What Are You Thinking?: The Art of Discernment

Many years ago, I was taking evening classes which required a 90-minute commute. Class usually ended at 9 PM, then I would make my way to the interstate and try to wind down during the drive south. One particular evening, I was forced to make a ‘split second decision,’ a decision that could seriously affect the life of a stranger and/or myself.

I found myself in the passing lane behind another car. We were both passing a semi-truck, the other car was located near the front, and me near (adjacent) to the back of the truck. The road was curving to the right with a slight incline, so there wasn’t much ‘line of sight.’ My best recollection would place our speed at approximately 70 mph when the car in front of me locked up the brakes. I had a split second to make a decision. I could swerve into the right lane and hit the truck, I could swerve left into the median, or I could rear-end the car in front of me. Option 1 didn’t seem like much of an option. I would likely lose my life. Option 2 was viable, however, I had no idea why the car was breaking so suddenly. Could there be something or someone in the median? If so, I could potential injure others or even take their life. That would be a hard pill to swallow. With option 3, there was the possibility of injuring the driver in front of me and even myself. All these possibilities flashed before my consciousness in about a second.

Discernment is the art or ability to choose or judge well. The ability to discern well, can have a tremendous impact on the results of any event or situation. So, how does someone achieve good discernment?  

The first step might lie in the understanding of truth. When a person has a good understanding of right from wrong, good from bad, they are able to place a healthy contrast to any situation. Another avenue to healthy discernment might be found via failure. When we make bad decisions, they provide vast opportunity for self-awareness and wisdom. So in that respect, a bad decision is not a failure at all, but an opportunity for future personal growth. The art of discernment may grow over time, as we experience the magical aspects of life and how situations unfold. Over time, we can develop a keen sense of awareness and respect for the power in our choices.

We should always seek to make good choices with the assistance of healthy discernment. Some tips for choosing well include consideration of the following:

-Choosing the right choice over the easy choice

-Choosing others before self

-Choosing love over any negative emotion

-Choosing quality over quantity

-Choosing quality over cost

-Choosing only after adequate research

Our experiences help to provide the catalyst to mold our perspectives and enable the cultivation of healthy discernment. We make hundreds, if not thousands of choices each and every day. We can live a better, more fulfilled life by taking personal responsibility for our own decisions. This may require time and introspection. Hopefully, you will always have adequate time to make your decisions, including the time to change your mind if appropriate.

In case you are wondering, in my featured scenario, I chose option 3, to remain in my lane, come what may. The decision left me stranded, my car totaled, but me in one piece. I was not injured nor the car or driver that initiated my sudden response. There was indeed much in the median. A tow truck, two cars, and a sheriff deputy on foot. I will never know why flares or warnings were not posted. What I do know is that I made the best choice that I could, given the circumstances, and my discernment played a key role in making that decision.

What Is Love?

Do you recall the first time that you fell in love? How did it feel? Were you walking on clouds? The experience of falling in love can bring about a mixture of many emotions. You may have felt:

Butterflies dancing in your tummy

Anxiousness at seeing them again

A yearning to plan a future with them.

So is love a feeling, or is it a choice? If a choice, does choosing to love require action? Is love an action verb? Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “love is not enough.” How can love not be enough?

To love and be loved is precious, but if we do not show love, is it still love?

I heard a story recently, told by a man, we’ll call him Joe, who felt called to visit a guitar store while returning to his hotel room, after picking up some food. He didn’t need a guitar, yet he felt called to make the stop. Upon arrival he found a kid jamming on an electric guitar. Joe reached out to the boy and started a conversation with him. The kid opened up to Joe. He told him about his drug addiction and how his father had recently committed suicide. Joe displayed so much love for him that the kid wants him to meet his girlfriend and daughter who are shopping next door. They walk next door and Joe prays with the family, then he blesses them by paying for all the items purchased. They are blown away by Joe’s act of compassion. It was such a blessing to them and there seemed no strings attached. The family thought there surely must be a catch.

As they depart, the kid returns to the guitar store to play yet another guitar. It seemed a coping mechanism. Joe then learns from the family that this kid has not talked to any man since his father took his own life. And a year prior, the kid had sold his guitar to bail himself out of jail, due to a drug violation. The kid had stopped using drugs at that point, but now, no longer had an instrument to play. Joe was so moved by what he heard, that he then went back into the guitar store and bought the kid a guitar, replacing what was lost. There was no judgment, no negative opinion, and he didn’t simply hand him cash, he showed him love. Had this family ever felt such love?

In our society we tend to identify ourselves by what we do for a living.  Joe identifies himself as “a guy that loves people.” We should all aspire to such selfless action. What would our world be like with more Joes in it?  I encourage you, as you move through your day, to not just feel love for others, but to BE love. Perhaps we should not focus so much on our standard of living, but more on our standard of giving.

