Self Focus –
Yesterday I travelled to see a friend. On my way, my gas tank was getting empty so I began looking for a place to stop. I spotted a gas station but it was on the other side of the road. A silly thought popped into my head; “Why don’t they put those stations on the right?” Immediately I realized how self-focused the thought was… First off all the gas station are on the right if you’re on the “right” side of the road and secondly, why would I demand a gas station on “my side?”
A few hours down the road I was in the far left lane moving with the traffic and a white, mid-2000’s, Toyota Four-Runner was in the lane going slower than the rest of the vehicles. People flashed their lights, “rode their bumper” and finally went around them. I flashed my light hoping they would take the hint but to no avail. Exasperated, I went around them as well. I kept my eye on the Fore-Runner and the driver stayed in the far left lane for miles and miles. All of a sudden it crossed all lanes into the right one. I thought; “What are they doing now?” and then I realized they were getting off at the next exit.
Wisdom teaches us to be aware of ourselves, to focus on our self at times, but not to be self-focused. The difference is to understand there are others in this world and we are to be as kind and loving to them as we should be to ourselves.
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“The world today tends to be cynical about most things. We have a hard time believing in an enchanted world, a sacred or benevolent universe. Why would we if we see only at the surface level? Everywhere we turn, every time we watch the news, we see suffering. We have become skeptical about God’s goodness, humanity’s possibilities, and our planet’s future. We can’t help seeing what is not and are often unable to recognize or appreciate what is. I see this temptation in myself almost every day. I have to pray and wait for a second gaze, a deeper seeing. This is my daily bread.” (https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/) #RichardRohr
The quote above, from Richard Rohr, was part of my devotional reading this morning. I quickly took the phrase; “Second Gaze” to heart. I hadn’t heard it before but it is a primary wisdom discipline. It is the understanding that if we only see with our physical sight we will miss the goodness, the light, the continuing blossoming of creation all around us. We will also miss the ways in which we can be a part of creation by loving, acts of kindness, a gentleness of spirit and humility to each person and everything we include in the circle of our lives.
Let us look around us today without the cynicism and negativity which often plagues our sight. May we behold and become a part of the ongoing miracle that is life in all its universal glory.
Beth and I were talking over the weekend about perspective. It amazes me as I get older the more control I lose and the greater perspective I gain. Whether it’s a few moments, days, months or years, our lives, which we like to plan, can come undone.
The world has never been predictable. I was speaking with a friend the other day about the instability which surrounds us. Our political systems, family and community systems, even our environment seems to be spinning out of control. Nothing, if it ever was, is normal nor inevitable.
Last night I read a quote from Eugene Peterson, a pastor, writer, and scholar. He writes;
“The whole of the spiritual life is learning to die.”
This quote resonated with my spirit and experiences over the last several years. Dying takes many forms. Death of all things is a given but we seem to organize our lives as if we might be the ones to escape the fate of everyone else. Death is not a negative word if you’ve learned to die. If you do not hold on treasures and trinkets, live each day as if it’s your last; being kind, grace-filled and loving, never putting off to an uncertain tomorrow what can be done now, in the present moment.
We are but sojourners on this path called life. We are not meant nor built to last for long. With this perspective; how we choose to be today could be how our transient life is remembered tomorrow.
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.
I listened to a mom today tell of a time not so long ago when she and her daughter were not getting along. A long-simmering unspoken argument turned into a loud, heated word-fight in a public place. “I hate you! You never listen! You don’t care what I want! Nothing’s ever good enough for you!” were the words her child screamed that day. Instead of shouting back, the words of her child wounded her heart and she realized; “I might actually lose my daughter if I don’t start doing things differently.” Over the next several weeks she discovered that what her daughter said in an anger tirade was true. This mom was pushing her too much, not letting her discover herself, applying too much pressure on things which weren’t that important. In short, she was trying to make her daughter into what she thought she should be and not allowing her daughter to find herself.
Wisdom tells us that when we attempt to control others, make them presentable to us, what we think is best, we end up either chasing them away or killing the spirit within. Truly loving someone is allowing them to grow, make mistakes, choose different paths, free of our judgment and disapproval. It’s letting them be and loving them.