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Posts Tagged ‘Compassion

The Surprising Benefits of a Quiet Ego

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Photo: Getty Images

If you stroll down the self-help aisle of most bookstores in America, you’ll notice that book after book is about how to be great, look good, and win. All of these promises for self-enhancement can be loud and quite overwhelming. Sometimes I cheekily wonder, why is there no such thing as a quiet self section?

Of course, I’m not so naive as to think that a quiet-self aisle at Barnes & Noble would ever be as popular as the self-help section. But I am concerned about the results of one large survey, which found that the appearance and frequency in published books of the words “humility” and “humbleness” dropped on average 43.33% from 1901 to 2000. It seems we place a great deal less value on these virtues than we once did.

Fans of current self-help literature may scoff at these findings (at worst) or merely find them irrelevant to their goals. But they’d be wrong to be so dismissive. Because here’s the thing: the latest science of well-being shows that transcending, not enhancing, the self is the most powerful and direct pathway to contentment and inner peace.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s good to have a healthy sense of self. But as psychologist Mark Leary has pointed out, while the self can be our greatest resource, it can also be our darkest enemy. On the one hand, the fundamentally human capacities for self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-control are essential for reaching our goals. On the other, the self has a perpetual desire to be seen in a positive light. The self will do anything to disavow itself of responsibility for any negative outcome it might deserve. As one researcher put it, the self engenders “a self-zoo of self-defense mechanisms.”

Which is why I was so excited to find out about new psychological literature on the “quiet ego.” What is so great about a quiet ego is that it is not a silent ego. As Jack Bauer, Heidi Wayment, and Kateryna Sylaska, who are leading the way in this line of research, put it, “The volume of the ego is turned down so that it might listen to others as well as the self in an effort to approach life more humanely and compassionately.” The quiet ego brings others into the self without losing the self.

According to Bauer and Wayment, the quiet ego consists of four interconnected facets: detached awareness, inclusive identity, perspective-taking, and personal growth. These four characteristics all contribute to having a general stance of balance and growth toward the self and others.

The researchers created a test to measure these four facets.

Facet #1: Detached awareness

The statements testing detached awareness include:

  • “I find myself doing things without paying much attention.”
  • “I do jobs or tasks automatically, without being aware of what I’m doing.”
  • “I rush through activities without being really attentive to them.”

Those with a quiet ego score low on these items: they are intensely mindful and aware of their surroundings. They are focused on the immediate moment without judgment or preconceived ideas about how the moment should unfold. This non-defensive attitude toward the present moment is associated with many positive life outcomes.

Facet #2: Inclusive identity

Inclusive identity statements include:

  • “I feel a connection to all living things.”
  • “I feel a connection with strangers.”
  • “I feel a connection to people of other races.”

People whose egos are turned down in volume score higher in this facet. If your identity is inclusive, you’re likely to be cooperative and compassionate toward others rather than only working to help yourself.

Facet #3: Perspective taking

Perspective taking statements include:

  • “Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in their place.”
  • “When I’m upset at someone, I usually try to put myself in his or her shoes for a while.”
  • “I try to look at everybody’s side of a disagreement before I make a decision.”

By reflecting on other viewpoints, the quiet ego brings attention outside the self, increasing empathy and compassion.

Facet #4: Personal growth

Finally, personal growth statements include:

  • “For me, life has been a continuous process of learning, changing, and growth.”
  • “I think it is important to have new experiences that challenge how you think about yourself and the world.”

Personal growth and detached awareness complement each other nicely: detached awareness is all about the present moment, whereas personal growth is all about contemplating the longer-term implications of the present moment. Both are part of the quiet ego since both are focused on dynamic processes rather than evaluation of the final product.

The researchers found that those with a quiet ego reported being more interested in personal growth and balance and tended to seek growth through competence, autonomy, and positive social relationships. While a quiet ego was positively related to having a higher self-esteem, it was also related to various indicators of self-transcendence, including prosocial attitudes and behaviors.

This is consistent with the idea that a quiet ego balances compassion with self-protection and growth goals. Indeed, a quiet ego is an indication of a healthy self-esteem—one that acknowledges one’s own limitations, doesn’t need to constantly resort to defensiveness whenever the ego is threatened, and yet has a firm sense of self-worth and value.

