Overcoming Negativity


Fighting negativity is a constant battle. We live in a world full of inspirational quotes and Instagram captions about positivity, and while these can be helpful, they are not the only—and maybe not even the best—way to truly overcome negativity.

Theology of the Body helps us challenge negativity by reminding us of who we truly a
re and what we are called to become through God’s grace. Negativity traps us in our fallen selves, making us believe that the broken person we see when we look in the mirror is all we are and all we can ever be. TOB allows us to acknowledge the work that needs to be done but gives us the blueprint to imagine what our lives can look like if we keep allowing God to do that work in our hearts and in our world. The Theology of the Body helps us rediscover the freedom the negativity seeks to rob us of; the freedom to cooperate with God’s grace to become what we are; whole, healed, godly, grace-filled sons and daughters of God.

Here are three More2Life hacks for overcoming negativity:

1. Don’t Be Positive–The cure for negative thinking is NOT positive thinking. In reality, positive thinking almost always fails to produce effective results because it seems false–and it is.  Just like negative thinking tends to strain out anything good, positive thinking doesn’t allow us to acknowledge the real problems that need to be addressed. You can’t just ignore your way out of your problems by putting a smiley-face sticker on them. So what IS the cure for negativity?  HELPFUL THINKING. Ask yourself, “What would be the most helpful way to look at this situation?” In other words, how could you look at the present situation in a way that would help you find both the resources and motivation to formulate the most productive course of action?  Helpful thinking avoids the pitfalls of both negative and artificially positive thinking, giving you a way of keeping your situation in perspective while figuring out the best way forward.

2. Embrace your Freedom–We often use negativity as a way of escaping from freedom.  We’re afraid to do something about our situation because we might fail, or we don’t want to deal with the consequences of making a choice so instead of praying for the courage to act in the most godly and productive way possible, we tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do,” the situation is doomed,” “we are hopeless,” “they’ll never change,” “why bother trying?” All of these lies deny the truth that no one can ever take away our God-given freedom to act. There is always some small change we can make and if we can bring those small changes to God, he can multiply our efforts just like He multiplied the loaves and fishes. Escaping negativity means categorically rejecting the lie of powerlessness and embracing the freedom God gives to all of his children, a freedom that allows us to choose to cooperate with grace no matter what our circumstances.

3. Do SOMETHING. Negativity is paralyzing. To fight back. Do SOMETHING DIFFERENT.  Even if you aren’t sure it will really make a difference, acting at all–especially if it is something you haven’t done before–is better than staying stuck. The good news? Every step you take gives you new information that leads to new possibilities and those new possibilities will destroy negativity once and for all.

For more information on how to conquer negativity in your life check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart and tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C, on EWTN Radio Network/Sirius XM 139. Or, give us a call at Pastoral Solutions Institute!

3 Ways To Guarantee You’ll Be Your Spouse’s BFF



Many people question whether husbands and wives should expect to be each other’s best friends. Spouses are often faced with difficulties throughout their lives and marriage, so how can they still be best friends with one another? While it may come as a surprise to some, over 83% of married couples report being best friends with each other.

Pope St. John Paul the Great’s Theology Of The Body calls couples to recall the original unity–the remarkable best friendship–our First Parents enjoyed before the fall.  While many couples, today think that men and women aren’t supposed to even expect to be each other’s best friends, the Church is clear that that is exactly what God created men and women to be.  Adam’s exclamation, “At last, this is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone!” was, according to St. John Paul, an acknowledgement that Adam and Eve saw, in each other, two people who could truly “get” each other.  Through God’s grace, they enjoyed “the peace of the interior gaze” that allowed them to share the deepest part of themselves with each other without fear or need to hold back at all.  Since the Fall, because of our tendencies to self-protection, selfishness, and fear of vulnerability, this level of friendship can be challenging, but that is what the grace of a sacramental marriage is intended to empower couples to enjoy. Our efforts to cooperate with that grace allow husbands and wives to be witnesses to the love God has for the world and the friendship he desires with each of us.

