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by Matthew Kelly
by Father Bob Sherry
One of my son’s teachers asked me at the beginning of last school year what my expectations were for his education for the year. I told her, “I don’t care if he learns to read first in the class or last in the class, I just want you to work with Meggie and me to give him a love of learning. If we teach him to love learning, the rest will take care of itself.” I could tell she was expecting a very different answer.
Expectations play a powerful role in our relationships. We all have expectations about everything and everyone. But the hardest expectations to fulfill are the ones we don’t even know about. Our children have expectations, but often they are unspoken. Our spouses have expectations, but often they are unspoken. Our managers have expectations, but often they are unspoken. This leaves all of us guessing, and none of us are mind readers. In the end we just end up frustrated and disappointed, because we never knew what was expected to begin with.
As you send your children back to school, make sure they know what you expect of them. If you don’t know what your manager at work expects of you, ask her to tell you clearly. If you don’t know what your spouse expects of you, ask her. If you don’t know what your clients or customers expect, ask them. It is impossible to deliver on expectations you don’t even know about.
Of course, some people have unreasonable expectations. At least once you know about them, you can begin a dialogue about why what they expect might not be possible.
Get clear about what you expect. Get clear about what others expect of you. If you do, you will find life a lot less frustrating.
I want to thank everyone for their kind words about my new book, Resisting Happiness. I am glad the message is resonating with people. Lots of people have been asking if this book will be available as part of our parish book program this Christmas. Yes, it will be. I hope you will consider sharing a copy with everyone in your parish as a Christmas present.
May God bless you and all those you love. Have a great month.
Impatience, hostility, and other superficial motivations are the kind of pressure that the human heart cannot bear. Instead, the heart responds to the gentle pressures of joy, kindness, mercy, and patience.
— From “Nudging Conversions” by Carrie Gress
After I came to understand what a treasure I had in the Church, I really wanted my family members to find that same love. Unfortunately my family viewed my conversion as either a “nice new hobby” or, more sinisterly, as cultish behavior. I recall my mother having my very heterodox Catholic godfather call me to talk me out of being so, well, Catholic. While I can’t recall the particulars of the conversation, it sure didn’t have the intended effect. I had lived a watered-down version of Catholicism for decades and rejected its emptiness.
My efforts to convert my family weren’t always the most graceful or grace-filled. I made the rookie errors most zealous converts do and was too pushy, too eager to tell them everything I knew, or was simply misinformed about Church teaching. After months of seeing my best-laid arguments gain no ground, I turned to prayer.
It was in prayer that I realized that God loved all of these people more than I did. And he wanted them to come home to the Catholic faith more than I did. I rested in that for a while, and finally it became my plea. “God, you love them more than I do,” I would say over and over again, which I found freed me up from working so ineffectively. I let them be who they were and just loved them right where they were instead of as I hoped they would be.
Little by little, big changes started to happen. I found our relationships to be more joyful as I focused on them and what could make them happy instead of how I would make them happy by telling them to be faithful Catholics.
The human heart responds to pressure. Think of a slick piece of ice on a smooth tabletop. The more pressure placed upon it, the farther and more swiftly it slides away. But gentle pressure keeps the ice in place. Conversions are like this. The more we want a loved one to convert on our time and our terms, the more it eludes us. Remove the pressure and the conversion is much more likely to happen. Impatience, hostility, and other superficial motivations are the kind of pressure that the human heart cannot bear. Instead, the heart responds to the gentle pressures of joy, kindness, mercy, and patience.
After looking at hundreds of conversion stories, I found that certain patterns began to emerge among those doing the converting. Most projects involve a set of tools, supplies, or ingredients necessary before the actual work can be started. The following elements comprise that list of things that can make the heavy lifting of converting hearts much lighter. While we may not be called to use all of them, it is good to know what is available to help bring Christ’s light and love to others.
So far this year 1,570,326 books have been published worldwide. In 2013 the United States alone published 304,912 new books or editions; Vatican City published 228. A person would have to read over four books a week just to keep up with what the Vatican publishes.
Matthew tells us that books change our lives. And they do. About a month ago, as a Dynamic Catholic Ambassador, I received a copy of Matthew’s latest book, Resisting Happiness. Since the book is only 228 pages, I thought I could read through it in a couple days. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m still reading it. Maybe I should not say “reading” it, but meditating with it!
The first two signs of a dynamic Catholic are Prayer and Study. For me this book is a combination of both.
Here are a couple suggestions if you’re looking for a good book:
First, with only four months remaining in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, you may wish to read our book Beautiful Mercy (if you have not already done so).
Second, I hope my words above already whet your spiritual hunger for Resisting Happiness.
Both of these books, of the (now) 1,570,482 books published this year, will reinforce your enthusiasm for being a lifelong learner in the things of the Spirit, in your relationship with our good and gracious God.
What books would you recommend to others?
For years I have tried to teach my children about Jesus, but it just hasn’t taken root. Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscover Jesus turned out to be an answer to a mother’s prayer.
I began reading it with my 19-year-old daughter, and it has opened a dialogue between us about the powerful presence of Jesus that can change our lives if we just open the door for him to come live in our hearts.
My daughter and I read a chapter a day, and she is usually the one who suggests when we read it. I’m so excited to see how the book is bringing the real Jesus into her life!
Want to share your story? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Making time for each other isn’t that difficult if you think about how to anchor the time around already established routines at home.
Life is short, and the holidays fly by. Don’t waste this time texting your friends about how crazy your family is making you (even if it’s true). Do your best to be present to them, seek to understand and to love.
Waking up early is a war. It is a battle against the self. You are your enemy. And there is only one way to win the war: Discipline.
When you choose to be the-best-version-of-yourself, when you exercise virtue and strength of character, you impact the world more than you will ever know.