They also found that a quiet ego was associated with self-compassion, humility, authenticity, spiritual growth, flexible thinking, open-minded thinking, the ability to savor everyday experiences, life satisfaction, resilience, risk-taking, and the feeling that life is meaningful. If we take a multidimensional conceptualization of well-being (which I do), we see that a quiet ego is more conducive to living a full life.

Interestingly, the researchers also found a moderate positive relationship between having a quiet ego and extroversion. This suggests that having a loud voice doesn’t necessarily mean having a loud ego, and having a quiet voice doesn’t automatically lead to a quiet ego. The strength of the relationship leaves plenty of room for people all across the extroversion spectrum—from extroversion to ambiversion to introversion—to turn the dial down on their ego.

Recent research even suggests that a quiet ego can buffer against existential angst. This is important because anxiety over death is a central (although often hidden) motivating force for many human activities—from religion and spirituality to sexuality to the drive for money and social status to many forms of psychopathology. While self-esteem can serve as an existential anxiety buffer, it also has a potential downside: when the ego is threatened, or when attention is brought to undesirable qualities about the self, thoughts of the inevitability of death increase.

Psychologist Pelin Kesebir argues that a much more constructive and healthier way of dealing with death anxiety is through humility. Across five studies, Pelin Kesebir tested the idea that high levels of humility (measured both as a trait and as a state of being) would be associated with lower death anxiety and lower defensiveness in the face of death thoughts. First, she found that high levels of humility and low levels of entitlement were associated with lower levels of death anxiety and anxiety-induced defensiveness. Humility warded off death anxiety more than qualities such as high self-esteem, mindfulness, general virtuousness, and even having a secure attachment style.

As Kesebir notes, “The humble person is probably more aware and accepting of the fact that against a cosmic scale of time and space, every human being is minute.” Finally, she found that memories of pride-invoking moments did not buffer against death anxiety, whereas memories of humility did.

So, there you have it: a quiet ego may have its volume turned down, but it is in fact the most powerful buffer against threats to the ego, including the biggest threat of them all: death.

Perhaps we should start building that quiet-self section of the bookstore after all.

–Scott Barry Kaufman

 

 

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Written by MattAndJojang

May 28, 2018 at 11:33 am

The Revolution of Normalcy: A reflection on the third anniversary of the election of Pope Francis

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"Pray for me."

“Pray for me.”

March 13, 2016, marks the third anniversary of election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Bishop of Rome. Upon his election in the Sistine Chapel three years ago, he took the name Francis and told us he did so because of his love for St. Francis of Assisi. Over the past three years, many have associated the new pope’s gestures and actions with the “Poverello” or “Little Poor One” of Assisi, perhaps the most beloved saint of the Catholic tradition. One day in the late 12th century, the young Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (later named Francesco) heard the plea of Jesus from the crucifix in the dilapidated San Damiano chapel on Assisi’s outskirts: “Go and repair my church.” And he certainly did that in his lifetime and through the huge Franciscan family that he left behind to carry forward his dream and continue his work.

We can become easily fixated on lots of eye-catching, buzz-causing externals, great photo opportunities and now famous sound bite expressions that Pope Francis provides for us on a daily basis: A pope who abandoned the red shoes—that were never an official part of the papal wardrobe! A pope who dresses modestly, pays his own lodging bills, rides around Vatican City in a Ford Focus or in foreign cities in small cars. A pope who invites street people to his birthday breakfast. A pope who tells the driver of his vehicle to stop at the dividing wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem so that he may pray before this glaring sign of division and pain. A pope who invites Muslims clerics to ride with him in the popemobile in the war-torn Central African Republic.

This Roman pontiff specializes in kissing babies and embracing the sick, disfigured broken bodies and the abandoned of society. He knows how to use a telephone—and uses it often. He waits in line for the coat check at the Vatican Synod Hall and delights in holding in-flight press conferences with journalists while many church leaders hold their breath at what will come forth from those now legendary encounters. He has restored Synods of Bishops to their proper place in the church: meetings and encounters of church leaders who speak with boldness, courage, freedom and openness rather than staged gatherings of pseudo-concord.

Many sit back, smile and utter: “What a sea/See change!” “What a revolution!” “What simplicity!” “Wow!” “Awesome!” “Finalmente!”

