by Father Mark Goldasich
Rubber, metal or glass?
No, these aren’t the new choices being offered at the supermarket checkout line. Instead, these categories come from Tim Sanders, a former chief solutions officer at Yahoo!
He suggests the following criteria when establishing priorities for yourself:
“Take your life and all the things that you think are important, and put them in one of three categories: glass, metal and rubber.
“Things of rubber, when you drop them, will bounce back. No harm is done when these things get dropped. So, for instance, if I miss a Royals game, my life will bounce along fine. Missing a game or a season of baseball will not alter my marriage or my spiritual life. I can take ‘em or leave ‘em.
“Things of metal, when dropped, create a lot of noise. But you can recover from the drop. If you miss a meeting at work, you can get the CliffsNotes version of it. If you don’t balance your checkbook and the bank notifies you of an overdraft — that will create some noise in your life, but you can recover from it.
“Things of glass, when dropped, shatter into pieces and will never be the same again. They can be glued back together, but are altered forever. They may be missing some pieces, and they probably can’t hold water again without leaking. The consequences of this brokenness will forever affect how the glass is used.
“You’re the only person who knows what those things are that you can’t afford to drop. More than likely, they have a lot to do with your relationships with spouse, children, family and friends.” (www.sanderssays.typepad.com; adapted from “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” edited by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof.)
I’ve been mulling over these words of Sanders ever since reading them months ago. Strangely enough, for many people — well, for all of us at some point in our lives, if we’re honest — what is most important is often handled with the least bit of care. Conversely, the not-so-important things in our lives are many times given undue priority.
For example, folks may get more upset and concerned that their favorite sports team lost rather than worry about the consequences of an argument with a loved one. In other words, the sports team is treated like fine, delicate glass even though, practically speaking, the loss really has no personal effect on the fan’s life. The offended loved one, however, is treated like rubber (“Why worry about them, they’ll ‘bounce back’ after a while”) or maybe metal (After the “noise” of arguing, they’ll eventually quiet down”).
What rarely seems to be taken into account is that even though loved ones can “bounce back” for a time or the “noise” of their anger or hurt may quiet over time, eventually not being considered valuable or a “priority” will exact a toll. Because they’ve not been handled carefully and with love, the person and the relationship will almost certainly break, never to be completely put back together again.
Similarly, this is the process that some take in their spiritual lives. The relationship with God is treated as rubber: Life bounces along even though a person might miss Mass occasionally or their prayers here and there. As time goes on, though, the “missing” becomes the rule rather than the exception. And while a person’s conscience may get “noisy” and trigger feelings of regret and even guilt, over time even that voice will be stilled by neglect. The final outcome is that the relationship with God is shattered, due to indifference.
In this season of Lent, Sanders’ categories of rubber, metal and glass can be a helpful and eye-opening tool in our personal and spiritual lives. Nothing should be more important and precious — and handled with care, like delicate glass — than our relationship with God, family and friends. If those categories are inverted in our lives, the time for conversion is now. And once those priorities get straightened out, we can go right to the head of the “glass.”