Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets
- Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
- Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
- Where there is injury, pardon.
- Where there is doubt, faith.
- Where there is despair, hope.
- Where there is darkness, light.
- Where there is sadness, joy.
- O Divine Master,
- grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
- to be understood, as to understand;
- to be loved, as to love.
- For it is in giving that we receive.
- It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
- and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
The “St. Francis prayer”, above, is one of my favorite prayers. The first part, asking God’s help in being a better person by attaining specific virtues which help turn difficult situations around seems noble. It also feels a bit to me like maybe God is doing more of the heavy lifting here and this part seems a bit easy. Or easier.
Than the second part – in which St. Francis suggests that we (with God’s help, again, of course) put ourselves aside and focus more on the well-being of others. This too seems noble. And harder!
I think in big disasters – maybe like Hurricane Irene now barreling up the East Coast – people do pull out their Inner St. Francis and behave well. Tales of heroism are frequent side-stories to natural disasters and that is very life-affirming.
I have found that if the going gets really tough, I too spring into action.
But it’s in the day-to-day where I think following the precepts outlined in this wonderful prayer would be most helpful. And that’s where it’s hardest for me.
For instance: the annoying co-worker. If I stand back from my extreme levels of frustration and anger with her ‘bad behavior’ I can see a frightened, threatened woman, who, in some ways feels backed into a corner and is acting like my kittens do when they are backed into a corner – hissing, clawing, biting and generally making a ruckus. When my kitties do that, I smile indulgently and try to distract them from whatever is going on. When my co-worker does that I jump into reactive mode and it’s not my Inner St. Francis who seems to spring out, that’s for sure!
And for me, the hardest line in this prayer is “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned “. Honestly? I think the dying part sounds easier than that. How I can love my grudges! How much harm they do me!
Last night I dreamed about a friend with whom I’ve had a falling-out. I have felt enormously self-righteous about it all – how badly she behaved, how she’s wrong and I’m in the right. In the dream she was a caricature of a “bad guy” – she really looked like a low-life loser and was behaving very badly. She asked me to do her a favor. I said I would but then lit into her with a resounding lecture and added, for good measure “and you look like a low-life loser – what the hell is that outfit you have on, your hair is all straggly what is WRONG with you?”
It was then, in the dream, that I realized she was behaving so badly and dressing so outlandishly to call for help. That something really WAS wrong – it wasn’t just bad behavior.
When I woke up this morning I thought “I wonder if that’s true?”
I know my thoughts about my co-worker are true – that she IS threatened, scared.
In all 3 cases – my co-worker, my friend in real life, same friend in the dream – their outer behavior is “bad” and certainly quite disruptive. So here’s my prayer:
Dear God. I am not St. Francis – not even close. I try to be a good human. I have a bumpersticker on my car that says “Compassion is the Radicalism of our time – the Dalai Lama” and I believe. But when R (co-worker) or D (former friend) behave badly, I become a crazed killer-instinct out-of-control toddler – at least inside. And a cold bitch on the outside. Help me to remember lofty thoughts and sound spiritual precepts, and, just how to be a decent human in my day-to-day life. Your friend, Diane