Whenever people talk about truth, certain phrases like “the truth will set you free” and counsel that it isn’t to be feared, ought to be embraced, etc. arise. Even though the previous quote is taken out of context to mean something much more general that it originally did not, the truth of it (mind the pun) remains. Truth is especially important in the context of our interpersonal relationships. The paradoxical nature of truth is that while it “liberates” it also “constricts”. It constricts perception to reality but it also frees from the danger of believing things that aren’t true about self and others. Whereas truth illuminates, ignorance blinds. In the same way that darkness prevents us from seeing our steps, the blindness of ignorance prevents us from living life to its fullness. Ignorance is a passive position. Ignorance cannot be obtained unless the truth is willingly sacrificed and suppressed. We are all born without knowledge (“ignorant”) in a majority of areas in life. We have simply passed from childhood to adulthood through maturity and education (hopefully), one beam of light at a time. Therefore, if we believe we have truth and a dear one doesn’t, we must approach them humbly knowing that we were once without as well.
Sometimes truth hurts tremendously and sometimes this author wishes he hadn’t known the truth about certain things. In fact, truth can be world-shattering just as after you’ve been in a dark room for some time and someone flips on the light unexpectedly. In this way, paradoxically, truth is blinding for a moment but the perception of our spirits adjusts quickly if we embrace it. Therein lies the complex nature of truth, sometimes it is necessary and even vital to the growth of a relationship while other times certain things can be held back in order to preserve harmony.
Now this is not to say that lying is ever acceptable and decent human beings should always endeavor to tell the truth; however, sometimes this author may find that speaking truth regarding a particular situation is far too costly to the relationship depending on how important the truth is. Because truth also divides as light does the darkness, it can often create conflict. However, insofar as our desire to bring truth to the table is mitigated by a sober understanding of its effect on our relationships as well as a desire for the relationship to either grow as a result, we will then be able to use discernment to know when it ought to be shared or not. Even when truth creates unwanted tension in relationships, it must not be viewed as an enemy but as a dear friend. If a man is aware of the lighthouse on the shore warning approaching ships of dangerous rocks, then advising those approaching in a way that shows them the gravity of their situation is a justice that he can (and ought) to do. The watchman does this so that the person receiving the truth of perilous shores is able to see more clearly in order to navigate this life’s treacherous waters.
May each reader be inspired to value their loved ones enough to share the truth and to discern when to withhold it.
Humility, above all other character traits ought to be most sought after. Pride is a uniquely human condition, not only an act of the intellect (which some created beings have a lot of), it is an act of the will wherein one places himself or herself above others in mind and heart. My main question about its opposite, humility, is where does it come from and why do some people seem to have more of it than others? Following that, how can prideful people become humble? The Scripture says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
As I sat wondering about how to cultivate humility, this quote came to my mind. As I meditated on it, I saw something that intrigued me. It says “in humility… DO This”. In other words, the key to getting “in humility” is doing one thing, which will naturally manifest itself in the second. The first is an inward transitioning from natural self-value and self-love towards others . This is definitely the hardest part as it requires an inward change of the heart that we are seldom (if ever) able to effect ourselves (more on that on another occasion) . Although this first step is difficult to achieve, I believe there is a shortcut to meeting it. I firmly believe that the heart can follow the hand’s actions; if the heart is stubborn, a willing hand can soften it. The second part of the quote says ‘look’ to the interests of others; meaning we first must open our eyes to see and then lend a helping hand towards others interests or needs. As we extend a helping hand with a compassionate smile, an uplifting word, kind counsel or a myriad of other things, I believe that the natural reward of true altruism will speak the truth of selfless love to our prideful hearts. Our prideful hearts, having been softened, will then be able to pour more freely onto others through giving selfless love. “What is this charity and selfless love you speak of?” You may ask, “I thought this was about how to be humble?” Well, humility is defined as: “the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance.” Let me ask you, if you saw someone who genuinely lived a pattern of looking out for others’ interests and needs, would you not conclude that they were a humble person?
There is an additional way that you can become meek and humble but it involves a lot of unnecessary pain. As I travelled in Latin America, I learned this corollary through the Spanish language. In Spanish, the word for “to humble” and “to humiliate” are the exact same word: “humillar”. Therefore, I conclude that you have a choice to be humbled [willingly] or to be humiliated. The choice is yours. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re already humble. That would be a dangerous mistake indeed. For, “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.”
