Three Ways to Stop Settling and Live the Life You Were Meant to Live

Do you want more from your life? Are you struggling with dissatisfaction in your life or relationships? You’re not alone. We were created for more, yet our fallen nature often causes us to settle for less or holds us back from aspiring for more. But the good news is, there are ways to break this habit and live the life we are meant to live!

Theology of The Body reminds us to stop settling.  To see that God wants to fulfill the deepest longings of our heart for a love that doesn’t fail, for relationships that are fulfilling, and for a life that reflects the glory of his grace.  Pope St John Paul the Great reminded us that we must keep our eyes, not on what we see in front of us when we look at our broken world and our broken lives, but on what God sees when he looks at us and what God wants to make of our lives and relationships so that his glory could be known in the world through our lives.  The truth that will set us free is the truth God sees when he looks at our lives.  Our job is to stand up to to our doubts and fears and lean into the vision that God has for us instead so that we can become what we are.

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Do you want more from your life? Check out:

The Life God Wants You To Have

Discovering the Divine Plan When Human Plans Fail

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Here are three ways to stop settling and live the life you are meant to live:

1.Get Your Binoculars–We tend to settle because we get so caught up in the frustrations of the present that we lose sight of the destination to which God is leading us; Namely, a life and relationships that are healthy, whole, and holy.  Stop settling for what is in front of you.  Get your binoculars and look to the horizon line.  Keep imagining what a healthier, whole, and holier life and relationships would look like and start walking toward that.  Sometimes it will seem impossibly hard.  No Matter.  Trust that God’s grace will make up for what you lack and start walking.

2.Take Small Steps–We often settle for surviving because we can’t see ways to make the big changes that need to happen.  Remember, big journeys are made up of a million little steps.  Ask yourself, “What is one small thing I can do today to make the change I want to see in my life?”  Do that, and then ask that question again, and again, and again. Each time, remember that you are fighting against the temptation to survive and, instead, learning to cooperate with God’s grace to live life more abundantly.

3.Turn On Your GPS–We tend to settle when we feel lost.  But there is no reason to ever feel lost if you have your GPS, your GOD POSITIONING SYSTEM–that is, PRAYER.  When you feel lost and find yourself giving into the temptation to survive in your life or relationships, ask God to help you make the turns you need to make to get back on the path to wholeness, health, and holiness that he wants you to be walking.  Just like with a regular GPS, chances are, it will only take a few simple turns for God to get you back on the path.

If you want more information on how to overcome the frustrations in life and stop settling, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com.

The Pope, the Sinner, and Me

By: Dr. Greg Bottaro

cathedral

This is not a response to the media distortions of the recent interview with Pope Francis.  I’d rather focus on what Pope Francis actually is saying to me as one of his flock, and admit that maybe there is something here to personally grow from. Second of all, this article is not advocating or in any way considering a “change of church teaching.” If that’s what some readers take away from it, I’d ask them to please read it over.

This has been on my heart to write about for a while, but I must admit, I’ve been a coward. As a Catholic and as a psychologist, I want to add in my two cents to the conversation on homosexuality. This might be one of the single most divisive issues of our immediate time. I have been a coward up until now because this topic is a minefield, and I’m scared of bombs. I say up until now because our Pope has given me an offer I can’t refuse. In his recent interview, Pope Francis gave an example of courage and unyielding tenacity for truth, beauty, and goodness that sparked something in me.

Religion has become for some — myself included — an opportunity for mediocrity in following Jesus. I have a sneaking suspicion that it has been this way for thousands of years. Jesus certainly spoke out pretty vehemently against this sort of mediocrity in his time, and now the Vicar of Jesus is speaking against it now. By mediocrity, I mean to say that religion gives us categories to snugly place ourselves into. It gives us a moral system to fall back on that distinguishes “us” from “them.”  Well, for all of us comfortable Christians in the world, Pope Francis just punched us in the gut and knocked the stale air out of our moldy lungs.

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.  The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

Despite some “spiritual” traditions, trends, and movements, the Church is not to be primarily a megaphone on the street corner calling out peoples’ sins. Likewise, members of the Church, the body of Christ, are not to have these megaphones blaring out from our hearts. Mediocrity is a mentality of  “us vs. them,” those of us behind the megaphone, and those that are on the other side of it. Pope Francis is telling us that we can’t let church become for us a system of dividing “us” from “them.” What then, is he saying the bosom of the universal church is to be?

“Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

Pope Francis outlines pretty clearly the mission of the Church.  We must make a proposition of Jesus to the world.  We must propose Love.  “From this proposition the moral consequences then flow.”