Here are three simple More2Life Hacks you can use to guarantee you’ll be your spouse’s BFF,

1.  Take Care–Being your spouse’s best friend begins with finding little ways to take care of each other every day. Happy couples look for little ways to make each other’s day easier or more pleasant, they look for opportunities to stay in touch throughout the day with “I love you” texts and short calls to check in.  Being your spouse’s best friend doesn’t require tons of money for elaborate dates or huge swaths of time to connect in deeply meaningful ways.  It means making the point of using this present moment–even the moments you are apart–to reach out to each other and connect in some loving way; offering a thoughtful act of service, a friendly call or text, leaving a short romantic note or other loving token of affection, an offer of prayerful support.  These little efforts make a big difference in how much you and your spouse can feel like each other’s friends.

2. Date Everyday–Date nights are wonderful, but they usually can’t happen often enough and they aren’t the panacea people make them out to be.  Couples who are real best friends don’t save their relationship for date night.  They date every day, making little appointments to work, play, talk, and pray together every day–even for five minutes at a time.  Making daily dates to do the dishes together, take a short walk or play a hand of cards, take a little time for couple prayer, and make a point of talking about something other than just the chores goes a long way toward maintaining the little connections that make being best friends possible.

3.  Enjoy Little Adventures–Research shows that couples who feel like best friends make a point of trying new things together.  They are open to participating in each other’s interests–even when they don’t personally enjoy the same things to the same degree.  Couples who are best friends practice the notion that the activity they do together isn’t the point.  Rather, the activity is just an opportunity to be together, to share something with each other, and maybe to learn something about each other.  The new things you try don’t have to be expensive or time consuming.  Make a meal together and try a new recipe.  Play a new game.  Explore a different part of the neighborhood. Try out something your spouse enjoys but you aren’t so sure about–and keep an open mind and friendly attitude about it. The point is, couples who are best friends look for little adventures to share that enable them to take their friendship in new directions.

For more information on how to be best friends with your spouse, check out For Better…Forever! A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage and make sure to tune in to More2Life, weekdays 10am E/9am C on EWTN Global Catholic Radio/Sirius XM 139.

7 Keys to Raising Caring Kids


Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

At times, being a parent can feel extremely overwhelming. It can feel like so much work to help our kids be the  intelligent, happy, ambitious, and overall successful individuals we want them to be. The good news is that research shows that there is one quality—caring— we can parent toward that gives our kids all those other benefits and more.

According to a report by Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project, “…when children can empathize with and take responsibility for others, they’re likely to be happier and more successful. They’ll have better relationships their entire lives, and strong relationships are a key ingredient of happiness. In today’s workplace, success often depends on collaborating effectively with others, and children who are empathic and socially aware are also better collaborators.”

The authors of the report suggest 7 tips for raising caring children:

1)Work to develop loving, caring relationships with your kids

Children take their parents’ lead. They’ll most effectively learn to treat others with care and respect when they are treated with care and respect themselves. Schedule regular one-on-one time with your kids. Make an effort to have meaningful conversations. Let your efforts to prioritize them be their inspiration for prioritizing deeper relationships with others.

2) Be a strong moral role model and mentor

Children desperately need role models. As their parent, you are your child’s first teacher and the best model of all the virtues your kids need to experience life as a gift.  Make sure to practice honesty, fairness, and caring in your own life.  Of course, nobody’s perfect, so when stress or frustration gets the better of you, practice humility, self-awareness, and honesty by showing your willingness to apologize and make a genuine effort to change.

3) Make caring for others a priority and set high ethical expectations

A big part of prioritizing caring is holding children to high ethical expectations. This can be done by teaching children to honor their commitments, to do the right thing even when it is hard, and to stand up for important principles of fairness and justice. Furthermore, it’s critical for you to insist that your kids always speak and act respectfully, even if it makes them unhappy and even if their peers aren’t behaving that way.

4) Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude

We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect,” or at least, “practice makes progress.” Why not create opportunities for your child to practice caring and gratitude? Expect your children to participate in the household chores. Regularly start conversations with your children about the caring and uncaring acts they see in their daily lives or on television.  Create a ritual of expressing thanks at dinner or bedtime. Studies show that people who cultivate the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving—and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.

5) Expand your child’s circle of concern

Children naturally empathize with a small group of family and friends, however it is important to teach your child how to “zoom out” and care about those outside that circle, such as a new child in class, or others in their community.  Encouraging your child to consider the perspectives and feelings of the hurting people around them. Ask them to imagine what it would be like to be that person. Then, give your children simple ideas for taking action, like comforting a classmate who was teased or reaching out to a new student.

