Not long ago, I gave a talk to Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church’s Stephen Ministers. These are congregants who minister to the needs of others in their church. It’s a wonderful means of outreach, with the volunteer ministers receiving extensive instruction in their preparation.
Having discussed the tangible benefits of an optimistic attitude in life (it has been shown in medical studies that in many cases, one’s mindset influences the course of illness) and how people who are always downcast and pessimistic can turn a sunny day into a cloudy one, I was asked in the Q&A session that followed the talk about how to handle those who seem to always be down and in a bad mood.
I leaned forward from the podium and gave the simplest answers: “Avoid ‘em!”
While it may be true that we are all “hard wired” differently, with many inherent personality differences, it is also true that, to some degree, happiness is a choice. As holocaust survivor and author Victor Frankl says in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, we can’t necessarily control the events that affect our lives, but we are in full control over how we react to those events.
So here is an exercise for you. Imagine that you contract pneumonia and are hospitalized. The doctor tells you that you will probably be in the hospital 4-6 days and will then need to curtail your activity for another week or two. You also have been found to have diabetes. You will need to be on medication for this problem and will need to change your diet.
While in the hospital, you are visited by several friends who are concerned with your health status. What are some positive reactions you might have to what has happened to you? What are some negative responses?
Send your responses to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Selected responses will be published in a later blog.
Dr. Joel Roffman has spoken to many church, synagogue and support groups. His book, Coping with Adversity: Judaism’s response to illness and other life struggles is enjoyable, uplifting and informative. It is meant for people of all faiths and can be viewed at http://www.copingwithadversity.com/. It is available at Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com.