A Work in Progress

I’m not perfect. I know this better than anyone, but I often ask myself how I can grow and become a better person. My main issue lately has been that I have little patience for people who I believe are moody, passive-aggressive, or bipolar. I’ve encountered this kind of person a couple of times in my life, and I end up breaking off all ties to them. I hate conflict. When it comes to fight or flight responses, let’s just say that my bags are always packed, and I’m ready for take off! For instance, I wrote a letter to a friend, telling her I thought it was best if we went our separate ways since she seemed to become easily frustrated and angry with me and my husband. I just couldn’t handle the way she would roll her eyes or let out an exasperated sigh or stomp away from me like I had said something stupid or made a major faux pas. In my good-bye letter, I thanked her for her friendship over the years and wished her the best. I wouldn’t say I’ve had regrets, but I do wonder if I could have done anything differently.

I read an excellent article in the New York Times by David Brooks today who said that he’s been studying people of good character who seem at peace no matter what life seems to throw at them. As a person who would like to be able to tolerate people and stressful situations better, I found myself eagerly reading the article. One of my main flaws is that I worry too much…WAY too much. I’ve been working on reducing my level of worry by studying passages from the bible and reading about the nature of worry and how destructive it can be, but it hasn’t sunk in yet. Anyway, in his article, David Brooks states that people of good character who seem at peace have come to find humility, recognizing their flaws. I think my main problem is being overly self-conscious and anxious.

Secondly, Brooks points out that it’s important to deal with one’s flaws, not just recognize them. In order to do that, we have to recognize where the flaw is coming from and come up with some routine or practice to deal with it. I tried reading scriptures about worry and stress for a week, and it helped temporarily, so I think I’m going to have to keep at it.

Thirdly, Brooks states that we can’t go it alone. We must depend on others around us for support. We don’t change by facing everything alone. We need the feedback and guidance of others. This is tough for me because I’m quite introverted, and I don’t like to open up to others which is probably why I’m blogging at this moment!

The next important attribute of good character is loving others to the point that you are not focused on yourself. You genuinely want the good of others. My problem is that, though I want good for others, I sometimes become disappointed by them (i.e. they’re passive-aggressive or rude), and then I don’t want them anywhere around me. Part of me says that’s the right thing to do because I shouldn’t let myself be treated like a door mat, but another part of me asks, “How will that improve things?” If I try to talk to the person calmly about their motivations, they become defensive and blow up at me. So for now, I’ll just keep praying for them as well as for wisdom and guidance.

Another part of developing one’s character is by turning a career into a calling. I felt I was called to work with teenagers, so I made it my career. Now, I’m starting to question my career. I know I help a lot of students, but I know there are others who may be able to do a better job than I. I’ve thought that I needed to be in education to make the world a better place. Not only that, but we just got through studying “vainglory” in my Wednesday night class at church, and I’m wondering if I’ve been guilty of vainglory. I don’t really feel the need for recognition at work, but if I get any, it does feel pretty good.

Finally, Brooks says that many people of good character make a conscience leap. Despite their background or education, they do something that others may frown upon because they feel it’s absolutely necessary. I have to wonder if this is something I need to do. I haven’t thought of seriously considering a career change because 1) I truly thought that education was my calling and have had a lot of highs in comparison to the few lows 2) I’ve been worried about what my friends and family might think, and 3) I may end up making less as far as salary and in retirement since I’ve paid into the Teacher Retirement System instead of Social Security for the past sixteen years. However, lately I’ve felt I’m being pulled in a different direction due to my 1) extreme exhaustion and joint/muscle aches, 2) my frustration with the education system, mainly the ridiculous notion that kids should be constantly tested, and 3) some kids, albeit a small minority, can be very rude. When you work in a school with over 3,300 teenagers, there are an awful lot of hormones to deal with. I have to admit that I’ve started to miss working someplace where I can primarily work alongside adults.

I’ve come to realize in writing this that my father was someone I knew who was of great character. I don’t think he had any enemies. Everyone seemed to love him. He was accepting of others, humble, and patient. From what I understand, he had a major flaw when he was younger, but he dealt with it before I was born. He helped others by listening to them and treating them respectfully. If only he were here, so I could consult him on what I should do!

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