Saturday, March 15, 2014
Man comes into the world without his consent, and leaves it against his will.
On the earth he is misjudged and misunderstood.
In infancy he is angel, in boyhood a little devil, in manhood he is a fool.
If he has a wife and family he is a chump, if a bachelor he is inhuman.
If he enters a public house, he is a drunkard, if he stays out he is miser.
If he is a poor man he has no brains, if he is rich he has all the luck in the world.
If he has brains he is considered smart, but dishonest.
If he goes to church he is hypocrite, if he stays away he is sinful man.
If he gives to charity, it is advertisement, if he dose not he is stingy and mean.
When he comes into world everybody wants to kiss him, before he goes out everyone wants to kick him.
If he dies a young man there was a great future before him, if he dies to a ripe old age everybody hopes he has made a will.
It is therefore impossible to please everybody so do your duty and be fearless-use your common sense and even if you do make a mistake it is better than doing nothing. Keep smiling as no one wants to hear about your troubles; they have cartloads of their own.
Political lobbying and funding political parties are two sides of the same coin. They are about trying to ensure that a certain view shapes Government decisions and legislation.
This is entirely appropriate in a democracy — but only if they are done in an open way and if all parties to the process are aware of the objectives and status of everyone involved. Parity of access, to adapt a well-worn phrase, for all views is essential too. Achieving that level of transparency is a huge challenge but one worth pursuing. Events of recent days showed what happens when those lines are blurred or ignored.
Last month the European Commission published the EU Anti-Corruption Report which showed that 81% of us believe corruption is widespread in this country, 5% above the EU average of 76%. Once again, events of recent days, in more than one sphere, justify those suspicions. While the report found that Government had “undertaken substantial reforms in its anti-corruption policies” it also suggested “more work could be done to improve the capacity to prosecute and punish corruption cases”. The authors also argued that “further work could also be required to address the few remaining concerns around the funding of political parties”. So many recent developments vindicate that contention.
One aspect of this murky business that does not get the attention it deserves is how access to the highest levels of power can facilitate one view and frustrate another. For instance, in recent weeks Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney shared a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Alf-Helge Aarskog, chief executive of Norwegian fish-farming world leader Marine Harvest who hope to secure more licences for salmon farms along our shores. Would — or have — those who oppose salmon farms been offered the same high-level opportunity to influence decisions? This meeting would not have come to light had Mr Aarskog not spoken of it elsewhere. It must be assumed these off-radar meetings take place on a range of subjects without the knowledge of other, equally legitimate, interests in decision-making processes.
The role of former politicians in lobbying is more than questionable too, especially if they move seamlessly from one career to the other. The practice of retired senior civil servants joining corporations interacting with the area of public life they were so recently involved in seems pretty dubious too. It should not be too difficult to put a clause into these pension packages that would prevent this gun-for-hire approach. Ex-politicians should be subject to a cooling off period too, one measured in years rather than months, before they could join a lobbyists’ register — if only we had one.
However, no matter how stiff measures to prevent inappropriate lobbying or funding are made it is impossible to hermetically seal something as human as government from those determined to influence it. It is not, however, impossible to impose convincing sanctions on those who would breach those disciplines —if we had them. That such measures are still pending suggests that Government realises, as we all do, that they would be honoured more in the breach than in their observation. We, it seems, get the politicians we deserve in more ways than one.
“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.”
“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
“I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
“Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world's original sin. If the cave-man had known how to laugh, History would have been different.”
“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.”
“Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?”
“Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is by far the best ending for one.”
“Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of someone else's music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly—that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one's self. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry, and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion—these are the two things that govern us. And yet, I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream—I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of medievalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal—to something finer, richer, than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.”
“Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.”
From A Picture Of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
By Jeremy Anderberg
Victor Frankenstein does not get much attention in popular culture. It is Frankenstein’s creation – a nameless monster (often mistakenly called Frankenstein) – in all his green, bumbling glory that attracts the attention and the horrified screams of people worldwide.
To the contrary of how film directors and producers have portrayed Frankenstein’s monster, Mary Shelley wrote the character as an intelligent and physically astute being. He wasn’t a stiff, monosyllabic beast with a flat head and a bolt in his neck. And while Victor Frankenstein himself is often mostly ignored in media portrayals, he retains the image of mad scientist. That’s about as far as we ever get in analyzing Frankenstein.
