I am pleased to announce that my newest book, Soul of My Voice, is now available at Lulu.com. Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. This text was written as a workbook/journal to accompany my first book, Soul of Voice published in 2016. However, Soul of My Voice is just as effective as a stand alone book, chuck full of essays, poems, quotes, photos, writing prompts and mandalas. Happy reading (and writing, and coloring, etc.)!!
For many of us hearing of someone else’s achievements or good news can really throw us off. We acknowledge that we are happy for this or that person, but at the same time we feel upset or gypped by life. Our self worth takes a nose dive and our joy along with it. And rather than celebrate the person for who they are or what they have received, instead we belittle them or their experience so as to feel better about ourselves. Their achievements point up our own disappointments and force us to become more focused on who we are not and what we don’t have than on our own worth. In the words of the Canadian Catholic philosopher Jean Vanier, “Envy comes from people’s ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts.”
When we are envious of another person, it is easy for us to project our feelings of self-disgust onto him or her, giving us the impression that we dislike them when in truth it is our own lack or failings that we despise. If we are not careful, that dislike can turn to hate rather quickly. And that hatred is not actually about the other person but about our own shadow selves.
“Envy is an insult to oneself.” Yevtushenko
We tend to think that all those things we do not want others to think of us, nor do we ourselves want to think about us, are hidden away. But they are not. Envy holds up a bold face mirror to our shadow selves, forcing us to look deeply at our junk while at the same time placing that junk onto the other person so as to make its reflection more palatable. The irony is no matter how hard one works on their flaws, faults and misdoings, more will surface. It is like a well that keeps burbling up long after the waters have been purified or drained. In other words, we will always have a shadow. The question is not how to get rid of it but rather how to deal with it.
“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.” Harold Coffin
Envy has a lot to do with several things, but the most obvious is the sense of self-worth. When we remind ourselves of who we truly are and all the good we have done and continue to do in this world, we do not so easily get swept away by thoughts of envy. For example, if I have been on a diet and have only lost two pounds in two weeks and my friend boasts of having lost ten pounds in one week, instead of discrediting their success or belittling my own, I can remind myself that I still lost two pounds, I still am doing well on my diet, and that even though my success story may not be as astounding as someone else’s, it is still a story of success. The story thus becomes one of blessing rather than failure.
Envy can also be a helpful (though painful) tug to help one reassess how they may better themselves or their situation. To improve oneself or circumstance may take a change in behavior, belief or attitude. Our deepest desires are most easily snagged up in net of envy. So those feelings of envy can then help us to ask ourselves: what can I do to improve, how do my beliefs hold me back or propel me forward, and do my thoughts benefit me or hold me in despair.
When we actively run from envy and instead run toward self-growth, we become the better for it. When we give voice to our deepest desires as well as our deepest discouragements, we allow change, no matter how painful, to occur. Envy takes us away from our humanity; self–growth embraces our humanness, no matter how difficult those things which we choose to ignore may be to face.
“Beg of God the removal of envy, that God may deliver you from externals, and bestow upon you an inward occupation, which will absorb you so that your attention is not drawn away.” Rumi
The lack of forgiveness is like a spiritual melanoma—if it is not attended to, it can physically as well as emotionally take a person out. Forgiveness is the warrior’s way of finding peace, whether it is between two people or within oneself. I recently viewed again Ken Burns’ 1990 documentary, The Civil War, and was struck at how on the 50th anniversary of Gettysburg, the old veterans from both sides of the battle appeared in uniform to honor the occasion. At one point the Rebels stood on the opposite side of a stone wall from the Yankees. Each side poked fun at themselves as well as their old enemies by pretending to shoot them with their fingers. The entire enactment ended with the men laughing, shaking each other’s hands and embracing their past foes. The ritual theatricalized not only the brutality of the war that they had suffered through, but their courage to live at peace with each other once the war was ended. Out of that horrific war came a unification for the North and South to no longer be divided from each other, but to be now identified solely as one nation under God—the United States of America. It must have taken great courage for those veterans to forgive one another, but they did. And I am sure it took a great deal of time and personal inventory to do so, but here we are one hundred and fifty years later reaping the benefits of their sacrifices, living in a land of peace.
So how does one go about forgiving? The playwright August Wilson had this to say: “Confront the dark parts of yourself and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”
Often we have been so unforgiving for such a long time that we have forgotten what it is we are unable to forgive. Thus the first challenge is to be clear about what it is that one needs to find forgiveness for. The next step is to figure out why that event has so much emotional baggage attached to it. In other words, why has this situation or circumstance seemed so difficult to forgive unlike the many others one has forgiven in the past? Finally, it is important to be willing to challenge oneself to look at the person, event or situation from as many different perspectives as possible so as to glean a deeper understanding of the issue. The depth psychologist C.G. Jung suggests that rather than trying to forgive, the best thing one can do is stand as if on a mountain top and look at all sides of the problem. From that understanding can come knowledge, and from knowledge wisdom, and ultimately from wisdom peace.
“Life is short, Break the Rules.
Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY.
Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably
And never regret ANYTHING
That makes you smile.”
― Mark Twain