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Holy Spirit Interactive: Fr. Peter deSousa: Have you got good adjustive resources?

Have you got good adjustive resources?

by Fr. Peter deSousa

When you travel in a second class sleeper coach in India, it may happen that someone else is occupying your berth. When you show them your reserved ticket, you may hear these words: "We will adjust. Kindly exchange berths. Please occupy my berth, which is in the next compartment. I want to travel with my family."

All of us in life learn to adjust to people and situations. An old song had these words: "You've got to give a little, take a little. that's the story of, that's the glory of love." Actually, it is necessary that both spouses have to be willing to give a lot, to give 100%, again and again. I emphasise "both, not one". Those of you who are married more than 7 years, and have survived the adjustment period, will agree with me, I am sure that in a marriage, one has to make many adjustments. It is not advisable to win at the expense of your partner. You may win an argument and lose a friend. If you appear self-righteous and act superior to your spouse, you may find yourself isolated like a plaster statue on a pedestal, gathering dust.

Leonard Bernstein, was once asked what was the most difficult position in the orchestra. Without any hesitation he replied: "second fiddle." The first violinist can improvise, but the second violinist must always be in tune with the first. In a good marriage, both spouses learn how to play second fiddle to the other. Children who have such parental role models, will in turn learn how to adjust to situations in life that are sometimes taxing and even unreasonable.

But besides example, wise parents will not pamper or over protect their children. Children who grow up in a "hot house" like rare orchids, will not be able to survive in a jungle. Nor should parents be too demanding. Each child is unique in genes, temperament and talents. Weeds grow side by side with the wheat in everyone's life. We have to learn to be patient with ourselves, with our failures and imperfection and our slow rate of growth, at times. This also helps us to be patient, understanding and less demanding of others. We sing a hymn: "In his time, he makes all things beautiful in his time"

Sometimes we may need to challenge lovingly and show that we believe in the undeveloped potential of a child. Give opportunities and the freedom to make mistakes, to grow and to learn through trial and error, unless it is obviously dangerous. The father of the prodigal son allowed his son to squander his inheritance in loose living. What a fantastic father, God is to you and me!!

Our children have to learn to develop a healthy well-formed conscience and to be guided by it in their life-decisions. In choosing a profession in life or a life partner, they ultimately, are responsible for making sure their job or marriage works, with God's grace. So the values they imbibe from us are of prime importance to them when they grow up. These values will influence their choices.

We all make mistakes and are responsible for the consequences. We should not blame others or make someone else the scape-goat. We need to humbly admit our wrong-doing, ask forgiveness and make amends. We learn this early in life, through the games we play. If one fouls there may be a penalty goal awarded. We learn this in the class-room, when we do not do our home-work or misbehave in class and are given detention. At home too there may be certain ground rules laid down, for the good of all and the smooth functioning of the house. When all agree to these, they can also agree upon penalties and rewards. When penalising, let there be no humiliation, abuse or righteous indignation expressed by parents. In a simple, matter of fact way, the penalty is explained. Of course there are extentuating circumstances at times when children are excused and they must be told this too. Parents are also expected to keep the rules.

Jesus had to make many adjustments in becoming human and living from infancy to adulthood in a simple, village community and home. He continually adjusted to persons and situations with love, kindness, understanding and gentleness. But when occasion demanded it, he could hit out strongly at the hypocrisy and odious behaviour of those that abused their authority and made religion into a farce. In a home, we all have to wash each other's feet graciously and generously.

Adjustive resources are many. We need patience, tolerance, understanding, the ability to accept differences and be enriched by them, learn how to handle stress and deal with frustrations, accept disappointments, learn how to defer satisfactions and how to be happy with what is available. Viktor Frankl, who survived the Nazi concentration camp, says that he who has a reason to live, can handle almost any situation. He was determined to live and not become dehumanised by the cruelty and callousness, that he experienced. He would look across the barbed wire fence at a butterfly or bird and enjoy its freedom to fly. He would look at the sunlight glinting on a leaf and praise God. Counting one's blessings, reliving happy memories, being courteous and polite to others, sharing a smile or kind word can change a prison too.

The remarkable Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf from early childhood became so outstanding because of the encouragement she received to face life and excel. Wilma Rudolph, who was handicapped and poor, became a gold medalist at the Olympics.

All of us will face misunderstandings, failures, opposition, difficulties and challenges in our daily lives. Will we feel sorry for ourselves, run away from them, blame God or others, give up in disgust, become suicidal and drop out of life? Or will we be able to adapt, adjust and make the best use of the cards we are dealt with in life? A good Bridge player is one who can win even when the cards he is dealt are not all that good.

Heaven is not in the here and now, but heaven can be in our hearts when we accept God's presence within us at all times and see ourselves and others as his precious children. He will always give us the necessary grace and strength to face the cross and even embrace it with courage and inner peace.

Fr. Peter deSousa (September 8, 2004)

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