Love God – Love They Neighbor

Dr. M Scott Peck wrote: “I have defined love as the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love.”

Genuine love not only respects the individuality of the other but actually cultivates it, even at the risk of separation or loss. The ultimate goal of life remains the spiritual growth of the individual, the solitary journey to peaks that can be climbed only alone .

Dictionary:   Love noun

noun: love; plural noun: loves an intense feeling of deep affection.

I think Peck has it right and the dictionary has it wrong. Real love, true love is a commitment to do good and to nurture good. Real love is far more difficult and even more painful at times than simple non-tangible “Feelings”.  The “Feeling” of LOVE cannot be adequately defined – it is poetry not reality. The commitment of a mission “To Love” can be observed, quantified, and defined.

LOVE GOD:

To me, loving God is keeping His commandments, following the examples shown to us by Jesus Christ, and helping those we love do the same. This helping others do the same, works best when we enter a “Synergy” of mutual cooperation. That is when we and the people we love help one another stay on the path to God. This bi-directional commitment is very powerful – synergistic.

I always had a problem when told we need to “Love God”. I thought of the inferior ‘Feelings of love”. Loving God with our actions is a far more powerful and acceptable love for God. This love of God is tangible and easy to understand. Since it is observed, quantified, and defined it is also easier to see when we fail. It is painful to suffer from this failure, but we are now living in TRUTH and in REALITY  and know our God is all merciful. The tangible reality love is far superior to the poetic fantasy love.

Love Thy Neighbor:

Who is my neighbor? Many people will say: “Everyone”. I suppose in a way that is true, but to expand this mandate to impossible limits is an invitation to do nothing. I think it is fair to say, for this purpose, that “My Neighbors” are the people God brings into my life. Not all these people do I like. It may be fair to say that some of these people may not be particularly likable. None-the less, THESE people are my neighbors. If I treat the ones that are less likable with this “Neighborly love” then I feel that I’ll be better able to help and enjoy the “Neighbors” that I find to be more easily likable.

Now loving our neighbor, in many ways, is more difficult than loving God. For in loving our neighbor the path to understanding is not as easily understood – at least for people like me. I know I have a challenging time trying to figure out if someone needs help, and how to help people in the way they need and want to be helped.

Love is not simply giving; it is judicious giving and judicious withholding as well. It is judicious praising and judicious criticizing. It is judicious arguing, struggling, confronting, urging, pushing and pulling in addition to comforting. It is leadership. – M. Scott Peck

It is leadership”?  Problem number one: Who elected me leader? Who said my neighbor needs help? Is my view of a problem correct, and is my solution the right way? How do I know when to “Help”, when to simply “Listen”, and when to just not get involved?  Well, I finally figured this one out. The answer to all these questions is: “PRAYER”. Prayer is the first and most important step in a mission to help – or at least it should be.

How do I know when I need help?


Maybe I need help when I feel I am frozen with indecision – not knowing which choice to make or which path to follow. Being “Stuck” is a sure sign of needing help.  Again, the first line of attack is “Prayer”. For me, and especially lately, PRAYER and listening for the whispers of God’s guidance has been most helpful and comforting. None-the-less, at times we need to turn to others for help. When their suggestions bring us closer to God, we have chosen help wisely. If their advice does not bring us closer to God, we need further prayer and re-evaluation. Seldom in life do we need to make a decision NOW – this second. There is always time for prayer. In fact, for me, making time for prayer seems to have my problems almost solve themselves. Prayer itself brings clarity to the situation.

Not every human encounter involves a robbery victim on the side of the road and in need for a Good Samaritan. Fortunately, most times, God brings people into our lives so that we can simply enjoy their company. This is a wonderful part of life and we should always remember to thank God for these friends’ existence. God wants us to laugh, enjoy, communicate, and show one another we appreciate them. God wants us to love our friends – “Love being the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” It is right and just that we enjoy this effort.

Now, as a world class introvert, I’ll never be the “Life of the party”, or the person able to make everyone feel great just because I step into the room. I do not easily make many friendships. That said, I am grateful to God that the friendships I have made are usually with very good decent people. It is quality not quantity that counts. The ones with the most quality are those that help bring me closer to God. To those people I am especially grateful for their existence and I am most remorseful when I let them down.

