I haven’t been feeling well for the past couple of days. I finished writing my meditation on the sin of sloth yesterday, and all I want to do right now is go home, take some Advil and decongestant, and get some sleep. My head is clogged up, my eyes are watering, and I’m having chills.
It’s on days like this that I long for eternity – a “place” where there is no pain, suffering, or conflict; a “place” where I can sit with our Lord, our Lady, a few of the saints, and my loved ones, to eat a nutritious meal and enjoy each other’s company; a “place” where the sun is always shining but never too hot; a “place” where I can listen to heavenly music and sing in the heavenly choir. (You probably don’t know this, but I almost majored in music in college; however, I didn’t want to get stuck teaching unappreciative high school students for minimal pay, so I ended up majoring in accounting and minoring in music.)
So why don’t I go home and get some sleep? I could easily justify it if I wanted to. I’m great at persuading myself to surrender when I don’t feel like doing something. But here’s one problem that I have: This voice in my head keeps ordering me not to feel sorry for myself or give in to laziness.
The voice I’m hearing is Fr. John A. Hardon’s. Although he left this Earth twelve years ago for that “place” I happen to be longing for right now, I can still hear his voice in my head.
It was at the silent retreats for men – which I attended for eleven straight years, from 1989 through 1998 – that Fr. Hardon left his impression on me. Most of the seventy or so men who showed up each year were business owners and professionals. Each year, Fr. Hardon focused at least one of his twelve sessions (meditations) on the sin of laziness.
He repeatedly told us that we had an obligation to spread the Catholic faith through the written word. Although he was a soft-spoken man, every time he used the word “obligation” he raised his voice. He wanted to drill the word into our heads and emphasize that what he was telling us to do was not optional.
Fr. Hardon also repeatedly reminded us that if we weren’t completely exhausted when we laid our heads down on our pillows at night, we were obligated to confess laziness.
There’s that word again. I hated it when he used that word.
Tonight I won’t have to worry about adding laziness to my list of sins, because right now I’m completely exhausted. But I keep hearing Hardon’s voice in my head. If he hadn’t been the most saintly man I ever met, I would tell the voice to be quiet and get lost. Then I would go into persuasion mode and talk myself into going home to my nice, warm, cozy, comfortable bed.
I would tell myself, “It’s okay for you to skip a week. You don’t know anyone else who runs his own full-time business, has a large family to attend to, and writes fifty-two comprehensive articles every year, plus a couple of additional meditations each month. God will forgive you if you take a week off. In fact, it could be your pride that is making you write this article, so you can prove to yourself that you can do it and then brag to your readers that you wrote this week’s article while you were sick.”
That’s the one thing that holds me back sometimes. The thought that people may think I’m bragging when I tell stories about my family or situations I’ve been involved in.
Several years ago, a very prolific writer told me, “In order to be a good writer, in addition to writing every day, you have to find your voice.” When he was questioned about what he meant by “find your voice,” he said that we each have our own unique way in which we communicate with and influence others.
He said that most individuals were actually better at using their unique way of communication when they were children. In his opinion, the structured and inflexible curriculums that people were put through while they were in the school system ruined their ability to tap into their own unique way of communicating with and influencing others.
With the help of a business development coach, I was later able to come up with what the coach called a “unique ability statement.” I’ve never shared this with anyone other than some family members and a few friends, but here’s the unique ability statement that I came up with:
I have a unique ability to ask questions and gather information, and to use stories, humor, and lessons from the past in order to (1) solve problems and create clarity for people, and (2) inspire and influence people to do what’s best for themselves and for others.
My writing “voice” is wrapped up in my unique ability statement. If you reread some of my articles, you will see this unique ability play out time after time. It’s a gift from God that I cannot take any credit for.
During the time I was reflecting on my unique ability statement, I remembered that as a young boy I asked a lot of questions and I loved telling stories. I also loved listening to stories. Several of my uncles on both sides of the family – Bill Williams, Unes Williams, Harry LaHood, and Dick LaHood – were masters of the art of storytelling. Although Uncle Bill and Uncle Unes are no longer with us, I’m still mesmerized every time I talk to Uncle Harry or Uncle Dick. They have the ability to use stories to take you anywhere they want you to go.
Every week when I write, I use this ability to ask questions, gather information, and use stories, humor, and lessons from the past to communicate with and influence others.
My eyes are starting to water up again, so I’m going to head home, take some Advil and decongestant, and get some sleep.
Thanks to the voice of Fr. Hardon, this is one day I won’t have to add laziness to my ongoing list of sins.