November 19, 2011

Practice What You Preach

It would be wonderful if we could always live exactly the way we know we should. We strive to be good people and share our love with our families and the world. I am certain we achieve great success with that, for sharing love is as easy as sharing a smile with a stranger, lending a helping hand when someone needs one to open a door or traverse a large step, or giving a listening ear when a friend is in need.

 I think it is much easier to live the way I know I should when there is peace in my heart and a smile on my face. It’s when the dark clouds of anger or frustration blow in that it is harder to remain calm and keep my perspective.

I wish that I could say that I never think a bad thought or utter an ugly word, but in my humanness, though I strive for perfection it really is unattainable. We can try to live a life of gentleness and peace, and for the most part we can succeed, with practice and through prayer. But when those storms of life blow in that challenge us to the core, it is often difficult to retain our composure and to be the people we wish we could be.

We are human, and though we may strive to live in the manner of perfection it truly is a goal we will never reach. We will fall short, and afterward wish we had the perspective of hindsight before we lost our cool.

We are emotional beings, fraught with intense feelings that are challenging to control. It is so  easy to simply react to a situation, when it might be better to take a moment to breathe and think and perhaps provide a more helpful response. And it isn’t only our own emotions we must deal with. When we face the complex people in our lives sometimes even as we pause to breathe they explode in their emotions and our natural reaction is to fight the assault!

There are times when we wish we could take back what we have said. And there are times when we never should have opened our mouths in the first place, such as when a conversation somehow slips too near to gossip. We realize later that we should have changed the topic rather than adding our opinion, and we are filled with regret at the things we said.

The most frustrating part is when we live most of the time as a good example of Christian living and then we “blow it” by cursing in public or saying or doing something that is outside of our character. Believe me, there will be somebody who sees or hears and questions our actions.

Christians strive to live by the fruits of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. That’s a tall order for us humans! While we may succeed at living our lives with most of these attributes most of the time, we will fail to live by all of them all of the time.

What is important for us to remember is to keep trying. If we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, through knowing Christ and living the Christian doctrine of loving one another, we already experience many of these wonderful attributes in our lives. Gradually we will work towards gaining the ones that are hardest for us to acquire.

When we feel we have missed our mark, it does no good to wallow in our failure. We are humans and we will make mistakes. Through this we learn of our weaknesses and frailties and understand the areas we need to put our efforts into improving.

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s even more difficult when the world is watching and expecting certain behaviors from us. But don’t let that deter you from living a life in the Spirit. The benefits far outweigh the falls.

In striving to live by the fruits of the Spirit, we will be encouraged as we sense these gifts in our own lives. And as we live by sharing these gifts with others, we may help them grow in their faith as well. You never know how far an act of kindness may reach.

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