A LIST OF PSALMS FOR USE AS BLESSINGS, ARRANGED BY ORDER IN THE PSALTER
According to the usage of St. Arsenios of Cappadocia, as transmitted by the Athonite Elder Paisios. Translated for the St. Pachomius Library by Vassilios Kollias, Edited by Karen Rae Keck. http://modeoflife.org/tag/book-of-psalms/
1 (1) When a tree or a vine is planted, so that it may bring forth fruit.
2 (2) So that God illumines those who go to meetings and councils.
3 (3) So that badness goes away from people, so that they do not torment unjustly their fellows.
4 (4) So that God heals the sensitive people who fell ill from depression because of the behaviour of hard-hearted people.
5 (5) So that God heals the wounded eyes that were bitten by a bad person.
6 (6) So that God frees the person who has been under a spell.
7 (7) For those who got damaged from fear, from the terrors and the intimidations of bad people.
8 (8) For those who are hurt by demons or by perverse people.
9 (9 & 10) So that the demons stop tormenting you in sleep or with fancies during the day.
10 (11) For hard-hearted couples that argue and divorce (when the hardhearted man or woman torments their sensitive wife or husband).
October 22, 2014 + The Necessity for Orthodox Christians to Speak Up for Christ in Politics and the Public Square
from Elder Paisios
Often State policy and legislation undermine the Christian Faith. What should we as Christians do in such situations? Remain silent or speak up? Below is Elder Paisios' advice on the topic.
Today, when one is concerned over the condition of our nation, then that's a confession of faith in itself, because the State is opposing the divine law. It's legislating laws that are contrary to the law of God.
I have heard Spiritual Fathers advising their spiritual children, "Don't get involved in affairs of the State". Now if they had attained such a high level of sanctity through prayer that they didn't care about anything worldly, then I would be the first to kiss their feet. But they're only indifferent, they don't want to rock the boat. Indifference is unacceptable even among worldly people, and even less so among spiritual people. An honourable, spiritual person should do nothing indifferently. The Prophet Jeremiah exhorts us by saying "Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness."
by Kristina Wenger, M.A.
Staff Assistant for Internet Ministry to Teachers
As a new school year approaches, it is good for us teachers to think about how to improve our teaching methods so that we can be more effective. One way in which we can become better teachers is to sharpen our preparation for each class that we teach. Thinking through our lessons ahead of time, planning them, writing them out (or at least jotting down notes), and trying out activities or crafts before we do them with students are all ways in which we can improve our preparation and thereby become better teachers.
by Kristina Wenger, M.A.
Staff Assistant for Internet Ministry to Parents
It is the beginning of a new school year in the Northern Hemisphere. This is a good time to set goals and also begin good habits for the year. As our children participate in school, homeschool groups, library or park classes, clubs, Sunday Church School, and other such groups, let us as parents be mindful of those who are leading and teaching the children in these groups. This school year, let us set a goal to do a better job of knowing and supporting these teachers, and let us also begin the habits that will help us to meet that goal.
by St. John of Kronstadt
Health and the belly, these are the two idols--especially with men of the present age, of whom I myself, a great sinner, am one--for which we live, and which we continually serve, even to the neglect of the duties of our Christian calling--for instance, to the neglect of the reading of the Word of God, which is sweeter than honey and honey-comb; to the neglect of prayer, that sweetest converse with God, and of the preaching of the Word of God. To walk a great deal for health, and to incite the appetite, to eat with appetite --such are the objects of the desires and aspirations of many of us. But through our frequent walks, through our fondness for food and drink, we shall find that one thing has been neglected, and another irrevocably missed, whilst others have not even entered into our minds; for can the time after a good dinner or supper be really a good time for any serious work! Even if we would like to occupy ourselves with work, the belly, full of food and drink, draws us away from it, and constrains us to rest, so that we begin to slumber over our work. What sort of work can it be? Indeed, there is nothing left, if it is after dinner, but to lie down and rest, and if it is after supper, after having prayed somehow or other (for a satiated man cannot even pray as he should), to go to bed and sleep--the miserable consequence of an overloaded stomach--until the next morning.
On seeing someone sinning, a holy man wept bitterly and said: "He has fallen today, and I will surely fall tomorrow; he will assuredly repent, but as for myself, I am not sure if I will repent."
The Evergetinos: A Complete Text, Vol. 3, Edited and Translated by Archbp. Chrysostomos and Hieromonk Patapios, Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2008, p. 12.
The Conference on Antiochian Unity held at Balamand University, June 25–29, was a source of great joy and pride for the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. Our Metropolitan Joseph was asked to moderate the wrap-up session, Fr. Michel Najm offered a key paper, and members of our delegation were placed on every workshop of the Conference. In this way, we could dialogue and share with representatives of each of the Antiochian archdioceses throughout the world. It was obvious from the way the conference was structured that the underlying goal was to promote and develop lay and clergy cooperation and leadership at every level of the church. God has blessed His Church with great resources. He has called clergy and lay workers alike to develop skills in every kind of social, medical, educational and ecclesiastical ministry.
While every archdiocese of the Patriarchate has made progress in developing structures for these varied ministries, the North American Archdiocese has been the most deliberate and successful in this area. We were able to share practical experiences to help others reach their goals. We were not there, however, just to give. The American delegation had much to learn about the obstacles and challenges of the other archdioceses as well, and gathered information about global trends that have affected Europe and the Middle East. No doubt, many of these challenges are coming our way, too. In any case, because of global communications, everyone will share the best and the worst of all situations. The collaboration of the Conference on Unity was surely beneficial to all.
A PERSONAL REFLECTION
Overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Sea is the Balamand Abbey, built by Cistercian Monks in 1157 A.D., on the Hill of Balamand in al-Kurah, Lebanon. The monks left the Abbey before the capture of Tripoli and the Crusaders departed.
Three hundred years later, Greek Orthodox monks took over the Abbey, naming it the Balamand Monastery. Initially, ten monks occupied it, but this number increased to twenty-five in a very short period. Their lives were filled with prayer, tending crops, writing and copying manuscripts, as well as hosting visitors. The buildings were built around a square courtyard, representing the four evangelists, which is the center of their monastic life.
From the moment we arrived at the Balamand, our North American delegation, consisting of Fr. Thomas Zain, Vicar General, Fr. Timothy Ferguson, Protosyngelos, Fawaz El-Khoury, Dan Braun, Dan Abraham, Khalil Samara, Jordan Khurzum, Douglas Cramer and myself, were welcomed and made to feel very much at home. Metropolitans, bishops, priests and delegates from Antiochian archdioceses all over the world convened at this historical conference. They came from Brazil, France, England, Mexico, Syria, Lebanon, Europe, and Saudi Arabia, to name a few, and, of course, North America. We prayed together, ate together, and attended the presentations and workshops together. We were equally blessed to have Archbishop Joseph, soon to be Metropolitan Joseph, Bishop Alexander, Bishop John and Bishop Nicholas with us.
The question of life's meaning has been asked by specialists: philosophers, psychologists, scientists, spiritual leaders, artists, writers, and those of the popular mind as well. One way of approaching the question is to consider that a personality disposition or trait can be nurtured to allow us to strive to make sense of the events that are occurring to us and in the world around us. One method for doing this is by way of the three ways to discover life's meaning suggested by German psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl (1959, p. 133)i: "(1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering."
He (and I agree) state that finding meaning in "work or accomplishment," as in the first way, is, on the face of it, "obvious." Frankl likens the second way to experiencing "goodness, truth and beauty" in nature, culture or in another human being. In this regard, I am reminded of the beautiful verse from Psalm 18:2: "The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands." Frankl found meaning in the loss of his family and in his personal suffering by choosing to focus on the everyday choices he did have during his internment in a concentration camp, such as being able to see the beauty in a sunrise despite being naked and out in freezing weather. A transition can be made from awareness of beauties in nature such as sunrises, sunsets, or starry nights to the intrinsic beauty that is God, their Creator. Among the Eastern Church Fathers, for example, it is said that "physical beauty is the epiphany of divine beauty."ii
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
From time immemorial, the Church has celebrated the Most-holy Theotokos as the patroness and protectress of the Christian people, who, by her intercessory prayers, implores God's mercy for us sinners. The help of the Most-holy Mother of God has been clearly shown numerous times, to individuals and to nations, in peace and in war, in monastic deserts and in densely populated cities. The event that the Church commemorates and celebrates today confirms the Theotokos' consistent protection of Christian people. On October 1, 911, during the reign of Emperor Leo the Wise, there was an All-night Vigil in the Blachernae Church of the Mother of God in Constantinople. The church was full of people. St. Andrew the Fool-for-Christ was standing in the rear of the church with his disciple Epiphanius. At four o'clock in the morning, the Most-holy Theotokos appeared above the people, holding her omophorion outstretched as a protective covering for the faithful. She was clothed in gold-encrusted purple, and shone with an ineffable radiance, surrounded by apostles, saints, martyrs and virgins. St. Andrew said to Blessed Epiphanius: "Do you see, brother, the Queen and Lady of all praying for the whole world?" Epiphanius replied: "I see, Father, and am struck with amazement!" The Feast of the Protection was instituted to commemorate this event, and to remind us that we can prayerfully receive the unceasing protection of the Most-holy Theotokos in any time of difficulty.
[This is a follow up course to Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course, that appeared in four parts over the years 2012-2013. This second course is specifically oriented to explain Orthodoxy to mental health practitioners,and serve as a useful resource for Orthodox Clergy and laity as well. Ethically, mental health practitioners should incorporate the spiritual values of their patients in the therapeutic process. The course would serve as an introduction of the Eastern Orthodox ethos and cultural traditions to these professionals.
One of the most frequently questions I am asked as Chairman of the Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is for a referral to an Orthodox mental health practitioner. Sadly Orthodoxy is not a majority spiritual tradition in North America and Orthodox practitioners are few. So careful questioning by potential patients, family and clergy of a potential practitioner regarding the practitioner's understanding and respect for the spiritual values of their patients is very important. This course is meant to aid in this inquiry.
It also should be noted that this course is an updating and reworking of a recently published chapter: Psychotherapy with members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, (Morelli, 2014).]
The Distinctive Ethos of Orthodox Spirituality and Psychotherapy
Some distinguishing features of Orthodox Spirituality need emphasis. In considering the Church as a hospital, the Orthodox view of sin should be noted; it is considered a disease, illness or infirmity in need of continual healing, in contrast to the West wherein sin is viewed in more of a juridical sense. In addition, a frequent image of sin in the Patristic literature is that of an archer 'missing the mark' (amartia). In regard to marriage and sexuality, as noted above, for Orthodox Christians the "theology of sex" based on Divine Love is at the highest principal, infinitely beyond empathy or ethical standards. It goes to the essence of God Himself, as the Church Fathers emphasized.
by Abba Arsenius
from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers
[Arsenius] saw a temple and two men on horseback, opposite one another, carrying a piece of wood crosswise. They wanted to go in through the door, but could not because they held their piece of wood crosswise. Neither of them would draw back before the other, so as to carry the wood straight; so they remained outside the door. A voice said to the old man, "These men carry the yoke of righteousness with arrogance, and do not humble themselves and walk in the humble way of Christ. So they remain outside the kingdom of God.
by St. John Chrysostom
That we must not be overly inquisitive, and that we must wait for the final outcome of things.
God's economy is directed toward a single end in each of these lives: our salvation and good repute. Even if it is divided in two with regard to time, it is united with regard to objective. Just as at first it is winter and then it is spring, and the passage of each season has a single goal – the ripening of the fruit – so it is with our affairs.
Therefore, when you see the Church scattered, undergoing the utmost sufferings, its prominent members attacked and flogged, its leader carried afar off, consider not only these things, but also the things that will result from them: the rewards, the compensations, the prizes, the awards. He that endureth to the end shall be saved, says the Lord (Matt. 10:22). In the time of the Old Covenant, when the teaching of the resurrection was not yet well known, both things came to pass in the present life. But in the time of the New Covenant, this is not always so. Rather, there are instances where there are painful things here in this life, and the good things await our departure from here.
Bishop John visited Metropolitan Joseph on July 26, 2014, to receive his blessings and a message for the readers of The Word. Metropolitan Joseph was hospitable, candid and loving. Here is what he had to say.
We thank God for all of His blessings, wisdom and guidance bestowed upon us. I thank our Father in Christ, Patriarch John X, for his leadership, love and constant prayers for this Archdiocese. We pray to almighty God that He will grant our Father, Patriarch John X, strength and perseverance during this critical time in the life of our Patriarchate, especially the challenges and danger facing the people and land of the Middle East. We thank my brother Metropolitans, the members of the Holy Synod of Antioch, for their confidence, their love and their support. I also would like to take this opportunity to thank my brother hierarchs of this Archdiocese for all of their hard work, godly ministry and efforts to maintain the unity and strength of our Archdiocese. We pray that the merciful God will remember our beloved Metropolitan Philip in His heavenly Kingdom and will reward him richly for all of the accomplishments realized during his half-century ministry. He left for us a big legacy to build upon.
Now we begin a new chapter in the life the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese is not one person, but the whole body; metropolitan, hierarchs, clergy, monastics and all the believers.
by St. John Chrysostom
That we must not be overly inquisitive, and that we must wait for the final outcome of things.
Above all, we must not be overly inquisitive, either at the outset or afterwards. But if you are so curious and inquisitive, wait for the final outcome and see how things turn out. And do not be thrown into confusion, do not be troubled at the start. When an inexperienced man at first sees a goldsmith melting the gold and mixing it with ashes and chaff – if he does not wait till the end – he will think the gold is ruined. And if a man who has been born and raised on the sea and is completely ignorant of how to care for the land is suddenly moved to the interior of the country, when he sees the wheat that has been stored away and protected behind doors and bars, and kept free from moisture, suddenly brought out by the farmer, scattered, thrown about, lying on the ground before all passersby, and not only not kept free from moisture, but given over to mire and mud without any protection, will he not consider the wheat to be ruined and pass judgment on the farmer who did these things? But this condemnation does not come from the nature of what is done, but from the inexperience and folly of him who is not judging well, casting his ballot immediately at the outset. If he waited for the summer and saw the fields waving, the sickle sharpened, and the wheat that has remained scattered unprotected and rotted and ruined and given over to the mire now raised up and multiplied, appearing in full bloom, having put away that which is obsolete, set upright with great strength, as though having guards and a watch, raising its stalk up high, delighting the beholder, as well as providing nourishment and great benefit – then he would be highly amazed that, by way of such conditions, the fruit had been brought to such abundance and splendor.
This article is an updating and reworking of the ‘Light of the East’ Summer 2014 SSJC-WR President’s Message.i
The Light of the East President’s Message just two years ago was entitled The New Martyrs in Syria.iiSad to say, two years later the geographic area and ferocity of Christian Martyrdom has greatly expanded. Martyrdom is especially prevalent throughout the Middle East, in Syria, of course, but in Iraq, Gaza, and Palestine and in adjacent areas in Africa, such as Egypt and other Arabic countries, as well. We can look at the violence around the world, and which is now so prevalently raging throughout the Middle East. We hear cries of vengeance on all sides. It is lamentable that scores are being massacred, youngsters being killed or beaten.iii Unfortunately, many consider that such acts of vengeance, retribution and terror are blessed by God.
Sad also is that political differences have led to further divisions among Apostolic Christians such as between the various Catholic and Orthodox jurisdictions in the Ukrainian conflict. We can see increasing divisiveness even within jurisdictions themselves.
by St. John Chrysostom
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till and to keep it (Gen. 2:15).
'To till.' What was lacking in Paradise? And even if a tiller was needed, where was the plow? Where were the other implements of agriculture? The "tilling" [or "working"] of God consisted in tilling and keeping the commandment of God, remaining faithful to the commandment... Just as to believe in Christ is the work of God (John 6:29), so also it was a work to believe the commandment that if he touched (the forbidden tree) he would die, and if he did not touch it, he would live. The work was the keeping of the spiritual words ... "To till and to keep it," it is said. To keep it from whom? There were no thieves, no passersby, no one of evil intent. To keep from whom? To keep it for oneself; not to lose it by transgressing the commandment; to keep Paradise for oneself, observing the commandment.
In late June, an historic event took place in the life of the Church of Antioch: the first Antiochian Unity Conference, called by His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, to gather together representatives of the Patriarchate from across the globe. The conference was held in Balamand, Lebanon, from June 25 to 29, and concluded on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul with a massive outdoor Patriarchal Liturgy on the grounds of Balamand University, attended by faithful from across the region as well as those gathered for the Conference.
This gathering occurred during a momentous time for our ancient Patriarchate of Antioch. A strong and ascendant Patriarch, John X, in the early stages of his leadership, guides the Church with love and joy in the Holy Spirit, while the Church carries a heavy cross: the historic homeland of the Patriarchate in Syria suffers war and the constant threat of violence, and the Church in Lebanon struggles with the burdens of life on the doorstep of war. The discussions of the conference were informed by the presence in spirit of the brother of Patriarch John, His Eminence Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo, abducted during the conflict over a year ago, along with Syriac Metropolitan Yohanna of Aleppo.
This reflection from the September, 2014 edition of The Word magazine begins with a brief introductory explanation by the Editor, Bishop John Abdalah.
We were at the Antiochian Village in July, 2014, for the Clergy Symposium, sitting in front of the portrait of Patriarch Alexander (Tahan), the Patriarch who ordained Bishop Antoun to the diaconate in 1951. Bishop Antoun began to reminisce about the late Patriarch and his ordination. Metropolitan Philip served this Patriarch as his Secretary and Deacon. Sayidna Philip found this portrait at St. John of Damascus Parish during a pastoral visit. "How important it is for us to remember those godly men who went before us, forming our spiritual lives through their witness and teachings," remarked our senior Bishop Antoun.
Sayidna Antoun has served the Archdiocese of North America for 60 years. He is part of the history of our Church, witnessing its growth and changes as a priest and bishop, as a pastor and as an administrator, as an immigrant and as an American. As we experience our transition from the leadership of Sayidna Philip to that of Sayidna Joseph, we are blessed to hear Bishop Antoun's reflections, visions and hopes.
I served as a teacher in the Orthodox School in Damascus, and later as the Principal of St. John of Damascus School in Syria. I then moved to San Paolo, Brazil, and served the Church there as a deacon before coming to the United States, where I studied at St. Vladimir's Seminary. Almost right away I was reunited by phone with my longtime friend, Metropolitan Philip, who was then a priest in Cleveland, Ohio. Because I missed my friend Fr. Philip, I went to visit him there. I had asked how long a trip Cleveland would be from New York. He told me it would be a few hours: just tell the Greyhound Bus [people] you want Cleveland and they will bring you here. The trip took overnight! I found my friend Philip waiting for me in the Church.
Most of us know very well that daily annoyances are a normal part of life. I am sure we all have our own personal list of everyday nuisances. Most of my own personal favorites have to do with drivers and driving. For example, drivers not using signals, backing out of parking spaces and not moving at a green light, top my list. .All events that we view as annoyances are seen as such because of personal rules that guide the way each of us looks at life. These rules may be likened to a colored lens that gives a hue to the events that are occurring around us. Cognitive science and clinical practitionersi would have us understand that the emotional reaction we feel is due to our psychological interpretation of what is happening around us. Furthermore, in the case of daily irritations such as those mentioned above, it would also be that when people or events are not the way I want them to be, I see this as a catastrophe of some type, something more than 100% bad. Re-evaluating events to discern how actually catastrophic they really are has been found to be helpful in keeping emotions in a ‘normal’ range.ii
by Antiochos (author of the Pandects)
Condemnation of one's neighbor is the worst of all the passions; for not only odes it render the one who condemns liable to the severest punishment, since he usurps God's prerogative as Judge and becomes, so to speak, a rival of God, but the condemner, by stripping himself of the protection and help of God on account of his condemnation, also opens himself up to falling into that very sin for which he condemns his neighbor. He who is condemned, if he is not resentful towards the one who has condemned him, mitigates the gravity of the sin which elicited his condemnation. But he who condemns takes upon himself the burden of the sin of the one whom he condemns, as the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee very clearly shows us.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
And the Lord shall be known to Egypt and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yes, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord and perform it. (Isaiah 19:21)
O how changeable is the heart of man! But, of all of his changes, one is more shameful than the most shameful and that is: when a believer becomes an unbeliever. Of all his changes, one is more glorious than the most glorious and that is: when the unbeliever converts and becomes a believer. The first change occurred with the Israelites who killed Christ and the other occurred with the Egyptians who believed in Christ. At one time, Egypt was the greatest persecutor of those who believed in the one, living God, for at one time, the Egyptians had many lifeless gods, idols and things that they worshipped, fables and soothsayers by which they were deceived. But behold what the prophet fortells! What a wonderful vision! The Egyptians will recognize the one and the living Lord at the time when the Lord appears in the flesh among mankind. Idols will be destroyed, the temples of the demons and animals will be overthrown and the altar of oblation of the Living and one God will be established and raised up. The Bloodless Sacrifice will be offered in place of the bloody sacrifice and the rational in place of the irrational. Hundreds and thousands of monks will take upon themselves the vows of poverty, obedience, fasting, and prayer out of love for the Lord. The greatest ascetics will appear in this once darkened Egypt; the bravest martyrs for Christ the Lord; the most enlightened minds; the most discerning miracle-workers. O, what a wonderful vision! And how wonderful is the realization of that vision! St. Chrysostom writes: "Neither the sun, with its multitude of stars, is not as glowing as much as the wilderness of Egypt with all of its monks." All was realized in truth, that was foreseen and foretold by Isaiah, the son of Amos, the discerning and true prophet.
by St. Ignatius Briachaninov
Through humility in your dealings with your neighbor, and through love for your neighbor, hardness and callousness is expelled from the heart. It is rolled away like a heavy rock from the entrance to a tomb, and the heart revives for spiritual relations with God for which it has been hitherto dead. A new vista opens to the gaze of the mind: the multitudinous wounds of sin with which the whole fallen nature is riddled. It begins to confess its wretched state to God and implore Him for mercy. The heart assists the mind with mourning and compunction. This is the beginning of true prayer.
On the other hand, the prayer of a resentful person St. Isaac the Syrian compares with sowing on rock. The same must be said of the prayer of one who condemns and despises his neighbor. God not only does not attend to the prayer of one who is proud and angry, but He even permits a person praying in such a state of soul to undergo various most humiliating temptations so that being struck and oppressed by them he may resort to humility in his relations with his neighbor and to love for his neighbor.
by Leontius the Presbyter of Constantinople
Christ, our generous host, has set before us again today a banquet-table worthy of veneration: a table not simply to be honored by custom, but recognized as part of our familiarity with God; a table not marked by yearning for earthly delights, but sharing in those of heaven; a table not splendid with Solomon's delicacies, but crowned by God's laws; a table not made blessed by abundance of food, but made solemn by thoughts of God. For what could be richer than Solomon's table, spreading out day by day (as is told us in the Third Book of the Kingdoms) 'thirty kors of fine wheat flour, and sixty kors of ground barley meal, and ten tender, choice calves and twenty grazing cows and a hundred sheep – to say nothing of deer and gazelles and choice birds' [see III Kingdoms 11:1-13]. But such a lavish abundance of dishes brought Solomon no benefit, nor did it lead him towards perfect virtue. Just the opposite: by leading him to indulge himself beyond measure, it led him to go mad in the end. But the table of the Lord, richly laid before us again today – a table that is immaterial, infinite, incorruptible, immortal, uncircumscribed, beyond human reckoning – directs us not only towards earthly blessings, but towards heavenly ones as well! For it does not offer us 'thirty kors of wheat flour,' but lavishes on us the kingdom of heaven, as the yeast in 'three measures of barley' [Mt. 13:33]. Nor does it set out 'sixty kors of barley,' but the bread of heaven itself; I mean that the Lord Christ rewards believers here with the gift of Himself, day after day.
The world is awash with people in all walks of life making excuses. No one in any level of society, government, military, the corporate world, educational, health and religious institutions is exempt from making excuses. Clinical psychologists consider ‘making excuses’ a form of psychological defensiveness. Albert Ellis (1962)i puts it this way: “psychologically, therefore, rationalizing or excusing one’s behavior is the opposite of being rational or reasonable about it.” (p. 433) He then points out the untoward consequences of such defensiveness: “to rationalize or intellectualize about one’s self-defeating behavior is to help perpetuate it endlessly.” (p. 344)
While writing this month’s Chaplain’s Corner, I took time out to cook dinner, during which I watched an episode of the Food Network Show Restaurant Impossible. Chef Robert Irvine goes into an appallingly failing restaurant with his design team with the goal of turning around, in a short time and with a limited budget, failures that can include filthy, outdated interiors, abysmal service, subpar menus and cooking, but, most often, severely dysfunctional interpersonal problems among the owners (many times married and/or family) and between owners and staff (who are often also relatives of the owners). Common to owners, staff and chefs are a myriad of excuses for poor performance. In this particular episode, Chef Robert, with his usual military bearing and tone of voice (he was a former chef in the British Royal Navy), had a one-liner to solve the problem that hits the bull's-eye. He told owners and staff quite dramatically: “Step up and own it.”