Columnist: “Esse Quam Videri” • Jennifer Smith, marriage and family therapist
Unless you are a Latin scholar, you may not know this phrase. It is the state motto of North Carolina and it means, “to be, rather than to seem.” Many people make New Year’s resolutions that they may have already broken. I would like to suggest a different kind of resolution that is more of an approach to life rather than a goal to simply be achieved. It is a decision not just to change our behavior, but to change the condition of our hearts. The beginning of this year may be a good time to check our pulses.
This approach to life questions the internal reality of our selves. It gets at the motivations, attitudes and values that guide our lives. I heard a metaphor recently describing what happens in our brain when we allow negative or defeating attitudes to rule us. Imagine you are cutting a path in a jungle with a machete. Cutting the path takes time and effort. The next time you go down the path, you are going to take the one that is cut. Eventually it becomes a path that is worn down by being used repeatedly. Cutting a new path in our brains also takes time and effort, but the new path can be the natural way we go if we use it long enough. The ability to cut a new path is within our power.
Truth be known, what is in our hearts eventually makes itself visible in our actions and heard in our words. “The anger we carry eats away at our energy, rendering us more and more depressed and disengaged. Or it erupts in irrational rage. The resentments we cherish become the revenge we pursue. The grudges we hold isolate or infuriate us. The venom in our hearts eventually kills both other and ourselves. Envy turns to gossip, and jealousy to slander. Pride holds us aloof from real friendship and genuine sharing. Lust turns into users and seducers. Anxiety makes us control freaks, and fear imprisons us behind bars of false security.”
(Guy Sales, Formations Commentary, p.13)
So how do we change the path? We first take an honest evaluation of ourselves and own up to our own negative attitudes and actions. This can be a difficult venture, and one we may need help to navigate, either with friends, family or a professional. After this, we can decide to choose a new path and determine to live by that path. It is important to nurture our hearts wisely and tenderly. We can ask God to change us. We can fill our hearts and lives with words and actions that nurture our hearts towards good. We can choose positivity and be we can be grateful.
Positive change is within our power with the help of God. Our hearts are the pulse of our souls. “To be, rather than to seem” is a goal that leads to a more authentic and fulfilling life...and a good heart rate.
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Printed in the January 17, 2013, edition.