Tag Archives: greatness

Hard Work

“…being a Christian is easy – if you believe in Jesus, you will never be tempted again, and everything will go your way”

-from a thought-provoking post written by the fabulous Tara Stone over at ImpactingCulture.com

But more on that later.

Depending on what time you are reading this today, I am either stressing out about my Greek final, currently taking my Greek final, or incredibly thankful that my Greek final is over.  After my final is over, I have approximately 6 days to finish two 10-page papers before I get to board a plane and officially begin my Christmas break.

Funny thing about school: most of the time, just “being smart” isn’t enough.  There may be those classes that you can skate by on just natural-born intelligence, but the classes that you actually get something out of usually require a little bit more effort.  Or worse: a lot more effort.

There are a lot of things in life like this.  We may be born with a certain knack for something—be it painting, music, closing a deal, etc. but no one in this life is exempt from hard work.  The things that matter most in life rarely just fall into our laps.

The crazy thing is, when it comes to our faith, there is no question that it is a gift freely given by a God who owes us nothing and to whom we owe everything.  We would not know God had He not chosen to reveal Himself to us; and ultimately, everything we have in this life (our faith included) is His gift to us.  In this manner, it can very much be said that our faith has fallen into our lap.  (And of all the things to come without effort, this is by far the best one possible).

But, as any Christian trying to live his or her life for Christ knows, the fact that we did not, and cannot, earn our faith does not mean that we are exempt from hard work.  As much as we may wish that the quote at the top of this post were true (or pretend that it is when others are around), the fact is that truly living life as a Christian is hard.  And like many of the best things in life, it requires discipline and effort.

Fortunately, like the relief I’ll be feeling a week from today when I’m on that plane, the hard work will all be worth it in the end.

Also, today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary! (Holy Day of Obligation).  Don’t forget to go to mass!

(And in the spirit of my Greek final: κεχαριτωμένη , a title for Mary translated as “full of grace” in Luke’s Gospel, is actually a perfect participle, more literally translated as, “one who has been bestowed with grace.”  Could it be that she was “bestowed with grace” at the moment of her conception?)

Impossible Standards

For almost as long as I can remember, I have had the title of a “good student”.  Typically, I take my schoolwork pretty seriously.  I work hard on my homework assignments, and I usually fare pretty well in my classes as a result.

I wish I could say this was because I always cared a lot about the specific assignment, or simply because I am just a really smart individual… but to tell the truth, I think it often has more to do with a kind of fear of failure, and conversely—a near constant and impossible struggle for perfection.

When it comes to school or work, this kind of attitude can definitely have its benefits; but I am realizing more and more as I grow up that there is a significant difference between desiring/really working to be your absolute best, and struggling in vain to meet some vague and undefined standard of perfection out of fear of failure.

As a Christian, I know that God tells me to “be perfect” as He is perfect.  But seeking perfection for perfection’s sake isn’t exactly the message of the gospel.  I think sometimes us Christians get too bogged down in this struggle for perfection, and somewhere along the line we forget that this life is not supposed to be a struggle we face on our own.

The truth is that the minute we start to think we are alone, or that failure is something even worth being afraid of, we have already lost the battle.  When it comes down to it, a Christian is not someone who thinks he or she is perfect.  A Christian is someone who knows and offers all that they are to the one who is.

“…As for me, I will glorify Thee by manifesting how good Thou art to sinners.  In me Thou will show that Thy mercy is superior to all our malice, that nothing can exhaust it, and that no relapse, however shameful and culpable it may be, should make a sinner lose hope in Thy forgiveness”

Am I Happy?

“Am I happy?”

It’s a question that I don’t think we ask nearly enough. Notice that it’s not the same question as “Am I having fun?”—I think we ask ourselves that question all the time.

We go out drinking or take a lot of trips, or do all sorts of fun activities to keep us busy and having fun. Generally, there is nothing objectively wrong about doing any of these things. But thinking that they are what will make us happy can often lead to feelings of emptiness and confusion. The truth is that fun is not the same thing as happiness.

Now, that’s not to say that being happy can’t be fun—it certainly can, and often is. But it’s more than that. The question we asks ourselves should not be “Am I having fun?” but “Am I happy?” So how can you tell if you are happy?

1. Happiness is good. Someone who has something that is truly good will always want to share it with others.

If what you have is just “fun”, you may want more people around, but you’re not making it a purpose or goal to share your fun with other people. And often times what we do for “fun” is exclusive to a small group of people—we don’t really want anyone else to be a part of it for one reason or another. Maybe it’s a clique-y thing or maybe it’s something that is shameful that we don’t want other people to know about. The bottom line is that something that yields true happiness, you can’t help but want to share with everyone you meet.

