I take a walk around my neighborhood almost every morning and any time I need a little pick me up. Some days it’s easier than others to motivate myself. It would be so much easier to eat a cookie! Or two! But, I tell myself I only have to walk to my favorite tree which is a mere five minutes away. Once I get outside though, I inevitably walk for at least 45 minutes at which point I tell myself if I go for an hour, I can have that cookie when I get home!
Yesterday was no different. Sitting at my desk hour after hour I started to suffer from a little tunnel vision. A problem loomed larger and larger until it blocked out everything else. But, once I got outside, the expanse of sky reminded me to broaden my perspective. The clouds reminded me that my perspective is not the only one. Five people can look up at the clouds and see five different things. I looked up at the sky and saw a giant, fluffy white rabbit behind the trees. I took a picture and later asked my step son what he saw in those clouds. For him it was a train with puffs of smoke coming out of the smokestack. Looking over his shoulder, I could see that too.
As I thought how wonderful it would be if we could always so easily see through another person’s eyes, I immediately thought of someone who has caused a lot of pain and trouble in my life. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we’re in each other’s lives and she never misses an opportunity to make mine a little more difficult. I have often angrily thought or complained to a loved one, “I haven’t done anything to her! What is her problem??” Despite the countless times I’ve thought or asked this, it has not brought me an iota of peace.
What if I tried to see things from her perspective? While it’s true I didn’t do anything to her, could I see how it could be easier to blame me than to deal with her own issues? Haven’t I done that myself sometimes?
The phrase, Lord, grant that I may seek to understand rather than to be understood popped into my head. I’d like to say that my heart instantly overflowed with loving understanding toward this person. But, alas, I am not that evolved. What I can say is that my heart opened just a bit to let out the anger and frustration caused by my previous perspective toward her and let in the possibility that this was about more than her behavior. It was about her simply being human just like me. Am I always a paragon of self awareness? I laughed out loud at the thought and as if to emphasize the point, God brought this verse to mind, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the beam in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3
This situation has been going on for nearly a decade. Another chuckle escapes my lips as I think God has been trying to teach me this lesson for a long time. This time I can say my heart instantly filled with hope as I thought of God’s patience and even though I cannot change her behavior or her perspective, I can certainly change mine.
Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Lord make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow Love;
Where there is injury-Pardon;
Where there is doubt-Faith;
Where there is despair-Hope;
Where there is darkness-Light;
And where there is sadness-Joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather
to Comfort than to be comforted,
to Understand rather than to be understood,
to Love than to be loved.
For it is by Giving that one receives,
by Forgiving that one is forgiven,
and by Dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.
Traditional prayer, often attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi