It’s been an interesting process becoming the runner I am versus the runner and athlete I once was. Just last week while working out on a treadmill at the fitness club (not my favorite thing to do) I glanced over to see myself in a giant mirror (itself a confirmation of social vanity) and realized how common and ordinary I actually appear in my shorts and tee shirt.
The shirt I was wearing read IRONMAN on the front. But I only got that shirt by volunteering at a water station. That was one of many places where I have had keen opportunity to observe other people in action.
Having won a few races over the years it is a compelling thing to study those with absolutely no chance of winning. Sure, they may earn an age group award. I’ve gotten a few of those too. For some reason it makes you feel good to know that you beat other people in the same age category as you. Just a step ahead?
Yet we must consider what it means to be “better” than someone else our own age. A few years back a nurse from an insurance company came to my house to conduct health tests in order to qualify for a new life insurance policy. There were blood checks and an EKG. She pronounced that I ranked in the top 2% of all males in the country in terms of general overall health. Well, all that working out must be worth something. At least that’s what I told myself.
Yet despite all the advertising telling you the importance of physical health and owning good life insurance, my high ranking did not produce much of a discounted rate. On the actuarial tables of life, there really are only a few facts and figures that really matter. Most of us do not know these algorithms. We proceed on best guesses and a gut instinct about how we feel.
That’s a big part of what matters out there in the real world: how we feel. We take pride in our physical and mental health to feel better about ourselves. Some people even treat the human body as a temple to God, striving to avoid influences that might undermine dedication to good values and respect for the gift of grace.
Those are high standards indeed. Like so many people I tend to fall somewhere in between the devout soul and letting it all hang out. We figure the balance keeps us safe and might just get us into heaven, or wherever.
What we’re really talking about here is self-discipline. That’s the takeaway on feeling good about yourself. It takes focus and some humility to apply discipline in your life. That’s why Jesus counseled the wealthy man that it would be so hard for him to get into heaven. When wealth gives you too many roads, you can wind up trying to take them all. That’s also why the bible tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” It’s not money itself that is evil, but the fact that self identity can be consumed as well as earned. It is well known that sooner or later the love of wealth can consume the soul. That’s what Jesus was talking about.
On the other hand having money can make us feel secure and even charitable. Those are both good things to have. There is certainly nothing wrong with either one of those attributes. It helps to have a dose of gratitude as well.
Notice there is no mention of who deserves more kudos in this process, conservatives or liberals. Both are wholesome worldviews when applied with some level of jurisdiction over greed and what constitutes acceptable expressions of freedom, and social justice.
Feeling good about yourself is an act of discipline just as feeling good about another person is an act of love. Sometimes it is hard to achieve that balance. If you cease to forgive your own flaws then feeling good about yourself can be difficult. There are so many ways for that challenge to manifest; from physical self image to emotional trust.
Then when it comes to loving and trusting strangers, there is so much confusing information in the world. But there’s a formula that is time-tested and true. Sometimes the best way to feel good about yourself is to put the needs of others first, and let that teach you what you really need in yourself.
And that’s a race that never ends.