Category Archives: Commentary

Ensure that your words and actions are in line with your principles and ideals.

“That you may retain your self-respect, it is better to displease the people by doing what you know is right, than to temporarily please them by doing what you know is wrong.” ~ William John Henry Boetcker …

Displeasing others is about as pleasant as shaving against the grain. No one wants to do it, yet when it comes to choosing to go against our conscience simply to please others, we have to choose wisely, or we are the only ones who lose out. For when we do things we know we should not just to try to please or impress others, we give up not only our character and self-respect, but also our peace of mind.

Personal experience has shown me that the individuals who truly care about me are not at all pleased or impressed when I act in ways that are contrary to my principles and ideals or simply flat out wrong. This leads me to ask myself the question, “Who exactly am I trying to please by acting against my conscience, and why?” If these individuals have no real concern for my spiritual, emotional, intellectual, or physical health, then why I am placing any value or worth on their selfish opinions in the first place? After all, they most likely will not stick around to be there for me when I am potentially faced with the difficult situations and consequences of going against what I know to be right.

The important thing for each of us to realize is that our self-respect is non-negotiable. No one can provide it for us. No one can transfer it to us. It is something that we must obtain from within; something only we can espouse, develop, and strengthen by spending time in careful consideration of our thoughts and feelings.

Always do what you know to be right–your integrity and peace of mind is at stake. Those who care about you will support you, and those who do not… well, your self-respect is more important than their good graces.

Ensure that your words and actions are in line with your principles and ideals.

Questions to consider:

Why do have such an overwhelming desire to want to please others?

Have you ever done things you knew were wrong? How did you convince yourself to do so? What were some of the results?

What are the most important factors for you in determining your level of self-respect?

For further thought:

It is the phenomenon sometimes called “alienation from self.” In its advanced stages, we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves–there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.

~ Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

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Invite more patience and peace into your daily life.

“Flowers do not force their way with great strife. Flowers open to perfection slowly in the sun…. Don’t be in a hurry about spiritual matters. Go step by step, and be very sure.” ~ White Eagle, The Quiet Mind …

We all could use a reminder to slow down from the frantic pace of life and simply take the time to enjoy the moment. And here, White Eagle offers us one of the best remedies for the overly busy modern life–nature. Nature has the innate ability to teach us invaluable lessons in patience, ones that we most likely would simply glance over had they not been so perfectly and simply laid before us. From the ways in which flowers grow gradually from seeds, to the trust and certainty displayed as they open to receive the life-sustaining rays from the sun, we have such amazing examples of how life is best experienced moment by moment.

As a parent with young children, this can be rather difficult; at times I find myself losing my patience and my ability to simply be there–perhaps from something that was said or how it was said, or because of an action or inaction. This leaves me feeling agitated, impatient, and stressed-out. But what kinds of messages does my stress and shortness send to my children? What am I telling them by not allowing myself to be completely in the moment? And at the same time, what kinds of messages am I sending myself with such unrealistic and high expectations?

Life is such a small piece of the eternity that lies before us, and we should be in no hurry to skip past it. Some individuals in our lives may wish us to keep up with their hurried pace in life, but if we ever wish to grow spiritually–the authentic and eternal part of ourselves–then we must embrace a patience and calmness that respects, dignifies, and reveres life. And why not simply take a page from the book of nature–for life knows the pace that is best for it. Flowers, crops, trees, and bushes do not hurry along to bloom–they do so when they are supposed to, at their own pace… and so should we.

Invite more patience and peace into your daily life.

Questions to consider:

What do you think would happen if a flower were to open before it was ready? What does this teach us about patience in life?

Are you usually in a hurry to get things done or are you able to relax and let things take care of themselves in their own time? How does this affect your day?

Do you separate your spiritual matters from the other matters in your life? If not, how might doing so benefit you?

For further thought:

I remembered one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the bark of a tree, just as the butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited a while, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient. I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life. The case opened, the butterfly started slowly crawling out and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath. In vain. It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.

That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.

~ Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

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Allow yourself to be extraordinary.

“We must overcome the notion that we must be regular. . . . It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre.” ~ Ute Hagen, Respect for Acting …

Our uniqueness is such a beautiful thing to celebrate. After all, this world would be incredibly boring if we were all the same. There would be no differing perspectives and nothing new. If we all strived to be “regular,” there would be very little left to be discovered, and mediocrity would lead our lives.