This is unfortunate, as some of the mistakes Frankenstein made along the way, mistakes which ultimately led to him losing everything he cared about – his brother, his best friend, and ultimately his wife – are incredibly instructive to any man who wishes to improve himself. After reading Shelley’s masterpiece, both previously and for this month’s AoM Book Club selection, my gut feeling was actually of sympathy towards the monster rather than Frankenstein.
While highlighting a character’s positive traits can be inspirational, it can also sometimes be quite educational to examine the ways in which he stumbles. So today we’ll take a look at Victor Frankenstein as a profile in un-manliness and explore what his flaws can teach us about what it means to be human, the importance of owning up to our responsibilities, and the danger in blaming anything other than ourselves for our mistakes.
Lesson #1: Unchecked Passion Can Be Dangerous
The creation of the monster was a long process. It didn’t happen overnight. It was months and months of studying and experimental tinkering before the creation rose to life. Frankenstein notes while narrating his story, “I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit.” His studies and his obsession “swallowed up every habit of [his] nature.”
While Frankenstein was away at college, he became utterly obsessed with finding out what the spawn of life really was. In spite of the insistence of his family and professors to give up this all-consuming pursuit he continued on. He did nothing with his time but study this science of human animation and tinker in his lab. He lost sight of any other thing in life that brought him joy…so he really did become the mad scientist that we all know from pop culture.
What’s telling is that when Frankenstein took breaks to go home, his passion would be tempered, he would realize what truly brought him joy in life, and he would be happy once again. But then he’d return to college, and continue in his madness. It was almost an addiction.
While passion today is touted as a necessary and driving force in our career path, if unchecked it can lead to losing the things we truly care about in life. The late Steve Jobs is often looked up to (heck, even worshiped) for his brilliant business acumen and product innovation. But his passion and obsession for his company led to him being an angry and temperamental boss, and a mostly absent husband and father. What is more important in life? I can’t offer a one-size-fits-all answer, but Frankenstein himself gives us a great bit of wisdom while reflecting on this passion of his:
“A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind, and never to allow passion or a transitory desire disturb his tranquility. I do not think that the pursuit of knowledge is an exception to this rule. If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind. If this rule were always observed; if not man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquility of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved; Caesar would have spared his country; America would have been discovered more gradually; and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed.”
Lesson #2: Giving Up the Ship Won’t Solve Your Problems
One of my constant annoyances while reading the book was that Frankenstein incessantly blamed the ethereal forces of the universes for his problems. At one point, he comes close to giving up his pursuit of animating a lifeless object, only to be pulled back into his obsessions once again. Frankenstein notes, “It was a strong effort of the spirit of good; but it was ineffectual. Destiny was too potent, and her immutable laws had decreed my utter and terrible destruction.” Later he blames “chance – or rather the evil influence, the Angel of Destruction, which asserted omnipotent sway over me…”
Frankenstein felt he was at the mercy of the fates and had no trust in his own willpower to overcome his dangerous passions. He had what’s called an external locus of control – a belief that you’re not responsible for your behavior, that life happens to you, rather than you making it happen.
A resilient man, on the other hand, seeks to have an internal locus of control – the confidence that one is captain of his destiny and can pilot his ship wherever he wants it to go. He takes responsibility when things go awry and actively seeks to get back on course.
Everyone falls somewhere on a spectrum between the two perspectives, even changing depending on the situation. When we don’t believe we can solve a problem, we tend to assume the victim mentality and look externally to assign blame.
The reality, however, is that we have way more control over our lives and actions than we tend to think; when practiced, our focus and our willpower are incredibly potent tools for shaping our lives. Sure, circumstances will always have something to say, but if your life hasn’t gone the direction you thought it would, take action and don’t let it stay that way. One of our mantras here at AoM is that if you want to feel like a man, you have to act like one. And a man doesn’t blame his life on destiny or fate, he takes responsibility and assumes command of his actions. Which leads to our next lesson…
Lesson #3: When You Don’t Accept Responsibility, Your Mistakes Can Take On a Life of Their Own (Literally)
After the monster rose to life, Frankenstein was horrified at his creation, and ditched. Plain and simple. He got out of dodge, ran home, and hoped that his perceived disaster would somehow remedy itself.
