An Exercise to Develop Better EQ—Empathy Broadens Our Perspective

By Keith Little

Replace “God” and the pronouns in these sentences for subjects (health, physics, grace, certain definitions, psychology, communication, cultures, character, language, etc.) and different people as you are led to think these questions over based on situational things you are facing. Whether or not you are a Christian this is a good exercise to understand where we all sit in regards to truth, love, empathy, grace, and maturity.

Objective vs. Subjective Truth

  • Is God subjective, or based on what I currently know?
  • Does God change based on what I think of Him?
  • Does God change based on how I feel or perceive Him as good or bad?
  • Does God change even if I choose to ignore Him or what he says?
  • Does God change even if I believe He does not exist?
  • Is it me who is under God, or God who is under me?
  • Does God bless me through things of the earth, or beyond this life through by what I do with what I know?
  • Can I truly know if someone else is following God correctly, and is it necessary to?

Different Paths (Vocations) Towards Holiness

  • Is my path different with God based on what is in front of me?
  • Will someone else have the same experience with God based on them being on a different path with Him, or being uniquely gifted and facing unique challenges?
  • Is it good for me to force how I see someone’s path with God is, and what good can come from it?
  • If I wanted someone to talk to me about God, when they may believe they may believe God is evil and people who believe in Him are evil, how would I want to be approached?
  • Has it ever been received well by me or anyone I know, when someone seeks to leverage that I agree with how they see God or else?

Be Open to Seeking Truth Daily

  • Can it be at times, that even the experts on God, will make mistakes or still need to learn more?
  • Does calling someone who seeks to do their best before God a hypocrite because they are also struggling, really helpful? Have I never struggled with God, even as I may learn something new about Him I did not before?
  • If there were situational reasons that I was not able to obey God as I would have liked to, (such as go to church for a time because you had unique pressures that needed you attention), is it right to be upset at myself or for others to of me for perhaps not being able to do so?
  • If people don’t know of God and how knowing Him is so great for us, does getting upset that others don’t know Him or don’t desire to learn about Him help them or us in any way? Is loving people despite where they are at with God, more effective when people are wanting to talk to someone about Him?
  • Do people need to agree with how I see God before I will love them?
  • Am I only willing to forgive people who are willing to change as I believe they should before God as I see Him?
  • Isn’t it wise for me to put a boundary up for myself, when someone or something is hindering my relationship with God?

Divine Truth is Revealed Gradually

  • If the person I go to to learn about God in my life, is working through something with God in their own, does that mean that they could not be a creditable source of information? Am I a creditable source of information on my own expertise, even though I may never know everything about it?
  • Is God something that we should expect people to know all about right away, or do we all need time to learn more as we go through life?
  • If I only care about my neighbor when I see them following God as I believe they should, how can I expect them to care for me when I may not follow God as they believe I should?
  • Is God what is most important in my life?
  • If I died tomorrow, would what I see as God be the most important thing to leave those who I have shared God with, and is there surety that God will be eternal?

Remove the Log from Your Eye First

  • Will people speak poorly about God because I chose to say that you should not care about people who do not see God the same way I do?
  • If someone is mad about a situation and blame God, is it that they are truly mad at me if I get in the cross-hairs of having that past situation placed upon me with them now?
  • If someone is angry or upset about how they see God, is it more effective to speak directly to them about the situation, love them through it, ask questions to help them figure it out on their own, or justify ignoring them?
  • If someone is angry about how they blame God for x,y,z, in their life, does seeking a way to justify to yourself and others in ignoring those people truly helpful? Would I desire similar treatment given the reversed roles? Is it not better to simply accept that I may not reach them or be gifted to do so?

