Recently I ran across a news network that gave us five important things that we need to know, listing the top five news stories for the day. This gave me the idea to contemplate and ponder what are the five most important things we need to know in our daily lives. Here is what I came up with:
1. Things and people are not always what they appear.
In the psychological realm. We all have encountered the situation where someone appears on the surface to be quite happy when in reality they are actually quite sad, miserable, and even depressed. They wear a face for the public in an effort to hide their true feelings. Because of this we never can quite know what someone might be going through. Their insides could be in a state of turmoil. Or even they might be living a lie. Not only are they being untrue to others, but they are betraying themselves. In psychology this is referred to as incongruence. Sometimes it is done deliberately, but often it is unconscious. In addition some people are more expressive than others. As the old expression goes, some wear their heart on their sleeve. Others because of cultural norms may give little hint of emotion, even when experiencing very trying times.
We also have persons who seem to be so full of themselves, self-centered, and inconsiderate. They like to brag to others about their accomplishments, possessions, and appearance. Their energies are devoted to drawing attention to themselves. This could be viewed as narcissism, however in reality these persons are actually quite insecure and have very low self-esteem. Their behavior is an effort to puff themselves up as they seek to feed their low self-image by siphoning positive feedback from others. The results often backfire on them as others get worn down and tend shun them for what is perceived as “stuck up” and selfish behavior. This is a tragic paradox, as what they sabotage what they need most.
The spiritual realm. There are many things in the life of faith that are not what they appear on the surface. One great example is with the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. Before us we might see only bread and wine, but through transubstantiation the items become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. In the Catholic Church, Jesus is really present in the Eucharist. It takes seeing with the eyes of faith to understand this spiritual treasure. This is why the Eucharist is called a Mystery of Faith or mysterium fidei.
Things of the world are only temporal and all things change. The only constant is God. Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said: Let nothing perturb you. All things pass. God does not change.. Life is often like a cloudy day where the sun still shines but we are unable to see it because of the overcast weather.
2. Know who you are. In other words, know thyself.
Knowing who you are is not only the cornerstone of psychological health but also is the foundation for solid spirituality. One sure tenet and goal of any psychological theory has at its core the concept of a client coming to “know oneself.”
In spirituality, knowing oneself is the basis of humility. This includes an awareness of one’s own virtues and weaknesses. It is important to know that one is created in the image and likeness of God. Knowing oneself involves being able to praise God through all circumstances and giving God the credit for our accomplishments. St. Paul states, I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
Also In knowing oneself, a person can have a firm understanding of the dignity of life including all human persons from the womb to the tomb. Each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made by the hand of the creator.
3. You are loved.
This cannot be overemphasized. Many people act the way that they do because they are looking for love but unfortunately often in all of the wrong places. St. Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless until we rest in Thee.” All of the glitter and glory of this earthly life is pale compared to a life that is found in God. It is only through love that anyone would lay down their life for another. This is precisely what Jesus did. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
4. You can be forgiven and you can forgive.
Many people don’t realize what forgiveness is all about. They assume that their life has been ruined because of past mistakes and all is lost. In a sense, they give up and don’t understand the mercy of God. But is any sin unpardonable? In Christian circles I have heard a lot of talk about “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” as being the actual unpardonable sin from the Gospel of Matthew in Chapter 12. But what does this mean? Basically the unpardonable sin is dying in a state of unrepentence. This is rejecting the mercy of God by assuming that God will not forgive. This is not humility. It is actually a form of pride. It is essentially rejecting God. This is a condition of a soul that turns away from God. Obviously if someone never hears of the mercy of God, they cannot be accountable for what they do not know.
In the Catholic Church we have the sacrament known as Reconciliation or Confession. Confession is liberating. It frees us from the bondage that is the result of a life not lived in God. Many Catholics don’t go to Confession because either they are embarrassed to tell their misdeeds to a priest, don’t feel that they have any sins worthy of confessing, just don’t want to deal with it, or don’t realize that their sin can be forgiven. Some feel that committing an act like abortion could never be forgiven by God. However they are mistaken. God forgives all sins, we just need to bring them to Him. Often the only one unforgiving is oneself. We often have to work hard at forgiving oneself.
It is also important to know that we can forgive ourselves as well as others. We know that the Lord’s Prayer contains, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” This suggests that with what measure we judge others, we will be judged. It is comforting to know that the mercy of God is greater than any human being, including oneself. Like the old hymn that states God’s mercy is wider than the ocean. I am often relieved to know that God is Judge. Quite honestly, I would make a lousy judge.
It is also important to remember that forgiveness on our part is an act of the will. Too many times we get caught in the trap of basing forgiveness on how we feel.
5. This life is not all there is.
On one hand, many live like there is no hell. On the other hand, there are those who hold hope in God and in eternal life. We often hear of stories of persons who commit suicide during economic crises. Just recently there was a newspaper article that featured company executives that took their own lives when they realized that they had lost their financial fortunes. But fortunately this life is not all there is. To many of us, there is great comfort in knowing that this life is not all there is. This is especially true for those who spend their lives suffering. It is even more comforting to know that suffering can have redemptive value beyond what our temporal existence.
Before I converted to Catholicism, other spiritual paths left me asking the question, “Is this all there is?” I actually joined the Church about a decade ago when the priest scandals first hit the fan. However in realizing that the Catholic Church had the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, learning about the lives of the Saints, and reading the writings of the doctors of the Church, I discovered that Catholicism contained treasures much richer than any newspaper sensationalism.
Our Lady of Lourdes once told St. Bernadette during an apparition, “I promise you happiness not in this world but in the next.” This is something to think about!