6) Promote children’s ability to be ethical thinkers and positive change-makers in their community

Children love to grapple with ethical questions. Help children be the leaders in modeling virtue by discussing various moral dilemmas.  For instance, “Should I invite a new neighbor to my birthday party if my best friend doesn’t like her?’” Situations such as this provide the perfect dialogue to develop the skills of ethical thinking and leadership in your child.

7) Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively

Even the most caring child can become overwhelmed by feelings of anger, shame, envy, etc, which can cause him to lose the ability to care for others. It’s important to teach children that, while these feelings are okay, there are ways to express our feelings that are useful and helpful and ways that aren’t. Teach your child to identify his or her emotions, as well as teaching them how to resolve conflicts.

Raising caring kids is a big job, but as our Church teaches, we find ourselves in the act of caring for others.  Help your kids discover the secret to a happy life by teaching them the importance of caring.

For more information on how to raise respectful and caring children, check out Parenting With Grace: The Catholic Guide to Raising (Almost) Perfect Kids.


The BeDADitudes: 8 Ways to Be An Awesome Dad


Pope Francis has called Jesus’ Beatitudes  our “guide on the path of Christian life.”   Of course, God leads by example.  As such, in addition to being a call to Christian discipleship, the Beatitudes also could be said to reveal something about the ways God the Father relates to us, his children.  Seen in this light, the Beatitudes present a unique opportunity for Christian men to become fathers after The Father’s own heart.  That’s why I wrote The BeDADitudes: 8 Ways to Be An Awesome Dad, which looks at how the 8 Beatitudes can be understood to shed light on a uniquely Christian vision of masculinity, in general, and fatherhood, in particular.

Want to be an awesome dad?   Here’s a sample of how the 8 Beatitudes can help you be the father God is calling you to be.

1. Blessed Are Dads Who Are Poor In Spirit
-Seek to be a father after THE Father’s own heart.
Being a dad is on-the-job training.  No one has it figured out.  Don’t pretend YOU do.  Go to God every day.  Ask him to teach you to be the husband and father HE wants you to be; the husband and father your wife and children NEED you to be.

2. Blessed Are The Dads Who Mourn
-Be not afraid of feelings. Empathize with your family’s tears, fears, and struggles.
In scripture, “mourning” doesn’t mean be sad so much as it means “cultivate a compassionate heart.”  It is not your job to fix or feel judged by your wife or kids feelings.  It is your job to be present to your wife and kids, to understand why they feel as they do, to show that you care, and to help them work through their feelings in godly ways

3. Blessed Are The Dads Who Are Meek
-Meekness isn’t weakness.  Cultivate the humble strength of a listening heart.
A real leader listens first.  The father who is authentically meek is not afraid to hear what his wife and children really need from him and, when necessary, doesn’t hesitate to get new skills to meet those needs.

4. Blessed Are The Dads Who Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness
-Awesome Dads are on a Mission from God.  Live for Him.  Lead your family To Him.
Research shows that when dads take the lead in prayer, faith formation, and character training, kids are exponentially more likely to live your faith and values as adults. Be the father that leads your family to THE father.

5. Blessed Are The Dads Who Are Merciful
-Be a loving mentor in your home.  Don’t break hearts. Mold them.
Don’t be “The Punisher.”  Be a mentor and teacher. Treat your children with respect. Don’t just yell or impose consequences when they mess up .  Instead, teach them how to meet their needs and express themselves in good and godly ways.

6. Blessed Are the Dads Who Are Pure in Heart
-Cherish the treasure of your wife and children. Protect their dignity. Affirm their worth
Pope St. John Paul the Great taught that the opposite of love is use.  Love makes people more people-y.  Use make people into things or tools.  Don’t treat your wife or kids as the “things” that exist to make YOUR life easier.  Set the standard for loving service in your home.

7. Blessed Are the Dads Who Are Peacemakers
-Keep your house in order.  Prioritize your family.  Protect the heart of your home.
St. Augustine said, “Peace is the tranquility of right order.”  Be the hands-on dad that makes sure your household is respectful, generous, and orderly.

8. Blessed Are the Dads Who Are Persecuted for the Sake Of Righteousness.
-The world will try to undermine your effort to be an awesome dad.  Be one anyway.
When your friends, family-of-origin, co-workers, or employers try to make you sacrifice what’s best for your family for what they want, choose your family and know God the Father will honor your sacrifice.

