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Only a Quiet Pond Paints an Honest Picture

Ripples on the surface of a pond showing pebbles underneathWhen we are going through a tough time, we’re inclined to think that no one knows how we’re feeling. And we’re right. All feelings are personal. But in thinking that no one knows what we are feeling, we are at one with what everyone else is feeling.

Anything we are struggling with in the panoply of pain — from loss to addiction — the struggle is ours. But to have struggles in our life is common to all of us.

Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. In his struggle he found, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” When asked how he was able to deal with the pain in his circumstance he said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedom — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

For any of us feeling we are between a rock and a rock, finding acceptance in our circumstances is a huge challenge. But bearing honest witness to one’s self affords self-transformation. Letting go is not to be confused with giving up.

If we hold ourselves in denial of what is happening, it will keep happening. The man who wakes up each morning with hair on his pillow but pays not attention will wake up one day to find, somehow, he has become bald overnight.

In all of our lives, there comes a time when we feel the end of our path is a cliff. At that moment, prayer is a path where there is none. Prayer is a place we can turn to when we feel we have no place to turn.

If you or someone you love is in the middle of a profound struggle, remind them that we do not calm the waters by walking in them. Calm, truthful self-acceptance can be transforming if we remember that only a quiet pond paints an honest picture.

Getting to that quiet pond in our soul, to that place where the surrounding landscape is serenity painted on the pond’s surface, is attainable. It is our right and our responsibility “to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

A number of years ago in a long conversation with Father Virgil, the late saintly monk at the Mission in Santa Barbara, I asked him what he thought was the most difficult thing for people to know. And he answered, “That God loves them.”

Accept that. Self- acceptance is a portal to prayer and an antidote to shame. Find your quiet prayer place. Love you. And you will find yourself transformed.


Noah benShea is one of North America’s most respected and beloved poet-philosophers. An international bestselling author of 23 books translated into 18 languages, his inspirational thoughts have appeared on more than 30 million Starbucks coffee cups, and his weekly columns on life were published for five years by The New York Times Regional Syndicate. In addition to his many other accomplishments, he serves as Philosopher in Residence for Foundations Recovery Network. Find out more HERE.


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