Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Worthy Woman, pt. 1

This is my Exegesis work on Proverbs 31:28, 30-31. I wrote it two years ago, and yet still there is so much to learn from these short verses. Thus, here is Part 1 of A Worthy Woman. Part 2 shall follow as soon as I write it. In the meantime, ponder these words, imperfect as they are.


Sacred Scripture is filled with rich descriptions of the virtues we should emulate. In Proverbs 31 the sacred author speaks of the ideal woman, providing an ample depiction of the qualities she will possess: "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."[1] The description continues, telling of this woman's care of her household and family. It says that "her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her" (Prov. 31:28). The chapter ends with perhaps some of the most famous verses in the whole of the Old Testament: "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates" (Prov. 31:30-31). These few verses are filled with underlying and intermixed literal and allegorical themes which work together to complete a poignant description and model after which all women should strive.


Strength and dignity are her clothing (Prov. 31:25a): Ernest Lussier says, "By a common metaphor her character is spoken of as her raiment."[2] In the Hebrew, the word for strength is 'oz, which is translated as both might and strength. However, it is this might does not simply refer to physical strength, but also personal, social, or political strength as well. Therefore, the ideal woman's strength refers more to her innate strength of character than to her outward, physical strength. Furthermore, the Vulgate translation for strength is fortitudo, and this is translated as both strength and courage but also as firmness. Firmness could also be understood as a firmness of character built upon a firm foundation of virtue. In the case of the ideal woman, as Ronald E. Murphy says, "It is not for bravery or courage that she is celebrated, but for the homely domestic virtues (which demand no small courage)."[3] Likewise, the Hebrew for dignity is hadhar, which means splendor, honor, majesty, and glory, all of which are applied to personages of royal bearing. This implies that the ideal woman will be one whose character is equal to that which those chosen by God to rule His people should have innately. She will be one who, through these characteristics, is able to care for her own family as a ruler cares for his people. In addition, the Vulgate uses decor for dignity, which is literally translated as beauty, grace, and charm, all of which, referring to the inner person, give a sense of an ideal woman who, through these qualities, knows herself to be worthy of respect. Therefore, the combination of these short and simple words depicts a woman who is full of virtue and the strength to complete any task before her as well as a woman who respects herself and knows her own innate worth. Going on to say that these qualities are her clothing, the sacred author suggests that these attributes will be visible to all she meets.


And she laughs at the time to come (Prov. 31:25b). This verse depicts a woman who does not fear the future. Lussier says that "her foresight enables her to face the future without apprehension."[4] She is a woman who trusts in the Lord her God and, therefore, has no need to worry about whatever the future may contain. Her Lord will care for her through all times, whether of joy or sorrow, happiness or tribulation. This ideal woman, as was seen above, knows her own self-worth, but she also has the hope that stems from trust in God. It is this combination of self-worth and hope that enables the ideal woman to endure whatever may come in the future. L. Jane Mohline expounds upon this hope when she says, "Hope as well as a strong self-esteem must play a significant role in our feelings. Hope helps us risk and trust in relationships, endure emotional pain, and keep going. The Proverbs 31 woman feels hope for 'she smiles at the future' (v. 25)."[5] Thus, it is seen that the ideal woman, through her hope and trust in God's plan, is able to live her life well to the fullest extent and face whatever tribulations or trials may be awaiting her in the days ahead.


She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue (Prov. 31:26). Dermot Cox speaks of this verse when he says that "in the Ideal Woman all wisdom comes together, secular and religious."[6] This means that the ideal woman is a perfect combination of both earthly and heavenly wisdom. She is wise in living this earthly life, but she is also wise in her pursuit of heaven. She knows what is important and what is unimportant, and she knows how to display this through the words of her mouth. This woman also always speaks the wisdom of kindness, and she is thus even more to be honored. St. Augustine says that this woman is

praising creatures as creatures, the creator as creator, angels as angels, heavenly things as heavenly, earthly things as earthly, men as men, animals as animals. Nothing mixed up, nothing out of order. Not taking the name of the Lord her God in vain, not attributing the nature of a creature to the creator, speaking about everything so methodically that she doesn't put lesser things above the more important or subordinate the more important to the lesser.[7]

