Today started out much like a normal day. I woke up. Ate breakfast. Got ready for work. Arriving at work, I encountered a lot of negativity. Frustration from customers. Lack of understanding from co-workers. Dullness, dreariness, pessimism besieged me.
My ego weakened and trust damaged I felt like giving up. Something provoked me to pause. Wait. Think it through. To fight back.
Gratitude caused me to push back against the negativity. Pulling out a post-it notes I quickly jotted a ton of things (ability to write, family, life, job, pens, calculator). Most of these were blessings immediately in front of me. I soon relearned that I have much to be thankful.
Stopping to reflect on my blessings put distance between myself and the negativity. Recognizing all the things large and small I have to be grateful for proved to be the turning point in my day.
Gratitude is the greatest weapon to defeat negativity. If you are encountering pessimism daily, at work or home, please don’t despair. Think about the blessings in your life great and small. Thanksgiving will help dispel the storm.
American cartoonist Jim Davis’ Garfield despises the start of the week. The cartoon cat repeated states, “I hate Mondays!” This Monday I definitely shared the same attitude as Garfield. Every single customer interaction proved to be grating, complex, tenuous, and stressful. I could not escape the negativity even during my lunch break! Unfortunately, I sat next to a couple cantankerous managers. They complained about everything: their team members, not getting the correct sauce for their chicken, waiting on work changes, and the list went on and on.
Certainly, it would have been easy for me to dive-bomb into a stress spiral for the remainder of the day. Instead, I choose to end the cycle of complaining. Maya Angelou’s wisdom immediately helps me in these situation. The American author wrote, “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.” Change is not always easy, but it is absolutely necessary transform your mindset away from negativity—especially at the beginning of the week. I had to remind myself, yet here are three tips to make your Monday mild and not manic!
Recognize Your Struggle
I have found that if I don’t admit that I am having a tough or challenging day it makes it quite difficult to move forward. Honesty is the best policy. This is true whenever you experience internal struggles. Don’t get down on yourself in those times of trial. Recognize the times you need help and move on to tip two!
Appreciate the Little Things
Along with identifying the situations that cause you chaos and grief, it is equally important to be thankful for the things going right. French 17th century mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote, “Little things console us because little things afflict us.” Manic Mondays usually occur when many little things add up that chisel away at our positive attitude. Gratitude is the best weapon to fend off despair and negativity. Where I struggle is I tend to think “big” where the “little blessings” suffice to defeat my woeful attitude. Grab a post-it note or open a notepad on your phone. List out 5 simple things, people, or situations that you are thankful for despite this hectic Monday.
In high school I ran cross country and track. The shortest race that I usually ran was 1 mile. Endurance always was a key factor in the success of every race. I had to pace myself accordingly in order to finish the race effectively. Making checkpoints throughout the race helped me pace myself without running on fumes. The analogy of a life as a race always reminds me the importance of forming checkpoints.
Amid the stress of today I strategically took a break after a series of angry customers or confusing situations. Taking a quick break from the situation truly helps to prevent the stress from compounding. American author Bruce Feiler stated, “Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.” If you lack the ability to own a turtle still pause and gaze at the world in its stillness. In the workplace you need not spend an hour in mediation, but a few minute pause every hour will enhance your ability to gain a different perspective—it helped me get my manic Monday in line.
If you struggle weekly with a hyper start to the beginning of the week don’t despair. Identify your struggle. Be thankful for the little blessings in your life. Take frequent perspective checkpoints throughout the day. You will be surprised how a manic Monday could turn mild.
American author Thomas Merton wrote, “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” As the root of all evil, pride has existed for all of human history. Adam and Eve had the perfect situation—created flawless without disease or material care. Their prideful attitude reduced them and the rest of humanity to less authentic versions of ourselves. Humanity was created to be in complete communion and love with God and others. The sinister nature of pride severs our connection with Love.
Pride—the great weapon of the Enemy
The Enemy’s primary weapon in the battle over our souls is pride—the ego, the self! Saint Anselm, bishop and Doctor of the Church, boldly proclaimed, “It is impossible to save one’s soul without devotion to Mary and without her protection.” No other human, save for Christ himself, shows more selflessness than the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because of her excellence in virtue, she stands as a primary adversary to the egotistical Enemy (cf. Genesis 3:15).
