Category Archives: Inspiration

How to Increase Willpower in Our Struggle Against Sin and Addiction

Photo: Getty

 

Like other Catholics and Christians, I find it difficult to resist sin on occasion. Even after a great morning of prayer or right after Mass, it’s not too uncommon for me to lose my temper in traffic when, for instance, someone cuts me off. Like St. Paul discusses in Holy Scripture, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7:21)

The traffic anecdote may sound mild, but my anger tends to stick with me and ruin my day. I would say my biggest daily struggle, however, is with sexual impurity and pornography. I have made great strides and even stay on the wagon for weeks at a time, but, like St. Paul says, evil is always right there with me.

When I was at a retreat this past spring, I had the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (i.e. confession) from a kind but stern priest. We were facing each other in folding metal chairs, and I’ll never forget his advice before I received absolution:

“You need a battle plan.”

Being a bonehead as usual, I failed to ask what kind of battle plan, or, better yet, what a battle plan was. In my “research,” I found some very good sites like this one. However, I felt that I was lacking something.

About a year ago, my regular confessor told me, after I had told him about my recent sins of masturbation and viewing pornography, “You… um… just need to… (sigh) try harder.”

I need to try harder?! I thought afterwards. Isn’t that the Holy Spirit’s job? To help me out when I need it?

I didn’t understand that I needed to put forth some effort. Lots of it. 2 Peter 1:5 talks about making every effort to add virtues to our lives. Also, St. James writes in chapter 4, verse 7 of his epistle: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Then, recently, I came across a blog post by Eric Barker entitled “7 Ways You Can Easily Increase Your Willpower.” I devoured the article and started putting into practice things that I had learned.

It’s a bit lengthy, but the article is well worth your time. If you are having trouble with addictions such as (but not limited to) impurity and pornography, I would encourage you to give it a read.

By the way, I’m not implying that God is not powerful enough for us to overcome addictions. On the contrary, God wants us to make every effort to “avoid whatever leads [us] to sin.” (from the Act of Contrition)

Here it the article:

 


 

 

In general, people have an overly positive vision of themselves and their abilities.

But what’s the one thing surveys show that most people have a problem with?

Self-control.

And who is most likely to give in to temptation?

Ironically, it’s the people who think they have the most willpower.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

Research shows that people who think they have the most willpower are actually the most likely to lose control when tempted. For example, smokers who are the most optimistic about their ability to resist temptation are the most likely to relapse four months later, and overoptimistic dieters are the least likely to lose weight.

So how can we really increase willpower? What does science have to say?

I’ve posted a lot about the subject — from research to interviewing the foremost expert on the subject. Let’s round it all up and make it useful.

Here are 7 ways you can increase your own willpower and live a better life: 

 

1) “Keystone” Habits Are A Magic Bullet

Everyone wants a magic bullet. One pill that fixes everything. The closest thing in the area of willpower is what are called “keystone habits.”

The primary one is exercise. What’s so special about running or lifting weights? It doesn’t just give you more discipline at the gym…

It also makes you eat better. And helps you use your credit card less. And makes you more productive at work. And more patient with loved ones.

Exercise leads people to create other, often unrelated, good habits:

When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly… “Exercise spills over,” said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. “There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.”

Going to the gym is too much for you? Try food journaling. Just write down everything you eat, every day. It’s another powerful keystone habit.

So if you’re going to do anything, keystone habits get the best bang for your buck. What else should you do every day?

 

2) Do Important Things Early

Leading self-control researcher Roy Baumeister, has found that willpower is limited.

It’s highest early in the day but as we make more decisions, it empties like a gas tank.

This leads to a simple answer: do the most important things first. As the day goes on it will only get harder to face big challenges.

When do most self control failures happen?

At night. Roy explains:

The longer people have been awake, the more self-control problems happen. Most things go bad in the evening. Diets are broken at the evening snack, not at breakfast or in the middle of the morning. Impulsive crimes are mostly committed after midnight.

So your willpower is limited. What else can this tell us about the best way to use it? 

 

3) Improve Willpower By Not Using Willpower

Productivity guru Tim Ferriss says willpower is overrated. We have a limited amount of it, so relying on it is a bad idea.

Research shows we don’t use much willpower when something is a habit, when our behaviors are automatic.

How do you build good habits? Here’s a fantastic interview with Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit:

Building new habits is too hard, you say? Then try this:

Manipulate your environment so as to make what you should do easy and what you shouldn’t do hard.

Hide the cookies and put your running shoes next to the bed.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

Lower the activation energy for habits you want to adopt, and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The more we can lower or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change.

People who think they have a lot of willpower expose themselves to more temptation — and eventually cave. So don’t rely on willpower.

Now comes the part where I contradict myself… 

 

4) Use Willpower To Build Willpower

I know, I know… I just told you not to use willpower, now I’m telling you to use willpower. What gives?

Baumeister compares willpower to a muscle. When you use it too much, it gets tired and gives out.

But by exercising it, over time it gets stronger. So you don’t want to rely on willpower for everything. You want to rely on habits.

