Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
Dear friends, this post represents who I am and who I strive to be.
My personal mission statement. As I pass another birthday, I’m of a mind to step away from the media hype machine to reflect a bit on what I’ve learned and how I strive to be.
First of all, I am at peace and grateful to God for His forgiveness which frees me from a far-from-perfect a past that included severe depression and an at-times crippling lack of trust in His mercy. I am also grateful for my wife (appropriately named Grace), family, friends and other kind people I have met who have shown me more love and patience than I deserve. They are true reflections od’s love on Earth. I strive to be like them.
Last year, at Grace’s suggestion, I became involved as a volunteer teacher in our parish’s after-school religious education program. I presided over a fifth-grade class and eventually we came to lesson about the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit. As listed by the Catholic Church they are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity (which, I think, could also be termed self-respect).
As I prepared for the class, it occurred to me that these actually were the qualities I want to nurture within myself. And, to relate this to the general subject of this blog, these are the qualities I believe the media would serve society well by helping us all to nurture as individuals, as a nation and throughout the world.
So, I began to think about what the spiritual and practical effects of really are of nurturing those qualities — and discovered that they provide both good list of things I have learned and a road map to the kind of person I want to be. I share them with you here because I am a believer in the power of setting positive goals and stating them. I am also hopeful that through God’s grace what I write may actually be helpful to others. Here goes:
A 12-Step Guide to Wholeness (based on the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit)
When you nurture Charity…your love for your Creator grows as you realize that loving God requires loving others as you love yourself.
When you nurture Joy…you develop the ability to enjoy each day and to maintain happiness in good times and in tough times. You are grateful for what you have.
When you nurture Peace…you gain freedom from fear and have the assurance that your worth comes from God. It is something that no person – no matter what they say or do — can take from you. You have nothing to prove. You know that you do not have to earn God’s love. It is a gift. You understand that you’re not perfect but that, in His infinite mercy, God forgives all your sins. You, in turn, forgive and do not judge others for theirs. Peace gives you the wisdom to turn the other cheek when insulted and not to be drawn into useless conflict. Peace endows you with the freedom to love, get along with others and see the good in all people – including those who are different in appearance, viewpoint or belief. In Peace, you pray to God with confidence and gratitude that He is listening and will provide for all your needs. Peace enables you to maintain emotional balance and resist unbalanced extremism. In Peace, you learn from past mistakes and move forward from them. In Peace, you plan for the future but you do not worry about it. You live in the precious moment.
When you nurture Patience…you avoid rash actions and do not easily give into anger. You persevere even when it feels like God isn’t answering your prayers, realizing that God’s timing may not be your timing – but it always for your good. You also have Patience for others – including those with handicaps or addictions. And you have Patience for yourself as you learn new things and confront your own struggles and stumbles. You know, through God’s grace, you will emerge from your weakness stronger and more compassionate.
When you nurture Kindness…you “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12).
When you nurture Goodness…you fully develop your talents and abilities, enjoying them as a means to help others and to show gratitude for what God has given you.
When you nurture Generosity…you realize that it truly is better to give than to receive. You desire to help others through your material means, your time and your talent. At the same time you do not seek to make others dependent on you. It is good to provide a hungry person a fish but, beyond that, it is better to provide the fishing rod and teach that person how to fish.
When you nurture Gentleness…you avoid hurting others either physically or emotionally. You use words to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Likewise, your humor may be just plain silly or politically pointed (as in toward correcting an injustice) – but it is designed to be healing, not hurtful. You also have the ability to genuinely laugh at yourself.
When you nurture Faithfulness…you honor God by being trustworthy in all you do and in all your relationships. You are reliable.
When you nurture Modesty…you understand that your talents and abilities come from God. You also acknowledge the help you have received from others, including your parents and ancestors. You know that to accomplish great things it is sometimes helpful to give more credit to others than you may think they deserve and take less of the credit for yourself than you may think you deserve. Great leaders are modest. It’s the outcome and not the personal glory that is important. As the great Christian writer C.S. Lewis said “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
When your nurture Self-Control…you resist addictions and doing things that aren’t good for you or others. Character and compassion come from exercising self-control.
When you nurture Chastity…you respect your own body as beautiful, good and a gift from God. You don’t let anyone exploit or abuse you. Likewise, you respect others as you expect them to respect you.
“ACT THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE AND SOON YOU’LL BE THE WAY YOU ACT” — attributed to Leonard Cohen (among others) which I first heard some years ago while taking the Christopher Leadership Course.
My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants–from this time on and forever,” says the LORD. – Isaiah 59:21
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11