Speaking with wisdom necessarily implies an ordered tongue, one which, as Augustine mentions, speaks of everything in its proper place, placing neither the lower above the higher nor the higher below the lower. The Hebrew word for wisdom is chokmeh, which means both wisdom and shrewdness. In addition, the Vulgate's use of sapientia for wisdom is translated not only as wisdom, but also as understanding and reason. The use of these words, then, gives a double meaning to this woman's wisdom. She is not only wise with her words, but her mind is filled with a reason and understanding. She is able to think clearly and shrewdly which implies that she is capable of great understanding and is a woman who is able to stand her ground in the face of adversity. Furthermore, the Hebrew for "teaching of kindness" is towrah checed. Towrah is translated as law or instruction, but also as custom or manner, and checed is translated as goodness, kindness, and faithfulness. The combination of these words, then, depicts a woman whose words are kind, and her very manner and bearing allow her inner goodness to shine forth for all to see and from which they may learn. In addition, lex clementiae, which the Vulgate uses for "teaching of kindness," is literally translated as merciful, gentle, and peaceful laws or words. Therefore, it is seen that the ideal woman speaks the gentle words that guide all mankind to a closer relationship with one another, for anyone who follows the merciful law that she speaks will build friendships with others. The fact that she speaks and follows the teaching of kindness implies that this woman is not only kind to everyone, but that she also displays a friendliness and openness towards all whom she meets. As Lussier says, "She has good judgment, discretion, kindly advice."[8] The phrase 'teaching of kindness' tells us that this woman also instructs those around her in virtue. Thus, she is not only virtuous and wise herself, but she also tries to impress these virtues upon those who come under her instruction.


She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness (Prov. 31:27). Lussier tells us that "hard work is at the base of her prosperity."[9] The ideal woman does everything she can to ensure the good welfare of her house, and she does not sit idly. The man is often called the head of the house, yet the woman is referred to as the heart of it. It is this "heart" which keeps the household running smoothly. R. B. Y. Scott says that these few verses, combined with Proverbs 31:10-24, compose "an acrostic poem describing the virtues and accomplishments of an ideal wife and mother, mistress of the household of a prominent man."[10] The mistress of the house must make sure that everyone under her care, from the lowliest servant to her own children and husband, can carry out their own duties within an atmosphere that is beneficial to all. She is continually busy about all the tasks that fill her day, caring for all under her charge. She is not idle, which means that she is neither lazy nor busy about things that have no meaning. St. Basil the Great says, "Why should we dwell upon the amount of evil there is in idleness, when the apostle clearly prescribes that he who does not work should not eat? As daily sustenance is necessary for everyone, so labor in proportion to one's strength is also essential. Not vainly has Solomon written in praise."[11] The ideal woman, thus, labors in proportion to her strength; all her actions are good and have meaning. She goes about her day, caring for others and overseeing the household. Indeed, the Hebrew word for idleness is 'atsluwth, which means sluggishness or laziness. Further, the Vulgate translation for idleness is otiosa which can also be translated as unoccupied. Therefore, the ideal woman actively looks after her household, and she impresses a disregarding of the "bread of idleness" on those around her. She is neither lazy nor unoccupied, and she goes about her duties cheerfully and quickly, not allowing her feet to drag along sluggishly or her head to hang with disgust at working hard.


