Friday, 26 September 2008


How good are you?

Ask yourself this question. How much are you worth? How valuable are you? You might want to ask me to specify in what realm I mean, but let's forget that. Just answer generally. How good are you?

I was talking a bit to my mother about a book by Mary Jo Leddy called Radical Gratitude; particularly, I was drawing from a particular passage that I find important but have a very hard time applying sometimes. My mother was particularly intrigued by the concepts involved, and by the little additions I added, and has apparently been spreading it to other people--though I'm not sure how they've received it.

Interestingly, these ideas dovetailed with a theme my church's minister presented in the sermon last Sunday. He articulated them in interesting ways, and I think I want to discuss what these ideas are and what implications I have here...

Leddy's book seeks to reform our private and public lives through advocating that we be radically grateful. This sounds simplistic, but if followed the way she encourages, the results are far-reaching. What interests me is this passage:

"We get the message that it [the products we own, the money we have, etc.] is never enough. But it doesn't stop there. It stays with us even when the shopping seems done for a while.
"Slowly but surely this message transmutes and transforms us at other levels of our being:

"I don't have enough
"becomes I am not enough
"becomes I am not good enough

"To say 'I am not enough' is to acknowledge a generalized sense of powerlessness. It is all those feelings that gnaw away at the hopes we have treasured: I can't do much about it. It won't make any difference if I try. It's just impossible. Why should I care anyway? That's the way things are. He'll never change, he's always been like that. She'll never make it. We'll never make it. They're losers. We're losers. You can't on the whole system. Don't waste your time.
"To say 'I am not good enough' is to admit a vague feeling of guilt. It is those feelings that claw us from the inside out: Who am I to say? I've never suffered that way. I should have done more. I could have done more. I shouldn't have said that. I don't have the right to tell anyone what to do. We have to clean up our own act first. It must be my fault. It must be America's fault. It's up to us."

She goes on in this vein, and this is connected intimately with the consumer culture of which we are a part. Note that, while she writes in an American context--hence her blaming America--I think it still applies in a Canadian one. Among her solutions to the problems of our society is this passage:

"... one has already been given the most fundamental necessity, the gift of life. When we stop taking this first gift for granted then we can begin to experience the radical liberation of gratitude.
"--Rather than wasting away from a fundamental sense of dissatisfaction with oneself, a person can begin to realize that the life he or she has been given is enough to begin with, enough to go on.
"--Instead of being comsumed with a sense that we should always be more--more caring, more successful, more loving, more talented--we can be sustained by the awareness that the gift of life is enough.
"--As we set some limits on the spirit of craving and dissatisfaction which holds us captive there is an almost simultaneous liberation of a new sense of power.
"--To say I am enough is to say that, just as I am, with all my strengths and weaknesses, I can make a difference. This is teh beginning of a new sense of power.
"--This is also to say I am good enough, which is the beginning of liberation from the vague guilt that paralyzes us in the culture of dissatisfaction.
"--This awareness begins to transform us at other levels of our lives and we can begin to say I have enough with a happy and free spirit."

I like to rephrase it this way: You were made by God, as you are at this very moment. This makes you infinitely worthy, as you are right now. Of course you have room to improve. Of course there are numerous ways in which you do not live up to the models of good people. And this is relevant; you should strive to be better in all those things that are worth perfecting. Yet this does not mean that you are not enough as you are now. You are still a creation of God, and you should value yourself accordingly.

In the sermon the other day (almost a full week at this point in writing), the pastor drew on a passage in Phillipians 1, where Paul calls the body of Christians "saints." In being a sibling in Christ, we have all achieved sainthood. Granted, we may be fallen and miserable saints, but we are saints nonetheless. That is to say, we have the potential to work wonders in the name of God.

Consider this as you live your life. Everyone around you is a creation of God: treat them accordingly. You are capable, right now, of doing anything of value. Act accordingly. The path does not require that you begin ready to face the end; the path is there to make you ready. So get started.

This sounds awfully preachy, and I certainly don't live up to these standards. But I am beginning to try. I am becoming comfortable with the incredible power that rests in me, as it rests in all of us. I must now determine what it is that I am meant to do with it.

Perhaps we ought to begin, all of us, right where Jo Leddy starts us. We begin in gratitude. We must be grateful for that one thing most of us overlook. We must be grateful for ourselves, for who we are right now. There may be many things--many, many things--that we do not like about ourselves, but if we try, we may begin to see those things that are good, those potentials we do have. If we are grateful for those, then that is perhaps the point at which all the rest becomes easy.

Or not. To paraphrase Dumbledore, the easy path is not always the right one, and some day we will be asked to choose. Let us all hope that we choose the right one.

God bless,

English Clergyman

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