Be Consistent in Our Actions and Faith

  • Do I treat my relationship with God as I believe others should given the situation?
  • Do I believe that if I ignore God, that God will not eventually come back to haunt me?
  • Has there ever been a time in my life where I did not know God as well, or need grace?
  • Is it more effective to be as God would have us and love each other, or cast judgment on how others are not being effective for God?
  • If others are not doing well with God now, does casting judgment on them help them focus on the problem or the solution?
  • If given the choice, would I seek to have a good relationship with God and see Him as beneficial to mankind? Are those who have a relationship with God now perfect people, or are they more optimal?
  • Is it possible to be a perfect person according to God or me? Do I hold myself to that same standard? Is it reasonable to hold anyone to it or do we all need grace?
  • Is it ever possible that I can be wrong in how I see God now?

Our View is Limited

A man can display perfect love and maturity and will never have perfect wisdom or insight. We can never see beyond our own two eyes and know what we cannot.

Always be mindful of who you believe God is, and how you might justify expecting perfection from people you disagree with or don’t like, and asking for grace for yourself and those you do like or know better. None of us are perfect people in this world, and never could be.

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Thank you for sharing!

3 Things “The Hobbit of the New Testament” Taught Me

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Memory is a profound thing. Certain images, events, and facts stick with us over time and become housed in our long-term memory. Remembrance is the act of recalling past events through memory. Much of the Catholic Church’s sacramental life is founded on memorializing events from the Gospels. During the Last Supper, Jesus stated, “Do this in memory of me.”

When I taught New Testament at a Catholic high school, I unconsciously created a memory regarding the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. I united my love of literature with love of scripture by referring to Zacchaeus as “the hobbit of the New Testament”. Students chuckled at this provisional quip. The former tax collector was described as a short man who needed to climb a tree to view Jesus’ arrival in his town. J.R.R. Tolkien once described his creations as,

I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which allows them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off.

Linking the minor character in Luke’s Gospel to hobbits helped forge a permanent memory of Luke 19:1-10 within me. In the years following this mnemonic device, I frequently recall the life of Zacchaeus and Jesus’ mercy whenever I see anything related to The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Below are three things I learned from “The hobbit of the New Testament”

Bilbo exiting his hobbit hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

Persistence pays off

Zacchaeus could not initially see Jesus as he entered Jericho. Instead of letting his short stature prevent him from seeing the Messiah, St. Luke tells us, “So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way” (Luke 19:4).

Imagine a grown man scurrying up a tree or pole to see a local celebrity, politician, or other important figure. In today’s age of social media I bet someone would certainly go to Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube over such strange behavior. Climbing up a tree indicates not the strangeness of Zacchaeus, but rather his persistence and recognition that Jesus was someone important! The short man in Luke is definitely a role model for me in showing that my faith life is a constant work in progress.

Jesus Chooses the Imperfect

Along with Zacchaeus’ persistence, the tale of the hobbit of the New Testament demonstrates that Jesus loves the imperfect and calls the sinner to follow him. Not only did Zacchaeus struggle to physically see Jesus among the crowd, he also had an occupation despised by his fellow countrymen—he was a tax collector! According to Luke, the crowd hated Jesus’ invitation to Zacchaeus by stating, “When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner (Luke 19:7)”

Personally, I need to be reminded that Jesus dined with sinners— the spiritually infirmed. I struggle with the sin of pride. I battle with being judgmental. Luke 19:1-10 gives me perspective that God’s love is ultimately above my total comprehension. God’s love is transformative as well. The “hobbit of the New Testament” was changed after his encounter with Jesus. “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over,Zacchaeus stated (Luke 19:8).

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Do not let Limitations Prevent You from Growing

A final point Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus taught me is that spiritual growth is possible despite my limitations and past failures. Jesus welcomed sinners and culturally ostracized groups with grace and forgiveness.

Oftentimes, I use my limitations—my low patience with my kids, my OCD, and struggles with pride—as an excuse to put off growing in my spiritual life. Zacchaeus’ transformation in the presence of Jesus gives me hope that I am able to change too.

