Monthly Archives: July 2017

Practice Discernment When Helping Others

“People who won’t help others in trouble “because they got into trouble through their own fault” would probably not throw a lifeline to a drowning person until they learned whether that person fell in through his or her own fault or not.” ~ Sydney J. Harris … 

Numerous times throughout my life I have gotten myself into trouble, through my own faults and mistakes, and believe me, some help would have been appreciated during those times. However, I also am aware that it is important to learn how to deal with adversity on our own, without having someone rescue us out whenever we get into trouble. Therein lies the dilemma–how do we decide when our help is necessary or when it is damaging? Are we going to let someone else make a mess of their life, and lose their faith in people, or are we going to become enablers by pulling them out of their own mess?

What Sydney says about our attitude towards others’ troubles is a very important idea. At the same time, however, I feel he tries to simplify a complex situation. I do not believe that the answer is easy for us to find–for there is no simple answer. Sometimes allowing others to work through their problem can be one of the best learning experiences possible on their journey to self-realization. Stepping in and pulling them from their mess could just hamper their growth in the end.

The key, it seems, is discernment. If we can accurately judge the situation, then we can take appropriate action. If our own children have been careless and have broken something, it is important that we not make amends for them–taking care of the situation on their own will help them to grow up to be responsible people. If someone runs out of gas on the side of the road, what is the harm in helping them get additional fuel? They probably will learn their lesson whether they get help or not. However, if a life or someone’s health is at risk, then we must always step in, unless it would put our own lives or the lives of even more people at risk.

The truth is we all need help throughout our lives. I find it hard to imagine where I would be if I had received help in certain situations, or had not in others. There is so much that I needed to learn in life through overcoming my own troubles, and there is so much that could have crushed me under its weight had I not had the help of others to bear it with me.

Practice discernment when helping others today.

Questions to consider:

How often when we help are we just making people more dependent on others?

What kind of situations might we not want help to get out of?

What kinds of signs can we look for to figure out if helping someone else is truly the best thing that we can do?

For further thought:

“Helping those who have been struck by unforeseeable misfortunes is fundamentally different from making dependency a way of life.” ~ Thomas Sowell

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Growth Is Happiness

“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” ~ William Butler Yeats … 

Perhaps I feel good today and hope to keep that feeling for a while. That would be desireable, however, the truth is that all things change–days change, situations change, people change, moods change. Life can get really frustrating when I try to keep things the same. Much of what made me happy several years ago no longer does–and chances are, the things that will bring me happiness tomorrow, are not the same things that made me happy today.

I used to love watching cartoons like Scooby Doo, but they are not nearly as enjoyable as they used to be. I used to love orange and grape juice, but they sometimes cause ulcers for me, and now I prefer a nice cup of milk. There was a day long ago when playing football was one of my favorite things to do. I have not played in years now, and to be honest, I really do not miss it much… I have moved on to playing other sports like ice hockey and riding my bicycle.

I have grown and I have changed. My tastes are different, as are my desires. My happiness now is dependent on what I give to the world, not what I take from it–I am most happy when I see other people feeling happy, not when I buy things or receive gifts or even accomplish a difficult task. The accomplishments are fine, for I love taking on challenges and rising to the occasion, but that still does not compare to the feeling I get when I see someone else happy, especially when I had something to do with them being happy. Perhaps it was something I said or did, something very slight and seemingly unimportant, but it sure did something for someone else.

So many people get frustrated in life trying to hold on to happiness, trying to keep doing the same things that brought them happiness in the past. But the past is gone, and today is here. We are older, wiser, and more capable of learning from the present moment and growing, so why not take the opportunity today?

Take some time to find at least one thing that makes you happy today.

Questions to consider:

What makes you happy now?

What used to make you happy, but no longer does?

What used to make you happy, but cannot be recaptured because it is from a different time and place, when you were a different person?

For further thought:

“They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.” ~ Confucius

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Embrace Attitude Of Happiness

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” ~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus … 

As stated by Marcus, it really does not seem to be all that difficult to find happiness, perhaps it requires just a little effort on our part. And if he is right, then everything that I need to find and experience true happiness I already possess. So what could possibly be stopping me from enjoying happiness each day of my life?

