The Age of Acceptance

When I was 51, I wrote that I was Determined to Age Gracefully. To me, aging gracefully means having an inner beauty that shines through the wrinkles. While aging gracefully is a noble goal, getting old is no fun. If you kick and scream like a toddler as Father Time carries you off into old age, there is nothing graceful about it. And there is nothing fun about the aches and pains and physical degeneration that come with aging. It took me a few years to come to terms with losing my youth. Thankfully, I can now say, with no shame: I am old.

Accepting Reality

The process of coming to grips with aging is much like the stages of grieving the loss of a loved one: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Many people deny that they are getting old by lying about their age or pretending to be younger than they are. We bargain to put off aging by buying anti-aging, age-defying products or having cosmetic procedures to cover up the effects of aging.

I never saw the point in lying about my age because if you lie about your age, you have to lie about other facts of your life, like how long you’ve been out of school or how long you’ve been married. In my opinion, pretending to be younger than you are just makes you look silly. Yet I do try to counteract the effects of aging by using anti-aging creams and by taking hormone replacement therapy. I work out harder than I did when I was young to offset my decreasing metabolism.

There is a lot of cultural pressure to deny and defy aging. I often see articles targeted to people my age about hair mistakes that make you look older, makeup mistakes that make you look older, fashion mistakes that make you look older. The underlying message is that there is something wrong with being old or looking old.

Aging is a fact of life. Looking your age is not.  – Howard Mo 

And here’s a quote from SilcSkin, a company that sells anti-aging products:

When you are happy with what you see in the mirror, your self-esteem is directly affected and when you feel great and look great, you are unstoppable.

SilcSkin on Twitter

Isn’t it better to feel good about yourself and to feel unstoppable, regardless of how you look? I think so. Because no matter what you do, if you live long enough, you will eventually look old.

It’s true that your physiological age may be less than your chronological age. Research shows that exercise makes your DNA younger by lengthening the telomeres that shorten as we age. I hope that my biological age is younger than my chronological age because I want to be healthy at any age. But even if it is, I’m still relatively old.

A meme I saw on Facebook said it well: the day you realize that your co-workers are young enough to be your kids is the day you are officially old. It is hard to deny that you are old when you see how old you are relative to other people. I am old enough to be the mother of a couple of my coworkers. My boss is more than a dozen years younger than me. And here’s a link to a fun graphic: at my age, 70% of people are younger than me.

It helps to accept aging if you can laugh at yourself. The first time I experienced the shock of seeing my aging neck skin in the side mirror of the car, I felt bad about my neck, just like Nora Ephron. She wrote,”our faces are lies and our necks are the truth.” If redwood trees had necks, you wouldn’t have to cut them open to see how old they are.

I am now able to laugh at my aging self. My husband tells me I look like an old lady when I bend at my knees to pick something up. You didn’t do that when you were young! I just laugh and say, I am an old lady! I don’t care if I look old; I just want to protect my back.

I have a great-niece who is nine years old. She has always struggled to understand how we are related (her grandma is my older sister). When I visited before Christmas, she said, “wait, are you my great grandma?”

Accepting aging is accepting reality. There is a time and a season for everything. I’ve had my time to be young. Now it’s my time to be old.

Becoming a work of art

Poet Stanlislaw Jerzy Lec wrote, “Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.” I know that not all old people are a work of art. The challenges of life make some people bitter, resentful, and prone to complaining about everything. When they age, they become crotchety and curmudgeonly.

Fortunately, the challenges of life can shape you into a wise, compassionate, and beautiful soul. People who are open to the lessons of life can become a work of art. Age provides perspective on the purpose of life and clarifies what is really important.

The adventure of life is to learn. The purpose of life is to grow. The nature of life is to change. The challenge of life is to overcome. The essence of life is to care. The opportunity of life is to serve. The secret of life is to dare. The spice of life is to befriend. The beauty of life is to give.

William Arthur Ward

I believe that the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit never fades. As I continue to age, I want my beauty to come not from the outside but from the disposition of my heart.

