Fr. Antonious Henein – As I Knew Him


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Hegumen Fr. Antonious Henein

The premise for any successful service is, undoubtedly, sacrifice. The most visible strength of The Church is the unselfish service and sacrifice of its leaders and its members. Fr. Antonious Henein, the late hegumen of Holy Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox Church, Los Angeles, CA, was service and sacrifice personified. Ten years later, as I reflect upon my relationship with my beloved father, I feel compelled to share a little bit about what it meant to have a sacrificial, caring, loving, and wise spiritual guide in my life for the first 18 years or so of my life.

During the rite of the ordination of a new priest, the candidate recites these words as part of the pledge: “I vow to love the flock and deal with them with compassion and wisdom. I will sacrifice myself to visit and care for the congregation to the best of my ability, to seek the lost and return them, and to gather the scattered sheep of God.” These words serve as the new priest’s promise to conduct himself in a completely self-sacrificial manner for the sake of the salvation of his congregation. Abouna Antonious lived these words perfectly. He lived abiding by the courage of his convictions in love and humility, without ever taking his eyes off of Christ. This kind of courageous service drove him to love his congregation so much that if one of them suffered in any type of way, he felt that suffering as if it was his own and wanted so badly to help you be perfected in Christ.

I was one of those sufferers. Spiritual suffering, the worst kind of ailment, is certainly a challenge for any servant in the church. In high school, after having had a hand in raising me since birth and watching me grow in love for the church, Abouna saw me fall in with the wrong group of friends, change my personality almost irreparably, and uncharacteristically distance myself from the church. He felt personally responsible for my misbehavior, and I was totally oblivious to it. Not only did he recognize my negative shift away from the church, he knew I cherished my rebellion. Being a bad kid was the new me, and I simply wasn’t responding to my parents’ tactics or anyone else’s efforts to change me or show me the error of my ways. But Abouna Antonious wasn’t “anyone.”

My last year of high school into my first quarter of college would be the final year of Abouna’s life. From a human perspective, after running after youth and kids like me in his younger days and throwing them over his shoulders as a physically imposing authoritarian figure (of love), he was now an elderly man, over sixty, having endured multiple back surgeries and several other physical afflictions that limited his abilities and even precluded him from standing throughout the liturgy. His heart and mind, however, were still perfect in his love for God’s children, one of whom had strayed.

He called my parents one day when he knew I’d be home and told them he was coming over but not to tell me (so that I don’t try to leave before he arrives). He came and sat in my living room and after a few minutes, in a strong tone of voice, he told everyone but me to vacate the room. As he moved closer to me and adjusted his lumbar support, his iconic smile disappeared. Then, he unleashed on me. Never one to mince words, he calmly opened with, “you are living a double life… and it ends now.” His diatribe was the loving manifestation of his frustration with my current state. It was a list of imperatives. It was brutal. It was necessary. But, this was no ordinary castigation; his sternness slowly gave way to compassion, and then…to tears.

You see, he was suffering just like I was suffering, but I didn’t even know I was suffering until that very moment. He pleaded with me to turn away from my evil lifestyle and return to being a consistent and integral member of the church body. He said, “I have failed as your servant, and I’m sorry for that, but please bring back the respectful gentleman your parents worked so hard to raise. Do I have to beg? Do you want me to get on my knees?” He then got up off the chair and was about to actually try to get on his knees, an act he was indeed physically incapable of completing. So, I stopped him. It was at that second that I realized what loving self-sacrifice was about, and it was time to change. I didn’t want to continue adding to his suffering. We agreed that if I ever felt like going back on my promise to change, I’d call him, and we’d talk it out. Later on, when he saw me struggling to reintegrate myself at church he would ask, “Are you keeping your promise?” and I would reassure him, “Yes, I promise.”

