“Habit rules the unreflecting herd.”
― William Wordsworth
I’ve observed an interesting and disturbing reality:
Show people a photoshopped photo and they are thrilled and excited with you. Show them a mirror, encourage them to reflect, and they’ll hate you.
People fall in love with the manufactured and covered up truth, and try to find love the same way: manufactured brilliance and buried secrets.
I’ve seen beautiful people get uglier and uglier even as they try in vain to delay, to stop, to reveres the process with regimens, routines, achievements, annual reports, shoots, diets, workouts, coverings, toys, experiences, massages, and embraces, failing to realize that temporary appearance of the body is sustained by the state of our soul.
Oscar Wilde, captures this so well in his famous story The Picture of Dorian Gray. If you haven’t read it, read it.
Yet available to us, accessible to us daily, is to live a life of reflection, a life that bravely looks at the clearest mirror possible, not merely for the purpose of grading how impressive one is, but to look upon the truth – this is who I truly am: this is the state of my soul.
Use today to start on a lifetime of reflection. Make it a habit. Just as food on the table reminds me to reflect on God, seeing a mirror reminds me to check the reflection of my soul.
Here are a few questions to help you reflect today – and hopefully everyday hence.
1. What do I truly value? What are most important to me? Who are most important to me?
– One way to reflect on this is to think about the people and things you would never trade away.
2. Does my life’s reflection show a person who is truly pursuing the values I claim?
– For example, I always said God was most valuable to me but I always found a rationalization every time I found something I wanted to do that was contrary to His will. My life’s reflection revealed that I was not living according to what I claimed.
3. Whatever you answered in question 1, ask yourself, with the way I’m living, the choices I’m making, the path I’m going, will these values thrive or suffer?
– If, after honest reflection, you find that they’ll thrive, you know you’re on the right track.
– If, after honest reflection, you don’t know, or are afraid that they’ll suffer, I encourage you to make the necessary changes. Remove what you have to remove, add what you have to add, embrace the surgery of your heart today. It is better to admit shortcoming, face shame, get help, and find healing today, than to lose what’s most valuable to you.
Truth is a shield for the things we value. It is many times heavy to bear but it remains a shield. Excuses are massages to our ego. They are easy to accept. They feel good to accept. But as sure as the sun rises, excuses will rob us of that which we value.
4. What actions do I need to take to protect and cultivate that which I value? How can I live a life that makes what I value thrive more and not suffer more?
– I suggest looking for a role model. The word “peg” seems to be so famous now. We have a peg for everything but we rarely have a peg for our soul. It’s not surprising, we like glamorous pegs. There is nothing glamorous about peeling off the pretenses, facing our sins, facing our regrets, facing our shortcomings, and facing scary future. But it is essential.
– If you’re too afraid, take this journey with someone else. I once told a friend that the mirror of the soul is another soul. Find someone you trust, someone who can speak truth, not fluff, into your life. Find someone who can tell you the ugly truth. Find someone brave enough, honest enough, tell you, you have a booger hanging out of your nose, even as everyone tells you you’re handsome. Find someone who loves you enough to tell you you’re a fool with the hope that you might find wisdom, and ultimately freedom.
That’s why the reflective life needs courage. The reflective life is a courageous life.
Sadly, the world is full of cowards.