Walking humbly

I knew I had to do it- even last night as twilight gave way to darkness. But the frustration was still close to the surface. The feelings. And I found a myriad of reasons to explain my behavior, to ease the sting of my wrong done. Somehow, peace just would not come and so it was, I found myself wrapping my arms around her this morning, hugging her tight. I apologized then- for the way I handled my frustration last night. For what I did unkindly, in the heat of a moment. I asked her for forgiveness. And she offered it, freely. The ones we love the most are the ones we hurt the most frequently. And sometimes we forget that in offering those two little words ‘I’m sorry’ backed by heartfelt meaning we find the perfect way- the only peace-filled way in which to live, love and practice the art of forgiveness (that ancient art of letting go and loving wholly).

Forgiveness is a well-worn path leading to love.

Recently, I was ‘somewhere’ with our family. I am going to try to keep this vague so as to protect anonymity. Namely mine. I happened to be walking away from the washroom when I came across a person from my past whom I have not been able to speak to nor face up to for years due to a history of hurt between that person and my immediate family. There is a history here that goes back far with turbulent waters that run deep. There have been wrongs done, words spoken, vengeance taken. On both sides of the fence, perhaps- depending on whom you talk to. And over the years, I have believed that I had released the burden of offense that this person (and the persons who stand with them) had brought me. But yet, I still lived in fear of facing this person. What would I say? What would that person do? How would I react? What if I started to crack up under the pressure?

The binding of this offense from years ago still has a choke-hold on me.

It is not that this person makes me feel angry. It is fear mostly that I feel. Fear of the unknown, fear of what could happen, fear of humiliation. Fear of facing this person. I am reminded of that verse which states that perfect love casts out fear. To be exact, the words of this verse say this: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The man (or woman) who fears is not made perfect in love” (I John 4: 18, NIV) I wonder- what if I practiced loving this person instead of channeling my energy into fearing them. What might transpire were that to happen?

I can tout myself as being a loving person but if I cannot love my enemies, the love I offer is shallow. Who wouldn’t find it easy to love those who treat us well, those who build us up, edify our character? It is easy to love when love feels good. So much harder to love when the price is our pride, our image. We shouldn’t love solely when it is easy- we must love when it is hard. For in loving, we are free. But this is hard work- it require discipline.

I have found in recent years a yearning in my soul to exemplify love in my life. This love is not my own- it is God’s love channelled through me. It is supernatural love of a divine nature. And because I feel the power and presence of love in my life, I am free to love others in the very same ways I too experience love. Unconditionally, liberally, wholly.

In thinking about the offence I have felt over the years, one of which I make mention of above, I am humbly reminded of the offences at times that I have caused. At times, unknowingly and at other times, purposefully. If I am in any way offended by those who have hurt me, how much more then are those whom I have hurt injured by my offence to them? In being human, we are prone to hurt one another by our very nature- one does not have to look far in the news to find evidence of this. We are a hurting people. We live in pain. The freedom from which comes through forgiveness.

I wonder how much of our pain would be eased if we could only take the initiative to bear the weight of any offence committed against us through arms of love. What a humbling exercise- accepting responsibility to start the reconciliation process even when we haven’t been the one who wronged. This is not to say we must accept responsibility for wrongs done which we have not committed- it is just to say that in love and through grace, we can make the first move. This is biblical principle. For we see through scriptures over and over again that love is the antidote to the pain which breeds fear. Not that love can eradicate pain- but it can help us cope with our response to pain. True, there will always be those in our lives that inflict on us the brutality of injustice- but it is the reaction to such that determines the load we end up carrying. My response to the offender is what determines the pain I carry in my shoulders, in my body. In my heart. The release is found in forgiveness.

We must let go and in love move forward.

Recently, a very special woman shared with me her decision to go to someone who had deeply hurt her and how she found grace to offer a hand in love to this person. Just today, I read of a woman whose former husband murdered her three baby boys before turning the gun on himself. And yet, this hurting woman found strength in time to forgive this man, thus releasing her own burden of despair. I think of a man in our own community who offered forgiveness to another during his own family’s darkest hour. And in my own life, I have found the greatest peace has come through laying down my own agenda and rights so as to walk in peace with another human being. So as to walk in peace with my God. I am daily reminded through these and other stories- that it is in releasing our fear, our pain and choosing love in spite of the tremendous odds that we find supernatural strength to forgive.

It is there in the peaceful still that we find quiet, humble grace.