But you want to make sure to tap into willpower a bit every day, always pushing yourself a bit to grow that muscle over time.

How simple can your daily self-control exercise be? Merely working on your posture can produce willpower benefits.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

Unexpectedly, the best results came from the group working on posture. That tiresome old advice—”Sit up straight!”—was more useful than anyone had imagined. By overriding their habit of slouching, the students strengthened their willpower and did better at tasks that had nothing to do with posture.

Simple is good, right? Want to know other crazy simple things that can help? Want to improve willpower in your sleep?

 

5) Fundamentals: Eat And Sleep

Yes, improving willpower is as easy as eating and getting enough sleep.

When I asked Roy Baumeister the easiest way to quickly boost self-control he simply replied, “Just eat something.

Want to wake up full of willpower? It’s as easy as getting more sleep at night.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

We shouldn’t need to be told something so obvious, but cranky toddlers aren’t the only ones who resist much needed naps. Adults routinely shortchange themselves on sleep, and the result is less self-control.

Eating and sleeping not easy enough for you? Here’s something even easier.

 

6) Procrastinating Can Improve Willpower

Ever been so lazy you put things off that you actually enjoy? This can actually boost self-control.

You don’t even have to say no to every temptation to gain discipline. Just postponing them can help too.

Research shows telling yourself “Not now, but later” is far more powerful than “No, you can’t have that.”

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

…people who had told themselves “Not now, but later” were less troubled with visions of chocolate cake than the other two groups… Those in the postponement condition actually ate significantly less than those in the self-denial condition…

Anything other than just giving in helps strengthen your willpower muscle.

Delay, distraction, or even caving in a defined way can help increase discipline.

Okay, now’s the time for the bad news… 

 

7) You’re Going To Screw Up… But That’s Okay

You’re going to give in to temptation. That’s not defeatist; it’s reality. But what matters is what you do after.

Feeling the urge to beat yourself up over your lack of willpower? Don’t do it. No Mea Culpas are necessary.

Blaming yourself reduces self-control. Showing self-compassion increases it.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

Study after study shows that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control. It is also one of the single biggest predictors of depression, which drains both “I will” power and “I want” power. In contrast, self-compassion— being supportive and kind to yourself, especially in the face of stress and failure— is associated with more motivation and better self-control.

People who cut themselves slack go on to keep trying — and end up succeeding.

So how does all of this fit together? 

 

Sum Up

Give the 7 a try:

  1. “Keystone Habits” Are A Magic Bullet
  2. Do Important Things Early
  3. Improve Willpower By Not Using Willpower
  4. Use Willpower To Build Willpower
  5. Fundamentals: Eat And Sleep
  6. Procrastinating Can Improve Willpower
  7. You’re Going To Screw Up… And That’s Okay

I’m sure to some people this sounds hard and lonely. But it doesn’t have to be a solitary thing.

Relationships improve willpower: the best way to accomplish any change is by having a supportive group of friends around you.

And the reverse is true as well: willpower improves relationships:

…the more total self-control, the better the relationship fared. Multiple benefits were found for having mutually high self-control, including relationship satisfaction, forgiveness, secure attachment, accommodation, healthy and committed styles of loving, smooth daily interactions, absence of conflict, and absence of feeling rejected.

Willpower is one of the first steps in improving any area of life — and it’s good to know that self-control isn’t selfish.

 

 Source

 

~t

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


15 Things that Introverts Would Never Tell You

Wikimedia Commons

I came across this article on the Internet recently. Anything containing the word “introvert” catches my attention like nothing else.

Why? Well, for one, articles about introverts help me to learn about myself. After years and years of hearing people say, You think too much, or, You need to talk more, it’s refreshing to find out that I’m not necessarily alone; in fact, there are scores of people who are just like me.

I think the hardest part for me is trying to fit in and pretend to be “normal” when I’m around a large number of individuals whom I don’t know too well. It freaks me out.

Another difficult thing for me is to network in my professional life. I just can’t bring myself to be a social butterfly at meetings and get-togethers, shaking hands with and flashing a fake smile to everyone who looks important enough to benefit me. I’m sure I’ve missed out on some job opportunities in my life, but I can’t do it. Sure, maybe I need to make more of an effort, but, after all, I’ve always done things the hard way.

Anyway, I would like to share the following article written by Maryann Reid, an award-winning author. If you’re quiet and “anti-social” like I am, perhaps it will help you. Here it is:

 


 

 

Introverts get a bad rap in a world that celebrates extroversion and “people-persons.” There are things introverts wish you knew about them that would help any relationship or situation. For instance, we are not anti-social or depressed, we’re just different. In fact, many envy us for our self-contained, cool manner that keeps others calm, focused, and safe. People love us, in secret. As introverts, we have many “ways” that only our closest friends understand. Here are several things about introverts you may not know.

 

1. We don’t care about your birthday.

Any introvert who works in an office knows how it feels to be hustled for birthday cake money. It makes us squirm when a random office person cheerily volunteers that it happens to be their birthday. We think they expect us to respond with like enthusiasm and interest, and maybe even accept their invitation to join them for drinks with a group of about 300 other random people to celebrate. Three hundred is a bit of an exaggeration, but it feels that way to an introvert who just wants to go home. If you don’t invite us, we’re not offended. We’re relieved.

