Written By: Campbell Manning,LPC
I have recently had the experience of being in church for two quite significant, yet different, occasions. The first was my son’s wedding and the second, my brother-in-law’s funeral. Both events were incredibly meaningful, first due to their emotional engagement, but also because the ministers at each were gifted in speech and delivery of message.
My son’s wedding homily was wonderful because the minister encouraged them to intentionally allow their carefully selected, relatively small group of guests to have an active part in questioning both of them regarding what they were actively doing to feed their marriage, and to do so themselves through thoughts, prayer, and actions. She talked about the importance of more than just a husband and wife being in a marriage – highlighting the value, and increased strength, that comes when a community of family and dear friends are engaged in the relationship and focused on a long-term joyful outcome. In essence – connection. We know that connection is the opposite of addiction – and what keeps people struggling with recovery on the right track. But, truthfully, connection is what keeps all of us on the right track. All of us wrestle with sadness, loneliness, insecurity, and other negative emotions. Connection to others is what allows us to maintain the ability to go on, to function, and to process what is going on and how we feel.
Before my brother-in-law’s funeral the minister met with the immediate family for half an hour or so and he was so incredibly personable I actually gave a few minutes of thought to moving to Columbia in order to transfer to his church! He was so gentle with the family, especially with my dear sister-in-law, and he talked to us about how we are not in charge of the emotions that come to us. That our emotions come unbidden, unexpectedly, and often unwanted. He then went on to say that we, however, ARE in charge of the emotions we choose to hold onto. And this is when I sat up and really started to listen. So easily, all of us, hold on to resentments, hurts, old feelings, and childhood messages. These become the thoughts we listen to and, unfortunately, therefore guide us in our daily self-talk and actions.
These emotions, however, hold nothing but negative power and we, therefore, cannot feed them without losing ourselves and becoming slaves to our negative thought patterns. We need, instead, to STOP. We need to intentionally redirect ourselves to what is good, positive, and joyful in our lives. We need instead to focus on the things we can control, in order to make us happy. And we need to purposefully hold on to positive thinking and attitudes. This takes work, a daily commitment to reframe how we think and how we live. (My last blog talks about specific ways to do this!).
The same minister who talked about being in charge of our own emotions went on to give some sage advice. He encouraged us, during the funeral, to HASTEN TO BE KIND. This can mean to be kind to others, since research shows us that caring for others actually INCREASES happiness. But it also includes being kind to ourselves. To find the small, medium, and large things about ourselves we like. I LOVE that I like peppermint ice cream (small), that I have fabulous dimples (medium), and that I am a really wonderful mother, with a wonderful sense of color and design (large),and that I feel deeply connected to the world in general (huge). Please think about how you can apply these same ideas and outcomes to yourself!!
His second message was to be QUICK TO LOVE. This ability can truly make us happy because it takes us out of ourselves, delivers immediate results, and, more importantly, has long term, ongoing joyful impact on our lives. Try to find a reason, or reasons, to love someone. Sometimes it can be as simple as they love someone you love! I have a new daughter in law, and while she is absolutely DELIGHTFUL, in and of herself, due to her passion for World War II history, the Beatles, learning how to decorate and develop her personal sense of style, her love of being a Manning, her devotion to dogs, and her charming insecurity – I really love her BECAUSE of, not only who she is, but also how much she loves my son. I, ultimately, want my son to be happy, healthy, and as FILLED WITH LOVE as he can be! So, it is easy to be quick to love HER! The things and people that make our loved ones happy are what SHOULD make us HAPPY!
Once you can shift into conscious awareness of kindness and love, you will also be more connected to many more people and many more moments in your life. This connection will come back to you exponentially and will continue to grow within yourself and spread to those people around you and in your life. It can be the best gift you give yourself and to all those you meet and all those you love. So, whether you are lucky enough to take a more intentional role in building up and supporting a marriage, or can choose to feed positive thoughts and actions for yourself, I hope you can take something, or several somethings, from this blog and look at your life differently.