While I have written a lot on the subject of pride, the depths of evil this sin perpetuates is a good enough reason to continue to speak against the Enemy’s attack. There will never be enough content on how to disable, defeat, and annihilate pride on this side of eternity! This post will examine two primary spiritual weapons (a sword and a shield) to fight the deadly sin. We will also examine how we can properly maintain our weaponry against pride to ensure the best chance in the War on Sin.
Humility—a sword to slay pride
The 19th century art critic John Ruskin wrote, “I believe the first test of a truly great man is in his humility.” Along with being the first test, an initial step in any battle is preparing yourself—and your weapons. The virtue of humility, being the exact opposite of pride, is the best weapon to kill pride! Whenever a sword gets dull it needs sharpening. I have noticed the same is true for virtues. Whenever I get complacent in my spiritual life, the virtue of humility gets dull as well. Slowly the weeds of pride begin to grow back into my life. Focusing on gratitude, reading the Scriptures, and learning from the saints helps me re-sharpen my “sword of humility”.
Gratitude—a shield to guard against pride
While not considered a weapon in the traditional sense, unless you are a fan of Captain America, shields still are considered a piece of armament in warfare. Humility chops away at the roots of pride. Gratitude acts as a deterrent, or shield, against the ego. I have discovered the days I am more thankful tend to be times where I am less effected by pride. The Enemy never takes a day off! Thankfulness definitely protects against the sin of pride. Acting as a coat of armor, gratitude keeps arrogance at bay. Thinking about the various blessings in my life keeps my mind focused on the good instead of greed—a gateway sin toward pride.
Catholic Church— the forge to strengthen these weapons
Possessing the weapons of humility and thanksgiving will go far in turning the tide in your battle against the Devil. However, the battle is persistent and as time goes on these weapons will be blunted. They will need to be strengthened and re-sharpened to ensure the final victory! The best place to refine your arms is the Catholic Church.
Officially the Catechism of the Catholic Church houses clear and objective content to equip yourself for the battle in sin. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of doctrine in the catechism. Whenever this happens the other place I look to forge my weaponry is through the writings of the saints. Arguably no other saints describes daily living as plainly as St. Josemaria Esciva. According to the Spanish priest in The Forge, “Pride dulls the edge of charity. Ask Our Lord each day for the virtue of humility, for you and for everyone. Because as the years go by, pride increases if it is not corrected in time” (no. 596). Josemaria advises later in The Forge, “Be convinced that if you do not learn to obey you will never be effective” (no. 626). Obedience to God and His Church helps us try strong against the Enemy.
Because God created humanity to live in communion, the sin of pride isolates individuals from others. Relationships strain, fracture, and eventually die if pride is left unchecked. Humility and gratitude attack and defend effectively against this sinister sin. When your weapons need repairing seek out the help of the Catholic Church and implore the aid of the Holy Spirit.
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” —Philippians 4:13
According to the American author Mark Twain, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” His words definitely rang true this morning. As I rushed to get my kids’ backpacks and lunches ready, my 5 year-old daughter tugged on my jacket and asked, “Daddy! Can I take this [to school] for sharing day?!” Looking down I noticed a leather-bound book adorned with gold leafed pages—it was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit! Normally, I would be hesitant to allow my precious books to leave the bookshelf without under my protection, especially a classic. Something, a feeling, an inkling, beyond my own power provoked me to let her keep the book for the day.
Letting go of control is not easy for me. This is particularly true when it comes to items dear to me. Releasing control led to a sudden deluge of joy. Excitement brimmed up inside me. Seeing the twinkle in my daughter eyes as she hugged The Hobbit tight simply was amazing. It was also quite unexpected—much like the Unexpected Journey of Bilbo in Middle Earth!
The first requirement for discovering joy is to be among others. After dropping the kids off at school, I wondered, “How else can I find joy? I love this experience and want to share it others.” Joy became my focus for the remainder of the day. While not an exhaustive list, I found three incredibly SIMPLE ways to find joy in your life!
