Four years ago I started a blog called Journey of Peace. You can visit it, right here on wordpress. wordpress.com/journeyofpeace. I wrote through a lot of anger and immaturity in that blog, but I wrote authentically from my heart. I want to grow up, grow wiser and grow more effective and speaking truth and love to people, but I don’t want to forget the places from which I’ve come. Therefore, I’m going to gradually re-publish my old writings and integrate them with new writings.
Here, then, is one of my oldest posts, originally entitled “About Being Better.”
My theory is that, deep down, most people want to be better than they are. Some people don’t know that they can, some people don’t know that they want to, and many people don’t know how to do it. But given the option of being better, along with the means and support, I don’t think most people would turn it down.
This idea of being better is primarily an exploration of being at peace with self, though there is a relational component to it as well. I have to live with myself so I’d really like to like myself. I have to live with others and I’d really like them to like me to. I have to live before God and…well…let’s just say that it’s really nice to be on God’s good side. Depending on your theology, you are already likable in God’s eyes and this is great! But people are not usually as forgiving and typically you and I are our own worst critics.
That said…how do we be better?
Here are two ideas. These are by no means the only two. But they are a good two with which to start.
One. Pursue something that makes you better. For instance…
I have a dear friend who is also a writer. The other day this friend articulated to me the sentiment that, “It makes me a better person to write.” We had a delightful moment because I am also an aspiring writer both of novels and songs and I have discovered the same phenomenon. When I write actively and with any regularity, I think more clearly, I am less stressed, I feel like I’m contributing to the world, I get to regulate my more intense emotions in a way that is healthy and beautiful and in the process, my writing itself gets better. Or at least comes easier. I started writing because I had things to say and stories to tell. I continued writing because I perceived that it was something I was made to do. Now I defend my writing practice because I like what it does to me.
The epiphany herein is that everyone has something to do. Call it destiny, a purpose, a calling, a task, or in the Montessori verbiage, simply “work.” God has not put us on the Earth to be idle or merely be consumers. Some write, others talk. Some pray, others read. Some cook, some dance. Some build buildings, start movements, manage organizations, nurture people, explore places, make quilts or give really good massages. The point is that there is something for each person to do and if she does it, she will become a better person.
The resulting idea, then, is to find this thing that you love to do that makes you a better person and fight to do it.
Conversely, there are things we do that make us worser persons. These might be easier to identify, but harder to avoid. Oh absurdities… But if we cannot quickly leave behind the behaviors that make us worse, at least we can begin to think about them…
Two. Pursue relationships that make you better. For instance…
God. I see God as the Creator, the Nurturer, the Healer, the One who creates families. I see God pursuing relationship and peace with all people. However God is understood and however God is followed with all sincerity and diligence, the resulting character traits are generally always good. A functional relationship with God can only result in peace.
Partners. I will always say that my partner makes me a better person. She is an excellent person herself and always striving to be more excellent. Living with her makes demands of me and my character, that I grow and develop. When I do this and allow myself to be sculpted by love, we are both happier.
Friends. By friends I mean those kindred people who will listen to you and to whom you can say anything and they will still be comfortable with who you are. I don’t think I am over simplifying life to say that our friends make us better people. Honestly, many people don’t know how to nurture relationships. Many relationships stay superficially happy and casual, only to crumble at the first sign of difference or conflict. Many relationships are discarded because of inconvenient distance, schedule, or difference of perspective. Happy are the ones who fight for their friends, even those who are completely different. Happy are the ones who have friends in multiple walks of life different than their own.
Communities. This one is hit or miss. If you’re in an unhealthy or unsafe community, that is a significant challenge. In another post, we can explore how to shape community. If you’re in a healthy and safe community though…great! I am fortunate to have such a community now with my church. I love the people and they love me and we have some good times. Of course, I’m also sometimes terrified of my community because I know my shortcomings and I’m scared of what they will do if they know them too. But when I take the risk of opening myself up to my community and let people in, I get nurtured. When I don’t try to live life unsupported…I become a better person.
Being better is a long process to which there is no tidy conclusion. Therefore, I will not create an awesome conclusive phrase for this post. In summary though, our pursuit and our relationships have the potential to make us better people. Wise is the person who devotes thought and attention to these valuable resources…