Pope Francis calls on an image that is extremely important in his interview — the road to Emmaus.  What happened at first on the road to Emmaus?  The two walking with Jesus did not recognize him.  They were the “them.”  Did Jesus chastise them, saying, “Idiots, don’t you know who I am?”  “Dirty scum, how are you so blind?”  No.  He walks with them. He speaks with them, as one of them.  They don’t feel the need to form coalitions and march in parades to find some form of validation.  He validates them. He builds friendship with them and leads them into a true encounter with himself,after  which “their hearts burned.”

As a society, we have been so wrong about homosexuals.  As a member of the Roman Catholic Church, I can also say that the majority of “faithful” Catholics I have ever known have also been so wrong about homosexuals.  I have a question to ask to make my point.  As you sit with the discomfort this article may be causing, ask yourself this question:

How does your attitude, belief, and demeanor toward men and women who identify as homosexual compare to your attitude, belief, and demeanor toward men and women who engage in some other mortal sin such as contraception?

How about masturbation?

How about drunkenness?

Let that sink in a bit. How do you treat the person?

I’d especially like to elaborate on this last issue of drunkenness. It astounds me how many Catholic circles consider drunkenness, at least implicitly, as acceptable.  Have we not heard Galatians 5:21 before?  “Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that  those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Wow. So it’s ok to get together and drink a few too many with our friends, but being homosexual is the supreme debauchery?

I am not advocating puritanical teetotaling. I enjoy my scotch or wine at the appropriate time.  Sometimes it is even me who has too many with my friends and I have to hand the keys over to my wife for the ride home. Yes, I am a sinner. Not in the garment rending, abstract, and safely generalized way, but I commit very specific sins. Somehow there is an appallingly strange mercy for me.  If we are to love with the love of Jesus, if we are to be Jesus as members of his body, his Church, we will love men and women who experience, and even act out on, homosexual desires the way we love ourselves or our friends when we know the types of sins we commit.

Now as a follow-up question, if you haven’t thought this already (and kudos if you have), let me ask: Did you realize my first question asked about the sinfulness of those “who identify as homosexual”?  Is homosexuality a sin? No, it is not.

First of all, if you do happen to know a person is committing mortal sins such as acting out on their homosexual desires, why in the world is it ok to treat him or her any differently than anyone else you happen to know committing mortal sin, including yourself?

Second of all, homosexuality in itself is not a sin. When you meet someone who is homosexual, you very well might be in the presence of a saint. If someone is living chastely with homosexual desires, he or she is living heroic virtue. Homosexuality is a cross that no heterosexual will ever understand. It is a life called to celibacy without the luxury of discernment. It is potentially the most extreme example of “chastity for the kingdom” that I can imagine. Do you happen to know the interior life of every homosexual?

If they look deep enough, many Catholics might be ashamed of their disposition of heart towards homosexuals. I know I am. Sure, I knew how to say that I “Loved the sinner, hated the sin.”  But Pope Francis seems to think such words aren’t enough.

If I’m the only Catholic who had these feelings, so be it. Here I am confessing my sin to the world. As Pope Francis said, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

Credit to Dr. Greg Bottaro of CatholicExchange.

 

Financial Fear

By: Kevin Lowry

stock market crash

What a roller coaster ride. The market was up today. Or was that yesterday? It was down the day before that. Way down. Tomorrow, who knows?  The financial news these days is fraught with anxiety. Upheaval in the markets. Political gridlock. Rancorous debate.  Particularly when it comes to money, the uncertainty surrounding the future can be disconcerting, even paralyzing. A friend of mine sends me alarmist emails from various groups, peddling gold or other “safe” investments. In times of fear, there’s money to be made.  For many people who lived through 2008, there is also a new, strong, and visceral response to volatility. With the advent of defined contribution retirement plans, people who have spent years saving in their 401k plans saw their accounts rocked hard that year. I don’t even want to recall how dramatically my savings got hit. Worse, I have friends who refused to look at their account statements for years. Many who thought they were close to retirement weren’t anymore. In the face of radical financial uncertainty, as Catholics, how should we respond?  I don’t pretend to know what the future holds. Yet there are a couple principles we can hold onto in the midst of even the most extreme uncertainty: faith and prudence.

Faith

How many times are we told in Scripture to “be not afraid?” We know that we can’t serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). If our faith in money transcends our faith in God, look out. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 provides outstanding guidance. Let’s assume for the moment that most of us can be regarded as “rich” by historical standards.

Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.

So even when our financial lives hang in the balance, we know God remains in control. The markets, they say, are motivated by fear and greed. Our motivation must be far different: we’re called to act out of love, for God and others. Therefore, even if we are directly impacted when the market takes a dive, it can be a spiritual opportunity. Read the verses above again, slowly.

We Catholics have the ability to rise above financial fear and anxiety to the extent we place our faith in the Lord. This doesn’t mean that swings in the market don’t matter or don’t affect us, it means that our hope rests upon a solid foundation that is more important and enduring than money. In the end, we are stewards of wealth for the glory of God and the service of others.

Prudence

The next principle is that of prudence. Our financial lives vary widely, and our decisions must be determined according to our individual circumstances. However, prudence is the right path especially when things get crazy. Consider the following scenarios:

Scenario: A friend of mine lost a substantial percentage of his retirement plan during the recent market turbulence, and panicked. He ended up making decisions to modify his investment portfolio and reduce market risk at exactly the wrong time. When the market improved, he lost out on upside potential. Unfortunately, he was in very good company, many individual investors did the same thing.

Prudent move: financial planning is sort of like disaster planning — it’s much better to be prepared before the disaster happens. Using a disciplined approach according to your age and state in life over the course of time is prudent, and generally yields better results. If you need a financial advisor, seek out a faithful and qualified individual, beginning locally at your parish. Then make sure you are purposeful about your goals and the associated risks in your retirement savings portfolio.

Scenario: Another friend has a high level of credit card debt. After taking a financial planning course recently, he lamented that he’s still paying for meals he ate over two years ago. When he lost his job, he ended up losing his house, too.

Prudent move: living beyond your means is always bad, but riskier still in today’s environment. Use every opportunity to reduce debt, build an emergency fund and budget your spending. Make sure your spending priorities are in line with your financial priorities — beginning with your tithe.

Scenario: I know one individual who is so scared about his financial predicament that he is immobilized with fear. Rather than putting together a plan, he has given up and spends in an attempt to make himself feel better. So far, it hasn’t worked!

Prudent move: if you’re in trouble, a plan and small steps towards written goals help provide hope. Most important, pray and have the humility to get help if you need it. The Lord can use even adverse circumstances for our benefit, and his glory.

Recall the parable of the rich fool Jesus relates in Luke 12:20-21. “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong? Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”  By exercising faith and prudence during these turbulent times, not only will we opt out of the emotional roller coaster and avoid the plight of the rich fool, we stand to gain eternal wealth beyond our wildest dreams. Talk about maximizing returns!  Do you know any examples of people who have done well exercising faith and prudence in their financial lives?  Note: For those interested in learning more about finances from a Catholic perspective, I like Phil Lenahan’s “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free.” My wife  and I are leading a study at our local parish this fall using the program.

Followership

By: Kevin Lowry

following duckies

 

Leadership. We hear the word everywhere these days. It seems like every time we turn around, another seminar, book or webcast is promising to help us become better leaders.  Leadership development opportunities abound, and for good reason. By learning the principles and examples of great leaders, we internalize important virtues and increase our positive influence on others.  Leadership is important. In fact, the leadership of Pope John Paul II is one of the reasons I became Catholic. I have studied the topic for years, even to the point where my MBA program concentration was “Applied Leadership” (whatever that means). I’m not sure that study actually made me a better leader, but it did help me to appreciate the value of good leadership in our lives and admire those who seem born to lead.  So imagine my surprise when my dad sent me a reflection he recently wrote on followership.

With a diverse background as missionary, entrepreneur, academic–and Presbyterian minister converted to the Catholic faith–Dad has long been in leadership roles.  Why focus on followership?  We have all seen countless examples, thankfully, of great leadership – the ultimate model being that of Jesus himself. His leadership focused on the service of others, hence the birth of “servant leadership.” It’s an approach that focuses leadership efforts on facilitating the success of the followers, for mutual benefit.  And yet, when we talk about developing leadership skills, we are often focused on becoming better leaders ourselves. The danger inherent in this approach is that, unlike Jesus, we have a proclivity to selfishness. All too often, we see examples of people striving to become better leaders only to use their leadership positions as means to advance their own careers or agendas. This misses the entire point (and opportunity) of good leadership.  So what about followership?

Followership is intrinsically other-centered, as is true leadership. To excel in followership, our task is to facilitate the success of the leader, to the mutual benefit of both leader and followers.  Note that both leadership and followership, properly understood, are aimed at helping people to be “good and faithful servants.” So how does this work in practical terms? Here are a couple examples from a context most of us can relate to: the workplace.  I have a friend who is a successful attorney. Jim respects his boss’s authority, works like crazy to make her successful, trusts her implicitly, and speaks positively about her even when she’s not around. He uses his gifts to help her succeed, and this is frequently reciprocated.