And for many who are watching all of this with differing forms of angst and shock, they ask: “What is he doing?” “How can he continue at this pace?” “Does he remember that he is the Vicar of Christ?” “Will the Francis reform succeed?” The answer is: “Yes.” Francis’ reform is inevitable because it is not emanating from Assisi, Loyola, Manresa or even from Rome, as significant as those holy places may be! It is based on a great story coming from other lands where we find Bethlehem, Nazareth, Nain, Emmaus, Mount Tabor, Galilee, Jerusalem and the Decapolis: the lands of the Bible. Pope Francis has based his Petrine Ministry on the Gospel of the fisherman of Galilee who was Son of God and Lord, Savior and Redeemer of the human family.

Pope Francis wants us to be warm, welcoming and forgiving as Jesus has modeled to us on every page of the New Testament. He reminds us day after day that we have a Lord and Master who shared in the joy of the spouses in Cana of Galilee and the anguish of the widow of Nain; a Lord and Master who enters into the house of Jairus, touched by death, and the house of Bethany, perfumed with nard. A Master who took upon Himself illness and suffering, to the point of giving His life in ransom.

Following Christ means going where He went; taking upon oneself, like the good Samaritan, the wounded we encounter along the road; going in search of the lost sheep. To be, like Jesus, close to the people; sharing their joys and pains, showing with our love the paternal face of God and the maternal caress of the church. Francis wants us to eat with tax collectors and sinners; he wants us to forgive the woman caught in adultery (while admonishing her to sin no more); he wants us to welcome and respect foreigners (even our enemies); and, above all, not to judge others. He has spoken simply, powerfully and beautifully about returning to lost unity. He wants to build bridges that everyone can cross. He is especially conscious of the poor and those who have been marginalized—social outcasts kept on the fringes of society. He has spoken out strongly for the plight of refugees and decried the evil of abortion and euthanasia. He stands for the consistent ethic of life, from the earliest moments of conception to the final moments of natural death.

At the very beginning of his Petrine Ministry, he said loud and clear in St. Peter’s Square: “A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient” (Angelus, March 17, 2013). His rallying cry has been “mercy” for the past three years. Just before Lent this year, Pope Francis’ personal book, The Name of God is Mercy, was simultaneously released throughout the world. The main theme of the book is mercy, and the pope’s reasons for proclaiming a Holy Year of Mercy this year. The centrality of mercy is “Jesus’ most important message.” Mercy is essential because all people are sinners, in need of God’s forgiveness and grace, and it’s especially necessary today, at a time when “humanity is wounded,” suffering from “the many slaveries of the third millennium”—not just war and poverty and social exclusion, but also fatalism, hardheartedness and self-righteousness.

In a very provocative challenge to his newly-created brother cardinals last Feb. 15, 2015, Pope Francis recalled with them that “the church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement.” This means “welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world.”

Pope Francis is very critical of those eager to cast stones. Pride, hypocrisy and the urge to judge others in terms of “preconceived notions and ritual purity” are the targets of his ire. He has chastised church bureaucrats for their “theological narcissism,” and he says in his recent book that “we must avoid the attitude of someone who judges and condemns from the lofty heights of his own certainty, looking for the splinter in his brother’s eye while remaining unaware of the beam in his own.”

On the late afternoon of March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio received the call to go, rebuild, repair, renew and heal the church. What we have witnessed over the past three years is simply a disciple of Jesus—and a faithful disciple of Ignatius of Loyola and of Francis of Assisi—repairing, renewing, restoring, reconciling and healing the church. There are those who delight in describing the new pope as a bold, brazen revolutionary sent to rock the boat. Others think he has caused a massive shipwreck. But the only revolution that Pope Francis has inaugurated is a revolution of tenderness, the very words he used in his recent major letter on “The Joy of the Gospel” (No. 88).

And the second revolution he has inaugurated is the revolution of normalcy. What he is doing is normal human, Christian behavior. These are the revolutions at the heart and soul of Pope Francis’ ministry. It is his unflinching freedom that allows him to do what he does because he is unafraid and totally free to be himself at the same time of being a most faithful son of the church. It is Francis’ humanity, goodness, joy, kindness and mercy that introduce us to the tenderness of our God. No wonder why he has taken the world by storm, why so many people are paying attention to him, and others are frustrated with his exercise of freedom and his universal outreach. Everything the pope is doing now is not just an imitation of his patron saint who loved the poor, embraced lepers, charmed sultans, made peace and protected nature. It’s a reflection of the child of Bethlehem who would grow up to become the man of the cross in Jerusalem, the Risen One that no tomb could contain, the man we Christians call Savior and Lord. Pope Francis has given us a powerful glimpse into the mind and heart of God.

