I am not made or unmade by the things which happen to me, but by my reaction to them. That’s what God cares about.

St. John of the Cross

Years ago I was struggling to develop quality family services in the impoverished South Bronx.  Fortunately, I had a good supervisor.  Never will I forget one conversation I had with him.  I was complaining bitterly about the gravity of the problems we were confronting and about our central agency’s resistence to providing us with the personnel and monies we needed and were entitled to.  Finally my supervisor said: “Ron, the problems and resistence we are dealing with are serious.  They are real.  But the attitude you bring into this process will make our work ten times easier or ten times harder.”

There was wisdom in those words.  Oftentimes the difficulties were are facing are very painful.  And we are not imaging them.  They are very real, and frustrating our best efforts of overcome them.  But the attitude we chose to bring to the situation can make all the difference in the world.

We can chose to let our problems make us bitter.  Or we can chose, with the grace of God, not to let our problems overwhelm us, or drive us to self pity or to evil actions.  The choice is ours.  We may not be responsible for creating the situation in which we find ourselves, but we are responsible for the attitude and actions, positive or negative, we chose as our response.


Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Abraham Lincoln

A couple had gone away and enjoyed a wonderful weekend together.  Upon returning home they found that, while they were gone, their house had been robbed, stripped of all the cherished belongings.  Quite naturally, their first reaction was anger.  They felt that they, and their private space, had been violated.  But then they caught themselves.  The said to one another: “These thieves have robbed our furnishings, but we are not going to let them rob us of our peace, of the joy of the weekend we just spent together.”  They did what had to be done--called the police, got something to sleep on, etc.  But they chose not to let what had happened to them become an excuse for letting go of their inner peace and joy.

Being masters of our own attitudes may seem idealistic, impossible.  Isn’t it only human to feel angry when we are treated unjustly?  Yes, of course it is.  But we harbor negative attitudes, and act out of them, only by choice, and to our own detriment.

Maintaining a positive attitude, even through the hardest times, is something that needs to be worked at.  The lesser assaults we suffer in life--too many things to do, being cut off while driving, being hurt by a friend--are opportunities to practice going deeper and letting God carry us through, without becoming bitter.  A stewardess who survived an airline crash reported that the positive and negative attitudes the passengers had shown during the flight, were the same attitudes that became magnified during the crisis of the crash landing.

You got an attitude?  Of course you do.  We all do.  Chose to make it a good attitude and you will make things ten times easier .


To keep me from being puffed up with pride, a thorn in my side my given to me, an angel of Satan to keep me from being proud.  Three times I prayed to the Lord about this, begged him to take it away.  But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.”  I am most happy then to be proud of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ might dwell with me.  Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for the sake of Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Cor 12:7-10

Ronald Stanley, O.P.