Ash Wednesday was a week ago so I recognize I am a little late with this post, but I think it is worth reading. I am a man of faith and I try to let that help me be the best person I can be. I try not to judge and I try not to preach (unless asked), but I try to live an example that others would see good in. I also am a firm believer that holidays, celebrations, and religious tradition can inspire us even if we are persons of faith or not. This is where my Lenten commitments come in.
You will hear many talk about giving up meat on Fridays or giving up certain vice’s for the Lenten season. Why do we do this? Why do we put ourselves through this seemingly arbitrary practice of denying things we are used to during Lent? Some do it because they are told, others do it because they and their families always have (see tradition and legacy), and some do it because they feel that the act of giving up something pays respect to the man who gave up everything for us. My Lenten commitments do not follow the usual trend this year. My Lenten commitments are the type that can be adopted by all, and probably should be adopted by myself 365 days/year. I am choosing to do these out of respect for the God I have faith in, and also out of respect to those around me and my desire to represent the best person I can be.
I was inspired by a talk from Pope Francis that informed the following. I hope these resonate with you :
- Fast from hurtful words but speak with kindness
- Fast from sadness but practice gratitude
- Fast from anger but practice patience
- Fast from selfishness but practice compassion
- Fast from words but be quiet as to hear and listen
As you can see, I am not beating you over the head with a Bible.. That is not me. But what I want you to see is that I was inspired. I was shown things that I can try to do to be a better person. I know these should be “common sense”, but how often do you fall prey to acting these out? I know I do a lot. I can fall into a trap and be downright cruel. I can let anger control me and turn me into a miserable, selfish guy. And what does that do to us when we allow these actions to infiltrate our being? Are we being the example for our kids, family, friends, acquaintances? Shouldn’t we care about that?
I want to briefly walk through how I fail at these as to keep a benchmark for me to improve. I can be truly hurtful. I find that I have always been able to read people well and know their emotions triggers. Well this can be fine until I feel slighted, find through my ‘supreme wisdom’ they are wrong, or who knows what else. I can quickly turn and become a mean and hurtful person, exploiting others emotional triggers. And what gain does this bring me? Momentary superiority? The knowledge that I was a bully? This is the thing, acting this way benefits nobody. It drags somebody else down and does not build me up. Instead, kindness builds all up. So that is what I will work on.
Sadness cannot always be controlled, but trying to focus on what we are grateful for can be a strong step in the right direction. There are many things that get me down, but damn am I lucky to have what I have. Maybe re-framing my mind a little can bring about some helpful shifts to my outlook. And gratitude, along with patience, can also help with anger. I feel my sources of anger probably mimic many of yours.
Fast from selfishness but practice compassion. I will say I have always tried very hard on this. I really do try to see things through others eyes. I try to act with love and care and walk with compassion. Despite this I often find myself falling into a self-centered place. Why me? I deserve better. Before I know it everything I deal with in the day only matters in the sense of how it impacts me. This type of mindset does nothing to help those around me.
Finally, who here likes to hear themselves talk (Ben raises his hand)? Who knows somebody who likes to hear themselves talk? Do they hear you when you need them to? Are they present? Are you present? I am notorious for having to have my word inserted. Maybe it is my own insecurities but gosh, the amount of times I will talk so much that I end up hearing nothing from the other person. Being quiet allows us to hear things we would otherwise miss. Sometimes I wonder how much knowledge, information, good news, or anything I have missed because I felt what I had to say was more important than somebody else. Being quiet shows humility, and that is a sign of strength. Knowing this, I know I am not strong, but I know how to get there.
What are any of you choosing to do? Do these resonate with anybody?