The Counselor’s Corner

Being Busy and Being Quiet

The story of two sisters, Martha and Mary, represent the struggle everyone has between activity and silence.  Martha is someone who always wants to get the work done and make sure everything is done well.  She is always busy and gets the job done. Mary is someone who is reflective and wants first to listen to people and make them feel welcome by her attentive presence. She wants to learn from others.  Martha is the activity person. Mary is the idea person.  Martha will get it done.  Mary will think it through peacefully and attentively.

In our emotional and spiritual life, we all have a part of Martha inside of us and we all have a Mary inside of us.  Both are important and necessary. If I only remain the busy person and keep my activity level at a high pitch the whole day, I will burn out and miss much of the wisdom that will come my way from attentive listening and connections with others.  Likewise if all I do is listen to others and sit quiet with God all day, I will lose sight of the importance of becoming involved with society to help society become more loving and peaceful. 

I  must first take time for quiet meditation in order to be filled with peace and wisdom and a connection with a God in my life.  But I must also put into practice loving, concrete actions that will help my fellow travelers on this earth.  This balance between quiet time and active time is a necessary component for positive emotional and spiritual growth in life. 

Five of my favorite heroes in life have been Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Jesus Christ. Each created a peaceful movement of love and peace and suffered for it. Each went to the poorest, most broken and disenfranchised people of society and brought hope and compassion to these people. Each talked to the hearts of people and helped all of us search our own hearts to see if we are living in a loving and caring manner.  And each of these five heroes reserved time for much quiet and reflection with God.  All left behind movements that were loving, forgiving and non-violent. There was a peaceful Martha and an active Mary in each of these leaders.  There was also a quiet Mary and an active Martha in each person. 

Great leaders are reflective and active people.  Their actions are backed up with profound reflections.  Great leaders are willing to give their life for their ideals.  Their ideals always include bringing goodness to every member of society. 

In every religion and in every political and social movement there will be great leaders who portray humility, reflection and compassionate activity in their everyday lives.  These are the winners.  When a movement, religious, political or social becomes a condemning and judgmental movement it has lost the ability for self-reflection and compassionate activity.  Leaders of these movements who become judgmental and condemning and attack others who disagree with them by sending them to an emotional, social or spiritual hell, are no longer leaders.  Leaders who show us by their compassionate actions how to listen and love others become very effective. Compassionate and kind actions flow from attentive quiet time spent with God and careful listening to God and to wise and peaceful people. 

Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus Christ all did this so very well. I am sure you know people in your life or history who have done this well also.  They understand the connection between listening and activity.  They understand the power of prayer and meditation and the power of showing love and compassion toward everyone.

I think the journey of everyone in life is to become both a Martha and a Mary.  They balance each other so very well.  I need to work daily on this balance. Resting in quiet helps me to be more loving and compassionate.  Making the effort to be loving and compassionate helps me to realize the importance of taking quiet time to be refueled each day.  Both bring me into a deeper connection with God and my fellow travelers on this wonderful planet. Thank God for heroes who teach us so much. 

Fred Cavaiani is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Psychotherapist with a private practice in Troy.  He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Medical Center. Fred conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeastern Michigan. He is also on staff at Capuchin Retreat Center in Washington, MI. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday.  He can be reached at (248)362-3340.  His e-mail address is: Fredcavi@yahoo.com