A few months later he was admitted into the hospital for the last time. Countless infirmities and various surgeries had rendered him barely able to speak. Before his final surgery that stood to rob him of even that, many of the youth including myself went to visit him and take his blessing. There was that iconic smile again, upbeat and always thankful. As I laughed and joked with him for a little while, I asked, “So Abouna, since you’re getting better, when are we going to see you back in the church?” He just paused for a moment and grabbed hold of my hand before whispering in Arabic, “My time is coming to an end, my son; so if you want to see me back in church, take me in your heart and you go to church.”

Those were the last words he spoke to me, and I will never live them down. I visited him again the day before his departure to deliver my last words to him – “I promise.”

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Emotional Intelligence


Often times young people find themselves in a position of emotional turmoil with little direction and few people to whom they can turn for advice or guidance. Thus, it becomes imperative for every individual to continue to actively develop an acute sense of “emotional intelligence.” Over time, it allows an individual to see the many different aspects of life through a much clearer and more focused lens. Since 1990, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer have been the leading researchers on emotional intelligence. In their influential article “Emotional Intelligence,” they defined emotional intelligence as, “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (1990). Let’s take a minute and integrate that definition into our daily lives with some examples a little creative juxtaposition.

Through our painful experiences in life, the Good Lord has allowed many of us the opportunity to interact with a subset of people who require us to use our hearts and our minds conjunctively. For example, when assessing the usefulness or depth of a friendship, one might search for qualities in the other that mirror those that one expects in return. Along those same lines, in the context of a romantic relationship, one might subconsciously be looking for a mate that falls into a particular category of compatibility or need. Common categories for females include but are not limited to; the hot guy, the knight in shining armor, the rich dude, the cutie pie, the softie, the rebel, the fixer upper, the caretaker, the father duplicate, the churchy guy, the best friend, among others. Guys might look for; the hot chick, the girl I know my parents will love/hate, the mother duplicate, the smart/witty girl, the intellectual, the girls who’s one of the guys, the prize model, the rich girl, the arm candy, the spiritual girl, the best friend, etc. Recognizing who you are and what you want is only half the battle, though. It’s realizing what you may have found in someone else that requires you to, in a state of almost complete vulnerability, utilize your emotional intelligence and accept what actually exists without the haze of what you really want to see. In every case, developing your emotional intelligence is a process that necessitates active selflessness in thought and cautious humility in actions.

The process we go unconsciously through fairly quickly when we are cognizant of our emotional intelligence is perceiving, reasoning with, understanding, and then managing emotions.Diagram of emotional intelligence

  1. Perceiving Emotions: The first step in dealing with emotions is to accurately perceive them. In many cases, this might involve understanding nonverbal signals such as body language, facial expressions, and personal idiosyncrasies. Perception is an educated guess, but it is the foundation of your assessment. 
  2. Using/Reasoning With Emotions: The next step involves using emotions to promote thinking and cognitive activity. Emotions help prioritize what we pay attention and react to; we respond emotionally (negatively or positively) to things that garner our attention in some fashion.
  3. Understanding Emotions: This is CRUCIAL. The emotions that we perceive can carry a wide variety of meanings. If someone is expressing certain emotions, the observer must interpret the cause of this emotion and what it might mean. That interpretation cannot be the fault of the observer because, after all, nobody’s perfect and people can’t read minds. The expression of your understanding of the emotion of another is the part that leaves you most vulnerable. A true, loving friend/mate will help bring you closer to a real understanding of what’s going on as opposed to pushing you away or blaming you for potentially being insensitive.
  4. Managing Emotions: The ability to manage emotions effectively, regulating emotions, responding appropriately and responding to the emotions of others are all important aspect of emotional management. Don’t be the doormat, but don’t be the shoe either. Find a balance. As the final part of your emotionally intelligent assessment, managing emotions will take the longest time and most getting used to.

