I used to think aging was a series of losses, but that is changing. I am discovering that getting older is about grace, not loss—specifically, giving grace. If I age gracefully, people will enjoy being around me whatever my age. We all need grace!Aging is rich with opportunities to build deeper relationships and to model Christlikeness. Paul said that to be like Christ, “Put yourself aside . . . forget yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 MSG). With each year I want to get better at this. That means knowing what to do as well as what not to do.
To this end, I’ve created a list of guidelines for aging gracefully. Lists don’t help everyone, but they help me stay focused and accountable. These principles help me to think the right thing, so that I do the right thing.
Here are some guidelines that help me build deeper relationships as I get older:
|Do remember that as you age you do not become a different person, you just become more of yourself.||Don’t expect that others will experience the same things you do in the same way.|
|Do remember that everyone ages differently.||Don’t tell others your age unless they really care.|
|Do look at age as an asset, not a liability.||Don’t become a slave to routine.|
|Do accept that your days are numbered.||Don’t long for things of your youth.|
|Do spend time with young people; you need them and they need you.||Don’t avoid thinking or talking about death.|
|Do train your eyes to smile.||Don’t act your chronological age.|
|Do tell others that age is a blessing, not a curse.||Don’t expect respect or accommodation.|
|Do learn to ask interesting questions, even if you have to memorize them.||Don’t think people need your opinion because of your age.|
|Do remember that yesterday is just that.||Don’t be afraid to part with familiar things.|
|Don’t wait for your grandkids to call (or text) you, you contact them.||Don’t dress like you are from another century.|
|Do remember that you are not the center of the universe.||Don’t think age is a reprieve from learning or serving.|
|Do remember that gratitude cannot coexist with a critical spirit.||Don’t tell the same stories over and over unless someone asks you to.|
|Do learn to be comfortable standing in the shadows.||Don’t make decisions out of fear. (Don’t do anything out of fear.)|
|Do plan for your death, so your family will not have to guess about your wishes when you die.||Don’t tell others what parts of your body are not working properly unless they need to know.|
|Do focus more on the condition of your soul than on the condition of your waistline.||Don’t let your heart age along with your body.|
|Do remember that aging is a means of grace.||Don’t talk old: “When I was your age. . . .”|
|Do remember that the definition of risk and courage change as you age.||Don’t think you own what was never yours in the first place.|
|Do plan to be spontaneous.||Don’t accumulate things, instead accumulate memories.|
|Do more with less.||Don’t wait for age to creep up on you, lean into it.|
|Do decide that fragrance of soul is more important than strength of body.||Don’t keep asking yourself the same old questions about yourself and life. Create new ones.|
These guidelines are not ends in themselves; they are merely a means to an end. If I slide into legalism, I just call them “Grace-Oriented Guidelines” and choose to resist feeling guilty if I don’t do them perfectly.
Each phase of life carries its own temptations to self-centeredness. I have found these guidelines help me to avoid common traps of aging that could hamper my fruitfulness. May we all continue to grow as grace-givers, no matter what our age.