Selective Neglect... What Not to Do

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What are you choosing NOT to do? The answer will affect what you excel at and what you’re able to accomplish.

There’s a story about a young violinist, the youngest ever to play Carnegie Hall. She rocked it, got a standing ovation, and was led giddily from the stage to the press room.

“How did you get so good on the violin at such a young age?” the reporter asked.

“Selective neglect,” said the little girl. “I neglected everything else…everything but the violin.”

Almost anyone who’s good at something gets that way through selective neglect. They “worship” (assign worth to) the thing they do and neglect everything else. This violin virtuoso neglected childhood friends, sports, and free time. Grown-ups neglect wives, friends, family, hobbies, exercise, sleep, their health and their kids, just to name a few. (And the smaller the kid, the easier to neglect since they haven’t yet learned how to ask for you!)

The great irony is what’s selectively neglected is often more valuable than what’s worshipped. It doesn’t matter how good you are at the violin, or baseball, or golf…there’ll always be someone better. And your skills will last only for a while no matter how good you are.

“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matt. 16:26). Jesus said this. (It’s in red). Our “soul” is our personality—our unique life on this earth. If your life were a dollar, what are you spending it on? Is it worth it?

In the end, it’s all about intentionality. Andy Stanley’s book Choosing to Cheat (now titled When Work and Family Collide) laid it out. We can’t do it all. Either intentionally or by default, we’re going to cheat somewhere. Someone. The question is, who will it be?

As adults, we end up with a “default setting." It’s our natural state--what we move toward without thinking. Some default to being in control. Others default to being comfortable or being powerful. I’ve found my default setting is making progress, achieving and getting affirmation.

To move away from my default setting, I have to make an intentional decision to neglect progress and allow God to nourish my soul instead. Anything I do that’s selfless and helps someone else nourishes me. Reading my Bible, praying and worshiping Him nourishes my soul, but I have to neglect something else to do it.

There’s wisdom in the “not to do” list. Make one and be intentional in your selective neglect. In the end, when the things that don’t matter get burned away, you’ll have a greater eternal treasure to lay at the Master’s feet.

And you’ll have a healthy, well-nourished soul along the way.

Question: Are you selectively neglecting the right things?

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