A reflection from the Rev. Scott Tayler and the team at Soul Matters
There’s a natural, and important, go-getter quality to this month’s theme of Commitment. After all, huge payoffs come when we keep our commitments. Maintaining loyalty to healthy habits not only lengthens our lives but enriches
them. Faithfully following through on our relationship commitments allows us to fully realize ourselves as the interdependent creatures we are, as well as increases just about every metric of happiness, meaning and success out there. And keeping the promises we make to ourselves ultimately gives us the strength, groundedness and self-confidence needed to follow through on all those promises we make to those around us.
Add it all up and what we get is a picture of commitment that looks a lot like climbing a mountain. The path is long and littered with challenges, but there’s definitely a beautiful view waiting for us at the top. Staying on course is the goal. What’s needed most in our backpacks are the qualities of endurance, focus, determination and grit. And of course no commitment climb would be complete without a handful of coaches offering us motivational words and strategic tips, along with a supportive crowd that lines the path and cheers us on with encouraging shouts of, “You can do it!”
There is no doubt that such climbs are worth it. All of us certainly need a few of these successful journeys to feel fulfilled. But what about those we notice along the way? What about those we see sitting on the side of the trail, bruised and tending to their wounds? What about those we see walking the other way? Those who have stopped half-way up and are now traveling back down the path?
There’s the friend whose marriage was good for so many years but, through no real fault of her or her spouse, that relationship has now just grown thin. She is the one sitting there struggling to accept the sad reality that some marriages just weren’t meant to last a lifetime. There’s also the co-worker that is proud to have maintained a successful career for 20 years that supported his family, but who – because of that commitment to stable work – had to turn his back on an earlier dream of being a writer. And over by that turn in the road sits your sister who gave her faithfulness but only got betrayal and infidelity in return. Then, of course, there are the many fellow travelers who bravely remain committed to the long-haul goals of health and security, but who walk wearily because addictions or bad luck have
turned their journey into a one of one step forward and two steps back.
All of which is to say that maybe what’s needed most this month is for us to tone down all the motivational talk so we can make at least a little room for mourning. Yes, the path of commitment is a lot like climbing a mountain, but it is just as often more like trudging through a thick forest where all sorts of paths complicate our journey. Not every path of commitment is clear and long, with a reward waiting at the end. Some just lead to dead ends. Others start out along beautiful streams but mid-way through snakes slither out through the grass. Some trails are simply too steep and must be abandoned, not just for our safety but for the safety of those we love. And almost always there’s that fork in the road. We want to travel both, but we are forced to choose. So commitment to one necessarily means traveling with regret and “what-ifs.”
In such woods, our backpacks need to be filled with more than just endurance, focus and grit. Self-forgiveness, acceptance, and the ability to let go or admit “I was wrong” need to be tucked in there too.
In such woods, people need us to be more than coaches and cheerleaders. They need something more like pit stop crews-a trusted circle of people willing to offer them repair and rest.
We need to remember that for every person wanting to hear, “push through the pain,” there are two needing someone to say, “It’s ok to tell me about your pain.” Sometimes the best advice is, “Break it down to one step at a time.” Other times the wisest words we can offer are, “It’s ok to stop trying.”
Less pushing grit and more encouragement to forgive themselves.
Less shouting “You can do it!” from the sidelines, and more whispering “I’m here to listen.”
Yes, there’s no doubt that’s exactly what so many need this month. And maybe that’s exactly what you need, too…