Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. (1 Peter 4:10)

Regrets, and Seeing

Sometimes I really don’t like the way I behave.

Sometimes I let the fact that I’m being exposed to things that annoy me or trigger anxiety control how I react and behave. I always regret it. I feel it coming on, and part of me knows that I need to take a deep breath and make a conscious decision about how I’m going to be. And sometimes I let myself go down the wrong path.

It’s hard to say what bothers me most — noise, or being among a crowd of people, or the confusion of two or three voices competing for attention, or feeling like I need to rush to get something done or to be somewhere. It’s definitely the case that a combination of two or more of these things will set my teeth on edge. I’ll begin to feel impatient and edgy, tense and annoyed, and if I’m not careful I’ll be expressing those feelings in a most unpleasant way.

I know this, and I’ve made a specific decision in my life that I cannot and will not avoid those situations but rather will learn and decide how to handle them so that neither I nor the people around me suffer as a result.

Yesterday, I most willingly went on an outing with several children to one of those indoor play centers where the kids can climb and bounce and generally have a lot of fun.

It was noisy.

There were a lot of people.

To say that there were many competing voices right in my immediate circle is an understatement.

And I allowed myself to get grouchy and impatient. The little boys who were in my charge heard my impatient words and felt my annoyance. I snapped at them more than once, I groused loudly about the shoes that were hard to put on, I actually yelled about the seat belts in my new car that weren’t going easily into the proper slots on the top of the seats…I may not have been as unpleasant as I remember, but there is no doubt in my mind that everyone around me felt it.

I managed to spread hugs and love on everyone before the day was over, and I apologized for my rudeness. When I said my evening prayers, I asked God’s forgiveness for my selfish behavior, and I resolved with His grace to do better. When I went to Mass this morning, I again asked for forgiveness and grace, and then, because I’m finally learning to do this, I stopped and just listened.

I was a little surprised by what I heard. The thoughts that began to form were these: You are really beating yourself up over this, and you’ve already been forgiven. You can stop worrying about yesterday and think about how you are going to be today and tomorrow.  This continuing to pick at the little sore spot that yesterday’s lapse left is not coming from God, and it’s not going to make anything better. Maybe it will help to stop dwelling so much on the sin — you already know how to sin! — and start dwelling on the solution.

Thank You, Holy Spirit! As my evening readings yesterday proclaimed, “He does not ration his gift of the Spirit” (John 3:34).

I already know that when I allow myself to get in that unpleasant state of mind, it is rooted in selfishness. At the most basic level, I’m not getting my way, and I don’t like it. Instead of peace and quiet I’m experiencing noise and confusion, and I don’t like it. Instead of lots of space around me I’m existing among a crowd of people, and I don’t like it. Instead of a single conversation, I am trying to sort out three or four or more voices, and I don’t like it. Instead of being in complete control of my time and surroundings, I’m at the mercy of the situation, and I don’t  like it. I feel rushed only because I think I need to get out of this situation and because I feel out of control, when the reality is there’s no need to hurry at all.

And as I continued to let the “still, small voice” speak within me, I began to get some clarity.  “Those who choose other gods increase their sorrows” (Ps. 16). I think that by first allowing myself to get in such a state of mind, then indulging it instead of controlling it, and finally dwelling on it and its effects instead of fixing the problem, I risk making — and choosing — a little god out of the self-centeredness that the whole cycle involves. And that just gives the whole cycle new life while making me feel worse and worse.

Fortunately for me, the people around me are almost as forgiving as my God is. (Sometimes, when I’ve apologized for my grouchiness, I’ve learned that they hadn’t even noticed it. Talk about an ego slump!)

What I have here is yet one more chance to be better, to be a person who listens to the “still, small voice” rather than choosing “other gods.” The voice I need to listen to is always there amid all the other competing voices. When I center myself on that voice that speaks in the quiet part of my soul, and when I allow myself to put the false god of self to one side, then all the rest is easy to handle. Then I am the person God made me to be.

My prayer reminder for the 2:00 p.m. hour each day chimes with “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” Can I please have grace to remember that in each moment of my day, I am where God has placed me, and I can simply turn to Him and know that it’s not about me and my silly comfort levels — that it’s about Him, present in all the people and voices around me, and I just need to recognize Him and lean into Him. There. That’s where I find peace in the loudest, most confusing, most crowded places in life.

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