Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 25, 2017.
According to a recent Gallup study, the average American adult employed full-time reported to work an average of 47 hours a week. While I attended college and before I had children, I worked 60 or more hours a week for months on end. The United States is sort of an outlier when it comes to finding a work/life balance.
Even though I no longer log the insane amount of hours, I still struggle with finding time to relax and separating work from home life. This battle seemed futile until I stumbled upon the writings and witness of a Spanish priest—St. Josemaria Escriva! I am not entirely sure how I came across this gem of a saint, but his writing provides such practical wisdom. This article will provide three practical tips I learned from Fr. Escriva’s The Way that saved me from being a workaholic.
Photo courtesy of St. Josemaria Institute.
Perspective is Key
Josemaria mentions the need to broaden our perspective in the first chapter. “Get rid of that ‘small-town’ outlook. Enlarge your heart till it becomes universal, ‘catholic’,” he says. Lately, I struggled with having a narrow gaze when it comes to my job. I see things from my perspective alone.
I resist the Holy Spirit’s promptings in daily events whereby I am given chances to widen my limited purview. For example, my manager challenges me to think beyond my cubicle walls. I need to daily heed the Spanish saint’s wisdom.
Pardon my Excuses?!
Along with possessing a narrow outlook I tend to fight constant urges to make up excuses for my failings. “The computer system was slow”; “No one told me the new update”; “Things are too busy”. These are just some of the various excuses I tell myself throughout the week. According to Father Escriva, “Say what you have just said, but in a different tone, without anger, and your argument will gain in strength and, above all, you won’t offend God.”
Perhaps such excuses may be admissible, but I need to be aware of my tone and frequency of complaints. “Let those very obstacles give you strength. God’s grace will not fail you,” St. Josemaria states. Stumbling blocks need not be hindrances. These blocks in my path are actually building blocks for my character. Relying on Jesus as my cornerstone, I will be able to pick up the stumbling blocks [i.e. excuses] and use them to build up the kingdom of God!
Work with Character and Substance
A third major theme within the initial chapter of The Way focuses on developing your character through work. St. Josemaria deliberately states, “Don’t say: ‘That’s the way I’m made… it’s my character’. It’s your lack of character: Be a man [or woman].” In other words, do not allow your past and your genetics define your being.
I am guilty as anyone when it comes to blaming my woes and defects on my chemistry make-up. Often I blame my failure to listen to my wife on having ADHD. But that’s a cop-out. Excuses aren’t a way to grow in holiness.
Father Escriva’s states in the next line, “Get used to saying No. Turn your back on the tempter when he whispers in your ear: ‘Why make life difficult for yourself?’” Character is built on resisting the Tempter. I need to work on the sins of gluttony and sloth. I fight the urge to eat fast food and lack motivation to play with my children after work.
Canonized on October 6, 2002, St. Josemaria Escriva is a perfect role model for people living in the 21st century. The bustle of life is only going to increase, especially in an age of instant communication via social media and the internet! The Spanish saint provides a humble witness as to how to incorporate God into my work through real, tangible, and practical means.
🤔”Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” ― Irving Berlin
🔶Reactionary responses rarely are the best—especially if you are in a stressful situation.
🔶Yesterday, I was trying to get some rest as I worked the overnight shift. Thankfully, I got a solid short nap in. I woke to the sight of the contents of a 20 Oz pretzel 🥨 bag scattered on the living room floor.
🔶Immediately, I fretted. I got angry. In hindsight I realized it was actually a bit humorous.
🔶The kids were just trying to get a snack without waking me. Plus, Avila did benefit from Pretzelgate!
🔶She crawled swiftly over and took a fistful of pretzels for her snack. Grinning from ear to ear she held up her delicious trophy triumphantly.
🤔”Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.”
🔶In the Chicoine House life is 10% of what you make of it, 90% of your perspective, and 100% about 🥨 .
🔶I needed not get salty in attitude. I should have merely went to work cleaning up by enjoying the crunchy and salty snack.
🔶How has time changed your perspective on a negative event for you?
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.
Keith Little is an auto-didactic learner with a type of eidetic memory, which God has used overtime to reveal to him that Jesus as the Unified Field Theory. Keith uses this in the following capacities: Predictive Analysis, Due Diligence, Intelligence, Investigation, Strategy, Reverse Engineering, Research, Risk Analysis. Learn more about Keith, read past articles, and follow Biblical Principles for Growth online: https://www.biblicalprinciplesforgrowth.org
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”
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!