This is understandable. We’ve all run at one time or another from some problem we’ve created. And hopefully we’ve come to learn that running only escalates those problems, and they can truly take on a life of their own. Think of the snowballing lie where you’re spending more time and thought on the lie than the reality of the situation. And those instances usually come back to bite us in the rear even worse than had we owned up right away.
What’s most frustrating about Victor Frankenstein is that he had multiple chances to take responsibility and own his mistakes and fix them, and each time he shrank like a coward and came up with excuses.
At one point early in the novel, the monster kills Frankenstein’s young brother and frames a woman in the village named Justine. She is caught and sentenced to die. Only Frankenstein knew the truth of the matter. He says, “A thousand times rather would I have confessed myself guilty of the crime ascribed to Justine; but I was absent when it was committed, and such a declaration would have been considered as the ravings of a madman, and would not have exculpated her who suffered through me.”
His excuse is that the people in the village would not have believed his tale. How lame is that? And Justine is killed without Frankenstein uttering a word of truth.
When we create something awesome, we practically fall over ourselves to claim credit. But when we create a problem, our natural tendency is to slowly walk backwards while casually whistling the tune of abnegation and denial. But being a man means taking responsibility for all of our creations, both the good and the monstrously bad.
Humans are not perfect. Not by any means. But it’s within our power to correct the problems we create. And when we don’t exercise that power, our problems fester and only get worse. Think about the dentist. If you go every six months for regular cleanings, brush your teeth twice a day, and floss regularly, you’ll likely be just fine. But when you put off those appointments, when you slack on flossing, when you forget to brush every once a while, you end up being poked and prodded for two hours so they can give you a deep clean and fix the problem you created. Not fun. (If it seems like this is from personal experience, it is.) And that’s just with oral hygiene, let alone something far more serious.
Frankenstein at one point says, in regards to a potential solution to his monster problem, “I clung to every pretense of delay, and shrank from taking the first step.” Can’t we all relate? There are a whole host of reasons why ripping the band-aid off is a better solution than the slow peel. Most importantly, it’s the simple fact that a man takes responsibility for his life, and therefore the problems he’ll inevitably sometimes create.
I’ll leave this lesson with one final bit of advice from the reflective Frankenstein, “Nothing is more painful to the human mind than the dead calmness of inaction.”
Lesson #4: Loneliness Leads Us Down Unhealthy Paths
One of the catalysts of Frankenstein’s unchecked and dangerous passion was simply that he was by himself at college. His friends and family weren’t around to give him balance and to temper his flame. It wasn’t until he could hear the voices of those closest to him that he realized how selfish and frankly, crazy, he was being.
“Study had before secluded me from the intercourse of my fellow creatures, and rendered me unsocial, but Clerval called forth the better feelings of my heart; he again taught me to love the aspect of nature, and the cheerful faces of children… A selfish pursuit had cramped and narrowed me.”
Author Mary Shelley notes that the theme of loneliness and its effect on humans was important to her in this novel. In Frankenstein’s case, it can be argued that it’s mostly his loneliness that led to the creation of the monster.
Loneliness also plays out in the monster’s life. He turns to killing because he’s so lonely – nobody accepts him, he has no companion, and even his creator has rejected him. At one point he tells Frankenstein that if he simply had a female mate, he’d stop killing and run away to never be seen again. Frankenstein, who should understand the perils of loneliness, rejects this idea, however. So not only did loneliness lead to the creation of the monster, the monster becomes murderous and kills everyone close to Frankenstein because of his own loneliness. One can’t help but think of the mass shootings of the last two decades, and how most are perpetrated by males whose profiles include words like “isolated” and “lonely.” Would things have been different, even in just a couple instances, if loneliness wasn’t as pervasive in their lives?
Humans are not meant to live solitary lives. Science has shown again and again the importance of friends – in everything from stress levels, to happiness levels, to life expectancy. What’s more telling, however, is simple life experience. As an introvert, I often just want to sit at home and hang out with myself and my wife, and I quite love working from home, alone in my office. When I spend time with friends though, there’s just something that happens inside that gives me a more satisfied feeling with life. There is simply greater joy in my day-to-day when friends and family are a regular part of it.
While it can be and is a difficult and messy endeavor, be sure you have friends and family you can turn to, and perhaps more importantly, who can keep you accountable when you get off track. Victor Frankenstein isolated himself, and paid dearly for it.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
"Man, proud man, dressed up in a little brief authority, like an angry ape, plays such tricks before high heaven that make the angels weep."
