When you hear the words, you are refreshed. Invigorated. They stir your soul like a pat on the back or a gentle hand helping you up. It is a cup of hot soup on a cold winter’s day. The heat goes down to your core and warms your very being. We all yearn to hear pleasant words. They are the words that confirm your choices and justify your actions.
Think of that dog with nothing but unconditional love in his heart. Pleasant words and that tail will show it. But if you speak out in anger, that poor beast will shrink away from you, put its tail between its legs, and lower its head.
We want to hear the kind words. They are powerful and have more effectiveness than any venom a person can spew. And as bad as we all want to hear it, we can be the ones speaking them.
Imagine they that struggle. Why beat them down when you can lift them back up? Or the bitter. You could return their bitterness, but what good would that do? Return their words with sweetness and just maybe the harshness of their words will dissipate. Regardless of the outcome, you will be blameless if you return their hatred with love.
To hold your tongue when you are being attacked with words takes great discipline. To not return anger with anger takes humility. And out of love and charity, we can freely give kind words, words that cost us nothing, to those who desperately need it. It might be the difference in their lives. It might bring them the health they need to keep going.
Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. –Proverbs 16:24
Monday night, I caught a little of the Cleveland Browns vs. San Francisco 49ers football game. In this one-sided affair one incident really stood out to me. Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa of the 49ers sacked the Browns quarterback, Baker Mayfield. It was an excellent play. Bosa then got up and waved an imaginary flag and planted. This was to mock Mayfield’s notorious flag planting of the Oklahoma flag on the fifty yard line of Ohio stadium. That incident happened two years ago, and must have really stung the pride of Bosa. But finally, he got his revenge of national television.
I admit it is a silly analogy in terms of real-life revenge.
Revenge (rəˈvenj) n. to avenge (oneself or another) usually by retaliating in kind or degree. [Merriam-Webster]
I imagine forms of revenge often. Usually for very petty things. I perceive injustices toward me despite the often non-malicious intentions of the offender. When I look back at the acts of actual revenge I carried out in my youth, I can’t help but think how foolish I really was. In truth, the only injury I sustained was to my pride.
Thinking back on football. When there is a scuffle, who is usually the one that gets the flag? It is the one that retaliated. A simple act of revenge that costs the whole team, because the player had to get back at the instigator. He could have just let it go, but instead he allowed his pride to interfere with sound judgment.
Message to my son:
Revenge is a dish best served not at all. You don’t have to get back. The best statement you can make is to go about your business and not seek retribution. In the end, everything will work out. Let karma do its work without your interference. By not retaliating, you will heap coals on the head of your offender and come away blameless.
The best revenge is to not be like that. –Marcus Aurelius
It takes a tremendous amount of self-control to hold your tongue when the pressure is on. As your internal temperature rises, the urge to unleash the verbal fury within strengthens. Can you say what is on your mind in a way that will keep you from trouble? If not, it may be best to bury those word until you can master your emotions.
I can’t recall how many times I let my guard down and spoke in anger without restraint. Every time it came out with the intention to cut. Every time, I regretted it later. How often did I sound foolish? How often were my words a jumbled mess, incoherent, and contrary to the words in my mind? Why couldn’t I have stayed silent? The end-result would have been different. But no, I let pride get in the way. I had to have the last word. What foolishness!
Remember these words by Ben Franklin: If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.
I can do better. We can do better. We can stay humble and remain silent. We don’t have to stoop to the level of those who would antagonize us. Let them bury themselves in the foolishness of their words, while we guard ourselves from trouble.
Those who guard mouth and tongue guard themselves from trouble. -Proverbs 21:23
I sat in the morning Mass and listened to the homily. I couldn’t understand a word the priest was saying. His accent was too strong. His command of the English language was too weak. My mind wondered. Why am I here? How is this edifying my spirit? I was reminded of the church’s history. For centuries the Mass was given in Latin. The people listening did not speak Latin. What were they getting out of it? A few years ago, there was a push to go back to Latin services. Why? How would this help any non-Latin speaking church-goer?
There is a colleague I work with who likes to use big words. There is nothing wrong with big words unless his intended audience doesn’t understand what he is saying. Some of the words are outdated and are no longer used. Along with his big words is a whole array of adverbs and modifiers. A word to him cannot stand on its own. It has to have a very, an amazingly, an interestingly, or some other –ly ending word preceding it. He takes what should be a simple statement and elaborates to an extent that the meaning is lost.
I had a conversation last week in which I was told my words were stupid. I thought I was being clear. I thought I was being concise. It didn’t matter what I thought. My message was not getting through.
In the Army, we learned how to use the radio. There were two main parts to communication: the sender and receiver. Either you were coming in Lima Charlie (loud and clear) or you were broken and distorted. If you were broken and distorted, your message was not getting through.
If we cannot communicate in way that is understood by the recipient(s), what is the purpose? It is a reminder and a challenge that I have to give to myself. Write in a way that is clear. Speak in a way that my audience understands. The best communication should be simple. No hidden messages, no innuendos. Clear and concise.
Good sense makes a man slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. –Proverbs 19:11
It is not the easiest pill to swallow, but being slow to anger is the best medicine. Here’s 10 reasons why it is best to let it go:
Winston Churchill said, “A man is about as big as the things that make him angry.” Let that quote sink in if the little things make you angry.
Not getting angry is a true test of self-mastery. Do you have enough restraint over your mind to not give into your emotions?
To not retaliate may be perceived as weakness, but this is the easy way. Isn’t it better to have the strength of a calm mind? As Marcus Aurelius put it, “The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.”