 

2. We don’t need you to care about our birthday.

Yeah, we don’t. We have friends who genuinely know us and care, if we care. However, an interesting thing about introverts is that some don’t need to celebrate it. We’re okay with quietly honoring the day on our own or with a group of friends we’ve carefully selected. We don’t have to let the world know.

 

3. We are not really listening as you recount your weekend.

Unless you are part of our circle of friends, we don’t care what you did last weekend. We are of the mind that everyone has a right to privacy, and if you chose to spend it in a drunken stupor or beating down the door of your ex, then that is up to you. We don’t judge, and we find it takes too much energy to give it to people we don’t know. Just because we work with you doesn’t mean we know you.

 

4. We hate crowds.

Large groups of people make us tired. All the stimulation of having so many different types from all walks of life can make us a little woozy. Some introverts are empaths, so they tend to take on the energy of others easily. We sometimes feel like we “know” everyone in the room and get easily overwhelmed with the swirl of activity.

 

5. We don’t really like networking events.

This is especially hard for introverts who run a business. Networking makes us feel like we have to perform. We struggle to say the right thing and listen attentively. We don’t really care since we don’t know you. Even in business, we have to feel connected to someone on another level to get the most out of a networking type of event. This takes time to choose the right event and come up with a plan to offer value to others while getting some for ourselves.

 

6. We force ourselves to act like we like you.

This is the nasty truth. We know who we like and don’t. It can stem from many reasons that can have its roots in childhood to what we ate for breakfast this morning. Don’t take it personally. We appreciate honesty, and sometimes it hurts. To survive, we have to supersede these feelings and be nice. Nice can be harder than being real.

 

7. We know how to get stuff done.

We pack our alone time with activities – projects, phone calls, emails, rough drafts and blueprints for world takeover of our next big idea (which we have lots of). We value solitude because it lets us experiment with new concepts, plan, and stretch our imagination. Anything is possible when we spend time alone, and what we create may change our lives, and yours, too.

 

8. We like to write things out.

We love email because it helps us get what we need without interruptions. Interruptions throw us off course, and we need to expend more energy to get back on track. So, please don’t call unless it is a close-ended question.

 

9. We feel safe with the right people.

When we have the right people in our lives, we give our all. We give our best selves. We become protective warriors who will fight almost any cause for someone we love. Just ask our friends. We blossom in the right company and shine. It takes us time to find the right people, and when we do, we don’t hold back.

 

10. We do have friends, who really like us.

Introverts like people, and people like us. Most introverts have no issue with hanging out in groups and spending time with others. If we have friends, it’s because we consciously chose them. We’ve put effort into the relationship, and our friends know that. We go to bars, parties, and meet new people. The difference is that not everyone we meet becomes a friend.

 

11. We can do the extrovert thing… for a while.

We have to do that to get along. We can be the life of the party, host the networking event, and be the chairperson of the charity. We do this willingly, knowing that at the end of the day we can go home. When we get there, it may take days or weeks to replenish ourselves and feel ready to do that again.

 

12. We are not shy, rude, or uptight.

At first, we may seem that way. Get to know us, and we can actually make you laugh and hold a conversation that lasts more than 15 minutes. The thing is, we don’t share this with everyone. Being “social” or “sociable” is an option, not a way of being. We can’t fake happy or excited really well, and we show what we think on our face, not as much in our words.

 

13. We are okay alone.

We have lots going on in our heads and don’t need more. Unlike our extrovert counterparts, we don’t need others for stimulation. We’re constantly working out life in our heads. We entertain ourselves with creative projects and know how to take ourselves out for a good time. More people means more stuff to deal with, and we’ve got enough of our own energy to hold.

 

14. We hate small talk.

We’re thinkers, and we relish conversations about big ideas, theories and ideals. We rarely get into small talk and do so comfortably.

 

15. We make a choice to be with you — appreciate it.

We value our alone time and are picky about who we let in. Letting in the wrong person will drain us, leaving nothing for ourselves. We tend to attract extroverts who suck our energy and search out like-minded introverts for our groundedness, deep thinking and sense of control. We appreciate our time with other introverts and have an understanding of each other’s limits and boundaries.

 

 

Source: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/15-things-that-introverts-would-never-tell-you.html

~t

 


Laughter is the Best Medicine

alien-hands-far-side

I recently read this article about a type of OCD called scrupulosity. It’s basically the fear of sin or punishment from God. The article is definitely worth the read.

Of course, I’m not saying that it’s suddenly okay to throw caution to the wind and start sinning. Far from it. However, the article got me thinking about how uptight I may be; I tend to be a living example of the ironic process theory: If someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant, you are automatically going to (like you did just now).

While I continue to deal with habitual sin, I’m learning to make an effort to enjoy life and trust God as I go. For instance, my two young sons and I have been playing soccer in the backyard after dinner each night, and it’s so much fun! I have also come across some comics and memes on the Internet that make me smile.