Within “Love” is mercy. “… Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” The “Synergy” of forgiveness is very much in keeping with Peck’s definition of love: “ Love is the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”. Only God will never let us down. The rest of us are flawed humans. I pray that people will forgive my flaws. I pray harder to remember that I must forgive the flaws of others.

In short, LOVE is not an emotion. Love is a commitment to Witness God’s mercy.

Addendum

Just finished reading “How To Listen When God Is Speaking” by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ.  I can see how I may grow to “Feel” love for God in addition to knowing respect and duty to God. My deficiency now, is that I have not been listening to God in my prayers long enough. As I listen more and listen better, I shall know God more. One needs to know God to love God.

Fr. Pacwa writes: “ We should avoid talking so much to God in our prayer that we do not give him a chance to speak back to us.” How can we get to KNOW anyone if we do all the talking?

Fr. Pacwa also writes: “Only after experiencing God’s reciprocal love does a person experience a burning love for God”. Even after this first 2 ½ months of listening better in my prayers, I feel that I am on the right road to achieve this feeling of Love for God.

Fr. Pacwa has predicted my feelings when he wrote: “Many people may be surprised at the peace they experience after a thoroughly honest moral examination of their lives.

God Does Not Fit in an Occupied Heart – St. John of the Cross

Since early childhood, I have spent too many hours watching television. This sick habit has finally changed. For about six weeks now my TV has been off. Only while at college in Western Nebraska did I manage to avoid this  sinfully gluttonous waste of time.. Now that the habitual grab for the TV remote is behind me, I have to ask myself: “What were you thinking?”

The distraction from the true purpose of life does not end with just TV.  Obsessing over the NEWS was a waste of time, and emotion. What did this worry get me? Not any improvement to my lifestyle was accomplished. The anguish of watching our nation becoming more godless did not help. Maybe prayer for our nation would have been a smarter use of my time.

Then there is Facebook.  Oh my, this is an obsessive compulsive’s dream folly. How addictive can something be?  Weigh the balance of the good and the bad. On one side of the scale we have the bad and destructive represented by an elephant. On the other side of the scale we have the good and beneficial represented by a peanut.  This is a true picture of that waste of time.

Where is the harm?  I did not leave enough time or space in my heart for God. Prayer and understanding the Will of God takes time. Discernment takes concentration. Being sloppy and wasteful with our time is an invitation for Satan to sneak into our lives.

“But, as I said, I do not wish the soul to consider her sins, either in general or in particular, without also remembering the Blood and the broadness of My mercy, for fear that otherwise she should be brought to confusion. And together with confusion would come the Devil, who has caused it, under color of contrition and displeasure of sin, and so she would arrive at eternal damnation, not only on account of her confusion, but also through the despair which would come to her, because she did not seize the arm of My mercy.”  – Saint Catherine of Siena

Now I don’t know about others, but I had to read that quote twice in order to understand its meaning. Not the kind of thing I can do during a TV commercial.

“Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live.”
– M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth

“This inclination to ignore problems is once again a simple manifestation of an unwillingness to delay gratification. Confronting problems is, as I have said, painful. To willingly confront a problem early, before we are forced to confront it by circumstances, means to put aside something pleasant or less painful for something more painful. It is choosing to suffer now in the hope of future gratification rather than choosing to continue present gratification in the hope that future suffering will not be necessary.”
– M. Scott Peck

Godless distractions prevent us from properly evaluating our values and behaviors.  Distractions allow us to accept sloppy thinking as acceptable.  We must accept pain to learn.

“Those things that hurt, instruct.” – Dr.  Peck

Distractions prevent us from feeling the hurt and therefore prevent us from learning. Sloppy thinking prevents us from properly evaluating our beliefs.

“We are often most in the dark when we are the most certain, and the most enlightened when we are the most confused.”  – Dr. Peck

“Know thyself.” is wisdom.  “Be yourself”  is folly.  When one knows himself/herself one is aware of weaknesses that need to be disciplined. One cannot be lazy and know himself/herself.  Being oneself is lazy and undisciplined.  One cannot truly love another without first knowing himself/herself.