What is the offense? Does the offender deem this as offensive or are they acting in a way they perceive to be right?
A city breached and left defenseless are those who cannot control their temper. –Proverbs 25:28. What’s the translation here? Without the proper defenses in place, you are vulnerable. An angry man does not make good decisions, and poor decisions are a liability.
The high road, your glory, is to overlook it. When the offender realizes his errors, the onus is on him to make it right.
The low road, which is shameful, is to point out the offence. Do this, and chances are the offender will care less about rectifying the mistake.
Is this something you will be angry about tomorrow? Only if you stoke the fire.
When anger rises, think of the consequences. –Confucius
Take a deep breath. Count to ten or a hundred. Do what is right and you can’t go wrong.
This is my 27th consecutive day meditating. I have never picked up a new habit so easily and so transforming. The following is the thought that presented itself to me this morning. I acknowledged it, stored it for later, and then continued the practice.
You do not have to retaliate. Not against yourself. Not against others.
Yourself. You can accept your weaknesses and work to correct them. There is no need for self-flagellation. There is no need to give yourself lashes physically or mentally. Accept who you are and if necessary make the appropriate course corrections in a way that will lead to long-term sustainable growth.
Others. Being Christ-conscious is not weakness, it is strength. There is no need to retaliate against those that offend you. That is pride. That is ego. It is also your perception of an offense that may have been given unintentionally. Operate from a space of humility and demonstrate the true strength of self-control. You have the power to function on a higher level. Do this and the offensive situation will lose the oxygen that feeds the fire.
What have I learned from being on an assembly line? I have learned to be efficient. If not then I will struggle. Because if you are going to do a process over and over, 35-40 times in an hour, you want it to be as easy as possible. How do you become efficient? How do you minimize the struggle? You learn. You identify what techniques work, how to hold things, and which way to walk. Can you eliminate steps? Is there something that is difficult that can be simplified? Can you be an expert?
What should you do if you can’t figure it out, after all potential solutions have resulted in failure? The best thing you can do is watch and learn from someone else. There will always be someone who can do it better. I recently learned a technique from a 20 year vet that blew my mind, because I never thought of doing the process his way. He left me with some powerful words, “Why struggle if you don’t have to.” There has also been times when I have seen brand new associates do what seems natural to them and achieve success after only a few minutes when others have struggled for years to do the same process. What success can you achieve by looking at problems from different viewpoints and emulating others that are successful?
Growing up I didn’t know the power of having a mentor. It never occurred to me that true growth could be ascertained in this fashion. My development was often achieved through trial and mostly error. This approach wastes one of your most valuable resources: time. Take the wrong path, and you can spend years, even decades, trying to get back on track. The value of having a mentor guide you in the right direction is enormous. I wish I took advantage of this when I was younger. It is definitely something I will share with my son as he gets older.
So what am I doing with the things I have learned? Am I holding this knowledge for myself or am I sharing it with others? Leonard Nimoy said, “The miracle is this: the more we share the more we have.” How am I sharing? What am I doing to make a positive impact on the lives of others? Over the years, I have been sharing what I have learned in unplanned short conversations with colleagues. This in turn has led to a new venture where mentoring, through fitness and lifestyle choices, is the primary focus. This project is in its infancy and happened almost by accident. When my partner and I were brainstorming this concept with several other colleagues, we found that we had no shortages of volunteers who wanted to take part in our program. We let them know they would essentially be guinea pigs in our experiment, but they did not care. They wanted to change their lives for the better, and they wanted us to help them get on the path. Well, here’s to new endeavors. My hope is that our participants achieve the results they desire. My hope is that I can grow along the way.
My son, and any who chooses to listen:
The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the heart of fools is not steadfast. –Proverbs 15:7
Henry Ford once said, “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” Does your best friend bring out the best in you? If your friends are not bringing out the best in you, then why do you keep their company? Friendship, however, is a two-way street, and I find this Henry Ford quote to have a double-edged meaning. Do you bring out the best in your friends?
Iron is sharpened by iron; one person sharpens another. –Proverbs 27:17
I spend much of my time trying to prepare my personal defenses. I want to actively put myself into position where a personal attack against me is not possible.That means I need to be physically strong, mentally strong, and of course spiritually strong. Compromising your character is out of the question. Your name, which is your most valuable asset, has to be impregnable.
When am I my weakest? When am I most easily attacked? When does the enemy, all those outside influences seeking to do you harm, have the greatest opportunity to strike. The enemy attacks when your mind is at it weakest.
Marcus Aurelius said, “You have power of your mind – not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.” You are weakest, when you lose control over your mind. When are you susceptible to losing that control? It is when you are angry. It is hard to be angry and think straight. It is hard to make rational decisions in anger. This is when you are at your weakest. This is when you are vulnerable to attack. Remember your character is on the line. Your name is on the line. Hold the line! Do not become a victim of your own stupidity.
A city breached and left defenseless are those who do not control their temper. -Proverbs 25:28
Last Monday, I wrote about the way we respond to others. Now let us take it a step farther. What is your reaction to an offense? Do you have the ability to let it go? Or, do you let it fester? Maybe you vent a little to a sympathetic friend about this injustice?
I was watching a show with Alec last weekend, and he heard the the word humble. He asked what it meant. My response was the opposite of pride, which led me to explain what pride meant. Being humble is a good thing. You are less likely to be offended if you are humble.
We should not let our pride interfere with our relationships. Where is the need for conflict resolution if we prevent the conflict? Sometimes we just need to take a step back and breathe. Hey, let it go.
Whoever overlooks an offense fosters friendship, but whoever gossips separates very friends. -Proverbs 17:9