It does not seem very difficult or tedious; however, people who do not constantly utilize a healthy dose of emotional intelligence become very impulsive, indecisive, childish, petty, and may operate feltbluwith an unrealistic set of expectations for those close to them and/or those wanting to get close to them. In a modern world where everything is about “the here and now” and with the proliferation of social media, it has become much easier to tuck away your emotional intelligence shoot straight for what you believe you see happening right in front of your eyes. You may find yourself jumping to conclusions based upon a photo you saw on Facebook, a “like” you saw on Instagram, a particular “follow” you got wind of on Twitter, and all the while your disconnect from reality is growing and can later be embarrassingly broadcast to those around you. Be wise, and know when you can confidently order the proverbial baby to be cut in half to arrive at true reality. 258Solomon'sjudgementEmotional intelligence is all about trying to stay one step ahead and cultivating a high level of happiness in all sorts of relationships. There is absolutely no room for rampant comparatives, blatant disrespect, retrospective thinking, uneducated assumptions, blind narrow-mindedness, childish banter, haughty derision, or direct/indirect reductiveness. Emotional intelligence is predicated on mental maturity.

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.”                                        ~ James 3:13

“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”             ~ Aristotle

 

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Calmness in Confrontation


arguments“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” There is a lot of wisdom in this old adage. In truth, as Christians we should only speak in love to everyone, including when the need for confrontation arises. The first step in appropriate confrontation is self-examination. We must ask ourselves, “What have I brought, or what will I bring to this issue?” We must have the courage to take our own inventory through careful introspection before we dare attempt to address another.

introspectWe cannot effectively confront others until we can successfully confront ourselves. That being said, we have no control over another’s willingness to self-assess. We can only examine our own internal issues. This is perhaps the single most vulnerable step in the ultimate success of appropriate confrontation. If both parties involved are not sufficiently self-aware, the chances for the best outcome are markedly reduced. However, this does not mean that we will not have any success. If we feel we must still try, our efforts must remain forthright and loving, not impatient, manipulative and guilt-producing. After all, if nothing else, there is a lot to be learned in providing an appropriate confrontation, even if the other party is unwilling to be a full participant.

Three Simple Questions

If we determine that confrontation is indeed appropriate, we must earnestly ask ourselves three simple questions:

1. Is it loving? Am I willing to be loving in my approach to this confrontation? Many times when we think we are loving, we fall short, especially in regard to our own sinful tendencies of being judgmental in conflict. To be judgmental is one of the fastest, and surest ways of failing in productive confrontation, and in a lasting relationship!

2. Is it honest and/or true? Is this issue based on fact? Am I expressing myself honestly in regard to my own feelings?

3. Is it necessary? Is it really in everyone’s best interest to confront this issue, or am I simply seeking to fulfill my own needs?

Only when we can answer yes to all three of these questions should we proceed to confront the issue/person. If we cannot answer yes to all three questions, then more prayer and thoughtful self-examination are in order.

jesusChrist provides us with the ultimate model of appropriate confrontation in the book of Matthew 18: 15-18. We’re told to go to the source. Don’t gossip or complain to others. Go directly to the person who has offended/hurt/sinned against you. Approach him/her lovingly with respect. “…if he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” If he/she cannot own the behavior or will not accept/validate your concerns, utilize a third party and allow them to impartially hear the concerns. Sometimes however, the only thing left to do is to lovingly walk away, always keeping the door open to a repentant heart. As a community of believers we all have an obligation to be accountable to one another and respect one another’s concerns.

Rage and dysfunction dictate an enormous amount of irrational behavior. Here, it is appropriate in the presence of God to share your agape love for your brother/sister in Christ, to identify the impasse of the circumstances in no uncertain terms, to close the door to any dysfunctional behavior, and, by God’s grace, to illuminate a path to reconciliation and healing. Appropriate confrontation is one of the greatest challenges for any personal or working relationship. While it is one of the most difficult skills to master, it is also one of the most vital to preserving any relationship. Like many skills, it gets better with practice. As long as we can remember to hate the sin, and love the sinner, we leave the door open to future healing.

Let us move from the era of confrontation to the era of negotiation.    ~Richard M. Nixon

The purpose of all wars is peace.  ~Blessed Augustine 

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No Regrets


Take the chance.
God knows the outcome.