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J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” Certainly that is true for his Lord of the Rings trilogy where the bearer of Sauron’s ring is the simple hobbit Frodo. Zacchaeus, like, the hobbits of Middle Earth, provided change in the course of the future—for sure my future! I took to Zacchaeus, a figure who was not only physically limited, but spiritually limited who saw something transformative and attractive in Jesus.

Scaling a sycamore tree, Zacchaeus did not let the possible danger of falling or others’ perceptions of him stop him from gazing at our Lord. I ask for fortitude from the Holy Spirit to allow me to boldly seek Jesus just as the hobbit of the New Testament intrepidly sought after God.


I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

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Gratitude is Our Oxygen

Gratitude is everything. Everything in this life originates proceeds through gratitude. I am incredibly grateful to have lived through a tornado and only have water in the basement it’s not even that much water.

According to Blessed Solanus Casey, “Gratitude is the first sign of a thinking, rational creature.” Thankfulness breeds kindness, productivity, and leads to reciprocity between individuals. Ingratitude walls us off from others. The primary culprit of ingratitude is selfishness—pride. Pride suffocates us. It kills us. Gratitude is the oxygen by which we breathe in blessedness and breathe out all other virtues.

Gratitude changes everything

Suffocation through Selfishness

I’ve been so selfish. Jealous. Of others’ successes over mine. I worry. I’m anxious. I doubt. I despair. Why? Because of I have not double downed on gratitude. I failed to always puts the big scope, the greater picture, in front of me. Life is like a mural. If you look at it too closely or only in portions you see ugliness.

Gratitude allows us to see our lives as chapter of a grander story. A good story. A beautiful story. A true story. I did not intend to write this post I don’t even know how these words are forming in my mind this is just me talking it out my feelings my gratitude now my sincere regret for being selfish and ungrateful. I’m just an instrument these are not my own words. These are His words.

Growth with Gratitude

I’ve been crying tears of joy this whole time I’ve been composing this post. That’s just so crazy for me to think about. The last day and a half I’ve experienced tangibility with the divine I can’t describe in words. But I do know that I am thankful. I am thriving since breathing since being more intentionally grateful.

It is both frightening and joyful. Have you ever had such an experience that is indescribable?

Please share your indescribable experiences and how you maintain a grateful attitude in the comments.

Thank you for sharing!

3 Incredibly Simple Tactics Guaranteed to Defeat Stress Daily

“Ow, ow. My pants are wet! My pants are wet!” I woke up to this sound of my three year old crying in the basement. Remembering the constant thunder and lightning that boomed and flashed throughout the night, I jumped up and rushed down the stairs. Immediately, my fears were confirmed. Water. Pouring. Through. The. Window.

 

I wish I was more composed initially. I want to say I remained calm and did not curse. Sadly, that is not true. Frustration seared through my veins. I quickly brought my son upstairs and had my wife attend to him. Next, I zoomed outside to start vacuuming up the raising water with the wet-dry vacuum. A full moon +a teething baby +flash flood= a bad start to the day!

According to author Margaret J. Wheatley, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way.” If I did not reflection on my situation, I would have meandered aimlessly for the rest of the day. I want to share three incredibly simple words to remember when stress slams you down.

Pause

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Stop. Wait. Halt. Either way you describe it does not matter. Just make sure you pause. Stressful situations keep us moving and moving. Faster and faster until our emotions blow up! Pausing to stop the seething sea of stress coursing through my body and mind definitely helped. I took a short break to compose myself.

Perspective

The second key word to think about during stressful times is perspective. According to American psychologist William James, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” Perspective allows us to pick a different thought over the

negative ones that flood your mind during stressful times. The natural result from pausing during a stressful situation is the ability to develop a perspective. Perspective actually derives from the Latin perspectus meaning “of sight, optical” or perspectiva, “science of optics.”

