Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Seek Understanding

Life doesn't always make sense. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do. We are faced with difficulties that try our patience and everything we thought we knew about life. It is at times like these, that we simply have to admit that we don’t know everything.

Since we don’t know everything, we have to learn. Learning takes humility. It means admitting that we don’t know what to do. Pride says “I know it all” and humility says, “Teach me.” Since pride is the default mechanism protecting our ego, we are often compelled to be humble before we will learn.

It is no fun to be compelled to do anything, and we fight until we know we can’t win. Finally, on bended knee, we admit out weakness and realize that there is something more that we need to do. This is when we are ready to learn.

As children, we memorized to show what we learned, the math facts, letters of the alphabet, spelling of words, and formulas for scientific experiments. As adults, learning is different. Rather than rote memorization, we concentrate our efforts on seeking understanding.

The world is a complex place. It is impossible for us to know everything in the short amount of time that we are here. The presenting of problem situations channels our learning and gives purpose to our quest for knowledge. The popular adage “…with all thy getting, get understanding” found in Proverbs 4:7 of the Old Testament tells us that understanding is key to any success we experience in life.

We have to understand ourselves first, our strengths and weaknesses, the things we desire, and the things we despise. As we grow in our understanding of ourselves, we are more kind to others when they require understanding.

Next, we seek to understand our loved ones, those with whom we spend the first and last moments of the day. As we grow in our understanding of them, we share the unconditional love that we are in need of to fill our own cups. We also prepare ourselves to understand those who are less important in our lives.

Understanding those with whom we work is a monumental task; however, it is facilitated as we grow in our understanding of people in general. People are like gardens. There are weeds, and there are flowers. Our actions plant seeds of harmony or discord, depending upon what we do and say. The harvest comes in the treatment we receive in return.

We also grow in understanding when we realize that not all of our positive action is met with positive in return. There will be storms and whirlwinds no matter who we are and what we have done. These are vital for our growth and development. Choosing to learn enables us to find peace and happiness, no matter what happens in life.

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Developing Endurance

“I don’t think I am going to make it.”

“I can’t do this anymore, I’m sorry.”

When we hear these words, we try to give encouragement to the person saying them. We want them to hold on as long as possible, to keep going until the very end, not giving up or giving in. We want them to develop the endurance needed to stick it out.

What is endurance? How do we develop it? Why is it so important?

We often associate endurance with the athlete that runs long distances. It requires muscle strength, lung capacity, high quality running shoes, and a great deal of determination. Distance runners know that there is a cycle they go through and they pace themselves to save their final burst of energy for the last seconds of the race.

Outside of the athletic world, we speak of endurance when we speak of loved ones who are getting close to the end of their lives. We want them to live as long as possible, and we encourage them to “hang on” until they have accomplished their life’s work and are called home.

Endurance is not just for runners and the elderly. We all want and need this quality to help us in our lives. We need endurance when we are having a tough day, when the money runs out before the end of the month, and when we experience setbacks in our education, employment, and most importantly, in our families.

Family life can be fraught with difficulty. We frequently must set aside our own agendas and work for the good of others that are depending on us for their sustenance. As we do so, we choose a higher purpose and develop our endurance. We exercise patience, determination, and dedication as we work together.

Choosing to endure to the end is choosing to make the most of our lives, no matter how long it may appear that we have left to live. It is staying with our loved ones even when they may not be making the choices that bring us peace and happiness. It is keeping the lights on when the night is at its darkest.

Endurance is the ability to keep on doing what we know is right, even when it appears that we are not receiving any benefits from doing so. It is giving our best effort in the face of opposition, and keeping a positive attitude when others are looking for reasons to complain.

Endurance is realizing that the race does not necessarily go to the swift and the strong, but to the person who keeps on going until the final whistle blows. It is the ability to keep on going, no matter what happens. Enduring is choosing the good over and over again, until the good chooses us!

