Love yourself first…

January 18, 2023

“If you truly love yourself, you’re never really alone.” (Charlotte Gale, the new owner of Duck Ledges Island) The quote appeared in a story about Charlotte buying Duck Ledge Island, Maine, after meeting the requirement to spend a night alone on the island in the tiny cabin that is there. Her quote came in reply to a question from the seller about whether she felt alone in the tiny cabin on the little island in the middle of nowhere. The seller liked her answer and felt that she was the right person to whom to pass the island.

I remember in my corporate life taking a class called “I’m OK: you’re OK”. It was based upon the book of the same title by Thomas Harris. The class focused upon how to recognize the different personality types that one might encounter and how to deal with them. Whether we realize it or not that is what we do every day in life. Life is transactional. The key here is the first line – I’m OK. You must understand and be OK with who you are in order to deal with (have transactions with or even love) others.

Many people spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out what others are thinking or what is motivating them to do what they do. I’m sure that you know people like that. That seemingly inquisitive bent is not so much driven by real interest as it is by those people being unsure of themselves. They don’t love who they are, so they keep looking for examples from other people, hoping to find someone that they can be like. Their thought process is “I don’t love me; can I be like you?”

People wandering around in this state often use the phrase, “I’m trying to find myself.” The truth is that you are not lost, you just don’t love yourself, yet. There is a popular TV show called, “This is us”. It is premised upon following the lives of relatively ordinary people. Perhaps we should imagine ourselves as being a new show called, “This is me.” You’re gonna love the main character. In this show the main character is comfortable with who they are, how they look and how they act towards others. The main character loves themselves. Put yourself in that role.

I have posted here a few times about forgiving yourself and about loving yourself. I think it is critical that you accept and love who you are before you can even try to love someone else. That even includes loving God. If you cannot or do not love yourself, you will end up blaming God for your perceived shortcomings. Maybe that is a chicken or egg conundrum. Perhaps, if you truly accept God’s forgiveness and unconditional love for you, that will allow you to forgive and love yourself. Try it.

I realize that this sounds like overly simplistic advice, but the truth is that it is that simple. Stop hating yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. Love yourself first. You will find that just by being real and getting comfortable being who you are, others will be more comfortable being with you. You may also find that others who are around you stop faking it, too. The world is a simpler and nicer place when everyone doesn’t have to remember all of the lies that they were trying to live.

Love God, love yourself, love life.

Be the light…show the love

January 16, 2023

Today is Martin Luther King Day in America and I am reminded of this saying from Dr. King –

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

While Dr. King was undoubtedly referring to the darkness and hate that manifested itself in the racism of his day (and unfortunately that of today), the thought applies equally well to other aspects of our daily lives.

Lurking in the shadows of the lives of many is the darkness of depression and the fears of to many drive the hate of bigotry and anti-LBGTQI behaviors. More darkness cannot drive out the darkness of despair and depression and fomenting more hate does not resolve the basic fears that drive bigotry.

Only by accepting the love and light of the Son of God into our lives can we overcome the darkness and dispel the hate. Dr. King knew and believed in the power of God’s love to overcome the darkness and fears and hate that he faced as he fought to bring justice and equality to all people.

King was a great civil rights leader, but he was first and foremost a pastor, a man of God who was trying to share the message of the good news of Jesus Christ. He was driven as much my the teachings of Christ as by his own feelings about the injustices that he faced as a black man in America.

Today we focus upon Martin Luther King, Jr. the civil right leader, but every day we can take lessons from Dr. King, the pastor, and find ways to “love your neighbors as yourselves” (Mark 12:31).

Be the light in someone’s darkness and the love overcoming someone’s hate. Only you can do that.

What direction are you facing?

January 13, 2023

This little saying from a cartoon character caught my eye this morning – “Just remember… if things look hopeless, maybe you’re facing the wrong direction!” (Ziggy)

Most of us face disappointments or setbacks in life, some much more than others. How we react to those events dictates how we feel about life and our circumstances. One’s faith has a lot to do with those reactions. I like this quote to help explain that – “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” — D. Elton Trueblood, Quaker theologian and chaplain

We will continue to be disappointed if we constantly demand proof from God that he is watching over us. Rather, we need to have constant trust in the direction that God is taking us in and in the final result, even unto death.

