Spiritual Calm

Given that I profess to believe that

  • God is all good,
  • God is all loving,
  • God is all powerful,
  • God wants what is best for me,
  • And true happiness comes from following His will,

 

Then why am I not spiritually calm?

There can be many reasons, but let’s look at 4:

  1. We know what God wants, but we don’t do it. Even St. Paul wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15 Maybe we fail to do what we should because of:
  • Resistance to change
    • Comfortable with what we know, we are satisfied with our current situation.
    • We’ve feel we’ve done enough and are good enough.
  • Fears, such as:
    • What He has in store for us will be painful.
    • Service will take time away from our families and their needs.
    • We won’t be good enough at what God asks us to do.
    • He might lead us to death like the martyrs.
  • Contrariness or choosing short-term over long-term gain
    • I don’t want to.
    • I don’t have time.
    • Maybe tomorrow.
  • Wounds from the past
    • Criticism, judgment, or belittling has left us with low self-confidence.
    • Accusations from others of being a goody-goody, showing off, or seeming self-righteous.
    • Continued focus on our weaknesses makes it hard to believe we can do what He asks.

 

With all the above excuses for not doing what we know we should, we must remind ourselves that our all-loving God wants what is best for us, and true happiness comes from following His will.

But there is another wound from the past…

  • Someone who represented God, or who pretended to, hurt us and/or someone we love.

In this case, imagine Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple. Or remember that Jesus was hardest on the Pharisees, the religious leaders. I believe the few examples of Jesus’ anger show He wants His church leaders to be Good Shepherds to His people, protecting the lambs rather than wounding them. I am so sorry you were hurt by the very people who should have shown you the most loving kindness. Please seek the healing you need to restore your spirit and know that, though we all are imperfect humans, this should not have happened to you.

2. The second reason we might not be spiritually calm is we don’t know what God’s will is. But the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still, small voice.” 1 Kings 19:12

Sometimes we seek to choose between two options. If one (or both) were a bad thing, such as intentionally hurting an innocent person, we’d know it wasn’t God’s will. No dilemma Sometimes we seek to choose between two options. If one (or both) were a bad thing, such as intentionally hurting an innocent person, we’d know it wasn’t God’s will. No dilemma. But we might struggle to discern which direction God wants us to go when both are good choices, such as which career to follow, or whether to marry or consider a religious vocation as a single.

There is no substitute for prayer at these times, and even fasting. Consulting other trusted individuals who are wise mentors or counselors is helpful for pointing out areas you might have not considered, but the choice must be yours. Sincerely ask yourself if you really do know, but don’t want to admit it because of fear.

  • Imagine for a few days you’ve made choice A. How does it make you feel? Do the same with choice B.
  • If one choice seems more attractive, might it be that God is leading you by that attraction?
  • Would your strengths serve one choice better than the other? Might God have been preparing you for this choice by your life experiences, even the difficult ones?
  • Take time away from your routine to be free to think and pray through the decision. Ask God to lead you, and to redirect you if you are not making the choice He wants.

 

3. A third possibility is we are overwhelmed with non-spiritual matters.For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest to the Lord.” Exodus 35:2

 

How balanced is your life? Have you set any boundaries that ensure time for spirituality, creativity, family closeness, or fun? Are you so tired that when you do have time, the only thing you have enough energy to do is sit in front of the TV? And then you fall asleep?

We are doing ourselves no favors by forgetting that God gave us one day each week to rest and refresh. On that day we should be enjoying our families, moving closer to Him through prayer or spiritual reading, and expressing our creative, fun side. Take one day a week, or start with part of a day, for growth and renewal. Snatch a few minutes each day for yourself. Don’t work through your vacation time. You need it. Your family needs it!

 

4. Perhaps we aren’t calm because our relationship with God is weak. How can we trust someone we don’t know?

 

Matthew Kelly writes about a very dependable way to deepen any relationship, be it with God, spouse, best friend, or children. He calls it, Carefree Timelessness. By this he means spending time without an agenda, simply to enjoy someone’s company. No matter what the relationship, increase carefree timelessness and it will deepen.

Remember being newly in love? How you could spend hours together without needing to accomplish anything? Remember the last time you felt really close to and connected with someone? Were you enjoying carefree timelessness? Probably so.

Spend some carefree timelessness with God. Visit Him in church, or sit in an easy chair near a window and turn your attention to Him. Recognize you are in His presence always and everywhere. Chat with Him. And listen.

 

I end this exploration of Calm with a disclaimer. Don’t expect to remain spiritually calm, even when you obey God’s nudges. We will find peace from obedience, but in my experience, it won’t be long before God nudges us back out of our new comfort zone and encourages us toward more growth. Then He will lead us to more joy!

Happy Easter!

Calm, Healthy Relationships


Although we certainly like excitement at times, we also crave calm within our relationships. Of course, how to keep gentleness, respect, and positivity in our daily experiences with our loved ones is a huge topic, not easily covered in a short blog post. However, we can revisit some basics.

