It’s Christmas and every blogger worth his salt is writing a Holiday blog post–and I definitely want to be worth my salt—so here is my mandatory Christmas post!
This is made more difficult for me because I am not a Christian, but I’ve studied Christian theology at depth and long ago did consider myself a born-again Christian. So I find much to admire and emulate in Christianity and have known many, many wonderful people in the church. The last thing I would ever want to do is offend them. At the same time I find much to admire in all the world’s religions and recognize that the great majority of the followers of each religion follow their faith with their whole heart and live admirable, moral lives. And again, I don’t want to exclude them by celebrating what is at its heart a deeply religious holiday.
So what I’m going to do instead is look at a universal reason why we can all celebrate the birth of Christ. I want to find the common element we can all honor. Whatever you believe about the divinity of Christ (or even the existence of a divine being) I think we can all admire the way he lived his life. Whether you accept him as a savior, or merely as a great man, or as just a myth, we can all learn and gain from his story
I think one thing we can all agree on is that the life of Christ embodies selfless-ness and self-sacrifice. He was a perfect example of loving service to others, and that is something we can all strive to be more like.
I have told you several times that I went through a very dark time in a mid-life crisis. Today I want to tell you that the way I found my way through it (and to a truly happy life) which was through what I like to call “self-forgetting”. The spiritual program I follow states that all my basic problems can be boiled down to one thing:
“Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.”
As I examined my life with a searching and fearless moral inventory I reached the conclusion that this was 100% accurate for me. But not in the way you may first think. What I found was that nearly all my thoughts had the word “I” or “me” in them. As often as not these were not conscious thoughts as much as they were feelings. As I studied why I acted the way I did, I discovered they were virtually unconscious feelings operating at below the surface level of actual thoughts. It was those feelings that drove my actions. The core principle of those feelings was a constant self-absorption. Those feelings manifested themselves mainly as self-pity, fear, envy and anger.
When I tried to put words to the feelings I could see they were all self –absorbed:
- I can’t be happy without….
- I will finally be happy if….
- If that happens, I will be miserable….
- I am better than him.
- I am not as good as her.
- Why do these things keep happening to me?
- You can’t treat me that way!!!
- I deserve better than that.
- I should have said….
- Why don’t people love me?
- I’ll show you!
- No one will ever love me….
As a Christian I believed in self-sacrifice and service to others, and tried hard to practice that. No one around me thought of me as selfish or self-centered, but the fact remained that at the center of all my thoughts was “I” and “me”.
In my new program I was told that as long as my thoughts were centered in myself, I would be miserable, that my only hope was to turn my thoughts outward and focus them on others and how I may help them. I was given a simple kit of spiritual tools to make that happen. I clung to them like a drowning man to a life preserver! I shut my mouth and did as I was told and a miracle occurred in my life. I changed. I didn’t hate my “self” or reject my “self”, I simply stopped thinking about my “self” all the time, and started thinking about others. But I was told that I had not been permanently changed, that I had only been given a daily reprieve that was contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition. Iit would only last so long as I acted on what I had been taught. The spiritual life was not a theory, I had to live it
The program I followed isn’t for everyone, it isn’t even the best one, but it worked for me. At it’s core it is nearly identical to the real reason we celebrate Christmas, living a life of service and unconditional love for others as exemplified by Christ in that manger so many years ago.
To truly celebrate his birth I am going to list some of my favorite quotes about self-less living, and encourage you to adopt it as a wonderful way of life.
“Whatever joy there is in the world…Arises from wishing for others’ happiness… Whatever suffering there is in the world… Arises from wishing for your own happiness.” ~Shantideva
“I have never met a person whose greatest need was anything other than real, unconditional love. You can find it in a simple act of kindness toward someone who needs help. There is no mistaking love…it is the common fiber of life, the flame that heats our soul, energizes our spirit and supplies passion to our lives.” ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
“In life you can never be too kind or too fair; everyone you meet is carrying a heavy load. When you go through your day expressing kindness and courtesy to all you meet, you leave behind a feeling of warmth and good cheer, and you help alleviate the burdens everyone is struggling with.” ~ Brian Tracy
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Dr. Felice Leonardo Buscaglia
“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” ~Mark Twain
“Happiness is a by-product of an effort to make someone else happy.” ~Gretta Brooker Palme
“Only a life lived for others is worth living.” ~Albert Einstein
My deepest prayer in life is to live up to the standard my dog sets for me:
“A dog has one aim in life… to bestow his heart.” ~J.R Ackerly