Archive for May, 2017

4f7c4962d0745.preview-300How many times a day do each of us lie?

A growing body of research shows that people lie constantly, that deception is pervasive in everyday life. One study found that people tell two to three lies every 10 minutes, and even conservative estimates indicate that we lie at least once a day.

Some of these are ‘white lies.’ You may tell someone their outfit is great when you think it’s horrible. You may tell your boss his/her development plan is super, when you hate it. You may say you won’t be at home when you’re supposed to help with a civic event you’re not in to. There are many, many white lies.

But there are huge lies, too, that hurt other people. We don’t like someone so we make up a degrading story about them. Or we cheat in school, or on the job, or in our marriage. And then, there are the politicians. Who doesn’t remember this?: “I did not have sex with that woman!”

Lying seems to be a growing problem in today’s world, and it has pervaded the lives of our children by lying about them for personal means. For example, recently a Fulton County Georgia Grand Jury indicted thirty five educators from the district, including principals, teachers and testing coordinators in a cheating scandal . They faced charges including racketeering, theft by taking and making false statements about their roles in an alleged plot to falsify students’ standardized tests. In other words, they lied about the true scores of students attending public schools in Fulton County, to puff up school accreditations. And some of them were paid to do it.

“The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that lying was always morally wrong. He argued that all persons are born with an “intrinsic worth” that he called human dignity. This dignity derives from the fact that humans are uniquely rational agents, capable of freely making their own decisions, setting their own goals, and guiding their conduct by reason. To be human, said Kant, is to have the rational power of free choice; to be ethical, he continued, is to respect that power in oneself and others.

Lies are morally wrong, then, for two reasons.

First, lying corrupts the most important quality of our being human: our individual ability to make free, rational choices. Each lie we tell contradicts the part of a person that gives he/she moral worth.

Second, my lies rob others of their freedom to choose rationally. When my lie leads people to decide other than they would had they known the truth, I have harmed their human dignity and autonomy. Source: http://www.scu.edu/ethics

Thomas Aquinas also thought that all lies were wrong, but that there was a hierarchy of lies and those at the bottom could be forgiven. His list was:
•Malicious lies: lies told to do harm • Malicious lies are mortal sins
•’Jocose lies: lies told in fun •These are pardonable
•’Officious’ or helpful lies •These are pardonable

What do you think about lying? Has another’s lie hurt you?

SAM_2550You’ve probably been asked this question thousands of times in different scenarios. “Are you okay?”

Depending on the situation, if you’re like me, you may lose emotional control, you may even want to belt the questioner and yell, “No! Would you be okay with this?”

Emotional control is the key here. That means acting like a “real” adult and not a small child. How many times do small children have an emotional meltdown in public places, or even a full-blown temper tantrum? A sad but true fact is that many of us lack emotional control, when we become angry, impatient, or frustrated.

This takes time, but the key to learning to control emotions is learning to control our thoughts. Angry thoughts take us to angry words and actions. Sad or personally negative thoughts lead us to discouragement. And this can destroy relationships.

But if we turn our minds to positive thoughts, loving thoughts, grateful thoughts, we find that we become happy. The key to developing emotional self-control is learning to “reboot” as soon as we feel negative emotions coming on. Then change our thoughts to something positive so that our mood might improve.

We will not do this overnight. It takes practice, but eventually, when bad things–or bad people–happen to us, we can use our mind to become stronger so that we can weather the storm.

Who Do You Serve????

Posted: May 18, 2017 in World On The Edge
twoMasters “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. Matthew 6:24

No doubt, there is frustration  the choice we make about who or what we will serve. Will it be love, or money? Will it be family, or a selfish ‘need’ away from family? Will it be those who are impressed with how good I look on the outside, or those who care about my interior spiritual nature?

We are made to serve our Creator, but God does not force us to serve Him. We have been given free will–we can just as easily choose NOT to serve Him.

Except He does have a plan. We are put on Earth by our Creator to take care of others in one way or another. God wants us to make a difference during our life. It may be a big difference, or a very small one–but it is a difference designed specifically for us. We can ignore that, or take it to heart, but it’s a fact that the world will be changed, for better or worse, because we are here.

If we serve God, we know our lives will be worthwhile. Though we may not appear to be society’s idea of success, we will be successful if we follow Him.

If we are not following God, then we are following something or somebody that won’t bring us authentic joy— Only the holy are happy.

God has a unique plan for each of us, a mission that we may not, at once, be aware of. We discover it by staying close to God in prayer and in the service of others–when we serve others, we are serving God. And that gives our lives great meaning.

The following song by Bob Dylan is about finding meaning in life through serving God. At the time of writing, Dylan was a born-again Christian, hence the song’s religious message: “You’re gonna have to serve somebody/Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord/But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

John Lennon thought this song was “embarrassing” and wrote “Serve Yourself” in response to it. Lennon’s song criticized Dylan’s preaching and instead asserted: “You gotta serve yourself/Ain’t nobody gonna do it for you.”

In 1980, Dylan’s song was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Male. While the religious nature of the record alienated many of Dylan’s older fans, the album also gained Bob a new wave of Christian fans.

Uriah Heep, antagonist in Charles Dicken's,  David Copperfield

Uriah Heep, antagonist in Charles Dicken’s, David Copperfield

Uriah Heep, from David Copperfield, is one of Charles Dickens’s most wicked characters, definitely a villain; a greedy clerk and money-lender, who fawns his way through David Copperfield and blackmails his way to success. The character has as little pigment in his body as he does decency, though he makes frequent references to his own “‘umbleness.” Heep is an evil character, a blackmailer, with no empathy for others. To read about him is to make your skin crawl!

