Self-Reflection, A Gift that Continues to Give

Self-Reflection, A Gift that Continues to Give

Give yourself this gift this season.

Self-reflection is a gift we should give ourselves—every day if possible. Though life can be hectic, we need time to ponder our choices, ask why we are making them. Do they help fulfill our life goals?

Self-reflection, meditation or quiet moments help each one of us walk more firmly into our lives. My husband often says If you don’t have a map, then how do you know where you are going? We all need to ask what that map is and to adjust it when necessary. At this time of year when gift giving and celebrating are so prominent, reflection might be the best treasure we could own. And the results of that reflection might heal wounds, firm up relationships, and bind us to our community—the people in our lives who are our real gifts.

Each day we make hundreds of decisions—some that have little effect on our lives and some that profoundly affect our lives and the lives of others. We need to evaluate our actions. When we do, the decisions we make will have value and might even help other people. A wise woman once told me, The best way to be joyful and help yourself is to help others. Reflection can produce the right decision, lift up a friend, a relative, a stranger. Could this be you?

  • Should I invite neighbor Charlie to Christmas dinner. He lives alone, has no close relatives. Though he fusses about stuff, he’s okay.
  • Have the last two talks with my teenaged son helped him gain more confidence. A part-time job might help. Where are we on this subject?
  • My husband grows silent when some of his family members are mentioned. Is he hurting about something. Can I help him.
  • Helen and I share a love of baking. Now she’s got Type 2 diabetes and needs to lose weight. Why did I buy her a cake cookbook for Christmas!
  • I have to attend the seasonal office party even though I work remotely. The only person who could share the six-hour drive wants my job. I’d rather go alone, but she’s already asked me to pick her up. 

Reflection brings us back to ourselves; we discover our strengths and deal with our weaknesses.  Prayer might be a choice for dealing with life’s challenges. Or talking to a counselor. People often turn to a hobby like painting, writing, running, swimming, playing an instrument or singing. The diversion soothes and provides a background for thinking things through. Strength returns, bringing a clearer vision of the problem and how to solve it.

Those who choose drugs and alcohol are blocking the reflective pathway. True, it’s a good escape, but in life most problems don’t evaporate and disappear. Often there is no escape from making a decision and if we ignore making one, the problem gets worse.

Director Steve McQueen, in his film, 12 Years a Slave, creates an incredible scene that I want to share with you. This scene acts as a metaphor for the benefits of reflection when faced with powerful choices. Even though it is closer to a life or death decision, the  principle can certainly be applied to life right now.

The scene involves the main character, Solomon Northup, once a freeman, now drugged, captured and sold into slavery. In his home back in New York, he played the fiddle and entertained his fellow townsmen. Music is part of him. The scene reveals that even in slavery, his love of music opens a door for him, demands he reflect and make a decision despite the despair of his situation.

The scene: The slaves bury one of their own in the cemetery. Standing over the grave, they begin to sing the spiritual, “Roll, Jordan, Roll.” At first, Solomon, is conflicted and silent. He’s not a slave. He shouldn’t be here. He doesn’t belong here. Everything happening to him, even this, is being forced upon him. But eventually he joins in, singing with his whole heart.

Director McQueen states: That’s the moment, where, through singing the spiritual, Solomon finds his voice. He belongs to that community in a way he has never belonged before. He suddenly knows: we’re in this together. There’s a power in that and he is overcome with emotion. 

The actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Solomon, talks about acting this scene: …the singing came out of a reflex…At this point, he’s not in a battle for his freedom. He’s in a battle for his mind. And his survival instinct is so strong, he realizes there’s support around him that he has never seen. He still has hope, but if he doesn’t get home again, how will he deal with that, keep his mind alive and his body on the planet? Community…If anything tells you about the human spirit, it’s that scene. That’s why we’re still here today. 

If you see the film, watch for this scene. Is there a community that you need to become a part of?  We all need community that can “bear you up lest you dash your foot against a stone.”  Psalm 91 V. 12  We all need to find time to make gift-giving decisions—not how to save money at a certain store or where to find the right perfume, but how to find time for personal reflection and problem-solving that will wed us even more to our family, friends and our community. Giving that gift is the best gift of all.

Hear the spiritual Roll Jordan Roll.

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