“Laziness is love’s opposite.” 
– M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth

Without so many distractions, I plan on being a better person in the Eyes of Our Lord.

 

 

“The Mass of Men Lead Lives of Quiet Desperation. …”

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. …” . This is probably the most famous quote from Henry David Thoreau. The quote comes from the first chapter `Economy` in the book Walden. It is not unusual to read a misquotation of this. Some believe the misquote comes from Oliver Wendell Holmes’s The Voiceless. Here we find: “….Alas for those that never sing, But die with all their music in them.” The combined thoughts will often be attributed to Thoreau.: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Frankly, the erroneous misquote has more meaning to me.

Now, suddenly finding myself in old age – not without a vain detour to recapture the feelings of youth – I find that my anxieties have changed from “What will I do”, and “What will I be”. My anxieties for the bottom of this last quarter are more like: “What have I become”. This very serious introspection I try to answer with prayer.

For many years now, Sunday Mass is the one hour of the week that I know for sure that I am at the place where I should be and doing what I should do……. PRAYING.    At times, I have gone to Church for joy and pleasure, and in those superficial times I have forfeited and been diverted from the opportunity to improve myself in the eyes of God. As the saying goes, “Church is a place to comfort the inflected and inflict the comfortable”. God’s Church is a place for serious reverent worship, hard prayer, and listening for the whisper of God’s Will. God’s Church is not a place for having a hand clapping, foot stomping good old time. Church is a place to confess sins. Church, during the Mass, is a place to gain strength by receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

The comfort from knowing I am doing right by going to Church is outweighed by the discomfort of prayerful introspection, for this thought process confronts me with my weaknesses and regrets. I am forced to resolve to work at becoming a better person. This change is always painful. It can be most discouraging to sacrifice, confess, and amend my life to become a more perfect person when knowing I’ll never be even close to perfection. The most I can hope for is to be less imperfect. One might say that this is desperation.

Community then is a most important aspect of a prayerful life. For praying in community, we get to know and understand our fellow travelers in life. Each and every one is combating personal weaknesses, erroneous thinking, and always Satan. We learn that everybody is having a life of quiet desperation. Everyone in that community has his/her own “Crosses to bear”. Helping one another to carry our crosses makes the burden easier and helps us to focus better on how we have hurt God as opposed to how we have been hurt.

People, even with the best of intentions, make mistakes. People will, because of this, sometimes, let us down. Prayer to God is important as He will never let us down or abandon us. We should have more faith in our fellow travelers, we must have more Faith in God.

We are all wounded.

“How strange that we should ordinarily feel compelled to hide our wounds when we are all wounded! Community requires the ability to expose our wounds and weaknesses to our fellow creatures. It also requires the ability to be affected by the wounds of others… But even more important is the love that arises among us when we share, both ways, our woundedness.”
– M. Scott Peck

God intends for life to be difficult. Life is a battle and when in battle we get wounded. We learn best from adversity. Keeping our ship in safe harbor does not teach seamanship. We gain nothing. Bringing our ship into the sea and fighting the elements teaches us how to sail. When the ship is our soul and the sea is the trials of life, we use God’s Words as a guide to battle the waves of evil. In this storm, our soul gets strengthened and prepared for eternity with our loving God. Wounds, mistakes, even sin are part of the battle. Only by bringing these “weaknesses” out into the open can we correct and grow to be worthy of Heaven. A weakness is not to be hidden in shame. Revealing our weakness provides help from God, the Church, and our true friends.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

1. Remember that your Character should always be stronger than your Circumstances.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
2. Remember that your Struggles always lead to Strength.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
3. Remember that God’s timing is always perfect.
“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
4. Remember that God will never leave your side.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Dealing With Pain First

This story goes back well over three decades. My youngest daughter, maybe five years old at the time, was running as fast as she could on the front lawn of our home in Boca Raton. Running laughing twisting and having a great time on a beautiful sunny day. Typically of little children, she was not watching where she was going. Her little toes were exposed on the front of her sandals. Suddenly, her toes got caught under a water sprinkler head. As she was running as fast as she could, she fell forward hitting her knees and arms. Of course, in panic and pain she cried out distressingly loud.. I panicked as I ran towards her not knowing how badly she was hurt.

