My company is laying off hundreds, my neighbor is losing his house, and every day brings more headlines of bad news. I’m tempted to indulge in feelings of despair.
You are certainly not alone. Times are hard, and just about everyone is worried about something. But consider that 95% of the things people fret about never come to pass. Yes, someone actually did a study to come up with this number.
I’m not suggesting that your situation isn’t real. You are not imagining the layoffs, your neighbor’s foreclosure or the anchorman’s string of sorrowful stories. But keeping a proper perspective is especially important in times like these — and the result of that study is a helpful reminder to keep a proper perspective.
I’ve made some observations of people who thrive during tough times. The indomitable spirit of people who thrive is not dampened by bad circumstances. Their healthy interior life is a bulwark against exterior forces, events and situations.
In other words, people who thrive are oftentimes the victims of bad news, but they find their strength in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The ability to thrive with a healthy interior life is something we all have access to. It is a blend of personal disciplines and openness to God.
On the practical level, you might consider doing four things: unplugging the news, doing more to serve others, playing offense with your attitude, and turning toward God in prayer and the sacraments.
Almost everyone knows that negative news is the news that sells. This is true for the same reason that car accidents cause “gawker delays” on the opposite side of the highway, where traffic should continue to flow at the normal pace. Curiosity and lack of self-control cause us to focus on problems that really don’t affect us personally (and may dangerously distract us from what we’re doing).
We slow down our progress in life when we linger and stare. A quick glance at the headlines a few days per week is all it takes to be an informed citizen. More than that during times like these can drag down your spirits — or at least cause you to lose focus.
Thriving also means stepping outside of your own problems and serving others. Despair can cause a certain level of narcissism in all of us. Victor Frankl, the famous Holocaust survivor, observed in Auschwitz that the men who thrived were the ones who, despite their own pains, walked around comforting others and giving what little bread they had to those who needed it more.
Work hard and play offense with your attitude instead of running scared and cowering in fear. While you are still employed, make sure you don’t give anyone a reason to fire you for a bad or defeatist attitude. If you are let go, make sure your attitude attracts your next employer instead of repelling him. No matter what, you still have the power to choose your attitude. No one can take that power away from you.
Finally, turn to God in prayer and the sacraments. It is not always easy to take the aforementioned advice. That is why you need God’s grace to make up where .you fall short. Philippians 3:14 tells us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Your challenging time may be God’s way of drawing you closer to him.
Catholic business consultant Dave Durand is online at DaveDurand.com.