There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you.
― Martha Graham, as quoted in The Life and Work of Martha Graham by Agnes de Mille
Our problem isn’t that we’re individualists. It’s that our individualism is static rather than dynamic. We value what we think rather than what we do. We forget that we haven’t done, or been, what we thought; that the first function of life is action, just as the first property of things is motion.
― Fernando Pessoa, The Education of the Stoic
Going easy on ourselves also reflects a key cognitive fact: we judge ourselves by our internal motives and everyone else by their external actions. And thus, in considering our own misdeeds, we have more access to mitigating situational information. This is straight out of Us/Them–when Thems do something wrong, it’s because they’re simply rotten; when Us-es do it, it’s because of an extenuating circumstance and “Me” is the most focal Us there is, coming with the most insight into internal state. Thus, on this cognitive level, there is no inconsistency or hypocrisy and we might readily perceive a wrong to be mitigated by internal motives in the case of anyone’s misdeeds. It’s just easier to know those motives when we are the perpetrator.
The adverse consequences of this are wide and deep. Moreover, the pull towards judging yourself less harshly than others easily resists the rationality of deterrence. As Ariely writes in his book, “Overall, cheating is not limited by risk; it is limited by our ability to rationalize the cheating to ourselves”.
―Robert Sapolsky, Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst
Because forgiveness is like this: a room can be dank because you have closed the windows, you’ve closed the curtains. But the sun is shining outside, and the air is fresh outside. In order to get that fresh air, you have to get up and open the window and draw the curtains apart.
We must do everything we are obliged to do; give without reckoning, practice virtue whenever opportunity offers, constantly overcome ourselves, prove our love by all the little acts of tenderness and consideration we can muster.
—Therese of Lisieux
Imagine you are on a high cliff and lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you as you fall is a branch sticking out of the very edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and it is more than strong enough to support your weight. How can it save you? If your mind is filled with intellectual certainty that the branch can support you, but you don’t actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If your mind is instead filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved. Why? It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch.
But there were some things I believed in. Some things I had faith in. And faith isn’t about perfect attendance to services, or how much money you put on the little plate. It isn’t about going skyclad to the Holy Rites, or meditating each day upon the divine.
Faith is about what you do. It’s about aspiring to be better and nobler and kinder than you are. It’s about making sacrifices for the good of others – even when there’s not going to be anyone telling you what a hero you are.
―Jim Butcher, Changes
Trust me. If you do not decide where you are heading, and refuse to take the appropriate action, you will end up being shaped into what others would have you become. Then any change will not be made for your benefit but for theirs.
Be kind in your actions. Do not think that you are the only one who can do efficient work, work worth showing. This makes you harsh in your judgment of others who may not have the same talents. Do your best and trust that others do their best. And be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
―Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers
That was the problem with ones actions. They would always remain ‘acted’. They always remained ‘being done’, and their influence on the world, whether small or big , would always be palpable. You couldn’t refute the past. He would always remain liable for the consequences of his actions. Should anyone knock on his door and ask for reparation, he would give what was asked of him without question. There simply was no way of clearing the world of its history, and its history was simply a compilation of the existence of people and other organisms , and their actions. Of things which had been done.