Her children rise up and call her blessed (Prov. 31:28a). The ideal woman's children will praise her for her virtue and her good actions. The Hebrew uses the word 'ashar for blessed, which is literally translated as to pronounce happy or to call blessed. Beatissimam, the Vulgate's word for blessed, is translated as happy or fortunate. Thus, the ideal woman's children believe her to be a woman who is content with her life on earth, fortunate in the knowledge that she will one day gain entrance to Heaven through the grace of God and her abidance by His eternal laws. The woman who is blessed will also be fruitful, as can be seen by the fact that she has children. It can be seen through this knowledge that the ideal woman will be one who fulfills God's commandment in Genesis: "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 1:28). She will fill the earth with her children, and she will raise them in a happy environment. Her blessedness also refers to her successfulness, and she will accomplish her endeavors. Further, through receiving confirmation of the goodness of her deeds in the praise of her children and husband, the ideal woman is encouraged to continue in her ways. Mohline comments upon this, saying, "The Proverbs 31 woman modeled how her self-worth was confirmed by others. 'Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her' (v. 28). While creativity and initiative enriched her life, approval and encouragement enhanced the contentment process."[12]


Her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all (Prov. 31:28b-29). Her husband also praises her for her blessedness. He, however, goes further and praises her above all other women. He places her virtue and excellence at the highest rung of mortal women. In his statement in this verse, her husband proclaims to all the world that his wife, the ideal woman, has risen above all other women as regards her virtue. She has lived and acted the most excellent among all others. Murphy tells us that "the ideal of the mulier fortis or 'valiant woman' of the Roman liturgy . . . is properly the ideal of 'worthy wife.'"[13] By her virtue and excellence, the ideal woman is the epitome of feminine valiance, and contained within this valiance is the role of the worthy wife. The ideal woman, through her goodness, is a model wife and mother. Indeed, Cox tells us that "the resourceful wife stands at the end [of the chapter] as an image of all who have perfectly completed the wisdom adventure."[14] Thus, the ideal woman is one of virtue and excellence, whereby she is also resourceful and cares well for her household, her husband and children.


Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Prov. 31:30). This is perhaps one of the most famous verses within the entire selection, and it has posed many problems as regards a correct translation of the few short words. However, a closer look at the verse itself and the origin of the words contained therein will soon clarify the situation. Chen, which is the Hebrew for charm, is also translated as favor or acceptance, and refers to that for which so many people strive, that is, popularity. In addition, gratia, the Vulgate's term for charm, is also translated as favoritism or partiality. This refers also to a striving for acceptance by those who seem important in this world, yet the verse tells us that "charm is deceitful," and is thus not something after which one should seek. "Charm is deceitful" refers to the fact that outward appearances are deceiving; fair is often foul, and the exterior often deceives the observers. Outward mannerisms such as one's charm might conceal an evil interior character. Furthermore, the Hebrew word for beauty, yophiy, and pulchritudo, the Vulgate's term for beauty, both refer to the outward beauty of a human person. "Beauty is vain" can mean that outward beauty or good looks are fleeting; they do not last forever. The Hebrew for vain is hebel, which is also translated as vapor or breath. The Vulgate's translation for vain is vana, which is also translated as empty, false, or untrustworthy. Through the meanings of both these words, there can be drawn a much deeper sense of how vain beauty truly is. As it is said in the Book of Ecclesiastes, "All was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun" (Eccl. 2:11b). The vanity of beauty is like a fleeting breath which, if strove after, is no more than a "striving after wind." Also, the sacred author is referring to the physical pleasures and beauties of this world, stating that they are vain and will end. A person's outward beauty is more often than not a false representation of that person's interior character. Neither exterior charm nor beauty make a person worthy of praise. The only things that are worth striving after are those which are eternal or which lead one to the eternal end. Following upon this striving for eternal ends, the sacred author goes on to say that "the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." In reference to this woman, St. Augustine says, "You, he says, have surpassed them all, you have outdone them all."[15] The woman who thus fears the Lord surpasses all others who have only earthly beauty; she is the one who is worthy of praise. It follows upon her virtue that she will fear the Lord, and it is through her fear of the Lord that she will become more virtuous. Her virtue and her fear of the Lord grow together.


Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates (Prov. 31:31). This final verse is an insistence that the ideal woman, the one excelling in virtue, domestic courage, love, and kindness, receive the fruit of her hands, or the fruit of her works. She deserves praise for her good works, and she should receive the ultimate reward for her acts. The gates referenced here could refer to the gates of the city where all important business was conducted. They were a public place, and thus her good works would be praised among all the people so that all may see her example and profit from following it. In a more allegorical reference, gates could be referring to the gates of Heaven where, at the end of her life, the ideal woman will be praised for her works and admitted to the presence of the Almighty to praise Him forever just as she did in her earthly life. St. Augustine says,

That will be the haven of our labors, to see God and praise God . . . There will not be any works of necessity, because there will not be any necessity. There will not be any works of mercy, because there will not be any misery. You will not break your bread to the poor, because no one will be begging. You will not take in the stranger, because everyone will be living in their own home country. You will not visit the sick, because everyone will be in good health for all eternity. You will not clothe the naked, because everyone will be clothed in eternal light. You will not bury the dead, because everyone will be living life without end. You will not, however, be doing nothing, just because you are not doing any of this. For you will see the One you have desired, and you will praise him without weariness or fatigue. That is the fruit you will receive.[16]

The woman who does all that which is enumerated in these last few verses of Proverbs 31 will, at the end of her life, enter Heaven, where her only act and duty will be to praise God Eternal. She will have exchanged her good deeds towards others on earth for the ultimate act of praising God. This, as Augustine says, is the fruit she will receive as reward for her good life on earth.

In conclusion, therefore, it can be seen that the sacred author has laid down in a few, short verses, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, an idealization of what all women should strive to become. She is a woman of excellence and virtue, one who fears the Lord. She speaks with wisdom and kindness. She cares for her household well and is worthy of the praise of her children and her husband. This woman is blessed with inner beauty and is not worried by those fleeting, exterior so-called beauties or charms. Most importantly, she is a woman who, upon her departure from this earth, will be fit to enter the kingdom of Heaven and receive what is due to her for her good actions on earth. Therefore, the ideal woman as presented in Proverbs 31:25-31 is the epitome and role model for all women through every time and era.

[1]Proverbs 31:25-26 RSV. All Biblical citations will be from the Revised Standard Version throughout this paper unless otherwise noted.

[2]Ernest Lussier, Old Testament Reading Guide: The Book of Proverbs and the Book of Sirach (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1965), 63.

[3]Ronald E. Murphy, Seven Books of Wisdom (Milwaukee, MN: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1960), 25-26.

[4]Lussier, 63.

[5]L. Jane Mohline, A Woman of Excellence: Developing Your Special Female Self (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1991), 38.

[6]Dermot Cox, Proverbs with an Introduction to Sapientical Books (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1982), 253.

[7]St. Augustine, Sermon, 37.23, quoted in J. Robert Wright, ed., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, vol. 9; Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 188.

[8]Lussier, 63.

[9]Lussier, 63.

[10]R. B. Y. Scott, The Anchor Bible: Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1965), 22.

[11]St. Basil the Great, The Long Rules, 37, quoted in J. Robert Wright, ed., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, vol. 9; Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 188.

[12]Mohline, 183.

[13]Murphy, 25-26.

[14]Cox, 253.

[15]St. Augustine, Sermon, 37.27, quoted in J. Robert Wright, ed., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, vol. 9; Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 189.

[16]St. Augustine, Sermon, 37.30, quoted in J. Robert Wright, ed., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, vol. 9; Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 189.

Pure State of Nature

While in college, I learned many good and useful things. I also spent some time, probably a bit too much, creating humorous acronyms and other memory-retention codes. My personal favorite, apart from the list of God's attributes which included gummy bears, is the "application" of Hobbes' Pure State of Nature to my school. It almost works, which is kind of sad. Anyways, for your (hopeful) enjoyment:

Pure State: Whatever is not a result of a voluntary act of a man. If you strip away everything that man has done, pure nature is left. There are seven things that are originally there:

Total freedom because in the pure state of nature I am not bound by law.

In college, Student Life is unbounded in its jurisdiction.

Alone: Man is not under anyone else’s rule. He has no natural bond with anyone else.

In college, Student Life stands alone because it only shares artificial bonds with the students.

