Just do it! I heard the Nike slogan in my head this morning as I debated (for the umpteenth time on a Monday morning) whether I should get up at 6 a.m., brave the cold and venture to the local gym to work out and swim laps…or sleep a little longer. Luckily, my better self won and now I feel physically and emotionally better as I sit and type this afterward! I think we need to tell ourselves to “just do it” when it comes to spiritual growth as well. We need to schedule or make time for prayer and meditation. Five or ten minutes the first thing every morning spent praying and meditating usually makes for a better day, no matter what happens. Making a gratitude list even when times are rough often can lift us out of a downward spiral of depression and anxiety. And often, just being nice to people – even those who rub us the wrong way – takes daily practice, but makes us feel better about ourselves in the long run. That last one isn’t easy…praying for those who “persecute” us, smiling at the nasty person who cuts us off in line or in traffic, complimenting someone who never ever compliments us in return. But often, if we practice something long enough, it becomes a habit. Those in recovery have heard the saying, “fake it ’til you make it,” meaning just don’t drink one day at a time and eventually you will become not only a sober, but better person.
I’m not suggesting by all of this that you be fake as in phony to other people. But faking good behavior even when we’re not feeling it…thinking of others when we act, instead of acting out of how we think or feel, can be a good habit. It may start off with little things, like smiling and saying hello to a stranger on the street even though you just experienced something that made you sad, hurt or angry. Asking how someone else is doing even though you may not be doing so great. Praying for the happiness of another, even when that same person has caused you unhappiness. We sometimes can’t tell when others are feeling much worse than we can even imagine, and that kind word or gesture we show might just be what it takes to make their day better, and lift us out of our own funk as well.
St. Paul encourages us to do this very thing, and we will be rewarded as well as the one to whom we show mercy, kindness and charity: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (NIV, Phil. 4:8) And of course, Jesus tells us the same: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same…But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.” Sounds like a pretty good deal to me! I think I’ll start acting on it today.