 

FEELING COMFORTABLE ALONE

In Resisting Happiness, Matthew Kelly writes, “The fear of being alone is the father of many relationships that never should have been. When we choose to be with someone because we are afraid of being alone, we dishonor ourselves and the other person.” He goes on to say that the cure for loneliness is solitude. “Solitude teaches profound lessons, especially about ourselves. Feeling lonely has value. Sometimes we need to turn inward to discover what we need to hold on to and what we need to let go of. […] Until we learn to be comfortable alone—and more than that, to enjoy our own company— […] we are unconditionally unprepared to be in any kind of significant relationship with another person.”

So, once we learn to be comfortably alone and are ready for a lasting, healthy relationship, how do we choose a healthy beloved? We must search for partners who value our happiness as much as their own and are willing to sacrifice for us, as we would for them. There is no love without sacrifice.

DATING DEAL-BREAKER RED FLAGS:

  • ADDICTIONS – These include substance abuse, such as alcohol or drugs, as well as gambling. You may love the person deeply, but until (s)he’s in recovery and has been for a long time, (s)he cannot love you enough to give you a happy, healthy relationship. (S)he hasn’t the free will required to commit fully to you.
  • DISHONESTY – A person who does not respect the truth will lie to you as easily as you observe him or her lie to someone else. A healthy relationship relies on trust and this person cannot be trusted.
  • UNFAITHFULNESS – As much as he or she declares love for you, if there is a history of cheating, you are naive to think you won’t be hurt the same way. Be grateful you learned about this character flaw before you married.
  • UNCONTROLLED ANGER – If this person cannot control anger and strikes out in a way that hurts himself or someone else, run, don’t walk, away. Even though you have never seen the anger focused on you, you will. If people hurt others intentionally, even with words alone, they are not going to be part of a healthy relationship.
  • DISRESPECT FOR YOUR FAITH – Our spirituality is an integral part of us. If it’s ridiculed, an important side of you is not respected. To be healthy, all relationships require mutual respect. Think ahead to how his or her opinion would influence your children and their faith life.
  • CONTROLLING BEHAVIOR – A person who wants to make all decisions and who doesn’t respect your independence and opinion is not a partner. The need to be in charge will intensify with time, possibly to the point of becoming abusive.

(If you’re afraid for your immediate safety, call 911. For help and advice on escaping an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224.)

In any relationship, some conflict is inevitable. According to The Exceptional 7 Percent by Gregory K. Popcak, we can strive to—

FIGHT LIKE THE WORLD’S HAPPIEST COUPLES:

  • The argument must move things along to a mutually satisfying solution.
  • There are certain lines the couple simply doesn’t cross no matter how heated their discussion gets. Disallow anything that causes defensiveness or quickly escalates the argument.
  • Maintain your own dignity. No matter how crazy you think your spouse is acting, you must be able to be proud of your own conduct at the end of the day.
  • Is this an argument worth having? Is the fight about something that will stop you fulfilling your values, ideals, or goals?
  • Begin with the end in mind. What changes will I have to make to solve this problem? What do I need to know from my spouse to feel better about this problem? What do I think needs to happen so we can avoid this in the future?
  • Take time-outs to cool down if necessary. If you start to think your spouse is the problem, take a break to think more lovingly.
  • Look for the positive intention behind your spouse’s negative behavior and work with your spouse to find more respectful alternatives to meet needs.
  • Never show contempt whether through gestures or words. This always escalates the disagreement. One of the worst acts of contempt is threatening divorce. It undermines your spouse’s ability to trust you, damages the security of your relationship, and offends the dignity of your marriage.
  • Don’t nag. Solve! Set a deadline for something to get done and if it doesn’t, call for help to get it done or do it yourself as an act of love. Your spouse’s help is a gift that should be freely given but, like any gift, you have no right to demand it.
  • Don’t parent each other. Never deny what your spouse wants to do, but freely negotiate the how and when.
  • L.O.V.E. Look for the positive intention. Omit contempt. Verify what was meant. Encourage each other throughout the conflict.

Unhealthy fighting can erode a relationship to the point of bitterness. Never let the “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse” enter your marriage or they will work to end it. John Gottman and Nan Silver’s Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: and How You Can Make Yours Last, identifies these 4 destructive habits:

  1. Criticism attacks the person. Complaints, on the other hand, are specific and about one behavior. They can enhance a relationship if spouses are open to growth.
  2. Contempt attacks the person with an intent to hurt.
  3. Defensiveness, or the poor-me stance, relinquishes our ability to accept the challenge of self-improvement for the sake of the ones we love.
  4. When we want to turn our backs (stonewalling), we must keep turning back toward each other.

De-escalate a disagreement by reaffirming your admiration for your spouse, interjecting healthy humor, touching affectionately, stepping back to make a comment about your current feelings, or trying to look at things from your spouse’s point of view.

