There’s a difference between comparison for the sake of rivalry and comparison for the sake of proximity. When it comes to material items, either is a futile pursuit. When it comes to personal growth, it becomes more about awareness of one’s surroundings. The company we keep tells us a great deal about who we are, where we are and where we’ll be.
Conversations can replenish our emotional buckets. But the same conversations and the same stories told ad nauseam point towards stagnation.
I heard a saying the other day, “When it comes to pebbles in a shoe, the only correct number is zero.” Any one relationship can become a pebble in our shoe over time, and although it may not be inherently unhealthy, it can get uncomfortable and bothersome. Too many of these types of relationships and your pebble-filled shoe makes taking another step unbearable.
Sometimes we need to remove our shoes and shake the pebbles out. Other times, that’s not an option because the relationships may be with people we can’t avoid or cut out of our lives (co-workers, family members, etc.). In those instances, we can do our best to remove our metaphorical shoes before entering into their space. Therefore, the discomfort only lasts as long as the interaction, and we walk away with the only correct number of pebbles in our shoes.
Sleep is not an escape for being idle. Sleep is restorative. Sleep feels good when we’re sleeping off a productive day. If hard work doesn’t precede sleep, there’s little need for rest. Idleness requires a jolt – not a nap. Our bodies thank us for a good night’s sleep after a hard worked day, and jolt our minds into knowing that good feeling, creating habits of desire for doing good work. Conversely, our minds will tell our bodies to stay mindlessly idle, burning fuel while going nowhere, when it senses we habitually use our time poorly.
We cannot cast blame on anyone else if we find ourselves tripping over stones we’ve once thrown. Though they may skip and bounce before coming to complete stop, we kept a close eye on them, so we know where we will find them. This also means we will know how to avoid them, step over them, or pick them up.
Soldiers are trained for war – for active duty. They train to be put into the worst situations and do so selflessly in order to protect. Statistically, total strangers and ideas make up more than 99% for whom they are fighting. Such a small percentage is for their own families, friends and loved ones – the people they actually know personally. That’s heroic! In society, we are often fighting for ourselves and do so without much heroism. We are fighting to get more – more money, more status, more power, more material things. Yes, we do so to provide for those we know and love. However, we are constantly at war with this idea of what it means to be successful.
Such internal struggles blind us to the idea that we are really searching for peace. The peace of piece of mind. We fight so we can “relax” and “enjoy” life, but we rarely do so. We often rest only to regain the energy we need to fight another day. Life is complicated. Life is a struggle. But choosing war and wanting war for the sake of thinking it’s the only way to gain piece of mind is perhaps missing the mark of what it means to find peace. Peace is not achieved through war. War is the reaction to a reality without peace. There’s wisdom in choosing to not engage in warfare for the sake of validating an inability to be at peace. In these moments, may we learn to first question the core of our unrest.
Life is not lived on a Pass/Fail grading scale. However, many of us feel the need to end each day with such extreme weighted grades. The day was either success or failure. That’s absolute thinking and life is far more relative than absolute. That’s why the grading scale goes from A+ all the way down to F. Both success and failure have wiggle room. We also don’t often allow ourselves the luxury of marking periods; a duration of time to reflect back on a periods in our lives to gather up enough data to make informed decisions about how we are doing. Moreover, we often overlook the beauty of getting a C.
The slogan “Life is Good” really means to appreciate the notion that balance is what we need. Life’s grading scale: C is good, B is better, A is best, A+ is stellar, D is not great, E is worse, F is rock bottom. In reality, are our days either “stellar” or “rock bottom?” Likely not, yet we likely know people who devote their energy to such extremes. How draining it must be to live only knowing extreme highs and lows. There’s no balance. Life teeters! Teetering gives us perspective to know the difference between what we want to push ourselves towards, and what we want to move away from. That’s balance! When life is good, we have the energy to push for excellence. Energy comes from knowing the value of balance.
What do we have to do today? Live and be where we are. That’s it! Everything else we experience is put upon us by our expectations and desires for outcomes to situations we cannot control. That informs how we feel about what’s happening. As we know, when how we feel is at the mercy of either what’s happened or what happens next, that doesn’t bode well for feeling good.
To be means to exist. It doesn’t mean thinking about how or why we exist. There is no suffering to existence, because there is no feeling. To feel is to be aware of our existence. Suffering comes from our devotion to how we feel about what’s already happened or fearing the worst about what hasn’t happened yet.
Anger is neither armor nor umbrella. If it were, it would be armor made of bubble wrap or an umbrella made of sponge. Ineffective. Anger can only be used effectively as a weapon against us. But that too is ineffective if we already know that using anger to combat anger is fruitless. Self-control is impenetrable. Our self-control may anger others, but that’s outside our sphere of influence and not worth our time.
Perhaps means “to express uncertainty or possibility.” What’s interesting here is that uncertainty is defined as something “unpredictable, unreliable, precarious or risky,” while possibility is defined as something “that may happen, the fact of being possible or likely.” There’s contradiction in the definition; one that creates balance. A balance that can only be achieved by questioning and reflecting on multiple potential outcomes. It’s a word that’s both optimist and pessimist, and somehow also neither. It’s a fulcrum. A fulcrum offers support to separate the work from the effort. Perhaps that’s a good metaphor for the purpose of self-reflection. Perhaps self-reflection offers clarity to our purpose.
There will always be more that we don’t know than what we do know. Furthermore, of all the things we do know, can we say with confidence that we know them all equally to their deepest level of understanding? Probably not! So why then do we allow ourselves to feel overwhelmed and stressed about what we don’t know or aren’t good at? Learning something new is always the surface of its worth. Whatever it is has value that is up to us to determine by how much time and effort we choose to dig into understanding it. That is knowledge. All else is a good memory disguised as knowledge.
Tolerance is defined as “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. Belief is not truth. It’s accepting that something may exist or be true without knowing for certain. It’s interesting how when we exclaim to be tolerant, we often overlook the part of the definition that’s most important – “the existence of opinions (beliefs) that one does not necessarily agree with.” When we won’t tolerate the beliefs of others because they differ from what we believe, we are not being tolerant, we are holding ignorance close to us to shield our beliefs.
Opinions seem to carry lesser weight than beliefs, however, consider the following statements: “It’s my opinion that 2+2=4.” and “I believe that 2+2=4.” The truth is that 2+2=4, and math neither cares about our opinions nor beliefs. It simply just “is.” So the next time we find ourselves in a situation where we tell someone we won’t tolerate their behavior or opinions because we disagree, consider how quickly we would “tolerate” them if they simply just happen to agree with our own beliefs and opinions? Do we really tolerate what we already align with?
How deep is our investigation into others that we feel we align with? What do we make up about others to justify our acceptance, and falsely fill in all the blanks we don’t know based on surface knowledge? “I don’t know this person…but, they are wearing a jersey of my favorite team, they are wearing the shirt of my favorite band, they attend the same place of worship that I do, they work in the same office that I do, their child goes to the same school as my child, they vote the way I do, they take their coffee the same way I do…therefore, they must be a decent human. Why would we tolerate that level of thinking when we are capable of compassionate inquiry? When we have the capacity to seek to understand what we don’t know for sure.