Total right (ability/claim) to everything, including everyone’s body. The main reason behind this is the right to survival.

In college, Student Life seems to have a claim to everything, dictating what and where and who you can be. Of course, their reasoning behind this is your survival in college.

Man’s pure state is a vis existende. He is a force for existing.

In college, Student Life keeps itself in existence.

Equal to everyone else because we are all equal in our ability to kill one another.

In college, we are equally able to turn each other in to Student Life for lawbreaking.

He lives in constant fear.

In college, the Students live in fear of jurisdiction and restrictive laws.

He is in conflict with everyone else.

In college, all the students are competing for the same grades and scholarships, as well as the same escape from Student Life and the same people.

There isdiffidence, and diffidence leads to war. Thus, college's pure state of nature is war.

Also, another fun tidbit of nonsense written during my college years:

Skittles vs. M&Ms

The 7 Deadly Sins vs. the Hope of the Catholic Church

Red Skittles = Lust; Wrath

Orange Skittles = Sloth

Yellow Skittles = Greed

Green Skittles = Envy; Gluttony

Purple Skittles = Pride

Red M&Ms = Chastity; Patience

Blue M&Ms = Diligence

Yellow M&Ms = Charity

Green M&Ms = Kindness; Temperence

Brown M&Ms = Humility

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lyrical Poetry

Rescue Me

Deeper and deeper I’m falling

In a spiral I don’t understand

Waiting for someone to catch hold of my hand.

I want to be held. Is that so much to ask?

Oh, where is the one waiting for me?

I feel your arms around me

Though I don’t know who you are

How can I feel so close to you

And yet so very far?

I need you to find me

Come into my heart

I’m waiting. Come, rescue me.

Save me from these lonely nights

These days spent in a daze

My heart is ready and open

Waiting for the day, you’ll rescue me.

I live each day in wonder

Hoping you might come

Into my world so empty

Waiting for your love

I’m lost without you darling

I don’t know what to do

Please hurry. Come, rescue me.

Save me from these lonely nights

These days spent in a daze

My heart is ready and open

Waiting for the day, you’ll rescue me.

As days go by, my thoughts of you

Grow ever strong

This love kept ever waiting

Is anxious to begin

It’s waiting for the day

When you walk into my life.

I’m waiting. Come, rescue me.

In years to come I’ll look back

And smile at my restless heart.

In days to come I’ll be with you

Knowing that from the start

You were meant to rescue me.

Save me from these lonely nights

These days spent in a daze

My heart is ready and open

Waiting for the day, you’ll rescue me.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

We’ve Got To Catch Up Sometime . . .

We’ve all said those words to numerous people in the course of our lives. Whether we truly intend to follow-through on the implied meeting, or simply wish to keep up appearances, this phrase can become an easy way out, an escape route, an addictive deterrent against developing something that requires enormous amounts of hard work, patience, understanding, and, most importantly, love. What is this? It’s friendship.

In today’s modern society, which is chock-full of appointments, teleconferences, fast food lunches, and late nights at work, it becomes increasingly difficult for two friends to find a date in their hectic lives that doesn’t conflict with either schedule. Constant traveling and jetting across the continent, or even the world, only increases the difficulty since the available window of time decreases significantly when one or both parties is only home for a few weeks at a time. In a world that revolves so much around one’s career and getting to the top, it is easy to lose sight of the friends who were there from the beginning.

So how do we hold onto the tender and essential roots of our past that led us to our future? Modern technology offers numerous means of “keeping in touch” via Facebook, MySpace, e-mail, texting, instant messaging, Skype etc. These methods of communication do help connect us for brief moments at a time, which is essential in our busy lives. Yet if these electronic means become our only form of contact with a person, the relationship becomes stilted and aloof. So we must find more routes towards continuing a friendship, even at distances or amid busy days.

The telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell in the late 19th century, presents an answer so simple that it is often overlooked. While the texting applications simply serve the same purpose as online chatting, the actual calling of a person and speaking with them, even if just for a few moments, still represents a miracle of science and an honest effort to truly connect with a person over a long distance. There is something about hearing the human voice that reminds one of the innate and unique connection the human race has to one another. While you may not be able to see the face of the person, hearing their voice lends an aura of reality to the relationship that could easily have slipped into cyberspace.

My favorite form of communication is the letter, preferably written long-hand. Snail mail may be going out of style in modern society, but nothing can really replace the beauty and love that accompanies a hand-written note or letter, expressing thoughts of “I’m thinking of you” and “I value our friendship enough to take the time to write down a message for you.” In a letter you can express emotion to the Nth degree, and make sure you get it all out without worrying about interruption or losing your train of thought. I can’t count the number of times that a letter has helped me express my delight or depression, my fears and my hopes. The written word is powerful. It can give hope to an imprisoned maiden. It can pass on sadness and sorrow to a military wife. It can bring joy to a grandparent who reads of their grandchildren’s follies and frolics. It has the power to overcome a person, shedding the light of truth and bringing a ray of hope into a world of darkness.

All this to say simply that numerous means rest at our fingertips to “catch up” with our friends. It is up to us, however, to have the strength of will and loving desire to make use of these means. Any friendship cannot survive if it is only one-sided, and regrettably too many friendships dissolve because one person cannot make the time. Just as a flower needs sunlight and water to grow, a relationship requires careful tending and loving care to flourish and blossom. This is why truly great friendships take years to mature.

My challenge to you, and to myself, is to faithfully continue friendships. A dear friend is irreplaceable, and a “busy schedule” is no excuse. We make time for football games and beer, for ice cream and wasting time on Facebook. Why is it that we cannot make time for our friends? For the ones who will stand by us through thick and thin, coming to our aid when we need help and rejoicing when we succeed? I know that nobody, especially myself, is perfect. But it is a far better thing to try and succeed somewhat rather than simply give up for fear of partial or complete failure. Hold onto your friends with both hands. They are God’s gift to us, and it is our duty, both to ourselves and our fellow man, to cherish and care for such a beautiful gift.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My White Knight

In the past few days a recurring thought running through my brain is one that tastes almost of envy. Spring is in the air, and consequently so is love. People with whom I am in daily contact have been stung by Cupid’s arrow, and I am happy for them. Yet I cannot help but sometimes wish it were me who the arrow struck. I am blessed with deep emotions and the ability to feel other’s joy and sorrow on a deeper level than most people; however, this also means that my imagination often runs away with me and causes me to know instinctively how it will feel once that someone arrives. The pain of waiting seems to smother my spirits up, and if I am not careful, my thoughts spiral downwards incessantly.

I do know, however, that these despairing thoughts are neither healthy nor true. As a dear friend recently told me, the longer the wait, the sweeter the time will be once someone does come. In the meantime, I realize that I cannot simply wait around for Prince Charming to come riding in on his white horse. That’s not how it works. I must live my life and be happy being myself by myself before I can truly be ready to open my heart to another. Until that time, I must strive to better understand myself and to place my trust in God’s plan. It grows easier with each passing day, and I return from each setback stronger than before. I choose to be content with my life as it is, and I choose to move forward into the world rather than sit at home in my rocking chair and wait for my shining knight to suddenly appear. For it is my experience that love comes unlooked for, and it appears at the most unexpected and often inopportune moments. You can’t go looking for it, but you must keep your eyes open. You can’t find it, but it will discover you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Juggling Lesson

