I’ve spent a lot of time in my life chasing after accomplishments. I finished a PhD when I was still in my 20s, and I thought when I went to work in the 2-year-college system that I had a pretty good deal because I didn’t have anything left to prove. I didn’t have to publish. I didn’t have to pursue any additional degrees. I could sit back and enjoy life and feel good that no one could take away my sense of my own accomplishment.
Yeah. That didn’t quite work out as planned.
I finished that PhD 18 years ago, and I’ve spent every single one of those years trying to prove to myself that I was worth something. I’ve taken on projects and presented at conferences and set challenges for myself. No matter how busy I’ve been, I’ve always managed to make myself busier by adding extra expectations on top of the ones that came with the job.
There’s something to be said for accomplishing goals. There is a certain satisfaction and a certain sense of self-worth and pride that comes with achievement. People need goals, and they need the discipline of meeting goals. They just don’t need them as much as they need other people.
After many years of getting it backwards, I think I finally see that salvation does not come to us through accomplishments. It comes to us through relationships.
I’ve been reading A Course in Miracles, and it puts a great deal of emphasis on the power of forgiveness. You find the light of God for yourself through forgiveness of others, it says. In other words, the divine that is found within is the loving kindness that we extend to others. God is love. There is no separation between our relationship to God and our relationship to people. They are one and the same. We find God by finding God within ourselves, which is to say that we find God by finding love within ourselves. Love needs community to grow. Love needs communion. We grow our feelings of closeness to God by growing our feelings of closeness to the people around us.
Redemption = relationships.
Happiness = relationships.
Peace = relationships.
This is why forgiveness is at the heart of redemption. Forgiveness closes the gaps in relationships. It heals wounds. It cultivates empathy and connection. Forgiveness is the same thing as love, and love is the same thing as God. Forgiveness is the path to the divine.
It really doesn’t matter whether you go about this from a religious or a non-religious point-of-view. The same principles hold true. Happiness is not found in things. Happiness is not found in accomplishments. Happiness is not found in building up the ego. Happiness is simply found in relationships.
This doesn’t mean romantic relationships. Sometimes romantic relationships are the opposite of redemptive because they are ego driven, and they can be demanding without being forgiving. Romantic relationships are probably only redemptive in nature if they are also relationships built on simple loving kindness of the same sort as would be extended to a child or a parent or a sibling or a best friend.
So often life becomes overwhelmed with responsibilities, and those responsibilities are important. They have to be taken care of. If they aren’t we end up dragging along a lot of guilt and resentment and self-doubt that we inevitably dump into our relationships. We have our jobs, and we have to do them, but we should never lose sight of the fact that we are working to make life better for ourselves and for the people around us. If our jobs and other responsibilities are robbing us of our relationships, we’ve gotten off track somewhere.
I’m preaching to myself when I say this. I need to hear it as much as anyone.
Never forget that family and friends are why you are here. Family and friends are not your distractions from your purpose. They are your purpose.
Only love is real.