Laughter and fun times are a welcome reprieve from the daily spiritual battles that we face.

Nuns at Six Flags

Last night, my sons and I were trying to steal the ball from each other in our scrimmage. As we battled against each other, my kids were giggling like crazy. Afterwards, my oldest, who is quite serious and emotional, suddenly asked me, “Daddy, why is laughing good for us?”

Taken aback, I replied, “Well, because it makes us feel good. Plus, we forget our problems while we’re laughing.” It was one of those moments where I inadvertently taught myself something.

So, in the spirit of all this, I have posted some comics and things that I’ve run across in the past few weeks. They are entertaining to me, but, after all, my sense of humor is a bit twisted. 😉

 

 

25-motivational-posters-part-II-exercise

 

If you’re a fan of this series, I apologize!

 

 

Since I’m an English teacher, I particularly like this one:

 

 

This one isn’t a comic, but it has really spoken to me during the past week. My dear sister in Christ, Jet, recently posted it on her blog:

 

 

Have a great week, and remember to laugh periodically.

 

~t

 


How Can I Be A Saint, Part 2: Email from a Friend

Wikimedia Commons

 

It’s always encouraging to know that someone cares.

Since I started this blog, I have become spiritually close to a fellow Catholic who lives overseas. Although “Julia” and I have never met in person, her heart for Christ is so pure and holy that she recently took some time to respond in specific detail to my previous post.

I am honored to share her email with you, dear reader. Whatever sin you’re struggling with at the moment, I pray that God will grant you the faith, grace, and strength necessary to overcome it.

 


 

 

Hi [Topaz], my dearest brother in Christ,

 

I read your new blog post. It was very timely since I’ve been wondering how you were doing and how your Holy Week was. Just a few things I had in mind as I read your concerns:

 

1. Dealing with Sin

Have you thought of emailing Matt Fradd? Or has it ever crossed your mind? I highly suggest emailing him your concerns, struggles and questions, because I am pretty confident he can give some practical advice or insights about the issue [of sexual impurity].

Actually I am suggesting this because I already did it. I emailed him about a question that’s been bugging me for years, and it was related to pornography. And praise God, he replied speedily. I’m really hoping he can help you in whatever way he can and with God’s grace.

 

2. Spiritual Director

I just learned that we as Catholics are in dire need of confessors or spiritual directors who will patiently help us with our struggles. How often do you go to confession? I try to go once a month. It would also be a great help if you could find an accountability partner. Pray and ask God for that person (a male friend or a brother from K of C) who can also guide you in fighting the battle.

But if not, I hope this helps: Try to contact Opus Dei and ask if they have a center near your place. In my own experience, I felt God’s guidance through them. Since I’ve been attending their monthly recollection, I feel that God is there leading my life.

 

3. Continue to Seek God

You ask in your blog “where are they?”, so now I am eagerly telling you to continue seeking… and to never lose hope. Please don’t think that the demons are binding you. We both know that they have nothing else to do but to keep us away from God. So please CONTINUE SEARCHING… and try not to give in to these temptations. Please don’t lose hope.

 

4. Spiritual Reading

Have you heard of this? If not, then let me give you an idea how to go about it. I’ve also learned this from doing the Norms of Piety booklet. It says that allotting 15-20 minutes of spiritual reading daily is a great help to enrich and inspire you spiritually.

You might want to start off with St. Augustine’s books in which he also admitted that he struggled a lot with sins of the flesh. I also just started this habit and I’m currently reading St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life. Even doing this, I must admit, is also a struggle. I believe the devil doesn’t want us to practice this because we are uplifted and encouraged to persevere in sanctifying our lives.

 

5. And, finally, Daily Mass

I’ll probably be struggling with this practice forever… but i know that I should not give up. Here in the Philippines, weekday Masses don’t last an hour since sometimes there’s no choir. So, if I go to noon Mass in our Cathedral, it usually only runs 30mins or so. I hope you can find time to go to Mass even on weekdays — especially if your schedule permits. The reason why I really want to practice this is because the Mass is our great source of grace. We do want that, don’t we? And it’s also one way of showing our love for God, giving praise to Him and listening to Him through the Liturgy of the Word. Right?

 
But if you think it’s really hard or impossible (for now) for you to attend daily Mass, then you can always find a way to make if more convenient for you. Like maybe one day a week excluding Sunday… I guess you just have to put a little more extra effort into fighting this battle. And the tricky part is how not to give up the fight and how to sustain yourself in not giving up. I think it all depends on that. We should also realize that we can never perfect all these things on our own. And we probably will not, but it’s still not an excuse not to try. Because, along the way, I’m pretty sure something wonderful is waiting, and something beautiful will happen. Let’s never cease to believe and have faith.

 

Your Sister in Christ,

[Julia]

~t


And God Said No

Credit: Alexandre Buisse

My wife, who is not a Christian, reluctantly agreed to attend a baptismal class for our youngest son. I figured she would be bored out of her mind: The hour-long class would be full of Catholic terminology regarding a sacrament that Ayako had no clue about.

