Friday, February 10, 2023



Too Much News and Social Media?

As an introvert, I suspect this innocent children's song was written by an extreme extrovert. Sure, "getting together" periodically is a good thing, but is "getting together more and more" always more healthy? Aren't there times when being alone and being quiet, "being together less and less," also healthy? As an introvert, I think so!

For this reason, I now restrict how much news I watch on TV. To me, the 24 hour-a-day news cycle is producing a great deal of anxiety mainly because its producers have to find enough bad news (because it sells) to fill up all that space over a 24 hour period. They almost always keep repeating their bad "headline news" over and over again! I agree with Charles Kuralt when he said, "It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn't in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals." To me, too much bad news repeated over and over and over again, is a cancer on my emotional health.

I do not use Facebook. Oh, I had it for a few weeks several years ago when I was leading a priest retreat in Ireland and someone wanted to send me pictures, but when I got home I tried to cancel my account. It took forever! They want you as an ongoing money source and they do not want to give you up that easily. I am convinced there are times when Facebook is useful and even good, but I also know that it can be a cesspool of gossip, hatred, cruelty, infidelity, bullying and vengeance! I cancelled my account mainly because I got tired of all the "cutest dogs in the world," "cutest grandbabies" and "what I just ate for lunch" pictures - often from people I barely knew or did not know at all! In the end, I am happier without it than I was when I had it for just a few weeks!

Yes, I have a blog, but you have to want to read it to access it. It's title, An Encouraging Word,  is intentional. I "post" almost every other day because I want to offer readers some encouragement and support. I try to look for "goodness to affirm" rather than "sins to condemn." If I knew it was causing damage, I would stop "posting" right away! My aim in this "post" is not to condemn social media in general, but to encourage people to look at it with a critical eye as to whether it is helping or hurting them. 

Here is a short essay I discovered on-line about some of the damages that social media overuse is causing. It seems to offer some warnings to those who overuse social media. I don't know if every word of it is true or not, so take it or leave it! 


  The Damages of Social Media Overuse

Social media is a part of the lives of nearly three billion people worldwide. Social media consists of "apps" on almost any electronic device including smartphones, computers and tablets. The most common forms of social media include Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and many more. These "apps" are used for sharing daily activities and other communications and hey are a source of comfort for many. People are attracted to  social media because they have a basic human desire to communicate. Despite the comfort provided by social media, its overuse can actually cause psychological damage to some individuals.

Social media is also a major source, if not the largest source, of bullying. This type of bullying is called cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can be an extreme problem for many reasons, but mainly because a bully can harass his or her victim anonymously. Obviously, there are issues with this ability. Because the victim cannot identify his or her bully, the consequences on the perpetrator are miniscule. The most common mental disorders derived from social media overuse include depression, stress and lack of sleep.

Because of these stated disorders, as well as additional negative impacts of social media, it is clear that the negatives of social media overuse often outweigh the positives. Using social media, for some people, is a way to relax and release stress. However, data collected in 2015 proves otherwise. The level of stress from browsing through social media can be far greater than the level of stress released. People who think they are releasing stress by browsing social media could actually be increasing their stress levels. The human brain becomes tired from constant social media use because of the constant switching from one task to another and trying to comprehend too much information at once.

This action puts an immense amount of stress on a user's brain and can be mentally dangerous. It is strongly advised to take a break from browsing through social media to allow the brain time for cooling down. Th stress of brain fatigue can lead to physical fatigue and the lack of concentration can make living a normal everyday life a challenge. Coping with stress often leads to bad habits like smoking, aggressiveness, alcohol and drug dependency, self criticism and more. 

An experiment has been conducted which consisted of Michigan State students being instructed to browse Facebook for 10 minutes and another group of students being assigned to post and talk to friends for 10 minutes. The mood of the socially interactive group was significantly better than the group that browsed Facebook for 10 minutes. 

Stress from social media overuse is also derived from self-comparison. Most users of social media subconsciously compare themselves to others leading to poor self-esteem and more stress. The feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness can both be derived from online interactions. Depression affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. It can also make an individual lose interest in an activity once enjoyed. Depression can be serious enough to stop the functioning of a normal life.