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On being authentic…and why it matters

Authenticity. It is a remarkable characteristic. And when that authenticity is combined with humility and grace, the possibility for greatness is within reach. And what of greatness? Is it defined by how high the reach or how far the circle of influence? How much one is lauded? And how often?
Often, the student becomes the teacher. And in this way, the student leads the way to greatness. Leads the way to greatness because of their authenticity. Because of their grace and humility. Through their strength of character. And although the scope of influence might be very small- it is influential nevertheless.
When I am duty teacher, I often experience my greatest teachable moments as an educator. I get to see students as their authentic selves. I see them at their very best. And although at times, I see them behaviorally at their worst, those times are few and far between. Usually there is a story behind the difficult behaviors: one that helps to explain why things are as they are. In all, interacting with students during their free time has been for me one of the most rewarding experiences of my career as a teacher. There are times when I have taken groups of students aside so as to facilitate them in solving their own personality disputes. Watching these students talk through their own problems has been a teachable moment for me, proof that students are their own best teachers. At other times, I have had the pleasure of watching students work cooperatively in a game or physical activity. At times, I have walked with students having difficulty connecting in play with other students. In finding these students their special niche, it has been rewarding seeing those same students who once ended up getting in trouble turn things around so that they were able to assist me in caring for students’ needs and requests.
Recently, I was involved in a duty incident in which I had to settle a dispute between two students. And do so quickly. Tensions were rising, along with voices and blood pressure. Mine primarily, as I knew if I was unable to cool things down quickly, there would be some serious concerns on my hand. As I quietly lowered my voice and tried to separate the students involved, I realized that one of the students had lost something which he wrongly was accusing another student of taking. As I had not been there when the incident in question went down, I was grasping at straws to figure out how to help these two students solve their issue. In the meanwhile, I petitioned the rest of the class to help me in finding the lost item, hoping to buy myself some time.
As I was rounding up my search and rescue effort, one young girl approached the boy who had been crying initially- the one who believed his desired item had been stolen. And completely unprovoked by me or any other prompting, she quietly said this to the boy:
“You can have mine. I have one of those (item that he was looking for) too. You can have mine.”
Her response was authentic. There was no glory for her in doing this, as no one could hear her over the din of the class, save for him or me. Furthermore, her response had been gracious. She was willing to forgo keeping an item if it meant one of her peers would be in distress. And her response was done in humility. She could have kept the item for herself- what it was, that particular item, was in hot demand. It was something everyone else in the class had been given as a token for Valentine’s Day, and each one of the children in the class had been enjoying that particular item during indoor recess. But this one little girl decided that it was not about her- it was about the greater good. It was about making someone elses’ day a little brighter. And she chose to place her own wants and desires on the back burner for the good of the other. She chose to be authentically graceful and humble.
And when I think back to this incident, as I have several times this weekend, I find myself believing that this child has much to teach me. For she has begun her journey toward greatness. She is well on her way. And too, when I think of whom I admire most in my own circles of influence, it has been the people with the most authenticity. For they are authentic in the ways in which they interact with others as well as they have been consistent in their own character. These people I admire most, they are gracious. Humble. Compassionate. And they have been my greatest life teachers.
And isn’t it interesting how many times, those people who’ve influenced me the very most have been children. We as adults would do well to listen closely to the teachers placed in our lives to keep us humble and authentic: our children. They have much to teach us about life and humanity. And we have much to learn.

Humble Pie…

Humble pie always is the hardest to swallow.  But before I get to that, let’s start with this.

Wednesday’s incident.   I was still trying to get over that.   Wednesday.  Our busiest day of the week, hands down.  We have umpteen dozen things to do between dawn and dusk, and that’s just the day job.  Then comes Synchro, CanSkate, cheer practice and piano lessons.  And that’s just the extra-curricular.  I won’t bore you with the mundane of supper, homework, piano practice, yada, yada.

But who’s keeping track, right?

So, back to Wednesday.  While all the above was in full swing, I was just returning from a colleague’s father’s wake and then from a visit to my Aunt and Uncle -in-laws, where I had put in a request for a professional reference (because I am not busy enough and have decided to do my Master’s this summer.)   And I was continuing along my way through the heated section of the rink- the place where the cold-blooded parents like myself have to go sit to watch their children trip/stumble/glide around the ice.   And I was heading toward the seat beside Husband.   Who was nodding off in his chair.

And that’s when I noticed her.

Our daughter.  Who had been sent to the rink in snow pants.  With the full expectation that Husband would thoroughly gear her up, after having gone through the over-sized Mark’s Work Wear House bag full of skating tights, dresses, legwarmers and the like.  Which I had risked being late for work to pack.  And the expectation was that he would fully dress her for her Can Skate session.  Because that is what I would do, and goodness knows.  I do it right every time!!  And then some.

But I digress.

