Lately, I’ve been thinking about how walking with God helps your mental state. How doing what the Lord taught, following His principles, helps keep things in balance.
I’m not saying that if you’re doing it right, you may never need counseling, have a rough few days (or weeks or months or years,) or just be crazy. I may fit into all of those categories even in this moment. For starters, I’m definitely crazy. Just ask my kids. You’re not allowed to ask my husband. I’m actually nervous how hard he’d laugh if you did. Seriously. You’re not allowed. But I do think there could be a correlation.
Think about it.
Jesus taught us to treat others the way we want to be treated. Our culture has even named that one The Golden Rule. It seems obvious that we can only expect respect from others if we’re willing to give it ourselves. We cannot hold others to a higher standard. It just doesn’t make sense, it’s not fair. But if we do treat others well, it is more likely that we will treated similarly in return.
Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Not only because it’s the only way to break the cycle of hatred, but because it clears your spirit. Allows you a moment of clarity to see things from their perspective. To allow the possibility of wrongdoing on your part. To have a guilt-free conscience. I’m often amazed that God didn’t tell us to simply pity them. Or even tolerate them. But to love them. It’s easy for me to love food. Photography. My husband, my kids. And no, not in that order. But to love my enemies, I’ve got to do some serious soul-searching first. That is not an easy task. But it’s the healthier option.
Jesus went a step farther and encouraged us to love people more than ourselves. He knew that we are a proud people and there isn’t anyone we love more than our own bodies. We don’t go out of our way to deny ourselves food, attention and the basic necessities. Why on earth would we? If we have the opportunity to give ourselves what we need to survive, then we should by all means do so. It’s in our nature. When Jesus told us to love others more than ourselves, it forces us to think of others in the same way. To look for opportunities to give someone else something that would also make us happy. And in doing so, we also find ourselves to be abundantly blessed. Even moreso than if we were to have kept that blessing to ourselves.
Jesus also taught us to be generous. That if someone asks for your coat, to give them your shirt too. To not be confined by what we are obligated to give, but to go the extra mile. This is counter-cultural. It goes against our grain. We don’t want to be taken advantage of. But when we open ourselves up to this thinking, we are reminded of the fact that nothing on earth really belongs to us. We came naked into this world and we will leave the same way. And even if we spent our own hard-earned money, our time, or whatever resources to secure it, it’s a fleeting thing and could be gone tomorrow. It keeps our priorities in check. It forces us to ask, will this matter next week? In a year? In ten years? It forces us to plan ahead, and spend our time doing things that matter.
Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. I used to struggle with this concept, thinking that He was encouraging me to be a whipping boy of sorts. But that’s just not true. As one author suggests, He was “calling for a full surrender of personal rights.” It’s foregoing the natural response, one of anger and hatred, and replacing it with love. This, again, goes against what feels natural. Most people would agree if that if someone hits me, I have the right to hit them back. Just ask my kids! No one had to teach them that! An eye for an eye, as it was practiced in Jesus’ day. But that’s not how we win others for Jesus. That’s not how we break the cycle. That’s not how we achieve healing.
Biblical principles are at work here, friends.
So when I’m teaching my son how to properly greet someone – to shake their hand, look them in the eye, and give a clear greeting – I am teaching him a valuable life skill. One that will serve him well throughout school, but also into adulthood. But there’s another motive, too. Giving someone a proper greeting shows that you respect them. It forces you to look them in the eye, to see them as your equal.
When I’m teaching Jack and Megan to share with each other, take turns, talk nicely and not lash out in anger, I’m teaching strategies that will allow them to work with other people, including their spouse. And also make our home more peaceful! It’s hard. I’m literally fighting an uphill battle. But the pay-offs are great!
These principles are both spiritual and practical. They help to bridge the gap between our sinful nature and God’s Perfect Way. Perfection is not something I will ever attain. Ever. Just being able to admit that truth is freeing. We’re not expected to get it all right. We’ll have bad days and we’ll mess up. Often. And that’s okay. Perfection is something we strive for – a goal to keep in our sights – though no one expects us to attain it until we join our Savior in heaven.
So don’t worry. We’re just as crazy as the person next to us! But I truly feel, the more time we spend with Our Father, reading His words, following His principles, the more our hearts will settle. There’ll be times when we need something more to help bridge the gap. But very often, we just need to “unplug” in order to connect with Him. And in turn, we are better people.