February 24, 2018

I’ll Believe It When I See It

Last week, I wrote about one of the challenges that I have as a lawyer, which is the failure of many of my clients to understand the nature and extent of the work I do for them. Much of what I do as an attorney is hidden from my clients.

When I represent a client on a personal injury case, if I’m able to get the case settled without having to file a lawsuit, it customarily takes from 18 to 22 months to conclude the case. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, it can take up to five years from the date of the injury to get the case resolved.

During the time that I work on a client’s case, there is not much that I do that my client can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. At the end of the case when I collect my fee, which can at times be substantial, I want my clients to understand the breadth and scope of the work that I performed for them. So what is it that I can do to help them understand the extent of the work that I do on their behalf?

From the beginning of time, man has been a visual creature. The serpent seduced Eve to bite into the apple in part because it was so visibly appealing. I suppose you could call the serpent the first advertising and marketing expert that ever existed. He crafted a compelling and irresistible message that enticed Eve to defy God.

After he described the apple as being beautiful, delicious, and life changing, he appealed to her pride by saying, “All you have to do is bite into it to be like God.” There is no doubt that the tree and its apples were beautiful and inviting to the eye. But it was her ability to actually see in her imagination the future that the serpent painted for her — a future that promised that she and Adam would have the same powers as their God — that convinced her to act.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what Saint Thomas said after our Lord’s apostles reported to him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our Lord later reprimanded him for his lack of faith and said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29

February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

April 1, 2017

April Fools and The Blind Spot

With another April Fools’ Day having come and gone, I thought I’d share some thoughts about how we fool ourselves. April Fools’ Day is all about dreaming up ways to fool other people, but on every other day of the year, we fool ourselves into thinking that we’re something we’re not.

About 20 years ago, while I was attending Mass at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria, I heard a homily from a priest about how we all have a way of fooling ourselves. The priest was Fr. Marne Breckensiek, who at that time was the pastor of Sacred Heart Church.

Fr. Marne started his homily by talking about how when we drive a vehicle, we have to always make sure to check our side view mirror before we change lanes. He reminded us that when we check our mirror, there is always an area to the side and back of our vehicle that is not picked up by the mirror. That area is customarily called “the blind spot.”

After he reminded us of the blind spot, Fr. Marne pointed out that each of us has one or more blind spots (faults) that may be obvious to others, but that we are unaware of. He indicated that we have an obligation to ourselves and to the people around us to identify those faults and to work on eliminating them.

My daughter Teresa recently told me about a boy in one of her college classes who is incredibly lazy. She said that everyone in class, including the teacher, knows that he’s lazy. The problem is that the boy doesn’t realize how lazy he really is, and he isn’t aware of the fact that everyone around him has noticed how lazy he is. I expect that the boy would be horrified if he was made aware of the fact that his teacher and classmates have noticed that he has a serious problem with laziness.

Because of our fallen human nature, each of us has faults that are tied to one or more of the seven capital sins: pride, lust, anger, covetousness, envy, gluttony, and sloth.

September 24, 2016

A Choice You and I Must Make

whats-your-choiceCan you imagine how Saint Joseph felt when he was unable to find a suitable place for his wife to give birth to her child? How would you feel if your wife was about to give birth and the best you could do for her was a barn full of animals?

For Saint Joseph, this had to be the most humiliating experience of his life. Did he get angry? Did he become defiant and lash out at God? Did he blame the government? Or did he simply accept what had happened to him as being a part of God’s plan for him.

Now imagine that you are the Blessed Virgin Mary. Your divine son is 12 years old. As you do every year, you travel with your husband and son to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When it’s time to begin your journey to return to Nazareth, you follow the custom of splitting up. You travel with the women while your husband travels with the men. Both of you assume that your son is traveling with the other person.

On the evening of the first day of your journey, you reunite with your husband and you find out that your son is missing. You don’t know if he is alive or dead. You remember that after your son was born, Herod ordered his army to find and kill him. At your son’s presentation, Simeon warned you that a sword would someday pierce your heart.

You and your husband frantically search for Jesus. Your suffering is so intense that you refuse to stop and rest. After three days, you finally find him in a temple, sitting among some teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

For the Mother of God, the loss of her son had to be the most humiliating experience of her life. What mother would be so careless that she would lose her son? Did she get angry? Did she become defiant and lash out at God? Did she blame the custom that she was bound to follow? Did she blame her husband? Or did she simply accept what happened as being a part of God’s plan for her and her family.

September 17, 2016

Can God’s Grace Be “Banked”?

bank-accountLast month, I made a telephone call to a man I’ve known for more than 20 years. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “Luke.” I hadn’t seen Luke for several months. I had been accustomed to seeing him at least once a week in the adoration chapel, then he stopped showing up.

