As some of you know, in Christianity there are a set of teachings from Jesus (in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke) that begin with the phrase “blessed are…” They are called the beatitudes and generally focus on a spirit of humility and love, mercy and compassion. I heard the following beatitude stated recently and, even though it is not in the Christian Scriptures, I wish it had been! “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape!”
Buddha, over two thousand years ago, after experimenting both on a life of indulgence and then a life of asceticism, finally decided the “middle path” between the extremes was the best way to live a fulfilling life. Jesus also gave numerous examples of the need for flexibility in seeking a common good. Today, the behavioral sciences seem to be catching up with these ideas, as research on mental and social wellbeing is being pursued. The idea is not to strive blindly for more of everything that is perceived as “good” or “positive” but rather to use the entire range of emotions that we have at our disposal to move us towards the things that we value most. In short, it speaks of the ability to use the right emotional resources at the right times in order to create the kind of lives we want.
If this appeals to you, here is a brief summary of the areas of research to aid us as we seek to be “blessed” for our flexibility:
Ø Acknowledgement: Emotions such as pain, sadness, anger, and regret are all a part of life. Acknowledging and accepting negative emotions and experiences, rather than trying to control or eliminate them, is a healthier way to approach the complexities of human life. Acknowledging and accepting such emotions breaks the vicious cycle of having anxiety about the fact that you are having anxiety.
Ø Inquisitiveness: An inquisitive mindset allows you to observe your negative reactions without judgment and see what you can learn from them. Inquisitiveness engages your sense of logic and inhibits emotional “gut” reactions, allowing you to learn from these situations and identify intelligent next steps that lead you towards your goals.
Ø Dedication: Once your mind is freed from the exhausting struggle that comes from resisting or stressing about emotional states, it is easier to dedicate yourself to the right actions or behaviors that lead you towards the things that you value most.
So if we find ourselves being inflexible because of negative thoughts and emotions, use the experience as an opportunity to stretch emotionally, to increase wisdom, and to grow in maturity. “Blessed are the flexible…”