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Embracing Equanimity



James 1:19-20: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”


Today, we gather to reflect upon a virtue that is both a gift and a discipline — equanimity. The word “equanimity” comes from the combination of two Latin terms: aequus, meaning “even or level” and animus, meaning “mind” or “spirit.” Equanimity is characterized by the ability to remain calm, composed, open, and non-reactive in the face of challenging or distressing situations.


It is a quality that our Lord Jesus Christ exemplified throughout His ministry on Earth. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, demonstrated this holy calmness amid storms. Like us, Jesus felt anger, sadness, grief, exasperation, joy, and deep affection. But the distinguishing characteristic of Christ was his calmness amidst chaos, his level-headedness facing crisis. Christ’s own equanimity becomes a model for us to emulate.


In the book of Proverbs 16:32, we find wisdom that speaks directly to the heart of equanimity: "Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." This proverb teaches us that true strength lies not in power or conquest, but in the mastery of one’s own spirit.


Equanimity is closely associated with peace, humility, self-control, and trust.  Equanimity refers to a state of mental stability and composure, particularly in challenging situations. It involves maintaining a balanced and nonreactive mindset, regardless of external circumstances or internal thoughts and feelings. It is about experiencing emotions without letting them dictate our reactions, allowing us to face adversity with clarity, focus, and resilience.


Equanimity is the mental discipline that helps maintain inner peace, self-control, humility, and trust. It is the foundational spiritual bedrock that supports and nurtures many virtues, even when external conditions are tumultuous.


But how do we cultivate such a spirit? In Galatians 5:22-23 the Apostle Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Among these, we find peace and self-control, key components of equanimity.


Let us also consider Philippians 4:6-7, where Paul urges us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This passage invites us to surrender our worries to God, trusting in His providence to uphold us.


In practicing equanimity, we are called to be a non-anxious presence in a world that often rewards outrage and impulsiveness. We are to be the calm in the storm, the steady hand in times of trouble, reflecting the peace of Christ to those around us. This is the great power of equanimity: its ability to provide a profound sense of stability and calmness, regardless of the external circumstances. It’s a state of spiritual balance and constancy that allows us to navigate life’s challenges with grace and serenity.


Equanimity is often described as the key to happiness because it enables us to find inner peace even when faced with life’s inevitable ups and downs. With equanimity, we are resilient, and can meet unpleasant experiences and disappointments with a calm and even temper, rather than with aversion, anxiety, or distress. We take a non-reactive stance in the face of life’s fluctuations, promoting a grounded presence and the ability to respond to situations with clarity, calmness, and wisdom. By reacting less and understanding more, equanimity helps build stronger, healthier connections with others, fostering empathy and compassion.


Equanimity strengthens our observational power. This refers to the ability to see without being influenced by what we see, giving rise to a great sense of peace as we develop the power of observation. The Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote: If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. Epictetus wrote: Man is affected not by events, but by the view he takes of them. In other words, it is how we observe events, not the events themselves, that cause our anxiety.


Today’s psychologists are finding value in developing equanimity through mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present and fully engaged with whatever we are doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. It’s an inward focus that cultivates a nonjudgmental observation of our inner experiences. We acknowledge those feelings and experiences, accepting them without pushing them away or averting them.


Aversion comes in two forms: passive indifference or anger. Indifference sounds like, “Who cares? It doesn’t matter.” Anger sounds like, well, we all know what anger sounds like. Equanimity is an even-tempered state of mind that enables us to ride life’s challenges with calmness and serenity, instead of being tossed about like a ship in a storm. Equanimity arises when we feel OK about our life no matter what’s happening.


That last phrase was easy to write, but boy, is it tough to do. Be calm no matter what’s happening? Would that include losing a beloved pet? Yes. Would it include learning that a loved one was diagnosed with a terminal illness? Yes. Learning that you’ve had a similar diagnosis? Yes.


For me, I am still in the growing stages of equanimity. But mindfulness can help. We don’t try to avert our grief or disappointment. Instead, we observe it non-judgmentally and acknowledge how much it hurts, and then accept it as it is. We cry and allow our hearts to absorb our pain. We see the pain and grief and distress and find equanimity by being wholly present for those feelings. We don’t deny them or hide them. Equanimity calls us to engage in life, even if it is sad and difficult.


God is in control, but not like a bully – more like a partner, an ally, a guide.  Equanimity is resting in a God who suffers with us and helps us with allowing what happens to happen. God projects universal love to all of creation. It is this love, this grace-filled unwarranted connection between us and God that allows us to rest assured that no matter what happens, it is going to be okay. It may not be the okay we wanted, but it will be okay nonetheless.

In summary, the gift of equanimity empowers us to remain composed and open, enhancing our mental well-being and allowing us to approach life with a balanced, non-resistant, and nonjudgmental mindset. It is a virtue that can be cultivated through practice, and its benefits extend to all areas of life, from personal growth to interpersonal relationships.


It is my prayer that as we go forth this week, we embrace equanimity and ask for the grace to cultivate this gift in our lives. May we be slow to anger, quick to listen, and steadfast in faith. I pray that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


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