This Bishop of Rome demands a lot while preaching about a God of mercy, by engaging joyfully with nonbelievers, atheists, agnostics, skeptics and those sitting on the fences of life—many who thought that Christianity has nothing left to add to the equations of life. For journalists and those in media, he has made covering religion and the church interesting, exciting and enticing and rewarding once again. We need the bold, Francis revolution of tenderness, mercy and normalcy now more than ever before.

Lord our God,
We thank you for always providing shepherds to guide the church.
We thank you most especially for Francis,
the one you have chosen to be our chief shepherd
and guide at this moment in history.
Bless him with health and vision, boldness and courage,
wisdom and compassion, and boundless joy and hope.
Make him an instrument of your peace, compassion and mercy,
In your mercy you called Francis and you call each of us
to cling to Jesus, the rock of fidelity and truth.
May Pope Francis inspire us to be better Christians,
faithful Catholics and architects and citizens
of the civilization of love that your son entrusted to us.

We ask this in Jesus’ name, who lives with you forever and ever.

Amen.

–Father Thomas Rosica

Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., is the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and English language attaché, Holy See Press Office.

Written by MattAndJojang

March 13, 2016 at 1:03 pm

The Folly of Human Conceits

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A photo by Voyager 1 of our planet Earth taken from a distance of 6 billion kilometers. The photo is popularly known as "Pale Blue Dot."

A photo by Voyager 1 of our planet Earth taken from a distance of 6 billion kilometers. The photo is popularly known as “Pale Blue Dot.”

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

–Carl Sagan

Written by MattAndJojang

August 5, 2015 at 10:36 am

We’re Excited With The Pope’s Visit

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Photo: Aaron Favila/Associated Press

Photo: Aaron Favila/Associated Press

Tomorrow afternoon, Pope Francis will arrive in our country, the Philippines, for a five-day visit (Jan. 15-19). And we’re all excited!

In a country where 80% of the population (80 million) are Catholics, the Pope is expected to be welcomed with a rock-star intensity.

Josephine Graza, a retired government employee, sums it all up:

Filipinos are excited about the visit because people have a lot of problems and have been through a lot of calamities.

Although our country is rich in natural resources, it has always been plagued by a vast inequality in the distribution of wealth and widespread poverty. It is for this reason that one-tenth of the population is working abroad to support their families.

To compound this, our country is hit by 20+ typhoons every year, causing loss of lives and destruction of property among a populace that, for the most part, are saddled with poverty.

Two years ago our country was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, considered as the strongest typhoon in recorded history. Entire villages were destroyed and thousands were killed.

We’re not surprised that Pope Francis opted to spend a significant amount of time in Leyte, the province that was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

But even before Pope Francis’s arrival pope mania has swept our country. You can see his face in tarpaulins, posters, shirts, dolls, coffee mugs and all sorts of mementos. Someone even wrote a musical entitled Pope Francis, the Musical in his honor.

Rev. Enrique Luzung, a theologian who plays the young Argentinian pope when he was still then known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, admits that reading about Pope Francis’s life and playing him in the musical has been a life-changing experience for him. He adds:

Through him we see the presence of God.

The Pope’s humility, compassion for the poor, and message of God’s mercy has touched not only Rev. Luzung, but also countless numbers of individuals — I and my wife included.

In the words of Marina Bringas, a retired doctor:

You always feel that he cares.

–Matt

Written by MattAndJojang

January 14, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Nelson Mandela, South African Icon of Peaceful Resistance, Dies

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Nelson Mandela

JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and an enduring icon of the struggle against racial oppression, died on Thursday, the government announced, leaving the nation without its moral center at a time of growing dissatisfaction with the country’s leaders.

“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” President Jacob Zuma said in a televised address on Thursday night, adding that Mr. Mandela had died at 8:50 p.m. local time. “His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him our love.”

Mr Zuma called Mr. Mandela’s death “the moment of our greatest sorrow,” and said that South Africa’s thoughts were now with the former president’s family. “They have sacrificed much and endured much so that our people could be free,” he said.

Mr. Mandela spent 27 years in prison after being convicted of treason by the white minority government, only to forge a peaceful end to white rule by negotiating with his captors after his release in 1990. He led the African National Congress, long a banned liberation movement, to a resounding electoral victory in 1994, the first fully democratic election in the country’s history.