Perspective

Perspective also relates to being able to view things from a different point of view. Setting a moment or even a couple minutes of time aside to take a break or simply closing your eyes to reset your mind helps in developing perspective. For instance, I started to develop negativity at work today. When I sensed negativity gnawing at me, I left my desk and took a short bathroom and water break. That small break gave me the opportunity to reset my attitude—shifting my perspective.

Plan

The third simple word to remember to help overcome stressful situations is plan. Unlike pausing and taking time for changing your perspective, planning does not always occur instantly or at the same time anxiety hits you. Pause and perspective are offensive tactics to fight stress. Planning is more of a long-term and defensive in nature.

Be Flexible with Plan

Planning takes time  a bit on effort on your part. There is no one size fits all shield of a plan to combat anxiety. I am reminded of Captain Cold’s quip in the CW’s The Flash, “Make the plan. Execute the plan. Expect the plan to go off the rails. Throw away the plan!” Now obvious you cannot through away every plan— that would defeat the purpose of this third tactic against stress. The parka clothed anti-hero words do point to the importance of being flexible and having a backup plan in case Plans A or B fail. Here is an article https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2019/04/10/7-ways-to-shield-yourself-against-anxiety/ on a variety of effective safeguards to ward off stress.

Pause. Perspective. Plan. Two weapons and a guard to battle anxiety. While these are incredibly simple tools you need to utilize these daily. Life does not take a day off. Neither can you! I guarantee that if you consistently use these tactics your mentality will change. You will gain more stamina to stave off negativity. You will be more hopeful, confident, and grateful. I hope you found value in this article. If you have any additional thoughts, tips, or tactics to battle stress please share in the comments section!

Thank you for sharing!

3 Tips to Lead to a Mild (not Manic) Monday

Garfield Monday Meme

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

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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

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.

Perspective Checkpoint

Checkpoint

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.

you got this friends

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.

Thank you for sharing!

An Incarnational—and Infectious—Start to My Advent

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The weeks preceding Christmas—Advent—usually have the perception of being a magical, jovial, and anticipatory of the birth of the Christ-child. While certainly, my Advent began with an anticipation, it lacked marvel and apparent joy. Instead of initially thinking about preparing my heart and mind for the Lord, I juggled the infectious side effects of projectile vomit and diaper explosions. Both of my sons came down with the stomach flu over the weekend.

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Nothing tests a parent’s patience, will-power or love of their children quite like a continual cleaning of bodily fluids. On top of the symptoms of the stomach flu, my youngest son is also recovering from an adenoidectomy (see below diagram if you never heard of that organ before–as I never did prior to this surgery!) Because the flesh is healing behind his nasal cavity, my two year old’s breath has smelled like death since the surgery and apparently it may take up to three weeks for his rotting-breath odor to be gone!  What a start to the New Liturgical year!

Adenoid

Too often society places pressure for the perfect “holiday” season: all the gifts must be precisely wrapped and laden under the Christmas tree in a tidy order, the Christmas meal has to be cooked to the exact temperature and paired with the appropriate side dishes depending on the main dish, and family members need to behave–especially your “estranged/weird” uncle [or aunt or other unique relative you may have]. Honestly, I fall into this fallacy almost every year myself. This year was no different. I hoped to be able to take my entire family to Mass to celebrate the First Sunday of Advent. I wanted to show my kids the beautiful Advent wreath and talk about the particular reasons the priest wears purple, or “FATHER IS DRESSED IN PURPLE” as my daughter would shout with glee. Sadly, none of that happened. Because of my priority as a parent, I had to miss this Mass to care for my ailing family.

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After taking some time to reflect on the apparent failures of the weekends, I realized maybe God was preparing me for something greater—Advent really is all about preparation for the coming of Christ. Revisiting the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, showed me that the arrival of Jesus did not occur in the ideal standards, at least according to the world’s standards. Luke 2:7 details how Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem “too late” and the innkeeper denied them a room at the inn. Instead, of giving birth in the amenities of indoor comfort, Mary had to give birth to Jesus in a humble way—in a simple stable. American novelist Flannery O’Connor wrote the following about the Incarnation,

Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.