I honestly feel that different is a good thing in life. And although many like to call people who live outside of the norm “strange,” or “weird,” I like to think of them as extraordinary, for they are the people who look beyond the ordinary in life, the ones who take the boring and convert it into something uncommon and authentically their own. But for those who strive to be regular, because being regular does not encourage taking chances, growing, and moving in new directions, mediocrity becomes the creed that they espouse.

Unfortunately, much of society encourages us to be ordinary–regular children will not embarrass their parents; and regular schoolchildren will not disrupt the classrooms. Of course, in some instances, being regular can be valuable. Predictable employees–the one’s who can maintain a certain degree of consistency and regularity–are sought after and highly appreciated by their employers. And by being regular in cash flow, there is a good chance we might avoid stressful financial problems in the future.

But being regular should not be the main focus of our lives. We have so much unique and beautiful potential to offer to the world–if only we allow ourselves to look for the extraordinary within.

Allow yourself to be extraordinary.

Questions to consider:

Where do we develop the idea that we must be regular? Why do we place so much value on regularity?

What are some of the many new and different things we fail to discover when we are focused on conforming to what society sees as regular?

What is the value in settling for mediocrity? What are some of the harmful effects of doing so?

For further thought:

“Do not conform” is difficult advice in a generation when crowd pressures have unconsciously conditioned our minds and feet to move to the rhythmic drumbeat of the status quo. Many voices and forces urge us to choose the path of least resistance, and bid us never to fight for an unpopular cause and never to be found in a pathetic minority of two or three. . . . Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr., A Gift of Love

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Surrender yourself more fully to God.

“Self-conquest is really self-surrender. Yet before we can surrender ourselves we must become ourselves. For no one can give up what he does not possess. More precisely–we have to have enough mastery of ourselves to renounce our own will into the hands of Christ–so that He may conquer what we cannot reach by our own efforts.” ~ Thomas Merton, Thoughts In Solitude …

We are presented here with some rather difficult concepts. First, we are told that mastering ourselves is really a matter of surrendering ourselves to God and to life. To me, it sure seems to be the case that those who have found happiness and success in their lives, have also learned to exist harmoniously in life through the ups and downs and the joys and sorrows, developing ways to embrace life as it is instead of trying to bend things to fit their plan. Rather than trying to control the world, these individuals often display a profound and deep acceptance of life, which is perhaps the root of their peace and happiness.

Another difficult concept presented here is the idea that we do not possess ourselves. Thomas claims that in order to surrender ourselves, we must become ourselves; but to become ourselves, we must first master ourselves, which requires self-surrender. At first, this appears to be a seeming contradiction–how can we surrender something we do not possess in order to possess it in the first place? Yet upon further analysis this begins to make much more sense: in order to master myself, I must spend the time, effort, and introspection to become myself, and then, once I have become myself, I must surrender that self into the hands of God so that he may help me conquer what I cannot reach on my own.

The more we put into life, the more we will get out of it. And while it may seem contradictory to say that “self-conquest is really self-surrender,” it also seems contradictory that we make a flu vaccine from the actual virus. Yet life’s seeming contradictions are often its most wondrous and beautiful rules, and the irony that we must find ourselves, only to give ourselves up, is both essential and beautiful, for it allows us to realize our destined potential–an awareness that is necessary to live a life of purpose and meaning.

Surrender yourself more fully to God.

Questions to consider:

How do you feel about the idea of surrending yourself to God and to life? Why?

What is required for you to be able to become yourself?

If you are able to become yourself, what would you plan to do with that self?

For further thought:

“We find by losing. We hold fast by letting go. We become something new by ceasing to be something old. This seems to be close to the heart of that mystery. I know no more now than I ever did about the far side of death as the last letting-go of all, but I begin to know that I do not need to know and that I do not need to be afraid of not knowing. God knows. That is all that matters.” ~ Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember

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Share your talents and your passions with others.

“I’ve never sought success in order to get fame and money; it’s the talent and the passion that count in success.” ~ Ingrid Bergman …

It is often quite painful to watch people deserting their authentic selves in order to obtain some worldly thing of fleeting value such as fame, fortune, power, acceptance, or praise, especially when those individuals are someone close to us that we care for deeply. And as parents, as we try to help guide our children towards the paths in which they will encounter the least amount of thorns and darkness along the way, this becomes all the more apparent. Yet often times the best thing we can do for those we love, is to allow them the freedom to experience life on their own terms. This allows us to be there both as a shoulder to lean on, and as a lighthouse that can shine as a beacon and an example during the storms of life.