Recently I have been contemplating why it is that so often we try to do everything at once. We go through life juggling the balls of our lives, terrified lest we drop one and lose complete control. Too often, however, we willingly jump from throwing one ball up and down to the advanced twisting and twirling fiery balls that threaten to burn us if we slip up. What we fail to realize comes in two parts. First, we cannot do it all. No man can. Second, nothing comes easily without practice. We cannot expect to decide on a plan and immediately follow through on it without a glitch.
Delving into the first point, we must discover for ourselves the breadth and depth of our abilities. On the one hand, we should take ourselves out of our "safety zone" and allow ourselves to grow. On the other hand, while we should be there to help others, we cannot allow this aid to others to severely detriment our own persons. If we are devoting all of our time to everyone else's needs, we have no time to devote to ourselves, whereby we grow more and more stressed and eventually become weaker and weaker and less able to help ourselves, let alone anyone else. We must remember, therefore, to find that balance in our lives, wherein we give of ourselves in sacrifice for others, yet do not fail to care for ourselves as well.
Continuing on to the second point, we must develop patience and endurance. If you want to learn how to ice skate, you must practice. It doesn't take much to learn how to keep from slipping on the ice, but to truly skate and perform all of the fancy tricks, it takes constant practice and perseverance. Likewise, anything we attempt in our lives, whether small or large, in order to do it well and consistently, we must practice. We cannot jump from one thing to several, like going from one ball to multiple balls. We should develop and grow and learn to take on more, yet we cannot expect to do it all at once. We must, rather, choose one specific place to start. Once this chosen ball is well on its way to perfection, another and then another ball may be added. Thus, through patience and perseverance, we may gradually attain the advanced stage of juggling the fiery balls of our adult lives.
In a sense, while we often laugh at the idea of a New Year's Resolution, there is a point to it. If we choose something manageable and well-worth pursuit, such a resolution is beneficial and praiseworthy. Make a list of things you'd like to do, whether it is prayer, reading, service to others, or even just finding the time to be quiet. Pick one, perhaps at random, and strive towards achieving that end. Then, move on to the next one. With patience and perseverance, you will succeed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Bed of Roses

When people are happy, they often say that life is a bed of roses. I don’t disagree that happy moments often remind me of lying on a bed of rose petals; however, I’ve discovered that life itself, with all of its ups and downs, is a bed of roses. A rose, as defined in the dictionary, is a “prickly bush or shrub that typically bears red, pink, yellow, or white fragrant flowers.” Roses are given as signs of love and friendship. Too often, however, people gaze only at the beauty in the petals and the smell while they fail to remember the prickly nature of these flowers. In the saying, then, that life is a bed of roses, I like to tack on that it is so, thorns and all. Life is never perfect, and there are often more sorrows than joys experienced. The thorns along the road of life ought to remind us of the thorns that pierced the Savior’s brow. In the relationships where roses are exchanged, the whole flower represents the bond of friendship and love. The beautiful petals and sweet fragrance point towards the happiness found in man’s relationships while the thorns remind mankind of the fact that all relationships, of any degree, will have hardships. Whether these hardships occur directly between the two people specifically, or if they are indirect due to the sufferings of one or the other in other relationships which the friend observes, listens to, sympathizes, and helps the other through.
As life grows more difficult to bear, the beauty in the roses becomes more difficult to find. This is where one must look for the silver lining in the rainy clouds of one’s present life. Most often, these silver linings take the form of true friends, the ones who are there to catch you when you fall, to bring you up from your knees, and to make you smile again. These friends are God’s gift to you, and it is your responsibility to care for and nurture the friendships. Thus, just as they help you, so must you likewise, when their lives become more thorny than soft, help them as best you are able, giving advice and a shoulder upon which to cry as well as the hope of a better day on the horizon, no matter how far that day may be.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A True Friend?

