Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Number Six wins second place in Essay Contest

She and I attended an early morning meeting where she and the first place winner read aloud their own essays. The first place winner told of his personal story of prayer and God's response, healing him of a serious impediment he had since birth due to a stroke. It was a beautiful story, and beautifully told. Number Six read very well, with poise and confidence. Below is her piece. I listsend and learned so much from my daughter,who is wise beyond her years.

Humility as Fuel for Optimism

by Maria Braga-Henebry

The concept of “inspirational quotations” is one of social media’s favorite platitudes. Stock photos plastered with the words like “never give up,” and other such phrases, show up in our feeds almost as often as do our friends’ selfies. Why are inspirational quotations so endearing to today’s society? Perhaps it is because discouragement is an emotion everyone feels but few know how to cope with. Yet, you need not resort to canned inspiration in the face of discouragement. There are many ways to remain optimistic and hold one’s course focused on the good. Every method, in the end, finds its root in a single virtue: humility.

Webster’s International Dictionary defines humility as “the quality or state of being humble in spirit: freedom from pride or arrogance.” To be humble is to put the needs and wishes of others ahead of one’s own. Humility as a kind of freedom is concept that is unpopular today. Those same inspirational phrases that aim to fight discouragement often carry a secondary message: “to be happy, put yourself first.” But nothing could be further from the truth! Everyone has experienced the lightness of spirit that comes from giving to others and expecting nothing in return. When our mind turns not inward but looks to the needs of others, our own problems appear less significant.

One way to practice humility and fight off discouragement is to resist the urge to complain. Many people’s favorite activity is complaining, and understandably so. Talking about your troubles to friends or even strangers can be an effective way to vent anger, assuage irritation, or simply release tension. Complaining is not a good habit, however, and can have negative social repercussions if indulged. It is more difficult, but more rewarding, to overcome obstacles with a brave smile rather than a whiny voice. Remaining silent when tempted to complain can help maintain optimism by fortifying patience. It allows you to be less wrapped up in personal problems and instead give more attention to the concerns of others.  

Another form of humble optimism is focusing intentionally on the positive things in life. It is all too easy to get swallowed up by every little thing that goes wrong and ignore the things that go right. Thomas Edison famously commented that during the many unsuccessful attempts to improve the lightbulb, he had discovered numerous ways not to do so. As is often repeated, every failure can be a learning experience. And, sometimes, learning a lesson is more valuable than succeeding at every attempt.

How does one stay optimistic when receiving opposition or criticism from others? Especially when coming from one’s peers, opposition can be more difficult to overcome than opposition or obstacles arising from circumstances. One good way to ensure serenity in such instances is to remain calm, polite, and humble. We may feel as though the world is ending when a friend criticizes us, for instance. But mere criticism hardly merits such dramatics as anger or sullenness. Most of the time, there is some truth in a person’s criticism. Thus, it is important to always act with humility. A humble outlook can change an indignant frown to a selfless smile in an instant. When we have control of our emotions, opposition fails to upset us, and we are able to stay calm and polite no matter the circumstances.

Many people go through life as though they have a right to prosperity. Setbacks to that prosperity are, for them, personal affronts. With such an attitude, it is easy to become discouraged or even enraged by challenges and setbacks. The truth is, no one deserves comfort or prosperity for their own sake. As Mark Twain once quipped what might be the antithesis of an inspirational quotation: “The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” Those who keep in mind that they have no inherent “right” to be successful are better able to foster an outlook of humility. And when they see every success as a gift from above and not of their own doing, they can then find themselves smiling even through the hard times.

The secret to optimism in the face of challenges is not inspirational quotations. The only thing a person needs to remain optimistic is humility, and humility springs from the habits of politeness, cheerfulness, and charity. Such virtues make successes seem less self-made and failures less earth-shattering. And, as virtue grows, perhaps so will success in one’s endeavors.


Anonymous said...

It is your old friend Alison Manzer. I love this essay! Way to go Maria:)
I miss you - and think of you and yours often!

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

Hey Alison! Time to send me an update via email!