Have you ever been in a difficult or unfortunate situation in which the only feelings you could muster were those of unhappiness–sorrow, depression, despair, or misery? If we think of such a time, and then take a moment to consider the causes of our unhappiness, surely we will find that our own attitudes at the time were to blame. This is the missing ingredient between a regular life, and a life filled with happiness and joy. If we embrace a positive attitude each day, filling our thoughts with happy thoughts, our words with positive and encouraging words, and our hearts with joy, we will surely find and know true happiness in our lives.

Take on an attitude of happiness today. Spread that happiness to those around you. One of the best ways to make yourself happy… is to make others happy. And ironically, one of the best ways to make others happy… is for you yourself to be happy. One could therefore say that our own individual attitudes directly determine the amount of happiness found in this world.

Embrace an attitude of happiness today.

Questions to consider:

What concrete steps can you take today to work your way towards happiness?

Can you think of any other ingredients for happiness that you possess within?

If these are the ingredients for happiness, what are some of the obstacles that may be keeping us from bringing it out in ourselves?

For further thought:

“True happiness is an attitude that you bring to everything that you experience.” ~ James LeGrand

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Bonds That Unite

“Interest and enthusiasm are the wellspring of continually evolving community life: they create bonds which unite us whether we are young or old, nearby or far from each other; they allow human warmth and love to be the formative forces in personal and community life and striving.” ~ Henning Hansmann … 

I often find myself avoiding popular TV series simply because I do not like what I heard about them or feel that I have seen enough from an advertisement. Later on, though, I sometimes find that my first impressions were not entirely correct, or were based off assumptions of mine that were completely unrelated. I do this with other things as well, including books, movies, music, and so on. Here, however, Henning is speaking particularly about my interest in others. Am I showing authentic concern for what is happening in others’ lives? Do I express enthusiasm for getting involved in the community around me?

There is so much to gain from our bonds with one another–knowledge and wisdom, perspective and understanding, love and compassion, support and encouragement, growth and improvement, meaning and purpose–that we would be foolish to ignore them. We each depend upon the nourishment that we provide one another every day of our lives–it is simply irreplaceable.

How much of life am I missing out on due to my closed-mindedness? The “bonds which unite us all” are so incredibly important to the fostering of our happiness in life, and so consistently rewarding, that it serves us well to explore this question whenever we find ourselves to be “too busy in life for others.”

Increase your involvement in the lives of others today.

Questions to consider:

In what ways do you show interest in others?

How easy is it to be friendly with others rather than hostile?

Do you limit your own interests? If so, how?

For further thought:

“The beauty and mystery of this world only emerges through affection, attention, interest and compassion… open your eyes wide and actually see this world by attending to its colors, details and irony.” ~ Orhan Pamuk

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Self Renewal

“Nearly every single cell in the human body replaces itself over a period of several years. This means that on the microscopic level, the smallest parts of who you were seven years ago are not part of you now.” ~ unattributed, revised … 

It is fairly difficult to comprehend what is being said here–that physically, on the cellular level, I am a different person than I was several years ago! With the exception of some brain and heart cells, nearly every single cell that made me who I was has been replaced. I find this to be so remarkable and so miraculous, yet at the same time a bit scary, for it goes to affirm the extent of my own humanity, of my own mortality.

There is no stillness in life, only change. Yesterday has passed away and is gone. And just as our bodies need physical renewal, our entire being requires continuous renewal–our souls need spiritual renewal, our minds need intellectual renewal, and our hearts need emotional renewal. Without it, we become rigid… our lives become stagnant, as if caught in some sort of pool of murky, dirty water that does not flow at all.

We each need to refresh ourselves from time to time. And we cannot just assume that it will happen without any effort on our part. Some of the most important lessons that I have learned have come from sources that I thought I would hate because their views were so completely different from my own. But I do not want to get stuck in stagnant, murky water; I do not want to be someone who hangs on to the past and fails to see the beauty in the present moments.

Have you renewed yourself today? Do something new or different. Read something that can offer you a new perspective to consider. Listen to someone with whom you may not really agree. This renewal is a crucial aspect of personal growth, of getting out of that murky, dirty pool of water and finding a fresh stream or brook.

Do something new and different today.

Questions to consider:

Do we learn when we are comfortable, doing the same things as always? When and how do we learn the most important lessons of our lives?

Why is it so tempting to try to keep things the same way they have always been?

How often does taking a risk turn out to be a complete disaster?

For further thought:

We say that flowers return every spring, but that is a lie. It is true that the world is renewed. It is also true that that renewal comes at a price, for even if the flower grows from an ancient vine, the flowers of spring are themselves new to the world, untried and untested.