2. Happiness is lasting, even when things aren’t “fun”.

Life isn’t all excitement all the time. Sometimes things are boring; and sometimes you have to do long, grueling work that you’d rather delegate to someone else. But a lack of excitement and a lack of fun does not have to mean unhappiness. If you are leading a life that you are truly happy with, you are going to be happy even in those less-than-exciting times.

To clarify: I’m not saying that boring times are good because they make you thankful for the fun times, and if you realize that, then you are happy. I’m saying that happy people find joy and peace even in the boring times.  They know that their life has meaning beyond what they are feeling in the moment.

So what do you think? Are you happy?

Judging Your Self-Worth

I am feeling a bit uneasy these days.  Things are quiet.  …Too quiet.  I have an all too familiar pain in my stomach and anxiety levels are beginning to rise.  I swore this time that I would be prepared—that I wouldn’t let myself get bogged down by the stress of it all—but once again I find myself here.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am dangerously close to, and painfully aware of the impending frustrations of… finals week.

Ok, it is really not that dramatic.  Or at least, it shouldn’t be.  But for some reason I have gotten really good over the years at stressing out.  I don’t really know how it happened; and there is really no logical reason for me to be at this level of stress.  I always end up doing just fine on my finals.

I will say this: I found finals week to be a breeze in high school—and not just because the work was easier back then.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I went to a high school with over 3,000 people.  In a crowd that size, it was really easy to slide under the radar.  I never realized that a large group of people could be such a security blanket.  Now?  I will be graduating from my university in a class of about 25 students.

So what’s the big deal?  Going to a university of this size has actually been an extremely positive experience for me.  I know the administration; I know the faculty.  One-on-one time with my professors is not only possible; it is virtually inevitable.  And the community of students is something I would not trade for anything.  I really do love my school.  It just often makes it very difficult for me to be “comfortable.”  It’s a lot harder to slide under the radar in a crowd of 25 than it is in one of 3,000.

You see, at a large school, I had the ability to do less than my full potential because I could comfort myself with the fact that I was still doing better than a good majority of the other students in my class (I know.  A terrible way of looking at things, right?).  At a school of my size now, I know the names, faces, and general history of everyone in my class.  Talk about pressure.

Yet I know that this is one of the major reasons why God had me go to this school rather than a larger university.  It wasn’t because He wanted me to compare myself to other people and judge my worth based on the differences.  It was because He wanted to show me this part of myself and help me rise above it, by learning to be inspired by the achievements of the people around me and be proud of who I am in my own right.

Easier said than done?  Of course.  But I think, with the help of about 25 friends, I am at least beginning to learn.

Oh PS – I like to think that I write this blog for actual people to read it.  As such, I would love to hear your suggestions for future topics you would be interested in reading what I have to say about.  And as always, you can ask me anything you’d like.  Feel free to use the form below to contact me for anything.

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Is This Real Life?

Ever find yourself sitting at home on a Friday night with nothing better to do but mindlessly meander the pages of Facebook? Don’t feel bad; we’ve all been there (and probably more times than we’d like to admit to). When boredom strikes, social media sites like Facebook or Twitter can seem like the perfect antidote.

I remember sites like this started gaining popularity when I was in my first couple years of high school. What seemed like a neat idea to begin with sometimes left me longing for simpler times, when young people could leave the vanity and meaningless comparisons behind when the bell rang at 3:00pm.

Maybe you can relate. Today, it’s way too easy to look at someone’s Facebook— which by its very nature is only going to show you the highlights of an event or individual— and think they have the life you’ve always wanted. As if being a young person wasn’t already challenging, now we have a stage to potentially play out the drama of high school for the rest our digital lives.

We love using our Facebook pages to define ourselves for everyone else to see, but no matter how many times we update our status or find different pages to “Like” (and maybe “Dislike” someday soon, if we get our way), we are more than a collection of facts and personal preferences. We are more than the sum total of the 500 pictures we are tagged in on our profiles. As Blessed John Paul II put it in his Letter to Families:

Human beings are not the same thing as the images proposed in advertising and shown by the modern mass media. They are much more, in their physical and psychic unity, as composites of soul and body, as persons. They are much more because of their vocation to love

This vocation to love is something we all have, regardless of age, job, or Facebook status. Maybe no one will call you to go out on Friday night, but God is always calling on you to love. Let’s stop comparing and start loving.