Here’s a great excerpt from Eileen Flanagan’s book
“The Wisdom to Know the Difference,” now available in paperback!

Learning to live with trust does not happen overnight, just as the spiritual practices in this book are not necessarily learned in a neat progression: recognize your conditioning, know yourself, then listen for divine guidance and change your attitude. Instead they are points around a spiral. Each practice makes the others easier. Accepting yourself makes it easier to accept others. Accepting others makes it more likely you will bring out the best in them, which helps to build a strong community. Community, in turn, can help you listen to God and know yourself. Sometimes it may feel like you are going in circles, until you realize that you are a little wiser than the last time around.

Accepting life’s flat tires seems to be easier for people who have accepted themselves. If you know who you are, what you are capable of, and what you are called to do, you are much less likely to waste your time and energy sweating the small stuff or even the big stuff you cannot change. You are less likely to project your uncomfortable feelings onto other people, instead of facing your feelings and learning what they have to teach you. You are less likely to waste time trying to change other people and more likely to influence them with a positive example.

Quoted with permission, from The Wisdom to Know the Difference (c) 2009 Eileen Flanagan, published by Tarcher/Penguin.

Knowing yourself …also helps you to know God and to trust that you live and work within a larger plan that you are not always able to see. A friend of mine uses the phrase, “Lord, your ocean is so wide, and my boat is so small.” She observes, “I’ve got to be in my boat, and I’ve got to keep paddling. But it’s in this infinite ocean. I would just be ludicrous to think I knew fully and completely where I was going.”

It’s helpful to remember that Reinhold Niebuhr’s version of the Serenity Prayer asks first for “grace.” Such humility is a step toward serenity, accepting that even when we’re paddling as hard as we can, we can’t control the ocean. We can only control our own paddle. Likewise, a step toward courage is recognizing that our own paddle matters. After all, thousands of Katrina victims were rescued from their rooftops by people in rowboats, many of them ordinary citizens who just started rowing. Their willingness to brave the waters certainly made a difference.

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