I don’t often listen to the radio anymore, but a few days ago I heard a host late at night talk about a survey that had been done asking people at the end of their lives about the elements that they regret most about their lives. Most people replied that they wished they’d taken more risks, but not in the sky diving from space sort of way. They wished they’d done more to see if they could make their dreams come true. It reminded me of one of a popular and certainly applicable quote from the Holy Bible:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.”

~ Philippians 4:13

I know it can be scary putting yourself out there, and doing things knowing that there is the possibility you might fail or have the result of your actions hurt you or others in some way. Hearing people in today’s society constantly putting hopes and dreams off or masking their true personality to please a particular group of people irks me to my very core. It’s almost as if one is afraid to take on a particular endeavor because one feels alone on it. Isn’t that short-changing God? Doubting His Power maybe? 

Because you see, you can’t go into anything afraid to fail. You have to go into it knowing you might fail, but that’s okay because God will not leave you or send you into a realm from which a recovery is impossible. If you don’t try, won’t you always wonder? That question is not meant to drive youth, adolescents, and adults into a fury of unhealthy experimentation, but rather it is meant for you to think about the direction of your life and the goals that you hope to accomplish. Always pray that your righteous deeds, however rare you think they may come around, guide you into a life of no regrets. 

Regrets are often times the result of sin in our life. Think about it. Think about specific regrets that you have in your life and ask yourself if they are the result of sin or unwise choices in your life. Maybe it is not even your sin but the sin of someone that has left you with regrets. We must acknowledge that this is a fallen world and we all mess up all the time. Even when we try to do good, we simply cannot do it. All we can do is try. God wants you to try. Think first, then try. A regret is a horrible, unavoidable feeling. Let us pray we live trusting the Power of God and His guidance for our well-being. 

In a survey from an article titled “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” published in “The Guardian” in February, 2012, these are the top five regrets:

1. I wish I’d had courage to live a true life to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I let myself be happier.“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply” — Hudson Taylor

“Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” — C. S. Lewis

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Letter to His Holiness Pope Shenouda III


Dear Sayedna,

Congratulations! You have completed your struggle here on this earth and have now gone to be with your Creator. Since it all started back on November 14, 1971, you have been nothing but the true image of love. It is said of your predecessor, H.H. Pope Kyrillos VI, that he was the embodiment of prayer. Thus, he was called “a man of prayer.” Well, I believe we, the generation who know no other pope in our lives can call you the “a man of love,” as you continually demonstrated your endless love first for your God, and then for us, your flock. From the moment you entered this life, the Lord knew what you will mean to those dwelling in it because He knew what you meant to Him before He sent you. Now that you have entered the eternal life, He can place you in your rightful seat among your fellow saints. We are not the same in your physical absence, but are now lifted up and made better in your eternal presence. Therefore, we mourn not because of your departure but because of our selfishness and weakness, knowing that our earthly shepherd is no longer around us.

However, our tears are turned to rejoicing when we fully understand our faith in the Lord and His Glorious Resurrection. So no, we are not going to be sad, or depressed, nor will we sulk, or groan, or wear black, or feel despair. We always pray saying “there is no death for Your servants, but a departure,” which of course means that we are joyful to know that the Lord, God Almighty has called you back into His holy arms, after He lent you to us for a short period of time. Our collective voice has been made stronger in the eyes of the world because of your service. We are eternally grateful to God for sending us such a wise, caring, loving father like you to guard us and guide us through our earthly spiritual struggle.

