Two things that I keep which constantly help me throughout the day, weeks, and months are two little “journal” books that I have kept up. One is a “grateful” journal that I find enriches my love and kindness and peace and equanimity. I write all that I have to be grateful for every day: My health, my family, my being able to live in a free country like our great nation, the United States of America, my mental acuity, my creativity, etc. Another journal I keep is a little green notebook where I write in all the things that are lovable about myself. I take care to not be pretentious here, as humility is one of the greatest virtues.
But taking time to realize all the good that I have done makes me know inside that I am a lovable and kind person that can both give and receive love. I recall not long ago in the winter where there were two elderly ladies walking around who obviously couldn’t remember where they parked their car. It was a cold Chicago winter and the winds were blowing ice. I immediately pulled over and had them come inside the warmth of my car. Then, I drove around aisle by aisle until we found their car. They were so grateful. There was another time where when I was at church a young lady could not pass the state driving test for a driver’s license. She was from Korea and did not seem to know how to properly drive. Without hesitation, I gave her free lessons from my car and we went over all the important elements in order to pass the Illinois Driver’s License test. She finally passed and was so thankful. Another time, when I saw a lady that had forgotten her merchandise at the store (one bag), I ran out to the parking lot and located her and gave her back her property. Once recently at a McDonald’s, there was a guy in front of me that ordered but forgot his money at home. I paid for his meal, and he was really happy.
All of us have done similar things: acts of kindness and goodness. I know as a Catholic that while doing good or giving money, “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” Jesus asserts, “so that your alms may be done in secret” (Mt 6,3-4). I am taking care not to boast here but rather to have everyone remember their acts of kindness and goodness. All of us have sinned greatly but also have done much good in our lives.
The problem is that most of us focus repeatedly on all that we have failed in. That is, in my opinion, equally as bad as boasting of our good actions. We are so hard on ourselves and others. There was a saying that I scarcely recall that said, “Be kind to everyone, you have no idea what they are going through”. Emerson wrote that “most of the problems we have is that we are standing in our own shadows”.
An unknown person said, “Don’t wait for people to be friendly. Show them how.” There is also a saying, “No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted”. I read this on the site TinyBuddha @ tinybuddha.com/blog/25-ways-to-be-good-for-someone-else-be-the-positivity-you-want-to-feel/. Take stock of all the good that you have done. Don’t show necessarily all the good you have done to others, but keep them for yourself. I keep the green little notebook journal to myself, and whenever I have self doubts, I read them and realize that I am a beacon of love and kindness, and I deserve to be loved and to love in kind.
I don’t mean for you to go about boasting of all your actions, but rather to never forget that you are a good and loving being, in spite of all your past transgressions. God and the Universe loves you, and needs you to share your gifts with everyone else. The proof of this is that you are here, living, breathing, interacting with the world. Also, the keeping of the “grateful journal” reminds you of all that you have, lest you be left in want. The grateful journal keeps my feet planted firmly on the earth, and keeps me from feeling jealousy, but rather appreciation of all that I have. Doing this is immensely helpful to my own tranquility.
Our brains often work against us, and it is our duty and responsibility from keeping it in check. We so frequently have those “gotcha, ouch” moments where we remember doing things we are ashamed to admit from years back. They come back to us all the time, even when we are dreaming. That fact often sets off a negative spiral in our thoughts, and we become depressed as a result. So begin those two journals. You have so much to be happy and be grateful for.