Another friend, Diane, demonstrates followership in a different context. She works in a nonprofit advocacy group that takes public positions on issues pertinent to its constituents. Diane instinctively defers to her boss even when they hold divergent perspectives. With tact and affirmation, she has learned to ask questions to draw out her boss’s thinking, often resulting in better solutions. Their skill sets are complementary, so, through Diane’s followership, she makes her boss more effective.  Why is good followership not practiced widely, and even used as a pejorative? Perhaps it’s our cultural tendency toward narcissism – many of us want to be leaders in all our relationships. When we’re not the leader, we’re quick to pass judgment, often imputing selfishness to their motives. If only we were leading, things would be better!

Yet, in life, we play both roles. Being a good leader is important, but so is being a good follower. The difference is that, while we’re trained extensively on leadership, we don’t pay nearly as much attention to followership – even though we tend to play the role of follower more frequently.  All of this may sound like so much navel-gazing, but ideas really matter in our daily lives.  We all know the price we pay for poor or misguided leadership. The last century was rife with high-profile examples – Hitler, Stalin and Mao, for starters. Unfortunately, there are also countless examples of bad leadership on a small scale. These negatively affect our governments, organizations and families. Think about the impact corrupt bureaucrats, dishonest executives and neglectful fathers often have on people over whom they have some measure of power.

It’s just as easy to come up with examples of parallel consequences, both large and small, for failures of followership.  Consider just one. As we all know, the devil is a master strategist. Over the past few hundred years, his “divide and conquer” approach to Christianity has visibly reduced the influence of the Church around the world. Jesus desired unity for his bride the Church and, through our sinfulness, we have let him down.  So here’s a question: what if Martin Luther (whose writings led to the Reformation) had embraced the notion of authentic followership? What if he had reacted differently to the very real abuses going on in the Church at the time (that , striving to preserve the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ and trusting our Lord to bring about good from the situation? Might we have avoided the pain and division of the reformation and its aftershocks, and at the same time effected real and needed change within the Church?

The foundation of good followership is trust – not in our imperfect leaders, but in Jesus himself.  “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).  So go ahead and attend that leadership seminar. Read the book. Take in the webinar. Just don’t forget that we also need to work on becoming better followers. When our boss (or our bishop) succeeds, we do too.

You’re Talented! Encouraging Others

By: Kevin Lowry

appreciation

My oldest son Christian was born with a gift for fixing stuff. Anything, really. So while he lived at home, he was our home improvement guru, plumber, and handyman. Even more important, he inherited the computer gene from my Dad — a gene that completely skipped me. When the wireless network went down, or we experienced various and sundry computer problems, Christian was our go-to guy.  So that’s a good thing, right? Christian contributed to the family’s needs, learned a bunch of valuable skills in the process, and gained some personal satisfaction through having his talents appreciated by the rest of us.

Then he moved out.

After he left, we struggled. Christian received many phone calls, pleading with him to fix the latest computer glitch. His talents shone through with greater intensity than ever as we recognized how integral he had been to our daily lives. Not only did we miss him, we were bereft of our fixit guy.  In the workplace, we often find that the same thing happens when a colleague leaves the organization. Sometimes, we appreciate people most after they leave.  One of the drivers of organizational achievement is simple: effective teamwork. It’s matching shared purpose with diverse talents. Regardless of whether you’re a Fortune 100 global enterprise, or a sole proprietor who outsources certain functions, teams are capable of doing great things. Teams of people. People who like to be appreciated.

So here’s the challenge: next chance you get, express appreciation for someone else on your team. Pay her a sincere compliment, send him a short note of encouragement, buy him a cup of coffee, whatever. Don’t wait until they leave the organization to let them know you appreciate their efforts. This actually accomplishes multiple purposes — it increases employee retention, builds teamwork, and meets the very human needs to belong, and feel valued. A timely compliment can have a powerful impact on our co-workers — and our relationships. From a spiritual perspective, it also recognizes God-given gifts being put to good use, and affirms the individual’s value and dignity as a person.

So how did things with Christian turn out? Well, he became an information technology professional. The family still struggles, but his talents, along with those of his long-time buddy and business partner Michael Aquilina, are responsible for the existence of this web site.

Striving For Balance

By: Kevin Lowry

happy coupie

My wife got run off the road today.

Some guy was in a big hurry and didn’t like the fact that Kathi had slowed down to merge onto the highway behind a school bus full of children. So he accelerated from behind her car, and drove up beside her, forcing her onto the berm. After almost causing multiple accidents, he weaved his way around further impediments in his road (OK, people in his road) and exited precisely five cars in front of her further down the highway. Unbelievable.  He was so focused on achieving his objective (whatever it was) that he risked untold carnage and mayhem. If things went badly, innocent people, including women and children, could have been hurt.

