The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them. Thomas Merton
Yesterday, I wrote for over two hours but still didn’t really have anything to say. It took a while for me to realize that I wasn’t really saying anything. Words can be fun to play with and so easy to get lost in. I was using them as a shield so I could avoid feeling or taking action. Fortunately, the fact that I was feeling that I was sounding pretty smart was a huge red flag and saved me from pushing the publish button. Any time, I start to get too cerebral or show off by dropping a smart sounding name or two, watch out. I probably in over my head.
This morning I realized that when I start playing with words and trying to impress myself, it usually means that I’m failing to ground what I’m writing in my own experience or in my own heart.
Now, while I do have a pretty cool and smart guy’s name listed above after his cool and smart guy quote, I can honestly admit that I’ve forgotten more about Thomas Merton than I’ll ever remember. Fortunately, one of the blogs I follow used this quote today and I promptly “borrowed” it to share here because it fits so perfectly with what’s been on my mind.
I really stink at unconditional love and acceptance. Snarky self-righteous judgment comes more easily but I am trying. My progress is often measured in micrometers. . . or in whatever term that measures tiny almost imperceptible movement forward. This irritates me no end. I want to do it well and quickly the first time or forget it. Perfectionism often paralyzes me and leaves me weeping behind the start line. My snarky self-righteous judgmental self wants to kick perfectionist me and sneer condescendingly as I tell her what I think of her lack of progress.
This is the perfect formula for doing nothing and for feeling really badly about oneself while not doing anything. It’s a nothing with built-in punishment. So yesterday, when I’m trying to sound all smarty-pants like and impressing myself with the teensy little things I knew about Soren Kierkegaard, what I was really feeling was a sense of shame at my new and never-ending techniques for avoiding taking action. Nothing stops up the system like a wad of shame, guilt and inactivity. Hiding it behind a bunch of words wasn’t fooling me either, although it did take me a while to catch on.
Of course, like so much of my writing, this is all about me. I was feeling a lot of shame about that yesterday and carried it in to today. Shame ate breakfast with me this morning. It got in the car with me and went to work. It followed me through all the classes. It was bloody distracting. Finally, by afternoon, I was so annoyed with this ridiculous sense of shame that I deliberately put it on a bench while I took action. I exercised. I made phone calls. I answered e-mails. . .all things I didn’t want to do. I thumbed my nose at shame. Nonetheless, I was still full of it until I read the quote by Merton. I realized that love really does need to start within me if it’s going to be genuine. Try as I might to get all philosophical or spiritual or escoteric, the truth is I’m trapped in me and I’d darn well better learn to give myself a break, learn how to love myself without judgment if I’m ever going to stand a chance of having that love spill over into other people’s lives.
Thanks, Thomas Merton. I’m starting to feel the love.