Don't define yourself by your limitations

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It seems that most people now tell children how great they are, what a good job they have done and try to shower them with praise. Individuals are told to recognize their abilities, praise themselves for laudable achievements and become their own best cheerleader.

However, this has not always been the case. Not too long ago people were taught to be modest, not brag on yourself. "Let others praise you." Supposedly this perspective helped you to keep your feet on the ground rather than to become "puffed up" or "stuck on yourself."

It is necessary that one cheers himself on because other people can sometimes be dishonest or jealous in their appraisal of you. We are made in the image of God, and to think that you're anything other than the best is a desecration of the image of God within you. In the "Essence of Self-Realization," Paramhansa Yogananda says, "Never dwell on thoughts of your shortcomings. Recall, instead, the memory of good things you have done, and of the goodness that exists in the world. Convince yourself of your own innate perfection. Then you will find yourself drawn to remember your external nature as a child of God."

When people do things they know are wrong, even though it seems to be pleasurable and fun while they are participating, they can never be happy. You may be in darkness for many years, but when light is brought in, the darkness vanishes. When you allow the light of God in, the darkness immediately disappears in your life -- just as turning on a light in the room immediately changes the room from darkness into light. If you meditate and pray divine light comes in and the darkness becomes like it had never been.

You ought to forgive yourself for the wrong you've done and remember the good things you've given to others and to life. Don't constantly think about what might have been or what is to come that will bring fear and misery. As James Allan elaborated in "As a Man Thinketh," "If you fear something long enough you can cause it to happen." St. Paul even cried, when an unpleasant happening came upon him -- "What I have feared the most has come upon me."

If you're ashamed of a deed you've performed or how you have treated someone else you need not constantly remind yourself of it. Continually recalling the bad you've done, rather than the good, mars your ability to be happy in the present. Furthermore, you can do nothing about what has already been, but you can start fresh and become a new person. St. Paul also informed us of what he did about his past atrocious memories. He stated "Forgetting what's behind me and reaching toward what's before I march on toward the prize of the high calling of Christ." (Philippians 13-14)

When you see silver in its tarnished condition, you believe that it will never be bright and shiny and beautiful again. Yet when you use a silver cleaner and scrub and rub it, the piece finally becomes what it used to be. What is underneath is again restored. That is the same with us when we forget the damaging things we've done and get rid of the unhealthy erosion it had caused in our self-image When we cease doing what is ruining our reflection; we are clean. You can again see the divine nature that is within you.

By excessively focusing on your limitations and faults you can forget the great purpose that you're here to accomplish. As Yogananda said, "If you are looking for something valuable in a mud slide and you think only of the mud you're likely to abandon the search." So don't put yourself down. Underneath the muck there lies a divine nature that's golden.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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