Saturday, December 6, 2014

Charity begins at home

My mother always used to tell me "Charity begins at home." I used to HATE hearing that, mostly because those words were typically said in an attempt to get me to be nicer to my siblings, or to help around the house; neither of which were very appealing to me. Have you ever noticed that it is often easier and more desirable to help others than it is to help those closest to us? For me, it was easier to be nice to those ‘outside’ my family than those I lived with each day. I would never even considered being rude or disrespectful to my friend’s parents or a teacher, but it sure was easy to sass back to my mother or blame her for EVERYTHING that went wrong. I was always willing to help out at school or church, but made all sorts of excuses when my mother needed to me help at home.  I’m guessing I’m not the only one?????

Many times when we find ourselves in situations where our life is less than what we’d like it to be, we seek to alleviate our own guilt and responsibility by blaming others, especially those closest to us. Thoughts like, “It’s not MY fault that I’m overweight; after all, look at my family members. They taught me these bad eating habits” or “EVERYONE in my family drinks too much; I inherited this addiction.” Even, “I’m like this (whatever THIS might be…..rude, selfish, obese, lazy, ungrateful.....) because… parents got a divorce; my dad/mom were mean to me; we take care of our OWN first, let someone else help THOSE people; I drew the short straw” etc. 

While it is true that our past experiences and thoughts can contribute to our current way of thinking/acting/believing, they do not have to define our future. When I ask myself WHY and HOW did I ever allow myself to get so obese that I could hardly stand up, I can come up with all sorts of reasons; many of them very good ones in my opinion, but none of them are really EXCUSES. They are merely ways to alleviate guilt about my own behavior and choices, and shift the blame from my own ‘out of control behavior” to someone else. It’s not MY fault. After all, I lost my job; my parents died when I was young; I grew up around food; I got sick…..the list goes on and on. For many years, I mistakenly thought that my misery was because I was victim of life’s cruelty; it was my cross to bear; it is what it is, and so forth.  Ironically I never even thought that it might be because I simply ate too much or was out of control.

Do I think that life circumstances, tragedy and loss, and learned behavior contributed to my obesity and pain? Absolutely, but it was only when I…THERESA….was able to look at my reality honestly and realize that much of my misery was the result of my OWN actions, behavior, habits, and response to the hardships of life that I was able to begin to make the changes that would ultimately transform my life. It was only when I was able to admit that I was powerless over the situation, to acknowledge that, “Yes, I had some pretty difficult things happen but I didn’t handle them very well,” and to accept my responsibility for my future, that CHANGE could happen. It was only when I was able to say, “ENOUGH is enough; God I can’t do this anymore….help me” and surrender my thoughts to God that I was able to take the first steps in forgiving myself and others…..and transformation could begin.  I had to look WITHIN….and accept my responsibility and forgive myself. I had to look WITHIN my own family and close relationships and recognize that I was trying to blame others for my reality. I needed to look at those closest to me and realize that thoughts like jealousy, unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness, anger, hurt, even sorrow and disappointment were preventing me from becoming all that God wants me to be. I was clinging to emotions that needed to go. I was using food to cover up pain that didn’t need to be there in the first place. I was treating myself and those around me very poorly and blaming everyone and everything for my obesity and immobility. 

 But then…..the light came on, if you will, and God showed me that things could be different. I just didn’t know HOW different and how wonderful they could be! I had no idea how God would use this miracle to help others. I’m not sure I even comprehend it yet, but I am so incredibly grateful.

These days when I hear the phrase, ‘Charity begins at home” I don’t necessarily think of being kind and loving to those in my household or circle of friends and family. I don’t think of helping only those in need that live in my community. Rather, I am reminded of the importance of looking at MY OWN thoughts and behaviors and being kind to MYSELF; forgiving MYSELF; accepting responsibility for MYSELF; and doing things to improve my own well-being FIRST….so that I can BE a light for others.  It means that I take the time each day to pray and reflect; to feed my body food that will be nutritious and energizing; to surround myself with people that bring out the best in me…and yet challenge me to grow and change; and continually recognize that I cannot do ANYTHING on my own, but rather, I depend completely on God’s grace, love, and mercy to get through the day. It means treating those I meet each day with love and kindness… that the words I write and speak are not merely words, but are a reflection of the real “THERESA.”  It means asking God to transform my thoughts and heart and change ME on a daily basis….so that He can use me to help others change as well. It means loving and forgiving myself  and those closest to me first….so that I can love and forgive others.  Charity begins at home….means allowing God’s grace and love to consume me….so that He can use me to help others.

Today…. in this wonderful season of giving….. I encourage you to take a few minutes to reflect on those words…charity begins at home…..and ask yourself if you are harboring any resentment, bitterness, blame or anger within yourself or those closest to you, and if so, to ask God to help you to let it go. Recognize that you cannot truly love others until you are able to love yourself first. It’s okay…..and actually….incredibly important….to take time for yourself; to invest energy into your own well-being; to focus on your own needs for a little while each day. Forgive yourself for your faults and failings…and make it a better day today.   Do you remember the Golden Rule....“Love others the way you love yourself?”  Do something TODAY to change your life….make a positive step today to feel better about yourself or improve your reality….so that in turn, you can make a difference for someone else.  

Make it a beautiful day today!!!