Thoughts on Thinking

"When somebody persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?" John Maynard Keynes

"If you're unhappy with your life, change your thinking." Charles Fillmore

"The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it." Eckhart Tolle

"People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them." Epictetus

"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates

"Consciousness is a terrible thing to waste." PunditGeorge

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Say Something Nice!

“If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all,” Mom. Yes, my Mom passed along that sage advice to her children. I suspect you heard something similar from your mother, grandmother, or someone. It’s a challenge. Go through the day not grousing about those idiots, low-life’s, incompetents, evil, get the idea.

     Well, that IS the idea.

     “To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves. Nothing is often a good thing to say, and always a clever thing to say,” noted gentle philosopher Will Durant. I appreciate his targeting “dishonest.” There are two ways of elevating “self esteem” (I use that tired, worn, term despite its lack of meaning) - by recognizing personal strength and ability, or, by demeaning others.

     The issue with speaking ill of others is the emphasis on what is lacking with self. “Look at that S.O.B. getting away with it!” It’s hard-wired to notice when some has something you don’t, or appears to get away with something you can’t. That’s another way of thinking “he/she didn’t suffer enough for that! I suffer, and I don’t get away with anything, or get what I want.” Lurking beneath speaking ill of others is the feeling of being cheated; that somehow something snatched your due and gave it to some unworthy two legged creature.

     Whatever is emphasized is magnified. If the emphasis is on what I don’t like about another, then what is not liked will be magnified. In effect, the more I moan and groan, the more reasons I have to moan and groan about. That’s wonderful - if you truly enjoy moaning and groaning.

     A staggering amount of “dishonest praising” is occurring. Even a cursory look at television, a brief listen to radio, or a browse through the internet (and of course the nagging and whining tweets) reveals a world of unhappy people. The good news is that an unhappy person desires to be a happier person. He/she just doesn’t know how to go about it. Unhappy people interpret their unhappiness as the fault of someone/something else. Thus, if they can find a way to change whatever it is the someone/something is doing, then they will find relief. Like the pot of gold, such relief and delight never manifests. Genuine happiness results from an inner perspective - how you interpret your moment in Life. It does not rely on what someone else does or other conditions.

     The challenge to live complaint-free is catching on. The knack is to distinguish a complaint from a statement of fact. The complaint will always have at its core “...and this is cheating me.” It’s raining and cold today (and this is cheating me.) The waiter brought me cold soup (and this is cheating me.) Federal spending is unprecedented (and this is cheating me.) Fred just won the lottery (and this is cheating me.) Just about any fact can be turned into a personal complaint. How I feel is not due to me, it’s because of them and it. Actually, it’s all about you. How could it be otherwise? So, what to do?

Consider five points of advice from Charles Simeon, the 19th century Anglican evangelical:

  • To hear as little as possible what is to the prejudice of others.
  • To believe nothing of the kind till I am absolutely forced to it.
  • Never to drink into the spirit of one who circulates an ill report.
  • Always to moderate, as far as I can, the unkindness which is expressed towards others.
  • Always to believe, that if the other side were heard, a very different account would be given of the matter.
I suspect that if Simeon were around today he’d be sporting a purple bracelet. The practice of not complaining and not speaking ill of others are the same coin. Do one and the other comes around.
Christmas is the season when many people look for the higher values in our lives. The New Year marks decision time for many who desire to move closer to those values. Well, why not? Complaint-Free Holidays - and no talking bad about anyone. Anyone. Think Goodness!

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