In his letter to the early church at Corinth, Paul sets out how love shows up in the world in his effort to help them get along. It is a frequent text for weddings:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5.
To those about to marry, an interesting exercise is to substitute the name of your beloved each time the word ‘Love’ appears. And an even more interesting exercise, for all of us, is to substitute our own names instead of the word ‘love’:
I am patient and kind; I do not envy or boast; I am not arrogant or rude. I do not insist on my own way; I am not irritable or resentful….
How did you do? For many of us, this simple recitation shows us the exact ways and times we are being less than loving and calls us to consider those actions. Must we insist on our own way? How do we know what is right? Isn’t it possible that someone else may be right, too? Are we becoming impatient with others? Can we take a minute to rein ourselves in, breathe deeply, and begin again? Are we holding grudges? Can we let the past go and try to make our present the best possible? And so on.
These checks we can do to measure our progress and monitor our moods against the ideal of love can be very helpful to keep us on track showing up in this world as close to lovingly as we can get.
Did you know that just the sound of your mother’s voice can be soothing, eliciting chemical reactions in your brain? For a heartwarming example of a baby reacting to her mother’s voice for the first time, watch this video:
Over the years, our mothers are there for the ups and downs of life, offering their advise and comments. Mothers help us to make sense of things, comfort us when we are blue, and prepare us for the future.
What are some pearls of wisdom you learned from your mom? Please share them in the comments.
To get you thinking, consider this delightful list of motherly insights.
Remember Admiral Stockdale’s opening in the 1992 vice-presidential debate? No? Here it is:
Who am I? Why am I here? Important questions we can each ask ourselves everyday. What is our purpose for being?
Sometimes we can be so caught up in the day to day, we forget the big picture: that what we do today affects future generations, that our actions have ripples that spread ever outward and touch people we will never know, that everyone here on this planet has as much purpose and reason for existing as we do.
We are both trapped in time and timeless. Now is our canvas. But the past has brought us to where we are, and the future will see our masterpiece. How will we choose to paint it?
Perfection can be the enemy of progress. When we need to move forward, we often wait until we come up with a perfect solution, sometimes so long that the opportunity to make our contribution passes. It is not only ok to be fallible, it is all we’ve got to work with: Our imperfect, fallible, often short-sighted selves doing our best to make the world a better place right here, right now, with what is right in front of us.
Take a minute to watch this lovely video of Leonard Cohen singing a reminder that perfection isn’t an option; we must do our best now.
We are each born helpless. How we got from there to where we are now depended on the generosity of many people. Among those are our teachers, those people who devoted their time to making sure we understood the world around us and how to negotiate the ups and downs of the road ahead. Those teachers who went beyond the lesson plan to help us learn not just facts, but how to think and analyze, how to care and feel, and how to reach out to others deserve our unending gratitude.
Maybe you’re older, or weaker, or not quite as sharp as you used to be. Maybe your energy is fading, or you’ve gotten depressed and overwhelmed. Maybe all your ducks aren’t in a row, and all your bells don’t ring. Maybe you don’t think you can make a difference.
It is in just such times that you must press on. Your gifts are needed. The world doesn’t need you to be perfect; it needs you to show up.
Ring your bell.
Doing the right thing, the kind thing, the compassionate thing is an act of faith. You may never see the results of your action. You may never know that your courage in doing the right thing inspired someone else who, without that example, may have chosen the expedient thing, or the self-serving thing, or the popular thing. You may never know that the kind words you said gave someone an affirmation they desperately needed. You may never know that your kind thing spread exponentially outward into a billion kind things. You may feel that doing the right thing cost you somehow or was foolish or self-destructive. But you know it is the right thing, so you do it because you have faith that it will make a difference.
Those seeds of kindness that you sow take on a life of their own. They couple with other kind things and spread, though that may be largely invisible to you. Take heart from this video of a seed sprouting. Have faith that what you do makes a difference.
And remember, as stated by Cynthia Occe, “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”
If our bodies are gardens, what’s growing there? Is your garden body overcome by weeds and neglect, or is it a colorful explosion of bloom and fragrance? Is it a barren landscape or carefully and lovingly tended?
Self-care isn’t selfish; its vital. Time spent caring for your own body and soul will flower into every aspect of your life.
Today, consider giving your future self a gift. Maybe you can start a gratitude jar where you jot down little things you’re grateful for as you go through the day to toss into the jar. Your future self can pour out the jar a month or year from now and be blessed again by all those memories. Or change your sheets and give them a spritz of fragrance. Your future self will smile tonight when they tuck into the crisp linens. Or set aside a bit of money each day for a week for a future splurge down the road. Or, perhaps, start today something future you will thank you for later.
There are so many things you can do for future you if you take a minute to think about it. Taking the time now to do something for the you later reminds you that, even as you pour yourself out in caring for others, you matter, too.
Smells can shortcut the synapses and connections in our brain or body and take us straight back to the past. A certain perfume, the ground wet after a gentle rain, cherry tobacco in a pipe, a campfire in the woods, whatever it may be, and our mind flashes to a different time we smelled that smell. Sometimes it takes us right to a time when someone we lost was still with us. Sometimes the smell can calm us or give us courage. Sometimes that smell takes us to a place where we can remember something or someone we once loved. When this happens, we can pause and be grateful for that person or thing. If the smell takes us back to an unpleasant memory, we can pause and be grateful that we survived that particular obstacle and moved on, and we can celebrate our strength.
For a lovely instance of a mother’s smell calming a crying baby, take a look at this video:
Are pleasantries a thing of the past? Asking after someone’s health and family? Really listening to their answer? Showing concern? Waiting your turn to talk? Making sure your words don’t wound?
For most of us, we can identify moments in our past where we were lifted up or shoved down, and often both of those extremes were a result of someone’s words. What we say has power, and we would do well to wield that power wisely.