Thomas Kempis and my tiny black heart…

I get a daily quote e-mail.  Today was so good, I had to share it.  It comes from Thomas Kempis.

“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”

I am both inspired and convicted by this one.  I am convicted because I see so many times in my life where I have not done this.  There are so many times that I have been angry and hateful and spiteful to people only to find out that I am no better, just in different ways.  Or still more often, to find out that I am far worse in exactly the same ways.

I am inspired because I hope that in once again looking at my history, I might find myself in a situation where I would have become angry and remember how many times my anger has been self righteous and wrong in the past.  Maybe now that I have finally started taking some baby steps towards apologizing when I realize I’ve been angry with someone for no good reason, I can take the next step.  Maybe now I can get to a place where I don’t have to apologize so often.  Of course I know me…and that’s not going to be easy.  One headache at work, one day with a cold, and I’ll be right back at it with my snippy sarcastic attitude.  But I’ll hold on to the thought that if I notice that I’ve been horrible, then I can fix it.  If I never notice it, then I’ll go on being horrible forever (see R.A.W.’s “Cosmic Schmuck Principal”).

“Good sense makes a man slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” – Proverbs 19:11

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About Andrew

The Universe is Round. View all posts by Andrew

2 responses to “Thomas Kempis and my tiny black heart…

  • Romanós

    I have been angry, at myself, at other people, at situations, and sometimes I have acted out the anger in emotional outbursts, foolish words, hurtful words. Strangely, I have never experienced what I have heard from others, anger at God. Maybe it’s because of my upbringing—I don’t know—but He could never be an object of my anger, because He always ends up being the only comforting bosom to which I can flee when everyone and all else fails me.

    What has angered me most in the past was false accusation, whether it was explicit, or concealed under sarcasm directed against me. An incident of the latter sort happened as recently as last night, where I was made to feel inferior and stupid by someone whom I really care about when I was only trying to help him. I know he has a weakness in this area, and I usually skirt by and stay clear of situations where he displays this weakness, but yesterday I took a risk, I wanted to see if he had learned to overcome it, or if he at least could show patience with me, his friend. I took the risk and lost. I knew he was just tired, frustrated, and unhappy with things, and so I just withdrew without any reaction. I felt hurt, but then reason kicked in and reminded me that he meant me no harm. The incident will be swallowed up by my saying “Yes” to whatever the Lord next proposes.

    Apologizing for expressions of anger, whether they arose out of righteous indignation or emotional weakness, is a given; yet, I live with people who still have not learned to even say “excuse me,” honestly. I thought, as I was raising my four sons, that by always being ready to apologize, not just for anger, but for anything in which an apology was due, and by actually apologizing, even when I was “in the right,” to defuse a confrontation—I thought this example would have some effect. I was wrong. My way is seen as a form of cowardice and weakness. That disappoints me, because again it is a kind of false accusation against me, and my behavior all these years has been misinterpreted. When I found out what they thought about me, I was hurt, and angry, but there was nothing to be gained even by resentment.

    To apologize for oneself and for others comes not from weakness, but from strength, and from love. It doesn’t matter what other people, even our loved ones, think of us. “Any one who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and any one who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me…” (Matthew 10:37) I could not have done nor can I do anything different than what I did and continue to do, to always be ready to make peace and admit my fault, even to cover another’s sin, and if I do become angry, to lay that anger at the feet of the One whom I follow, not out of a sense of duty, but out of love and gratitude.

    As a dad, I want to encourage you to always follow Jesus and imitate Him to the best of your ability at every age and in every situation, and if it pleases God that your family members respect you for it, and follow your example, then praise God; and if they misinterpret your motives and your actions, and even if they reject you, then praise God, and do not stop following the Master. He is always there for us, always faithful to welcome us, into His presence, and ultimately, into His Kingdom.

    Finally, try not to notice your “tiny, black heart,” my brother, but look up, receive your sight, and trust the One who has already transformed that lump of coal into a hard, bright diamond… Adamantios!

  • Romanós

    Andrew, I just had another thought, this time very short:

    So what if you have a “tiny black heart” — There’s an old Orthodox saying, “If you have a heart, you can be saved.”

    In your case, it’s more than obvious that you have a heart, but it’s also obvious that salvation without sanctification (if that is even possible) is not enough for you, and so I commend you always to the Father, that He keep challenging you in the spirit, and strengthen you more and more to run the race He set before you, and make you worthy to receive the crown of life, the white stone (your diamond heart?), your new name and all the other rewards numbered in the letters to the churches of Asia.

    Uh oh, sorry, this wasn’t as short as I promised. I got carried away. I apologize…

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