There’s a simple way to begin the journey of mastering your anger. One of the first things you can do is simply learn how to differentiate personal goals and good desires. A good desire is something that you want to do but is ultimately decided by many other factors other than your own ability and willpower. Put simply, a good desire can be thwarted by others, while a personal goal is something that only you can stop, whether by action or inaction. A personal goal is something that is directly within your influence and no one else’s. There are two things we should consider about anger in this regard. One, is that anger reveals inability; and two, anger is all about influence. These two facts about anger essentially state the same thing in two different ways: If you have no ability in a situation, then it lies outside your personal influence. I will use a common example we can all certainly empathize with, “road rage”. Have you ever been cut off in traffic and become angry? I may as well ask you if the Pope is Catholic. In other words, we all have. This reveals, simply put, that you have no control over that particular situation on the road. Your anger has revealed what should be an axiomatic, self-evident inability to change the traffic patterns and control other drivers’ actions. In that moment, your anger simply reveals that at some point in the past you made a good desire (ex: arriving to work on time) into a personal goal that others can influence and change. When that goal was threatened or stopped, you become angry because someone else was treading on your “territory”. Problem is…it was never your territory to begin with and it was never meant to be. That is why you became angry. A goal should be something that you can achieve personally without interference of someone else. Such as being the best son or daughter you can be or the best worker at the office. You can only control you, the sooner you realize that, the sooner you’ll be on your way to mastering your anger. Most people with “anger issues” really have “control issues” because–without knowing it–they are attempting to make other people and events their personal goals instead of themselves, the only thing they have control over. Isn’t that why they call it a “personal goal” anyways? A “desire” is something else entirely. You can have a desire to get to work on time or a desire to have a happy, healthy home but you have no direct control over those things. It’s perfectly fine to have good desires but when those become misappropriated with personal goals, the tension begins. If you can differentiate things from a desire and a goal (while putting them in their proper place), you will master your anger. As soon as something that ought to be a desire becomes a goal, you will find yourself angry if something or someone threatens you to prevent you from achieving your goal. If you become angry at someone, this simply reveals that you are angry because they stopped you from achieving a desire that you’ve made into a personal goal. For example, you desire to have a happy family but if you make it your personal goal to have a happy family, when someone outside of your circle of influence (wife, husband, children, etc.) blocks that goal, you WILL become angry. Whereas if you make it your personal goal to be the best father to your children and husband to your wife, you can control that and no one will be able to stop it except for you.
(*This information was adapted from the chapter “You Can’t Live Beyond What You Believe” in Victory Over the Darkness by Neil Anderson. I take no credit for what I’ve learned. I only desire to share it with you in the hopes that it helps you along your journey.)
Author’s Bio: THADDEUS BON COEUR is an american who is an amazing writer and a very good teacher of Moral Vales and Ethical Living.
I’ve always been careful in which I use so that my words don’t lose an ounce of their meaning. Some people say things like “It’s all semantics!” in a way that makes it seem like what you’re talking about or discussing doesn’t really make much difference. However, this is not the case with regards to the semantic difference between sympathy and empathy. To put it in layman’s terms, sympathy is “to feel FOR” and empathy is “to feel WITH”. If a loved one passes away, for someone to say that they “empathize” with you, then that means they have experienced the same feelings as you have, or rather, they have lost a loved one before too. They must truly understand what you’re going through, not just feel for you. Now, I’m not saying that sympathy is inadequate. I’m simply saying that they contain a specific difference and that we should strive towards empathy with all. While most everyone is able to sympathize with (feel for) others, not everyone is able to empathize (feel with) others depending on their past experiences. But how, then, is it possible make it our goal to empathize with someone if we know we’ve not undergone the same experiences as they have? The answer is in one word, “understanding”.
In the mega article, “Communication Essentials”, we were told about the “5 Pillars of Communication,” one of which was “empathy”. Another good principle of relationships is similar, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Too often we want to get our point of view across to the other person and make sure they understand us before we actually understand them. We do this with any topic in which we hold strong beliefs or opinions about. Often times, we seek to administer the cure to someone’s problem (such as encouraging or sage words) before understanding the disease, the root of it all. That is not to say that we are all doctors or have some kind of miraculous cure to offer every problem but we do have understanding to give, if we take the time to arrive there.
I once had a roommate who I went to class with every day. He was quiet, reserved, artistic, and non-confrontational. I tended to be more talkative, analytical, and argumentative. Over time, his behavior befuddled me more and more. Although in many ways he was like a younger brother, I often felt like a Martian observing the ways of someone from another galaxy. We were worlds apart. Then, one day, over lunch, I decided to sit down with him and just started asking him questions. They were deep questions about life and meaning, his dreams and his hopes. After that day, we had a bond that we didn’t have before, not because I had new information about him but because I feel that in all of my question-asking he could see that I cared about him as a person. I understood him…mostly because I took the time to. This didn’t come at all naturally to me, I had to make an intentional choice, but I will always remember it as the moment where I had had enough of being so lost in my interactions with him and decided to do something about it.