After Luke stopped coming to the chapel, I asked another person who knows him what happened to him. The person told me that he had heard that a priest at Luke’s church had said something that humiliated Luke in front of some other people. After that, Luke stopped going to church. He also stopped going to the adoration chapel. In case you’re curious, the priest who made the comment was not associated with Saint Philomena Church, where I’m a member.

I had planned on calling Luke a couple of months ago, but I didn’t get around to it until Monday, August 15, the feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. Every year on August 15, I renew my consecration to the Blessed Mother. I made my first consecration on August 15, 1985, and have renewed it every year since then.

I learned how to make the consecration by reading Saint Louis de Montfort’s book, True Devotion to Mary. One of the guidelines that Saint Louis de Montfort has for individuals who renew their consecration each year is to perform a spiritual or corporal work of mercy on the day of the consecration.

On the day of my renewal, I thought about Luke. When I called him, he didn’t answer. I left a message for him to call me. He tried calling me back, but we weren’t able to match up until later in the week. When I finally reached him, I asked him why he was no longer going to the chapel. He said that he had developed a new devotion to Saint Sharbel.

I’m familiar with Saint Sharbel because I used to be a member of Saint Sharbel Catholic Church in Peoria. Saint Sharbel was born in Lebanon and later became a Maronite Catholic monk and priest. He died on December 24, 1898. For 23 years prior to his death, he lived as a solitary hermit.

May 28, 2016

We Live In A Bizarre World

Restroom CartoonEarlier this month, the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter to Pat McCrory, the governor of North Carolina. In the letter, the DOJ threatened Governor McCrory and gave him a deadline to confirm that North Carolina will not enforce a recent law that was passed by the North Carolina Legislature. The letter accused North Carolina and the governor of “engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against transgender state employees.”

The North Carolina law that the DOJ was referring to prohibits the people of North Carolina from using public bathrooms that are not in alignment with their birth certificates. In other words, everyone in North Carolina who was identified as a boy on his birth certificate is only allowed to use the public boys’ and men’s restrooms, and everyone who was identified as a girl on her birth certificate is only allowed to use the public girls’ and women’s restrooms.

Prior to receiving the threatening letter, Governor McCrory had already directed state agencies to install single-occupancy restrooms to accommodate the needs of transgender people. But that directive wasn’t enough for the Obama administration and its army of lawyers.

Governor McCrory was outraged by the strong-arm tactics of the federal government. Within a week of receiving the letter, he fought back by filing a lawsuit against the DOJ. After filing the lawsuit, he issued a statement that said, “The Obama administration is bypassing Congress by attempting to rewrite the law and set restroom policies for public and private employers across the country, not just North Carolina. This is now a national issue that applies to every state and it needs to be resolved at the federal level.”

McCrory also pointed out that the Obama administration is now “telling every government agency and every company that employs more than 15 people that men should be allowed to use a woman’s locker room, restroom, or shower facility.”

May 7, 2016

Responding to a Raging Critic

criticLast 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:

  1. Irritation. There are occasions when a person is irritated about something I’ve written and wants to either correct me or give me an opinion as to why I was wrong about what I wrote. Usually the person is courteous and respectful in the way he or she communicates with me.
  2. Anger. When a person is angry with me about something I’ve written, the person is usually more aggressive in the way he or she criticizes me. The person usually expresses an opinion as to why I’m wrong and then proceeds to tell me what I should have written.
  3. Rage. When a person is outraged by something I’ve written, in addition to aggressively stating why I was wrong about what I wrote, the person launches into a personal attack against me by questioning my motives and attacking my character.

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.

January 9, 2016

It’s Not My Fault!

FaultThere were two scenes in the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, that I remember very clearly. The movie was released in May 1980, the same month that I finished my first year in law school. In the first scene, Han Solo is in his spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, with his co-pilot Chewbacca (Chewy), and Princess Leia.

They are being fired upon by the enemy ship, the Star Destroyer, and Han yells out, “Let’s get out of here. Ready for light speed? One, two, three…” At that point, Han pulls back on the hyperspace throttle and nothing happens. He then shouts, “It’s not fair!” Chewy becomes angry and growls at Han while Han desperately pulls on the throttle. Han then exclaims, “The transfer circuits are working. It’s not my fault!” Leia reacts by asking “No light speed?” Han again shouts, “It’s not my fault!

Later in the movie Lando Calrissian, Chewy, and Princess Leia are in the Millennium Falcon being pursued by the Star Destroyer. Lando says to Chewy, “Ready for light speed.” Leia then says, “If your people fixed the hyper drive. All coordinates are set. It’s now or never.” Lando gives the order to Chewy to pull back on the throttle. When Chewy pulls the throttle, nothing happens. Lando reacts by shouting, “They told me they fixed it. I trusted them to fix it. It’s not my fault!

