by Robert Kenneth Jones
Columnist Robert Kenneth Jones reflects on three timeless virtues essential to all those who work with youth.
It doesn’t take careful observation to realize that there is way too much worry, too much hurry and too much hate. They ooze out of social media, our televisions, our schools and workplaces, our government, and even our places of worship. With that in mind, it’s time to reclaim hope, patience, and love as an antidote to all of this negativity. For these virtues are like medicines which wipe away the contagions of worry, hurry, and hate.
My paternal grandfather had a motto he generously passed on to his descendants. He told us that a long and happy life could be gained by following these directions; “Don’t Worry. Don’t Hurry. Don’t Hate.” We all aspired to follow his advice, but it is rather daunting because each of these emotions crops up on an almost daily basis. And perhaps there is an oppositional part of me that wants to disobey the word “Don’t” anyway. Some little boy who resides in my psyche like a naughty Peter Pan always dares to do the opposite of what he is being told to do. However, Roy Jones’ wisdom is right on target. I have found that if I turn his adage inside out, there is a hidden formula that reveals his secret in plain sight. It is this; Have Hope. Be Patient. Love Unconditionally. This eliminates my oppositional leanings and sets me on a path of joy and happiness.
Have Hope; (Don’t Worry), Be Happy
Worry has its roots in feeling threatened for some reason. It causes stress and sets off the fight or flight survival response. This, in turn, triggers all sorts of changes in our bodies. Blood pressure and heart rate get ramped up while the immune system and digestion are turned down. These survival responses are necessary and critical if we are under attack by a bear causing us to run away or fight him off in some way, but when they persist because of worry which lasts for weeks or longer, we are in for some significant problems. There is a huge hidden cost to your health, and even on how long you might live, from worrying too much.
“If you don’t relax you’re going to worry yourself to death.” ~Dr. Robert Adler
Worry is mostly about the fear that we are not in control of what might happen. And it is a fact that we cannot control much of what will happen in the future. So why worry? Studies indicate that most people spend (or waste) 6.5 years of our lives worrying while only eight percent of those worries will ever materialize.
Hope overcomes worry. It is not some idle, misty, sympathetic emotion. It is a faith-filled response to life. When we hope we are doing the things required to grow and recover. When we have discovered that we are worrying it is time to escape from our heads and ground ourselves in hope. Because where worry is destructive, hope leads us to acceptance and action.
Be Patient; Slow Down…You Move Too Fast
An article in Fortune Magazine warns of something they are calling ‘hurry sickness’ saying that we are losing the ability to stand back and think. Furthermore, our quest to do-all and be-all is costing our health. The pace of life continues to speed up. Many of us feel like we are trapped in a time crunch. Our bodies and minds weren’t meant to endure continual stress. Blood pressure spikes and eventually remains at an elevated level, hearts wear out, we become irritable and easily angered, and we get upset from frustration and exhaustion.
“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”John Quincy Adams (6th U.S. President
Patience and perseverance are not as valued today as they might have been in simpler times. We have come to believe that the things we want should materialize immediately. The quicker we satisfy our desires or reach our goal the better. There is a sad loss of anticipation and wonder that have almost disappeared in the process. No longer do we have to wait weeks for a treasure to be ordered by catalog, shipped and packed by some meticulous clerk in a city far away, and then mailed to a mailbox checked and rechecked every day after school or work. Now we see what we want online, pay by debit card, and then become annoyed when FedEx doesn’t have it at the door in two days.
No patience, no perseverance, no big thrills. These qualities haven’t completely disappeared of course, as evidenced by the feats of people like Diana Nyad who, on her fifth try, finally swam ninety miles through jellyfish invested waters from Havana to Key West. The story is chronicled in her inspirational work, “Find a Way: The Inspiring Story of One Woman’s Pursuit of a Lifelong Dream.”
Diana was a classmate of mine at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale. She has lived a glorious but tough life. She is a decorated distance swimmer, hall of fame member and popular speaker and author. She also had a near death infection in her junior year of high school and was sexually abused by her famous swim coach as a young girl. She has shattered world records through determination, patience, and persistence. Nothing stops her. She teaches us that there is no hurry. The journey is more important than the destination.
Love Unconditionally; Just The Way You Are
“There are people in the world who refuse to yield to hatred and who rise to a level of love that has within it a redemptive and transformative power.”Colette Parker, OPA
There is no doubt about the presence of hate. We are exposed to it every day. Hate groups and violence seem to erupt in headlines constantly. But the remedy for hate, which is love, reveals itself in more elusive ways. We seek it and run after it as younger people though it seems to become more and more elusive the harder we pursue. We grab for it, and once it is in our grasp, try to control it and possess it. However, it is not something we can own. The problem is that trying to hold on to love is like trying to hold on to flowing water. As we mature we begin to discover that love often leads us. We do not lead it. It comes like a butterfly to one who sits patiently in the garden. Often it is anticipated but usually unexpected.
The question that burns in our hearts is ‘Do you love me’. It is a question said to have been asked by Jesus of Simon Peter. Do you love me? He asks it three times. Do you love me? Real love springs from the unconditional love of God. It is a reflection of that pure and true Love that really matters. Unconditional love does not expect performance. It has no prerequisites. We cannot expect people to fill our empty spaces. What we can do is to recognize that the presence of that beloved person in our lives is a gift to be treasured. Whether a mate, son, daughter, friend or relative, we must remember that the love we have for them does not require anything in return, nor can we ask for it or for them to make us happy.
We have the common experience of being little babies in diapers. Someone has held us, looked down on our innocence, and discovered the miracle of a bursting, unexplainable love. The baby does not have to do anything to deserve love at all. It simply overflows in abundance. We relive unconditional love at the birth of our children, grandchildren or nieces and nephews. Something deep inside stirs as the memory of perfect love is revived. Other experiences of deep love and affection can only approximate this.
The glimpse of unconditional love is a spiritual experience. It eliminates the possibility of hate. To think that we are all loved in this measure, without strings attached and through no merit of our own by a God who cannot get enough of each and every one of us is the antidote for hatred. God does not care who we are, what we are worth, where we come from, our color or creed or our sexual orientation. We are just loved perfectly. He perceives no flaws. God sees only his little babies in diapers. How could hate ever co-exist in the presence of such love?
Virtues Leading to Joy and Happiness
I refer to hope, patience and love as virtues instead of feelings or emotions for a good reason. Feelings like worry, hurry and hate can allow us to languish in them. But virtues demand action. There is a definite relation between action, joy, and happiness. The desire for joy and happiness motivates our actions, and our actions are what determine whether we obtain happiness or not. Hope, patience, and love are the virtues which free us to find happiness and to live life joyfully.
Robert Kenneth Jones has dedicated his life to making people whole again. His work in helping others overcome addiction and childhood abuse spans over four decades.