Sloth

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.

December 30, 2017

What Did Mary Really Know?

Every year during the Christmas Season, there are articles published that are critical of the song, Mary Did You Know. As expected, in early December, Fr. Robert McTeigue, SJ, published an article with the title, “The Problem With ‘Mary Did You Know.’” In the article, Fr. McTeigue criticized the following lyrics: “Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.”

Fr. McTeigue’s complaint was that the lyrics imply that Mary was a sinner who needed to be delivered from her sins. This is contrary to Catholic doctrine which states that Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin from the moment of her immaculate conception, which allowed her to be a pure vessel in which the Son of God could be conceived and born without ever having come into contact with sin.

Another article that was published before Christmas stated that the song implies that Mary was not fully aware that she was the mother of God. The article went on to say that anyone who is familiar with the Bible knows that Mary possessed knowledge that she was the Mother of God, not only because of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement (Luke 1:26-56), but also because of her “song of praise” — known as “The Magnificat” — which indicated that she was aware of her role in the salvation of mankind. Here are the first two sentences of the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for he who is mighty, has done great things for me and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)

Whenever I read anything about the life of Mary, I think about a book that I read in the early 1980s, while I was in law school. The title of the book was, The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary. The content for the book was taken from the recorded visions of the well-known 19th-century Catholic mystic, Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774 – 1824).

September 23, 2017

A Modern-Day Booby Trap

In the home that I grew up in, we were limited in the amount of time we could watch TV. My mom hated seeing her children sitting on the couch watching TV. It was common for her to come into the family room unannounced, walk over to the TV, and shut it off. This frequently happened while we were in the middle of a show. After turning off the TV, Mom would order us to go outside and play.

It was a well-known fact in the family neighborhood where I grew up that if we sat down to watch a TV show at my parents’ house, there was a good chance that we wouldn’t be able to finish the show. So instead of watching TV at home, we went to one of our cousin’s homes to watch our favorite TV shows. One of those homes was where my cousin Mark Miller lived.

Mark’s mom, Marlene Miller, was one of my dad’s younger sisters. She wasn’t as bad as my mom, but she was close. She ordinarily allowed us to watch one show, then she would kick us out of her house. She had her own name for the TV — the “boob tube.” I can hear her voice right now in my mind, “Turn off that boob tube and go outside and play!” If we didn’t do what she told us to do, she did the same thing my mom did — walked into the living room, turned off the TV, and ordered us to go outside.

At that time, we all knew what it meant to be a “boob.” If someone called you a boob, it meant that you were a stupid idiot. My aunt’s name for the TV implied that if we watched too much TV, we would turn into stupid idiots.

I was a year older than my cousin Mark. Unlike me, he loved to read. He was smart, strategic, and a model student who consistently got good grades at Saint Mark’s, the grade school that we both attended.

His parents always bought him and his younger brother Marty the latest toys and gadgets. Mark loved electronic devices. When he was 10 years old, he won a contest and was awarded a small reel-to-reel tape recorder. We spent hours experimenting with that tape recorder. He was a master at figuring out how to use and repair electronic devices.

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 5, 2015

An Insider’s Secret To Success

Insider SecretLast week I told you about the nice-guy prisoner who had a lot going for him but ended up in prison because he did “stupid stuff.” For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “Rick.” When Rick and I met in my office, he told me that after graduating from high school, he attended a trade school and became certified in a well-known trade. He was later hired by a company that paid him $24 per hour to work at his chosen trade.

When I asked Rick where he was currently working, he said that he was working for a local company and was being paid $11 per hour. The job he was hired to perform was not related to his trade. When I asked him why he wasn’t working for a company where he could get paid more for performing his trade, he said, “I like the job I have now because there’s not a lot of pressure. I’m able to get through the day without any problems, get off work, and then go about my business. I like it that way.”

I’ve written before about how everybody is born with a primary fault that they struggle with throughout their life. It didn’t take me very long to realize that Rick’s primary fault is laziness.

People who are inclined toward laziness are experts at avoiding responsibility. They’re also experts at making excuses for not getting their work done. They constantly avoid making commitments because commitments always involve work and responsibility.

Early in my career, I read The Ultimate Success Secret, a book that was written by Dan Kennedy, a business strategist and marketing expert. After I read the book, I hired Kennedy to assist me with marketing my law firm. He subsequently became a business mentor of mine.

In his book, Kennedy made the point that while everyone desires more control over their lives, most people fail to realize one critical thing about control: If you wish to exercise more control over your life, you have to be willing to commit to and accept more responsibility. Kennedy’s simple formula for success is

February 1, 2013

Sloth – Failure To Do God’s Work

Do you know the first words of Jesus Christ that were recorded in the Bible?  His mother asked Him why He had not told her where He had been for three days, and the twelve-year-old Son of God responded, “How is it that you sought Me?  Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  (Luke 2:49)

What was this young boy talking about?  What was His Father’s business?

Do you know the last words that were spoken by Jesus immediately prior to surrendering His life to His Father?  They were, “It is finished.”

What was our Lord talking about?  What was He finished with?

On both occasions – when He was going about His Father’s “business” and when He said that “it” was “finished” – He was referring to the work He was sent to perform on Earth.

The word “business” is defined as “purposeful activity” or “an immediate task or objective” or “a particular field of endeavor.”  Similarly, “work” is defined as “activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result.”

As children, we were taught that we were created by God to know, love, and serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in the next.  Saying that we were created to know, love, and serve God can be translated into saying that we were created to work.  We were put on this Earth to be about our Father’s business from at least the age of twelve until we are “finished.”  When are we finished?  When we die.

That brings us to the sin of sloth.  The simple definition of “sloth” is this: the failure to engage in the work – which includes the physical, mental, and spiritual activity – that we were created by God to perform.  The Modern Catholic Dictionary provides a more formal definition of sloth:

November 18, 2012

Predominant Tendencies and Primary Faults

We were all born with a strong tendency toward pride, the mother of all sins.  Because of our fallen human nature, we were also born with a tendency toward each of the other root passions of lust, anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, and sloth; furthermore, as a result of the individual unique traits that each of us were born with, combined with the environment we grew up in and our life experiences, we each entered adolescence, and later adulthood, with a predominant tendency toward one of the other six root passions.

A predominant tendency toward anger, envy, or sloth can oftentimes be recognized in a child, while a predominant tendency toward lust, avarice, or gluttony does not ordinarily manifest itself until later in life, when an individual becomes a teenager or adult.

If there is no active intervention that takes place to manage and control a predominant tendency, it eventually turns into a primary fault.  While a predominant tendency represents a proneness to a particular root passion, a primary fault represents a learned and developed ability to make use of the predominant tendency to serve the self-interests of the individual.

For example, when a child who has a predominant tendency toward anger is not taught to appropriately manage and control his anger, he learns to use his anger to get what he wants, serve his own self-interests, and satisfy his own pride.  Over time, he becomes adept at manipulating others through the use of intimidation, shame, bullying, and at times, physical abuse.  At that point, the predominant tendency toward anger has matured into a primary fault.

Another example would be a child who has a predominant tendency toward sloth.  If he is not taught to manage and control his slothfulness, he learns to use it to get what he wants, serve his own self-interests, and satisfy his pride.  Over time, he becomes adept at getting out of doing things, making excuses for his failure to follow through on tasks, and manipulating others to do things for him.  At that point, the predominant tendency toward sloth has matured into a primary fault.

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