If you know you can only “sympathize” with someone and feel you can’t feel with them, just sit down and ask questions, seek to understand where they are coming from and how they’ve arrived where they are. Not only will you find your relationships deepened and enriched, you’ll find you learn a few new things about your friends and family along the way.
(Picture Source: CLICK)
Forgiveness is something that until you don’t have it, you don’t miss it. It’s the very fabric of any successful relationship. Without it, every relationship will crumble or simply remain broken or strained as a result of inevitable broken trust. I say inevitable because it is impossible that no offenses should come. In other words, we are human and therefore make mistakes and hurt others with our selfish actions (i.e. offend others). One of the primary challenges of extending forgiveness to another is that it is by its very nature gracious, that is, it is undeserved favor bestowed on the person in the wrong, the “offender”. If you are asking for forgiveness and believe you deserve it, then you’re not *actually* asking for forgiveness (grace), you’re asking for justice (what you [think you] deserve); which probably also means you don’t really view or understand what you did as wrong. By very nature, when you forgive someone, you are releasing them from the debt they owe you, from receiving what they deserve, such as your rejection and anger. But without fail, when an offense occurs, *someone* must pay the emotional, financial, or spiritual debt owed. This, ultimately, is THE most difficult part of forgiving a loved one.
It is tempting to sometimes understand “justice” (in the sense that you want the other person to pay for their wrong) as the opposite of being merciful, but this is an incomplete understanding of the difference between justice and mercy. Justice and mercy meet within forgiveness. This is because in forgiving someone, you are paying for the debt that they owe you, balancing the proverbial scales of injustice. This is what makes forgiveness difficult. It’s not a matter of simply saying, “I forgive you”, “It’s OK”, or “No problem”. In order to forgive someone, *you* must incur the debt that *they* owe you. Some describe it as “releasing another”. But this difficult act of releasing another becomes easier for those who have genuinely experienced forgiveness. That’s because forgiven people have a different perspective. Forgiven people, forgive people. Forgiveness is a gift that, when received, can be freely given to (or withheld from) others. Most of the time, when someone is withholding forgiveness, it is simply because they have not experienced it themselves (or they have but there is a lack of understanding or genuine reception). There is a kind of proverb that reads, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that releases from debt, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Simply put, forgiven people, forgive people.
Are you merciful and forgiving? Have you experienced forgiveness or do you consider your life a meritorious endeavor? I don’t take forgiveness lightly because I know how incredibly painful and difficult it is, but as one who has experienced it in a deep and profound way, it has been one of my greatest joys (and challenges) to extend the same free gift I’ve received to the people around me.
There’s a new phenomenon out there and if you haven’t heard of it yet then you’ve probably been living under a rock. They are called “selfies”. Now this new phenomenon, as I said, probably needs no introduction but basically, it consists of taking a picture of yourself with your camera phone and usually involves posting it to some social media outlet like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. I used to think that these “selfies” were simply a manifestation of our extremely ego-centric cultures. However, I think that it comes from something deeper, something just as human a desire as selfishness yet more noble. I believe it comes from the desire to be “seen” and “known”, a kind of need for intimacy and care.
To illustrate, one day, I updated a status on Facebook with something that was important to me when I was having one of those not-so-good days. Upon checking the day after, it had not one “like” or comment, and I was crushed. It had most probably become buried underneath the meaningless fluff appearing on others’ newsfeeds. No one had seen me in my time of vulnerability. I felt utterly alone. Suddenly, my mind jumped to a few friends of mine on social media who are notorious for oversharing and instead of judging them, I now had a new perspective, they just want to know that someone out there cared, that someone could see them.
Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with social media, selfies, and the like in and of themselves but I propose we seek to cultivate intimacy, closeness and vulnerability in relationships. Social media can be a dangerous pseudo-replacement for these meaningful relationships. We’ve become the most connected disconnected society in history. We’re one click or message away from chatting with friends hours away and yet have, I believe, much fewer meaningful friendships than our ancestors. The only antidote to the “selfie sensation” is to intentionally seek to be open and honest with friends, sharing in life’s pains and joys with them in such a way that makes social media an enrichment to existing relationships instead of an artificial sweetener that masks the bitterness of a supposedly “connected” yet isolated life.
So go and genuinely and meaningfully connect with friends over a cup of tea, a delicious meal, or an evening stroll, intentionally avoiding the temporary satisfaction of superficial social media interactions. Find that friend who “overshares”, give them a call or message them directly, and show them that you “see” them. Use social media to enrich and expand pre-existing relationships instead of masking the emptiness inside with the artificial catharsis of an emotional vent.
An old proverb says, “The fool gives full vent to his spirit, but the wise man quietly holds it back.” I would add, “And shares his burden with a trusted friend.” In the social media age, we have relationships that are “a mile wide and an inch deep” but it will take intentional effort and sacrifice to flip that on its head and have relationships that are, with every inch, “miles deep”.