When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion. –Abraham Lincoln
A few years ago, I realized I often felt crummy at the end of the day. Finally it occurred to me to imagine that perhaps this wasn’t necessary, and to wonder why I felt this way. By the time I put two and two together, it had been going on practically my whole life.
Crummy is a technical term of course … I suppose malaise is the sophisticated French word for it, but of course there’s nothing sophisticated about feeling crummy.
What I finally realized was that anytime I knew I wasn’t living up to my values, whenever I crossed my conscience with my actions, I created a bit of ‘yuck’ that stuck with me. By the end of the day, I’d often created a whole pile of yuck that I was dragging around with me. And that felt crummy.
I think perhaps it took me awhile to figure it out because I typically wasn’t breaking any of the major old-school commandments–no killing, lying, stealing, nothing that could get me put away. I was just doing things that ‘everyone’ does. But let’s face it, a lot of those commandments–on their face anyway–set the bar fairly low. Of course, there is that other standard …
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. –Jesus (John 15:12)
So after a few decades of low-grade yuck, I decided a change was in order. I realized I had the option, whenever a choice between right and wrong presented itself, to simply decide ahead of time that in those circumstances I would automatically, without question, thought, or debate, take the choice I already knew to be right. I realized I could just make it a habit. I think of this practice as ‘being impeccable.’
What this means, to me, is not getting the dig in (no matter how well-deserved), not taking that obvious opportunity for revenge, choosing not to feel resentful when I have every ‘right’ to. It’s not that I don’t remember who has failed me, who’s been hateful, and who’s thrown me under the bus. I remember, and I take measures to protect myself in the future. But I believe there’s the universal law of karma to take care of all of that, and I know that resentment is like drinking poison.
Sarcasm? It happens to be one of my gifts, but unless it will amuse everyone and involves no unkindness, perhaps not. Kicking someone who’s down? I’ve been there, and I haven’t forgotten how much I hate it. A small meanness? There is no meanness small enough. Meanness is am absolutely direct path (do not pass go, do not collect $200) to yuck.
When I feel my ego rearing its head (not a pretty head, by the way), I recognize what’s happening and don’t allow it to take over. (The ego is not exactly impeccable.)
I’m by no means perfect, and on no one’s shortlist for sainthood. I certainly still make mistakes. But in choosing to do better when I know better, I feel like I’m onto something pretty good. At the end of the day, I tend to have peace of mind about the choices I’ve made. And that self-created pile of yuck? History.