An over-user of social media can be observed as acting gloomy and negative. In some cases, their depression can be easily hidden which prevents them for getting help from others. Depression, like stress, can lead to self-comparison to others. Appetite can also be altered as a result of depression. If an individual sees someone online with a physique they desire, appetite can be altered which can lead to anorexia.

Loss of energy is another effect of depression. The desire to participate in an active life can be lost. The major negative effect of depression is thoughts of suicide. Social media allows for anyone to see posts from almost anyone else. If someone is always comparing himself or herself regularly to everyone and everything they see on social media, that could produce negative thoughts including suicide.

Sadie Riggs, 15-year old girl from Bedford, Pennsylvania was harassed on social media throughout her freshman year in high school. The cyberbullying took place through Facebook, Instagram, and Kik. Sadie had previously gone though challenges in her life including her mother leaving her when she was little. Despite getting through this tough personal experience, cyberbullying was too much for her. She committed suicide because of depression coming directly from social media overuse. Depression can be a direct effect of too much exposure to social media which can lead to a dysfunctional life and even suicidal thoughts.

Lack of sleep can be another negative effect on the human body derived from too much social media use. Social media can actually become a consuming activity for many people. Hours upon hours can be spent browsing through other people’s posts. Artificial light coming from smartphone screens, as well as tablets, can inhibit the production of melatonin which facilitates sleep. Blue light is also emitted from computer screens and can be one reason for lack of melatonin production.

Getting the right amount of sleep every night is crucial to functioning properly the following day. The main effects of lack of sleep include fatigue, lack of focus and even a short temper. After many sleepless nights, the brain will begin to fog making concentration nearly impossible. Continued lack of sleep can make an individual more prone to illnesses. These resultant illnesses can include obesity, heart diseases, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Lack of sleep can also disrupt the immune system, making an individual more prone to illnesses that are “going around.” Lack of sleep can clearly be one of the harmful effects of too much social media use. 

Overall, the negatives of using social media too much can obviously outweigh the positives. Depression, lack of sleep, and stress can all be direct results of the overuse of social media. Each negative effect can branch off into more negative effects from the overuse of online interaction apps. For example, social media can lead to depression which leads to feelings of being worthless which can then lead to thoughts of self harm. Social media over-use is a dangerous habit to acquire and the negative impacts are sometimes not worth the positives. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2023


7 Tips for Better Patience: Yes, You’ll Need to Practice!

Work on keeping your cool when facing daily hassle. LINKEDINPINTERESTEmai

Your daughter takes forever to put on her shoes. The person in front of you in the drive-thru apparently is ordering everything on the menu. As a deadline approaches, your work computer chooses that moment for a software update. Oh yeah, and the copier is jammed.

Do life’s small and large annoyances make you feel like blowing your top? OK, you know the annoyances aren’t going away. So maybe it’s time to cultivate more patience.

Contrary to what you may believe, patience isn’t solely the domain of kindergarten teachers and saints. It’s a skill that everyone can develop and strengthen.

“It’s kind of like dancing,” explains clinical psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD. “Some people are naturally better at it than others, but everyone can improve with practice.”

The pitfalls of instant gratification

If you feel like you’re becoming less patient in recent years, you’re not alone. Cultural shifts — particularly when it comes to technology — have primed us to expect immediate gratification.

When we want to read a particular book, listen to a certain song or watch a popular TV show, most of the time those things are only a few clicks away.

An evening’s dinner — or a week’s groceries — can appear at our door in a flash.

“So many things are available to us instantly,” Dr. Bea says. “It’s increasingly common that we get things delivered to us quickly.”

And that’s bad news when it comes to our ability to wait patiently.

“Our expectations go up and then our level of patience goes down,” he says.

7 tips for practicing patience

So how can you strengthen your patience muscles? The first step? Let’s just admit up front that it won’t be much fun at first.

“If we’re going to grow patience, it’s going to come from doing slightly uncomfortable things,” says Dr. Bea.

