By Wendy Mather
International Women’s Day is upon us today and we commemorate a meaningful event. We are called to reflect, take action and come together, if not in person, in spirit. Today we acknowledge the courage, faith, forbearance, idealism and unity women have collectively exercised over the past century as they advocated for peace and justice in many critical and unjust situations. We celebrate women who were the pioneers in fields like business, medicine, physics and engineering. These women were also experts in the virtues of perseverance and initiative; they possessed steadfast hope and held out for their dreams to come true.
The very critical, unjust and life threatening situations that some women deal with daily are not immediate issues for me and my girls. We can vote and we live in a safe neighborhood; we have great access to quality education and employment. We don’t have the catalysts of war, abject poverty, and extreme violence against women bombarding us daily, and for that, I am very grateful. We are privileged to have access to clean water, food, clothing and shelter. Our children have many opportunities for loving and purposeful lives in our nation which, last time I checked is a place that, in principle, honors women AND men equally. Thankfully, women continue to advocate for equality, status and salary in many job arenas. We are where we are today because we have consistently and collectively exercised the virtues of unity, courage, faith, forbearance and idealism throughout the past century to ensure freedom, respect and equality.
There are still many women (and men) in our nation who are not free, imprisoned by unrealistic standards and beliefs set sometimes unintentionally by parents, retailers, advertisers and media. Many women, (and men for that matter), regardless of age, feel inadequate, and struggle to feel they are enough and worthy of love and happiness. It is said we get the love we believe we deserve, so if we feel unworthy or not enough, then our loves and our lives won’t be all that fabulous either, right? This is as much a crisis of mental and spiritual health as it is a women’s (and men’s) issue. So how do we move beyond those feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt?
We all have the capacity to cultivate the same virtues of courage, faith, forbearance, idealism and unity and pursue our dreams just as the women who we are commemorating and celebrating did. Our situations, cultures and languages may be completely different but our gifts of character, our virtues, are the common denominators. Virtues are what every person on the planet has in common. What a profound connection! Virtues therefore have the power to facilitate and foster peace, love and understanding. Linda Kavelin Popov, author of The Family Virtues Guide writes, “Unity comes when we value every person in our family and in our world. The joy of one is the joy of all. The hurt of one is the hurt of all. The honor of one is the honor of all”. Every situation, good or bad, affects us all on some level. These gifts, if we recognize them, and tap into their magic, can propel us to live lives of love and purpose.
So…let’s start a revolution to replace self-doubt and criticism with messages acknowledging our gifts of character!
There is a little piece of ‘not enough’ that lives in everyone, and I feel the only way to move our civilization to a place of peace and equanimity is through total self-love and acceptance. How do we get there? By taking the time to cultivate, acknowledge and appreciate our gifts of character, our goodness. How do we consistently cultivate goodness? I believe we are all born with innate goodness, including the perpetrators of the violent heinous acts against the women (and that’s a topic of discussion for another time). Whether we are loved, treated with respect and dignity, and acknowledged for our goodness, will shape our propensity for goodness.
When I see my child is responsible, I name it, specifically; “thank you for your responsibility in walking the dog”. When I see my child finishing what she started I can tell her; “I see your perseverance in finishing that long, boring book for English lit!” When my daughter follows through with something, I tell her what I see; “I acknowledge your reliability for calling me when you said you would, thank you for your consideration”. How often do we take the time and the brain power to mindfully structure and craft our sentences so they reflect the gifts, the goodness we see in ourselves and our loved ones? Are we consciously aware of how we talk to ourselves? Do we shame and blame ourselves, or do we look consciously for the teachable moment and build upon our strengths…it’s all in the approach. The efforts we put into our communication with ourselves and our loved ones form the foundation for intimately knowing we are loved, accepted and have goodness. How can we cultivate more goodness in ourselves and others? Simple: acknowledge it when we see it.
Today, and each day, I offer appreciation and thanks, and prayers of gratitude for my abundant life in the shelter of my warm comfortable home, but I am also called to send positive thoughts of courage, unity, idealism and faith to the millions of women in the world today whose daily lives are hell. I ask myself “what can I do today to bring more peace to the world?” Inviting more peace to my life is a good start. I choose withdraw from the adrenaline rush of bouncing from activity to activity and create some space in my life just to sit and be peaceful. Busy is so overrated! I choose to spend more time contemplating how I use my words, and acknowledge the goodness I see in myself, my family and my friends. I believe simply seeing the good in others helps to cultivate a culture of peace throughout the world. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Acknowledge the goodness in someone today and help to fortify the virtues of courage, unity, idealism and faith in men and women around the world. Shift will happen.
If you are looking for some perspective on women’s issues locally and around the globe, check out http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.UTkXho5sj8s and the NFB website www.nfb.ca There are many short videos and films with an ‘International Women’s Day’ theme available for viewing.