What do you think when you think about the month of July: sunshine, swimming, summertime music, bar-b-que, and fireworks on the fourth?
My two favorite Fourth of July celebration memories include the year I spent it with my son at the park. He was six. We packed a picnic, played Frisbee, and ran around all day. Finally, when the sun went down, we listened to the band and sat on the blanket together feeling warm, close, and content.
My other best fourth was the time I spent it on the lake. Along with family members, we swam, rafted, and walked the shores. We dined on hoagies, chips, fresh cookies and licorice on the boat. At dusk, we played cards atop the cooler, then wrapped up in sweats and blankets, and from our pontoon steady seats, witnessed the biggest, brightest fireworks display ever.
July is a time to celebrate independence. Why stop and celebrate? Freedom is something we all seek innately. Humanity has sought it from the beginning of time, all the way back to ‘The Apple.’ As toddlers, we want freedom from that annoying playpen. As adolescents, we covet freedom from our parents’ gaze. As adults, we crave freedom to live where we want, how we want, and with whom we want. Daily we make choices about what foods we eat, where we go, what we drive, who we see, and so much more. On occasion, we may even desire freedom for ourselves so badly that we seize it at the expense of someone else’s freedom. We attempt to acquire it by fighting enemies; making laws for “rights” we feel are vital; or fleeing. All of these grant us some kind of freedom by affecting our environment.
When we deny what happens to us, or try to force things to go our way, we remain confined mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Much time and energy is spent working to control things out of our grasp. However, acceptance of certain steadfast circumstance can lead to clearer recognition for things we can affect—things like our attitude, knowledge, career choice, home, and with whom we chose to spend time. I hope to learn to better let go of things I can’t change and trust God to guide me in things I can.
Often, the more we know about a situation, the better we are able to deal with it. Quick assessment about someone or something without knowledge can be damaging or hurtful. What freedom might we gain if we avoid assumptions or judgment? What if we could learn and grow through deeper understanding? This is not our instinct. We prefer to find a reason why someone said or did something that hurt us. When we’re left out or badmouthed, is there a way we can avoid the obvious cause (a nasty person) and see if there could be more behind the motivation? Although it is a challenging perspective, it is one I believe ultimately will help us be happier.
How hard is it to forgive those, who for reasons we don’t understand, intend to do us harm? Yet we know that holding a grudge often weighs more on us than the object of our upset. It’s hard, but I try to believe there is a cause I don’t understand. This relates back to our second key above. If I’m able to find some understanding, some cause, some empathy, then I can let both it and them go.
More importantly, we should learn to forgive ourselves. We are human and destined to make mistakes. We fail, become embarrassed, hurt, lose, and fall. This is how we grow, learn, and stay humble. While still striving to do our best, if we are willing to grant ourselves forgiveness, we can be more free. Remember, our Father in heaven continually extends His mercy and forgiveness upon us.
This July as we reflect upon our lives, may we be kind to ourselves, remembering we are human. Let’s seek understanding. Let’s focus on things in our control. When we’re scared, we’ll pray for grace, trust and hope that things will work out as they should. May we find the keys that unlock true freedom.
I will personally work to achieve these goals this month. Consider using the image I've created for this post as your July desktop background of inspiration.
Lillian Corrigan uses writing to learn, inspire and encourage both others and herself. No stranger to devastating, life-altering hardship and loss, she's begun working as a motivational author.