In thinking about this incident, I was struck by the thought that the same could be true if men develop a disordered dedication to work.  That sounds crazy, right? But how many of us struggle with work-family balance? And how many people do you know who are divorced, at least in part, because of ridiculous work schedules?  Kathi and I have struggled mightily in this area over the years. When we were young parents, I worked like crazy. My schedule at the CPA firm was insane, and our first three kids came along in two years and eight months flat. On top of it all, Kathi had premature labor with our third child, and was on strict bedrest for the last four months of the pregnancy. After our daughter was born, it became apparent that the work-family balance thing wasn’t working, especially as I headed into tax season. That was the first time we hit a wall. I don’t recall her exact words, but Kathi said something like, “It’s either the job or me.”

I chose her, and changed jobs.

Now, I’m crazy about my wife. Always have been. But it probably didn’t feel like it to her. I just wasn’t spending enough time at home to meet my responsibilities as her husband. So I’m glad I chose her. Through her, I also chose our kids.  Fast forward a few years. Once again, I was working like a maniac. We were up to six kids, with Kathi expecting our seventh. But there were medical problems. This time, we weren’t sure the child would make it past birth, and beyond that, the diagnosis was grim. It seemed like life was spinning out of control. Another decision point.

I chose her (and the baby) again, and changed jobs.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The changes we made took time, the process was messy, and we struggled with uncertainty, conflict, and self-doubt. We prayed fervently, discussed possible solutions, and consulted with trusted priests, family members and friends. Changing jobs isn’t always the right answer. But in over twenty years of marriage, with children (now eight of them), a house, a mortgage, and a career that has caused plenty of bumps and bruises, here are a few thoughts on that elusive notion of balance from a male perspective:

  1. Put your priorities in order. Here’s my list, for what it’s worth: God, my wife, our children, my career, and everything else. Yes, my wife is more important to me than my kids. Not that they’re unimportant, rather she is super-important. Marriage is a vocation, and a sacrament. The best way to be a true leader in the family is to model virtue, to serve, and to pray like crazy. We need to imitate Christ in our lives. Some days I do better than others, and you probably do too, but we can never give up. Now here’s the challenge: our daily routine needs to reflect our priorities.
  2. Only do God’s will. We always have time to do God’s will. If there isn’t enough time in the day, consistently, there are things on our to-do list that shouldn’t be there. Are we spending more time on social media than talking with our spouse? If you’re trying to find things to put aside, ask yourself what you would give up if your wife or child were extremely ill. Don’t wait until it actually happens. By the way, our seventh child David’s story ended pretty well.
  3. Work things out with your wife. If you’re called to run for President, you’re going to be putting in lots of hours. Make sure your wife is completely on board. That shared sense of calling is awfully important — it doesn’t make things easier, but if you’re on the same page about what God wants from you as a couple, that shared purpose will help you through the rough spots.
  4. Live beneath your means. This is incredibly important. Kathi and I got out of balance early due to our implicit expectations of a certain lifestyle. This led us to take on debt and place a disordered emphasis on outward appearances. It’s a trap, avoid it like the plague.
  5. Work like crazy when you’re at work. Don’t indulge in frivolous discussions about sports or workplace intrigue. Get your work done, do your absolute best and go home. Schedule a date with your wife each week, put kids’ events on your calendar, and treat your family as even more important than your most important client or even your boss.
  6. Protect your marriage. Guys are visual creatures, so never buy into the “I can look at the menu as long as I eat at home” mentality. Guard your eyes. Maintain emotional distance from women who are not your spouse. Treat them with honor, like you would want other men to treat your wife in the workplace. Speak positively about your own wife. NEVER complain about her, especially to other women.
  7. Stop and ask for directions. When you have trouble balancing, ask your wife for her advice — and her prayers. She probably knows you better than anyone else, and might have insight that would help you make things work. Just like we don’t usually stop to ask for directions when we’re lost, we also don’t ask for advice from our wives nearly enough.
  8. Love your wife. This sounds trite, but if we treasure our wives properly when we’re at home, there would be a whole lot less consternation when we do need to work extra hours (for short periods of time, not as a lifestyle). Remember why we fell in love. Think about her many good qualities. Pray for her. Offer up small sacrifices for her. Think of what an honor it is to be received, with all our weaknesses, as a husband.
  9. Facilitate one on one time. Make sure you set aside time just for your wife, without distractions. Kathi and I used to make time for getaways — perhaps a weekend every three months, and a week at least once a year. I’m talking about just the two of you, without kids. Family vacation is another week, and of course kids need “me and my dad time” too.
  10. Don’t bring work home. Speaking of distractions, don’t bring work home with you if at all possible. I’ve not always succeeded here, but it’s important — particularly in this wired age — to turn off the cell phone, back away from the computer, and engage with our families.

