If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: God speaks to us all the time. We just don’t always hear his voice, because we aren’t paying attention to the “still, small voice” within our hearts. Wisdom comes in many forms, and I can’t say I’m a sage in the truest sense of the word. Even so, here are five “lessons” I’ve come to understand as being critical on this journey we call life.
- Be kind to others and yourself
You don’t have to extend yourself too far each day to create a positive, lasting impact in someone’s life. I think so often we tend to be harsh critics of ourselves while approaching others with more compassion. But how often do we take the time — even a minute or a few minutes — to pause each day and choose to be kind to someone who crosses our path?
Today make an intentional effort to notice people — strangers and friends alike — and love them in the way they need right now. While you’re at it, love yourself with the same level of mercy you give to those around you. It’s how God responds to you every day. Don’t you think others deserve the same?
- Listen more than you speak
This lesson is much more difficult for some than others. I happen to be one who talks and chatters more than I deliberately listen with my heart. Let’s challenge ourselves to truly listen not just to hear words, but to listen with the ear of the heart. Much wisdom can be obtained from listening with openness and without judgment. Besides, God doesn’t speak to us in the thunder or flashes of lightning. He is found in the depth, in the hidden crevices of the heart.
- Be patient with life
Most of us aren’t exactly where we’d hoped, planned, or dreamed we’d be five or 10 years ago. I certainly am not. Life truthfully is not fair. We get curve balls and interruptions to the cozy comforts we would rather have, but if we are patient with the process of navigating the kinks and obstacles, we will discover a wellspring of interior peace that does not falter when the tides and tempests rage around us.
Patience is a sub-virtue of fortitude. Maybe God is calling you to grow in this “long-suffering.”
- Set aside time for solitude each day
Let’s face it — we’re all busy. I haven’t met one person in the past five years who has told me that they lead a laissez-faire life. Our technological gadgets encourage us to be impatient and frenzied, seeking instant, rather than delayed, gratification. Most of us don’t know how our days pass by without much time to emotionally process our experiences, and then days obviously turn into weeks, months, and years.
Sometimes I take my dog for a leisurely saunter around the neighborhood, and it’s as if the natural world comes alive in my soul. Take some time to immerse yourself in something that refreshes and enriches your life, something quiet and conducive to reflection and rest. You will feel more centered, grounded, and enlivened to tackle the rest of the busyness of your life.
Prayer flourishes best when engaged in this disciplined solitude. Find some time and sacred space today to dialogue with God in silence.
- Never give up
A lot of people offer this advice, and it has indeed become cliched. But do we truly live the virtue of perseverance every day? How many times do we just throw in the towel when things get too hard, because we just can’t seem to press on? I know I have been guilty of this more than I’d like to admit. Perseverance has not been a strong suit of mine, and yet I’ve discovered — especially with this journey of building my writing career — that pursuing your dream takes time.
And there are a lot of bumps, curves, and roadblocks along the way that will frustrate your dreams. But don’t give up. Don’t give in to the “committee in your head” (to borrow a Matthew Kelly term) that distracts you from following your heart’s desire – or, even more, God’s will for your life. Stay the course, and the reward will prove that the effort was worth it in the long haul.
(Bonus note: Both perseverance and longanimity — the ability to wait for what is good — are also sub-virtues of fortitude!)