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
“You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”
“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”
“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”
Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
“Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.”
“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
“For myself I am an optimist - it does not seem to be much use to be anything else.”
“Personally, I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”
“A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.”
― “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
“The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”
―“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
When I ask you to listen to me
And you start giving me advice,
You have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me
And you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way,
You are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me
And you feel you have to do something
To solve my problem,
You have failed me,
Strange as that may seem. Listen!
All I ask you is listen.
Don’t talk or do—just hear me.
Advice is cheap
And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.
Maybe discouraged ad faltering,
But not helpless.
When you do something that I can
And need to do for myself,
You contribute to my fear and Inadequacy.
But when you accept as a simple fact
No matter how irrational,
Then I can stop trying to convince
You and get about this business
Of understanding what’s behind
This irrational feeling.
And when that’s clear, the answers are
Obvious and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense when
We understand what’s behind them.
Perhaps that’s why prayer works—
because god is mute,
And he doesn’t give advice or try To fix things,
God just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.
So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
For your turn—and I will listen to you.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The simple act of laughing does far more than merely make us feel good.
In fact, the next time you have a good belly laugh, consider that what you’re actually doing is giving yourself a complete mind and body workout. David Goding discovers that laughter may really be the best medicine. Seriously.
Laughing oxygenates the blood, stimulates the metabolism, enhances mood, releases stress, improves relationships and even increases your chances of career success. If you’re serious about tapping into the wide range of health benefits offered by laughing, you may like to think about joining a laughter club to learn how to include some laughter therapy – also referred to as laughter yoga – into your day to day life.
When we laugh it causes blood pressure reduction, endorphins to kick in and our T-cell count to go up, just for starters. People who laugh more live longer, are sick less often, have better quality friendships and are generally more content than those who don’t laugh very much.
Unfortunately, as a society we laugh a lot less than we did 60 years ago and it’s not uncommon for many of us to go through an ordinary week with little more than a barely audible snigger. The good news, is that the skills of laughter can be learned. There doesn’t even need to be anything particularly funny to laugh about.
It doesn’t come naturally to some people but it’s like learning to bowl or swim – the more you do it the more you’ll find it easier to do,” says Popp. “Even if you start by faking it, you’ll soon find that you’re laughing for real. But even when you’re faking it you’re getting the benefits.
Learning to Laugh
The practice of learning to laugh for the therapeutic benefits – as well as for the fun of it – has become an increasingly popular pursuit practiced in laughter clubs and laughter therapy sessions, in parks, gardens, community centres and workplaces in many countries.
A typical ½ hour session involves groups of people trying out various types of laughs, from belly laughs right through to a high pitched snigger.
It’s not all about the humour – surprisingly. It’s about making the sounds and motions of laughter and it gives people a real chance to bond. You find that once you start to hear others laugh it becomes infectious. Often there is nothing particularly funny at all, but by laughing together you are lifting each others spirits.
The Benefits For the Mind
Laughing is a very complex brain function that encompasses the entire cerebral cortex, releasing endorphins, oxygenating blood vessels and relieving stress. Do it enough – even faking it – and you’ll feel all the emotions and sensations associated with genuine happiness, such as euphoria and contentment, as well as an increase in overall energy levels.
Laughter helps release negative emotions and pent-up tension, particularly anger, anxiety, fear and boredom. It’s great for anything that involves innovation and creativity. Stress and anxiety restrict the mind, while laughter releases it.
Laughter also provides an important distraction from everyday pressures, providing you with a valuable perspective that allows you to concentrate on the things that really matter in your life.
For the Body
Dr Hunter Adams, portrayed by Robin Williams in the movie ‘Patch Adams’, attempted to change the nature of healthcare with a policy of always putting the patient first. He believed that humour and laughing could heal and dramatically improve the quality of life for those in hospital. And to a large extent he was right.
One of the first discoveries, by laughter therapy pioneer, Norman Cousins, was that ten minutes of belly laughing could relieve pain for up to two hours.
This occurs because laughter releases two neuropeptides, endorphins and enkephalins – the body’s natural pain-suppressing opioids.
For this reason, laughter has proved to be highly beneficial in helping to manage the pain of arthritis as well as other chronic conditions involving muscular pain. Research suggests that laughter helps increase the number of virus killer cells, activated T cells and B cells as well as the important immunity antibody, immunoglobulin A, boosting immunity and speeding up recovery from illness.
