An Encouraging Word – People’s basic goodness

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

God looked at everything he had made and found it very good. Genesis1:31

When I started writing this column, 14 years ago, I decided that it would be about looking for goodness to affirm, rather than badness to condemn. The first thing I have seen in writing this column, and posting on my blog with the same name, is that there is a whole lot of goodness out there to affirm.

Dr. Seuss was right, “If you keep your eyes open enough, oh, the stuff you will learn. Oh, the most wonderful stuff.”

What you see depends on what you are looking for. From my perspective, there is a whole lot of basic goodness in our community. There are some truly wonderful people among us.

The second thing I have seen is a huge return on my investment. By offering “an encouraging word” to others, I have been rewarded a hundred times over with “an encouraging word” in return. Jesus was right on target in the sixth chapter of Luke’s gospel, “Give, and you will receive.

Your gift will return to you in full — pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

The third thing I have seen is a whole lot of crankiness, edginess and pent up frustration coming from good people who don’t seem to know what to do with their feelings except to lash out.

Lashing out used to be taboo and frowned on, but now it is encouraged and given platforms where it is celebrated, especially on TV reality shows and through social media. The name of the game? The meaner and nastier, the better.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.” When I reflect on his words, I try to remember that underneath all that angry lashing out and expressed meanness is usually a good person who is hurting and who does not know a better way to deal with that hurt.

I was reminded of a line from the movie “On Golden Pond.” Katherine Hepburn’s character says to Jane Fonda’s character when she was terribly frustrated with her aggravating, old father, “If you look closely enough, you will realize that he is doing the best he can.”

The antidote for good, but hurting, people, I believe, is summarized in these favorite words of the American author Julia Cameron. “I wish I could take language and fold it like cool, moist rags. I would lay words on your forehead.

I would wrap words on your wrists. “There, there,” my words would say — or something better. I would murmur, ‘Hush’ and ‘Shh, shh, it’s alright.’ I would ask them to hold you all night.

I wish I could take language and daub and soothe and cool where fever blisters and burns, where fever turns yourself against you. I wish I could take language and heal the words that were wounds you have no names for.”

Fr. J. Ronald Knott

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