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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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How you can lighten up

As a backlash to all the bad news these days, there's frequent talk about the lighter ways of life. Much of the writing and talk is about unloading our baggage and financial burdens. While those are part of our problem, there are a lot of psychological ways we need to lighten up first.

How can we lighten up emotionally? What do we do that makes us all a little depressed? We worry, even about things we can't do anything about. Or maybe we are busybodies, minding things that aren't our business. How can we lighten that up? By unloading those problems on the people whose business it is.

We can also lighten up our perceptions, how we look at things in our life. We can look at anything hopefully and constructively or we can see everything negatively. We can stop catastrophizing, as it's been called — making a mountain out of a molehill.

And we can lay that burden down, as a gospel song advises. A TV show a few nights ago showed hikers on a difficult mountain trail leaving stones on an altar along the way. The act symbolized leaving their fears behind before moving on.

How can we lighten up our attitude and spirit when we feel miserable? Someone asked me the other day how I felt, and I said, "Great." The person mumbled, "Yeah, great." I think he meant: "How can anyone say that?" Having a positive attitude of gratitude rather than a negative assumption of "I deserve better" will brighten your life. If you believe that a God of love is with you at all times, you'll see that your life is full of good things.

How can we lighten up our relationships with other people, with our family, anybody around us, or even with strangers? It's easy. Be friendly, welcoming and accepting of others. Be helpful and show care for others. Look at your behavior for a few days. Notice how you relate with other people or don't connect. Humans are called social animals, but we often aren't very sociable.

Being lighthearted, "easy does it," carefree and cheerful, brightens up your life. But to be lighthearted, one must practice some degree of detachment. Let Go Now by Karen Casey contains 200 meditations on what we can say and do to experience detachment. Casey said detachment is simply watching whatever is unfolding around you and getting involved only when you want to be part of the experience. Detachment is also "getting over it," whatever "it" is.

But detachment is a lot more. The book has 200 meanings of the word, all of them leading to the experience of peace. And the greatest source of peace is in casting all your cares upon God, as Peter recommends in the Bible, "for he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). That's letting everything go, turning the whatever over to God. This promises the peace the Bible says is beyond understanding. But it's the perfect peace of a life with a loving God. 


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