Laughter is also an excellent aerobic exercise.
Laughing for 10-15 minutes burns the same amount of calories as you would find in a medium sized chocolate bar.
Laughter has also been found to benefit the heart, relaxing the arteries, reducing blood pressure and increasing blood flow for up to 45 minutes, comparable to aerobic exercise. According to Dr Miller from the University of Maryland, laughing for 15 minutes every day can significantly reduce your chances of suffering a heart attack.
Laughing with another person – your partner, friend or family member – creates a bond of intimacy and trust. As comedian Victor Borge put it, “laughter is the closest distance between two people.” It also has the infectious ability to make those around you feel happy.
When you laugh, you make yourself a bit vulnerable with those you are with and when you make yourself vulnerable it builds trust. We laugh 30 times more in the company of other people. There often doesn’t need to be anything funny at all, it’s a way of reaching out, breaking down barriers and making each other feel good.
Laughing can also make you appear more attractive and create greater happiness within a relationship. We tend to think of people who smile and laugh as more attractive, definitely. They are seen as more likeable, desirable and people simply want to spend time with you.
Laughter is an important part of effective and positive communication and as such can make a big difference to how you are perceived in the workplace as well as your ultimate success.
We have this misguided belief that unless you appear serious and stressed then you can’t be doing your job well. The opposite is true. People who laugh more are easier to deal with. It enhances communication.
In fact, research conducted by researcher Fabio Sala from the Hay Group’s McClelland Centre for Research and Innovation found that people who laughed frequently got paid more than those who laughed infrequently, received bigger bonuses and were thought to be more effective in the workplace.
A 2007 US study which required participants to laugh for 15 minutes per day for 15 consecutive days found that levels of competency doubled. Interestingly, participants continued to show an improvement for three months after the trial.
By Howard Whitman
Most of us want to be helpful when grief strikes a friend, but often we don’t know how. We may end up doing nothing because we don’t know the right — and helpful — things to say and do. Because that was my own experience recently, I resolved to gather pointers which might be useful to others as well as myself.
Ministers, priests, and rabbis deal with such situations every day. I went to scores of them, of all faiths, in all parts of the country.
Here are some specific suggestions they made:
1. Don’t try to “buck them up.” This surprised me when the Rev. Arthur E. Wilson of Providence, RI mentioned it. But the others concurred. It only makes your friend feel worse when you say, “Come now, buck up. Don’t take it so hard.”
A man who has lost his wife must take it hard (if he loved her). “Bucking him up” sounds as though you are minimizing his loss. But the honest attitude, “Yes, it’s tough, and I sure know it is,” makes your friend feel free to express grief and recover from it. The “don’t take it so hard” approach deprives him of the natural emotion of grief.
2. Don’t try to divert them. Rabbi Martin B. Ryback of Norwalk, Conn., pointed out that many people making condolence calls purposely veer away from the subject. They make small talk about football, fishing, the weather — anything but the reason for their visit.
The rabbi calls this “trying to camouflage death.” The task of the mourner, difficult as it is, is to face the fact of death, and go on from there. “It would be far better,” Rabbi Ryback suggested, “to sit silently and say nothing than to make obvious attempts to distract. The sorrowing friend sees through the effort to divert him. When the visitor leaves, reality hits him all the harder.”
3. Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has passed away. Well-intentioned friends often shy away from mentioning the deceased. The implication is that the whole thing is too terrible to mention.
“The helpful thing,” advised Rabbi Henry E. Kagan of Mount Vernon, N.Y., “is to talk about the person as you knew him in the fullness of life, to recreate a living picture to replace the picture of death.”
Once Rabbi Kagan called on a woman who had lost her brother. “I didn’t know your brother too well,” he said. “Tell me about him.” The woman started talking and they discussed her brother for an hour. Afterward she said, “I feel relieved now for the first time since he died.”
4. Don’t be afraid of causing tears. When a good friend of mine lost a child I said something which made his eyes fill up. “I put my foot in it,” I said, in relating the incident to the Rev. D. Russell Hetsler of Brazil, Ind. “No, you didn’t,” he replied. “You helped your friend to express grief in a normal, healthy way. That is far better than to stifle grief when friends are present, only to have it descend more crushingly when one is all alone.”
