I don’t usually focus on the negative, but sometimes it helps to face reality. By reality, I mean the negative. Not all reality is negative, but in my case at least, there are some negatives. If I don’t face these realities, these negatives, then I limit my growth. Specifically, I’m very aware of the myriad faults and shortcomings I have that keep me from living a fuller, happier, a more productive, and a more loving life. Maybe if I list them, not from self-pity, not as a cry for attention, or even as self-criticism, but as simple facts, then maybe I can handle on my limitations (many of them self-imposed anyway) differently.
Here then are (at least some of) the things that make my life (and maybe yours) harder:
· I don’t use my time well.
· I don’t plan enough.
· I’m not always 100% sure what I want.
· I don’t read enough.
· I don’t spend enough time with the people I love.
· When I do spend time with the people I love, I’m not always present with them. I’m thinking about something else I “should” be doing, or I’m struggling with some sort of fear.
· I have too much fear.
· I am often negative in word and thought.
· I hold grudges.
· I complain too much.
· I don’t call my mother enough.
· I don’t exercise enough.
· I don’t get enough sleep.
· I avoid problems and confrontations.
· I overspend.
· I think that everything is my fault.
· I waste time playing online games.
· I’m easily irritated.
· I’m often late.
· I’m self-absorbed.
· I’m easily distracted.
· I don’t always trust God and am, in fact, sure that His plans for me are harmful.
· I start things and then don’t finish them.
· I get discouraged too easily.
· I’m rarely present in the moment, in the now.
· I wear out my friends with my problems.
There are probably more, but that’s enough. This exercise is making my body hurt. St. Paul was right when he said, “The things I want to do, I don’t do. And the things I don’t want to do, I do. Oh, wretched man am I!”
And yet…and yet…
We are all a huge list of flaws, inconsistencies, and imperfections.
People still love me. God loves me. My Muse loves me. My children love me. Everyone who knows me, really knows me, and sees me at my worst, still loves me. That’s reality, too, and as comedian Steve Martin said, “Reality, what a concept.”
How is this possible? How can anyone love me after knowing me? How can anyone love almost anyone after knowing him or her? Yet, they do. Love is everywhere. Everywhere. Not just in homes, but in schools, churches, hospitals, prisons, and workplaces. How is this even possible?
Love itself as a possibility, as a concept, is nothing short of miraculous.
Consider the miracle of this statement: “Yes, I know all about him, but I love him or anyway.” Or, “Yes, I’ve seen her at her worst, but I still love her.”
How is that our children, or our parents, or students, or friends, or clients, can frustrate us to the point of exhaustion and yet we still want only their best and, indeed, often give of ourselves, almost untiringly, to serve them? How do we endure each other’s pettiness and hurtful acts? How is it that we can look past betrayals? What is it? What is love?
It’s more than I can explain here, because there’s more than one answer, but one of the things love is, is our need for others. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis says, “We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.”
We need each other to forgive our long lists of flaws when we can’t forgive ourselves. And we need each other to hold up mirrors to us to shorten that list, or at least to prevent it from getting any longer. We need each other to Get Started and to Keep Going and to work on what is good, what is love in us.