We, your children, know that the gates of Heaven have opened and have welcomed you above where there are no tears or sicknesses. Our Good and Loving God has allowed us to enjoy your wisdom and guidance on Earth, and to follow the only great spiritual leader some of us have ever known. Through your guidence, teachings and your sense of humor that will never be forgotten, you have led the Egyptian Coptic community through the roughest times ever and have shown multiple generations around the world that God is always in control. Heaven is feasting right now because of your arrival. The angels are singing praises right now as they hear Our Lord tell you “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

So today, your children want to congratulate you and thank you for your years of faithful service and unfading love. We will not be saying goodbye to you, but rather we ask you to pray for us before the Throne of the Pantocrator until we see you again. Your earthly presence will be missed but your heavenly presence will most certainly be felt. Intercede for us and continue to take care of us up there.

Love,
Your Children

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The Art of Second Chances


St. Moses the Strong

Sometimes people mess up. As imperfect beings charged with the power to manipulate, lie, cheat and steal and the emotional sophistication to feel jealousy, heartbreak and outrage, this is to be expected. That being the case, we sometimes find it in our hearts to empathize with the offender and forgive or love them and forget. We award plenty of second chances, and some of us are filled with so much empathy or love that we even give third and fourth chances. Still other times we are not so gracious and the offender must lie in the bed made by a less-than-wise decision. Therein lies the delicacy of the art. The complexity is in its simplicity because we make decisions all the time. It’s how strongly we are attached to them that can get interesting.

St. Paisa

In our personal lives, I am sure that the majority of these decisions are based upon feelings – the raw and blinding emotions of love, lust and fear to name a few. However, second chances are not limited to family, friends and lovers and in fact often flood our more objective world. Maybe you are a boss whose employee has failed to meet your expectations or maybe just a guy who got bad service at the bank or the market. You will, consciously or not, evaluate the offender’s worthiness of a second chance. Inherent in our nature is the tendency to make a snap decision based soley upon a first impression. The danger here is that often times we mentally condemn the offender, deem the situation disadvantageous, and are slow to award a second chance.

In my experience I have come to realize that all learning involves a series of steps. With all new learning there needs to be incentive, motivation and a desire to not give up even in the face of discouragement. The process in my findings has been defined by three distinct stages:

I have to first become aware that change is needed. Having awareness does not necessarily mean that I am willing or able to address what needs to change. Awareness slowly grabs my attention until I find myself unavoidably faced with reality.

The next stage in the process of learning is acceptance. As I move into the acceptance stage of change of learning, I begin to grasp what my awareness wants to teach me. When I enter the acceptance stage, incentive motivates my desire to look for logical and legitimate solutions. Through embracing my need for change, I am launched forward by my awareness and acceptance.

The final stage in the art of change involves action. Without action everything remains the same. When I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, I have passed through the awareness and acceptance phase of change. I become willing to look for solutions because I am tired of doing the same thing and getting the same result.

As we stay committed to practicing the art of change our circumstances become tutors in the school of life. Learning becomes the vehicle that empowers the process. The process points us in the direction of our destiny. Being, then becomes more important than merely doing as we seek to live life on God’s terms, because we know that more will be revealed in due time through Him than through our own weaknesses.

“Living a second chance is like learning to walk again after an injury.”   – Anonymous

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”   – Matthew 18: 21-22

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Judge Not!


First off… let me start off by explaining that there is a difference between understanding the difference between right and wrong and judging. I am not supporting some type of relative morality. Right and wrong exist and both are absolutes found in the Holy Scriptures. However, the pronouncement of sentence (judging) upon your fellow men is different. Judging is when you not only think you see the wrong someone is doing but then take it a step further and declare a punishment or sentence (even if it’s just in your mind) upon that person.

So why do people feel the need to judge others?

Don't Do It

1. People pass judgment on others because it gives them a feeling of superiority. When people can comfortably point their fingers at their peers or make other people look at the seeming faults or shortcomings of others, it naturally makes them feel just that much better. Remember when you were a kid and you got caught doing something by your parents? Did you ever try to snitch on your siblings or close friends about their bad behavior in order to get your parents to stop scolding you for yours? Many people fall into the temptation to try to make the Christian life all about living up to a certain performance ratio, that is, a series of do’s and don’t’s, scrutinized by the public eye. So they go around pointing out and judging the failures of others, even if it is just in their own minds, in order to gain personal satisfaction that they themselves are righteous. Bad move.