Wouldn’t we all enjoy calm relationships with our loved ones? The type that comes with easy interactions, interesting conversations, and mutual respect? Of course, disagreements are part of life, and no couple always relates with perfect love, but we can make improvements. Resolving to always behave with respect, no matter our feelings, can bring peace to a conflict.

 

Calm at Home and Work

For overwhelmed readers, I’ll make this easy to skim – mostly lists. Read down and mark which ideas strike home for you. Work on the one that seems most important. (How to break habits is a bonus for those who read all the way through.)

We can calm our home and work life through organization and limit-setting:

 

HOME/KIDS :

Organization

  • Keep a family calendar that all can see and check it nightly.
  • Every member can work together to share the responsibilities of family life. Delegate, especially to kids so they learn responsibility and grow in self-confidence.
  • Declutter. A cluttered environment makes it hard to relax. Put away. Give away. Throw away. Simplify. Start with one room that you then maintain each time you leave it. You’ll be amazed how much more time you’ll want to spend in the tidy room. (Admission– I only manage to keep one room always tidy, but I love stepping into or walking past that room. I have hope the enjoyment will help me expand the pleasure.)
  • Clear your desk and the dining and kitchen tables daily.
  • Handle repetitive tasks right away rather than postpone them. Fold the clothes when they come out of the dryer. Put the dirty dish right into the dishwasher. Make the bed as you get out of it.

Boundaries

  • No screens allowed at meals. Phones down at other agreed upon occasions, like during family time.
  • Homework must be done before television or other entertainment screen time.
  • Don’t automatically turn on the TV or radio. Choose consciously what you will watch and hear.
  • Limit children’s activities (and your chauffeuring.) No one wants to be overextended, especially children.
  • Limit your own commitments so you have a reasonable balance of work, play, and rest.
  • Don’t allow shouting. And don’t shout. Let your home be a place of calm sounds.
  • Enforce healthy bedtimes, study times, and family time. Structure is calming.
  • Limit caffeine and stimulants, such as chocolate, coffee, tea, ice cream, some pain relievers, some cold medicines, and intense TV programs and video games.

 

WORK :

Organization

  • Plan tomorrow’s tasks today. Prioritize by A, B, and C.
    • A – tasks are urgent. Do them first, but re-evaluate if you spend all day on urgency. Ignoring tasks can make them become urgent when they should have been dealt with earlier.
    • B – tasks are important. Do them next.
    • C – tasks are appealing. Use them as rewards after A and B are done.
  • Delegate. Share your knowledge and train others to do what you do.
  • See if you can find ways to work smarter, rather than harder.
  • If you aren’t an organized person, take a class or ask for advice. Learn how to become organized.
  • Get up earlier so that you don’t start your day rushing. (Which means go to bed earlier, too.)
  • Self-discipline is critical. Do things ahead of time. Finish what you start. Don’t ignore the unpleasant tasks. If you are procrastinating, do the unpleasant first, then you don’t dread it all day.
  • Clear your workspace before you leave. Even if it is to an “in process” drawer. You can start fresh tomorrow.

Boundaries

  • Set goals. Don’t automatically put other’s goals ahead of your own. Be a team player, but be assertive about your own needs, too.
  • If work is a source of stress that is unbearable, look for other options: talk to superiors or peers about managing and reducing stress, consider changing employers, or even the type of work you do, if necessary. Tackle the problem, don’t just accept it.
  • If you cannot change your situation, you can change your attitude. Work hard all day but leave the worry behind when you leave work. Learn to not take others’ unkindness personally. Consciously start each day fresh, without brooding on yesterday or borrowing trouble from tomorrow.

 

POLITICAL CALM:

  • Trust in God who is in charge. Pray for our city, state, country, and world.
  • Listen to the other side. Strive to understand what got them to this point. What are their fears and struggles? Is there a way you can help them?
  • Don’t respond from fear but from strength and with respect.
  • Take action when you feel called to it, but use positive measures, not rebellion or belittling.

 

What if these changes don’t come naturally?

Aids to break/change/add a habit:

  • Become more aware of what you want to change. When does it happen? What are the triggers? When is temptation the worst?
  • Work at one change, intently, for at least 30 days and until you are successful before you redirect your attention.
  • Remind yourself several times a day of the change you want. Use post-it notes, repeat your goal before each meal, or hang visuals of the change you’d like to see.
  • Replace an old habit with something that can’t coexist with the old, like chewing gum rather than biting nails, or taking the dog for a walk rather than flopping into the recliner.
  • Don’t try to change too much at once. Focus. Take baby steps.
  • Remove temptation and triggers.
  • Recall frequently the benefits of the change.
  • Set a goal that is measurable and a time that is reasonable. I will (what), (when), (how often.)
  • Break large changes down into small, doable steps.
  • Join forces with someone. Be accountable to each other.
  • Socialize with people who have the good habit you want.
  • When you slip, get right back on track. Don’t condemn yourself and don’t give up.

 

Philippians 4: 6-8

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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