Strive to be other-centered, strive to be planted, strive to grow

by | Oct 30, 2023 | Faith, Nature, Writing and Reading | 2 comments |

Keith and I don’t strive to make our home beautiful, especially this time of year. God does all the nature work. But human nature gives us many opportunities to strive to be better, more faithful people.

Strive to be other-centered

Have you ever had one of these days? You run into traffic on the way to the grocery store. While shopping, your spouse calls and says water is dripping from the main floor radiant floors into the basement; you call the HVAC company. Driving home, your vehicle’s low tire pressure indicator flashes on; you pull into a full-service gas station. By the time you pick up the mail, you are running very late. But an important-looking letter addressed to your neighbor has been delivered to you because your addresses are similar, and she uses a P.O. box and doesn’t have a mailbox. You must strive to get over your poor-me, self-centeredness and deliver her mail with grace.

“What spurs you on in that journey into love is actually the constant experience of your own lack of love: your impatience, irritation, or self-centeredness…. You will have them until the end of your life. They allow you to love God and others by reason of a Larger Love flowing through you, not because ‘you’ are doing it right or even know how to love!” (Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations, p. 364)

Strive to be planted

During my time in Hong Kong in 2019, I read The Second Mountain: A Quest for a Moral Life, by New York Times columnist David Brooks. Climbing the first mountain, we strive for prominence, pleasure, success, and independence. The valley between the first and second mountains is a season of suffering—in Brooks’ case, divorce after a long marriage. If we suffer well, we recognize our yearning to transcend ourselves then exit the valley to climb the second mountain.

Brooks writes, “When I’m describing how second-mountain people live, what I’m really describing is how these people made maximal commitments to others and how they live them out in fervent, all-in ways. These people are not keeping their options open. They are planted. People on the second mountain have made strong commitments to one or all of these four things: A vocation. A spouse and family. A philosophy or faith. A community. A commitment is making a promise to something without expecting a reward. A commitment is falling in love with something and then building a structure of behavior around it for those moments when love falters.”

Strive to grow

A colleague had given my name as a job reference, and one day the employer contacted me. “How would you rate this candidate in leadership, communication, team building?” she asked. “Excellent,” I said easily for each quality. “That takes care of my checklist,” she said, “do you have any questions or comments you’d like to add?” “For what specific position are you considering her?” When the employer answered, I said, “Oh, that would be a wonderful growth opportunity.” “What do you mean? Is there a problem?” “No, every job, especially for the newly hired, should involve professional growth. That’s good for the organization and good for the employee.” I’m not sure she fully agreed. Why do we expect perfection?

In her book Daring GreatlyBrené Brown (link to Ted talk) cited Teddy Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic,” better known as “The Man in the Arena” speech. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…” 

The person in the arena is the one “who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

Striving to be other-centered, planted, a person in the area, growing closer to God.

Linkup with Five Minute Friday:


  1. dawnfanshawe

    This was a delight to read, Carole. Thank you.

    • Carole Duff

      Bless you, Dawn! -C.D.


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