This list is certainly not exhaustive. There are lots of ways to improve, and we need to fight this battle every day. With God’s grace, and plenty of determination, it’s also one we can win.  Our family is more important than our career. Let’s do our best to act like it.  Oh — and let’s drive safely too!

Are You Goal Oriented?

By: Kevin Lowry

teamwork 2

Have you ever been so focused on achieving your goals that you’ve run people over in the process?  I sure have. In today’s workplaces, it’s more important than ever to meet our goals, and we’re under lots of pressure to be productive and efficient. Unfortunately, this can cause plenty of interpersonal problems, since we all act differently when we’re under pressure.  Here’s one illustration of what not to do. A friend of mine became very unpopular at work by being so focused on achieving her own goals that she treated co-workers as distractions! Unfortunately, this story didn’t end well. She completed her own tasks efficiently, but couldn’t understand why the rest of the team resented her. The situation caused so much turmoil in her department that she ended up leaving the company.

So how do we avoid this pitfall and its various permutations? Particularly for people of faith, how can we achieve legitimate goals — and love one another like Christ loves us?  One of the cool aspects of being Catholic is having so many tremendous role models, past and present. When it comes to achieving goals and valuing people, one of the best examples I can think of is Blessed John Paul II.  Andreas Widmer, a Swiss Guard during the pontificate of John Paul II, wrote an outstanding book entitled The Pope & the CEO in which he describes an astonishing interaction with the Pope. Andreas was a young man at the time, spending his first Christmas away from home. On Christmas Eve, as the Pope went about his duties (achieving goals), he noticed that Andreas was new and immediately recognized Andreas’ sadness. The Pope took just a few seconds to speak with Andreas, precious seconds that Andreas recalls vividly years later. Here’s how Andreas describes the incident in the book:

“That was all I needed. Someone had noticed my pain, someone had cared, and that someone was the Pope himself. In that moment, I felt comforted. Now, looking back, I feel amazed. Here was the leader of a billion Catholics, at the height of some of his fiercest battles, occupied with the most overwhelming and impossible problems of the century, yet he was still sensitive enough to perceive the emotions of a twenty-year-old guard whose sole job was to blend into the background as he passed.”

This story (along with many others in the book) has inspired — and convicted — me ever since the first time I read it. I tend to be… ahem… a little on the preoccupied side, sort of like an absent-minded professor minus the Ph.D. Think about the goals of Blessed John Paul II. They were enormous goals! Can you imagine the impact of someone with such goals taking an interest in you personally? Even for a few seconds?  Yet on a lesser scale, this is what we’re called to do. Achieving goals is important. At the same time, people are the primary goal of our lives. Serving people, honoring people, sometimes just noticing people. And getting our work done! For some of us, the balancing act doesn’t really come naturally. But we need to do our best.

Our work serves legitimate human needs, and by treating others as precious to God, no matter who they are, we honor our Lord. Let’s pray for one another, and do our best today to remember Blessed John Paul II’s example. Let’s take a few precious seconds today as we go about achieving our goals and reflect the love of Christ to someone else. After all, serving people is the goal of our work.

5 Reasons to Speak Positively about your Spouse at Work

By: Kevin Lowry

coworkers

“Sorry, I can’t do it tonight. The old ball and chain gets ticked off if I’m out late.”  How many times have we heard derogatory comments like this about spouses in the workplace? Even worse, snide remarks can give way to all-out whining: “My husband is such a jerk sometimes” or “My wife completely lost interest in me after we began having kids.”  Sacramental marriage should be in a different league than this, but we all live in a culture that hasn’t done the greatest job honoring the institution. In reality, we also know that even the strongest sacramental marriages sometimes go through serious challenges.

So what’s a good Catholic spouse to do?

Well, brace yourself for some good news. There are things we can do to honor our spouses in the workplace, and not be swayed by the cultural winds that sometime blow all around us. How about this one: always speak positively about your spouse at work. Why? Here are five reasons — and they just scratch the surface.

