The wisdom of the wise given in short sentences can contain a ton of wisdom.
Zig Zilar is perhaps one of the best and most popular speakers on the motivational circuit. He has also offered many inspirational books. Here I just want to talk about one meaningful sentence.
Look back with forgiveness, forward with hope, upwards with gratitude, and down with compassion.
Look back with forgiveness.
The truth is it is near impossible to live in peace in the present, or into the future, while holding unforgiveness about the past. When I find it difficult to forgive others I work to convince myself that it is an act of enlightened self-interest. When I don’t forgive I am usually letting someone else rent space in my mind and my heart for free. It zaps my energy and my joy in life. Also it has been pointed out that the lord’s prayer warns us about unforgiveness. We pray “Forgive us our trust passes as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The implication is the extent to which we forgive is the extent to which we are forgiven.
Certainly, there are better reasons to forgive. Jesus prayed to the Father for those who were nailing him to the cross. He said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The result of forgiveness can be very surprising and positive. Today’s enemy might be tomorrow’s ally.
Look forward with hope.
It’s another way of saying have faith and trust that things will work out. St Paul writes, “All things work together for good for those who trust in the Lord.” Romans 8:28
You could also frame this idea with the need for a positive attitude. If you believe the glass is always half empty that is what you will see. Then you fail to realize that half empty it’s just the other side of half full.
You might also come to realize that life can have many self-fulfilling prophecies. Many people are their own worst enemies. I had a friend in high school who was so convinced that he was clumsy that he would often literally trip over a line painted on the basketball court. Conversely, many successful athletes practice positive visualization. Before the game, before the crucial shot, before diving off the board, they see a successful outcome in their minds eye.
I am written elsewhere about how I was blessed to realize this idea when I was in kindergarten. The juniors in high school came to where we were to sell pencils that had the basketball schedule printed on them. I said to myself then, “when I am a junior I will come and sell pencils here too.” and I did!
Look up with gratitude.
In some circles Pollyanna gets a bad rap. Her name has come to equal a naïve view of the world. However, she and her Glad Game have wisdom for us all. An Attitude of Gratitude is a companion to a positive attitude. With it we recognize that much of the positive parts of our lives are grace.
Some years ago, while I was on a mission trip to the Philippines my wife attended a church near our home. That summer there had been many burnings at black churches across the south. She decided as a witness of solidarity to attend a rural black church near our home in South Carolina. She had such a positive experience that when I got home she wanted me to go with her one more time. I still had a Sunday off before returning to my regular job. So, we went.
We were the only white faces in the congregation. I had worn my closure shirt and so was recognized as a pastor. Their pastor first invited me to visit with him in his office. Then he invited me to read a lesson of my own choosing. Then he invited me to sit with him on the dais in the front. Then he introduced me to the congregation and said “Dr. Schmitt has a few words for us.” As hospitable as this was the greatest part of our visit there came as he gave a pastoral prayer. In it he walked us all through the beginning of our day beginning with when we woke up. He encouraged us to be thankful for everything: that we were still alive, that we could stand up, that we had clothes to wear, but there was water to wash her face, and food for breakfast. By the time he finished he had encouraged us to be grateful for hundreds of things.
This reminds me of another congregation earlier in my career. We had a small congregation of poor folk who shared our building in Rochester New York. They had a special service on New Year’s Eve. The main purpose was to share messages of gratitude for the past year. I was struck that many of them were just grateful to have survived.
Look down with compassion.
One of my off repeated quotations is from Henry David Thoreau. “Most people live lives of quiet desperation.”
The motto for Kairos prison ministry is Listen, Listen, Love, Love. If we will listen with compassion to others we can be of great service to help them unburden some of that desperation. It will give us patience and understanding for the trials and triumphs of others. People in 12 step programs call it, sharing experience, strength, and hope.
If we will look down with compassion, we just might we are looking at our own level with an equal. We are looking at another human being, who like us are doing the best they can to get from day today.