We know from the outset he’s going to be evil. “[He] had hardly any eyebrows,” says the boy, David, “and no eyelashes, and eyes of a red-brown, so unsheltered and unshaded, that I remember wondering how he went to sleep.” Uriah has a pale face, red eyes , and “a long, lank, skeleton hand, which particularly attracted my attention”

The cold, long, white hands of Uriah Heep stand in for the inhumanity of the rest of him: he is like a dead thing, totally immune to any kind of human warmth or sympathy. David is only 11 at this point, but even he is wise enough to see that Uriah Heep isn’t trustworthy.

In real life, there are certainly real life villains–particular villains in each of our lives. Are we wise enough to know who they are? How do we recognize someone who would do us wrong, or put us in danger? Most of the time, they don’t look like Uriah Heep, but like everyone else we know.

Well, why is that? Why does a person capable of committing evil look like the rest of us?

Because he is like the rest of us–and sometimes he/she is US.

So, can we recognize evil in ourselves as easily as we can in others? Can we honestly look at ourselves? Of course not; at least not easily. And that is what often makes us smug Christians, even hypocritical Christians.

This is why we must open ourselves to God through prayer, asking that He allow us to see and stay away from those who would lead us astray—and most importantly, that He will allow us to see ourselves as we really are; too often the villain, too often the problem in our own lives. The wonderful thing is, He will give us the grace we need to change ourselves, if we ask for it.

Did You Back Down??

Posted: May 10, 2017 in World On The Edge

Most of us have had the experience of losing courage, and regretting it. We berate ourselves as weak, spineless, and not worth much. We are hard on ourselves. We don’t want to make the same mistake again, but now, we see ourselves as less than we really are. Why didn’t I stand up? This is especially true if you have let down someone you love. Or maybe even betrayed them. How can we get over that? How can we make it better for the one/ones we disappointed or hurt?

Fully acknowledging our mistake is a necessary first step. The blame is ours–no one else’s.

We must gather the strength to apologize. An apology cannot erase the wrong, but it can help us move forward, hoping that the hurt we caused did not entirely destroy the relationship.

We may be subjected to their deserved anger. We must listen to it, and bear it.

We must ask for God’s forgiveness. Hurting another human being–God’s child–is an affront to God.

We can make a new commitment to the one/ones we hurt, but we must intend to carry it out. Our promises cannot be empty ones, or short term.

We must be patient enough to wait for forgiveness from the other–knowing it may not come soon, if at all.

Still, we can be the answer to our own mistakes by forgiving ourselves and gracefully moving forward with the knowledge our experience has shown us.

Why Choose Me???

Posted: May 9, 2017 in World On The Edge

In fairytales, each character is usually either good or evil. A dark, menacing character or a bright hero. We usually chose the good character.

But we don’t live in a fairytale. We live in a real world with real people. And real people are not completely good, or completely evil. People are more complicated, with many hues that come genetically or from our environments. But each hue does bend us toward either what is good or what is not good. Each of us has the ability to decide between the two. And we do it numerous times in any given day.

But do we realize that each time we decide on one way or the other, we are putting our personal humanity in that decision? We are either lifting ourselves higher, or lowering ourselves. We are becoming closer to attaining our highest purpose, or further away from it. Life does not make our choices easy. Many not-so-good situations reach out to pull us toward evil. And every day of our lives we will battle them.

We can be heroes in the battle by utilizing the good gifts we have been given to fight with. And what are those good gifts? Well, they are God-given and we all have them within us, but the choice to use them is ours. They are prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, and charity. When we choose any one of them, we are being faithful to the God who loves us.

However, we often selfishly give in to the opposite of those gifts: greed, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, or sloth. We forget who made us and why we were made. We were CHOSEN by God. He did not have to create a particular you and me. Because He did create us, we have a purpose in being here on earth.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.–Jeremiah 1:5

Take a look at the first four questions from the Baltimore Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is an old catechism, but many churches have brought it back, searching for clearer answers.

1. Who made us?

God made us.

In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. (Genesis 1:1)

2. Who is God?

God is the Supreme Being, infinitely perfect, who made all things and keeps them in existence.

In him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

3. Why did God make us?

God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.

Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love him. (I Corinthians 2:9)

4. What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven?

To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world.

Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth; where the rust and moth consume and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven; where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. (Matthew 6:19-20)

It is by holding to, and using, the weapons of virtue that we can become the person our Father God meant us to be when He chose to create us.

 

Why Did I Do That?!?

Posted: May 8, 2017 in World On The Edge

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Often we create our own storms, and then do what the poster says–get upset.

Why? Because the turmoil we created could have been avoided. When we know something is sinful, but do it anyway, we break the levee holding back the storms of consequence. We are inundated with self-imposed rain in our life.

Three factors come to the forefront in this mess we have created for ourselves. The first is Guilt.
Guilt is an affective state in which we experience conflict at having done something that we believe we should not have done—or conversely, having not done something we believe we should have done. It gives rise to a feeling which does not go away easily. And guilt is driven by conscience.

Conscience is the second factor—though it precedes our actions (if we’re listening to it). Conscience is the part of our minds that makes us aware of our actions as being either morally right or wrong. And this awareness ought to come before we do anything–always.

Now, that’s hard due to the many distractions around us. It is surely hard for me. Yet can’t we make a consistent commitment of even a few seconds of silent questioning before we make decisions? After his conversion to a much more moral life, Saint Augustine advocated a return to one’s conscience and an actual questioning of it.

And what will come from this questioning of ourselves? The third factor: Divine Grace.

Divine grace is a theological term present in many religions. It has been defined as the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation.

Guilt can turn us around. Conscience can deter us next time. But Divine Grace can thoroughly heal and change us if we are open to it. It can shelter us in our self-created storms. It can turn us from the old, flawed years, and create something brand new within us.