I have heard different versions of the idiom “fish or cut bait” for as long as I can remember. If someone is dragging their feet in a situation, fish or cut bait was a way to tell them to get busy or get out of the way. There are so many times when it’s easier to stay busy or “fish” without really committing to anything. For some, it’s hard to understand why it’s so difficult.
Change is hard. When change is thrust upon me, I have been known to dig in and do my best to stay put. It’s not always possible to avoid or to predict change. When my husband died, my brain knew he was gone, but my emotions were in denial for a very long time. I went through the motions of moving forward. I put on a good show. The reality, however, was that I just chose not to face things that were too difficult. My house fell apart around me. I spent money on things I didn’t really need. I buried myself in my kid’s activities. I refused to really engage in moving forward with my life. And, I did a pretty good job of fooling everyone, including myself for almost ten years. That’s when I realized that I wanted to live again. Love again. And to do that, I had to commit to pulling my life together.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
The decision to love again was a simple one for me. The reality of opening up my heart and confronting ALL of my feelings was a lot harder. I had to admit that I loved Terry with all that I had for a very long time. I had to face the pain that comes with that kind of love. I had to sort through the various emotions and process them. My husband had been gone almost ten years, but allowing my heart to love again felt dishonest, disrespectful. Again, my brain was very logical about it all. It was my emotions that were struggling. I had to make the decision to move forward. I had to decide where and how I wanted to live my life: in the past full of memories or in the future adding new memories to my list. It kind of sounds like a “no brainer” as I type these words, but the struggle to fish or cut bait was very real to me during that time. I could continue to sit and watch my life as a spectator or I could commit to accept the joys and the pain that come with actively participating in life.
There are people everywhere that struggle with making similar decisions. And, unfortunately, many of those people are in an unending cycle of martyrdom. The need for attention, support and even adoration from others because of their ordeal (real or imagined) is more important than living, changing or progressing. Have you ever had a friend that keeps reconciling with an ex? There may be a list a mile long of the problems that come with that particular relationship. All logic is superseded by the need to have “someone”, even a bad someone in their life. For a while, things may go well. Life is great. But, those bad behaviors resurface. And, it’s now your responsibility to sympathize with your friend, to encourage her to be strong, to relieve her of any blame. The cycle will continue, over and over, as long as the game is played. It’s easier to sit on the bank and pretend you are fishing with a knotted and tangled line than it is to cut the line and move to another spot.
“One who has isolated himself seeks his own desires; he rejects all sound judgment.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in disclosing what is on his mind.”Proverbs 18:1-2 NEV
Our world is more interested in the sob stories than in the happy endings. Check out what you watch for entertainment. I grew up watching Gunsmoke and Bonanza. There were sad story lines, but the good guy always triumphed in the end. There was always an upside. In every episode, decisions were made and life moved forward. In some of my favorite shows today, it’s sometimes hard to decide who the good guy is. We root for the anti-hero; the brooding, suffering guy that’s just doing “the wrong thing for the right reason.” We adore and celebrate the darkness. And, we seem to need to emulate it.
I believe that we can grow and mature through our trials and mistakes. In an attempt to reconcile ourselves with the flaws that come with being human, we too often elevate these very flaws and venerate them as favors. We become enamored with the cracks that appear in life due to the struggles we endure. We seek the compassion and tenderness that is provided by our support system rather than strive to advance and perfect our own lives. It’s not easy to admit mistakes and correct the path forward.
When we are told to fish or cut bait, it doesn’t mean you have to walk away and start over. It just means you have to be committed to the path you choose. Invest fully in life choices. Stop complaining and looking for sympathy. Embrace your decision and don’t apologize.
So what will it be? Do you fish where you are; or, do you cut bait and move forward?
“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”James 3:17-18 MSG