I am taking this opportunity to officially recognize the insightful and gracious mind of Carolyn Hax. Hax is a Harvard graduate and a writer with the Washington Post, but she also answers questions from readers in a separate syndicated Carolyn Hax column that used to be called: "Tell me about it."
I have often admired her ability to answer intelligently and confrontationally when necessary, all the while keeping a gentle civility in the tone of her words. Once, I even sent an email to her with a "you go girl" comment simply because her words had struck a chord with me.
Yesterday, in The Sacramento Bee, Hax's column was in specific answer to one reader - but it spoke to all of us at the heart of all our dealings among and between each other and within ourselves. You can read the column in the 2nd link above - but because the column is already syndicated, I have taken the liberty of quoting it here. Hax often uses the term "best self" in responding to questions from readers.
This reader asked her for a specific "workaday definition:"
It's when you like yourself. Or, when you're getting the most out of your strengths and succumbing the least to your weaknesses. It's personal, but here are some ideas for cultivating strengths:
- Are you doing things that are meaningful to you; well-suited to your interests, skills and talents; and challenging enough to keep you humble?
- Are you with people to whom you want to be kind; who reinforce your good choices; and who don't inspire persistent doubts about whether they're dependable, genuinely fond of you, free of ulterior motives, honest with you?
- Are you that person to those you love? Do you take responsibility for your choices and their consequences? When you are impressed by, grateful to or concerned about someone, do you show it?
- Do you forgive?
- Are you representing yourself honestly, to yourself and others, creating no facades to maintain?
- Do you take care of yourself - in small ways like flossing, and in big ways like thinking through potential consequences before you act? And do you put yourself first in ways that sustain you, to minimize your burdening of others?
As for taming weaknesses:
- Do you realize your needs have the same status as everyone else's? And you're not the hero in every encounter with others? Are you mindful of your flaws and demons?
- Do you make choices that put distance between you and your temptations? Do you resist the impulse to blame others when things go wrong?
- Do you understand the boundary between people's business, and stay on your side? When you're unsure, do you admit that and seek help?
- When you're about to express negativity or a criticism, do you ask yourself whether it needs expressing? And imagine how its target will feel?
- When you fall short, do you admit that? To those who most need to hear it?
Special Blessings to you, Carolyn Hax! My mind is sparkling, my heart is warming and my soul is glowing in the hope you share. And sharing Hax's message is my Christmas Wish for the whole world. If each of us were to behave as our "best self" as often as we are able to remember - we would be reaching that penultimate wish: "Peace on Earth - Good Will Toward All."