Do not neglect the gift you have. … Be diligent in these matters, be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to everyone. I Timothy 4:14-15
One of the biggest internal battles we wage when we are young is the battle against the belief that we are powerless in shaping our own destinies. The truth is that we only become victims when we start thinking like victims. One of my very favorite Henry Ford quotes says this: “Those who think they can and those who think they can’t are both right.”
One of the biggest internal battles we wage when we grow older is the battle against the belief that we are powerless to do any more changing. The truth is that we are only finished when we are finished changing.
As I approach 70, my prayer is becoming more and more the prayer of Norman Vincent Peale: “Ask God who made you to keep remaking you.”
I ask God to keep remaking me, but I also believe that it is my responsibility to cooperate with God in my own remaking process, summed up in the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make ultimately are our own responsibility.”
After birth, we grow up and we grow old without having to think about it, but whether we grow as a person is very much up to our conscious choice. Nothing gets better by leaving it alone. In fact, neglect usually leads to decay.
For a long time now, I have been pro-active in my own ongoing formation. Through journaling, speaking affirmations and collecting wisdom quotes, I have tried to stand up to my own lazy streak and temptations to rest on my laurels.
Recently, I published a small book entitled Personal Growth Plan: A Handbook for Priests. We have been using unpublished versions of it in some of our programs at St. Meinrad’s Institute for Priests and Presbyterates, but I decided to print it up in a nicer version for others.
Whether we are partners in marriage, physicians, professors, priests or professionals of any type, we are called to “get better” at who we are and what we do. We must constantly pay attention to becoming more who we say we are and more effective at what we do.
To the quote above, Paul adds this advice to Timothy. “Attend to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”
Using his familiar sports metaphor, Paul also tells the Corinthians, “I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadow-boxing. No I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (I Corinthians 9:24-27)
As Willy Loman says in Death of a Salesman, “Attention must be paid!”
Father J. Ronald Knott