Referring to himself, a friend said, “God never made a better person, I just can’t live up to it, that’s all.” Wrong. All of us can make improvements. We can begin with a positive attitude toward life. If you find yourself in complaint city, always griping about something, you can get out by making up your mind to be more positive. We want to be happy, useful, good, honest and upright people. So what happens when we betray our own values and go against the very things we know to be right?
Take this true example: I officiated at a certain wedding years ago. I’ve never married a happier couple. Their laughter was contagious; their happiness was genuine. Then, many years after the honeymoon, they began to be bored with each other, and he began abusing his body with alcohol. She started taking anti-depressants. There was a bit of impatience here, an unkind word there. She finally said, “Our marriage needs a make-over. Let’s get help.” He said there was nothing wrong with him, and if she wanted to get help, she could. She cried almost every day. He criticized her for little things. She pointed out to him that he was a rotten alcoholic. Finally, they both said they’d had enough and off to the lawyer and divorce court they went. It was over, leaving two sons and one daughter who had registered every domestic shock, and will be affected emotionally for the rest of their lives, to say nothing of two unhappy souls who had a failed relationship.
So what happens to people when they want to be good and to do the right things, but “something” happens and changes their personal history? What happens when a person turns sour on the world, and nothing seems right? I think we need to examine our spiritual reservoir from time to time. We may be running on “empty”. In the 12th chapter of Romans, we find these pertinent words: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Yes, the mind can be renewed, and as someone has said, “The mind is the builder.” As Jesus said in the third chapter of John, “You must be born anew.”
Some may try to explain the above case by pointing to Satan as the adversary. “Old Satan got into both of them and destroyed their marriage.” I think that’s cop-out, scapegoat thinking, as if to say that some “force” on the outside destroyed a good relationship. I don’t believe that at all. I think it’s the failure to admit it when you’re wrong and the lack of determination to make changes in attitude and behavior. It’s a pride problem or ego problem; and yes, a spiritual problem, too. All of us are born with the spirit of good and evil, and we sometimes allow the spirit of evil to take over. And the spirit of good doesn’t seem to be strong enough to counter it, or so we think. So we go on hurting the very people we love and destroying relationships we once treasured.
Behavioral scientists tell us, “Our behavior is as much as 65% genetic. Unless we break the cycle out of pure determination, we act the way we do because of our mamas and papas. Oh, occasionally we may get a gene from Uncle Harry or Aunt Sally, but basically we are shaped in the womb.” Yes, genetic influence is tremendous, but so is our environment, and the personal choices we make. Whatever the case, we can be transformed.
I know a psychologist in Houston who analyzes outstanding executives for big companies across the U.S. He has taken the information that came from Plato and Hippocrates eons ago and devised a questionnaire to give him four basic personality types. There is a negative and positive side to each. They are: Thinkers, Counters, Doers and Talkers.
Thinkers: They have a “better” idea. They function on the thinking level. We owe a great deal to people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Einstein, Edison, etc.
Counters: They live by “numbers”. They have lists, charts and have a “system” for doing just about everything. Strictly left-brained, they are not happy at cocktail parties. They’d rather face the computer than people.
Doers: They don’t have to think about it, they just do it. If the grass needs cutting, they cut it. You don’t have to be in the mood to get the job done. You just do it.
Talkers: They way they solve a problem is to get together and talk about it. “This is what I hear you saying.” They analyze words and say it one way and then another. They can chew on a problem for hours and never find a solution. Sometimes they just go off and leave their mouth running.
His point is this: It’s easy to get stuck in one of these positions and say, “That’s just the way I am,” and think it’s too late to change. Not so. God has given us the will, the ability, to create our own personality type. We can change directions, learn new skills and develop new habits. We can read how others went through the dark periods of their lives and how they changed directions. We can pray for a better attitude toward ourselves and life in general. The sky is the limit with “make-over” possibilities. We have to believe we can do it.
That’s enough preaching, time for a smile. I was recuperating one time from major surgery and had to be out of the pulpit for several weeks when I received a “get well” card from a parishioner who scribbled these words inside the card: “Henry, I hope this will give you time to write some new sermons.”