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By becoming a human Jesus was able to encounter the entirely of the human condition save for sin. In my children’s pain, suffering, tiredness, and thirstiness this past weekend, Christ was with them in a unique way as he already suffering all those things during his 33 years on Earth.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 463, “Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” The season of Advent is not about preparing for the “perfect” Christmas where Mary and Joseph get a room at the inn. Rather, Advent is about preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ. His birth took place in the messiness of the stable, his Passion and Death took place on the messiness of the Cross. While not everything in my life will be neatly fit in my control, after this incarnational and infectious start to Advent, I had the privilege to be graced with the gift of perspective and opportunity to serve my children as Christ served the world!

Thank you for sharing!

Choosing Beautiful Joy Over Ugly Fear

Department stores across America and the film industry anticipate Halloween well before the start of October. Being in mid-September, it is likely you already watched [or at least heard the chatter about] the cinematic horror film The Nun. Fear, horror, and terror possesses an allure that is sometimes difficult to move away from.

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Scrolling through social media feeds, pushing the cart throughout the store, or even watching television we are bombarded with screams and frights! Increasing new words seem to be added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary related to newly discovered fears. Sesquipedalophobia refers to the fear of long words [this would be awful if you had this phobia and were married to a pharmacist, doctor, or writer!]. Another bizarre phobia is dextrophobia–the fear of having objects to your right. For more information on these two fears and other intriguing phobia please click on this link: https://www.rd.com/health/conditions/strange-phobias/

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In today’s political climate, much discussion centers on whether a border wall should be built around the United States. While concerns about national security certainly are valid, equally valid a question would be how much of this fear of open borders is due to the fearful rhetoric and unknown about other cultures.  Maya Angelou perhaps said it best, “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Succumbing to fear we tend to build up walls that section us from fruitful interactions with others.

From my own perspective, fear normally enters my life through uncertainty in my life. As a rationally oriented individual, I tend to dress up my illogical fears in the wrappings of “security” or “control”. Visiting the New Testament on the subject of being afraid, I discovered a better explanation. An increase in fear is directly linked to a decrease in my trust and obedience in God. According to 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” Fear drives all negative decisions. Fear of the unknown leads to doubt and anxiety.

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I am most nervous and afraid when I fail to take proper perspective of the trials that God allows to happen to me. American author Ralph Waldo Emerson pithily purported, “Fear always springs from ignorance.”  That certainly is true from my own experiences. The greatest fears, usually revolving around fear of failing at work, home, and school, involved a lack of complete information about the situation. I tend to stumble through the tangled branches and dark shadows cast by the specific ‘trees’ of my problems instead of raising my gaze to notice the beauty of the forest of my foibles.

French dramatist Jean Marie Lucien Pierre Anouilh  declared, “An ugly sight, a man who is afraid.” Fear prevents man from confidently standing up to gaze at the beauty around him even in the midst of suffering. Instead, paralyzed by fear, man turns towards selfish tendency in a twisted effort to flee from fear, confusion, and the unknown. Ultimately, this leads to an ugliness and seemingly endless pit that we are unable to climb out of our own power. Only by turning back to our Divine Father will we be able to be graced with a chance to overcome our fears and failings.

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Thanksgiving and wonder at the simple things in life equip us in the battle against fear. First, show gratitude to God by praying and perform a simple act of kindness to someone else. Second, repeat the first step as often as you can throughout the day. Third, take notice of the beauty around you–whether that be leaves falling from a tree, an airplane in the sky, animals in your neighborhood, or the smile of a person you meet. According to Bishop Robert Barron, “Begin with the beautiful, which leads you to the good, which leads you to the truth.” Trusting in the truth–the truth of the Gospel that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior– will cast out the doubts and fears from your life.


“Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid….And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (cf Matthew 28:10, 20)

St. Catherine of Sienna declared, “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear”

Thank you for sharing!