Leave me alone…I’m trying to be a better person!

My wife, Melanie has been extremely busy lately.  When she finally arrives home each day she is exhausted.  But I am eager to learn about her day and tell her about mine.  We always have many of interesting stories to share, but she is tired and I’m usually not.  The difference in our energy levels seems directly correlated to the number of people we have interacted with.  A few for me, many for her.  Interesting…

Anyway, one recent evening I was ready to talk and she wasn’t.  We were in our separate offices and I couldn’t see what she was doing.  I kept asking her questions and was getting no response.  Finally she gave me an answer in the form of a loud statement, “Leave me alone, I’m trying to be a better person!”

That got me out of my chair quickly.  I was trying not to laugh out loud and get myself in even more trouble.  I saw that she was praying the rosary.  I stood there and stared at her with a smile.  She eventually looked up and we both cracked up laughing.  I told her she was already the best person I know.  Then I asked if I could use that line for an article.

Do you ever feel that way?  Like if it wasn’t for all the other people around, you could be a really good person.  It does seem like it might be easier, but it’s certainly not practical.  We depend on each other to survive and to thrive.  We were put here to serve each other through our unique missions, built around our individual talents.  We are interconnected.  We are interdependent.  We need to get along.  We want to get along.  Sometimes it’s just a real challenge.

Since writing the sAint Me?! book I’ve had some really interesting discussions and debates with people from many diverse backgrounds and beliefs.  The two things we always agree upon is that;

  1. We could all be better people, and
  2. The world would be a much better place if we were.

Duh!  Pretty obvious I know.  But it’s been obvious for thousands of years and we still have a lot of problems.  Nearly all of them are caused by our collective bad behavior.  And we have the ability to solve them all by actively and consistently striving to be the best possible people we can be.  But we don’t.  Why?!

I’m not saying we are all bad people.  I fact I know very few who are.  And who am I to judge.  I don’t think any of us strive to be bad people.  I could be wrong.  Maybe the few ruin it for the many?  I don’t know.  But I do know that I can be better.  I assume that is true for most of us.  We are all human and it is difficult to consistently think, say and do what is right and good.  Especially in a world where the opposite is so often rewarded.  Nice guys finish last.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.  Just two examples of traditional wisdom that seem backwards to me.

Oh I just remembered, there is a third area of common agreement.  In the creation of a better world though being better people, we should each start by improving ourselves.  To look in the mirror before pointing fingers at others.  To be the person you want to interact with out in the world.

So where do we start?  I always go back to basics.  Working to behave more virtuously.  One of the few things we have total control of in life is how we choose to behave.  Maybe that’s an illusion, but I choose to believe it’s true.  I control my personal behavior.  Others have an influence on it, but the decisions I make are mine alone.  I choose to pursue the virtues.  To do what is right.  To sin less.  To do good and avoid bad.  I use the seven deadly sins (vices) and their contrary virtues as a guide.  Here’s the list in virtue/vice (I call them collectively the “V’s“) order:

  1. Humility vs. Pride
  2. Charity vs. Greed
  3. Kindness vs. Envy
  4. Patience vs. Wrath
  5. Chastity vs. Lust
  6. Temperance vs. Gluttony
  7. Diligence vs. Sloth

I wrote about these in the book, but not in much depth.  At the time I didn’t have enough knowledge.  But I’ve done my research now and am ready to share it with you over the next 7 weeks.  I’ll write about one paring of V’s each week to help in understanding what they are, how to identify them in your daily activities, and what specifically you can do to win on a daily basis.  What is winning you ask?

I have been tracking my daily behavior for over a year.  You can too with this Flying V Tracker.   The worksheet contains brief definitions of each V.  You score one point each time you think, say or do something that was caused by one of the V’s.  Each time you notice yourself doing something good or bad (a judgement call by you and your conscience), think about which V caused it.  This can be a little tricky.  Like a lie might be caused by any of the vices.  Pick the one that fits the circumstance.  Just keep asking, “Why did I think, say or do that?”  Eventually you will arrive at a V.

When I first started tracking, my goal was simply to avoid the vices.  A defensive strategy.  While I had some victories, it became obvious that only through actively utilizing the virtues would I ever consistently win.  That is, score more virtue than vice points.  So I went on the offensive.  It works.  Proactively focusing on virtue gives vice little time to rear its ugly head.

Try using the tracker this week. Each day pick a different virtue to focus on; 7 days in a week, 7 pairs of V’s, how convenient.  Do one specific positive action related to your virtue of choice each day.  For instance, for diligence you could replace a half hour of television with prayer or spiritual reading.  Or for kindness, smile and say hello to everyone you encounter during the day.  Make sense?  Do something simple.

For extra credit, track your thoughts, words and actions for the specific set of V’s you are working on that day.  You will be amazed how fast this simple awareness activity will improve your behavior…of course, assuming you need any improving in the first place.

Beginning this coming Wednesday I’ll go into more detail about each V.  One set per week.  I’ll give you strategies for dealing with each and them, and specific recommendations that you can implement immediately.   Together we can promote the virtues and defeat the vices.  And win for the benefit of all!

Until then I’ll “leave you alone so you can be a better person.”

Be Saintspirational!  Scott

One Comment on “Leave me alone…I’m trying to be a better person!

  1. I am rolling on the floor laughing. I ❤ Melanie. PLUS, how many of us have had this exact thought!? But didn't say it out loud (raises hand). This is a great article! And thank you, Scott, for encouraging me and my writing. Encouragement is everything, sometimes! I wonder if encouragement falls into the category of diligence and/or humility.

    I look forward to future reading about the Vs and I'm going to take the Daily Tracker challenge! Oh – and thanks for leaving me alone so I can be a better person!


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