A natural fruit of thankfulness is joy. Harboring a thankful mindset provides stability amid life’s storms, but also gives blossom to delight. I recently came across a post on social media that lamented the “forced gratitude” of Teacher Appreciation Week. As a Catholic my sentiment towards gratitude is that it is our central mission, the thing we value more than anything else. In fact, the source and summit of the Christian life—the Eucharist literally translates to mean “thanksgiving.” Just because you are not “compelled” or have to thank a teacher this week does not mean that you shouldn’t. More thanksgiving, freely done, only brings joy!
St. Paul recognizes this truth in Galatians 5:22-23. I do not believe it is a coincidence that the ordering of the gifts of the Holy Spirit have joy preceded by love. Where do we most show God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) love? By participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—the prime event of thanksgiving!
Be on the Lookout
G.K. Chesterton captured the essence of joy best as he wrote, “Surprise is the secret of joy”. Joy is not something we can produce from our own willpower. The example I mentioned earlier occurred unexpectedly. Normally, sudden events do not sit well with me. I like to be in control! Being prepared for things helps lead to peace—it decreases angst. While peace is a good goal, joy is an even greater good! Actively looking for joy does not work. I have tried and failed. Every. Single. Time.
As a gift of the Holy Spirit, joy cannot be produced by our active works. I often struggle with a restlessness—a strong urge to keep moving, never sitting still or slowing my mind. Since Good Friday, my family and I have sung theChaplet of Divine Mercynightly. The first fruit of this prayer I noticed was peace. Only recently did Ialso beginto notice moments of joy breaking into my life. According to St. John Paul II,
Christremains primary in your life only when he enjoys the first place in your mind and heart. Thus you must continuously unite yourself to him in prayer…. Without prayer there can be no joy, no hope, and no peace. For prayer is what keeps us in touch with Christ.
Prayer helped stabilizeme. On my own I cannot run fast even to capture joy. Slowly down allows joyous moments to catch me. You too can wait for joy—be on the lookout, instead of rushing to and fro frantically!
Recognizing Your Place in Creation
Along with thanksgiving and waiting patiently for joy, recognizing my place in the universe, not only humbles me, but helps foster joyful moments. Every week Catholics profess our core beliefs at Mass with the Nicene Creed. The first tenet we remind ourselves is:I believe in one God,the Father almighty,maker of heaven and earth,of all things visible and invisible.We are creatures, NOT THE CREATOR.
This takes humility to recognize what you are not. I am not the composer of my story. The Divine Author formed me uniquely—and you uniquely too! Reminding myself of my place in creation helps foster a proper attitude to receive joy.
Be open to the unexpected. Let the Holy Spirit into your life. Ask for the gift of joy, give thanks always, and remember God is your Creator. If you practice these three simple things don’t be surprised to discover joy—it might be sooner than you realize!
Holy Week began with the incredible and devastating news of Paris’ historic Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed inflames. In 2008, I had the privilege to see the beautiful church on a college trip to Europe. I checked social media for updates throughout the day. As a Catholic and lover of history, this disaster hit me particularly hard. Thankfully, the Blessed Sacrament and all occupants of the cathedral where safely evacuated. Additionally, precious relics, such as the crown of thorns, were saved as well.
Church in Chaos?
The fire consuming Notre Dame certainly symbolizes the havoc of the Catholic Church’s current state of affairs. Sometimes tragedy in the long-run acts as a impetus for change— change for the better. Pessimism pervades our 21st century culture. Sex abuse scandals, ‘mass’ exoduses of Catholics away from the Mass, and indifference cause despair to set in. Despair, though, is the most sinister weapon of the Enemy. Prowling about the world, he plants seeds of doubts and waters them with the seven deadly sins. How can we stop the flames of the Devil? The antidote is to douse those flames with an ocean of gratitude.
Gratitude is the defining hallmark of Catholicism. The Sacrament of the Eucharist actually means thanksgiving. According to St. Pope John Paul II in his General Audience on October 11th, 2000, “As the term itself originally says in Greek, Eucharist means “thanksgiving”; in it the Son of God unites redeemed humanity to himself in a hymn of thanksgiving and praise.” Literally, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, (cf CCC 13747) the Eucharist is a most best remedy against the poison of despair. Together with the celebration of thanksgiving for the gift of Jesus during the Mass, I am going to discuss three additional reasons why gratitude is the best attitude for our world in 2019.
