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
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.
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For Better or for Worse copyright © 2004 Fr. Peter deSousa. All rights reserved.