Reading John O’Donohue earlier in the week, I was arrested by the word wholeheartedness.
It’s such a long word. You can’t just skip over it.
And it’s stayed with me like one of those ‘earworms’. Surfacing at unexpected moments and calling my attention.
Even without reaching for the dictionary, you know there’s a lot there.
Called to bring my whole heart to where I am, what I am doing and whoever I am with.
That’s a big ask!
Wholeheartedness in nature
As I let this word guide and shape me during the week I had a dawning realisation…You don’t have to ask for wholeheartedness from the natural world. It’s already there.
Looking up at the stars or watching moorhens pootling on the lake. There isn’t any doubt about whether what we are observing is half-hearted!
They don’t know how to hold themselves back. But neither do they have to strive to bring their best selves, their fullest presence. They just are.
So what about us?
How come we think we have an option?
Perhaps there is something about our current transactional culture that means that we are much more measured.
We are used to getting something in return. Or holding something back in case we need it.
This is the environment of scarcity. And we have been complicit in swallowing its half-truths.
Yes, there are healthy boundaries. But why do I have to turn that into stinginess?
Especially when I live surrounded by life.
Generosity and wisdom
I think we are called to wholeheartedness. Even if this is really countercultural.
Generosity and kindness are powerful expressions of wholeheartedness. And in choosing to give of myself, I find I have more to give. Little by little my capacity for both grow. Even if they start small.
This is not a giving so I can get something in return. But just because it is who I am. Fully.
However, this doesn’t mean throwing it away. There is a wisdom born of wholeheartedness that matures with use. Knowing when, where and how much.
Often less is more. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery penned in Wind, Sand and Stars:
“In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when the body has been stripped down to its nakedness.”
In being wholehearted, it’s about bringing the unvarnished best of who we are. Nothing less and nothing more.
Courage to step out
This also means being prepared to step up and step out. The calling to be wholehearted doesn’t leave us in a timid, narrow space.
And like with generosity and wisdom, it takes practice. The courage to respond even if you’re not 100% sure, but your motivation is to be more fully who you are.
We need to cultivate courage if we’re to grow. To push our boundaries, uncover our voice and use it.
That means taking risks and learning from the experience. Not being satisfied with being comfortable.
Just don’t expect everyone else to understand…
Now just in case you were thinking of rushing out and buying a hero cape… Let’s talk about hearts.
The invitation to be wholehearted it is just that. Whole-hearted.
And for most of us, at least with for some part of our lives, our hearts are not whole. They’ve been damaged and we don’t always know how to repair them.
I’m sorry that I don’t have a simple answer. But I do know it starts with being real. It then continues with being gentle with ourselves. And often involves opening up with others.
Not pity parties. But tenderness in brokenness.
Again I reminded of the extraordinary conversation between Krista Tippett and Darnell Moore that I quoted last week. If you haven’t heard it then give yourself the gift of listening to a profound journey toward wholeheartedness on On Being.
I wonder, what do you imagine could be the effect of more of us responding to the call to wholeheartedness?
The beauty of murmurations comes to mind…
Thanks for reading
Has been experimental steps testing out what wholeheartedness might look like:
- Monday: Smile, please
- Tuesday: Smiling as quiet disruption!
- Wednesday: Single routes
- Thursday: Persecution
- Friday: Being generous