The Only Thing That Matters

Long ago, in a class or workshop on spirituality somewhere that I’ve forgotten, I heard words I still remember, that ring true across the years. Someone quoted a saying from Saint Seraphim of Sarov, a Russian monk from the 18th Century. He is remembered as saying, “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved.”

From time to time, and especially in these contentious times, those words come back to me. I think of them in relation to the wisdom that the only person I can change is myself, and the odds of that are around 51-49.

And then there’s Jesus: “Take the log out of your own eye before you go looking for the speck in your neighbor’s eye.”

And then there’s Murray Bowen and Rabbi Edwin Friedman, who taught us about our place in the emotional system, where the only way one can have an effect on the system we are embedded in is to work on our own self-differentiation and emotional health.

So when I hear news of partisan bickering or Tweets from the President and I am tempted to criticize, correct, explain or weigh in on the issue, I stop and remember that it is just possible that I will only add to the noise and anxiety. Maybe if I respond with a peaceful spirit, listen, and approach others with compassion – maybe my own peace will be healing and bring a blessing. Maybe if I don’t react, I won’t add fuel to the fire.

I do not mean that I would hold myself aloof, but that I would engage with others with peace and compassion. It might be the only thing that matters, the only thing that helps.

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