Ready to work on it? Here’s what he suggests if you want to become a more patient person:

  1. Practice mindfulnessBe in the present moment, without judging. Simply sit quietly and notice your breath. Notice what distracts you from your breath, then ease yourself back into awareness of your breath.
  2. Practice accepting your current circumstances. This may mean being stuck in traffic or stuck in a job you hate. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to change things if you need to. It only means accepting your experience in the moment for exactly what it is — even if it’s unpleasant.
  3. Actively build a tolerance for being a bit uncomfortable. Let other people go ahead of you in line or in traffic. Resist the urge to scratch an itch. Don’t act on every impulse to check your phone.
  4. When you’re feeling rushed, consciously slow down. You don’t have to feel like a hamster on a wheel all of the time. Know that you can choose slow. In our culture that prizes speed, know that there is value to be had in slow too.
  5. Be playful. Practice acting like a kid sometimes. Sing around the house, be silly, laugh. Actively try to take yourself less seriously.
  6. Let it feel broken. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a work project that’s gone off the rails, a problem in your relationship or something in your home that’s literally broken. Resist the urge to immediately fix everything.
  7. Practice being a good listener. Listen carefully to what family members or other conversation partners are saying. Focus on understanding, rather than on formulating your response.

No one says increasing your patience is easy. But, with daily practice, you may find you’re more calm, less frazzled and more willing to give others the benefit of the doubt — and maybe even give yourself a break once in awhile, as well.


Tuesday, February 7, 2023



March 20th is the first day of spring 2023! 
That day can't come fast enough for me! 

Sunday, February 5, 2023



You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men in such
a way that they may see your good works and give God the glory.
Matthew 5:14,16

My fellow Catholic Christians, do you realize who you are? Did you catch those words from today's gospel reminding us of who we are? “You are the light of the world! Let your light shine! Let your good works be seen so God can be glorified!” The Scriptures tell us in other places that “from your mother’s womb, God gave you your name!” “You are God’s servant through whom God’s glory shines!” “From your mother’s womb God formed you for that task, the task of letting God’s glory shine through you!” “You are made glorious in his sight!” “He made you a light to the nations so that his salvation may reach to the ends of the earth!” Jesus tells us in the gospel reading today that “You are the salt of the earth! You are the light of the world! You are a city built on a hill! Your light must shine before others! Your good deeds must be out there to be noticed!” Yes, we are “the light of the world!” However, we are like the moon and God is like the sun. The moon has no light of its own, the moon merely reflects the light of the sun. Just so, when people see our light and observe our good deeds, we must make sure that God, the true source of our light, indeed all light, gets the glory! 

My fellow Catholic Christians may we want to be who we are! May we want to be who we are! I am here to remind you who we are and what our mission is in this life! We were sent to shine! We were sent to shine so that God will look good in the eyes of the world and receive its praise! We should never put ourselves down! We should never underestimate our worth! We should never belittle ourselves nor play small! We should never let others put us down! We were sent to shine! To keep our lamps burning, we have to keep putting oil in them! Therefore, we need to take care of ourselves – take care of ourselves enough to do hard things for our own good so that our light will shine as brightly as possible! We should always resist the temptation to give into the biggest human temptation and that is to settle for too little! Our families, indeed the world, need us to be who we are and all that we can be!

I came across a Bruce Barton quote recently that has been rolling around inside my head for some time now. Others credit Benjamin Franklin.  It is not a new idea, but a life script that I adopted a long time ago. It goes like this! “When we are through changing, we are through.” We old people, when we were young, might remember Bob Dylan singing another version of this same idea. “He not busy being born is busy dying.” In other words, if you are not growing, you are not just standing still, you are dying!  If you are “sent to shine,” you absolutely need to keep putting oil into your lamp! You must keep stoking your own fire! 

Winston Churchill said, “Nothing gets better by leaving it alone.” In fact, when we “leave things alone” the natural process of entropy sets in – we start coming unglued, we start declining, we begin to rot!  Entropy is that spontaneous and unremitting tendency in the universe toward disorder unless there is an opposing force working against it. People, like homes, when they are left alone fall into decay. Even fruits and vegetables, unless something is done to “preserve” them, begin to rot! When we “leave ourselves alone,” we commit what I call “personal and spiritual suicide.” Personal and spiritual suicide is the result of constantly saying “no” to opportunities to grow and change.” 

