“People tend to judge others by their actions while judging themselves by their ideals.”
As I noted in my blog entry “A different kind of birthday”, a significant portion of my adult life has been based on a fairly limited set of ideals. It’s hard to write about this and not come across some sort of missionary. Be assured, this isn’t my goal. Zeal requires a great deal of assurance, and my path feels more like a long-term limited experiment. I am my own project. The only thing I can say for sure is this; so far it is working for me.
A night or two ago I decided to list out these ideals, and as simple as they appear on the surface, they can be surprisingly deep or complex upon serious implementation. It is important for me to understand that these are Ideals, and the ideals are my goals, not a list of my behaviors. I am as far from perfect as everyone else.
Without further ado, the list;
This has been the cornerstone my project. Early in my sobriety I learned that stark honesty is crucial. About this time I heard someone say at an AA meeting that “People who are brutally honest often enjoy the brutality more than the honesty.” I took this as a cautionary point, and remain mindful that honesty for me must not be a whip for self-flagellation or a club to hurt others. I have also learned to watch for my biases and my personal agenda, as they are insidious in how they color perception
-Do the right thing
This is so simple in concept and often so hard to actually do. I subscribe to the concept that each and every decision is a way point, and we invent ourselves decision by decision. Most of these are simple decisions, and by actively managing them, much like muscles conditioned by repetition, making the “Right“ choice consistently on simple matters makes it easier to make the “Right” choice when it’s tougher.
-Own my actions and my words
This is an honorable path. I try to avoid weasel words, and I try to hold myself accountable for what I say and do. Like many of the ideals I am working on, honesty comes in to play here.
-Don’t allow the behavior of others to affect my behavior
I’m blessed to have a fantastic man for a father. I often have asked myself “What would Dad do?” He would never shun socially inept people, mock others, engage in gossip, or respond to rudeness with rudeness, regardless of what others say and do. In translation, I try to be like my dad. I now need to stop talking to the drivers on the road who have upset me. They can’t hear me, and I get nothing from verbally pointing out their faults…even if they don’t know how to use turn-signals.
-Hold others with compassion
This is a fairly recent goal, and quite simply it requires that I withhold judgment. I understand that each life is shaped by events that I know nothing of. I must also remember to apply this ideal to myself, and allow myself to fail without recrimination as long as I adjust my efforts and learn from mistakes.
There is a world of beauty and wonder around me, I simply need to open my eyes and my heart to see and experience it.
-Maintain a beginner’s mind
This is a Zen Buddhist philosophy that I came across several years ago. When I first read of it I had a deep understanding. In the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, said: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” Long ago I realized that for me, mastery is an illusion; I would always have room to grow…as long as I was open to it.
-Don’t compare myself to others
My goal is to be the best “me” possible, and at the deepest levels possible, this has nothing to do with how well or poorly another person might accomplish the same task. It will either make me feel superior or inferior, and both conditions intrude on my path.
I have found that I am a capable advocate for others, but without change, I am an extremely poor advocate for myself. Of all of my goals, this is one sometimes feels the hardest for me.
I watched someone I love dearly refuse to forgive her mother for some serious abuse and neglect that she was subjected to as a young girl. Her mother had changed, but the resentment lived on. I decided that to the best of my ability, I would purge myself of the poison of resentment. My forgiveness isn’t a gift to those who’ve wronged me, it’s a gift to myself.
-Be open to the presence of my Higher Power
As part of the 12 Steps of AA I “turned my life over to my Higher Power, as I understand him”. Over a couple of decades I have felt little need to name this presence in my life, but I certainly feel it. Many of my life-changing decisions have been based on seeking a quiet (quiet) nudge. Like beauty, I need to be open to it.
I question everything, most of all my own actions, perceptions, and conclusions. Over the years that I’ve made this a part of my life I’ve discarded many of my conclusions, but I have become surer of the ones that survive ongoing scrutiny.
So this is my list. How hard could it be?