Sunday, December 1, 2013

Challenges That Have Changed Us

Most of us remember words that hurt, words that diminished our self-esteem. We may have clenched our teeth at what was said, as a friend or acquaintance pointed out our weaknesses and faults, and yet had to admit, later on, that they were the words we needed to hear to motivate us to make positive changes in our lives. A similar turning point in our lives might have been when a person, almost unknowingly, said something for fun, and that too brought a welcome change, and a new dream. The column on spirituality in the Catholic Times delves into the power of words we prefer not to hear.

Constructive criticism does not always turn out positively and may even have bad results, the columnist admits.  However, when a person who truly wants to help another to change, to become more mature by these verbal challenges, there can be good results.

The columnist cites an unusual example: A priest without any special talent but who worked hard and almost mesmerized himself into believing in the good results that come with hard work made this a hallmark of his conversations. In the beginning, when the columnist heard him use that language, it didn't bother him but in time it began to irritate. Does one have to always be doing something? he wondered. 

He finally decided to ask him why he kept on repeating that one has to make an effort to have good results. "Brother," he asked. "Why is it that you are always mentioning that we have to work hard? Is there a reason that  you make this such a talking point? Are you trying to convince yourself, more than others, of the need for effort?" The priest explained by talking about his life before going into the seminary.

"I never felt that I would have difficulty in the seminary but when I made my intentions known, my older cousin with whom I grew up, said he would pan-fry his hand if I succeeded in becoming a priest. When I first heard those words, they hurt, but since he knew my faults he was challenging me, and during the years in the seminary it helped motivate me, knowing that he must have wanted me to be a priest if he was willing to pan-fry his hand."  

When he found seminary life difficult and temptations came, he remembered what his cousin had said and renewed his determination to be a good priest.  At his first Mass, his cousin told him he was so happy to see him as a priest that he would not have minded having both hands pan-fried.  Here was a case where the challenge helped the seminarian, providing the strong motivation to work hard at what he was doing.

Today, the beginning of  the New Liturgical Year, is a good time to renew our own resolutions to accept whatever challenges come, as motivators to accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves.

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