To discover more great ideas for becoming a father after The Father’s heart, check out The BeDADitudes: 8 Ways to Be An Awesome Dad (AveMariaPress)

Do Your Kids Have Problem Friends? 3 Things YOU Can Do

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

Check out my interview with Chloe Mooradian of Aleteia’s For Her.

Your son comes home from school with a new word that his friend taught him. Your little girl’s playmates are teaching her to be a little bit sassier than you’d like. Or maybe your child was caught cheating on a test with his friend, even though you know you’ve taught him better.

As parents well know from living through our own childhoods, the influence of our kids’ friends is pretty powerful, especially when when they’re young (even as young as 3 and 4 years old) and still learning. The knee-jerk might be to yank away time with friends and put restrictions up, but that may be more of a Band aid fix to the real problem. Our children will copy the behaviors of those who they are closest with. However, if we have great, strong connections with them as parents, then the connection and influence of their peers won’t be as influential.

We asked Dr. Gregory Popcak, director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, author of the parenting guide Discovering God Together, for advice on how to help our children when their friends are bad influences, and how to help our kids become influential leaders in their own peer groups!  READ THE REST!

More2Life Hack: Living A More Joyful Life

image via shutterstock

image via shutterstock

It seems as though so many things in life are constantly trying to steal our joy. From politics, to work stress, to the craziness of daily life, it can be hard to find the joy in each day.

We tend to think that joy is a product of stepping away from life and finding little ways to take a break or enjoy ourselves.  Taking breaks can be important, but while doing this can lead to fleeting moments of happiness, it doesn’t lead to joy. The Theology of the Body reminds us that Joy is the fruit of living a meaningful, intimate, and virtuous life. Joy is that quality that allows us to have a deeper sense of rightness and contentment about our lives even when things are a little crazy or not going the way we’d like.  Because Joy is a FRUIT of the Holy Spirit, you can’t pursue Joy directly. Cultivating joy means dedicating oneself to a life of meaningfulness, intimacy, and virtue regardless of our circumstances.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for cultivating joy in your heart:

1. Keep the Big Picture in Mind–Joy requires us to be able to step out of the chaos of everyday life and remember who we are and what’s important.  This requires us to stay connected to God–to be able to see things from his point of view. Find ways to bring the present moment to God no matter how crazy it is. Ask him, “What do you want this moment to look like? How can I respond to this in a way that glorifies you?” Then re-engage the situation from this more graceful perspective. Keeping the big picture in mind helps you remain connected to what’s important

2. Be Kind–True joy comes from seeking little ways to be a gift to others all day long. As you go about your day, consciously ask yourself how you can make a difference in this moment? Is there something you can do to make this person’s day even a little easier or more pleasant? Is there something you can do to take down the tension in this situation? Is there some way you can surprise someone with a small thoughtful gesture or little act of service? You don’t have to be a martyr about it. In fact, it’s better if you aren’t. Just look for those little ways to be a gift or create caring connection while you’re passing by or passing through. These little acts of kindness increase your joy by helping you see all the ways you are making a positive difference in your world and in the lives of those around you.

3. Stay In School–Research shows that joyful people are eager students in the “school of life.”  Joyful people are always open to seeing things from a new perspective, trying a new experience, and growing in ways that help them be stronger, healthier, more well-rounded people.  Joyful people aren’t shy about sharing what they like. They know who they are and what they stand for, but they are open to discovering all the ways God is revealing himself to them through the people and the world around them.  And the more ways we open ourselves to this experience of God the more his grace makes us joyful. So, be yourself, but don’t be afraid to be more, learn more and grow more.

For more information on how to live a more Joyful life, check out my book Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart, or give us a call at Pastoral Solutions Institute (740.266.6461)

Don’t forget to tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN Global Catholic Radio/SiriusXM 130.

For Anxiety Disorders, CBT May Restore Brain’s Structural Balance


Do you struggle with anxiety on a regular basis—particularly anxiety induced by social situations? Well, you’re not alone. Experts have found that one in ten people are affected by social anxiety at some point during their lifetime.

“Social anxiety disorder is diagnosed if fears and anxiety in social situations significantly impair everyday life and cause intense suffering.” Most commonly, this type of anxiety is provoked when an individual is asked to speak in front of a crowd.

A new study from the University of Zurich found that individuals who suffer from social anxiety disorder have difficulty regulating emotions due to impaired function of the frontal and lateral areas of the brain.