In fact, it was what she was NOT wearing that caught my attention.  What she was not wearing as she travelled full-throttle across the ice from station to station was a skating dress.  Instead, she was wearing nothing from the waist down, unless you count a skimpy little pair of nude tights as something.  Because I am afraid that some people might have been left with the impression, particularly those who might be near-sighted, that she was indeed wearing.  Nothing.  Nada.  As nude tights can be very deceiving.  Especially on a five-year old.

And what was Husband doing on his watch?  Mm, hmmm.  Dozing off.

“I thought she looked a little different,” his comment to me, as I choked on my spearmint gum.

So fast forward to today.  Friday.   I am heading to the grocery store after having dropped off the three girls at a birthday party, for which we are an hour late.  And this, because a Certain Someone may or may not have taken down the wrong details concerning when the party started.  I am feeling heat rising again along my neck, travelling up to my ears.   From whence steam is spurting out through my ears.  Because I am so self-rightous.   And I would never forget to remember the time a birthday party starts.

And for certain.  This look is entirely not becoming to me.  At all.

But I manage to pull myself together and pay for the groceries.  And then on a lark, I remember that I have misplaced my debit card.  So, I casually mention to the cashier that although I CAN pay for my groceries, “would you please check and see if I might have, possibly, left my debit card here?” (#whatarethechances)  And while they are looking, I also casually mention to anyone in earshot that I have a problem with holding onto plastic cards.  So when the kind lady comes out of the office, after having searched high and low for my card, and she says, “Sorry, no card,”…I all but forget my angst from moments before and sadly turn to leave the store.

Yup, forgetting to retrieve my VISA card.

And that is the moment that the three onlookers, two teenage cashiers and one supervisor look at the debit machine.  Where my VISA still protrudes, in lonely isolation.  And then they all three turn back to look at me and say this:

“Well. Are you going to take your VISA with you?”

You know that moment?  The one where you feel like an idiot?  Because you’ve just about lost your VISA, along with your debit card?   That moment when you remember that EVERYONE makes mistakes?  Husbands (who forget skating dresses and birthday party details).  Wives (who lose their plastic cards).  Children (who have meltdowns). Friends.   People in general, really.   And that we all need grace.  And more grace to top off the latter.

And in a very personal way, I remember this:  that my pride always precedes my fall.  And finally this: Humble pie always is the hardest to swallow.

On humility…

On humility.  Are we ever truly as humble as we portray ourselves to be?  Even when we say, “humbly speaking…” or “with the greatest of humility” or the more coarse, “I don’t mean to brag…,” can we ever be that which we say we are: humble?  I am really struck on this because I study those whom I believe to be successful, and some of them claim humility.  But I wonder, can one be successful and remain humble?

To be in the spotlight, to be under the scrutiny of many, to know that you have ‘arrived’ and have been found successful, it must be a dreadful hard place to be.  Because the temptation would be to give in to the pressure and believe that you are truly as wonderful as everyone else says you are. Or worse, as wonderful as you might also think yourself to be.  And thus, think that you have invented the wheel.  That your words are worth repeating.  That your very presence has honored the world.  That you are a wee bit better than the rest of us.

Is anyone ever that worthy?

I read blogs of writers far more eloquent than I.  One writer I read is tremendously gifted with poetic prose and descriptive voice.  It is a delight to read her essays.  But I am often put off when she makes reference, often, to how many weeks she has been on the bestseller list for the New York Times.  Is that really necessary? Particularly when it is all about, in her words, grace and humility and gratitude?

I think it should be very hard to be in her shoes.  And that is why I suppose, I cannot judge. For I have not walked a mile in her footsteps.

Humility is to me, the naivety of knowing how extraordinary you are and yet, believing it does not matter.  For, those who are truly humble see in others greatness.  And likewise, see in themselves, weakness.  Weakness not borne of inability, but of imperfection.  For, we know that we are strong when we are able to pull back the curtains and reveal our inadequacies.

And humility does not kiss and tell.

However, one does not need to be an overwhelming success story so as to be humble.  The best example of humility I have known was my that of my grandfather.  Grampie MacLean was neither successful by public standards or great according to his own measure of personal achievements.  He was average in many ways.  What stands out about my grandfather was his humility.  He was a great dad and grampie.  He was a wonderful carpenter and mechanic.  He was a great listener, a modest gardener and a patient friend.  He was calm and quiet, and he never once raised his voice.  Above all, he never gave himself any accolades.  And yet.  He was an expert at humility.  He might not have even known.

Those who are great by human standards could learn a thing or two from my grampie.  And they need to be careful that they do not call themselves a name that is not their own.  Humility is a label that must be earned through quiet perseverance.  And in general, if you tell people you are humble, nine times out of ten, you are probably not.  Humility is not modesty.  It is understatement and grace.