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, men and women have attempted to avoid responsibility by declaring “It’s not my fault!” After Adam and Eve defied God, Eve claimed that it wasn’t her fault because she was simply doing what the serpent told her to do. Adam claimed it wasn’t his fault because Eve told him it was okay to take a bite of the apple.

I’m sure you’ve met people who have claimed that they were unable to correct a certain behavior or habit because they were born with a certain trait. Or they may have claimed that other factors that were outside their control were to blame. One example would be the person who is chronically late for work and says, “I got that from my dad’s side of the family” or “That’s just the way I am” or “I didn’t get much sleep last night” or “I can’t help it, I’m doing the best I can.”

May 23, 2015

I was a god for a day

I Am GodAfter I graduated from Saint Louis University law school in 1982, my wife and I moved back to Peoria. At that time, my wife was pregnant with our second child. Shortly after returning to Peoria, I began teaching CCD classes on Sunday mornings at St. Sharbel Catholic Church to seventh- and eighth-grade students.

That year, as Christmas approached, I was asked to be Santa Claus at a Christmas party that was being planned for the children of the parish. At the party, I sat down on a throne-like chair, and the children lined up to sit on my lap and tell me what they wanted for Christmas.

There was one thing about my experience as Santa Claus that had a lasting impact on me. It was the look in each of the children’s eyes when they approached me. Each one of them looked at me with awe and admiration. It was as though they were looking at God Himself. I had never had anyone look at me the way those children looked at me.

I have to admit that the look in those children’s eyes made me feel special. Wouldn’t we all like to be looked at by others with awe and admiration?

There was a period of time after each of our children was born when they would gaze at my wife with awe and admiration. Although this period of time didn’t last very long, every time it happened my wife told me how good she felt when her newborn child looked at her as though she was the only person in the world.

Whether or not we are willing to admit it, we all have a deep desire to be admired and adored by others. Since the beginning of time, this desire has been used by Satan to tempt us. He has a lot of experience using this particular temptation. The first time he used it was when he tempted Eve to sin against God. He told her that if she did what he said, she would be like a god.

That’s the way I felt at that Christmas party — like a god who was being worshipped by children.

January 3, 2015

Insulting The Dead



The following passage is from the book, Manuel of the Warrior of Light, by Paulo Coelho:

A novice went to Abbot Macarius seeking advice about the best way to please the Lord.

“Go to the cemetery and insult the dead,” said Macarius.

The brother did as he was told. The following day, he returned to Macarius.

“Did they respond?” asked the abbot.

The novice said “no, they didn’t.”

“Then go back to them and praise them.”

The novice obeyed. That same afternoon, he returned to the abbot, who again wished to know whether the dead had responded.

“No,” said the novice.

“In order to please the Lord, behave as they do,” said Macarius. “Pay no heed to the insults of men, nor to their praise; in this way, you shall forge your own path.”

This is a good passage to think about as we begin the new year. It is packed with insight and wisdom. Even though you and I know that we should not allow other people’s insults to adversely affect us, we cannot help but to suffer when we are insulted by someone who we respect or care about. By the same token, we cannot help but to feel a sense of satisfaction and pride when we are complimented and praised.

I’ve written before about how we should view and handle insults and criticism. The articles where I’ve addressed this topic can be found under the “Criticism” category.

So how should we view and handle compliments and praise? What should we do in addition to saying “Thank You”? The answer to how we should respond can be found in St. Luke’s gospel where he described how the mother of God reacted when she was praised:

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said,

December 10, 2014

Turning Conflict Into Personal Growth

Elbert Hubbard quoteI want to share with you a very powerful technique for changing the way you respond to offensive  or critical comments.  This technique has the potential of turning what is usually a very painful and unpleasant experience into an opportunity for personal growth and wisdom.

Let’s say someone you know makes an offensive comment or criticizes you.  The most common reaction is to become defensive and angry with the person.  The key word here is “reaction.”

Most people immediately react with emotion to negative comments and criticism instead of taking the time to rationally think through and analyze what was said and the reason the comments were made.  And once this initial reaction takes place, it can be extremely difficult to change your mental state from emotional to rational and responsive.

In order for the technique to work, two different criteria must be met: you believe that the person who made the comments was in the state of grace at the time of the communication, and you believe that the person felt that he or she was being sincere when the comments were made.

Once you are satisfied these two criteria have been met, regardless of how you feel or what you believe, you must talk yourself into assuming that the person who made the comments (1) was rational at the time of the communication, (2) was correct in what he or she said to you, and (3) believed that the comments were completely justified.

By taking a fresh look at the comments in this way, you force yourself to analyze what was said in a completely different way, which is from the perspective of the person who made the comments.

If you force yourself to follow this process, within a few days your mind will sort through everything and will reveal to you lessons you should have learned from the exchange.