And there would be praying.

That evening, I found the courage to glance over at Ayako at some point during the class, and, sure enough, her eyes were glazed over. “How are you doing?” I asked meekly.

No response.

I got worried. The whole idea of baptizing our children was mine. I was the reason we were all here on a weeknight instead of at home in our highly-structured routine.

In my mind, I tried to hurry along the class so that I wouldn’t feel like I was keeping my wife hostage inside a Catholic church. Just a few more minutes, right? I kept asking myself nervously.

After 90 minutes, we were dismissed. Leaving Ayako with both kids, who were going stir crazy by then, I went up to the individuals in charge of the baptismal class to ask some questions.

Outside in the parking lot, I expected Ayako to either give me the silent treatment or start complaining about wasting her time. Instead, the first words out of her mouth were: “I liked that prayer.”

“Which one?”

“The one at the beginning. It sounded like a poem.”

This is a very good sign! I thought, shocked that she actually enjoyed something about the class.

I went home and punched in some key words on the computer; I had no idea what the poem was called or anything. That’s why God gave us Google, I reminded myself.

Ayako even wanted me to print a copy for her which she now reads every night before going to bed.

The moral of this story? God is in control. He can work wonders. He changed a big fool such as me, and He can surely convert the heart of a tough little non-practicing Buddhist/Shintoist Japanese woman. Just not according to my timetable.

Anyway, here is the poem that I tracked down. It’s called “When God Says No” by Claudia Minden Welsz.

 

I asked God to take away my pride,
and God said, “No.”
He said it was not for Him to take away,
but for me to give up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole,
and God said, “No.”
He said her spirit is,
while her body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience,
And God said, “No.”
He said patience is a by-product of tribulation.
It isn’t granted, it is earned.

I asked God to give me happiness,
And God said, “No.”
He said He gives blessings,
happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain,
and God said, “No.”
He said, “Suffering draws you apart from
worldly cares and brings you closer to Me.”

I asked God to make my spirit grow,
and God said, “No.”
He said I must grow on my own,
but He will prune me to make it fruitful.

I asked God if He loved me,
and God said, “Yes.”
He gave me His only Son, who died for me.
And I will be in Heaven someday
because I believe.

I asked God to help me love others
as much as He loves me,
and God said,
“Ah, finally, you have the idea.”

~t


Positive Thinking and the Mind of Christ

One week after being ordered to attend anger management classes by my supervisor, I finally met with a counselor that was assigned to me.

On the phone, she sounded very kind, like a grandmotherly type. I was surprised that she answered her own phone. I guess her schedule was pretty open because I named a time and date, and she immediately said she’d see me then.

I wasn’t greeted by any receptionist window when I entered her office; a nice, cozy, empty living-room-type area was all I saw. I wandered around the “office” until I finally heard voices coming from a back room. Feeling more at ease, I plopped down on the fluffy sofa with plenty of mismatched pillows surrounding me.

Finally the other patient left, and the therapist, a tall, thin lady in her 60s, came to get me.

Her office, what looked like a converted bedroom, overwhelmed my senses in a good way: shelves of stuffed animals, knick-knacks everywhere, flowers and plants placed all over. I got the impression right away that she counseled lots of families and children.

Taking my seat on the comfortable sofa, I immediately noticed her main bookshelf, where The Secret was prominently featured. Hmm. She is wearing lots of bangles and stuff. I pegged her as a New Ager right away. What the hell, I thought. My school is paying for all this, and I’m allowed to miss work, so relax.

Before we started, the doctor (she has a Ph.D.) asked me what my goal for these sessions was; my school is only covering three sessions after all.

“Anger management. How to control my anger at work and be professional. Even when I don’t feel like it.”

That seemed to satisfy her.

The rest of the 45-minute session was straight out of The Secret: our positive thoughts flow into the universe, and the universe sends back positive energy and results. And vice versa.

I felt like I was trapped inside a giant infomercial for that book. The doctor went on and on, sharing testimony after testimony about how positive thinking and will power changed her life for the better. No mention of God or Jesus.

I told her I would give it a shot.

On my way home, I started thinking about the session and what I was learning. Then I realized that I could take the “normal” things, like positive thinking, and leave the universe-energy-Secret stuff.

Then a Scripture came to me like God whispering in my ear:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

And then another:

…I beat my body and make it my slave… (1 Corinthians 9:27)

This last one didn’t mention mind, but I believed it involved making every effort to be positive. Anyhow, I was on to something.  I went home and searched the Scriptures for mention of the word mind. Here are some verses that I found:

I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind… (Jeremiah 17:10)

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6)

And then this one:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Why hadn’t I paid attention to all this before? Well, one doesn’t seek medical attention until one is convinced of an illness. I do suffer from mental issues, but nobody (that I can recall) had ever taught convinced me that even I could take control of my mind and feed it positive thoughts.

It would take some work, like giving up some extreme metal music that I had come to enjoy and putting aside some of those dark independent films that I’m fond of.

I met with the doctor for a second time this morning and told her of my progress: I had actually seen some sort of improvement from our first session! By feeding my mind positive thoughts, I had been able to enjoy work more and get along better with my students and colleagues.

