What We Know –
Wisdom begins when we realize we know nothing.
Philosophers tell us that everything changes, doesn’t stay the same. Mountains wear down, skies fall, mighty trees topple and the greatest among people are but a wisp of wind, sound, and fury signifying nothing.
Reducing our ego is one of the hardest wisdom disciplines. One of my favorite wisdom proverbs says; “Take compliments and criticisms with equal value.” Too often we believe the good and ignore the not so good. It’s easy to focus on what others like about us. We wrap ourselves in the words of friends, families, even those whose positivity drips off their tongue like poison, people who see us mere objects to use to further their objectives. Ego builds us up only to be pulled out from under us by someone with a bigger, stronger ego. We fight back and when one take on another, no one wins and out of control egos only destroy never heal.
Humility is wisdom’s greatest and most difficult lesson. Saying; “No” to puffery and stroking; “Yes” to a self-awareness that leads us to a place where our egos are not bruised, or quickly heal, from a careless word, a selfish act, a purposeful plan to defame, defraud, demolish. Wisdom tells us; “Smaller egos take less time to heal because the wound isn’t as big.”
Socrates once said; “There is true joy (bliss) when we realize we know, and are, nothing.”
Ongoing Grace –
One of the hardest acts in life is letting go of the expectation of an apology from someone who has hurt, offended us. Many times, we never receive what we are tempted to think we deserve.
Not too long ago I received a surprising apology from someone who had hurt me years ago. They asked for forgiveness and I gave it to them. However, apologies can be tricky. When someone expresses regret about an action or harmful words our ability to forgive has much to do with our place on the journey of forgiveness. Saying the words; “I forgive you.” helps but rarely completely, instantly heals the wounds.
Since the apology, there have been moments of pain when I am reminded the wounds are still healing. Times when memories are relived and the urge to fall back into negative thoughts patterns, judgmental attitudes are present. It is here, on our journey, we realize forgiveness is not a one-time act or phrase but a process, an ongoing combination of acts, words, and intent of spirit. There are seasons, moments, instances when the past impresses itself on the present. Wisdom teaches us not to ignore, resent, or seek escape but to let it be a reminder that forgiveness in an ongoing act of grace.
This morning I burnt my tongue. I drank too much coffee, too fast and am paying the price. I’ve scalded my tongue before and it hurts, every time. I don’t like the pain or the sensation when I rub it against the roof of my mouth. There are treatments I could try to dull the discomfort but, from experience, time is the greatest healer.
As I’ve dealt with my injury this morning I’ve reflected on both the damage a tongue can receive and deliver. What if hot beverages and spicy foods weren’t the only ways to harm our tongues? What would happen if our tongues were burnt when we used words that were too hot, highly charged, and injured another? What if our speech inflicted wounds upon us when they did to our brothers and sisters? How much more careful might we be with careless, rushed, rude, insulting, judgmental language if we too felt the pain our words can cause?
Yesterday was a tough day for my fingers. In the morning I was pressing my pants and noticed a smudge. I turned the iron over and spotted some gunk on the hot surface. I grabbed a washcloth and tried to scrub it off. It was a stubborn stain maker so I tried to get a better grip to apply more pressure. However, I reached down too far on the iron with my other hand and ended up burning a finger.
Last night I was getting my notes together for one of my incarcerated fathers classes and while straightening papers I cut another finger. Later in the evening I applied a generous amount of hand sanitizer before dinner and the alcohol based cleaner made its way into my small but sensitive cut. Ouch!
Touching is a wonderful sense. Our skin, especially the part which surrounds our fingers, are often taken for granted.We forget how perceptive our sense of touch is until something burns, stings, pokes or cuts us. If we weren’t able to feel these pains we wouldn’t know we’d been hurt or to care for the area that’s been affected.
It’s the same with our spirits. A sensitive spirit is necessary to be able to sense when we or another is in pain. It can give us a warning that care is needed, a time of healing necessary. If we aren’t sensitive to ourselves and others the wounds which are inflicted can never heal and spirits will never be made whole.