“Here was a man words cannot describe. He was quite without a preference of his own; he neither feared to die nor refused to live.” Sulpitius Severus, writing of his friend, St. Martin of Tours (ca. 316-397).
What is it to be without a preference? I hardly remember. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been without a gold-plated set of preferences. As an infant, I wanted to be fed now. Today, the coffee I want now has to be strong; apples have to be Gala; chocolate, the darker the better (milk chocolate, are you kidding? and “white chocolate”? don’t get me started); bananas ripe, but not too ripe—you get the picture.
But for all the comfort we think our preferences will bring us, they are often needless points of strife. They’re points where we can choose peace over conflict, generosity over selfishness.
We’re talking about the times when giving up a little can mean a lot—like watching a movie the family wants instead of the one you had your heart set on; having beef for dinner for your spouse’s sake when you really feel like fish. It’s the little things that we harmlessly give up for love of others that pump up our virtue muscles. Being “other directed” is the only way to true joy—one of the paradoxes of the spiritual life.
Pope Francis put it this way: “The secret to a good life is found in loving and giving oneself for love’s sake. From here comes the strength to sacrifice oneself joyfully.”
Being more aware of our preferences and insisting on them less is something we can do at home, at work, or in line at the grocery store. Letting go of some of our preferences helps us see the big picture better and leads to a wonderful freedom. And peace.
Scroll down and share a time when giving up a preference led to more peace.