Last week I received a letter from a man who felt compelled to put me in my place. One of his comments pertained to my recent article, A Gunfighter Rides Into Peoria. In that article, I described what happened during a recent trial that I was involved in. Here’s what the man said about my article:
[Y]ou disparaged the character of a fellow attorney by stating that he didn’t care about his client and only cared about money … only the wonderful lawyer Mr. Williams cares about his clients. And then you go on to write about humility! Again, what would Jesus say? “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” (Luke 11:46)
The man obviously misread what I had written. It was not a fellow attorney that I said did not care about his client. It was a neurosurgeon from Rockford, Illinois, who was hired as an “expert witness” to testify against my client. The neurosurgeon was the person who I claimed did not care about my client and only cared about the money he was being paid to testify.
Later in his letter, the man wrote about some “unscrupulous lawyers” who mistreated him and his family members. He then implied that I needed to work on my “narcissism” and closed his letter by stating, “Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.”
I’m not sure why he’s looking forward to hearing from me, considering the fact that he sent a letter that was dripping with sarcasm and contempt toward me.
I periodically receive letters from people who are upset about something I’ve written. The people who write the letters usually fall into one of the following three categories:
The definition of “rage” is “a strong feeling of anger that is difficult to control” or “a sudden expression of violent anger.” In my opinion, the man who sent the letter to me that I quoted from above was in a state of rage when he wrote the letter.
I learned a long time ago that there is nothing to be gained by attempting to discuss an issue with a person who is extremely angry with me. Any time I find myself in such a discussion, I end the conversation.
Once a person gets to the point of rage, that person no longer has the ability to think or act in a rational manner. Whether the person realizes it or not, his or her primary aim at that point is to hammer away at me until I “give in,” while at the same time insulting me and questioning my motives and my character.
Whenever I find myself in this type of situation, I calmly tell the person that I am no longer willing to discuss the matter and that I’m going to end the conversation. I tell the person that our conversion is no longer productive and that if I allow it to continue, there will be things that will be said that will be harmful and will never be forgotten.
I then tell the person that I’m willing to continue the discussion in the future after we both cool down. Usually, at that point, the person becomes more infuriated with me and makes additional insulting comments. I then repeat what I previously said and walk away.
I’ve written before about the seven capital sins: pride, anger, envy, sloth, covetousness, gluttony, and lust. I’ve also written about how, because of our fallen human nature, all of us were born with certain tendencies toward these capital sins. While we all suffer from the sin of pride, each of us has a strong tendency toward one of the remaining six capital sins. This strong tendency is sometimes referred to as our “primary fault.”
For the person who has a primary fault of anger, the most difficult virtues for that person to practice are humility, forgiveness, and kindness toward the person he or she is angry with. It’s interesting to me that the man who sent the letter not only expressed anger toward me, but also ridiculed me because I wrote about humility.
One of the reasons I write about humility so much is that we don’t hear very much about this particular virtue — a virtue that is critically important to our salvation. Very few Catholics in leadership positions today feel that humility is an important enough virtue to discuss, teach, and put into practice.
Humility is the one virtue that I struggle with the most. I try to never pass up an opportunity to learn more about this virtue. I pray the litany of humility every day and encourage my family members to do the same. Why? Because according to the saints, it is impossible for a person to grow in holiness without first practicing humility.
There are a lot of people who mistake humility for weakness. Do you remember the centurion who asked Jesus to cure his servant? When Jesus offered to go to the servant, the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:8) After hearing the centurion’s reply, Jesus praised him for his great faith.
It took humility for the centurion to recognize and acknowledge that Jesus had the power to heal by simply saying the word. We know that the centurion had hundreds of soldiers at his command, all of whom followed his orders. The fact that the centurion was humble did not diminish his ability to courageously lead his men into battle. Contrary to the beliefs of many people, great humility vanquishes servile fear and leads to great courage and strength.
When I’m involved in a trial in a courtroom, my primary objective is to overwhelm my opponent and win the case. There is only going to be one winner and I have an obligation to my client to do everything in my power to win, as long as my actions are moral and ethical. The greatest warriors are those who have the humility to know where their power comes from and to use that power to serve others and to advance the kingdom of God.
Thanks for the letter.
Dear Harry and Georgette –
I have been praying all week during my yearly Directed Retreat, and am so thankful to God for the wonderful Companion I’ve had – Sister Marilyn, another Sister of St. Joseph who lives near Kansas City. She comes during Summers for several of us to have our retreats. This is a Spiritual uplift time that I wish everyone could experience! Your critics should first look at themselves before trying to analyze the actions of others. Self-analysis brings one to humility, if the person is honest in the process. You have so many of us who see you in a positive way – a helper to those who are in need of being defended in court. Keep up the good work of helping others, Harry! and know that you are in my prayers! Love to you and Georgette! Sister Roberta
Sister Roberta – Thanks for your comment. You’re right about the need for honest self-analysis, which is best done in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I’m happy to hear that your retreat went well for you. Take care, Harry