And I was overjoyed to finally discover and put into practice the idea of taking on the mind of Christ.

…But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)

~t

(photo by Topaz)


Seeing Things from God’s Perspective

Last week I had yet another meeting with three individuals: my new supervisor, the dean, and the HR director. Talk about déjà vu. Sheesh.

I was actually hoping that this would be the final straw. I’m sick and tired of being the whipping boy for new supervisors and deans who want to make an example out of someone.

I told a colleague whom I despise how something was supposed to be done. She went above my head and right to my direct supervisor who is basically the assistant dean. This isn’t the public school system, for crying out loud! It’s higher education; you know, where instructors have a say in what they teach and how they teach it.

But I learned yet again that some people you can’t mess with because they are too connected to the right people.

So, the HR director, my supervisor, the dean, and I sat at the dean’s cramped little table in his office. Surprise! Another written warning. God was looking out for me because, technically, I was supposed to get a one-week suspension with pay, but HR said that since I have a new supervisor, they will just give me a second written warning. That was bittersweet. It was good because I still have employment. Bad because I really was hoping that they would terminate me.

At home, my wife lectured yelled at me for not changing. According to her, this was all my fault because I haven’t been giving my best to my colleagues, supervisors, and students. I didn’t want to hear it, so I argued back.

Anyway, I spent the night thinking about what she said, and then I prayed like crazy for God to help me in such a difficult situation.

The following morning, the truth hit me square in the face. I jotted down as much as I could from the revelation that The Lord was giving me. I have listed my notes below.

 

1. Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30)

Verse 29 is the summary, but I read the whole parable which opened my eyes to how I’m letting God down.

For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. (v. 29)

 

2. Elisha and the Chariots of Fire (2 Kings 6: 8-18)

This is an awesome story about how God opens our eyes to see that He will deliver us from any predicament. This is why staying close to God is so important in our spiritual life.

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (v. 17)

 

3. Our Battle is Not Against Flesh and Blood (Ephesians 6: 12)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

It’s not my supervisor I should be angry with; rather, I need to see this as a learning opportunity: God slapping me upside the head and finally saying, “Wake up! You’re headed the wrong way!”

 

4. Bloom Where You Are Planted (Jeremiah 29: 4-14)

Although these words are implicitly stated in the Bible, it is a wonderful passage about God speaking to His people who had been exiled to a foreign land. There was nothing but struggle after struggle for them. Instead of God saying, “I will help you right away! Your problems will disappear immediately,” He says the following:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ (verses 4-7)

 

In summary, do the best with what you have and always be faithful. God will act according to His timetable, not ours.

~t


Keeping It Real: A Comic-Book Writer’s Response to a Fan with Suicidal Ideation

Marvel Comics

I’m not into the world of comics like I used to be. The extent of my collection consists of a few sets of manga that I bought in Japan that I use to hone my Japanese reading skills. (I’m not quite sure if the four-volume children’s set of Tonari no Totoro qualifies, but oh well.)

However, when a friend of mine shared a Tumblr post by Matt Fraction, a well-known writer of comics such as Hawkeye, The Invincible Iron Man, and Casanova, it gave me a whole new respect for Matt and his works.

A fan known as “whiskeyjack” asked the following question to Matt. I’ve edited some words to make it more family friendly, but everything else has been untouched. Here it is:

 

Sorry to put this on you but I have an honest question about depression an suicide. Isn’t it completely possible for it to be a alternative for someone. Can’t there be someone out there who genuinely is tired and doesn’t want to continue. I know there is beauty and wonderful things in this world. There are things to look forward to. There will be more pain but also more laughter. But what if I’m not interested?

 

How would a cool, famous comic-book writer respond to such a question? Or, rather, would he?

Matt’s response is rather lengthy but well worth the read:

 

well… well first off, i’d say, seek professional help immediately. because i am wildly unqualified to answer your question with anything but experience. and first off, my experience says, if you are in such a deep and dark place where you say things like this to total strangers on the internet, you need to be in contact with someone that can help you start to heal.second, i’d say… you’re wrong. i’d say the things any of us don’t know, especially about tomorrow, could blanket every grain of sand on every beach of the world with bull****. And to simply assume you are done tomorrow because you are done today is a mistake. a factual mistake, an error, a critical miscalculation.

i’d say, read Tad Friend’s piece JUMPERS in which he seeks and finds and talks to people that jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge — and lived. And they all say the same variations this: “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.”

And know that this piece has kept me in my seat on more than a couple dark nights.

And i’d say — i’d say i felt that way before too, and i was wrong.

And then i’d tell you something i don’t even think my wife knows. this happend years before we met — s***, more than a decade — and it’s not the first time i came close to suicide was on a thanksgiving night. i’d eaten well and then as the house shut down i went into the bathroom, drew a bath as hot as i could manage to stand, and climbed into the tub with a razor  blade.

As i started to cut, as the corner touched my skin and that jolt of pain fired into my head, i stopped and thought — y’know, last chance. Are you SURE?

