An Honest Program
“Above all, do not lie to yourself. A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others. Not respecting anyone, he ceases to love, and having no love, he gives himself up to passions and coarse pleasures, in order to occupy and amuse himself, and in vices reaches complete bestiality, and it all comes from lying continually to others and to himself.”
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Father Zosima, an elder and spiritual adviser in the novel, speaks these words to Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, the father of the brothers. The gist of the dialogue is fairly direct and obvious. Fyodor Pavlovich is also a very appropriate character to receive the lesson (now is the time to maybe put The Brothers Karamazov on your reading list, if it hasn’t been there before). What happens when we lie, especially to yourself? We lose the capacity to understand others or even love. Without love, all manner of trouble befalls us; its reflected in our behaviors. Honesty is crucial for redemption, as is love.
What does it mean to work an honest program? Well obviously it means don’t be dishonest. More importantly, it is a rigorous process in which we are not dishonest with ourselves. It is almost not so much that we ONLY don’t lie to others, but that we give ourselves the same regard we give to the people around us. We have to honor ourselves in our reflection and self talk. The risk is losing the ability to respect or love ourselves or others. Zosima is simply communicating that honesty is a path towards love and a way to avoid the pitfalls of unwanted behavior.
Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote,
“The problem of honesty touches nearly every aspect of our lives. There are, for example, the widespread and amazing phenomena of self-deception. There are those rather dreadful brands of reckless truth-telling, which are so often lacking in prudence and love. Then there are those countless life situations in which nothing less than utter honesty will do, no matter how sorely we may be tempted by the fear and pride that would reduce us to half-truths or inexcusable denials.”
This small passage from a Dostoevsky novel strikes at the consequences of love lost. What other ways could a lack of honesty affect us or others? What are the benefits of of working an honest program? What happens to us when we self-deceive? There is always time for exploring deeply into who we are and telling the truth, and most importantly telling ourselves the truth.
Fill Your Bowl
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
Activities, interests, and social interactions are things we absolutely thrive on. Jobs, hobbies, activism, family . . . any number of focuses can be added to the list of personal drives. Sometimes, when feeling overwhelmed, I have referred to my five-gallon bucket being six gallons full. I think the point really is to learn to NOT add that sixth gallon to the bucket (as it presently exists)..
We persist in thinking “more is better”. It seems we almost never know what is happening till we reach the “more” stage. This is when we see the damage or spillover. And for some reason, even when we KNOW the limits of our personal container, we continue to add. Perhaps this is human nature.
Regardless, understanding our container is the key. Any time we assume our five-gallon bucket, in any circumstance, can handle six gallons, we are simply fooling ourselves. I understand that sometimes we are handed more than we can handle. Truthfully though, more than we can handle is exactly that. Its MORE than we can handle. (“Realistic expectations’’ is its own wonderful topic). Naturally we have options.
One option might be to get another container to help with the efforts. Think of it as a helping hand. Someone else pitching in. Or, simply asking for help. Another choice is to never put in more than your container can handle. Maybe this notion could be akin to setting healthy boundaries. It could be time to improve your container. Increasing capacity, reliability, or quality is a genuine possibility in most respects. This is likely the one thing that can be done as an individual. This is something any one of us could work on daily. It is, quite frankly, self improvement.
How do we actually know the specifics of our limits? How do we go about understanding our container? We evaluate wisely and practice awareness. We work diligently at understanding ourselves. We do our work, then step back.
What is Wellness???