Faith and the Holy
By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
Often, when I share spiritual advice, I say, “Life is not about mistakes.” If life were about mistakes, don’t get out of bed in the morning. Life is perspective and experience. Ultimately, it’s about the quality of your personal journey and how you find and embrace joy and hope each day.
Life experiences can make you bitter. You can develop a “woe is me” complex. Shame on you, if you do. Hopefully, experiences empower you to engage and resolve. Perspective is something you draw on. It’s wisdom that may instill empathy towards others.
Everyone has his or her personal journey in life. Rarely can someone tell you what to do. You can, however, benefit from someone’s experience as you reflect on your crossroads.
Substance abuse, a major breakup, coming out to parents, a new job that’s gone terribly wrong, or the challenges of being same-gender parents are major events in a person’s life. The possibilities go on. Some events are life-changing. You learn and carry on because life is too short. Don’t dwell.
Duty to humanity and one another calls you to share your personhood with someone else. Duty nurtures your authentic self and underscores to another soul that it will be okay.
This is not about telling someone what to do. It should be the rare exception when using the obnoxious phrase, “You should … ” Most of the time, the only thing you can share is a personal experience that does not automatically translate to what another should do in his or her journey.
A long time ago good-intentioned individuals told me, “You should go to law school.” I think they projected their own professional regrets. I went to law school. Not the best choice. Hence, if you are invited to share perspective, remember, it’s perspective, not what the other person should do.
Sharing personal experiences can make you feel vulnerable to judgment or ridicule. What I’ve learned is not to allow someone else’s opinion to become my reality. If you have shared your authentic self, then all is well.
Two years ago, I contributed an article to The Rainbow Times about LGBTQ cowboys and girls. It was an incredible experience interviewing folks who participate in rodeos. I learned a lot about authenticity and acceptance. Sadly, for the first time, I learned about discrimination the transgender community experiences within the greater LGBQ community. I learned how the persecuted can become the persecutor.
Over the last several years I’ve been penpals with a few transgender women in male prisons through the Black and Pink penpal program. Once again, I’ve been educated, developed empathy, and now have a very different perspective about myself, the world, and those who are discriminated against for being different.
St. Benedict of Nursia, venerated in the Catholic, Episcopal, and Eastern Orthodox Churches, laid the foundations for the monastic life for discipline, devotion, and drawing closer to the Giver of Life. I keep an icon of this great saint outside the window near my writing desk.
St. Benedict teaches us to overcome weakness by drawing on the strength, integrity, fellowship, and goodness of each other. It’s about God (gender neutral) who wants a relationship with you, me, and us! We lift one another up to be closer to the Holy! We share perspective and experiences as holy souls to enhance our lives with integrity and character with one another; this binds us with the Divine.
*Paul is a personal chaplain, seminary trained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, NY. He’s also the author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”