The Forgotten Disciplines
There is no way around it, we are in the middle of a crisis, and things are about to get worse. I can tell you what to do while you hunker down and wait for the apocalypse to pass, but I have found that the Internet is full of creative ideas of things you can do while stuck at home with your spouse and children. Celebrities and citizens have gone to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to post these ideas like building a living room fort, making pictures that you can upload to Shutterfly, and my personal favorite, using coffee stir sticks to practice math. I’ll leave the creative Pinterest ideas to the experts and instead, take this opportunity to talk to you about the forgotten disciplines that are going to help us get through this crisis.
The Discipline of Waiting
We have been tasked with the excruciating exercise of waiting during this COVID-19 pandemic and not just waiting but waiting while still working from home and schooling our children. Some of us don’t get to stay home but must wait nonetheless – wait for the economy to improve, wait in lines at the grocery store, wait for test results to come back, wait for the stock market to level off and wait and see what the future holds.
The worst part of the crisis is having to exercise the virtue of patience; for life is not marked by instant solutions and hurried choices but by patient, slow gestures of faith that lead us through and out from under our circumstances. If your boss doesn’t get back to you on time, don’t give in to despair. If the schools are not opening tomorrow, find your inner peace, and do what you can to educate your child. If your government assistance check hasn’t yet arrived, don’t forget that panic is the enemy, and it goes counter to finding the next best solution.
Not knowing how to be still in times of distress will cause you the most damage. When you are feeling anxious, go outside and blow some bubbles into the air to calm your heart and remember that sometimes our only job is to be still.
As you sit there waiting for the worst to pass, remember that history tells the story in terms of generations, not just seasons, and has its calendar marked by centuries, not minutes.
The Discipline of Sacrifice
Those of us who want to survive times of crisis must learn to live beyond ourselves. That means that we must seek to put others first and sacrifice our feelings of panic for the good of our loved ones. We like to do the things that cause us the least amount of discomfort, but while living through a crisis where young ones are feeling stressed and afraid might call upon you to do things that you don’t want to do. Sit next to your child as he does his homework. Smile at your husband and tell him, “we can get through this together” when his hours have been cut. Pray silently for your parents when you see one of them succumbing to the illness. Refrain from screaming, nagging, and demanding when your kids refuse to their homework or keep the house tidy. Be the calming force in your home when things appear hopeless.
We can survive close living quarters but we must sacrifice short tempers and ill humor and replace it with hope and faith.
The Discipline of Contentment
It is quite a task finding contentment when the Dow managed to lose all our retirement funds in one swoop. That’s why contentment is a discipline – a hard honed skill that requires a will of steel. Contentment has nothing to do with settling and everything to do with being thankful.
During these times of shortage, let’s learn to practice gratitude. Focus on the good things in your life and not on the empty supermarket shelves. Find gratitude in the song of a bird, in the early shoots of spring, in the warmth of sunshine, in the sound of rain, in the cooing of a baby, in the hug of your loved one. You are the only one who can bring peaceful gratitude to your household and circumstances. When your kids complain because their spring break plans were canceled, and your mother-in-law laments that her retirement funds were depleted by the market, stand firm on your commitment to gratitude. As you exude contentment, the rest will follow.
The Discipline of Social Mercy
This is the hardest discipline to develop in a time of social distancing. Family Bridges just posted a quote on Facebook that made me remember this discipline. It reads, “remember that social distancing does not mean disconnection. Reach out to those around you and be kind to one another.”
Some people like their alone time, but human beings are not wired to live without a network. We need each other. Find the one thing your neighbor needs and share from your abundance. This is not always a physical need; many times is a social connection, a telephone conversation, a word of encouragement. Be present even when you are not physically present. Human beings are not made to multi-task, so stop trying to do what you were not wired for. Instead of letting the world pass you by as you go on your way to tomorrow, stop and live the moment and do it with the person that requires your attention the most. This might mean that you need to turn off the news or put Netflix on hold to truly be present and begin to develop the discipline of social mercy. Give of your time, money, and resources sacrificially. Like my father used to say, “do it until it hurts.”
The ancient disciplines and virtues have not gone out of style. In a world that’s living through a Pandemic, your patience, self-sacrifice, contentment and social mercy are most needed. You can be the telegraphic wire that links the hurt with hope. Stand firm on your peace, and you will be light in the darkness.
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