Archive for the ‘Growth’ Category

Gratitude as Practice

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

Practice takes time. A well-known rule of practice says that to become an expert at something, you need to devote ten thousand hours to doing it. Gratitude is not a practice that can be counted in hours. Instead, it invites us to engage the longer arc of time. In order for it to become a habit, it asks that we attend to seeing time more fully: engaging the past more graciously, living more appreciatively now, and building thanks into the foundation of our future. Attending to our lives with hindsight, wide sight, and foresight moves gratefulness from emotion to ethic. Thus, gratitude may feel good — and those good feelings do good things for us — but as an ethical disposition, gratitude is a strong basis for creating a good life. The habit of gratefulness helps us thrive. It not only takes time, but it can change the way we experience the times of our lives.

— Diana Butler Bass, Gratitude, p. 70

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 15, 2013

The Unboxable Largeness of Life

Monday, August 13th, 2018

The course of a champion requires continual growth. For the person who’s growing, each day is different. Each hour presents new challenges that have to be met with new strategies. If we’re stuck in a rut, we don’t need new strategies; we can live by the same old rules and never change a thing. To joy this is intolerable. Joy requires freshness, newness, stimulation. Joy thrives on the unboxable largeness of life in all its bewildering variety. Depression feeds on sameness, but joy craves a steady diet of fresh, dangerous, wiggling, live game.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 82

[Photo: From Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland, July 2001]

The Value of Appreciation

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

The ultimate issue isn’t whether people deserve your negative thoughts; certainly many people do. The more important point is that they are your thoughts in your head, and you want them to be as beneficial to you as possible.

It’s impossible to appreciate and feel devalued at the same time.

— Steven Stosny, Living and Loving After Betrayal, p. 67

[Photo: Assateague Island, October 24, 2016]

Crushing Guilt

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

When we are feeling guilty, we withdraw, because we are afraid of doing the same thing over again. We either remove ourselves from the path of life or attack those around us to get away from feeling guilty. In the same way, if we lay guilt on those around us, they will respond either by withdrawing from us or by becoming aggressive back at us. Everyone hates guilt. It is the hot potato we always try to pass on to the people around us. We never want to take responsibility for our guilt, because it just feels bad. It is the destructive illusion that creates, either within or outside us, exactly what it is trying to stop. Our willingness to let go of our guilt allows us to remember our own and everyone’s innocence.

— Chuck Spezzano, If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love, p. 324

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 12, 2014

Gratitude as Habit

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Gratitude is not only the emotional response to random experiences, but even in the darkest times of life, gratitude waits to be seen, recognized, and acted upon more thoughtfully and with a sense of purpose. Gratitude is a feeling, but it is also more than that. And it is much more than a spiritual technique to achieve peace of mind or prosperity. Gratitude is a habit of awareness that reshapes our self-understanding and the moral choices we make in the world. In short, gratitude is an ethic, a coherent set of principles and practices related to grace, gifts, and giving that can guide our lives.

— Diana Butler Bass, Gratitude, p. 60

[Photo: Silver Falls, Oregon, October 7, 2017]

Self-definition

Friday, July 27th, 2018

If you were defined in any way, you heard nonsense, irrational comments, and pretend talk.

No one can take away your freedom to define yourself. Self-definition is the gift of consciousness. The moment you think of the abusive comment, focus on this affirmation because you truly are self-defining and so you will not entertain the comment for a moment longer.

If you happen to be in the presence of someone who negatively defines you, it is okay to laugh at his or her irrational behavior.

— Patricia Evans, Victory Over Verbal Abuse, p. 98

Photo: Ross Castle, Ireland, July 2001

Good from Bad Things

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

This is a critical distinction, and one of the most important things to understand about how adversity can make you stronger. The science of post-traumatic growth doesn’t say that there is anything inherently good about suffering. Nor does it say that every traumatic event leads to growth. When any good comes from suffering, the source of that growth resides in you — your strengths, your values, and how you choose to respond to adversity. It does not belong to the trauma.

— Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress, p. 201

Photo: Staffa Island, Scotland, July 13, 2003

Jesus and Outsiders

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

If we are going to take Jesus seriously, then we need to see how he talked about hell and we need to pay close attention. Although evangelists most often preach about hell to try to convert people to Christianity, we need to reflect on the significance of the fact that Jesus never tried to scare people into the kingdom of God by threatening them with hell. The only people to which Jesus talked about hell were his own followers and especially to the self-righteous religious leaders of his day. We often assume that heaven is for good people and that hell is for bad people. But according to Jesus’ message and ministry, it is the reverse: heaven is for bad people and hell is for “good” people. Heaven is for people who know they are in need of large doses of grace, while hell is for people who alienate themselves from God and others through the self-sufficiency and self-centeredness of their own pride (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus didn’t see those who were outside the bounds of proper religion as the ones in danger of hell. He saw the ones on the inside as being in the most spiritual danger, because when we are on the inside, it is easy to become complacent and presumptuous and turn our focus on making judgments about others. This is precisely what many of the Pharisees, the self-appointed spiritual and moral guardians of society, did in their day. They were so sure of their insider status with God that they turned their energies towards using threats of hell to those who didn’t measure up the way they did. In most contexts, then, Jesus’s teachings on hell took the Pharisees to task by turning their judgments back on themselves. The threat of hell was primarily used by Jesus, not to encourage speculation about others in the world to come, but to encourage examination of our own lives here and now concerning all the ways in which our pride, greed, lust, anger, judgmentalism, and apathy may be leading us down a wide road to self-destruction (Matt 7:13-14).

When it came to “outsiders,” Jesus tried to love them into the kingdom of God. Jesus did not try to convert sinners by threatening them or heaping guilt or shame on them, as did many of the Pharisees (Matt 23:4). He tried to transform them by eating with them, by scandalously welcoming them into an unconditional embrace of love. This shockingly inclusive compassion that Jesus showed to notorious and egregious sinners like tax collectors and prostitutes was what magnetically drew the crowds of ordinary people to him, and at the same time enraged the religious leaders to conspire against him.

I am convinced that we Christians have for too long preached about hell as the Pharisees did, not as Jesus did. We have made it only about “them,” not us. You see, when we make hell just about what happens to outsiders in the next life, we miss the fact that Jesus made his warning about hell primarily in relation to what insiders do in this life.

— Heath Bradley, The Flames of Love, p. 39-40

[Photo: Los Angeles Rose Garden, July 8, 2015]

Proving Your Worthiness

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

Emotions are sometimes complicated, but in terms of motivation, they’re not rocket science. You prove to yourself that you’re respectable, valuable, and lovable by respecting, valuing, and loving. There’s really no other way to do it. (Other people respecting, valuing, and loving you won’t feel genuine if you’re not respectful, valuing, and loving.) And if you prove these things to yourself, you won’t feel a need to prove them to anyone else. Respectful, valuing, and loving people will recognize these qualities in you. As for those who do not, you can sympathize with their need to heal and grow.

— Steven Stosny, Living and Loving After Betrayal, p. 62

[Photo: Haut Koenigsbourg, Alsace, France, September 28, 1997]

Stress Response as a Resource

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Viewing your stress response as a resource works because it helps you believe “I can do this.” This belief is important for ordinary stress, but it may be even more important during extraordinary stress. Knowing that you are adequate to the challenges in your life can mean the difference between hope or despair, persistence or defeat. Research shows that how you interpret your body’s stress response plays a role in this belief, whether you are worried about an exam, getting over a divorce, or facing your next round of chemo.

Embracing stress is a radical act of self-trust: View yourself as capable and your body as a resource. You don’t have to wait until you no longer have fear, stress, or anxiety to do what matters most. Stress doesn’t have to be a sign to stop and give up on yourself. This kind of mindset shift is a catalyst, not a cure. It doesn’t erase your suffering or make your problems disappear. But if you are willing to rethink your stress response, it may help you recognize your strength and access your courage.

— Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress, p. 133-134

[Photo: Burg Rheinstein, Germany, July 1997]