Mr. Mandela, who was 95, served just one term as South Africa’s president and had not been seen in public since 2010, when the nation hosted the soccer World Cup. But his decades in prison and his insistence on forgiveness over vengeance made him a potent symbol of the struggle to end this country’s brutally codified system of racial domination, and of the power of peaceful resolution in even the most intractable conflicts.

Years after he retreated from public life, his name still resonated as an emblem of his effort to transcend decades of racial division and create what South Africans called a Rainbow Nation.

Yet Mr. Mandela’s death comes during a period of deep unease and painful self-examination for South Africa.

In the past year and a half, the country has faced perhaps its most serious unrest since the end of apartheid, provoked by a wave of wildcat strikes by angry miners, a deadly response on the part of the police, a messy leadership struggle within the A.N.C. and the deepening fissures between South Africa’s rulers and its impoverished masses.

Scandals over corruption involving senior members of the party have fed a broader perception that Mr. Mandela’s near saintly legacy from the years of struggle has been eroded by a more recent scramble for self-enrichment among a newer elite.

After spending decades in penurious exile, many political figures returned to find themselves at the center of a grab for power and money. President Jacob Zuma was charged with corruption before rising to the presidency in 2009, though the charges were dropped on largely technical grounds. He has faced renewed scrutiny in the past year over $27 million spent in renovations to his house in rural Zululand.

Graphic cellphone videos of police officers abusing people they have detained have further fueled anger at a government seen increasingly out of touch with the lives of ordinary South Africans.

Mr. Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999, stepping aside to allow his deputy, Thabo Mbeki, to run and take the reins. Mr. Mandela spent his early retirement years focused on charitable causes for children and later speaking out about AIDS, which has killed millions of Africans, including his son Makgatho, who died in 2005.

Mr. Mandela retreated from public life in 2004 at the age of 85, largely withdrawing to his homes in the upscale Johannesburg suburb of Houghton and his ancestral village in the Eastern Cape, Qunu.

~ Lydia Polgreen,  The New York Times

Written by MattAndJojang

December 6, 2013 at 6:44 am

Words of Wisdom from Pope Francis

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Pope Francis Caressing A Disfigured Man

Pope Francis Caressing A Disfigured Man

I’m a Catholic, and I just love Pope Francis! He’s now expressing what, all along, I really felt about certain things.

I believe in God, not a Catholic God.

— Pope Francis

Exactly! For me. at the end of the day, religion is really simple. It’s about the love of God. In Christian and Trinitarian terms: it’s simply experiencing the love of God through Christ in the power of the Spirit. After cutting through the maze of theological concepts, legalistic rules, and complex rituals, God is simply a loving God. And His love is not confined to any specific race, nationality, or creed. He is the God and Father of all persons – whether Jew or Greek, Christian or Non-Christian, Believer or Unbeliever. And a person who experiences the love of God shows compassion towards all individuals regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of it.

The church has sometimes locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.

— Pope Francis

Sad to say, this is what religion is all about for many people. Religion is something that is used to browbeat people to submission, and to perpetrate the power of so-called spiritual leaders through the use of legalistic rules and threats. Religion is no longer a venue to love God and serve others but is a means to maintain the status quo, sometimes with very harmful consequences (for example, the financial scandal in the Vatican as well as the sexual abuses committed by some church leaders).

~ Matt

To read the entire article click this link: Pope Francis: “I Believe in God, Not In A Catholic God.”

Written by MattAndJojang

November 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm

The Little Monk and the Samurai: A Zen Parable

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Photo: seamlessgem/Flickr

Photo: seamlessgem/Flickr

A big, tough samurai once went to see a little monk.

“Monk!”

He barked, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience.

“Teach me about heaven and hell!”

The monk looked up at the mighty warrior and replied with utter disdain,

“Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you about anything. You’re dumb. You’re dirty. You’re a disgrace, an embarrassment to the samurai class. Get out of my sight. I can’t stand you.”

The samurai got furious. He shook, red in the face, speechless with rage. He pulled out his sword, and prepared to slay the monk.

Looking straight into the samurai’s eyes, the monk said softly,

“That’s hell.”

The samurai froze, realizing the compassion of the monk who had risked his life to show him hell! He put down his sword and fell to his knees, filled with gratitude.

The monk said softly,

“And that’s heaven.”

~ from the book “Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values”

Written by MattAndJojang

May 15, 2013 at 10:07 am

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