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Mastery of Self

A friend of mine claims he’s a genius. He has little evidence of this. Just an over-confident assessment of himself. He’s quite entertaining. He believes the lunar landings were a hoax, but of his own genius, he’s certain.

Last night I told him I was struggling for a topic for this week’s commentary. I hadn’t seen or thought or felt anything that moved me to write about it. So, I asked him for ideas. He blustered and bloviated and finally got around to saying this: The greatest enemy each of us face is staring at us every morning, every afternoon, and every evening before we go to bed. That enemy can be found in the mirror. It’s us. It’s me. It’s you. We’re our own enemy. He went on. We sabotage ourselves every day. Things that we know we should do, we avoid. Things that we know we shouldn’t do, we do. It ranges from having too many cookies before bed at night, to not making the sales calls, or having the tough conversations that we know need to happen. The list is infinitely long. We blame others, we blame bad luck, we blame the devil from time to time. But the vast majority of the time, our greatest enemy is us.

Now, I would love to tell this self-proclaimed genius that he’s wrong, but he’s right. And his description certainly describes me. I have remarkable discipline about some things in my world and remarkably little discipline about others – like gobbling a fistful of cookies on the way to bed at night. I know I shouldn’t do it but down the hatch they go. And I eat them quickly hoping the guilt will go away quickly. Another enemy is when I try to make a joke when my inner-knower is whispering for me to hush, that I’ve gone too far. The joke may be more hurtful than funny. And that happened on last week’s commentary, I ignored my inner-knower.

Next to my bed lie a stack of books. One compares Jesus’ and the Buddha’s greatest messages and how similar they are. Another is by Father Anthony DeMello, who was a Catholic Jesuit priest from India and knows many of the stories of the Indian deities and shares their lessons alongside the lessons of Christianity. I frequently return to a wonderful book on the lessons of the Bhagavat Gita, a story out of India written 500 years before Christ. All these religions, these faiths, these pursuits of spirituality, while vastly different in important ways, emphasize so many of the same points. And it’s these similarities that fascinate me. That catch my attention. And the one that shines through most repeatedly is the mastery of self.

Heaven, bliss, enlightenment, you name it. These spiritualities claim they can only be achieved through the mastery of self. Self-control. And I have so little. And I know it. And I think about it each time I gobble the cookies and make the bad jokes. And I can already hear my friend demanding a commission for this commentary.

I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.