If you are old enough to remember Mister Rogers, you may recall this quote, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.

Genuine love should not be based on words alone or false deeds, but grounded on authentic actions. Love doesn’t just trust or hope, but it completes specific acts for the purpose of accomplishing those things for which that are trusted and hoped.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18-19

I would encourage you to look for ways to give the gift of love to someone over the coming week. Look for opportunities to give to someone in need.  It doesn’t have to be monetary. It could be a simple service. Here are some ideas:

  • Open/hold the door for someone
  • Be gracious: say thank you, look people in the eye, be sincere
  • Make something and give it away
  • To those that want to be seen, SEE THEM.
  • To those that want to be heard, HEAR THEM.
  • Run an errand for the elderly.

To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care. Surely we are capable of that. Happiness can be found when we take the opportunity to bless others.

 If you feel troubled, instead of getting MAD about an event or circumstance, go MAD. Make A Difference for someone else. You will be amazed at how it makes you feel. We can serve others, not out of ego, but out of getting in touch with our true nature, which is love. You were made to love. Not only are you love, you are loved, loving, and lovable … always.

The giver is bigger than the receiver. If you want to be large, larger than life, learn to Give. Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.

The importance of giving, blessing others can never be over emphasized because there’s always joy in giving. Learn to make someone happy by acts of giving.”

~ Katharine Hepburn

(from Everything Good in the World)

Through the Eyes of Love

There is a saying, “Never look down on someone unless you’re helping them up!” When I first heard this, it struck me very deeply. It was a reminder that no matter where you find someone, they are never beneath you. They are your fellow man and should be treated as such. No one was born any differently than any other person on this planet. The only difference between you and them is the circumstance. I bet if you asked any child what they want to be when they grow up, they probably didn’t answer, “I want to be homeless” or “I want to be addicted to drugs” Experiences and wounds have led people to where they are. When we think about our fellow human beings in this frame of mind, it’s easy to reach out and help them up. So do not look past an opportunity to help someone in need, because you never know when you might need help yourself. You’ll be glad you did it to the least of these. 

6 Reasons to laugh, even when you don’t feel like it.

Let’s face it, life has its ups and downs. There are times when you may not feel like smiling, let alone laughing. But if you abstain, the joke is on you. Laughter is shown to be so healthy that it should be added to your wellness regimen.  There are many reasons to laugh at the world around you. Here are six of those motivators to encourage you to laugh at yourself, others, and the goofy things you experience.

  1.  MITIGATES AGING: Researchers at Loma Linda University have discovered that laughter or even the anticipation of a good laugh, will produce an increase (as much as 87%) in the level of a specific anti-aging hormone called HGH. Human growth hormone, produced by the pituitary gland, stimulates growth in childhood, but as we age, the released amount tends to decrease.
  2. IMPROVES HEART HEALTH: Laugher oxygenates the blood and stimulates its circulation. In addition, it has been indicated through research from the University of Maryland Medical Center that laughter causes the tissue that lines the blood vessels to expand, allowing for improvement in blood flow. Interestingly, persons with heart disease were found to laugh 40% less often than those without heart disease.
  3. SPURS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM: Laughter creates a double whammy here. Not only does laughter reduce stress hormones, but it assists the immune system to function at higher efficiency. Laughter helps immune system components like natural killer cells, B cells, T cells, and lymphocytes.
  4. IT’S EYE-CATCHING: If a smile makes you more attractive, what might a good laugh do for you? Research actually shows that by laughing, you will increase your attractiveness as viewed by others. When you are laughing, you appear comfortable with your surroundings, leading others to also feel safe.
  5. FOR THE HEALTH OF IT: Laughter truly may be the best medicine. According to Mayo Clinic, laughter actually produces physical changes in the body. It is very helpful for pain management, enhances digestion, relaxes tight muscles, stimulates many organs and releases endorphins, the feel good hormone in the brain.  Laughter has even been found to increase longevity or lifespan by 7.8 years on average.
  6. IMPROVES RELATIONSHIPS: Although you can laugh at yourself, laughter is usually shared with at least one other person and shared laughter contributes to bonding with others. In fact, we are 30 times more likely to laugh when we are with someone else. In general, couples who laugh more together tend to have higher-quality relationships. It is considered a supportive activity.

Laughter is a social sign of affection and affiliation. By sharing life events through laughter, we seek to find greater meaning in ourselves and others. We can enhance current relationships and make new ones. And when it comes to stressful situations, a solution via laughter, can change everything, promoting immediate feelings of well-being. The art of laughter requires no pre-requisites nor fancy credentials. It’s simply about living in the moment and enjoying the people and places that you frequent. It’s about enjoying the life you live no matter the circumstance. So, ..when was the last time that you had a good laugh?

