(Limited) Words to live by

I only have 500 words, so I'll be brief.

Be who you are, ignore the critics. Listen to the person inside - not the one who's wrong, but the one who knows right from wrong. Really love those whom you love. Honor those whom you hate. Pray for them; they need it. We all do.

Stop judging. We have all fallen short, and you do not increase yourself by decreasing others. You know that, and many other things, so follow truth. Who you are is great, so stop pretending to be great. What the world views as great is illusion, fallacy, insecurity and self-centeredness disguised.

Change yourself. Only you know what that means, and what that requires. Not any self-help book, not the critics, not Oprah. Be you, but better. You remember that person. You've seen that person. You ARE that person. Stop listening to the world when they tell you not to be that person.

Be courteous. Be kind. Not because you expect something in return, but because it makes the world a better place. It also makes you a better person.

No, not everything is great. Some things are downright horrible. But you have been given a spirit to overcome, survive and thrive. No one is going to tell you that. Consider yourself told.

Yes, the road is hard, but no one said you are walking it alone. Look up, look out. Stop focusing inside. Be gentle and kind, loving and forgiving. Most of all, forgiving. All of love is found there. If you can forgive, then you've loved, been gentle, been kind. You have allowed the humanity within you to shine through the veneer we all hold out. That veneer is a fallacy. Don't be that fallacy. You hate that fallacy.

You are not things or possessions or status or accomplishments. Those are all blankets with holes in them you use to try to keep warm. They are false gods, as is your self-importance, your expectations, your ego.

Who you are, really, is amazing. Yes, amazing - when you are not being lukewarm, following the crowd or just fitting in. That person deep inside has so much potential. The world doesn't see that, so they judge what they see. They are wrong. Don't accept their judgments as reality. They're not.

Treat those in need as equals. You might be them someday; and, if nothing else, they are your equals in humanity and in value. It's hard not to judge those who have fallen, especially those who have fallen hard or far. If you have not fallen that way, it's not because of you, but because of the totality of what made you.

If nothing else, be love. Be who you want others to be to you. Be what is right and strong and thoughtful. Vulnerability is strength. Love conquers. It is not weak, it does not run. It is all consuming, all forgiving, all giving. Now, go be you. The real you. Peace.

- Bill Lewis of Hinsdale is a former contributing columnist. Readers can email him at [email protected]