Thursday, August 28, 2014

Focus on your success; not your failures

When I came across this clip, I was immediately reminded of my First Reconciliation back in the 4th grade. Goodness, that was almost 40 years ago, and yet I remember it like it was last month.  For those of you that are not familiar with First Reconciliation, it is the Catholic sacrament of “confession” where a person and a priest have a conversation about one’s failures and shortcomings and the person asks for God’s forgiveness. The Catholic tradition of Confession/Penance/Reconciliation (whatever term you wish to use) is often a point of conflict/confusion/misunderstanding, etc. amongst Christians and is certainly not anything I wish to debate at this time; I’m simply sharing something that happened during my first experience with the sacrament and how it relates to my journey.

In any case, like most children, I was VERY nervous to go into the Reconciliation Room and tell my sins to the priest….who happened to be Fr. Sauter…the priest I knew well then, and ended up being one of my dearest friends; the one whose death in my arms was one of the losses that sent me spiraling out of control several years back.  I went into the room and knelt down. Father was facing the other direction and couldn’t see me, but still I was nervous as all get out. After all, I was about to tell him my list of “sins” (how bad could they be at 9 years old?).  I had no problem coming up with a very long list of my faults and failures, even as a child, but still, was trembling as I told them to him, knowing he was my mother’s boss and a person I saw nearly every day. I told him my sins and was then horrified when he said, “Ok, Theresa, now tell me the GOOD things you’ve done.”  I lost my breath for a minute….HOW DID HE KNOW IT WAS ME???  “HE was facing the other way; oh my goodness, I am SO embarrassed….Oh no, what if he told my mother” were my immediate thoughts and I was dumbfounded at his question.  “What do you mean, tell you the GOOD things I’ve done”, I thought. I’m not GOOD. I don’t do GOOD things. I’m a brat. I’m a bad kid. I just told you all my sins….that I fight with my brother and sister; that I sass my mother; that I disobey and am lazy……and whatever other things I might have done.  I literally was silenced and did not know what to say.  He asked me some other questions and helped me realize that certainly I did/do good things: I help others in school; I did my homework without being told; I went to mass and prayed without a fuss; I helped my mother, etc… and I left feeling better than I had went in, which is essentially the whole purpose of the sacrament.

I share this story with you because that experience clearly reminds me of an area of my life that I’ve struggled with for 40 years: seeing faults easier than seeing goodness.  It is SO MUCH EASIER to focus on our shortcomings (after all, I was raised with the Catholic guilt… I was ALWAYS doing something wrong…sigh) than on our success. It could be considered “pride” to ‘toot my own horn,’ if you will…and yet…that very principle of dwelling on our weakness instead of rejoicing in our gifts can cripple our journey.

How many times have you went to weigh-in and gained weight and immediately felt like a failure….even if you’ve lost a significant amount of weight already?  How many times have you had a boss/friend/loved one make ONE critical comment and you felt shattered or hurt, even if he/she said positive things many times before?  How many times have you ‘beaten yourself up” emotionally/mentally/spiritually when you gave into temptation, binged, or did/said something that you later regretted, even if you’ve been strong and did the right thing countless of times before?  Like me, I’m guessing you can answer, “Many….I do it all the time”.

A person doesn’t typically begin a journey to change unless he/she has things about him/herself that he/she is not happy about. A person who thinks he/she is “perfect” wouldn’t want to change. Point being…we are all flawed in some way; we all want to look better, feel better, act better…and change our behavior in some way…. Or we wouldn’t be trying to change our life.  It is likely easy for us to point out our shortcomings, our faults…in the case of weight issues, we don’t even have to point it out: it’s there for the world to see. We already KNOW we need to work on ourselves. We already KNOW that we need to lose weight/get fit/be nicer/get more exercise/improve our relationships/give up our vices…etc…. It’s easy to focus on the negative, but much harder to focus on the positive things about ourselves. And yet…it is CRITICAL to our well-being that we begin to recognize the GOOD things about our bodies…our lives…our relationships so that we can become people of gratitude and can continue to be motivated to change and work to be better. 

So…..TODAY (and again tomorrow and the next day…and the next)….I will ask myself (and you) the question that my dear priest asked me, “So, Theresa….what are some of the GOOD things you’ve done?”  What are some of the GOOD things about you….that you did to help you on your journey?   Hmmm……as I sit here this morning, reflecting and drinking my coffee…I’m making a mental list that includes these:

Well…I forced myself to take a walk yesterday morning at 6:30, even though I got caught in the rain and had to come home and re-do my hair before work.

I have gone 8 days now without eating a protein bar (not a bad thing to eat, but one in which I was losing control by eating too many of them).

I woke up at 1:00 a.m. this morning to use the bathroom and DIDN’T go into the kitchen to get something to eat, a habit that I have been struggling with.

I took time already this morning to pray/reflect/think about my journey and ask for God’s strength this day.

The list contains other things and shortly, when I get ready for work and while taking my morning walk, I’ll be telling myself good things about me… I am strong; I am capable of succeeding; I have potential; I am beautiful….IN SPITE OF…(and I’m going to try to delete the “in spite of’s” from my mind today); I AM a loser (in this case..a weight loser; A VERY GOOD THING to be a loser!!! ) I AM going to make a difference in someone’s life today at work; at home; on Facebook; in the store…wherever I may go; I AM….  I will work very hard today not to focus on those things that I AM NOT…those areas where I need to improve…those areas where I have failed….those things that I am not yet able to do…or do well, but rather on my successes.  I encourage you to do the same. 

Rejoice in HOW far you’ve come; not how far you’ve yet to go.  Celebrate how far you can walk; how long you can be on the treadmill; how much better you feel….not on how slow you have to walk, how short of breath you become, how much further your friend can go.  Focus on how many times you’ve resisted temptation and made a good choice; not on how many times you’ve given in.  Remember how many times you “held your tongue” and said something nice, rather than those times you’ve lashed out or regretted that sarcastic comment that just “slipped out”.  Mostly….concentrate on all the blessings you have, all the kind things your spouse/child did today….not on the messes they left; not on the things you WISH you had; not on the rust on your car or the stains on the carpet; not on the unpleasant things about your job but rather that you HAVE a car, a home, a job.

 Changing our way of thinking is harder than changing our way of acting, but it is the key. Let’s pledge together to focus on our success today….not our failure. 

Have a wonderful day!!!!