******

Painting of Chronos (Father Time) by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli – pl.pinterest.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54277715

I resolve to react respectfully

I read several political news stories on Facebook everyday. The comments to an article are often just as or even more interesting than the story itself. The articles expose the ugliness of American politics and the comments reveal the ugliness of our hearts – the selfishness, anger, and self-righteousness.

My mother used to tell us kids, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Facebook has made it easy to say something that isn’t nice without saying a word. You can express anger and contempt with a click of a button. It’s especially easy to react uncivilly to strangers.

When Facebook added the laughing reaction icon, I am ashamed to say that I started using it in the same way that I see other people use it – not to express amusement at something that is actually funny, but to let the person commenting know that I think their logic is laughable. Laughing at someone you think is foolish or ill-informed is bad enough; there are people who use the laughing face reaction to ridicule victims of sexual assault.

When used to show disdain, disrespect, and insensitivity to other people, the laughing face on Facebook makes an ass out of me. 

My New Year’s resolution is to control my reactions on social media. I resolve to not laugh at strangers. I resolve to not get angry at strangers. I resolve to respect other people, even when I disagree with them. I resolve to not be an ass.

May the words of my mouth, the meditations of my heart, and the emoticons I choose be pleasing to you, O Lord.

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer

Psalm 19: 14 (NIV)

Photo by Dan Cook on Unsplash

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2018/12/31/your-daily-word-prompt-resolution-December-31-2018/

The Ideal in the Making

I keep thinking about the age-old philosophical question: do the ends justify the means? Does a good outcome excuse any means to attain it? Many people certainly seem to think so. While I can imagine situations in which I would be tempted to use immoral means to achieve moral results, if I did, I believe I would compromise my integrity. But the more I think about this question, the more I realize that the answer isn’t that simple.

On Christmas day, I read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Christmas sermon on peace. In that sermon, he said that if we are to have peace in the world, “ends and means must cohere.” To cohere is to hold together, to be united, to be logically consistent. Cohesion is integrity, the state of being whole and undivided.

I question whether you can maintain your integrity if the means and ends do not cohere. Does anyone admire a hypocrite? Jesus certainly didn’t. Hypocrisy is pretending to be virtuous while concealing or hiding your real flawed character. You could say that a hypocrite’s actions (the means) do not cohere with the moral standards or beliefs (the ends) that they pretend to have.

Politicians often act as if ends justify means. Gerrymandering and voter suppression are seen as legitimate means to acquire political power. Conservatives who were once very concerned about morality now excuse the amoral behavior of the man who promised to nominate conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

If you believe that ends justify means, then it’s all about winning and not about how you play the game. It’s all about what you want and not about how you get it. But if you care about the kind of person you are or the kind of person you hope to become, then what you do to achieve your goals matters.

When I see people try to justify immoral means such as dishonesty or cheating with the results of their actions, I conclude that they lack a moral compass. A moral compass should guide a person to ethical behavior. But I have to admit that we don’t all agree on what constitutes moral or ethical behavior.

My approach to morality is called deontological ethics (from Greek deon, “obligation, duty”). I generally assess whether behavior is right or wrong based on my moral beliefs or values rather than on the consequences of the behavior. Another approach to morality is called teleological ethics, (from Greek telos, “end, goal”; logos, “reason, explanation”) or consequentialism. People who endorse this approach to morality believe that a moral act is one that produces a good outcome; therefore, a good end justifies the means.

Why don’t we agree on what constitutes moral behavior? Where do moral values come from? Many people think that religion is the source of moral values yet non-religious people have moral values. In 5 Inherent Values We’re Born With, Dr. Tom Muha writes that according to Jonathan Haidt, human beings are born with five moral values:

  1. Caring about other people and not doing anything to harm them (physically or emotionally). (Harm/Care)
  2. Being fair, reciprocating kindness, and following the Golden Rule. (Fairness/Reciprocity)
  3. Being loyal to people in your group, cooperating, and helping others to succeed. (In-group/Loyalty)
  4. Respecting authority. (Authority/Respect)
  5. Practicing self-control and restraint. (Purity/Sanctity)

As adults, most people still believe that the first two moral values are important. But almost half reject the last three. In Haidt’s TED Talk on the Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives, he says that moral arguments and political differences tend to focus on the last three values.