One of the best things we can share with the world is the value of doing things because we have a passion for them, and not just for the rewards, as the rewards will never bring us any real and lasting success in life. On the other hand, when we can define our true nature, and live our lives in ways that allow us to express our true authentic selves, we succeed in life because we succeed in living our lives with much more happiness, and in much more whole and fulfilling ways.

I have yet to meet an individual in which money or fame has brought the same kind of happiness that I find in those individuals who are passionately serving others… and I am quite confident that this is not a fluke. For it seems to me that just as athletes stick to the positions that they are skilled at and that they love to play, we, too, have our own unique gifts and talents that are imbedded within our true nature. And it is only through embracing our talents and our passions in life that we will truly come to live our lives to the fullest.

Share your talents and your passions with others.

Questions to consider:

What are you passionate about in life?

Why do so many people desert their lines of talent? Why is success deeper-rooted when it follows our authentic self?

Have you ever tried to define your authentic self? Can this self be different in various contexts?

For further thought:

“Whatever you are by nature, keep to it; never desert your own line of talent. . . . Be what nature intended you for, and you will succeed; be anything else and you will be ten thousand times worse than nothing.” ~ Sydney Smith, Wit and Wisdom of the Rev. Sydney Smith

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Discover some positive new ways to commit yourself in life.

“Committing yourself is a way of finding out who you are. A man finds his identity by identifying. A man’s identity is not best thought of as the way in which he is separated from his fellows but the way in which he is united with them.” ~ Robert Terwilliger …

The beautiful thing about finding one’s identity is that we effectively already have it–it simply requires us to seek it within. This means that when we set out to find the gold at the end of the rainbow, it will always be there. Understanding this allows us to discover ourselves in truly effective ways, one of which is committing ourselves to the things that truly matter to us in life. This enables us to pour more of our passion, time, energy, and abilities into those things, which increases the amount we get back.

It is also important to note the last sentence here: our identity does not separate us from others, but rather unites us. We often perceive our identity as the “stuff” that makes us independent and different from others. But our identity is more appropriately seen in the ways in which we interact with our fellow man–service, compassion, love, forgiveness, mercy, humility, and understanding.

We each have our own unique identities within us that this world needs. But if we are unable to commit ourselves fully to the things we identify with–such as a hobby, profession, or a passionate ideal–our unique identity will remain hidden inside, and that is not fair to those in our life who are in need of us sharing our unique talents, gifts, and abilities. A half-hearted commitment will lead us only to a glimpse of who we are behind the exterior disguises that we have learned to put up over the years.

Discover some positive new ways to commit yourself in life.

Questions to consider:

Why do many individuals have difficulty committing themselves?

What are some of the things you are currently fully committed to?

Have you discovered your authentic identity? If so, how did you do so? If not, what has kept you from doing so?

For further thought:

“The value of identity of course is that so often with it comes purpose.” ~ Richard R. Grant

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Take the first step towards something you have desired to do or be.

“The two important things I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavor is taking the first step, making the first decision.” ~ Robyn Davidson, Tracks …

Often times in life we sell ourselves short. We say to ourselves, “This is too difficult a challenge for me,” or “I am not strong enough or knowledgeable enough to succeed at that.” Yet we are all equally capable of success–we just have to recognize this truth and then take steps towards making it a reality.

All endeavors require us to make difficult decisions in life if we wish to succeed. What we must decide, however, is whether those decisions will be reactive–the results of things that happen to us and around us, or proactive–the results of initiatives we have taken towards the path of success. While the first allows others to decide their fate, the later ensures that we are the captains of our vessel in life.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. What decisions are you going to make that will put your life on the path towards fulfillment? Perhaps reading a book or enrolling in a course that will advance your career, or volunteering some of your time to make a difference in the lives of others. Maybe visiting an old friend or relative that you have not talked with in a long time to catch up, or calling someone with whom you have had a falling out to mend feelings. There is no need to put off the decisions that are within our power to make today… especially the ones that will bring us closer to finding purpose, meaning, and happiness in our lives.

Take the first step towards something you have desired to do or be.

Questions to consider:

Why do we often deny or avoid our own power and strength?

How strong do you “allow yourself to be?” How might we make it easier for ourselves to allow ourselves to be stronger?

What are some decisions you have been wanting to make? How can you go about taking the first step?

For further thought:

Each indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting o’er lost days.
Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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