My Psalms 146, My Psalm 147
Oscar Wilde once said: “Be yourself; everyone is already taken.” In this third part of our discussion on loyalty, I think it important to define why we need to be loyal. Whether you view loyalty as a virtue or as a sentiment, a practice or a need, the truth is that we end up defining ourselves and being defined by those very things to which we pledge our loyalty. Whenever we select an object of our faithfulness, our fealty, we need to be sure that we are being true to ourselves.
Knowing who we are is no easy task. In part the difficulty lies in the essence of our living – change. Growth is an important component to the human experience and yet, growth means change. What we valued yesterday may not jive with what we like today or need tomorrow. We are not plastic figures, complete once we fall off the assembly line. Man/Woman is a complex creation that is ever evolving, ever learning. We are not created to have dormant periods of inactive growth. In fact, our muscles atrophy after only ten days of inactivity. Movement is necessary for proper circulation. The body’s liquids will pool and drown a person unless they are constantly moving throughout the body. Change is essential to our being alive and yet, it can offer a great hurdle in knowing who we are.
Recently I heard a young adult describe her upbringing. “We were encouraged to try,” she explained. “My mother calls it a ‘can do’ attitude but I disagree. I call it a ‘can try’ attitude. We did not have to be successful; we did not have to ‘do’. We were allowed to try, evaluate, and then try again, gaining knowledge from each attempt.” A young child does not refuse to learn to skip simply because he/she once fell while trying to learn to walk. We all fell; it is an inevitable part of the process of learning to walk. Yet, we forget that when we start to learn other things. Thousands of people once took piano lessons but many quit because at some point, they made one too many mistakes and felt that they had no musical talent. Most likely that simply had a teacher who was not supportive. Perfectionists exact a price that no human can pay because no human is perfect. We all stumble as we live but that is part of learning.
A recent trip found me encountering a group of people that seemed to be part of the same club, a club that required everyone to shop at the same stores, adopt the same fashion style, lose any sense of individuality in an effort to “fit in” and be considered socially acceptable. It was as if I had walked into a real life science fiction film about cloning. While school uniforms have been found to serve useful purposes in public, private, and parochial schools, one seldom hears about the benefits of grown men and women wearing a socially acceptable uniform for professional and recreational attire. My very conservative attire was out of place and thus appeared somewhat antisocial simply because I had not gotten the “This is what we find acceptable attire” memo! These people did not seem happy in their cloned outfits, I should add.
Being perfect is all things is not possible. Accepting that fact and being honest about one’s strengths and weaknesses does not make you less loyal to yourself or less of a person. In fact, it does quite the opposite. By knowing one’s self and being honest, you are being extremely loyal to who and what you are. It is the first step to growing stronger and becoming a better person, a more faithful person to life, living, and one’s belief system.
One of the greatest detriments to self loyalty is the art of comparison. It is a game that you will never win. There will always be someone you perceive to be smarter, taller, brighter, more attractive, more talented, better dressing, etc. Comparisons are interesting but they are not a yardstick for measuring self-worth. Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with having said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” She was the victim of many negative comments, even after her husband became one of the longest serving presidents of the United States of America. Value yourself for what you are and be loyal to yourself.
In 1955 poet E. E. Cummings offered the following advice: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” All we can do is try to be better today than we were yesterday. That requires knowing what to be loyal to and what allegiances might not be a positive thing. Misplaced loyalty can be a hurdle but every hurdle is simple a path that takes an extra gulp of air to cross. Hurdles are not roadblocks and even roadblocks have detours. With a little loyalty to one’s self and a positive attitude, a great deal can be accomplished and attained.
Michelangelo once said: “The promises of this world are, for the most part, vain phantoms; and to confide in one’s self, and become something of worth and value is the best and safest course.” Know that to which you are loyal and know that it is helping you be the best you can be. Commonly miss-credited to Emerson and Thoreau, it was actually Henry S. Haskins who said: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
As Theodore S. Geisel, better known by his literary moniker Dr Seuss penned: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” Be loyal to yourself and your beliefs. And then let the rest of the world march behind you!
My Psalm 146
Thank you, Great One!
You are loyal and steadfast in your love to us.
You are loyal and ever-present in your guidance to us.
You are loyal and merciful in your leadership of us.
You heal our wounds; comfort our fears;
You soothe our anxieties and dry our tears.
We pledge our hearts to you and our hands to your service.
Thank you, Most Merciful and Loving One!
My Psalm 147
I am but a babe, dear Father/Mother.
You care for me always.
Your compassion is ever present.
Your graciousness bestowed upon all.
We are not worthy and yet you still love.
We are a tempest in your creation and yet you seek to help us find peace.
Praise to you, Most Gracious Spirit.