Be Yourself

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
― Dr. Seuss

‘Be yourself’ the sages say, but they don’t tell you how to be yourself. How can you be yourself if you don’t know who you are? I know who I am; I stick to my principles. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what they are when the whole world seems to be crumbling around me. And there are some people who make it difficult for me to remember to love the person even when they are being obnoxious. How does one gain self awareness? How can we become who we are supposed to be?

I don’t have all the answers; I don’t think any one person does. There are enlightened people in this world; they will be the first to tell you they don’t have all the answers. I read a lot, consider, revise, discard, read some more, listen to people, talk to them, then make up my own mind about things.

We have forgotten civility – it’s been a long time coming. Does anyone else remember a time when we could have discussions, debates, on important issues without resorting to name-calling? Without labeling someone a Nazi or a Communist? We don’t respect ourselves, let alone each other. If we have no love nor respect for ourselves, how can we respect and love others?

There are things about myself I don’t necessarily like; some I can change, some I can’t. I’m short – I can’t change that. I’m overweight – I can change that and I am. I hate my hair color – I do change that -regularly. I like my eye color – I don’t want to change that. There are personality traits I have that I inherited from my parents; some I like and some I don’t. I can rail against my parents for making me who I am or I can act like the grown up person I am and work on changing what I don’t like or at least harnessing that trait for positive instead of negative.

I used to worry about what others thought about me; I wanted to be loved by everyone. Then I discovered I was tearing myself apart trying to be all things to all people. I decided that I didn’t like everyone I met so why should I expect everyone I met to like me? I began to change. I started the journey to becoming who I am meant to be. It has been a long journey with many detours along the way. And I expect there will be more detours.

There are people in this world who are negative, who are always complaining, as I used to do. Now, I focus on what I want, on what I have, instead of on what I don’t have and what I don’t want. Although positive thinking wasn’t easy at first, I have found that it is now almost second nature; I don’t have to think about it most of the time. We can find the positive in every negative if we only look.

Being myself is a lifelong journey. And life itself is a journey; a journey I am enjoying more as I become more who I am.

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Civility

When did civility and manners disappear from our lives? I can remember a time when people could sit and discuss their differences without resorting to name calling, or refusing to listen to what another person had to say, or telling someone they were wrong just because they didn’t agree with one’s own beliefs and opinions. I mourn for the death of civility and manners.

People seem to be so polarized that they won’t read, or listen to, a different point of view. Is it the proliferation of talk radio? Is it the fact that anyone can post on a web site and gain a following? Is it because the political arena has become so mean and nasty? Is it because the far right and the far left are gaining most of the attention?

I don’t have the answers. All I know is that things are so twisted that it’s impossible to have a rational conversation about much of anything any more. People are angry, and rightfully so, but I think a lot of the anger is being misdirected. And there are people out there who are taking advantage of the anger by directing their followers to hate anybody who disagrees with them. Why?

Religion is also playing a big part in the hate and anger. For example, in a few communities where Muslims have been living for years, the townspeople are up in arms because they want to build a new mosque. I don’t know a lot about Islam, but I do know that it, like Christianity or Judaism, can be perverted into extremism. There are people of all faiths who will take to the extremes, or focus on only one part of their religion’s sacred text to justify what they do. Should we hate all Baptists because Fred Phelps is an extremist? Should we hate all Muslims because a few hate us? Should we hate all Jews because Jesus was spurned by them? We live in a country where we are free to practice any religion or none, so why are we against all non-Christians?

I think much of the hate comes from ignorance of what we hate; and it comes from misguided people whipping others into a frenzy; the mob mentality, if you will.

I don’t remember hearing hate taught in Church when I was growing up. I don’t remember hate being taught in Sunday School. I do remember being taught to love all of God’s children, whether they were Christian or not. Where did that go?