And i was tired. I sounded like you, that i knew there’d be ups again and downs but i was just so f****** TIRED i couldn’t stand the thought of having to get there. I felt this… this never-ending crush of days that were grey and tepid but for some reason i was supposed to greet each one with a smile. the constant pressure of having to keep my s*** in all the time was just exhausting.

I wondered, then — well, is there anything you’re curious about. Anything you want to see play out. And i thought of a comic i was reading and i’d not figured out the end of the current storyline. And i realized I had curiosity. And that was the hook i’d hang my hat on. that by wanting to see how something played out I wasn’t really ready. That little sprout of a thing poking up through all that black earth kept me around a little longer.

I realized then that it had been so long since i’d laughed. I was numbed out and shut down and just… i missed laughing. maybe if i laughed a little i could get moving again. so i’d wait for my comic to conclude, try to find a few laughs, and then reevaluate.

So I’m in the bathtub and i got this real sharp-a** razor, right? And i look down and there’s all my bits floating in the water like they do and i thought okay, let’s get funny and i got to work.

I shaved off exactly half my pubic hair vertically. The end result was a ‘fro of pubes that looked like a Chia Pet that only half-worked. I started to laugh as I did it. And every time i’d p***, looking down made me laugh.

Because J**** what a nightmare.

Shortly thereafter I got very heavily into Chuck Jones and Tex Avery. Way less chafing and way more funny.

j****. i was still in high school at the time. dig if you will a picture of the chubby weirdo that was always giggling at his d*** in the bathroom. that was me.

And then I guess I’d tell you about Dave, who did the same thing as me a few years later, only DIDN’T have my hilarious Chia D*** strategy in mind and got the razor in and up. And as he started to bleed out “Brown Eyed Girl” came on the radio and he realized he’d never get to hear that again so, in a bloody comedy of errors — I swear to g** this is true — he got out of the tub, tried to get dressed the best he could, went downstairs calling for help only to find his family gone, went out to his car, and drove to doug’s house only to find doug not home and so, then, finally, he blacked out from blood loss sitting there in his car, playing a van morrison CD on repeat, until, by luck, Doug’s mom came home and found him.

F****** Van Morrison, y’know?

A song, a comic, something dumb, something small. From that seed can come everything else, I swear to g**.

I guess last I’d say… I’d say that, look — if you reached out to me for an answer, than I have to reach back out to you and insist you hear it.  Because it means, what, you know me? My work? You read my stuff and thought, well, f***, if anyone would know why I shouldn’t end my life, if anyone alive is QUALIFIED TO SAVE ME it’s the guy that had britney spears punch a bear? okay — okay, then, so as THAT GUY I’m saying: Get help. Now, today, tonight, whenever — get to a phone and find a doctor that can try to help you heal, that can try to recolorize your world again, that can help you start caring again. All you need is that one tiny thing, that speck, that little grain of sand. the World Series, AVENGERS 2, Tina Fey’s new show, the first issue of PRETTY DEADLY, some slice of the world you’ve never seen, some drink you love, who the f*** will love your dog like you do if you’re gone, what if jabrams KILLS it on the new STAR WARS, the h*** are you doing for Halloween, you ever feed a dolphin with your bare hand? because i have and I am f****** telling you IT IS A THING TO EXPERIENCE and oh g** WHAT F****** FONT WILL STARBUCKS USE ON THE CHRISTMAS DRINK SLEEVES THIS YEAR — i don’t care what or how dumb but i promise you somewhere in your life is that one fleck of dust that can help start you on the road back. That’s all it takes. One f****** mote, drifting through your head.

And because you asked me I am answering you because i know, mother******, i know, i know, i know the hole you are f****** in because I was there myself and if you look hard you can still see my writing on those walls and if you stare long enough i swear to g** it’s pointing to up

 

As my friend said, this is one of the most genuinely connective responses to someone with suicidal ideation that I’ve ever seen on the Internet.

When times are bad and you feel hopeless, just read Matt’s response. It’ll put things in perspective for you.

~t

The original quotes can be found here.


Hang On

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes my illness amazes me.

I was in church just yesterday for the first Sunday of Advent. It was a joyous Mass. I loved hearing about the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament alluding to the day in the future when Christ would establish His Kingdom for all people.

I served afterward by helping my brother Knights of Columbus sell Advent wreaths in the narthex.

What a happy, faith-building day. I love Sundays because I can seek refuge for a few hours in the house of the Lord (a.k.a. the hospital for sinners).

But today (Monday) sucked. My doctor recently put me on Lamictal to stabilize my mood since the Gabapentin wasn’t helping, and suicidal ideation started to rear its ugly head again.

I’m sick and tired of being at the mercy of my emotions. It’s like Texas weather: In 30 minutes it goes from one extreme to the other in the blink of an eye.

The demons came again last night. It never fails. the closer I get to God, the stronger their offensive.

I had one of those dreams that seemed to last all night. My family and I were in a public place, like a shopping mall or a maze of connected warehouses, and I had prior knowledge of either a terrorist attack or a rampaging shooter attack.

