In this series of blog posts, Life lessons from a Trappist Monk, I share the wisdom of my late friend Brother Rene, who was a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani for over fifty years. For many years we corresponded by letter, and here I share excerpts from his letters.
The real truth is we are all, every one of us, different from everyone else. Each is individual and each is different from everyone else. So I suggest you try to look at yourself through God’s eyes. How does God look at you? Whoever looks at you with true love in his or her heart can only do so through God’s power. When you look at yourself and feel yourself different or not loved or not up to par or (even worse) no good, then behold it might mean you are not looking at yourself with love.
—Brother Rene, excerpt from letter, dated August 11, 2003.
A few weeks ago, my four sisters and I got together for a weekend at my oldest sister’s home in Southern California. Although we all speak regularly on the phone, we had not gathered together as a group in quite some time.
We are from a large family, but because of the broken nature of our family, we rarely get together as a group for holidays. But a few months ago, we all agreed it was time to shift this pattern and at least start by having the five of us get together.
There we were, five grown women, and since my older sister’s sons are now grown up and moved out, we had the run of the house. Her husband was busy during the day, but generously became our chef later on, preparing a delicious dinner.
As we sat around the table, enjoying a leisurely lunch, I could see each woman as unique and different. The nature of our upbringing was that we often competed for attention and resources, and therefore couldn’t appreciate each other. With the lack of involved and engaged parents, we didn’t really learn how to celebrate each other’s individuality with joy and grace as we were growing up.
Now, it was a new time. Each woman at the table had blossomed into a unique flower. And it was a beautiful sight. As we sat around the table , I noticed we were listening to one another other, with each person practicing a healthy amount of restraint—not judging others or comparing. One sister shared news about her new job teaching graphic arts; one other sister shared her experience keeping six chickens and chicks she now had in her backyard; another sister shared about her hopes and dreams for retirement; one sister shared about her husband’s marathon races; and I talked about my new book, and my hopes and fears.
Because of Brother Rene’s words, I have more consciously tried to see myself through God’s eyes, and by doing so, I have allowed love to heal me in a deep way. As I continued to lean back into my chair, I surrendered more into the moment of being together. I felt how relaxing it was to be receptive, non-judgmental, and grateful. I allowed my heart to stay open, and I could see my sisters through God’s eyes. Everyone was just living and sharing their lives, on their own terms.
When I returned home, I had such a peaceful feeling about the weekend. I realized that we don’t only heal for ourselves, but we heal for each other. Each woman’s journey of faith, of self awareness, of commitment to her life, was a gift she gave not only to herself, but a gift she was giving to everyone in her life.
- Who do you need to look at through the eyes of God–it could be yourself?
- For this week, when you notice judgment towards yourself or another person, take a deep breath and focus inward, come into your heart.
- Hold yourself and that person with love. You may even close your eyes, and say: I love you. You are a creation of divine love.