On Forgiveness and Thanksgiving

If gratitude is the wellspring of peace, love and joy, it begins with forgiveness and the willingness to let go of what’s past, to create new space for growth.

So often we hold on to the past, allowing our grievances and grudges to color our world and those people in it. If we’re not careful, we allow fear, bitterness and resentment to sneak into our lives, robbing us not only of our capacity for joy, but our ability to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness for the many blessings in our lives.

The truth is that we all fail and fall short from time to time. And even when we feel above the fall of others, our very judgment of them makes us no better, and in fact, often worse.

As we move into this season of Thanksgiving, I think I shall adopt a new practice: Instead of simply counting my blessings, I will counter each one with a heady dose of forgiveness, too — weeding out and releasing those things I’ve been holding on to for far too long, and making peace with the gifts of my own imperfection.*

I’m curious…

What might you be holding on that is robbing your of your capacity to feel gratitude for the blessings in your life? In your experience, what is the relationship between forgiveness and gratitude? How has holding onto a grudge or grievance kept you stuck in your own life? What is the relationship between gratitude and our capacity for peace, love and joy?

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*Note: The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown, is an outstanding read on the power of courage, compassion and connection to enable us to find acceptance within and live fuller lives without.

 

 

On Being Ourselves…

Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to simply be ourselves; to sit in centered stillness, void of our masks, labels, and other outer adornments of success. Yet it is this very willingness to be vulnerable; this willingness to seek radical acceptance from within, that enables deep connection with others and the possibility of true peace and lasting joy.

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I’m curious…

How do you choose to stand in your own truth? How has shedding those outer labels, masks and adornments, enabled you find more peace, love and joy in your own life? How has accepting yourself, enabled you to more readily accept others?

Selling Out

Far too often, we sell ourselves short and/or sell ourselves out. We act from a place of fear. We act from a place of pride. Sometimes, we fail to act at all.

I should know.

For too long I allowed fear (and later pride) to hold me back. Pick your flavor, I’ve probably tasted it already. First, there was this overarching fear of what everyone will think; a malady I lived with for far too long in my life, and one that still rears it’s ugly head from time to time. I made relational choices early on that re-enforced this pattern and then chose a career that all but guaranteed that I would remain personally stuck (unless I dared to break through). A career where what others’ think does in fact matter and is an important yardstick for advancement. In certain spheres, it matters so much that I actually have friends who’ve worked hard to have a ‘zero’ social imprint. No LinkedIn, no Facebook, no Twitter, and certainly no blog filled with paintings, prose and personal revelations. And though as a child I aspired to be a diplomat (or in intel) like some of these others I know, these days I’m humming Garth Brook’s ‘Unanswered Prayers’ and am thanking God that it didn’t quite work out — at least not as I once imagined.

Then there’s that pesky thing called perfectionism.

I didn’t think I was one. Honestly, I didn’t. I thought perfectionism looked like my friends’ houses where there’s never a speck of dust or paper in sight. Or my friends whose perfectionist OCD tendencies manifest in their need to relentlessly organize their surroundings. That’s not me. Though I appreciate a tidy home, I don’t care much for housekeeping and prefer to have my ideas and creations visibly accessible, not tucked away in some drawer. So I was shocked to learn at a recent leadership retreat that there was universal consensus among the group that I was indeed a perfectionist, just of a different flavor. And while I’m letting go of my concern with what others think, I’m still left with that I think. And I think they’re on to something.

The truth… my truth… is that all of this perfectionism, people-pleasing and pride is exhausting. Really exhausting… And it has taken me into my 40s to finally begin to understand: if we’re not okay with ourselves, then perhaps it does matter… more than it should… and from that mindset, we’re likely to attract people and situations into our lives that validate these fears and keep us stuck. But however much we might protest to the contrary, ‘stuck-ness’ is really not about others, but about where we are with ourselves.

Want to let go of people-pleasing? Try a little self-love on for size. It’s not about being selfish, but it is about owning our own truth and valuing ourselves, including our imperfections and limitations. It’s about being at least as accountable to ourselves as we hold ourselves to others or others to us. Want to face down your fears? Try a little courage on for size and take on the very thing that you think you can’t do… the one that will help you advance your own dreams. Want to let go of pride? Take risks, fail publicly, acknowledge ‘not knowing’, give yourself a hefty dose of grace, then graciously return to the arena, wearing a little more humility than you once did before. Want to step more fully into your own voice and leadership? Learn to act from your core truths and values and lead with a servant’s heart — not from a place of all knowing, but from a place of quiet confidence in yourself and humble acknowledgement of all that there still is to learn.

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I’m curious to know

Have you ever allowed fear, pride or indifference rob you of your own dreams? Have you ever sold yourself short or sold yourself out? In what ways have perfectionism or people-pleasing kept you stuck in your own life? What steps can you take today to get out of your own way? What one step could you take today to move you closer to your own dreams?

About

How Do You Do Vulnerability?

One of my favorite authors is Brene Brown (Elizabeth Gilbert is a close second). Maybe it’s because we’re both from Texas and share a similar dust-yourself-off-and-pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of thinking. Maybe it’s because she’s brought shame out of the closet, shored it up with courage, and has helped legitimize the struggle for empowerment that so many people face. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because her fight with vulnerability mirrors my own.

Over the past four years of blogging, I’ve learned a few things about myself. I’ve learned that it’s not hard to ‘go deep’ with an anonymous audience, though it’s immensely difficult to be ‘seen’. It’s not hard to authentically connect with strangers, though I’m often challenged to be ‘known’. It’s not hard to write, though impossibly painful to publish. Most surprising to myself, I’ve learned that it’s easier to be a perfectionist than to accept the vulnerability that comes with possible failure.

At the heart of empowerment is vulnerability_square with transparent overlay_(c)But what happens when we build our lives around playing it safe? What happens when we raise or lend our voice to others, yet bury our own in the process? What happens when we dare to allow ourselves to be ‘seen’ as we truly are, in an environment where pedigree, perfection and political correctness often trump the very things that make us real?

These are the questions that keep me up at night; the demons I wrestle with daily – daring, provoking and pushing me out of my fear and into the world. These are the unspoken questions in the untold stories of millions who are silenced by their fear, or the wisdom that is lost in the silence of one’s passing.

As I reflect on these truths; as opportunities and invitations to a deeper honesty leave me wrestling with my own fear, I’m curious to ask and know…

Do you ever struggle with the vulnerability of being truly ‘seen’? How do you work through the fear of being truly known? Have you ever withheld the gift of your own story? What is your own relationship with perfectionism and failure? How do you do vulnerability?

Do You Have Enough?

If character is at the heart of effective leadership, do you have enough of what it takes to lead yourself and others — with courage, discipline, commitment, fortitude, integrity, humility, accountability, insight, resiliency and faith?

Do You Have Enough?

 

Acknowledgement and Appreciation

Sharon Reed:

What is one thing you could do today to show appreciation for others in your life?

Originally posted on Sharon E. Reed:

Recently a dear friend in my life and I were talking about the difference between and the importance of both acknowledgement and appreciation in relationship with another; how the give and take of a relationship is less about measurement and perfectly balanced scales than it is about taking the time to show appreciation for acts of loving kindness through the simple act of acknowledgement.  As I mulled these thoughts around in my head, I  kept silently see-sawing between what it means to selflessly give without expectation and our very real and human need and desire to feel acknowledged and appreciated, an endeavor that in some ways I excel at, yet in other ways fall well short of the mark.

Just this week, for example, I have been struggling to tackle the mounds of personal papers in my home office, stacked up and put off to be dealt with another day.  In the purging…

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