the Other –
Last night I was speaking to a group of men and we were discussing the needs men have to develop self-awareness. I told them; “Self-awareness is the ability to look into a mirror and see yourself for who you truly are, the good, the not so good, areas where you excel and places in you which need improving. The ability to know yourself is the first step in understanding what needs to be done to become the man you should be.”
Knowing, accepting and loving yourself is also the key to loving others. Unless we’ve learned to see ourselves; flaws, hang-ups, habits, hurts and love ourselves we will be incapable of truly loving others. Often times our shortcomings and failings cause us to judge ourselves more harshly than we’d ever do to others. We stew in our self-hatred and weaknesses. This corrupts us from the inside out and results in a distorted view of ourselves which bleeds over into the way we see the world and the people in it.
It is only when we accept who we are, all of who we are, and love what we like and don’t like can we be free of a soul that is bitter and barren. Released from the prison which contains our hearts we find that others, like us, are frail and broken. We recognize the same limitations and discover in each other the strength to travel the path of life together.
Progression not Perfection –
Today in our Incarcerated Father’s class we talked about; “How to be the Perfect Dad.”
I began by drawing a stick figure and asked the men what it needed to be an ideal father. On the face we drew a mouth for praising and giving guidance, ears for listening, eyes for seeing the good in ourselves and our kids, a nose for sniffing out trouble and a big ol’ brain for making good choices which have a long-lasting impact on us and our children’s future. We then went on to hands, feet and lastly I drew a large heart in the middle of the stick figure. “Without a heart which loves, helps, leads and values our children, partners and families, we’ll never be the father we need to be.”
After the exercise, we looked over the list of traits and duties a perfect father has, does and I asked the men a question; “Can anyone be a perfect, ideal dad?” They paused for a moment and said; “No.” “Correct!’ I replied, ‘we seek progression not perfection.”
It’s a good lesson for each of us to learn. We live in a world where celebrities on websites and magazines look amazing, not a blemish to be found. We read articles which extol the feats of men and women and they seem more advanced and evolved than us. We peruse Facebook and other social media sites where friends post photos, quotes, eloquent thoughts and we think to ourselves; “They’ve got it all. I’ll never be a _________ as good as them (fill in the blank).”
We forget so easily that pictures can be photo-shopped, well written pages are heavily edited, most folks only post their best on social media sites and no matter how perfect a person’s life may seem it is anything but…
Too often we have an ideal self and try to live up to it and, of course, we fail and spectacularly! Give yourself a break. Open up your heart and learn to love your frail, faulty, fickled self. Remember; progression not perfection is the way of the sane and contented.
The lawn caretakers for the church next door came early this morning, before 7AM. Luckily I was already up and taking the dog outside for his morning routine. As I stood there, in my bathrobe, I heard a noise over the sound of the zero turn lawn mowers. At first I couldn’t make it out but as I focused on the sound it became clear someone was singing. It was one of the men on the mowers. He had headphones on and whatever song was playing he was singing along with it. I began to smile. He hadn’t seen me and continued for a while bellowing at the top of is lungs. Before long he noticed me, quieted down until me and the dog went inside.For a lawn jockey he was a decent singer. He didn’t need to be any more talented than what he was because his purpose was to mow grass, take care of lawns, not entertain folks with his musical abilities.
The incident reminded me of a professor I had in college. I asked him one day; “How can we, who are so frail, weak, selfish, short-sighted and sinful, so human, ever please a God who is so good?” He smiled and took a pen from his shirt pocket and pointed out the scratches, dings and dents, faded color of the imitated gold casing and asked me; “What is the purpose of this pen? Is it to look good? Impress by its shine? Cause awe to all who behold it? Or, is it to write when pressed on to a piece of paper?” “To write.” I said. “Then it is a perfect pen because it fulfills its purpose. As long as it writes, its perfect no matter what it looks on the outside. In the same way our purpose is to love and be loved by God. Oftentimes we aren’t much to look at but if we desire to love and be loved by our Heavenly Father we are fulfilling our purpose and His love is what makes us perfect.”
He was a wise man.