If you’re unhappy now, don’t fret or feel guilty about it. Guilt and worry only perpetuate misery. Instead, be happy. Change your mind about the outrageous impracticality of this advice. If the Bible says “Rejoice always,” there must be something to it.
But you object: “I can’t be happy, because I’m sick,” or “I can’t be happy because my husband left me,” or “I can’t be happy, because I’m sad.” Don’t you understand? Happiness is the very weapon you need to surmount all these conditions. Happiness doesn’t come to those who sit around waiting until life gets better. Happiness comes to those who grab hold of its proffered hand in order to rise up and conquer their struggles.
The good news is that challenging unenforceable rules is a simple process. Unenforceable rules make their presence known. You do not have to look far to find them. They do not hide under the rug. Every time you are more than mildly upset with the actions of someone else it is because you are trying to enforce an unenforceable rule. EVERY time you are more than mildly upset with your life it is because you are trying to enforce an unenforceable rule.
You will not stay angry or hurt unless an unenforceable rule of yours has been broken. You can be sure an unenforceable rule is operating when you feel angry, bitter, depressed, alienated, or hopeless. I am not saying there will be no sadness or frustration without unenforceable rules. I am not suggesting having feelings is wrong. What I am saying is that underneath your most painful feelings are rules you are helplessly trying to enforce. If you worked on challenging your rules when you start feeling upset, then your bad feelings won’t last and won’t be as severe.
What happened on the cross has been the subject of wonder and debate for centuries, with Christians of good faith employing different metaphors and language to articulate its significance, but any view that reduces Jesus to a sort of deus ex machina, necessary only for a single moment of rescue, strips the incarnation of all its power and tells a far simpler story than the one the Bible actually gives us. Jesus didn’t just “come to die.” Jesus came to live — to teach, to heal, to tell stories, to protest, to turn over tables, to touch people who weren’t supposed to be touched and eat with people who weren’t supposed to be eaten with, to break bread, to pour wine, to wash feet, to face temptation, to tick off the authorities, to fulfill Scripture, to forgive, to announce the start of a brand-new kingdom, to show us what that kingdom is like, to show us what God is like, to love his enemies to the point of death at their hands, and to beat death by rising from the grave.
Jesus did not simply die to save us from our sins; Jesus lived to save us from our sins. His life and teachings show us the way to liberation.
In mindfulness, we are talking about a sense of an expanded present. Our protestations, our clinging to the past, our efforts to control the future may arise, but they are strongly attenuated by remembering to simply be with what is. We drop through our reactions to a space of profound, grateful connection – that is love of life itself. Always keep in mind that in reality, what we might have in this moment with a friend, with a place, with a dance, with a poem is the one more time. Treasure it.
Christian universalism, unlike the traditional view of hell, refuses to dilute Jesus’s radical message that God’s holiness and perfection is defined by a refusal to embrace retaliatory justice and limited forgiveness (Matt 5:38-42; 18:21-22). God’s holy perfection is not a retributive drive to punish sinners. God’s holy perfection is a restorative impulse to forgive sinners and, through a non-retaliatory love that absorbs sin, make reconciliation possible. Forgiving love is at the heart of who God is. Forgiveness isn’t just something that God does. Forgiveness, the willingness to take on the pain caused by others and to not strike back, is at the core of God’s being. The cross of Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God’s self-sacrificial and nonviolent love. In Christ, we see a God who refuses to fight evil with evil, but instead overcomes evil with good and calls us to walk the path that he pioneered for us (Rom 12:14-21).
The Christian universalist, then, will see living with forgiveness as essential to holy living. Because God is deeply forgiving and non-retaliatory, our journey of seeking to imitate God must then make forgiveness front and center for our way of life. There is no doubting the fact that the way of forgiveness is absolutely central to the Christian way of life (e.g., Matt 6:7-15; Col 3:13)….
On the traditional view, God essentially asks of humanity what God is not willing to do. God asks us to not seek merely retributive punishment and to forgive indefinitely, yet God is not willing to do this himself. On the traditional view, it is easier to write people off and condemn them because it is believed deep down that this is what God in fact does with the majority of people. On the universalist view, restorative justice and reconciliation are the ultimate reality. Because the universalist believes that the world is heading towards the reconciliation of all things, we are motivated and inspired here and now to begin to make that a reality.
The third element of true love is the capacity to offer joy. When you know how to generate joy, it nourishes you and nourishes the other person. Your presence is an offering, like fresh air, or spring flowers, or the bright blue sky.
Empathy is a choice. And it’s a vulnerable choice, because if I were to choose to connect with you through empathy, I would have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling. In the face of a difficult conversation, when we see that someone’s hurt or in pain, it’s our instinct as human beings to try to make things better. We want to fix, we want to give advice. But empathy isn’t about fixing, it’s the brave choice to be with someone in their darkness — not to race to turn on the light so we feel better.
If I share something with you that’s difficult for me, I’d rather you say, “I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just so glad you told me.” Because in truth, a response can rarely make something better. Connection is what heals.
If struggle is being down in a hole, empathy is not jumping into the hole with someone who is struggling and taking on their emotions, or owning their struggle as yours to fix. If their issues become yours, now you have two people stuck in a hole. Not helpful. Boundaries are important here. We have to know where we end and others begin if we really want to show up with empathy.
Yet why are we so slow to appreciate, why do we even studiously ignore the very things that bring us deep joy? No doubt it’s because the moment we awaken to joy we feel (rightly) responsible to give it expression, to allow more opportunities for its release. This can be unsettling to our cherished routines. If driving in the country makes me happy, I may need to do more of it. If I love the colors of nature, why not spend more time looking? Do I esteem joy so little that I won’t cross the street to get some?…
Joy need not be sought outside of the lives we already have. No, it is right under our noses, often in the most ordinary experiences. If we spent the next year simply enjoying who we are and what we have, we’d be much further ahead than by striving for more. What we need most, more than something dramatically new, is a quiet realization of what already is.
The more you take things personally, the more you suffer. You observe it, hold it up to the light, release it, and move on. One can choose to let suffering be the elevator to a heightened place of humble loving. You adjust the knot on the red string around your wrist and find your center again.
Humility returns the center of gravity to the center. It addresses the ego clinging, which supplies oxygen to our suffering. It calls for a light grasp. For the opposite of clinging is not letting go but cherishing. This is the goal of the practice of humility. That having a “light grasp” on life prepares the way for cherishing what is right in front of us.
And yet, there is a resurrection that comes with loss. People can no longer see in us the person they saw before, true. But that is one of the gifts of loss. Loss frees us to begin again, to be seen differently, to tap into something inside of ourselves that even we were never really sure was there. But, whether we knew it or not, did badly want.
We can now — perhaps must now — be ourselves but in some very different ways. We don’t have to go on making a success of the family business. Or even being Mrs. Anybody. Or being called upon so often for the same things in life that we never get to show the world that we can do other things, as well. No doubt about it: Loss is liberation time.
Then we must begin even to know ourselves differently — as more than the mother or the son, the doorman or the doctor or the groundskeeper or the mail carrier. Now we have to dig deep inside us to find out what other parts of ourselves are waiting to be discovered.
— Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight, p. 103-104