As I sat in the meeting with a group of fellow co-workers (not my chaplain team), I was caught off guard by the comments of one of the group members. He critiqued a workshop that I had recently led in front of the group, and he told me how disappointed he was that I didn’t talk enough about some things he thought would have been more helpful to the audience.
I felt my face grow warm with embarrassment and I was aware of the tightness in my throat and the defensiveness in my voice. Finally, I just sat back and listened, though I could feel the sadness in my heart and the pit in my stomach that he (and maybe others) was not impressed. He did not approve. I was not all that he wanted me to be, I had failed to impress or to be held in high esteem by this individual. My stress level was on high alert.
Can you remember a time when you were criticized by a co-worker, a family member, or your spouse or partner? Can you identify with the feeling of wanting to either flee and run away, or stand your ground and verbally justify yourself or actions? Do you remember the pit in your stomach, the hairs on the back of your neck standing up, or the crushed feeling? Some of us flee, some of us fight, some of us just retreat.
When we buy into the idea that our worth in this world is based on whether or not someone else believes us to be worthy, or tells us how wonderful we are, we have moved away from the simplifying life and closer to the complex one.
We cannot control what others think of us, good or bad, even though our thoughts and actions are constantly planning to do just that. The things we buy, the things we say, the way we try to live so that others will think of us well, guarantees us that simplicity in our life will be lost. Trying to control others is an energy inefficient way to live to say the least.
Finally, I am learning that my deepest lessons are learned when I look at what someone has said or done to me that was hurtful and ask the question, “How have I done this to others in my thoughts or actions?”
Now we are getting to the heart of it if we can be so brave to examine it closely. To meditate on it. To pray about it. “When or where have I done this to others in my thoughts or actions?”
Richard Foster says, “Simplicity is not merely a matter of having less stress and more leisure. It is rather an essential spiritual discipline that we must practice for the health of the soul.”
Maybe it is time to gently let go of always needing to win, to be right, or to impress others so that we can be reassured of our worth. Richard Rohr recently said in one of his daily meditations, “What if we gave up needing to be right for Lent?” Wow, now THAT would be a sacrifice!
Know this truth, you are enough, you are blessed, and you are loved. The Creator, the Sacred One, Yahweh, Allah, God have said so.
And that my brothers and sisters makes all the difference. Thanks be to God.
Today’s simple invitation: Ask the question over and over again in a 5 minute prayer, “When have I looked to others for approval?” And then thank God for the blessing of being enough.
Choose One Action Item for Freedom from Mental Clutter: (from Richard Foster)
- Get myself off e-mail distribution lists
- Fast from e-mail one day a week
- Practice centering prayer/meditation
- Turn off the TV
- Subscribe to fewer magazines
- Take a break from my to do list for a day