Its Free and Freeing
The days that I am most at peace and feel a sense of liberation directly coincide with the days I focus on being thankful. Some things in life cannot be controlled by us. This is a fact I struggle with mightily! This power struggle with reality often causes a callous and unappreciative mentality. Because of ingratitude, I get locked in a self-imposed prison of bitterness and despair. Limitations set in. Engagement with others diminishes.
The key to unlocking this prison is thankfulness. American author Maya Angelou wrote, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Gratitude provides us the ability to see the world not as “you vs. them”. Gratitude provides the equation for true freedom— “you +them=us. Humility and thankfulness lead to unity. Freedom results and best of all gratitude is absolutely free— you just have to ask God for the gift to be humble enough to receive gratitude!
Closely connected with the freeing quality of gratitude is the ability of thankfulness in defending against negativity. According to Mabel Yiu in the article Overcoming negativity by practicing gratitude, “Practicing gratitude—while a learned practice—can help us pivot from our brain’s hardwiring for negativity, and help us to see the positive things we often overlook.” Ingratitude shortens our gaze and limits it downward. Thankfulness extends our purview and allows us to better recognize situations in their context. Gratitude allows us to defend properly against negativity in the present and future!
I have learned that the times I put on the armor of a “grateful mindset” that negativity bounces off me with little effect. After receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist, I am the most equipped to fend off the negativity during the week.
Infuses You with Energy
When asked about where he mentality and physical stamina originate from, Belarusian American entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, plainly declared, “My energy, every single ounce of it, comes from gratitude.” He goes on to discuss his upbringing and living in Communist Russia as primary factors for shaping his attitude of gratitude. Viewing everything as a pure gift, simply being thankful for existence transforms a person—energy flows through you. I know this because I have experienced days where I ask the Holy Spirit for gratitude and focusing on the gifts in my life, a weight is lifted off.
Without the weight of entitlement, self-imposed unrealistic expectations weighing me down I experience pure energy to live life purely. Admitting, these days are in the vast minority of my life. Sadly, I have caved into the pressures of the world too often—allowing ingratitude and spite to rule my days. Those days of gratitude, flickers of hope-infused energy point to a higher reality. Gratitude for the gift of life and hope for eternal life ultimately will win out. St. Gianna Beretta Molla said, “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.” Terrible tragedies will always occur in this world. You will suffer throughout this life, but what will always help you in 2019 (and beyond!) will adopting an attitude of gratitude.
Mark Twain once wrote, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” We seem to within the age of advanced metrics, statistics, and quantification of nearly all aspects of life. Within the workplace it is likely that you may be evaluated based off an array of statistical categories and metrics. As an avid football fan, I noticed a great increase in the amount of time and column space that sports agencies such as ESPN and network sportscasters spend on discussing [mostly debating] who belongs in the “elite” quarterback conversation in the NFL. Needless to say, statistics have become part and parcel of our daily life over recent history—the same is true for blogging.
Dating back to my high school years I developed a strong interest in gathering various information and analyzing it. For a time, I seriously contemplated going to college to become a professional statistician. The analytical side of me naturally ogles and takes glee in the statistics that I have available through WordPress. Are we to be measured by our accomplishments or by the attitude that we put into our work? The world makes external successful paramount in determining our self-worth, however, is this a healthy way to live? More importantly is this approach to determining dignity of a person actually true? I hope to address these concerns in today’s post.
Depending on your worldview and upbringing it may be debatable as to whether the achievements that we accomplish through our career and hobbies act as the defining feature for a person’s self-worth. What I want to discuss today is that measuring your success as a blogger solely on statistics and viewership is not the entire picture. Below are five reasons to support this claim.
Why are you writing?: This is the first question that you should constantly keep on the forefront of your mind when blogging. Are you writing to gain notoriety or as a means to improve yourself and others? Put another way is the purpose for blogging ultimately self-serving or for serving others? St. Thomas Aquinas once stated, “The things that we love tell us what we are.” I continually need to remind myself that I write to better myself and to help others find joy in this life—not to amass high stats!