  1. Complaining about your spouse lacks class. Oh, maybe it’s fashionable to gripe and assume an attitude of superiority over your spouse. But does that make it right, and does it really make you happy? Probably not. Besides, if your spouse is such an idiot, what does that say about you, the person who made sacred vows to him or her?
  2. How you speak can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Have you ever noticed how good spouses make each other winners, and bad spouses make each other losers? Words matter. Speaking with honor is part of acting with honor — even when your spouse isn’t around.
  3. It protects your marriage. Even when things are rough at home, airing your grievances at work is the wrong venue. Co-workers who complain about their spouses open up an avenue for support from other co-workers, including those of the opposite sex. This can progress to inappropriate emotional intimacy, and worse.
  4. It’s good for your career. Many of the virtues that make for a faithful spouse also make for a great employee or co-worker. Besides, getting in the habit of speaking positively about others (including your spouse) behind their backs helps build a better culture for everyone in your workplace.
  5. It’s good for your coworkers. We are affected, for better or worse, by the attitudes and behaviors of our co-workers. Demonstrating charity and understanding towards our spouse might just inspire others to do the same.

We can’t single-handedly change the state of marriage in the world, but we can do our best to honor our own marriage vows — and our spouse. Speaking positively about our spouse in the workplace is a great way to improve our marriage, our workplace, and our walk with Christ.

Make Your Work An Act of Worship

By: Fr. M. Raymond, O.C.S.O.

man working from home

Has man’s God-given vocation been entirely lost sight of?  Look around you. You live in a world that has lost faith. Religion has been replaced by work and achievement. In such a world, men take work very seriously. They want nothing less than perfection in it. Hence, their goal and their norm of judgment is efficiency. Consequently men are judged not by what they  are,  but by what they can  do.  No wonder your economic world wobbles. It has lost its center of gravity.  Your primary vocation, like that of every other human, is to  be,  not to  do.  Your life’s aim is holiness, not efficiency. God and godliness, not production, is your goal, for you have an immortal soul; you are not a machine. Every work and every profession, even the highest, is but a means for man to express his inner wholeness and to acquire more holiness; none of them is ever to become any man’s idol or total absorption.  You are now grappling with truths that have been horribly distorted in your day. Twist them back into shape so that you will be able to live twenty-four hours a day as a human, a child of God, and not spend a great part of your life on earth as a robot that keeps going through the motions so that it can make a living, but which is really only waiting for the whistle that will allow it to go out and play.

Realize first that while all men are  created  equal, all men are not  born  equal. Far from it! Some are born with silver spoons in their mouths; others with a pick and shovel by their side. In his encyclical on labor, Leo XIII showed that society always was and always will be stratified. God so wills it, as is evident from the fact that “among mankind, differences of the most important kind exist: people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength. Unequal fortune is the result of unequal condition.”  But note well that for attaining their last end, for getting back to God whole and holy, each human has been liberally endowed by His Maker. No man has grounds for complaint. You may not be gifted enough to conquer the world, but you have more than enough to conquer your sinful self – and that is,  of course, the only conquest that counts. In eternity, you will not be judged on productivity, but only on Christlikeness. Hence it is essential that you learn how you can grow in Christlikeness while at work, for work you must. It is the God-given law of life.  Work is part of God’s plan for humans. But God is your Father, and God is all-good. Therefore, the work potentials He gave you must be for your happiness.

WORK IS HOLY

The second step is easy. If work is God’s will, it must be sanctifying; for, in ultimate analysis, sanctity is only doing the will of God. Therefore, work is a sacred thing; it is a “sacramental” – an outward sign that can give grace. Hence,  you can go to work for the same reason you go to church to worship God! Work is a religious thing. It is holy.  That view, of course, is the antithesis of the way many modern men conceive work. They exalt it, but only by a complete reversal of values and truths. The person who helps produce impersonal goods is placed far below the goods he helps to produce and is thus completely dehumanized. Pius XI exposed this situation in his  Quadragesimo Anno,  saying, “Conditions of social and economic life are such that vast multitudes of men can only with great difficulty pay attention to the one thing necessary; namely, their eternal salvation.” But you can combat those conditions and overcome that very real difficulty. All you need to do is to think with the mind of Christ and will with the will of God; then you will go to work for the same purpose you go to church.

Is that possible? Well, you are what your thoughts are. A man is his mind. What are your thoughts and motives for going to church? The same can be had for going to work, for first it is God’s will. Therefore, you can make it an act of obedience to your Father. Faith, hope, and charity are already exercised in that one act and attitude of mind.  Have you ever realized that, in making you a worker, God has given you a share in that universal Providence by which He governs the human race and in His act of conservation by which He keeps the world in being? If you are a farmer, you well know you work hand in hand with God in the production of food for man’s body and, hence, indirectly for his soul. The multiplications of bread and fishes, twice told about in the New Testament,  were truly marvelous happenings. Yet St. Augustine is right to laugh at those who marvel, as he points to the relatively few seeds that are sown in the earth and the millions that are fed from their harvests. He reminds you that this annual miracle is due to God just as much as those multiplications you read of in the Gospels.