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Bright Light of Hope

Hope sounds a lot like home. Perhaps that is because when we think of hope, we think of peace and safety, and these are the attributes that make a house a home. We think of our loved ones, how much they mean to us, and how we enjoy being with them.

Hope has a similar connotation. It is the essence of looking forward with anticipation to a better world. We often use the word when we want something better to happen in our current circumstance. We feel that we are exerting our faith in a higher power by expressing our desire that things will get better.

Setting aside religion, what role does hope play in our emotional health? Hope is the ability to look above and beyond our current circumstance, realizing that it is only temporary. Things change. They always do. No matter where we find ourselves at the current moment, whether in happiness or misery, that state is not permanent. It will change. The only constant in this world is change.

Once we realize that life changes regularly, we give ourselves permission to see past what is happening in the moment. This flexibility gives our emotions a chance to evolve with the change around us. If we adopt a rigid viewpoint, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment, heartache, and even despair.

Despair is the opposite of hope. It sees only the pain and frustration of the moment, and leads to discouragement, disillusionment, and depression. These “d” words leave us feeling at the mercy of the dragons of the deep, deprived of peace and happiness. Hope is the ability to look up, to find something positive in the situation, and to focus on that small morsel of goodness long enough that a better future opens to our point of view.

Whether we are dealing with long-term illness, the pain of separation from our loved ones, or difficulty in our employment, hope gives us the opportunity to set these things aside momentarily, just long enough to taste what it feels like to be home, surrounded by our family and friends, feeling the arms of love embrace us.

Hope, then, is the ability to see a light at the end of the tunnel, to grasp the path that leads to that light, and then, to bask in its warmth once we arrive there. Indeed, hope is the flame that lights our way back home!

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all right reserved.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Power of Listening

We often think of listening as a passive activity. We tell our children, “I’m listening,” just to get them off our backs, when in reality; we continue doing other things while they talk. We don’t really hear what they are saying; we are just trying to get something done, while giving them what we think that they want and need.

Children quickly learn that if they want our undivided attention, they have to do something more than talking to get it, and that usually means misbehavior!  When we truly listen, we don’t just hear words, we feel what the other person is feeling. Listening requires focused effort on the face of the other person, their, lips, eyes, and mouth. It requires seeing things from their point of view and understanding what is happening in their life. When we do so, we understand on a deeper level, and communicate soul to soul.

There are a number of things that get in the way of listening. Sometimes, we are so preoccupied with our lives, that when someone speaks to us, we do not hear what they are actually saying. Our hearing mechanisms are not tuned into their wavelength, and we may nod or smile, but not really hear.

Perhaps we devalue the person that is speaking, thinking that they are really not worth our time, or they don’t have anything important to say. When this happens, we say something that is demeaning or damaging to the relationship. Unfortunately, they may see us as uncaring, conceited, or even cruel.

Sometimes, we think ahead in the conversation, and rather than listening to what is being said, we think of what we are going to say when the other person stops speaking. This “one up” mentality only serves to make the other person feel insignificant, even put down.

Distraction is another issue when listening. We allow things that are going on around us to take our mind off of the person standing in front of us. We glance at the clock, look at our computer screen, or notice a bird flying around outside the window. We may even allow thoughts of what we are doing later in the day to creep in and take over our level of consciousness.

A lack of interest in the subject matter being discussed can also be a hindrance in our ability to listen. If we don’t think that what is being said is true, or has meaning and purpose, we may discount it. As we do so, we are telling the other person that they are really not important to us.

The power of listening comes in our ability to set aside our own agenda, the distractions and preoccupations of the moment, and really focus on the other person. As we do so, we are sending the message that the person is worthwhile, and what they have to say is important. Our eye contact gives them unconditional love. Each word we say validates their feelings. Our re-phrasing of what is happening lets them know that they have been understood.

Indeed, the power of listening is the ability to uplift another’s soul. When we do so, we lift up our own.

©2014, Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.