This may seem scary, but don’t despair! The results of this study showed that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has the ability to rewire the brain and foster healthy functioning in those areas of the brain involved with emotional regulation. CBT utilizes techniques such as self-observation, role plays, or video recordings, that enable alternative viewpoints to be developed.

Through the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, researchers “were able to show that structural changes occur in brain areas linked to self-control and emotion regulation,” In particular, the results of this study indicated that “Psychotherapy normalizes brain changes associated with social anxiety disorder.”

If you want to learn more about how CBT techniques can help you take control over your anxiety, give us a call at 740-266-6461, or check out my book God Help Me: This Stress is Driving Me Crazy!

3 Simple Ways Stop Blaming And Start Reclaiming Your Power in Grace


In today’s world, placing blame is easier than ever. Outlets such as the news and social media allow us to say “it’s their fault!” without a second thought. Because of this, placing blame on others—or even yourself—is a trap that is all too easy to fall into. However, figuring out “who’s to blame” is not an effective way to heal the hurtful situations in our lives.

In Love and Responsibility, Pope JPII spoke of “responsibility” as a basic and inalienable human freedom that gives us the ability to choose to work for our good and the good of others no matter what.  In a sense, despite the fact that we live in a broken, fallen world, filled with broken, fallen people, no one and nothing can ever take away our ability to respond in godly ways that work for our good and the good of others.  No one can take away this ability to respond to our circumstances UNLESS WE SURRENDER IT OURSELVES and one of the most common ways we do this is by blaming.  When we blame, we turn other people or our circumstances into idols that are more powerful than God’s grace working in us and giving us the ability to do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Here are three More2Life Hacks that will help you stop blaming and start reclaiming your power in grace!

1. Don’t Blame Yourself–Overcoming the temptation to blame others isn’t an invitation to start blaming yourself. The first step to reclaiming your power over blaming is to stop trying to figure out whose fault it is and just start solving the problem. Assigning blame–whether to others  or yourself–won’t change reality. Only the next steps you take will.  The only question that matters is,  “What are YOU going to DO about it NOW?”

2. Adopt A Supernatural Perspective–We often blame others when we feel powerless or afraid.  Saying that our circumstances are someone else’s fault allows us to avoid acting in ways that might be necessary, but are scary or unpleasant–especially when we aren’t sure we can do it.  This is the time to remember St Thomas Aquinas’ maxim, “Grace builds on nature.”  Instead of saying, “I CAN’T.”  Remind yourself of St Paul’s words, “I have the strength for everything through Christ who empowers me.” First, ask God what he wants you to do to start making a positive difference in your situation. Second, ask him for the grace to make up for everything you feel you lack. Finally, do the thing that challenges both you and the people around you to be your best selves and let God’s grace flow through your actions.

3. Accept The Invitation–Surrendering the tendency to blame means accepting God’s invitation to grow in strength and wisdom.  When we stop blaming–ourselves or others–we embrace the changes God wants to make in us and through us; changes that WILL lead to us closer to becoming our whole, healed, godly, grace-filled selves and living more abundant lives.  All of God’s children receive this invitation.  Have the courage to accept it and let God make you a witness to the amazing things he can create with imperfect people and imperfect situations

For more information on how to accept and embrace God’s grace in your life, tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, and check out my book Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart.

Ash Wednesday: When Mercy Rains Down

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

It’s raining here, today. Hard.

When I first woke up this morning and my eyes blinked open, I heard the rain pounding on my roof and the winds slapping against my window. My first thought was, “So gloomy.  What perfect Lenten weather.”

My second thought was, “With how hard it’s raining, those ashes won’t stay on my forehead very long.  What a shame.”

But my groggy, gloomy, lenten mood was immediately punctuated by yet another thought that could only have been the Holy Spirit whispering in my ear. “No.  How perfect.   We bring our shame to God and cover ourselves in ashes.  And immediately the winds of grace and the rains of mercy wash the stain away.”

Today’s rain isn’t depressing.  It isn’t gloomy.  God isn’t weeping tears of sadness.  He is crying tears of joy that wash away our sins and celebrate his children coming home.

This Lent, celebrate the fact that we are not defined by our sinfulness, but by the depth of his love and mercy.  For more ways to connect how much God wants to satisfy the deepest longings of your heart, check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart.