Sense of worth

Statistics show that most New Year’s resolutions are broken within 48 hours. I think we should resolve not to make any resolutions. At least we might keep that resolution. A wise person once asked: “If you try to fail, and you succeed, have you failed or succeeded?”

In lieu of resolutions, may I suggest we learn a formula: “The more inadequate we feel, the more anxious we will feel, and the more hostile we will behave.” While only the pope can speak infallibly in matters of faith or morals, that formula is probably as close as we can get to infallibility, as far as human behavior goes.

When someone says or does something that is hurtful to you, how do you feel? Mostly, we feel hurt or sad. We then want to say or do something to hurt them back. We want to put them down as they put us down. Our anxiety turns to hostility.

Yet, if we have a healthy sense of self-worth, we can let the comment go. We can ignore the hurtful behavior. We don’t have to get even. As one very spiritual person put it: “Revenge makes us even. Forgiveness makes us better.” That isn’t how the world thinks. It is how God thinks.

For Jesus to pray from his cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” is the ultimate statement of forgiveness. From his experience of pain, Jesus could have called down fire and brimstone on his executioners. From his experience of divinity, Jesus called down forgiveness.

When you and I are hurting, we don’t typically think of being divine. Yet, in fact, that is who we are. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We have the Eucharist to feed our divinity. We have the sacraments to nurture and heal our humanity.

In our better moments, we experience the presence of God within ourselves. But the world around us does not necessarily feed that image. Mostly we are bombarded by commercials and advertisements that tell us how we should look or smell, what we should eat, what we should drive and on and on. Put simply, most commercials are designed to make us feel bad about ourselves so that we will buy something we don’t need to feel better. But we can never get enough. Nothing outside of us can ever feed the divinity within us.

So I would suggest that we practice the presence of God throughout the day. I like to pray the rosary while I’m driving. I like to recite the Jesus prayer while I walk (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me”). Our sense of worth is not what someone else thinks. Our sense of worth comes from the presence of God within.

Father Joseph Breighner

Father Joseph Breighner

Father Joseph Breighner is a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and a columnist for the Catholic Review.