Tough, Tougher and Toughest Critics

1891000_608271409241788_1949149654_nI remember I had a health teacher back from my freshman year of when I was in high school who sticks out in my mind for 2  distinct and pretty much unrelated reasons:

1) She was an Indiana fan while I was a Syracuse fan and our teams met in the 1987 NCAA Basketball Championship Game with that SOB Keith Smart his the game winner to down my Orangemen. (Thankfully, I’ve seen the light and I am all UConn now); and

2) She once told the other freshman health class that she thought I was someone who was extremely hard on myself, even if I kept a demeanor suggestion I was cool as a cucumber.

Why in the world she felt A-OK with describing this fact about me to 40-50 of my classmates is completely beyond me… but she was pretty accurate.

I’ve long been my toughest critic and, over time, I think I’ve only gotten harsher, in many ways.

I’ve even said if I saw someone else getting treated the way I treat myself, I would think whoever was doing that to them was a complete jerk, worthy of a smack in the mouth.

I had many years in my 30’s where I watched a few different people close to me go through the tremendous struggle of dealing with leukemia. It offered me a tremendous amount of perspective on what is truly difficult in this world versus that which is merely annoying. Funny how many people confuse those two things… well, until you see it firsthand and cannot fathom how you ever saw it differently before.

The positive of this is I complained less.

The challenge is that I probably overdid this and would never gripe or let out what was really bothering me on some issues because they paled in comparison to other struggles.

That’s why this photo (snagged from Elephant Journal) grabbed my attention to serve as a stark reminder that as much as accepting challenges with a detached sense of stoicism is good, balance is also a good thing.

It’s that funny dichotomy of that which makes you successful can also be a tremendous weakness.

To be as philosophically nerdy as possible (you know, the whole reason you come to this blog)… I need to balance out my Marcus Aurelius reading (stoicism with The Emperor’s Handbook) with a lot more Shunryu Suzuki (Zen buddhist with Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind).

Think of yourself on this point for a minute as well and I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t find a plethora of nuggets from your day where you are a brutal self-critic.

I figure 42 is as good of a time as any to learn to be a little nice to myself anyway.

Great goal… but damn, that is a seriously lame mid-life crisis.  Thankfully that’s a myth anyway.

Do You Forgive For Someone Else or For Yourself?

As the nice little Catholic boy that I am, the fact that Lent begins on Wednesday has been on my mind.  Lest anyone rolling across this post is not entirely clear on what Lent is all about, it’s essentially the 40 days that lead up to Easter.  It kicks off with Ash Wednesday and although Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday” is the day before, it’s not an official part of Lent, per se.  It’s more the “Let’s get all that sinning out of the way now! WOO!”

There are usually 2 traditions associated with Lent that most people know:

  1. No meat on Fridays; and
  2. Giving something up.40DaysAnd40Nights

Heck, there was even a movie with Josh Hartnett that was all about a guy  attempting to give up sex for the 40 days of Lent.

Now, my Mom would always point out that you don’t need to necessarily give something up for Lent, but you could do something instead.  Maybe volunteer or make some kind of a positive change.

Well, this year I have been fresh out of ideas so I did the logical thing and turn to the magic of the Interwebz to see what was out there. I did give some thought to giving something up, but anything I thought of was something that would be good for me to give up, like caffeine. So coming across this post caught my eye a little bit and, in particular, 2 suggestions on it’:

  • Create a good habit; and
  • Forgive.

I like them both, but as I give it more and more thought, I cannot help but feel that the truly worthwhile thing to do would be to forgive any grudge or slight I’ve held for too long.  Perhaps it’s the fact that forgiveness… and I mean real forgiveness… is possibly one of the most difficult things in life to do.

In the combination of “forgive and forget”, most of us can do a fair job of putting a hurt caused by another out of mind or jamming it deep within the gray matter of our subconscious… but to really and truly forgive?  To recognize that someone else did something something awful to us?  And what if that person never even said they were sorry?  Is it possible to forgive in that situation too given the fact that forgiving the unrepentant might be giving a gift to someone who simply doesn’t deserve it?

It’s a fascinating notion to consider because one of the potential benefits to the person doing the forgiving is the release of a lot of mental or spiritual weight by letting go of resentment and anger.

So is forgiveness for the person who committed the slight… or for you?

Maybe it’s just the perfect blend of both.

%d bloggers like this: