Practical Lessons from Romeo and Juliet

FullSizeRender

Hand-lettering // Hope Hickman @sincerelyhope.designs

I teach ninth grade English, and William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is in the English I curriculum. I honestly love teaching this play. Most of the time, before it’s all over, my ninth graders don’t hate it too much either. 

I’ve taught this play several times now, and every time I do, I think about all the many things that people in today’s world can still learn from it. I’m convinced one of the main reasons we are still reading certain older texts is because people are still dealing with the same issues today. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, so let’s learn from them what not to do to avoid tragedy in our own lives.

Don’t act rash.

Character flaws lead tragic heroes to their downfalls, and acting too hastily is Romeo’s big time flaw.  Romeo meets Juliet, marries her the following afternoon, kills her cousin three hours after the ceremony, visits Juliet that night, flees to a nearby town the next day, receives word that Juliet is dead, and promptly takes his own life that night. What Romeo does not know is that Juliet is merely feigning death. He acts just minutes before that message is delivered. See how this whole play could have had several different outcomes had Romeo just taken a minute to think about his decisions? Take a cue from Romeo’s impulsive nature and take time in making your decisions, whether big or little. Now that you’ve had a quick reminder of the play, let’s move right along.

Pay attention to your instincts (and those red flags waving around).

At the beginning of the play, Romeo and his friends decide to crash the Capulet’s party, but before arriving, Romeo mentions that he has a premonition of his own death. Yes, Romeo’s feeling is extreme, but Juliet has a very similar one later in Act III. (Shakespeare’s foreshadowing at it’s best.) Their instincts were sending them a message, but they chose not to listen. We all have little pulls one way or the other that warn us against danger. Our conscience works in our favor! If you have an unsettled feeling or a sense that something just isn’t quite right, pay attention to your instincts. They’re there for a reason.

Stop being disobedient, so to speak.

The family who is throwing this shindig hates Romeo’s family (and that feeling is mutual), but, it’s a masquerade so Romeo is covered – literally. But should he be? Romeo’s not supposed to be anywhere near this party, per his parents, the hosts, and basically everyone, as the feud is public knowledge. This is only the start of his disobedience. He and Juliet ramp this up several notches when they decide to marry secretly less than 2 hours after meeting each other. Juliet even plans to run away with Romeo after faking her own death. Can you imagine?! Are they doing any of this out of spite? Of course not. But are they considering anyone else? Nope. Regardless of the reason for the feud (in case you’re wondering, it’s never specified), Romeo and Juliet blatantly disregard everyone else’s feelings. But why? They fail to consider that their friends and family (and even servants) love them and only want good for them. Similarly, remember that the people who love you always have your best interest at heart. They want what’s best for you.

Don’t hide things.

Romeo and Juliet don’t tell their parents nor their friends of their love because they fear that their parents will, of course, forbid their marriage. You may not be hiding your entire relationship because you’re afraid of forbiddance, but you may be hiding pieces of your life from your friends and family because you know they’ll disapprove. Or perhaps you aren’t seeking advice because you’re embarrassed about whatever you want to ask about – but that’s telling in and of itself. If you’re hiding things, this alone is a red flag. (See above.) Assuming your advice-giver is of sound mind, if you think the response you might get is going to be one of warning or disapproval, you likely already know the advice they’ll give.

Have no fear, this doesn’t end here. We’ve got half the play (and half the lessons) left to discuss. So, in the words of DJ Casper, stick around for part II.

The Changing of the Tides and the Steadfastness of the Shore

IMG_6733

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.
Isaiah 40:8


I spent the past week at the beach. In fact, I’m writing this as I sit on the balcony of the condo, listening to the waves roll in. If you listen close enough, there is a deep roar that ebbs and flows, capped by the wash of waves as they arrive on the shore. Today there is a warning for riptides.

There is so much to take in and appreciate at the beach. It’s awe-inspiring to think that our God made such a vast display of beauty. The ocean is such an incredible thing to me. I just don’t think that I will ever not stand in awe of it.

