Character Counts: Taking time to fix things that are broken

My father could fix anything. When something quit working, it challenged him to repair it. Things have changed. Recent technology and manufacturing methods often put simple repairs beyond our skills. Most of us can’t fix a broken circuit board or repair a cracked leg on a molded plastic chair. We’ve all tossed an otherwise good item because we couldn’t fix it.

It’s one thing to be willing to buy a new cell phone rather than get the old one fixed or to toss the molded plastic chair because we couldn’t glue the leg back together. It’s quite another matter to jettison more serious concerns in life. Marriages, relationships, careers, worldviews, loyalties and the like often get thrown out because they are broken.

Our tendency to give up rather than fix leads to a deeper level of brokenness. Rather than deal with something damaged, we crawl into our caves to watch television as a means of isolating ourselves from the brokenness of our lives. We block the calls from people we no longer want to face. We leave organizations that don’t measure up to our standard of “not broken.”

I understand that some relationships may be so corrupt that they can never be fully restored. I’m not urging us to put up with reckless violence in the wishful belief that we can fix that person. But most people and the vast majority of human relationships reflect several simple truths:

Broken people can be fixed. You and I may not be the people with the right tools to mend what’s wrong, but no human being is beyond repair. Just because we give up on that person, doesn’t mean they can’t change.

Bridges work better than fences. The things we humans have in common outweigh the differences between us. I’m always struck with how people respond after getting to know people that they formerly feared or disliked. They usually say, “They are just like us.” Fences keep us from finding our commonalities. Bridges allow the roads of life to lead to greater joy and satisfaction than a street with a “dead end” sign.

Love is a better fuel than hate. Put bitterness and malice and scorn in your human tank and you’ll find your emotional engine sputtering and stopping. Love gets much better mileage. Love makes for a happier and more fulfilling life.

Internals give more insight than externals. We judge people from a distance, but our evaluations rely on the superficial issues of color or height or dress. We remember those whose externals put us off, but whose heart enriches our own.

Reconciliation promotes healing. If you have a minor cut on your skin it will eventually heal over, but if you pick off the scab and irritate the wound, it will resist healing and often turn into something more serious. Bad things happen between people. Relationships turn sour. Institutions disappoint us. We seldom live long without something going wrong. If we don’t allow healing, that negativity infects our soul and spirit and soon we have the original brokenness along with the poison that our irritation produces. Some brokenness may take years to heal, but bitterness and malice accompany us to the grave.

Every time in my life that I’ve said, “I’m sorry” or “It was all my fault,” I became a better person and I fixed something that looked like a broken circuit board or a cracked leg on a molded plastic chair. Maybe we can find a way to deal with our disposable technology and furniture. In the meantime, don’t give up on other people or the relationships you once enjoyed or the institutions of which you are part. Don’t throw them away, work on fixing them.