Politically, I think of myself as a moderate. For me, in-group loyalty is not an important value. I don’t belong to a political party. I am not blindly loyal. I do believe in cooperating and helping other people succeed if I believe in the rightness of what they are doing. In the same way, I respect the authority of moral people and I don’t respect immoral leaders.

Haidt concludes that if you want to change people, rather than trying to prove that you are right, “step out of the moral matrix” and try to see that we are all engaged in a struggle in which everyone thinks they are right and everyone has reasons for doing what they’re doing. I agree that it is good to try to understand the moral reasoning of other people and also to recognize that you cannot change them.

But back to the question of whether the ends justify the means. In his Christmas sermon, MLK, Jr. said something that I think is profound and worth repeating. The means represent the ideal in the making. The means are like a seed growing into a tree or like a tree producing fruit. You can’t achieve good ends through evil means. This conclusion is consistent with the teachings of Jesus. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. The ends and means must cohere.

So, if you’re seeking to develop a just society, they say, the important thing is to get there, and the means are really unimportant; any means will do so long as they get you there—they may be violent, they may be untruthful means; they may even be unjust means to a just end. There have been those who have argued this throughout history. But we will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.

Martin Luther King, Jr. – A Christmas Sermon on Peace

Photo by Macu ic on Unsplash

Be near me, Lord Jesus

Of all the Christmas songs I sing, Away in a Manger speaks to my soul, like a prayer, especially the last two verses.

Be near me, Lord Jesus
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me, I pray

Come Lord Jesus, come. Be near me. I need you, Lord, I need you.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, my Savior. Watch over me. Walk with me. Talk with me. I hear your voice and I feel your presence and I am comforted. You are with me. Stay close by me forever.

Carry me on your shoulders when I am weary. Lift me up when I am feeling down. When I am tossed about by the storms of life, calm the raging sea.

Jesus, Bread of Life. Without you, I was hungry. Without you, I was thirsty. You sustain me. You fill me with your love. Rivers of living water flow from my heart.

Lord, you are my rock and my redeemer, my best friend. You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. In you I found grace and truth. Show me your ways. Teach me your paths. Light my path and keep me from falling.

Lord, you are the Light of the world, love’s pure Light. Light shines in the darkness and darkness cannot overcome it. Lord, you have given me the light of life and because of you, I never have to walk in darkness again.

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to Heaven
To live with Thee there

Lamb of God, you came into the world as a little baby. I came to you as a little child and found your love. And as a child, I learned to sing:

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children
Of the world.

Lord, have mercy on the children, all the precious children, all over the world. Bless all the dear children in Mexico. Bless all the dear children in Central America. Bless all the dear children in Syria. Bless all the dear children in Yemen. Bless all the dear children in Russia and China and Korea and Africa.

Bless all the dear children in my family.

Bless all the dear children, all over the world.

Bless all the children in your tender care. Bless all the children you have entrusted to our care for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Be near me, Lord Jesus. I ask thee to stay, close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in thy tender care. And take us to heaven, to live with thee there.

******

Photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan on Unsplash

What you say of me, I believe

I beat myself up for my failures and shortcomings. I wish I were perfect and that I never made mistakes. I compare myself to other people and find myself lacking in something. I don’t measure up. I worry about what people think of me.

I keep fighting the voices in my head that say I am not enough. The voices say I am the sum of all my failures and mistakes. They tell me that I am not sophisticated enough. I am not funny enough. I am not clever enough. I am not good enough. I am not enough.

God, remind me once again just who I am because I need to know.

I say I am unlovable. You say I am beloved.

I say I don’t fit in. You say I belong to you.

I say I am alone. You say you are with me. You will never leave me.

I say I am weak. You say I am strong.

I say that I am afraid. You say you are with me. You will help me. You will uphold me.

I believe. I believe. What you say of me, I believe.

†††††

Photo by Kyle Johnson on Unsplash

Inspired by Lauren Daigle’s song, You Say.

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2018/12/21/your-daily-word-prompt-believe-December-21-2018/