2. People pass judgement on others because misery loves company. Many people who feel condemned themselves want others to be in the same boat as they are, so they make it happen. They feel that they are not good enough, not loved enough, not performing up to whatever standard they have set for themselves, so they put people in the same box. We have all seen this many times in churches that have congregations with superiority complexes; meaning, they feel that their mode of operation or way of expressing Christianity is better or just “more right” than all the other methods, so they judge their own brothers and sisters in Christ on their alleged lack of righteousness. They can also spread a rumor or some other bout of negativity to just a few friends about the decision making process of others who may be outside their own mentality. Again, bad move.

3. People judge others because they actually are trapped by the same or similar sin. Many times people judge others because they are trying to either make up for their own failings, or they are acutely aware of that particular sin because it resides in their own life. That type of judgement stems from the knowledge that others might be innocent of your forthright (or mental) accusation, but your inner struggle leaves you a slave to outward opinion. It could be that the influence of another is keeping a person entangled in a web of caution operation is, in reality, outside the scope of this person’s comfort zone. People can be and are conditioned by their surroundings to love or hate particular courses of action. There is no shame in trying to help someone maintain spiritual excellence. However, this is great shame in judging another person’s actions without knowing every single detail first. Our Lord put it this way. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?”

...they judged Him too...

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  – Hebrews 4:12

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”   – John 13:35

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Reflection


Let your light so shine

As the year comes to an end, people often reflect on what has transpired over the past year. How is my life different now from a year ago? It is an important question to ask and really ponder. Are you getting closer to your goals and dreams? Perhaps even achieving them? Can you measure growth? Have you found God’s will for you? Are you doing your best to strive for it? If you haven’t done this before, or you haven’t done it so thoroughly, I highly recommend starting the tradition. Heck, it could be the first thing you change for the sake of the new year!

Reflect on changes

When I reflect on the past year, I look at the good, the bad and the ugly… even if it seems there is more bad and ugly than good.  It’s so crucial to look at ALL that has transpired. If you only look at the good, then often the bad and the ugly just hang on like dead weight and baggage in the new year. It’s also advisable to let go of any baggage accumulated from this past year – starting fresh in 2012. If we only look at the ugly, then we miss the growth that has occurred. The good stuff is just as important, or even more important to the learning process as the ugly stuff. When you reflect on the questions below, I recommend taking the time to write them down. You can be more thorough and visually see your 2011 on paper.

_______________________________________________________________

The Good Stuff – What have you accomplished this year – spiritually, professionally, personally, financially, socially, academically? What were the pleasant surprises of the year? What gifts has God bestowed you with? (should be plenty here) Did you learn any lessons about yourself? About life? Really think about the many blessings positivity that Our Lord has placed in your life. Celebrate this good stuff and share it with loved ones!

The Bad StuffWhat disappointments or regrets did you experience this year? What were some of the not-so-pleasant surprises? (plenty for me here) What mistakes did you make that you learned from? (again, plenty) Try to bring some compassion and some forgiveness to these moments, so you can let them go and move on. It’s been a long year, and undoubtedly a lot of situations ended unfavorably, a lot of people have wronged you, and a lot of new turmoil has arisen. If there are lessons to learn from these experiences, pray that the Good and Merciful Lord gives you the strength to learn them and take them with you into 2012.

The Ugly StuffWhat were the moments of 2011 that you would rather forget about altogether? When were those times of utter despair? What was the event or, for me, sequence of events that threw your life into the most unexpected tailspin of unfairness, confusion, hurt, abandonment, and destruction? The main part here is that you survived the ugly stuff. Although challenging, I invite you to recall those memories, feelings, and judgments, so you can let them go and move on in faith and hope in God. What’s also important in letting the ugly stuff go is finding the lesson and the gift that Christ shows you through these experiences. While this too can be a struggle, it helps in moving on so that grudges or hurt feelings don’t linger or hold you back in the future.

