Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Do Good Unto Others...AND Yourself

I read an article yesterday by Maurine Proctor of Meridian Magazine. It's entitled The Lord Is Not the Accuser, and I think it is well worth reading.

I've always been a big proponent of people (including me) being gentle with themselves, so this article might not have spoken so loudly to me in the past. As I grow older, however, and as my capacity to "be all things to all people" (or at least, try to be) wanes, I find my inner critic speaking a little more loudly and being a lot more difficult to banish once it gains my ear.

Those who know me well would probably find this a surprising development, as I do. I can't tell you how many times I've given lessons to young people, reminding them with no small amount of conviction that when a voice in their heads tells them they need to do more "good things" in a way that leaves them feeling so discouraged they can only imagine themselves doing nothing at all (or, worse yet, "bad things"), they are listening to the wrong voice. Frankly, I've always been remarkably good at shunning that unhelpful, discouraging voice in favor of loving myself up a bit, being my own cheerleader, and continuing the climb that is and always will be life. Onward and upward, right? Fall seven times; stand up eight. If you can believe it, you can achieve it.

And yet, I feel vulnerable as the years advance, perhaps because I am increasingly aware of my own frailties. Or maybe they are multiplying (physically, for certain...and in other ways, too).

The thing is, I'm more prickly than I used to be. More picky, as well. I often feel like I've traded down for someone else's body, like we made an exchange that seemed reasonable at the time but left me holding the short end of the stick. I can't help but miss the days when I had more pride of ownership about my body, mind, and spirit...when personal growth felt more like solidifying gains than shoring up losses. I liked feeling entirely vigorous and capable and up to any task. Some days, I could have sworn I was invincible. These days, I'm about as "vincible" as they come.

Of course, these are just the normal effects and feelings of getting older, but since that is exactly what I'm doing, I enjoyed Maurine's timely reminder that whatever the Lord has to say to me will be said in an encouraging tone of voice, and that whatever else I hear is not worthy of my attention.

It has even occurred to me (tuning "in" to the Lord's voice and "out" to that other), that my body, mind and spirit are actually improved as I grow older, and that the deficiencies, difficulties, and differences I now perceive as age-related were always there for the finding and (gentle) improving. My kinder self reminds me that what age really does is allow people to see through life's glass less darkly*...which exposes both the flaws and the beauties inherent in each one of us more clearly.

So go home, critic on my shoulder. I'm already working on those flaws. Today I am looking at the beauty...which begets beauty. And so on.

* "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known" (1 Cor. 13:12).


Laraine Eddington said...

What beautiful sentiments. Now I'm going to read that article.

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

It's so funny that you wrote this today because I had a moment yesterday where this really applied to me. Then this "down on myself moment" was followed by a grace-filled moment where my daughter did something so utterly precious it brought me to tears and reminded me that every single stretch mark and ugly varicose vein is SO worth it.
Anyway, I would like to read this article. Thanks for this. :)

Jess said...

You're not getting older Sue, just wiser. and the critic in my head is a Jewish Mother, who makes me feel guilty for not doing everything for everyone or being everything for everyone. I'm glad you kicked your critic out. I've served my Jewish Mother her eviction notice too- she just ignores it a lot!

Momza said...

Oh how we all need a daily reminder to be gentle with ourselves.
I was at the home of the couple whose birth I just attended on Saturday night. They are both worn out as new parents all are the first new days a baby is born.
One thing I told them was to be gentle on themselves and each other as they go thru this new adjustment.
Be Gentle. The Lord doesn't condemn us, His plan is to Lift us. Sometimes we forget that.
Thanks for the reminder, Sue.

Lourie said...

Excellent post, Sue! I need to tell my mean little critic to go home too!

Darlene said...

I know that I need to be less critical of myself and I think that I have improved in that respect as I have gotten older. Good thing too, because it tends to let me be much more relaxed about most things.

Thanks for bringing the article to my attention. It was very interesting and insightful.

Lisalulu said...

wow don't know what to say except I'm still having my pitty own party and not quite able to have the energy to leave...the party!

yaya said...

Are you reading my thoughts??? Thanks for a great post!

Jackie said...

I've been hard on myself as I get older too, but I'm blaming on the hormones.

Thanks Sue. Love ya!

karen said...

This was perfect. I'm having a rough day/week. Many reasons. It's easy to fall back on blaming myself, but lately I've been able to realize that I don't have that much power. Other people make bad choices too. It's not all on me. It still doesn't make things happier, but it helps me stand a little taller.

Cherie said...

I think I have found that I am less critical of myself as I grow older. I used to be the supermom, do everything for everyone, take care of the ward, take care of everyone's kids, etc...kind of person. But I finally learned that I was shorting myself and I cannot do it all. It didn't feel good. I not only had to let others grow but I had to take it easy on myself.
It's hard getting older - we really do need to be gentle as we make adjustments.
I loved this. I am going to read that article.
P.S. I got my package today!! Love it!! Thank you so much :-D

Cheryl said...

Remarkably voiced. I couldn't agree more.

My name is PJ. said...

I was uplifted by this post Sue. Beauty does beget beauty. And the Lord is smiling on those of us who work at tuning him in and tuning the rest of the 'noise' out.

Jill said...

Oh how I know what you mean about an aging body. I'm really feeling that lately. I also can relate to feeling I am more aware of my flaws...things I just brushed off, and maybe blamed others for when I was younger.

I actually read this post yesterday, but after having a dream about your little blonde grandson last night, I had to come back and read it again. In my dream he came to visit and play with my grandchildren. He's such a cute little guy.

Joy For Your Journey said...

I had to chuckle a bit over your comments about an aging body. I have a friend who insists someone comes in at night and replaces her good body parts with someone else's old ones. Your comments reminded me of that.

As for being gentle with yourself. I really don't think that is my problem. I think I need to be a little harder. I used to feel bad about things I wasn't doing that I should or things I was doing that I shouldn't, but I don't worry about it as much anymore. I always tell my husband I have eternity to become perfect, I am happy taking it at a slow pace. But on occasion I do think I really need to kick it into gear and progress a bit faster. :-)

Amy said...

I am so glad I read this! You really help more people than you know, I am sure. Thank you.

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