Today, I talked with some godly, sweet, and loving elderly people. They are people I respect and admire. They are full of rich memories, have vast experience, and profound wisdom. You are drawn to them. The people I’m referring to are neither superhuman nor necessarily those whose lives have been easier. Their sweetness is a product of their good attitudes. Not every elderly person I talk to are those I’d consider godly, sweet, or loving. They are bitter, rude, mean-spirited, selfish, and even, at times, belligerent. While dementia might transform the occasional person’s personality, there is a simpler explanation for how some old people get to be unpleasant. They were that way when they were younger.
Life is about the sum total of the choices we make, the way we bend our will, and our reaction to the adversities of our lives. We are building character, one day at a time, one reaction at a time. As I think about it, I know some godly, sweet, and loving children, teens, young adults, and middle-agers. I also know too many who are none of these things. If they live long enough, they’ll grow into more hardened, exaggerated forms of themselves. Gossips can become worse gossips in the golden years because they may have more time and have had more practice. Grouches seem to grow worse with time and opportunity. The impure of heart, after years of harboring filth, allow it to spill over far more often in words and deeds (how many of us have encountered a “dirty old man”—a more elderly form of the “dirty young man”). Worriers in youth make fretful worriers in the twilight time of life. So many traits of character and attitude in the old have been in the making in the young.
In Psalm 119:9, David asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” Solomon saw among the youths a young man lacking sense (Prov. 7:7). He also counseled one to remember his creator in days of youth (Ecc. 12:1). God can be our confidence from our youth (Psa. 71:5). These and so many other admonitions aimed at those in days of youth will also protect and preserve those who reach old age. What can I do to make sure I am a sweet old person?
- Be intentional. Take steps to be sweet. It’s not many people’s natural mode of operational. Spending much time with God and learning to imitate Him helps with this.
- Be introspective. Take time and effort to examine yourself. Are you ill-tempered, impatient, easily irritated, easily put out, and the like? Warning! You’re well on your way to being a crotchety curmudgeonly coot!
- Be interested. Selfishness is behind those traits that lead one to be unpleasant in the winter of life. Be genuinely, actively interested in the welfare, needs, and interests of others. Taking the focus off self will aim you toward sweetness.
We could probably think of more suggestions, but here’s a good start. Surely, we’d all like to be sweet old people when the day comes. But, don’t wait! Start now!