Walking our Faith: Writing goals and taking action
Walking our Faith
I’m one of those people who write out their goals every day as if they have already come to pass, which means I write things like, “I have achieved my goal weight” or “I am a New York Times bestselling author.” By writing in the present tense, it makes it real and attainable in my mind.
Another goal I write each day is, “I am kind, reliable and generous.” I’ve improved with age, and I’d much rather you meet the person I am now than the person I was 20 years ago, when the universe revolved around me and my immediate needs.
To be honest, the first time I wrote that goal, I wondered why I had. I consider myself a pretty nice person nowadays. But upon honest reflection, I’ve learned that this is not always the case. So the writing of this goal is a reminder that I must work daily toward being kind, generous and reliable.
Moment by moment, what does it mean to live with this intention? One of my shortcomings is a bad habit of being late by 10-15 minutes, which is the opposite of being reliable.
This is not laziness. In fact, most late birds will tell you they are late because they are so busy! But being late implies that my time is more valuable than someone else’s, and since we are all on this earth sharing the same finite minutes and hours, I don’t think that’s fair.
And maybe that’s where reliability comes in as I hurry through my days, single minded in my focus. Which means I very often overlook those around me who could use an extra minute or two to understand what I’m trying to say or who really need me to stop and listen. Being reliable means keeping commitments, meaning what we say, doing what we promise.
Perhaps that is where being generous comes in. One’s first assumption might be that generosity means to give lavishly with one’s money, but I don’t think it’s really about money at all.
Of course, charities need financial support, but being generous can mean being generous with our time, our talents and, most of all, our compassion. A willingness to give of ourselves to someone who needs a simple hand. Being generous with our patience, and understanding that we are all doing our best.
And that leaves me with the desire to be kind. Too often when I lose my patience, my first instinct is to become judgemental, to assume the worst rather than the best.
I will sheepishly admit that I once had to go to Confession two weeks in a row to discuss with Father Emmanuel my sin of unfairly judging others. With his characteristic compassion, Father Emmanuel suggested that whenever I feel tempted to judge someone, I instead look for something good in that person.
It sounds simple, as most wisdom does, but it’s worked. As a result, I find I’m not only less judgmental, I’m happier. As I look for the good in others, I present a kinder face to the world which is returned to me.
Perhaps the most quoted Bible verse at every wedding is, in my estimation, the most misunderstood:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
When two people are in love, we admire the strong emotion which binds them together. But perhaps we can see love in a new way.
Like my daily goal of being reliable, kind and generous, we might understand love not only as an emotion but a daily practice of action. Something that is never completed but renewed each day imperfectly.
I’m not qualified to give advice on marriage because I’ve never been married. But I do know how imperfectly I have loved and been loved. And sometimes I even remember that I must see love in myself to recognize love in others. Some days I am successful, and most days I fail, but more days than not, I discover love is an abiding consideration, an accumulation of small acts of kindness. And so I wake up the next morning and try again.
To hear, “I love you,” warms my heart. But to experience love when you share your muffin and coffee on a snowy morning, is at least as nice.
Here’s what I’ve learned this week: Writing goals each day is a wonderful discipline to focus my priorities. But words, even written daily, will not change anything. It is necessary that I put my words into action each day. Slow by slow, I am becoming a better person.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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