Sunday, 10 January 2016

Advice You Didn't Ask For

Each day on Facebook I see these posts offering guidance for living, memes talking about how to be serene, how to be happy, how to live a good life. There are longer posts with the 10 or 20 things you need to do to achieve success in life, or to be the best you can be. Advice is so easy to give. Saying something profound is not as difficult as it appears. So I don't give advice very often, especially not in my blog. Yet today I will break that rule and offer a few thoughts garnered across 60 years of life, thoughts and things that keep me going, in spite of it all.

When one of my brothers was going through a divorce, my Dad said to him, "You're gonna do shit. Forget about it." While I don't necessarily agree with my Dad in full, there is a kernel of wisdom in that statement. The past is the past, whether it is yesterday, last week, or a decade ago. Learn from the past, but leave it behind. Don't let the shame or guilt from what you did in the past ruin the life you have today. You were there. Take what you learned from being there and be a better person here.

Stop punishing yourself. Forgiveness is in your own hands. All to often I have berated myself mercilessly for my mistakes, for my errors in judgement and deed. I have felt shame long after, where no shame was needed. If a sin calls for atonement, then atone by all means. After that, forgive yourself. Put it down and move on. Do your best to leave the baggage behind and take the lesson forward. The first step is self-forgiveness. Remember, the world will value you only as you value yourself.

Look inward and learn about your spirit, your soul. For many people this means going to church, seeking God in traditional ways. For others it means meditation and self-awareness. For me, my greatest sense of spirituality came from being out in nature, on the sea, in the forest. It was there, far from the noise of daily life, where I could contemplate my relationship with myself, with the world around me, with that spirit which transcends my corporeal form.

Seek help. As the author John Donne said "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main...". In today's rapid fire, interconnected, always on world, it is increasingly difficult to make and maintain those human connections. I cannot stand alone. Whether the help I seek is physical, spiritual, or psychological, I must reach out and ask for it. Whether that help is from those I love, from a spiritual guide, or from a trained therapist, I must seek out that aid and let it uplift my life each day.

Make amends. The French word for "fine", such as a highway traffic fine, is "amende"; you pay for your misdeed. It goes much further than that in life. If you have wronged someone, do what you can to make it right. As my friend John Oddy use to say to his children, "Don't say 'sorry'. Do sorry." If it is so badly broken that you cannot make amends, then seek forgiveness, forgive yourself, be sorrowful in spirit, seek help.

There are so many more mundane, trite things I could offer. I will not. My treatise is simple. Forgive, but don't forget; you can leave the past behind but it is still a part of your life. Stop punishing yourself; there's always someone out there willing to pile it on. Develop your spirit and soul; in the end it's all your really have. Don't try to do it all alone; there are people out there who can help you, no matter what your situation. Where you have harmed others, ask them to forgive you just as you forgive yourself; love starts with forgiveness.

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