People think it’s easy to be a good person. They seem to think it’s the simplest thing in the world to live a good life and be nice to people. Well, it’s not. If it were that easy everyone would be able to do it all the time and we would achieve world peace, an end to hunger and violence, and most of the world’s problems would end. It’s pretty darn difficult, in fact. Even when you try and try, sometimes without meaning to, you can really screw things up. It’s hard to get a good grip on the world sometimes and even harder to get a grip on other people and the situations you find yourself in, in your life. The hardest of all is dealing with just yourself.
I find I can be my own worst enemy. There are days when I am a total crab and a trial for anyone to be around. There are days when I am needy and clingy and need constant reassurance. There are days when I have to bite my tongue almost in half so as not to tell someone what I really think of them in less-than-ladylike language. On really bad days I can’t even bite my tongue and I just say mean things and think even meaner things. Sarcastic things, cruel things, dismissive things, they just fly out of my mouth with no thought attached to them most of the time. I try so hard to respect and honor every person I meet and to try and treat them according to the Golden Rule. But it is overwhelming to me sometimes, when I am hungry or ill-humored or tired or this is a person who is seemingly going out of their way to annoy and upset me…
Being at the Monastery has shown me various parts of my personality, both good and bad. When you are in a controlled environment for an extended period of time I suppose it is inevitable that these two sides of every person should come to the surface. In our classes on the “Benedictine Rule” every morning, the Sisters have shown me that even if I don’t want to have a conversation with my faults all the time, I at least have to nod at them once in a while and maybe even take them out for coffee in order to get to know that part of myself in order to be able to better understand all of me. In doing so, I can help myself to a better understanding of all people and hopefully, by that, become a better person.
I know you won’t believe it….but…I have a lot of faults.”The big 3″ as I like to call them are the ones I spend the most time trying to overcome, or at least bully into shape. I have been trying to overcome them since childhood. So far the progress has been steady but minimal.
1. I am super-judgemental: I want everyone to be good and to live up to my standards of character and when they don’t, I get upset with them.
2. I am super-impatient: I want things done right away even to bending the laws of time and space and I often fail to give allowances for tasks done by others if I think I could have done them faster/better.
3. I am super-thoughtless: In the heat of the moment I often fail to see other’s perspectives. And those are just the biggest faults.
The Benedictine Rule focuses on self-improvement and living effectively in community. To be fair, Benedict lived in a monastery. But his ‘Rule” has been used in the formation of many different types of communities where Goodness and Respect are the qualities people want to work on developing. Benedict talks about all sorts of subjects that relate to sundry topics such as how people should speak to one another (with utmost respect) or how should one be expected to do less than savory chores (with humility). Benedict, in his writings, shares with us the normal struggles and objections we have both with our own spirits and the spirits of those who surround us.
In my time at Holy Wisdom, I have spent hours now, sitting in class with “The Rule” as we call it, on my lap, my pencil poised, articulating with the group as to what it really means to treat others with grace, humility, respect, kindness, and charity. We all agree it is important, exceedingly necessary, and just the right thing to do. But it is also a scary thing to do. To have to look into your heart every day of your life and probe all your thoughts and feeling in order to make sure there’s not something in there hiding from you which will jump out later to hurt the one you wish to treat with loving-kindness, whoever that person may be.
Benedict is big on boundaries, I have noticed. He is of the school of Frost-ian thought that believes that “good fences make good neighbors.” Fences are usually thought of as structures that keep things out but in ‘The Rule” Benedict enforces certain things in order to keep things in the community. Things like goodness, love, and acceptance. Imagine if we could all learn that. To exercise loving discipline in the formation of our own characters while yet allowing for understanding and grace in regards to our neighbors’ same struggle. I once told the Sisters, “I’d make a terrible nun. I would never be able to master my faults.” One of the Sisters started to laugh and putting a hand on my arm she said kindly, ” Oh…it’s been fifty years and I’m still trying.”
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For additional excerpts from Sarah’s on-going blog, click on this link: A Confirmed City Girl looks for God in a Monastery