Exhausted. Worn out. Fed up. Tired of all this. And it seems that some people just never stop poking the sores. Some are no doubt well-meaning, but others seem to be intent on making the rest of us just as miserable as they are. I believe that there are a few of us that have the luxury of being able to turn everything off, but most of us do not.
Anyone who is a teacher, in a caring profession, working in retail, or on a shop floor cannot get away from the physical, emotional, political, and spiritual stress that is on all of us right now. Many of us have the luxury of expressing our opinions without having to carry any responsibility for making decisions.
More of us have the burden of listening to unsolicited opinions without the authority to make decisions. And a few of us have the responsibility of making decisions that will leave at least some people dissatisfied or worse. If you have the opportunity, take a moment to express your gratitude for those who must make decisions. Whether you agree with them or not, at least appreciate the position they are in.
But we are not helpless against the battering of these continuing waves. It is possible to build into our lives habits and attitudes that refresh us and those around us. There are things that we never get tired of. Many do not come naturally to most of us, which gives us a few projects to work on as we walk through life together. There are more, but here are a few that we can practice even when life is testing us, and we are testing each other.
Gratitude has been in short supply lately. All these positive attitudes and virtues are related to each other, but it is from this one that the others grow. This is deeper than “being thankful for the little things.” It is relational. Gratitude understands that none of us can do anything of value without the assistance of others. We all have teachers, mentors, parents, grandparents, and friends who have shaped us and given to us when we needed it — whether we deserved it or not. Gratitude understands that I am not the center of the universe and that my primary mode of operation is to serve rather than to be served and yet gratefully accept the help of others when offered or needed.
Kindness is a powerful delivery system. It is the way we lift others up or bring them down. It is a mistake for us to think that our kindness will always be well received, because it will not. Because of that kindness should be seen as a strength. It is only from a secure post that we can act with courage which is what kindness reflects. Where there is lack of kindness, there is fear.
Patience is sorely needed all the time, but especially now. Patience is part of the mixture that makes living with other human beings possible. It is worth remembering that people do things for a reason. The reason that our patience can run short is our self-centered nature makes us think that others are acting poorly toward us has to do with us. It is usually because of something else in their life. We are all, to some extent, a walking mixture of physical and emotional pain. Whether it is self-inflicted or not doesn’t matter in most of our interactions. Patience helps to heal rather than make a matter worse. Practicing patience will make you feel better, eventually. And we all want it from others.
Gentleness is related to kindness in that it is a delivery system. It is also only possible from a position of strength. Being secure in one’s faith and place in life is prerequisite to gentleness. It is not easy to practice regularly. It does not preclude strong words or discipline. Nor does it eliminate the need for appropriate force. Gentleness knows how to use strong words and appropriate pressure to make a point without doing damage. Some of the strongest advice I ever received were from the gentlest of people.
There are other characteristics that we can practice which others will never get tired of seeing in us: faithfulness, self-control, and joy come to mind.
Our attitudes and practices guide what we see. Good practices free us up to see the beauty in this world and see the best in others. Doing so lifts all of us. Never get tired of that.