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”   – Unknown
“Reflect upon your blessings, of which every man has plenty, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some”   – Charles Dickens

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Heads Up


You can’t go through life thinking everybody you meet will one day let you down. It’s selfish, unfair, and unhealthy. You can’t go through life thinking everybody in front of you is a saint and will do you no harm. It’s naïve, foolish, and incomprehensible. One of the best kept secrets in today’s world is how to live a life of pure, healthy, humble confidence. I thought about this as I observed different social circles, different spiritual levels, different economic statuses, and different ways of socioeconomic conditioning over the course of my young adult life. Living within the confines of one’s comfort zone becomes about what facade one puts forth. It’s not about talent, academic excellence, physical achievements, intellectual wars, cockiness, pride, or “swag.” It’s about confidence.

Confidence is the mask under which I am really talking about strength, but not directly. Strength, however, has its roots clearly hidden under a layer of misunderstanding. Over the years I have been profoundly struck by the lack of confidence which people, especially younger people, have, and this is true even in those areas in which a select few are supposed to be experts. When harmlessly we displace people from their very narrow boundaries, where their habits allow them to basically sleep through what they’re doing, they lose all of the confidence that they had and, in fact, what often passes for confidence today is not really confidence at all. It could be more accurately described as “unconsciousness of behavior.” True confidence is rare today.

Often times, we are told that humility, a virtue, is inherently the absence of pride, a sin. That is true. However, the misunderstanding creeps in when one confuses self-confidence with self-absorption. What isn’t true is the notion that any confidence one exudes means that one is being condescending and is therefore proud. Practically speaking, be assertive in what is right without hinting to the person with whom you are conversing that he/she is ignorant. This will cause friction which may lead to a never ending mutual exchange of what will seem like a flurry of intellectual insults. A confident person is a compassionate person ready and willing to bring any and all people up to and beyond his/her own level of confidence. The strength I alluded to earlier is in essence the empowering strength to stay down to earth, loveable, and humble without being a doormat.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”   – Philippians 4:13

“Try love. With love, you can win over a person.”   – Sobhi Nashed Boss (my grandfather)

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Respect


It is truly exciting to think that one lives in a world of unlimited mystery and potential discovery. Often burdened by the numerous calamities of this world and the injustices of life, the average person begins to lose hope and wonders when true happiness will visit once again. What I know now is that, in an effort to effectively restart one’s life, the cliché is quite true, “happiness comes from within.” The revelation however, is that happiness is generated by respect.

+ Two kinds: Self respect & Respect of others +

When one has self respect, the personality traits of others can never really break through that. Respect generates inner happiness and in turn, inner happiness creates boundaries. Boundaries that are cemented by personal values. Values that determine the behavior you expect from yourself and the behavior you are prepared to accept from others. With respect we can work through pain and find our way back to peace. When we learn the art of respect we can let go of anger and release bitterness. We no longer need to be validated by others. With respect it is possible to forgive the person or entity who wronged you or to let go of an obsessive situation.

Respect is something which has become increasingly underrated. The language and tone we use in addressing each others often displays a lack of it. Our unwillingness to listen and truly hear one another shows it’s absence. Disrespect is like an angry disease which spreads throughout every aspect of our lives. Cynicism grows in an effort to shield ourselves from it. Yet through respect, we find strength and fortitude.

It isn’t a magical new age talisman. It doesn’t make us immune from heart break, but it does however, enable us to learn and grow from it and to heal. By respecting ourselves we can love ourselves. We understand our intrinsic value as children of God and we also understand the equal value of others and whatever the lesson they have been sent to teach us. When we learn to truly respect ourselves and others, we can live confidently and assertively. We need never be people-pleasers or seek attention, or feel threatened or belittled. We will appreciate our own value before God and no other appraisal will be required.

If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.   – Abraham Lincoln

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.   – Phillipians 2:3

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