Delivering a eulogy for a loved one takes great empathy and maturity. I’ve been moved by many I have heard.
Often, however, I wonder what impact the words expressed would have had on the person being remembered. Did they ever have the opportunity to know what their loved ones felt? Did they appreciate the contributions they had made to lives of those who loved them?
All too often, the answer is no. Yes, they may have had toasts at a birthday party or had meaningful conversations with their spouse or children. They may have memory books or letters from grandchildren. Yet, we often hesitate in expressing our admiration and appreciation for those we love.
Why Do We Wait?
Perhaps we fear exposing our own vulnerabilities. Perhaps we think we may embarrass our loved ones.
Consider, however, when our words would have the greatest impact. Why wait to express them? They can enrich our loved ones lives when they are alive.
I saw this first hand with my grandfather.He was a doctor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for 40 years.
Every once in a while he would reach into a closet in his apartment that contained a box of letters he received from patients. They spoke of his warmth and caring for them, and he would read them aloud to me as a tear or two formed in his eyes.
He savored his life’s work and gained an incalculable benefit from hearing the words of others while he still could.
When Not To Be Patient
We can apply this lesson in other areas of life as well. We can celebrate professional colleagues during their career, and not just when they move or retire. We can tell our children throughout their lives how proud we are of them, and highlight the unique gifts and talents and character they bring to the world.
Patience is a critical virtue in life. We need not be patient, however, when it comes to honoring those we love.
I Almost Told Her
Rabbi Jack Riemer tells a haunting story of a funeral he conducted. As friends and family began to leave the cemetery, the husband of the deceased remained by grave. He kept repeating to the rabbi that he loved his wife. “I love my wife, ” he said. “I love my wife.”
The rabbi said “I know. The rabbi waited, and after a while, he returned to the man and said that the cemetery was closing, and it was time to go. The man answers, “I love my wife.” The rabbi answered, “I understand. But it’s time to go. The cemetery is closing.” The man replied, “You don’t understand. I love my wife. And once I almost told her.”
This inability to express our feelings is all too common. One writer calls it “emotional constipation.” Those who have it often have little trouble expressing certain feelings like anger and annoyance. Love, however, remains inside of us. Let us pledge to bring it out.
By Evan Moffic
One of the great heroes of the bible is a man named Caleb. During the forty years of wandering in the desert, he remains confident in God’s promise even as others falter. His loyalty and commitment do not waver.
It is any surprise, therefore, that the Hebrew word for our most loyal animal is almost identical to the name Caleb. It shares the same Hebrew letters, suggesting a parallel in meaning.
Dogs embody the loyalty and love taught by the biblical Caleb.
Bring Comfort in the Wake of Tragedy
I thought of these extraordinary qualities in reading about the aftermath of Sandy Hook massacre. As children returned to school on January 3rd, they were greeted by “therapy” dogs provided by Lutheran Church Charities.
According to news reports, several children who were very hesitant to return to school decided to go when they heard the dogs would be there. Several teachers also said the dogs helped them comfort the students.
Our Best Friend
How does this spiritual comfort work? Well consider the biblical verse inscribed on the collar of one of the dogs, whose name happens to be “Moses.” Quoting the qualities of character lauded in chapter 34 of the book of Exodus, his collar reads, “Merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth.”
Comfort can always come from man’s best friend.
By Evan Moffic
“Keep giving them you, until you is what they want.”
A mentor once advised me that a good rabbi needs a strong ego. Clergy can become the target of people’s frustration with God, life and the inevitable experiences of pain and suffering. Criticism is inevitable.
While I am fortunate to serve a loving and supportive community, I, like everyone, face occasional hostility. It could be a sermon, a decision, something said in passing.
How do we survive it? How do we deal with it? Here is what has worked for me.
1. Look for what is useful: Criticism can be destructive. But it can also be constructive. The challenge is to look for the worthwhile insights. They can help us grow, and true success often comes through the way we respond to them.
David Allen uses the metaphor of a rocket to illustrate this truth. “Much of the energy in propelling a rocket,” he writes, “is spent in course correction—it is, in a way, always veering out of control and off target.”
“It achieves its goal precisely because it has a responsive feedback mechanism that prevents it from wavering too far off its designated target.” In other words, constructive criticism can help bring us back on target. It can serve as a useful course corrective.
2. Remember that criticism is a sign of engagement: Seth Godin writes that “you will be judged, or you will be ignored.” When someone challenges you, you know they are listening. That is a sign of influence. The alternative is being ignored. Which would you prefer?
3. Keep the long-term goal in mind: Purpose-driven people try to create something that lasts. It could be a family, a business, an organization.
Building for the long-term means facing criticisms throughout the short-term. Rome was not built in a day. Neither is anything worthwhile.
4. Pause, then ask yourself, “Does it really matter?” The biggest mistakes happen when we act impulsively. Something angers us, and we send an e-mail too quickly, or we let hurtful words escape our lips.
We can’t control what people say, but we can control how respond. Pausing can help us respond in a more effective way and prevent us from giving the criticism more than its due.
5. Keep your moral and artistic center: Creative and successful people always face criticism. During his lifetime, Mozart’s work was called “too bizarre” and “overstuffed and overloaded.” Had he given up, the world would lack some of its greatest symphonies, concertos and moments of inspiration.
Remember that the world needs your gifts, even it seems certain people do not want them. It will work out. As screenwriter Dennis Palumbo put it, “Keep giving them you, until you is what they want.”
By Evan Moffic
A Happy, Healthy and Sweet New Year to all my readers and friends!
Happy New Year! This list captures what readers found particularly moving over the year and can help us gain perspective on 2012. It is somewhat subjective and incomplete, since this blog did not formally start until June, and a few pieces have been moved to other parts of the Beliefnet site. Yet, it is a snapshot in time. May the coming year be one of joy, health and peace!
The Secret of Life According to Pete the Cat
Children’s books contain simple wisdom, and this book is one of my and my kids’ favorites.
How One Speech Changed 1000 Hearts
A eulogy delivered in the heat of war transformed hearts and minds
God’s Tears Are Our Own: How to Respond to the Horror of the Connecticut School Shooting
This tragedy continues to loom large in our national soul, and this piece represents part of my struggle.
Can Todd Akin be Forgiven
A Congressman’s comments on rape raised serious moral questions and dilemmas
Did David Petraeus Need to Resign?
We hold our public figures to high standards, and one of our nation’s finest stunned the country with his out-of-character behavior.
Compiled by Evan Moffic,
Did I miss any? If I didn’t include something you particularly found meaningful, include a link or let me know in the comments!