Why is it that we spend so many years of our lives in devotion to people when we eventually simply get hurt and lose our trust once again? Perhaps it's that hidden desire to find the good in people and our wish to believe in good first impressions and the good of second chances. Or maybe it's a subversive masochistic streak buried in our subconscious. In reality, it's quite possibly a combination of the two.
In my experience, the company one keeps generally sorts out into two basic categories: the ones you become good friends with and the ones who eventually drop off the face of your world. Luckily, the former friends are right next to you when you're dealing with the latter losers. Sadly, oftentimes people who should fall into the first category, end up in the second category. It's times like that when I contemplate the true value of friendship and wonder why we continually take the chance of heartbreak when experience shows us time and again how frequent it can be. In my own recent past, this has happened less than usual, which makes each occasion that much more painful. And as much as we tell ourselves that this is a "lesson" to be learned, and that we will become "better people" because of it, we still wish it would never happen. But in this fallen world of ours, we can only dream of perfection.
Thus, in my moments of sorrow and despair over the human race at large, I thank God continually for my amazing true friends who are there for me at my darkest hours. I pray that, likewise, I may be there for them when they are in trouble. My greatest desire, apart from attaining Heaven even though I am not worthy, is to fulfill true Aristotelian friendship, giving all that I can to my friends as we support each other down the steep and dangerous road of life.
"A true friend is one soul dwelling in two bodies."
In conclusion, I suppose the real reason we continue to take a chance when becoming friends with people is because we know that, somewhere out there, we'll find those friends who are one in a million that we'll keep until the day we die. The ones with whom we'll share our joys and sorrows, our triumphs and failures, our hopes and our dreams, and the ones who remind us of the true beauty of life. So don't lose faith. There are amazing people out there who will not let you down regardless of the numberless jerks who mainly populate the world.

Cost of Caring

Breathing in and breathing out

Trying to calm the anger

That boils and bubbles

As it strives to be our fetter.

Releasing this frustration

Is a task we strive to do

Before it consumes ourselves

And destroys our placid cool.

Acting under the influence

Of such a stressed heart

Can often lead to pain

In every person’s part.

The ones to whom we turn

In attempt to understand

The pent-up anger and grief

We fail to now disband.

Fingers clench and throats tighten

To stop the flow of words

Which can only cause more grief

As a flock of angry birds.

The struggle to maintain control

In emotional chaotic days

Drains the body and the mind

In numerous painful ways.

The walls spring up again

Taller and stronger than ever

To protect both ourselves

And the friendships unsevered.

The refusal to acknowledge

The numerous issues at hand

Is the foremost issue we have

With the friends with whom we’re mad.

Their willful blinded eye

And closed jealous ear

All serve to raise our anger

At a personal cost quite dear.

Why do we stick around

And endure the constant harm?

Why don’t we leave behind

The friends who lose their charm?

Is it a masochistic thought?

A sick desire for pain?

Is that why we endure the hurt

Again and again and again?

No. The reason runs still deeper

Into the essence of man

Who cares for his friends always

Even those he should ban.

We stay because we care

More truly than we often choose.

The friends we now despise

Are the hardest ones to lose.

And the knowledge of the truth

Lying beneath their mad exterior

Keeps us hanging on forever

To bring forth the good interior.

Being friends calls for more

Than company and little jokes.

It’s a state of being in man

With which no one can coax.

The true friend sticks it out

Until the bitter end

Refusing to allow someone

To cease being their friend.

Although we must present the truth

To people who often don’t care

To listen with open mind

And their thoughts to repair.

Yet they need to hear our words

For we act only out of love

As we attempt to bring them peace

Just like the holy dove.

So our own needs we push aside

For when caring some must be gone

And this innate love for others

Makes the decision a clear one.

This is the cost of caring

For those who’ve yet to discover

Their own true identity

Which we try to help uncover.

So we fight the bad and praise the good

As we wait for the blissful day

When this friend will realize

The numerous errors of his way.

Explanations fail to show

The reason behind our choice.

The feelings we have and act upon

Supersede our self-preserving voice.

So we cling to each other

In our fits of insanity

And move ever onward

With a solemn gravity.

You and I will always be there

To support each other in this trial

As we strive to be true friends

In the midst of pain compiled.

Our own suffering

We now offer up

As we work together

To open his heart up.

To make him see somehow

The fault in his own logic

And the mental whiplash

Of his switching emotions.

We’ll make it through together

This current painful time

And maybe understand one day

What has no reason or rhyme.

Until that day comes to us

The chocolate bin will always be full

And the late nights continue on

As we resist anger’s pull.

God help those around us

If our strong wills should snap

And the tongues be unleashed

To release all the ———.

So we’ll cling to each other

And weather the storm,

Praying for a return

To a comfortable normality.