In the mornings, there’s almost a different air at the beach. Mornings are like this anywhere, really. Part of it is because no one is much stirring, but it’s more than that, too. There is a still and calmness in the atmosphere. Then the sun comes out, the day gets hot, and the ocean gleams a brilliant blue, reflecting the sun’s yellow glare. And in the evenings, the temperatures cool and the sunsets seem to last for hours. This is my favorite time of day. Reds, yellows, pinks, purples, and various shades of blue streak the sky as the sun dips down into the ocean, and the changing of these colors creates a constantly moving painting.

The beach is such a perfect symbol of change, of steadfastness, and of a constant renewing.

With the ocean, the tides are coming in, or they’re moving out. The water is rough one day and calmer the next. The sea is a deep dark blue then it’s a shade of light foam green. Meanwhile, the shore is steadfast. The tides come and go, the water rushes or ripples, and the color may vacillate, but the shore’s foundation remains. Some may view the shore as shifting because of the sand, but I’d argue that it’s renewing. As the ocean changes, so, too, the shore adapts though it does not cave in or sweep out to sea.

Similarly, life is ever-changing, both with changes that we choose and changes we are dealt. Ecclesiastes chapter three, verse 1 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Changing tides, roughness of waves, or color of water all manifest themselves differently in each of our lives. Maybe you’ve been tempted by the tides to drift out to sea or to slowly give up your footing in your beliefs. Yet you’ve realized how far you are from shore and are swimming to return. Perhaps the waters have been rough for you lately. You’ve lost a job, you miss a relationship, or your financial state is troublesome. When these waters ease to lapping ripples after having been rough, rushing waves, we are thankful for the change. And for the relief. Maybe the color of your waters have changed recently, and maybe this change isn’t good or bad; it’s just a change. You’ve moved homes or jobs or full-blown careers. The point is, this life is full of change. 

But just as the shore is steadfast, so, too, must we be with God, Christ, and Scripture as our foundation. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Because our Savior doesn’t change, we must stay rooted in Him as our foundation so that as the tides change and the waters constantly move, we are steadfast in our faith, with Christ as our center.

The first two are quite opposite, aren’t they? Change and steadfastness. It’s ironic that the beach can be a picture of both. In this life, we will deal with change no matter what; the steadfastness piece is up to us, not in the sense that we refuse change but in how we deal with change. We can swim offshore and bobble around as does a buoy, or we can stand firm on the shore with our feet planted in the sand.

As for the sand on the shore that moves under the waves? It’s a perfect picture of renewal, just as we must renew ourselves. “All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again” (Ecclesiastes 1:7). God’s Word is alive, and being firmly planted in it will give us the firm foundation and rejuvenating renewal to help us as we face the tides of change in our lives.

 

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
And when you pass through the rivers,
They will not sweep over you.
Isaiah 43:2

 

th-6     th     th-1     th-2     th-5

Politeness Versus Compassion

FullSizeRender

It’s possible that a person can be polite but not be compassionate. Some people can appear one way but be another entirely – which is a subject for a different day – but appropriate for this point. Furthermore, there is a sincere difference between being polite and being compassionate.

Let’s start with a basic example. Say you’re walking in a building at the same moment another person is walking out. This polite person holds the door for you and smiles warmly as you walk inside but doesn’t really care if you trip and fall only five steps past the doorframe. By the time you’ve face-planted in front of a small crowd of people, Mr. or Miss Polite is walking swiftly down the street not thinking another thing about you. Similarly, another polite person may help you to your feet after your misstep while secretly wishing they would have been five steps out the door so as to not have been obligated to help you. However, if a compassionate person sees this scenario unfold, he or she is likely to feel sad for you. You’ve just taken a tumble, and he or she hates that for you and sympathizes with you. Compassionates may even empathize too if they have been in a similar situation. While you feel embarrassed, they can literally feel that as well. Now we’ve all probably been guilty of being the door-holder or helper-upper, but there’s a difference in occasional and regular.

