“SIX STUPID THINGS I NEVER WANT TO DO AGAIN” by James Martin
- Compare. Ever heard the saying “Compare and despair”? Comparing yourself to someone else usually means that you imagine the other person is better off, more satisfied-in a word, happier.
But here ‘s the problem: We end comparing what we know about our life, which is a mixed bag of good and bad, with a fantasy of someone else’s supposedly “perfect life”. As a result, our real life always loses out. That leads to despair. Besides, there’s probably someone comparing his or her life to your supposedly perfect one-which shows you how ridiculous it all is.
- “Should” on yourself. It’s easy to imagine yourself making a choice that would have taken you to a different place in your life. I should have married this person; I should have taken that job; I should have moved. This is called “shoulding all over yourself”. Reflecting on our choices is an important way to grow, but you cannot live your real life if you’re busy living in your “should have life”.
- Get people to like you. I spent all my teens, most of my 20s, a great deal of my 30s and too much of my 40s trying to get people to like me. But forcing people’s affection never works. Besides it takes too much energy to tailor yourself to what you think people will like. Your true friends like you already. Be open to change and growth by all means, but treasure friends who love you for who you are.
- Be a jerk. You’re tired. You’re rushed. You’ve got a cold. You’re late. You’re angry about something your boss said. Yes, you are miserable. That doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk to everyone else. It really doesn’t. Sure, share your frustrations and struggles with close friends, but don’t make everyone else’s life more miserable by passing on your misery.
- Make fun of people. Nothing brings me lower than a few minutes of mocking another person. (Particularly if the person is not present.) But the snappy put down has a high value in our culture, and famous snubs are often repeated approvingly. Much of our current political climate consists on politicians mocking their opponents. (That’s been a big help, hasn’t it?). Malicious speech is an easy way to wound. If you feel powerless to resist badmouthing someone, ask yourself three questions: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true?
- Be hard on yourself. If you are reading this list and taking it at all seriously, you may be beating yourself up about stupid things you’ve done in the past. But you also want to change yourself, which is good. So be careful to “trust in the slow work of God”, as Pierre Theilhard de Chardin used to say. If you ever get discouraged about your rate of change, just think about the trees-yes, trees. In the summer they are green. In the fall they are red. And no one sees them change.
James Martin, a Jesuit priest, wrote this when he turned 51. Before joining the seminary he had worked for years in the financial world. One night while watching a PBS documentary on Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, he decided to change the course of his life and become priest.
James Martin. Essential Writings