I remember grabbing my two little sons and hoping that I could get them out of harm’s way. The worst part of it was that I had no idea when or where the attack would take place. It was like being forced to play a diabolical game-show version of Russian roulette.

In the morning, my wife said I was struggling and whimpering in my sleep for a good portion of the night.

After a hellish day at work, I came home and announced to my wife that I was going to skip dinner. I had no appetite whatsoever. I sat in our walk-in closet which doubles as my own personal chapel.

I prayed, I meditated, I read Scripture.

I can’t give up.

Getting no response from God, I sat there, massaging my temples with my eyes closed. Suddenly a slight feeling of hope entered my soul, as tiny as a grain of rice. That was all I needed, though.

I can’t not believe in God and His promises. When life drags me through a puddle of crap, it sure is comforting to know that there is a greater power waiting to rescue me and make me clean again.

Like the saying goes: When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.

~t


The Glorious Mysteries

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Life has been better lately:

I’ve finally dealt successfully with a particularly nagging sin in my life.

My wife suddenly started sleeping in our bed again (that’s in, not with by the way).

I have a good chance of getting a better-paying job in the near future that would finally free my kids from the reduced-price lunch program at school.

So, driving home from work last week, I was pleased to know that it was the day for the glorious mysteries of the rosary.

Out of all four of my “rosary reports,” this is the only one where I was actually in a good mood beforehand. Below are my thoughts while praying the glorious mysteries last week.

 

1. The Resurrection – Fruit of the Spirit: Faith

The resurrection. Who wouldn’t be joyful after being reminded that Christ overcame death and is now reigning in glory? That would fire someone up right away. Jesus didn’t just conquer His fears and the painful agony of the cross. He conquered death. Satan has already lost!

If you’re still feeling down, don’t worry. Just ask God for an increase in faith. I do this all the time. Some days I can barely get out of bed due to my depression. All I have is my mustard seed of faith that God will help me; all I need to do is ask.

 

2. The Ascension – Fruit of the Spirit: Hope

After all that time with His apostles, Christ ascended into heaven to be with the Father. Just like the apostles, we have that special hope to be with the Lord after finishing our earthly lives.

It’s easy to have hope and to be happy when times are good. Right now this describes me. However, as little as a year ago, that depressed me. Why? Because I had the mindset of “what goes up must come down.” My hope was crushed because of my own lack of faith. These days, I rejoice when times are good. I feel that my walk with God has matured to the point where I don’t worry about tomorrow, “for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

 

3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit – Fruit of the Spirit: Love of God

Just like Jesus said, the Holy Spirit came to rest on the apostles and Mary. They were waiting in anticipation, and Jesus stayed true to His word as always.

God is love, and he is always reliable. I had the hardest time accepting this truth because my dad was the complete opposite. So many people, as I did, picture God as they do their earthly father because, well, that’s all we know. But God doesn’t belittle us or wait for us to mess up so that He can punish us.

If you’re having a hard time accepting the fact that God is love — love in its purest form — then ask Him to help you. You’ll be amazed when He grants you the faith to accept and believe in His true nature.

 

4. The Assumption of Mary – Fruit of the Spirit: Grace of a Happy Death

The next two mysteries don’t go over very well with Protestants. No, the Bible doesn’t mention the Assumption or the Coronation of Mary. But where in the Bible does it say that everything we believe has to come from the Bible?

Anyway, this doesn’t mean that Mary ascended into heaven by her own power as Christ did. As Elijah and Enoch in the Old Testament, it was God who made it happen.

I used to fear death. In college, I flew a Cessna 172 on weekends, but I quit after about a year because my fear of dying overtook my passion for flying. It definitely wouldn’t have been a “happy death.”

What is a happy death? I believe it’s when we’re old and full of years, having lived a fulfilled, selfless life with our loved ones around us, with the hope that we will soon be with the Lord. That’s the only kind of death that I want for my family.

 

5. The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven – Fruit of the Spirit: Trust in Mary’s Intercession

I consider going to heaven a fringe benefit of being a Christian. Some people are too focused on it, but, honestly, it’s usually not even on my mind. I guess it’s because God has blessed me with a wonderful life right now. I’m not perfect. The world isn’t perfect. But life is good.

This mystery reminds me that I, like Mary, will receive a crown when I (prayerfully) get to heaven. What a glorious day that will be! In the bestseller Heaven is for Real, a non-Catholic book, someone asked Colton Burpo if he saw Mary in heaven, and if so, what she was doing. He responded and said that Mary was next to Jesus and never left His side. Just like a queen mother in the Old Testament. I found that inspiring even before I was Catholic.

Mary is praying for us, just like my good Christian grandparents who are in heaven. Recently I asked a friend to pray for my mental health. I trust that her intercession was effective. How much more effective and trustworthy would the intercession of “the mother of [the] Lord” (Luke 1:43) be?

 

Unrelated Thought

With Thanksgiving coming up, everyone will soon be focused on food what they’re thankful for. However, take some time out every day to count your blessings. You’ll feel a lot better.

I wish you, dear reader, a wonderful day.

~t