The flower that wilted last year is gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever. Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid. 

And as it is for spring flowers, so it is for us.

~ Daniel Abraham

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Be A Light

“The philosophies of men surround us. The face of sin today often wears the mask of tolerance. Do not be deceived; behind that facade is heartache, unhappiness, and pain. You know what is right and what is wrong, and no disguise, however appealing, can change that. Be the one to make a stand for right, even if you stand alone. Have the moral courage to be a light for others to follow.” ~ Thomas S. Monson … 

There is a beauty in the hearts of those who allow righteousness a home within, a calm peace that cannot exist without the symbiotic relationship of a righteous heart. And this can be so hard to find and to put into practice, for as Thomas points out, “the philosophies of men surround us,” sometimes even drown us. What society tells us is right is often times not so.

What is in my heart? I know there is some righteousness, but I cannot say that I always stand for what is right and follow my heart. When I am not conscious of my thoughts or actions, I often times find that I simply do what others are doing. It is easy to conform to society, to accept what seems popular at the time. But in these times, it is important for me to be a man of character, to have a heart full of righteousness. As Albert Einstein said, “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right,” and as I look back at my actions for the day, I can find so much truth in these words.

I have to keep in mind, though, that there is no “universal righteousness.” What is righteous for me may not be so for you, and that is okay, as long as we are not hurting others. We each have our own hearts, our own thoughts, our own means of finding purpose, and we must be true to what we know inside to be true. And while priests, pastors, and ministers can talk a lot about what constitutes righteousness, the important thing is, that in our hearts, we know what is true and right.

Find the righteousness in your heart. Live by it. It may not always be the easiest thing to find, but if you can, it is a wonderful gift that we each have available to us each day of our lives.

Take a moment to ask yourself if your actions are righteous in all you do today.

Questions to consider:

How can the righteousness of one individual affect the entire world?

Do we always see the results of righteous living? What are some of the unseen results?

What are the lives of those who maintain righteousness in their life like?

For further thought:

“The theistic philosopher has a tendency to devalue insufficient worldviews, ideologies, and quite often common sense for the greater good, and in such cases, one should not be discouraged when seen as a bad guy. If he stresses over man’s perception of a righteous heart, then he has given his heart to man.” ~ Criss Jami

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Maintain Very Good Opinion Of Your Own Self

“There is only one real misfortune: to forfeit one’s own good opinion of oneself. Lose your complacency, once betray your own self-contempt and the world will unhesitatingly endorse it.” ~ Thomas Mann … 

What I think of myself, and how I treat myself, is exactly how the world will see me and treat me. If I sell myself short… others will do the same. Sadly, most of us are not aware of this truth until after the fact, and thus Thomas refers to this as the “only one real misfortune.” If I find the world showing me disrespect, I can follow that back to the “forfeiture of my own good opinion of myself.”

I have to admit that even though I tend to consider myself to have a high level of self-respect I still tend to sell myself short when I consider my own actions, thoughts, and deeds. And although it may not be something I intend to do consciously, it occurs nonetheless. However, I have found that adopting an attitude that fosters responsibility has helped me out a lot. I know what needs to be done. I know what is right. Therefore, there is only one possible course of action. Still, acting upon that course is not always an easy task.

So what stops us from doing what is right and just? I can think of a number of things, however, the most dominant of those is fear. Fear is the universal catalyst in losing one’s self-respect. When I embrace fear, I leave no room for self-respect or courage, for I have filled it with uncertainty and despair. Fear changes the way we perceive our lives–the way we see ourselves and the way in which we experience the world around us–in a negative way.

Self-respect is not something we should take lightly. Seek it out. Accept yourself exactly as you are, and then commit to making decisions based on your conscience, morals, and ethics–your guiding principles in life. And although your perspectives may change as you grow and learn, they will still lead you true.

Spend some quiet time reflecting on the good within yourself.

Questions to consider:

What do we lose when we “forfeit” our self-respect?

How do others affect our own self-respect? How can we deal with the way they affect us?

Can we truly respect others if we do not respect ourselves?

For further thought:

“Self-respect cannot be hunted. It cannot be purchased. It is never for sale. It cannot be fabricated out of public relations. It comes to us when we are alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places, when we suddenly realize that, knowing the good, we have done it; knowing the beautiful, we have served it; knowing the truth, we have spoken it.” ~ Whitney Griswold

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