The world seems to be a horrid, despicable place, filled with barbarians who gorge themselves on material excesses, at the expense of the naive and unsuspecting. We only have to go as far as our TV sets to get our daily dose of Man’s inhumanity to Man. It seems, each day, that the world is falling apart, little by little.
Fear of property loss or personal attack is ever-so-eloquently instilled in us. Information distributed through our lightning-fast high-tech communications systems broadens and deepens our despair, by persuading us that we can do nothing to save our environment, and that it is only a matter of time before we become victims to the violation of an attack or robbery. It seems that even the weather is against us, with the escalation of droughts and tornadoes ravishing and smiting our lands.
Has God forsaken us?
It seems so. Faced with an abundance of negativity, how can we convince ourselves the world is not falling apart? How can we separate the actuality from what we perceive as the reality?
The lesson here is not to allow yourself to be triggered mentally or emotionally. If you are slow to arouse, and attempt always to be patient, you will truly become the inner master of yourself and not an aimless, mindless beast in a herd. The mass media prints and broadcasts murders, rapes, disasters and political atrocities, because (in the words of CTV broadcaster/anchorman Harvey Kirk) “good news doesn’t sell.” The absence of good news does not, in the least, mean it does not exist. In fact, this is an exciting age in which to live.
Keeping in mind that it is our immediate perceptions and assessments of a circumstance that triggers us, we can catch ourselves and maintain control by looking beyond the obvious. This does not mean becoming an unfeeling lump. To the contrary, you maintain your inner peace and refuse to get on the emotional roller coaster. This prevents adulteration of the mind and results in amelioration of your intuition, which, in turn, helps you decipher what is truth. This attitude should be so well-practiced it becomes an involuntary reflex.
Like any habit-forming practice, the first step is to ascertain the profitable attitude.
Attitude is one of those nondescript, often misused and misunderstood terms. To say a fellow office worker has a bad attitude really doesn’t define anything. To say a co-worker has a bad attitude because she was passed over for a promotion excuses her behaviour, but may not be correct. Her husband may have cancer. She may be grieving over the loss of a grandchild. Attitude cannot easily be understood. It comes from the private depths within. It is the primal start-up and driving force behind any emotion or effort.
Because attitude is complex, assessing good or bad is enigmatic. To simplify the difference, an indicator like enthusiasm will immediately inform you when your attitude is on the beam or slipping to the negative side. If you maintain your enthusiasm for as long as the task is at hand, you are bound to be successful. Unfortunately, the reverse is true. When you feel a drain of energy, and start to lose your enthusiasm, failure is creeping in. To prevent ultimate failure, immediately seek out the cause of the lost enthusiasm. Then find a solution, take action, and remedy the situation. Automatically, you regain your enthusiasm—plus! The plus comes from the feeling of accomplishment in overcoming the barrier or block that stood precariously in your way. The device that allows you to examine and remedy a problem in midstream, without caving in, is the will. There is no problem that cannot be remedied, if you have the willful attitude to do so. Procrastination has been the downfall of many.
Attitude in itself has a divine inner core, rooted deeply in hope. To preserve a good, healthy and successful attitude, you need hope. Hope is a celestial, almost magical force. It transforms people. Even in their darkest hours, if people have a glimmer of hope, they will overcome tremendous opposition. They can stand alone and face their destiny, because hope drives away those demons of worry and fear. For, if you have faith in the knowledge that God will not give you more than you can bear, that you will find solutions to all your problems, and that if you love yourself through each experience in life, it will make you more—never less—then you can truly accomplish miracles.
Remember, all of us must and do go through trying times. Adversity is our teacher. Indeed, there are those poor misguided souls who have—or will—commit injustices against you and still others who would delight in your humiliation and suffering. Each of us has, at some point in our lives, felt the pain of injustice, the embarrassment of being publicly ostracized by a teacher, parent, or employer. We have been battered, misled, and lied to. We have felt the burn in our hearts when a friend or lover has betrayed us. But still we live on. Why? Because we hope that the future will be better. To lose sight of hope is to truly give up. Your attitude unconsciously becomes self-destructive. You open the door for the hopeless disease: cancer. You become robotic, going through the motions of life, waiting for the long sleep. Sadness and loneliness are your companions, even in a crowd. You expect the worst—and you usually find it.
When you espy yourself out on the proverbial ash pile, feeling sorry for yourself, and believing that the world is an empty, unjust place, remember that simply sitting there and giving up prolongs the agony. Things can only get worse. Like my Grandpappy used to say, “If you're not goin’ forward, you’re goin’ backward. Be smart enough to know the difference.”
Life is a series of transitions and changing values. We have no guarantees. We do learn from our mistakes and our accomplishments. The willingness with which we embark through our next transition (whether planned or unexpected) determines our advancement or retardation.
Leaving your job through retirement (downsizing) or termination can either be devastating or exciting. It all depends on how you look at the situation. If you have hope, you move on, expecting bigger and better things. Without it, fear and worry set in. Why expect the worst? It is a common failing to shoot that airplane down before it gets off the runway. With any transition, you always have two choices: 1) the most common, to whine and complain to any and all who will listen. The more you gripe and have others feel sorry for you, the more thoughts pile up against you. You dig yourself deep into that rut of self-despair and failure. What is the outcome? You get exactly what you expect. 2) The prosperous way is to take the transition in stride. This may be a golden opportunity at hand, transitions usually present the answer of past prayers.
You know you have a great deal of knowledge and experience. At the beginning of any transition, there is uncertainty; you feel out of your comfort zone. However, maintain the confidence in yourself, based on your previous experiences of going through transitions. Recall the uncertainties of the past, and how easy and fortuitous the transitions actually were.
Refuse to be triggered into being pessimistic and afraid. Forbid your emotions to leap to unfounded conclusions. For example, when you find the barn empty, why exclaim, “someone has stolen the horse.” Why not simply say, “the horse is not in the barn.”
Avoid this common failing: after convincing himself to go ahead with a good idea, a man excitedly tells a friend. The friend says, “Oh, don’t be silly, that will never work.” The man then dismisses his idea on the strength of his friend’s comment. Without even trying, the man has failed. He lamely caved in at the first symptom of adversity. Unfortunately, this scenario is played out all too often in our daily lives. When we base the value of the present opportunity on past fears, we obey false authority.
Hope truly keeps us alive. It allows us to overcome past failures. It keeps the past from destroying the present. It makes us willing to face uncertainty. And the more willing we are to face uncertainty, the more justified we are in becoming prosperous.
When you need advice, seek out those who have successfully gone through the same experience. Avoid those who would point the finger of scorn and doom. If you seek each transition as a golden opportunity, you surely will have hope in your heart and God in your house!
(This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 1988 issue of Body, Mind & Spirit magazine)