I was the oldest of four growing up; one sister and two brothers. My sister, the next in line, is 5 years younger than I. As many older brothers have done, I often used the advantage of my age and experience to prey upon my poor, innocent siblings. One of the worst tricks that I can recall is when I made money “trades” with them. I imagine you know where this is going. Whenever they would earn a quarter or find one on the street, I would trade them five pennies or a few nickles. I understood the value of the change in their pocket much more than they did, and because I did, I took from them more than what they got back in return.
     I share this piece of family cruelty for more than a confession. I wanted to paint a picture of how we as people, when not properly informed, can get confused about the value of our limited resources and the return that we get from them. Every person has a decision to make about where they invest their time, money, energy, and attention. We all have 24 hours in a day, no one has access to more. I can only do so much before I am exhausted. So, why does it seem like some people are getting along better than we are? Why are there people ending their life happy, and we are struggling to keep the ship afloat? The answer may surprise you. Its because they are cheating.
     The concept of cheating is not my own idea, I got this from a great book called, “Choosing to Cheat” by Andy Stanley. In his book, Andy discusses how we can’t be fully invested in every area of life all the time. There are many, many people and situations that demand of us what little we have to give. Our work and our family are, by far, one of the hardest games of tug-of-war to be caught in the middle of. With each decision that we make, we can feel the pull on each side, seeking to claim victory. No matter how hard we try to keep everyone happy, some people and situations are not going to get the best of us by the end of the day. The secret that successful people often make is choosing what will get cheated for the day, what will take priority. They intentionally start their day with a plan and they execute that plan. Most importantly, they are aware of what is going to give them the best results over an extended period of time. They see past today and far out into the future. They make the decisions now that will help them get to where they want to be later.
     So, if we can’t be all and do all for all, where might our priorities best lie. I suggest that we must learn the value of giving the family our best. When we measure that against the other things that compete, over the long haul, we will get the biggest bang for our buck when we invest in our family. You will have to trust me when I say that our family is a more lucrative investment than giving to work, recreation, material “stuff,” or the public eye. It may not seem that way at first, but that is because we still see things like a child who just got five pennies for their quarter (no offense intended). We like watching the money roll in, the attention of our peers, and the praise of our co-workers. Yet, in 20 years from now, what is going to have any lasting value? Money gets spent, people forget our accomplishments, that sports car sitting in our driveway is going to rust. If we think these investments are going to pay over time, we are falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book.
     In conclusion, I encourage you to invest wisely. Give to your family with generosity. The return may not be obvious right away, but your involvement + family = lasting joy; ask anyone who is over the age of 60 and happier than yourself, they will tell you the same. If life is making demands of you that keep taking away from family, don’t fall for the trap. Your children are going to grow up quickly, they need their father present. The world is always going to want more from you. If you try to solve every problem or finish every task, you will be taking from what belongs to your family. As hard as it might be, a good father is comfortable with cheating the world out of what it believes it is due to make sure the family stays strong. You don’t have to sacrifice your integrity, but you do have to say no every once in a while. It is okay to walk away from an opportunity, even if it seems hard to pass up. Believe me, when you put your family first, it will be worth it in the end. I promise.