As one who bought into this idea of “self-formation” a long time ago, I have concluded that there are two secret ingredients to becoming all that we can be as ‘the light of the world.” (1) The first ingredient in really loving oneself is a passionate commitment to personal excellence – to loving who we really are – loving ourselves enough to care about becoming our best selves. Really loving oneself does not mean papering oneself. Rather, it means doing hard things for one’s own good. One of the most critical needs here is the need for a capacity for critical and constructive self-awareness.  We must be able to know and understand what makes us tick. We must own my own personal histories and heal them if necessary. In short, we must be dedicated to becoming our best as quality human persons first. Let me put that another way. You cannot take a loser and ordain him and expect to have an effective priest! If he is not a quality human being to begin with, all you will end up with is a loser priest who can’t relate to people or inspire them to hunger for holiness. You cannot take two losers and put them through a wedding and expect to end up with a happy marriage and effective parents! If they are not quality human beings to begin with, all you will end up with is a miserable marriage and disastrous parents! 

(2) After a passionate commitment to who one is, being the best version of ourselves, the second ingredient in really loving oneself is a passionate commitment to vocational excellence – a passionate commitment to what we do! In other words, if you are parents, commit yourself to being the very best parent you can be! If you are married, commit yourself to being the best husband or wife you can be! If you are a priest, commit yourself to be the best priest you can possibly be! Whatever you are, be good at it! If you strive to be the best at what you do, you will get better at it. If you choose the “good enough to get by” path, you will become known for your mediocrity. Tom Peters put it this way, “The idea of mediocrity scares the hell out of me!” Without a passionate commitment to vocational excellence, you will no doubt end up being a half-assed priest, a half-assed marriage partner or half-assed parent! The world is already overcrowded with mediocrity – people with no passion for personal or vocational excellence!  My mother used to call them “people who merely go through the motions,” “people whose hearts are not in it.” God says to us in Revelations 3:15-16, “Would that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” May God spare you from such "half-assedness!” May you become the very best version of yourself! May you become who you are! You are the light of the world! Let your light shine! Yes, let it shine! Let it shine!

Brothers and sisters! One of my biggest fears as a priest is not natural death, but spiritual and emotional death, being here and being not here at the same time – “dead on my feet,” if you will! My biggest fear is gradually turning into a priest whose heart is no longer in it! Chaucer’s Parson described such a priest as “a man annoyed at his own life.”

The word used by fourth century monks for this state was acediaAcedia is not a disease, it’s a temptation – the temptation to disconnect, the temptation to stop caring, the temptation to stop making an effort. It is a temptation that can grow and harden into a persistent attitude of apathy and cynicism which is deadly to any kind of personal or spiritual growth. I find it fascinating that acedia, in its root, means negligence - a negligence that leads to a state of listlessness, a lack of attention to daily tasks and an overall dissatisfaction with life, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s self-care or position or condition in the world. In other words, unlike clinical depression, it can be resisted. The sooner it is confronted the more success one has in turning it around.

We all know priests and married couples who woke up one day and found themselves in precisely that spot – with feelings of being stuck, with few options and little hope. Maybe we are, or have been, one of them! If we were to be honest with ourselves we would have to admit that we didn’t get there overnight. It happened because of extended neglect. We didn’t take the time to nourish our individual selves. Many marriages and religious vocations do not die of "natural causes." Too often, they simply die of "starvation!" Too many of us do not take the time to nurture our vocations. We just “let things go!”

Whether we are priests, marriage partners, parents, professionals, widows or widowers, we are all called to resist the temptation toward acedia, the neglect of our personal and spiritual growth. We are the light of the world and there is responsibility that goes with reflecting that light! As Mother Theresa put it. “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” Again, Bob Dylan put it this way. “If we are not busy being born, we are busy dying.”