Fear of causing tears, probably more than anything else, makes people stiff and ineffective. Visiting a friend who has lost his wife, they may be about to mention a ride in the country when they remember the man’s wife used to love rides in the country. They don’t dare speak of peonies because they were her favorite flower. So they freeze up.
“They really are depriving their friend of probably the greatest help they could give him,” Pastor Hetsler commented. “That is, to help him experience grief in a normal way and get over it.” Medical and psychological studies back up the pastor’s contention that expressing grief is good and repressing it is bad. “If a comment of yours brings tears,” he concluded, “remember — they are healthy tears.”
5. Let them talk. “Sorrowing people need to talk,” explained the Rev. Vern Swartsfager of San Francisco. “Friends worry about their ability to say the right things. They ought to be worrying about their ability to listen.”
If the warmth of your presence can get your friend to start talking, keep quiet and listen — even though he repeats the same things a dozen times. He is not telling you news but expressing feelings that need repetition. Pastor Swartsfager suggested a measuring stick for the success of your visit: “If your friend said a hundred words to your one, you’ve helped a lot.”
6. Reassure — don’t argue. “Everybody who loses a loved one has guilt feelings — they may not be justified but they’re natural,” Rabbi Joseph R. Narot of Miami pointed out. A husband feels he should have been more considerate of his wife; a parent feels he should have spent more time with his child; a wife feels she should have made fewer demands on her husband. The yearning, “If only I had not done this, or done that — if only I had a chance to do it now,” is a hallmark of grieving.
These feelings must work their way out. You can give reassurance. Your friend must slowly come to the realization that he or she was, in all probability, a pretty good husband, wife, or parent.
7. Communicate — don’t isolate. Too often a person who has lost a loved one is overwhelmed with visitors for a week or so; then the house is empty. Even good friends sometimes stay away, believing that people in sorrow “like to be alone.”
“That’s the ‘silent treatment,’” remarked Father Thomas Bresnahan of Detroit. “There’s nothing worse.” Our friend has not only lost his loved one — he has lost us too.
It is in the after-period, when all the letters of sympathy have been read and acknowledged and people have swung back into daily routine, that friends are needed most.
Keep in touch, Father Bresnahan urges. See your friends more often than you did before. See him for any purpose — for lunch, for a drive in the country, for shopping, for an evening visit. He has suffered a deep loss. Your job is to show him, by implication, how much he still has left. Your being with him is a proof to him that he still has resources.
8. Perform some concrete act. The Rev. William B. Ayers of Wollaston, MA told me of a sorrowing husband who lost all interest in food until a friend brought over his favorite dish and simply left it there at suppertime. “That’s a wonderful way to help, by a concrete deed which in itself may be small yet carried the immense implication that you care,” Pastor Ayers declared.
We should make it our business, when a friend is in sorrow, to do at least one practical, tangible act of kindness. Here are some to choose from: run errands with your car, take the children to school, bring in a meal, do the dishes, make necessary phone calls, pick up mail at the office, help acknowledge condolence notes, shop for the groceries.
9. Swing into action. Action is the symbol of going on living.
By swinging into action with your friend, whether at his hobby or his work, you help build a bridge into the future. Perhaps it means painting the garage with him, or hoeing the garden
In St. Paul, Minn., the Rev. J.T. Morrow told me of a man who had lost a son. The man’s hobby had been refinishing furniture. When he called on him, Pastor Morrow said, “Come on, let’s go down to the basement.” They sanded a table together. When Pastor Morrow left, the man said, “This is the first time I’ve felt I could go on living.”
Sorrowing people, Pastor Morrow pointed out, tend to drop out of things. They’re a little like the rider who has been thrown from a horse. If they are to ride again, better get them back on the horse quickly.
10. “Get them out of themselves,” advised Father James Keller, leader of the Christophers. Once you have your friend doing things for himself, his grief is nearly cured. Once you have him doing things for others, it is cured.
Grief runs a natural course. It will pass. But if there is only a vacuum behind it, self-pity will rush to fill it. To help your friend along the normal course of recovery, guide him to a new interest.
Volunteer work for charity, enrollment in a community group to help youngsters, committee work at church or temple are ways of getting people “out of themselves.”
If you and I, when sorrow strikes our friends, follow even a few of these pointers, we will be helpful.