times of loss and uncertainty and unfamiliarity as we face a future without those loved ones, we need others who have walked that path.  We need someone to hold us up and to encourage us to grieve.  To live through the hard parts of life without our loved one.  We need someone to be there for us in those times when we can’t hold ourselves together.  When the memories and the loss are flooding down on us, and we feel like we can’t breathe.  When we don’t know if life will ever feel normal again.  We need to tell our story of loss over and over again.  We especially need someone to listen to our story. To hear our hurt and our pain.  To let us know that there is hope.  To let us know that as life goes on, we should cherish the memories we have and hold onto them.

As Reuben Welch said, “We really do need each other.”

Love one another, as I have loved you.  John 15:12

Heart Problems

She said my name with a sense of urgency.  She wanted me to do something that was her responsibility.  She had forgotten about it.  It was now urgent.  Do or die time.  And now it was my burden.  I had now been tasked with the responsibility to make things right.

Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part.  Someone close to me uses that phrase.  But somehow I couldn’t say those words.

I could feel the bad attitude rising quickly within me.  I could have used words that would have reduced her to something small.  But that would have made me smaller.  I could have slammed a file down on the desk.  Or stomped off.  That would have caused more problems.  Instead, I stewed.  Boiling on the inside. No one can see stewing, can they?

Words can hurt people.  Actions can hurt people.  You can’t take those things back.  Both words and actions are devastating.  Thoughts and attitudes are just as destructive.  Is my bad attitude harmful to others?  Who is harmed if I think ugly thoughts?  If I don’t act on them?

Bad thoughts and attitudes are destructive to the one who thinks them.  They make a person bitter.  Or rude.  Or greedy.  Or judgmental.  And they spill out onto the next person.

Let my words and my thoughts be pleasing to you, Lord, because you are my mighty rock and my protector.  Psalm 19:14

Whatever comes out of the mouth begins in the heart.  Maybe I should put duct tape over my mouth to keep the ugly words out.  Is it possible to duct tape my heart, as well?  Would that keep the ugly thoughts away?  Would that stop the bad attitudes?

Then I remembered.  I’ve been trying to approach situations as if I’m doing everything for Jesus.  If Jesus had been the one asking me to do this thing, would I have created stew?  Would my attitude be different just because the messenger is different?  Is it fair to be willing to do for one what I’m not willing to do for others?

As soon as my thoughts turned to who I was really working for, I felt a shift of my attitude.  I was willing to do this.

It was actually a simple task she asked of me.  It was just scheduled over an event I had already planned.  My schedule had to change in order to accommodate someone else’s need.  I knew that no matter what my attitude was, I would still have to do what was asked of me.  I didn’t have a choice.  Maybe that was the problem.  I didn’t have a choice.

Sure, that person messed up.  I could help them out.  I’m sure they were going to get a talking to later, so why should I make the situation worse by being difficult.  It’s all a matter of the heart.  The attitude.  Whatever is in the heart comes out in actions and words.  Kind or unkind.  Pleasant or ugly.  Good or bad.

There is a choice.  It’s really a simple choice.  Remove the emotions and treat someone the way you would want to be treated.  Sounds so simple, yet sometimes the struggle is very real.