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  A Christian Faith Magazine March 2003, Volume 8, Issue 8  
In Search of Peace of Mind
Rev. Mark Connolly
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Almost every psychiatrist I work with will tell you that the Christmas holidays, whether you are Protestant, Catholic or Jewish, create a lot of emotional problems for many people. We always wonder why we are so tired, why we have so little patience and are more prone to fly off the handle. One of the explanations is very simple. All of us throughout the year work very hard at our jobs making a living and trying to keep the family together. Then the holiday season comes along and, in addition to our ordinary responsibilities, we add more responsibilities and more obligations. As a result we only have so much energy. So much of that energy is consumed by our ordinary obligations and to perform these extra obligation we have to rely on counterfeit energy.

Man and Son on beach

We run, we plan, we make all sorts of arrangements during the Christmas holiday and this is over and above our ordinary responsibilities. It does not take too long to figure out why so many people are so tired from the holiday season. When you look at the holiday season for the elderly, all of us who are in the clinical field know it is a problem of extraordinary loneliness. Their families have gone. Their drinking habits are accelerated. Now we find also that among the young there is a tremendous amount of anxiety and proneness to depression. So when you look at our society we have both the old and the young who don't find Christmas a happy holiday.

As we start the new year and head into the Lenten and Easter seasons, I would like to share a few thoughts with you on a subject that you have heard over and over but must be repeated so that we have true peace of mind throughout the year.

Peace of mind is a quality that you have to work at. You have to have definite values that give you a structure for each day's living. For example, you can say you are short tempered, you are prone to anger. But unless you make a serious effort on a day by day basis to control that anger your peace of mind level will be no greater during this coming year than it was during the past year. If you look at the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, where he said, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred let me bring love; where there is sadness, let me bring joy", he reminded his followers that this prayer should be recited and repeated day after day if the spirituality of Christ was to influence your daily life and daily conduct. It is the same principle we have to use concerning anger.

During the holiday we checked with the various police departments concerning domestic violence. In certain areas, it has doubled in the last five years. This is not relegated to the poor, this is a factor that is being experience by the upper and wealthy class.

St Francis
St Francis

Concerning anger, if you study the life of Christ you might recall that the most powerful words Christ ever spoke were not against the adulterer or the robber or the thieves. The most powerful words Christ ever spoke were against those who commit, or deny, that their anger is that bad. An uncontrollable mood, an uncontrollable temper is devastating to family peace and individual state of mind. Most in the field of clinical psychology often wonder around the holiday season why people who have all this extra time to shop, in addition to doing their daily duties, can't take the extra energy they display at Christmas for Christmas preparation and channel and harness that time in controlling their temper.

If throughout this coming year of 2003 you make no effort to control your temper, neither you nor your family will ever have peace of mind. That is a precious quality that neither you nor your family can do without.

The second quality that has to be kept in mind concerning achieving peace of mind is an honest to God look at your attitudes and your behavior. So many problems are caused at home because someone's imagination goes astray and all of a sudden all their thoughts become facts. As a result, because of imaginization, not the intellect, more chaos is brought into the ordinary home. There is no question about it, everyone's imagination is a wonderful gift to help in producing artistic works and works of creativity. Oftentimes the decorations in the home, the way the home is furnished, is because of someone's artistic talents and imagine. What we are finding out is that too many people imagine that certain members of the family are doing something wrong, certain members outside the family are doing something wrong or hurtful. As a result, the imagination that could be an instrument becomes and instrument of chaos.

God gave us an intellect and an imagination to live happily in this life. Our intellect helps us to seek the truth in every thing. Our imagination helps us find the beautiful things of life. But if both are used in the wrong way, you will never have that peace of mind that Christ spoke about when he said my peace I give to you, my peace I leave unto you.

The great psychiatrist Karl Jung once said the vast majority of his clients would never have come through is office door if they used the spiritual teachings of their spiritual founders. I think that during our adult life we have to recognize many of our own problems are self created by the improper use of the imagination and the improper use of our intellects. There is not going to be a time throughout this year when we are not challenged or tested. Our sense of faith, our sense of hope, our sense of trust in God, if developed, will help us make 2003 a year of peace. If we use our intellects incorrectly and our imagination incorrectly, we use these qualities of faith, hope and trust more difficult to implement. Many of the problems of our every day living can be solved if we recognize the teachings of St. Francis, "Lord, make me an instrument of peace". Being an instrument of peace enables us to help others. Being an instrument of peace helps us to help ourselves.

The Footpath to Peace

To be glad of life,
    because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play
    and to look up at the stars;
to be satisfied with your possessions,
    but not contented with yourself until you have made the best of them;
to despise nothing in the world
    except falsehood and meanness,
    and to fear nothing except cowardice;
to be governed by your admirations
    rather than by your disgusts;
to covet nothing that is your neighbor's
    except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manners;
to think seldom of your enemies,
    often of your friends and every day of Christ;
and to spend as much time as you can
    with body and with spirit,
    in God's out-of-doors -
    these are little guideposts on the footpath of peace.

- Henry Van Dyke

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