March 23, 2022
Plato put it on a tablet.
Descartes repeated it.
Edmund Hillary shouted it.
Leaders and teachers from Mother Theresa to Mary J. Blige have said it.
Oh yes, and it's in the Bible. A lot.
"Conquer yourself." The act of composing oneself, of choosing one's words and actions. And the master class: choosing our thoughts and focus and managing the course of our emotions.
We don't have to say all of our words.
We don't even have to think all of our words.
But we definitely don't have to say them.
At least, we don't have to say them out loud or in public.
If we're going to be our own best compositions, it starts by being as selective about what we think and say as we are about what we eat and how we exercise. We are one body -- mind, spirit, and flesh and bone systems. Every thought is an electrical impulse that results in some sort of chemical change in our body. Every. Thought. Every. Word.
When we're thinking about advocacy -- think about the productive thing that we want to DO with our mind, spirit, flesh and bone systems. Get all of the systems behind what we want to see and where we're going.
Like the teenage nation we are, we are absolutely convinced that we muuuuust speak "our truth." As if something magical will happen when we speak it. As if, in not speaking it, it will destroy us. And part of that is true -- if we feed thoughts in a bottle they will explode. This is where prayer is especially important -- and even there, a diet of gratitude is much better for us and leads us to many more insights than a diet of complaints or petitions.
But I've GOT to SAY this, our communities yell. It MUST be said. And then what happens? Does someone else bang their drum with equal fervor? And then what happens?
The Queen of England -- Elizabeth -- is well regarded and those who watched The Crown will remember that her biggest trick was doing nothing. Sometimes that has seemingly gotten her into trouble (and the notion that she is doing nothing is a little misleading -- she has done a lot.) But she seems most aware of the power of her words and actions and that, in the discipline of restraint, she finds both invitation and power. Where others would blurt a retort or set the record straight --- she is restrained, she composes, she waits, she considers her moves. And when the learner is ready, the teacher appears.
Think -- what good can come of this thought, this word, this deed for these people I care about? Is it likely?
Conquer yourself -- the situation, then a choice, then your response. Our ability to choose our response is one of our highest callings as humans. And many times the best choices are with our actions, rather than our words.
Talk is often controversial. Helping rarely is.
And conquering ourselves -- that's one of the ways we build together.