2. Consistency is King: Although the world is a constantly changing reality, humans still hold a strong desire for stability. Possessing a consistency of character, will, and an even-keel of our emotions is a strong indicator for success. I struggle with keeping my emotions in check at times. What helps me during low points in my writing journey is to continue to focus the reason that I write–to help others find joy! I found this superb yet simple quote from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson helpful. He said, “Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”
What has continued to provide me assurance and sustained me through periods of writer’s block is to always remember to focus on consistently writing and not worry about the popularity of my articles. Consistency is preferred over flashy statistics or outlandish blog topics.
3. Quality over quantity: Following closely with the previous point, it is good to remind yourself that while it is important to write on a consistent basis focus on the caliber of your post instead of the number. When I stray away from this principal I generate haphazard articles that are sloppily put together. Although I am able to get an immediate satisfaction from publishing that day, when I reflect on previous blog posts I tend to have a regret about hitting the Publish button.
4. Self-worth not determined by external measurements: According to the Catholic Church, the dignity of all human persons is not measured through our social, political, and monetary accomplishments. We are born with an innate dignity. The Second Vatican II document Gadium Et Spes [Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World] declared,
According to the almost unanimous opinion of believers and unbelievers alike, all things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown.
But what is man? About himself he has expressed, and continues to express, many divergent and even contradictory opinions. In these he often exalts himself as the absolute measure of all things or debases himself to the point of despair. The result is doubt and anxiety. The Church certainly understands these problems. Endowed with light from God, she can offer solutions to them, so that man’s true situation can be portrayed and his defects explained, while at the same time his dignity and destiny are justly acknowledged (#12).
The key phrase that jumped out to me is that when we place ourselves at the center of attention–the result is doubt and anxiety! Focusing on how popular you become as a blogger will have an initial rush of confidence and feelings of happiness, but these sensations will pass. Believe me, each time I hit a benchmark goal that I set for my writing career [i.e. landing a columnist opportunity, becoming a managing editor at an online magazine, and even an article published in a print magazine] I experience short term pleasure, but if I continue to judge my worth as a writer on these external accomplishments I soon fall into despair.
Pridefully, I fell into the trap believing that it is possible to achieve success all the time and when I hit periods of drought anxiety soon follows. Please do not falter in the same with that I struggle with frequently. Your self-worth as a writer is not to be determined by the amount of followers you have.
5. Writing as a Tool to Help Others not for Self-glory: Dovetailing from the last point and also circling around to reiterate the first reason, it is important to remind yourself that writing is supposed to be a tool to help others, not an avenue for self-glory. The Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho appropriately stated, “Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions.” Use your platform on WordPress [or other sites if you reading this elsewhere] to promote your writing as a way to bridge the differences in the world and be an advocate for truth!
I initially wrote this article as a means to help temper my addiction to checking my WordPress app over twenty times a day—I thank my wife for confronting me about this issue. Over the course of writing this article, I realized that others may struggle with this similar obsession. I focused my efforts in trying to be as articulate as possible in assuring any of my readers that are also writers. Please do not despair if you experience a lull in your blogging hobby/career. Please feel free to share this article to any of your friends that may struggle with similar issues of self-doubt or those who have hit a thick wall of writer’s block! Thank you again for all of my followers, readers, and advocates that have supported me throughout my journey.
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla said, “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.” Ingratitude is a cancer that destroys the best of relationships, all previous successes, and precedes despair. In preparation for the season of Lent, I am focusing on developing a better daily habit– that of more graciousness for life both good and bad.
Let’s do an experiment. Get a timer for look at your watch or clock and time yourself for a minute,m. During this 60 seconds list out all of the various things in your life that you’re grateful for. You can type this out or jot it down on a piece of paper. At the end of the minute look at the various things that you’re grateful for below are a list of my items. Note: For the sake of transparency I listed the things in the order that they popped into my head. The ordering is not a reflection of the priority of gratitude!
Whether your list is larger or smaller than mine does not matter. What I am certain of is that you could certainly think of at least ONE person or thing you are thankful for. This exercise took only 1 MINUTE! Image performing this simple test of thankfulness every hour of the day. Aristotle once wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Start your life anew with developing a sense of gratitude. Develop a sense of thankfulness no matter what happens in life. Happiness and peace will soon follow!