But God’s Providence does not end in the fields. He rules the entire process from the sowing of the seeds to the growth, the harvest, then the threshing, milling, and marketing. He has a hand, too, in the baking of the bread and putting it on your table. So, in all truth, every human who helps in the process is actually working hand in hand with God.  This truth brings Heaven very near. Prunes may grow in California, potatoes in Idaho, peaches in Georgia, wheat in Kansas, and corn in Kentucky; beef may be raised in Texas, and hogs butchered in Chicago. But none of these commodities will ever be served at any table miles and miles away unless all sorts of men and women cooperate with God in producing, processing, preserving, shipping, selling, and preparing them. So everyone from the grower to the boy who pastes on the labels to the housewife or the hired chef are God’s helpers – so that you may have a meal.  Viewed in that perspective, how can work be anything other than worship?  Since Adam fell, work should be a sacred thing! For it can be offered to God in thanksgiving for the pardon He extended to the sinner, as expiation for the sin committed, in petition that there be no more falls, but rather an ever-increasing adoration of God’s will and His Providence. But those four ends are the four ends of the Mass. Hence, your work can be, and should be, Eucharistic: sacrifice and sacrament.

In the Roman Empire, before Christ and Christianity, slaves did all the work. The so-called cultured class deemed it beneath their dignity to toil. But since the Son of God became the village Carpenter, no truly cultured person can look upon work – hard, manual labor – as anything less than ennobling, even deifying.  The Council of Trent has taught that the Passion and death of Christ were the principal means He used to redeem mankind. That explicit bit of dogma teaches you implicitly that it was not on Calvary alone that Christ redeemed. In other words, when Jesus was down in Nazareth working on wood, He was redeeming mankind just as truly as when He was on Calvary nailed to wood. It tells you that when Jesus’ hands held a plane or a saw, He was doing His Father’s will and thus making salvation possible for you, just as truly as when these same hands held spikes and were held by them! The Son of God was redeeming men at the carpenter’s bench in the obscurity of Nazareth just as surely as when He was followed by crowds that would take Him and make Him king  – just as surely as when He was followed by that other crowd that had taken Him, mocked Him, and crucified Him for being King!

Credit to Fr. M. Raymond of  CatholicExchange.

"My Partner Hates My Job!”

By: PaxCare Staff

husband working

Finding a balance between work and relationships is a challenge for everyone, but what if you and your partner disagree on what the balance is?   It is not uncommon for one partner to feel like everything is “just fine” while the other partner feels more and more that he or she is chasing after a mate who is having an all but adulterous relationship with a job.  How a couple handles this conflict is dependent in large part upon whether they are in a dating relationship or they are already married.  The dating couple is still in the process of evaluating whether God has truly called them together to be each other’s best hope for becoming everything he wants them to be in this life and to help get each other to heaven.   When the dating couple experiences conflict around work, they have to ultimately decide whether God is asking them to make work sacrifices for the sake of the relationship, or if the relationship is a distraction from work God has asked them to do.

Once a couple has taken the step for marriage, however, they have made a covenantal   commitment (that bond which unites two people as God unites to us)  to each other to “forsake all others” that threaten the primacy of the marital relationship–including work.   From a Catholic perspective, marriage is a vocation.   That is, it is the primary way a person works to become who God wants him or her to be in this life, and works to get ready for heaven in the next.   In other words, love–not work–is the ultimate purpose of human existence and our vocation (which, for the married person, is marriage) is the place where we learn the most about what it takes to love God and others in the deepest and most perfect way.   Work exists to support the vocation, not the other way around.   Because of this, spouses have the right to claim the best parts of each other, not just what’s left over when they finally leave the office.

This can be a difficult problem to negotiate when one spouse thinks everything is “just fine” and the other is angry about how much work is taking his or her partner away.   In these times, the partner whose work ethic is being called into question has to resist the temptation to hide out behind the, “I’m happy and you’re not, so you’re the one with the problem” excuse. If your mate is unhappy in the relationship, then there is a problem that you are both responsible for attending to. Often this will mean that the spouse whose work is causing conflict will need to scale back. Sometimes, though, it is not so clear-cut.   If you are confused about the best way to organize your priorities and whether it is your work ethic that is out of order or your spouse that is too needy, you will probably need to seek counseling to learn new tools for meeting your own needs while making sure your mate’s needs are being met as well.

Finding real balance means displaying both the humility to admit you don’t have it all figured out and the willingness to learn how to make sure   you and your mate find everything God wants you to have in this life–a deeply loving relationship and rewarding work. If you are struggling with balancing work and your love relationship, contact your PaxCare Tele-coach to get the help you’re seeking. Call us to get the skills you need to succeed.