August 5

Swallowing the Whole Thing

August 5, 2015

Personal Growth

Today I was at the hardware store, picking up 40 large concrete blocks, two ladders, 10 two-inch PVC pipes each ten feet long, and a few other small things. It was quite a load. The people who usually help load the car were otherwise occupied, and I didn’t have time to wait for them, so I began loading the concrete blocks, which are both heavy and very abrasive. Unless you work with rough materials on a regular basis—acquiring thick calluses—carrying concrete block will tear your hands up in no time.

I rolled my eyes as I remembered thinking before I left home that I needed to take one of the two pairs of gloves that were sitting on the ATV in the driveway, but I had failed to act on that mental note. Just as I was about to walk back into the store to buy a pair of gloves—which would have involved finding them, waiting in line again, and so on—I looked in a pocket of the rear of the mini-van, and there was a new pair of leather gloves.

“You have got to be kidding me,” I thought. Only one person in the world would have thought to put those there: Donna, my sweetie, who had performed this extraordinary act so naturally and without thought that she never told me she’d done it.

Donna has characteristics about herself that she thinks are unflattering, even bad—flaws and such that she wishes she didn’t have—and yet despite all those, she put gloves in the back of the car in case I ever needed them. Living with her is a daily series of surprises and comforts.

Why am I making this point? Because all of us are a combination of a great number of qualities. Often we are tempted to dislike some of these qualities and admire others, but who we are is a combination of them all. We are a whole, made up of all of our characteristics, and if we want to be happy, we have to look in the mirror and swallow them all.

In life we see many examples of small or unattractive things that—when fitted properly together in a whole—combine to create a thing of beauty. If we closely examine the individual brush strokes of a painting, for example, they’re usually unremarkable, sometimes even unattractive, but when we look at the whole, a masterpiece may emerge. The individual parts of a car can be quite plain, even ungainly, but when assembled the resultant machine can be both highly functional and exquisite to behold.

And so it is with us. I know a man, for example, who can sometimes be impatient with the foolishness and hypocrisy of the people around him. This means he often has to suppress what he thinks, but this exceptional skill at identifying flaws makes him very effective as a Real Love coach. He can see what people are doing—and the motivation behind it—often long before they can themselves, and this can be very useful if they truly want to change their lives.

I have heard this man speak of his wish that he didn’t have to struggle with the unkind thoughts he sometimes has of other people, but what if that one quality were somehow removed? It’s highly likely that he’d also lose his ability to help people identify their unloving behaviors in a way that could help them transform their lives.

To be sure, some of our qualities seem distasteful beyond dispute, but invariably these are not actually our true qualities. Anger, for example, is NOT ever an innate quality, but instead is a reaction to pain. It is the same with victimhood, lying, and more, so we have no need for shame about these. We need only address the elimination of our pain—a power possessed only by love—and these false qualities will disappear, leaving us with the invariably pleasant task of identifying who we really are, both in part and in whole.

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