Have you ever noticed how we rate many of our capacities as “good” or “bad?”
Take sensitivity, for example. A sensitive heart, open to others, to nature, to art, is a huge asset for beautiful living. Yet at times that very sensitivity gets in our way. Then we may conclude that we are “too empathic” or “too reactive” or some such similar judgment.
I prefer a different way of thinking about personal capacities.
What if we think of all our talents and capacities as a tool box full of useful possibilities? Then the practical question is, when can I use this particular ability and when would it be better not to use it? There is no self-judgment here, no attempt to push away something I may have learned, but only an effort to make everything I see within myself into a useful, helpful capacity.
If I apply this to our sensitivity example, it means that I can fully open my sensitivities to love, to beauty, to joy and to all the ways we humans express these capacities. On the other hand, if someone is dragging at my energy or saying something I’d rather not hear, I can set aside my sensitivity for the time being and turn to some other capacity.
The other day, someone was complaining about how quickly he gets angry and he was angry with himself over it. When I suggested the toolbox, he got it right away. He soon could see that anger is, at its root, intense energy. So if he’s observant, he can choose how to use that energy. He can fling it at someone, but he might also use it to fuel his creativity. Then he doesn’t have to condemn himself, or try to discard his intensity. He gets to choose how to use them. And he can honor himself for that capacity.
Does using our capacities as a toolbox take practice? Yes, it does. And attention to ourselves as well. It’s worth the effort, because it brings more peacefulness into daily living. We condemn ourselves less, we honor ourselves more. We do less of what we don’t want to do, but more of what we respect. And we enrich our ability to respond appropriately and zestfully to people and to life itself.
(I’ll be on vacation next week so don’t expect a blog then!)