All our lives, we learn things. From the moment we emerge from our mothers' wombs, we learn that crying will get us milk. In childhood, we learn from our parents and extended family members. In school, we learn from our teachers and classmates. The education goes on into adulthood.
This process of learning never stops until we are laid to rest. Some of us lead lives of frantic searching for happiness, wealth, power, or peace. Others decide to just coast along, wandering aimlessly, not knowing what to do with their lives. If at all these individuals care to ponder on it, they are leading a life of boredom.
Last Christmas Eve, while flipping through TV channels, we chanced upon a late night talk show. The speaker revealed that to make our life's learning simpler, we just need to master four lessons. These are:
n We need to accept our faults and limitations. People who refuse to perceive and acknowledge their shortcomings come up with a lot of defenses and excuses for their unacceptable behaviors. When we are aware of our errors, we do not have to erect defenses. We can search for ways to mend or change ourselves into better persons.
n We need to feel sincere remorse for something wrong we have done. To be truly sorry for our sins and not just pay lip service or pretend to be contrite, we set the stage for repentance, desire to amend things, and the resolve to do what is right. Many people today commit a wrongful act, and try to undo the heinous act by doing oftentimes publicized charitable acts. Little do they know that they are still held accountable for the dastardly offense they committed?
n We must learn to be gentle. This means compassion for ourselves and for others. Let us recall the story about the sun, the wind, and the man with the coat. The sun and the wind had an argument as to who was stronger between them. They saw a man with a coat walking down the road. The sun and the wind agreed that whoever gets the man to take off his coat is the winner of the contest. The wind then started to blow as hard as he could. He tried to blow the coat off the man. The harder he blew, the more tenaciously the man hang on to his coat. No matter how intensely the wind blew, he could not remove the man's coat.
Then the sun's turn came. The sun came out from the clouds and shone brightly. When it got really warm, the man removed his coat. Clearly, this story illustrates the power of gentle persuasion over brute force.
We need to be gentle with ourselves first, before we can be gentle with others. I have realized that the more uptight an individual, the more judgmental and rigid he/she is of everyone, including himself/herself. To forgive others, we need to forgive our very own mistakes and failures first.
n We must learn to let go of our burdens. This is the principle behind the saying, "Let God. Let go." When we become overwhelmed with life's pressures and tribulations, the only way to go is to lay our cards on the table and let God deal with them. In doing so, we let God carry our burdens and we know that He will always help us one way or the other.
Finally, let me introduce a fifth lesson we must learn to put into practice. This is reconciliation. In our lifetime, many people will not agree with us, will not do as we think they ought to do, or are simply "different" from us.
Many of us may not agree with this, but we involuntarily file these people in a folder labeled, "enemy." Many times we try to avoid them, make fun of them, or just simply try to pretend that they don't exist.
If they are family, we try to tolerate them. If they are no blood relation, then we can conduct our business of living without the irritation of their presence. In other words, we simply learn to "forget" them.
Unfortunately, life is not this way. We were all created for a purpose, and our lives are carefully intertwined with that obnoxious driver, that solicitous waiter, or that sneaky cousin who always tries to put you down during family reunions. The one thing that distinguishes God's children from others is their capacity to love, even those who annoy them. This kind of love is unthinkable when viewed from the emotional aspect. However, to exercise Christian love, one must pray for the hated person. Our feelings don't get any credit for this act. It is only our love of God that enables us to accomplish the impossible, that of praying for our enemies. I wish everyone a very happy New Year.
Lesson of the Day: Try to live each day as if it were your last. That way, you will not regret the way you spent it, and you are well assured you will get to meet your Maker.