An Encouraging Word — Attitude is everything

Father J. Ronald Knott

Before man are life and death, whichever he chooses shall be given him. Sirach 15:17

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is credited with one of my favorite quotes: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

It sums up the tremendous power we have — the power to choose our response in any given situation. The first time I consciously made this choice and learned this lesson was back in 1970 — the year I was ordained. I had just made my priestly “promise of obedience” to the bishop two weeks earlier.

When the priest personnel board called to tell me that I was being sent to Somerset, Ky., I panicked. I had my heart set on a nice cushy suburban parish here in Louisville and the last place I wanted to go was to the “home missions.”

To no avail, I pleaded, begged and cried in an effort to get them to change their minds. Angrily, I packed my car, bought a map and headed south. Half way down there, I decided to change my mind about going. Since I did not get what I wanted, I consciously decided to want what I got.

To paraphrase Sir Ranulph Fiennes, “There are no bad assignments, only bad attitudes.” That choice made the difference between the 10 wonderful years I had and the 10 miserable ones I could have had.

Over the years, the lesson I learned at the beginning of my ministry has served me well. It has become a spiritual practice I have tried to intentionally cultivate over the last 42-and-a-half years. At the beginning of a new year, this lesson is something I want to remember and share with you. To do so, I have turned to my collection of quotes, my treasure trove of collected wisdom.

  • “If you don’t think every day is a good day, just try missing one.” (Cavett Robert)
  • “A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” (Hugh Downs)
  • “You’re not going to make me have a bad day. If there’s oxygen on earth and I’m breathing, it’s going to be a good day.” (Cotton Fitzsimmons)
  • ν “If you have nothing to be grateful for, check your pulse.” (Unknown)
  • ν “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.” (William James)
  • “I cannot change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails.” (Unknown).
  • “The last of the human freedoms is the ability to choose how we will respond to any given situation.” (Viktor Frankl)

Attitude is everything. I remember handing out little cards to the workmen who did the restoration work on our cathedral. It was called “The Bricklayers.”

It says, “When three bricklayers were asked what they were doing, the first man answered gruffly “I’m laying bricks.” The second man replied with resignation, “I’m putting up a wall.” The third man said enthusiastically, “I’m building a cathedral.”

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