I feel a need to write to encourage you to contend for the faith. Jude 1:3
With this column, I officially end my eleventh year of writing An Encouraging Word. When I started I had no idea how long I would be doing this. Eleven years of writing a weekly column certainly did not cross my mind as a possibility. I just started and thought I would just see what would happen.
Now I have no idea when to stop. Will I reach a day when it is no longer enjoyable for me to write, or for people to read, and just choose to stop? Or will I just drop dead at my computer in the middle of the night and be found several days later with my fingers still on the “save” button?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it has become such a regular part of my life that I might as well give it another year, rounding it off at 12 years, and then go from there.
The question I wrestled with is this: “Why do I do this?” Fundamentally, I do it because it is a way to pay attention to what is going on around me, a way to notice the goodness of people and a way to respond positively to that evident goodness. With so much attention given to the tragic side of humanity — its failures, sins and mistakes — this has been my way of focusing on the glass as half full, rather than half empty.
There is a lot of goodness out there, if one has the eyes to see it, so I try to train my eyes to look for goodness to affirm, rather than evil to condemn. Most people, I have come to believe, are doing the best they can and the last thing they need from a priest is condemnation. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What most people want is someone who will inspire them to be what they know they could be.”
I do this for selfish reasons, as well. I do it because it gives me strength. I am usually trying to offer myself an encouraging word first and then sharing that encouragement with others. I am always trying to talk myself into keeping my chin up, keeping the faith and keeping my focus on where I want to go.
Writing helps me wrestle with things, clarify them in my own mind and then gives me a structured way to put them out there to see if what I have come up with can be of help to others.
For me, writing this column is fundamentally a spiritual discipline.
I know I am not the best writer in the diocese, and there are brighter, better and more talented priests than me, but after 11 years of doing this, I am comforted by the words of Steve Martin, “Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.”
OK, let’s shoot for 12 years!
Father J. Ronald Knott