Without consulting a dictionary, based on having lived through three years of high school Latin, I know that “ad” means “to” or “toward.” Likewise, based on many more than three years of learning English, I know that “mire” means “slush” or “muck.”
Putting those two things together, I cynically see etymologically what experience and observation has shown me; in the pop culture, we often direct our attention to individuals whose attitude and behavior are not worthy of emulation. (Unfortunately, even children’s literature (e.g. early series books) holds up characters whose behavior would not have cut it before edgy plots and bratty characters became the standard.)
Interestingly, consulting an online Latin dictionary, I have discovered that “admire” has two Latin roots: “ad,” whose meaning I already knew, and “mirari”: “to wonder at,” which I did not know! … Surprisingly, I discovered that the parallel Greek roots for “admire” translate into “smile.”
Yes! Smile! We smile at what we admire. A smile of appreciation. A smile of approval. A smile of contentment. We smile!
When I find myself spontaneously smiling (without consciously thinking that I want to be smiling), I know I am in the presence of a resonating truth…Truth about myself, the situation, or S/someone else.
Have you ever had that happen to you—that you smiled before you even figured out why?
When that happens, I surprise myself, knowing that I know more than I consciously think, and knowing that there is a knowledge in me I can trust; a knowledge that doesn’t depend on human thinking.
Maybe that’s what St. Paul was referring to when he said that we should…
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“ (Phil. 4:6-7)
And so this week’s OLW “admire,” it seems to me, connects with last week’s OLW “mindfulness.”
Truthfully, I’ve noticed that when my mind is full of myself; when I am self-absorbed with fears, concerns, and anxieties, I don’t admire anyone. I’m not free to smile, to appreciate, to acknowledge another’s goodness (which is, in fact, a reflection of God’s Goodness shining through that person).
Admiring requires humility, a self-forgetfulness, an ability to rejoice over and to be gladdened by another’s blessings. Every time I’m tempted to be jealous of and to resent someone’s gifts and achievements thinking them unworthy of admiration, I recall a preacher’s strong admonition.
When we resent someone’s good fortune, lamenting to God that they are undeserving of this or that material or spiritual benefit, we really are disrespecting God’s Providence. We really are like the workers in Jesus’ parable (Matt. 20:11-15) who complained that those who started working later in the day had been overpaid. And God says to us (as the owner in the parable said to the complaining workers about His money), “Am I not free to do as I wish with My own [gifts]?”
And so, as I make this spiritual journey home to the Father, I’m realizing that it really is God Whom I best admire…His Goodness, His Beauty, His Creativity, His Mercy, His Kindness etc.…
Anyone whose behavior is not worthy of God—anyone whose behavior is not reflective of those attributes of God’s—still is worthy of my smile of love and respect since that person is made in the Image and Likeness of God (as am I).
But as for my smile of admiration, which is the highest form of consent and approval I can offer to a fellow human being without idolizing him or her as a god, I need to be judicious in my willing admiration of others, even if they never know or see my admiration. I’m guarding my mind and heart, my prerogative to admire in keeping with God’s Goodness.
That being said, SJT community members: please know that without hesitation, I admire the truthfulness with which you share your strivings to journey with and toward God. Thank you for revealing His Goodness to me through your weekly reflections and sharings.
(p.s. Yes! When I think of you, I’m smiling–grateful smiles of admiration.)