For my brother (if he didn’t hate listening to me so much)
- Please be brave.
You have to be braver than you ever thought you could be in order to defeat your own inner demons (your rage, your deep sadness, your earth-shattering fear). If you can be brave, these things will get smaller and smaller as you stretch yourself and your heart expands. If you are not brave, they will compress you into a ball of despair and hate. As long as you continue to breathe, there is always a way out into the light, but the only way out is through. Face your demons day by day. Thank them for what they’ve taught you, and let them go. Replace them. Fill the space they once held within you with more and more clean, deep breaths.
2. Respect yourself, respect all others.
Respect is the most basic expression of love. We are all equal — in fact we are all one when you really get down to it. There is no way around it. If you are “cheating” in any way in your life, you are cheating yourself and others. Maybe sometimes it seems you “get away with it,” but really you never gain anything — there is only loss. Loss of respect, loss of confidence, loss of trust, loss of safety. Start with respect and you will always be adding to the universe. Even if something doesn’t go as planned, if you maintain respect, you have won.
3. Be generous.
It’s not about giving more than you receive, it’s about giving what you like to give and not waiting for someone else to give it first. If you want to smile at someone on the street, do it. If they don’t smile back, that’s ok. You don’t need their smile in order to be happy — you already found that happiness in yourself when you smiled in the first place. The same goes for more serious interactions such as being fair in business interactions. Give someone a “good deal” even if you feel they wouldn’t do the same for you. Otherwise you are imitating the same negativity that upsets you, and actually becoming the problem you wanted to avoid. You don’t have to let someone take advantage of you — that wouldn’t be showing respect for yourself — but you can be fair even in a difficult world.
As in the example of not receiving a smile on the street, forgive people for not giving you their best. Remember your own times of pain in order to understand what someone else might be going through. That understanding is compassion. It is the key to peace — both inner and outer. If we hold on to grudges and painful experiences and cannot forgive people (of life itself) for behaving in ways we don’t like, then we are forgetting our own times of struggle and discordance in which we did things others (and maybe life itself) didn’t like. Instead of condemning all mistakes or unpleasantness to remain awful, painful, and unforgiven forever, we can express that things did not go how we wanted, but allow ourselves to let go, move on, and look forward to a healthier tomorrow.
5. Learn, and Set Limits.
We are the builders of our own lives. We cannot control everything, but we can (and should!) make decisions for ourselves in order to attract the outcomes we want in life. Even while we forgive past experiences and the people involved, we can (and should!) make decisions to avoid making the same mistakes again. If someone has consistently lied to you, you can forgive them by understanding that they are having trouble being honest with themselves and others and probably feel scared and hurt in some way (otherwise there is no reason to hide the truth). While forgiving them is important in order to free yourself from resentment, it does NOT mean that you should continue to fall into the trap of their dishonesty! The fact that you forgive them for their mistake (in this example lying) doesn’t change the fact that they are, at least for the moment, untrustworthy with their words. Until they undergo a serious (and permanent) change of feeling, attitudes, and actions, they will not be ready to receive your trust. Trusting someone before they are ready to live up to your trust is not generosity, it is irresponsibility on your part because you are ignoring the truth of the situation. You can love someone even while accepting that they are not ready for your trust yet. Give them time (and space) to continue growing and learning. This limit, to accept only truth in your life, ends up being an expression of love for everyone around you even if you have to say “no” or even, “I don’t believe you,” to someone you care about. By only accepting truth in your own life, you give an example of what it is to love yourself and keep out the pain that always comes along with lies. You cut the influence of the lie, and you remind others that they also can choose truth. This ability to sculpt your life extends to all values which you choose uphold through your actions and personal example.
A few tidbits.
*All photos in this post are originals taken by Justine Marrion Massey and Catriel Nicolás Gauna in Colonia, Uruguay.