When I got to her, I picked her up and started checking for injuries. Seeing only some bloody toes from the metal sprinkler head, and a dirty scrapped knee, I started to lecture her on how important it is to watch where you’re running. (That’s right, I’m a Monday Morning Genius.) She was still crying when her Mom got to us. Mom picked her up, hugged her tightly and told her she would fix the “boo-boo”. The injured child stopped crying and went back to play.

I thought I learned an important lesson that day. When a child is hurting, they need love, comfort and a feeling of security. They do not need a lecture. It is said that women need to talk about a problem. Men need to take charge and fix the problem. As a general rule, the ladies have it right.

Now more than thirty years later, I still try to help with logic, reason, and action when all that is really necessary is to keep my mouth shut and listen. It would be helpful if the reader of this could say a prayer asking that I and all the other misguided men of the world gain the wisdom found from a little girl’s tripping on a sprinkler head.

Exterminate Reminders of Our Imperfection

The ability to effectively communicate the dynamics of a weakness or failure to a person with an imperfection for the purpose of helping that person overcome the problem is difficult even when that person is aware of the imperfection and has asked for help. I apparently DO NOT HAVE this ability to help these people. I cannot point out ketchup on side of person’s mouth without making a new enemy for life – voodoo dolls and pins being stuck in my doll forever.. Sadly when one makes an enemy the only gain is having …. one more enemy. Yes, I did read: “How To Win Friends and Influence People” – it did not help. I apparently do not have the DNA to learn a foreign language or to help a person through a personal crisis. Candidly, I never tried hard with the foreign language thing.

Dr. M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled and People of the Lie discusses how people deal with their own “weaknesses”. As a psychiatrist while in the armed forces, Dr Peck was assigned the task of studying very successful military officers. These were men that advanced through the ranks quickly. They were liked by their peers and had a successful family life. Everything they touched seem to turn to gold. The military wanted to understand the reasons for their success.

On one day Dr. Peck took these very successful people to a classroom and asked them to independently write down on a piece of paper the three things that were most important to them in their lives. Dr. Peck was taken-aback at how seriously these men took their assignment – taking 45 minutes to over an hour to write three words. Not surprising the #2 and #3 most important thing was a varied array of interests and experiences. HOWEVER, for all twelve of these very successful officers the #1 most important thing they wrote down was: “MYSELF”. Now this manifested itself into the discipline these people had for self improvement. When these people saw something in themselves that was a “weakness” or an “imperfection” they worked diligently to improve themselves in that area.

Several years later, Dr. Peck was working with inmates at a prison. One prisoner, guilty of many evil actions, became comfortable with talking to the doctor. Dr Peck asked this man: “What is the most important thing in your life?” The man replied: “My self-esteem” How close to the answers from several years earlier!  Not-withstanding, “Self-esteem” as a priority manifested itself in a much different manner. When this man of many evil actions saw some “weakness” or “imperfection” in himself he would EXTERMINATE from his life the person or thing that reminded him of that weakness or imperfection..

I tend to think of people that do evil things -on purpose, frequently, and without remorse – as being evil people. I am told I SHOULD look at them as being Children of God – made in His likeness – who do not have the knowledge to do good. This is a hard ideal for me to be comfortable. A concept that I have no problem with is that sometimes good people -even very good people – do something “Bad” THIS DOES NOT MAKE THEM A BAD PERSON. It does not. It does NOT. IT DOES NOT! There was one very good man that never did anything bad. His name is Jesus Christ. The rest of us, all of us, do bad things. We sin. We try harder. We ask for forgiveness. We ask for help. We ask for God’s help and we ask trusted friends for help. That said, only God will never let us down.

In closing I’d like to add one addendum to Dr. Peck’s “Extermination Observation”. Frequent evil doers are not alone in exterminating from their lives reminders of their “Weaknesses”. Sometimes even the best among us -God’s most gifted and devout- will shun friends that tried to help by stressing their weaknesses too much and their talents not enough. Sometimes Satan is involved by confusing us when we are in crisis. When this is the case, prayer is the answer. God will not let us down. It is never too late to re-evaluate our reality, our self-worth, or the value of our friends.