I have always been analytical – some would say too much so – and have been accused many times of being “too sensitive” (usually by people who are too self-centered to even consider the feelings of others). As a teen and young adult, I was shy and lacking in confidence and I often took the words and actions of others too personally. Even though I am analytical by nature it was still many years before I understood that it is just as self-centered to feel shy and inferior as it is to think you’re superior to everyone – both attitudes are nothing but your ego taking control of your thoughts. On either end of the spectrum you think everything is about YOU! You think everyone is focused on you all the time – whether it’s because you think you’re wonderful or because you think you are worthless. News flash! You are not the center of the universe! Time to refocus.
Real maturity occurs when you are comfortable enough with yourself to be able to focus your attention outward instead of being totally self-absorbed. Thank God I have lived long enough to reach maturity! I know now that you can’t learn to hear the opinions of others with tolerance if your response is always a bruised ego or hurt feelings. You won’t be able to graciously accept compliments and kindnesses if you are buried in a belief that you are inferior. You will not be able to understand the difference between serving others with love and being a doormat. You will not know real friendship and true love if you accept bad behavior from others simply because you don’t believe you deserve better. I admire anyone who figures all this out at an early age because it took me at least 40 years – and I’m still working on it. That’s OK. I don’t ever want to think I’m perfect and that I have nothing new to learn.
I’m still learning about love – not “romantic” love but love as a powerful force of good. I believe there is evil in the world but I believe that love is stronger and that we need to spread it any way we can. That’s what Christmas is really about – bringing the light of God (love) into the darkness. I’m learning that to “love your neighbor as yourself” doesn’t mean we actually have to love everyone we meet, it just means that we should treat others with the same kindness, tolerance and compassion that we offer ourselves – assuming we are indeed offering those gifts to ourselves (see what I did there?). Now I look at people who are mean-spirited and angry and I understand that they are just projecting how they feel about themselves. Instead of being offended I’m learning to feel compassion for people who are so unhappy. People still annoy me – mostly because of rudeness and ignorance – but the important thing is that I try not to respond in kind. It’s part of moving the focus off myself and onto a force much bigger than me.
I recently saw “St. Vincent” – a quiet little character-driven movie featuring Bill Murray – and I highly recommend it. It is an inspirational story about the power of love – all kinds of love.
If you are all wrapped up in yourself, you are overdressed. ~Kate Halverson
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