Perhaps Ziggy is telling us that we are looking in the wrong direction when we look for God to resolve all of life’s issues for us instead of accepting what has happened and trying to learn from it. I have posted here a few times about the little prayer that I used to refocus upon the trust of my faith – “Not my will, but thy will be done.” That is a prayer that does not demand proof from God, but which reinforces trust in where he is taking you.

So, turn away from hopelessness, turn away from seeking immediate relief from life’s trials and turn toward trust without reservation in God’s plan for you.  That will allow you to surrender the idea of being in control, allow you to forgive yourself for getting into the present circumstances and give you the strength to go on, knowing that you are following God’s will.

What direction are you facing?

Don’t be lonely…love yourself

January 6, 2023

This quote, that I got in a recent email, states eloquently the end result of forgiving and accepting yourself – “What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.” (Ellen Burstyn)

I’ve known people who just couldn’t stand to be alone. I don’t think it was self-loathing, so much as being so unsure of themselves or so unforgiving of themselves that they did not find being alone to be good company.

That’s really sad because we are all destined to be alone for some part of our lives, and for some for most of their lives. Being alone doesn’t have to maker us feel lonely. After all, you are spending time with the only human being that you will ever truly understand. I suspect that the feeling of loneliness is really a sense of lack of validation, the need to have someone else always there to tell you that what you are doing or thinking or saying is “OK”. It’s as if they needed permission for everything in life. They have a need for everything that they do to “fit in” to the lives of those around them. When they are alone, there is no one to accept and validate what they are doing, thinking or saying; and for them that it frightening. People who do not need that external validation are comfortable being alone and are often identified as “self-reliant”, “independent” or “confident”.

I have posted here a few times about forgiving yourself. I think carrying around guilt and not being able to forgive yourself for past mistakes lays the groundwork for becoming dependent upon the acceptance of others – it requires constant reassurance and validation and abhors time spent alone with feelings of guilt or remorse.  

The road to recovery from the insecurities that cause loneliness begins with accepting that God loves you and forgives you all of your sins. If you can accept that, then it is a short mental jump to forgiving yourself and from there not requiring the validation of others to love yourself. Once you can love yourself you will begin to enjoy the times that you have alone and never have the feelings of being lonely. You will realize that God is always there with you. The conversations that you can have with God and with yourself when you are alone will more than fill the void that you may have felt when you were alone in the past.

What a lovely surprise you will discover when you accept God’s love, and love yourself, and discover how unlonely being alone can be.

Make the change you have been waiting for…

January 5, 2023

Two quotes made by famous world political leaders decades apart seemed to just fit together this morning –

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”  (Mahatma Gandhi)

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” (Barack Obama)

I’m not sure that Gandhi would be happy to be characterized as a political leader. Maybe it would be better to state that he was a philosophical leader who just happened to be thrust into the political situation in his country. It turned out that his philosophical approach was the correct political response for that time and situation and he ended up freeing India from British Colonial rule.

 I suppose that we all have a tendency to wait to see if change will come to us or somehow just happen out of no effort of our own. That is seldom the case and it is especially true if the change that needs to happen is within us as Gandhi said.

In order to change yourself (your nature as Gandhi put it) you must first recognize that change is needed. For many that is a big stumbling block. For some, admitting that our circumstances are no the result of the actions of others, but rather the result of our responses to those actions is the issue that must be overcome. For others admitting their own mistakes and forgiving themselves for them is the blockage. Reassigning our current situation away from “things that are out of my control” and into “things I have yet figured out how to deal with”, at least puts you in the right mindset to make the changes that you need to make.

Perhaps if you could start each day by taking a few moments to ask yourself, “What do I need to change in myself today in order to be happier and more successful in life?” If nothing else, it will get you thinking about where you are in your life and perhaps identifying things that you are unhappy with and which need to be changed. The next step is accepting the fact that the changes will not happen unless you make them happen in life or in yourself.

Make some little effort each day to change yourself and your life for the better. As you change yourself you might notice, as Gandhi said that the world’s attitude about ands towards you changes, too. You’ll be in a better place than you were by being a better person than you were. Don’t wait. Start making changes today.