WHERE HAS LOVE GONE?

There is a saying that Love heals all wounds, but if Love has disappeared out of the hearts of many, how can there be healing? And then that begs the question if Love is gone from many hearts, what has taken its place? The answer, for a number of people, is hatred and malice. Thankfully, we don’t have to continue along this ill-gotten path.

We can start the change within ourselves. We can show Love to those that do not seem to want it or want to return it. If enough people begin to Love the unloved or the unloveable (as deemed by society), change can occur. You just need to ask yourself, am I willing to take a leap of Faith and be the first one? Will I use the strength that I’ve been given to withstand the attacks from those that wish to see True Love wiped from this earth?

Those that have Love in their hearts, need to be the ones that step forward, while others step back. We need to stand in the gap for those that are not strong enough yet or who have not seen the True definition of Love in their life. Many have only seen a world view of love, which boils down to being nothing more than lust or a box full of scars.

Let us wake up the Love that dwells within each and every one of us and watch the miracles begin to multiply exponentially.

What Would You Do?

Sometimes life will present us with circumstances that require the use of contemplative discernment. In such a case, do we do what is easy and what seems to provide us with the greatest reward, or do we do what is right, knowing that the consequences may not be in our favor?

There is a video circulating of an interaction between a police officer and a suspect, as filmed from the officer’s vehicle webcam. The clip begins after the suspect has been placed in handcuffs with his arms behind his back. Shortly thereafter, the police officer begins to choke on his gum. His hand then moves to his throat and he begins to gasp for air. He backs away from the car, falls on his back, and continues gasping, with legs flailing about.

The suspect, seemingly uncomfortable, begins glancing about. There seems no one else in the vicinity. With the officer continuing to gasp for air, the suspect moves to his side and yells to the officer, “throw me your keys. (for handcuffs) I’ll help you.” Yet, the officer continues to flail about, both hands on his throat now, gasping in panic. The suspect again barks out, “throw me the keys and I will help you.”

Being in a vulnerable position, this is a decisive moment for the officer. If he does nothing, suffocation seems eminent. And yet, there are risks involved with taking action.

What could happen?

He could throw the keys to the suspect, who could subsequently remove the cuffs and run away.

He could throw the keys to the suspect, who could remove the cuffs and possibly proceed with acts of aggression. He could take the cops weapon, steal the officer’s car, and/or more.

He could throw the keys to the suspect, who could remove the cuffs and potentially save his life.

In all these scenarios, the suspect removes the cuffs when keys are provided. What happens after that is a mystery at this point in the story. Some would say that the officer has no choice, he must attempt to save himself. Others might describe the latter action as selfish and not true to his duty. To take action will take trust, the officer needs to trust that the suspect will do the right thing.

So here is how it played out…

After the second request from the suspect, the officer managed to grab the keys and throw them at the suspect’s feet. The suspect then lowered himself down, while remaining on his feet, and picked up the keys from behind. After a return to standing, he used the keys to release the cuffs, then proceeded to throw the keys and cuffs to the ground. Without hesitation, he proceeded towards the head of the officer. He bent down, reaching his arms under the officer’s shoulders he managed to pull him to his feet. He then began the Heimlich manuver. With the first thrust, nothing happens. After the second, the officer is continuing to gasp and has difficulty trying to remain on his feet. With each thrust, they are moving closer to the car and camera. The suspect, now having to also hold the officer upright, continues using all his might to thrust a third time, fourth time, and a fifth. He is not giving up. Finally, after the fifth thrust, a wad of gum flies out of the officer’s mouth, landing on the hood of the car.

What happens next is also amazing. The officer leans on the car, coughing and gasping, trying to regain some level of composure. Meanwhile, the suspect walks back over to the handcuffs and picks them up. He returns to the officer, hands him the cuffs, then turns around, putting his hands behind his back.

 What do you do when you think no one is watching?

Although continuing to cough, the officer appears quite relieved that the ordeal is over. Making eye contact with the suspect he says, “man, you saved my life. You are free to go.”

This story has a happy ending. It turned out well because someone chose to do the right thing and in doing so, invoked a double blessing. He saved someone’s life and by this action, gained respect and freedom. So it is possible that doing the right thing can provide everyone with the best possible outcome, even when not seen initially.

What would you have done as the officer?

What would you have done as the suspect?

Would you call yourself a person of character? People of character do the right thing, not to boast, but to align with their true nature, for we are always called to authentically Love One Another. At the root of everything, Love is who we are. When provided with a challenge such as this, we must remember, the time is always right to do the right thing.