Leave Me Alone … I’m Trying to Be a Better Person!

We just realized it has been one full year since Melanie officially retired from her 37-year nursing career.  She still maintains her Registered Nursing license to be ready in case the spirit guides her back once again.  She has taken several small breaks along the way, but caring for others is her purpose and has been her life mission.

I asked her what the best thing about retirement is for her.  She said, “well, I don’t know … all of it.  I get to set my own priorities and agenda.  I love the quiet time, it’s so nice to be able to read, think, reflect, and pray in peace.  And I don’t have to hurry anymore!”  I was kind of hoping she might say, “spending time with you, sweetheart.”  Oh well…

We have settled into a nice retirement routine.  She does her thing and I do mine.  I read, research, write, exercise, and keep our finances in order.  She does basically the same with a spiritual emphasis, plus she keeps the rest of our house in order, and me and the dog fed, watered, and walked.

It all works out so nicely … except when I annoyingly interrupt her.  I know better, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.  Like the other day we were in our separate office spaces and I kept asking her questions.  She wasn’t responding, so I said something like, “Hey, are you over there?”  That got a quick and loud response in the form of, “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.

Do you ever feel that way?  Like if it wasn’t for all the other people around bugging you, 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.  In 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, actively striving behave 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 alone control my personal behavior.  Others have an influence on it, but the decisions I make, as well as their consequences  are mine alone.

I attempt to pursue virtue.  To do what is right and avoid what is wrong in what I choose to think, say, and do.  To sin less.  I use the seven deadly sins (vices) and their opposing virtues as a guide.  Here’s the list in virtue/vice order, I call them collectively the “V’s“:

  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 my books, 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 every day, or at least one day this week.  Review the brief definitions of the virtues first thing in the morning and resolve to practice them throughout the day.  You can review the vice definitions as well to know what you should avoid.

Take a few minutes to score yourself at noon, the end of your work day, and just before bed time.  Then take a moment to review your sheet in the morning, feel good about your successes, identify opportunities for improvement, and make your plan to do even better going forward.  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 next Monday 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

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