Look for that pillow…

January 4, 2023

One of the many emails with inspirational quotes that I get each day contained this quote – “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” (Maya Angelou)

I love the vision that Angelou is able to paint in that quote, but I question the timeline of it. I think one would do better to start each ay kneeling on that pillow of gratitude. After all, God just gave you another day. Being thankful for that gift to start your day will put you in the best frame of mind to make the most of the day.

The visualization of kneeling in prayer, whether you physically do it or not, establishes the proper attitude of thankfulness, contrition, and hope for the day ahead or to look back on the day just passed. Being first thankful for another day kicks off a series of thoughts about all of the things for which you should be grateful. You may surprise yourself with how long that list is, when you stop to think about it.

So. Whether you are stopping to pray in the morning or at the end of the day, search first for that pillow of gratitude. Express that gratitude and let the warm feeling that come with it wash over you and you will feel less disappointment, anger or hurt if things do not (or did not) turn out as you had hoped.

You made it to or through another day, and, with God’s help, you will get another chance tomorrow. Be grateful for that. Look for that pillow.

New Year, New You…You decide

January 2, 2023

As you kick off a new year, pause to consider the words of author L. M. Montgomery -“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” If you substitute 2023 for the word tomorrow in the quote and year for the word day, you have a clean slate to star the new year with. Also consider the words of actress Mary Pickford – “You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.” 

So, get up and start making your new future. Perhaps start by heeding these words – “Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier.”  (Sri Chinmoy)

Forgive whatever happened in the past and forgive those who may have been involved. Especially forgive yourself, then move on. Once you have forgiven the sins of the past, resolve not to commit the sin of judgement in the future. Let the words of Pope Francis ring in your mind – “Who am I to judge.”

Finally, enter the new year at peace by following the advice of (Jack Kornfield) – “Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control.”

One of man’s greatest sources of frustration and anger is believing that he can control things, rather than choosing to make the best of what happens. I have posted here many times about using the little prayer, “Not my will, but thy will be done”, as a means of surrendering the illusion of control.

Once you have relinquished that illusion you may refocus on what is next as motivational speaker Dan Millman advises – “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” 

So, here you go. It’s the first workday of the new year. What are you going to do with it? Take a moment to consider the advice of Dolly Partin – “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.”

Chevrolet uses the catch-praise “Find New Roads”, maybe you can paraphrase Dolly’s advice and “Build New Roads” for 2023 and beyond.

It’s a new year. Will there be a new you? You decide.

Sorry I did vs. Sorry I didn’t…

January 1, 2023

I got this quote yesterday from one of those Internet pop-up ads that I seem to be on some list to receive…

“I’d rather regret the things I have done than the things that I haven’t.”  (Lucille Ball)

One could live their life in Coulda,Woulda, Shoulda land, but it would be a life of regrets and probably pretty boring. Never taking a chance or always holding back due to fears of what might happen might lead to a fairly safe, but I suspect an unsatisfactory life. We learn more by doing than just by reading or hearing about something.

Some things that we decide to do will turn out to be bad ideas or at least not turn out the way that we had imagined and hoped that they would. Sorry about that. That’s life. But even in failure or disappointment we learn something. We may even decide to try it again and apply what we’ve learned to the next attempt.  One learns nothing from not trying.

It is certainly OK to pause before trying something to give consideration to any dangers involved and then make a rational choice whether or not to proceed. Too many include in those considerations what others may think of them for trying or for failing. Those aren’t real dangers, they are imagined consequences spawned out of our own insecurities.

The same email that had the above quote from Lucille Ball also had this quote –

“I cured myself of shyness when it finally occurred to me that people didn’t think about me half as much as I gave them credit for. The truth was, nobody gave a damn… When I stopped being prisoner to what I worried was others’ opinions of me, I became more confident and free.” (Lucille Ball)

If you find yourself constantly worrying about what others may think of you or what you are doing, you have allowed yourself to become a prisoner of those concerns. Free yourself to live your life as you want to and not as you think you should in order to please others. You may end up doing some things that you are later sorry that you did. We all do. That is still much better than being constantly sorry for the things that you didn’t do.

Perhaps it would help if you added a little prayer each morning asking God to help you make good decisions throughout the day. Maybe knowing that you have God at your side will allow you to do the things that you might otherwise not have done and leave you with no regrets for the things that you didn’t do.