Dig a little deeper, and you can continue to unravel this difference. When you talk to polites, they make eye contact, nod their head, make engaging facial expressions, and cause you to believe that they care about whatever it is you are saying. Polites can recall a topic from an earlier conversation to make you think they care how your problem turned out or what has happened since.  Spoiler alert: just because they remember that fact does not mean they really care about it.

So why does this difference matter? It doesn’t necessarily. If this is a co-worker who you see at the water cooler every other day, this difference probably won’t affect you dramatically. But what if you become good friends with the water cooler person? Or what if you start dating the water cooler guy or gal? Then this gets to be a bigger issue. Politeness only goes so far in a relationship. (It goes about as far as the first person mentioned in this article did: five steps inside the door before face-planting.)

This begs the question, how can you tell a compassionate from a polite? Honestly, it’s difficult. First, it takes time to figure them out. People can use politeness as a mask (causing others to see only their polite side), so it takes some time for true colors to show. Plus, if emotions are involved, we will always want to see the good in people, but sometimes, for our own good, we need to be willing to see the whole picture – and discern the difference between being polite and actually caring.

For another thing, compassionates usually are not self-absorbed. Most of the time this is relatively easy to pick up on, even if it is after some time. We all know the people that go into lengthy detail about their private lives even when we don’t ask. No-compassion-polites are smart though. They’re polite, so they probably will not talk your ear off about themselves because, well, that wouldn’t be polite. But when you do ask them about themselves, they make their answer count. They can pinpoint the most influential task they’re a part of at the time, the highest achievement they’ve surmounted recently, or the greatest reward they’ve received lately – all while making this extravagant statement seem oh-so-very humble.

I’m from the South, and I believe in being polite. And it is possible to be both polite and compassionate. But let’s not be fooled by those that are polite but don’t really care. Why? Because you deserve to be cared about. Find those who are willing to feel and who care deeply. You deserve a heart, not just a handshake.

Why We Should Care About Compassion

FullSizeRender

When I started my blog, I didn’t know what shape I wanted it to take. Honestly, I still don’t. However, I did know this: I believe in the power, the need, and the importance of one’s voice. It matters. And as it turns out, I have a lot to say. (For more on this, see my first post – or subscribe the right of this page! —->> )

What I have found since creating my blog is that I want my writing to have purpose. I like teaching, and I think my writing is evidence of this, too. It’s usually easiest to integrate my faith into my writing as well. The bottom line? I want to use my voice to encourage and inspire.

I also want to come alongside others to support them in following their passions and doing good work. Collaborating with others in this pursuit is so helpful! In this spirit, I’ll occasionally be posting about Compassion International after having joined their network of bloggers. My goal in doing this is to help be a voice for children who are desperately in need and raise awareness of some of the most vulnerable children in the world.

I first learned about Compassion at a young age. My youth minister and his wife led my youth group in sponsoring a child through Compassion. We’d give money to send to him, and he’d often times write back to us. There were so many valuable lessons taught to us through this process, namely the importance of giving and caring for others. That’s my first memory of this organization.

Later, after college, I learned more about Compassion from my parents’ church since they’re advocates of the organization, and my parents got involved with the organization as well. (Role models at their best right there.) I was wowed by the organization’s ability to radiate compassion in the truest sense of the word. They literally just long to suffer with, respond to, and feel for these children who are in dire need in such poverty-stricken countries.

Today, several Compassion bloggers are traveling to Kenya and staying through June 9th with a mission of sharing their hearts from that part of the world. Their ultimate goal, as is Compassion’s, is to release children from poverty and spread the Good News. You can follow along with their trip hereCompassion’s mission statement reads, “In response to the Great Commission, Compassion International exists as an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults.” You can read more about Compassion here also.

While we may be worlds apart, we can help those in need elsewhere. I’m looking forward to writing more about this sweet, caring organization. If you have a story to share about an experience you had with Compassion or a similar organization, feel free to share it below in the comments or drop me a note on my Contact page. I’d love to hear from you!

When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
Exodus 2:27b