A friend of mine once told me he admired me.

I was taken aback. “Why? Can’t you find better role models?”

“You’re care-free.” He said. “You really don’t care what people think of you. You don’t know how liberating that can be.”

I never thought of it that way, but he was right. I’m not really concerned what people think of me (at least, that’s what I tell myself). I want to be kind, generous, and patient with everyone I encounter. I don’t care how that appears to others—they may say I’m weak; they might say I’m naïve or gullible. What others think doesn’t matter.

But I do care how I appear to God. The most fundamental question I ask myself is if I am acting with mercy and compassion. If I am, I give thanks to God. If not, I ask God for forgiveness and guidance on how I should act.

—Bob Burnham, OFS, a Secular Franciscan and spiritual director, writes and edits for Loyola Press in Chicago.