Are you the captain of your soul?

By Gary Evans, PFCC Advisor

Gary eBlast

Gary Evans, PFCC Advisor

In a parable that I have always turned to when facing life concerns, an old man and his granddaughter were sitting on a bench in the heart of town. As they sat, a car pulled up and a well-dressed man got out of his car and walked over to them.

He explained that he would be moving into the town with his family in the next week or two and he was interested in the town and the kind of people who lived there.

“What were the people like in the town from which you are moving?” asked the grandpa.

“I am so glad to be moving,” the man said, “those people were always gossiping and being rude and not at all nice.” The grandpa looked at the man for a moment and then said, “Unfortunately, you are going to find the same kind of people here.”

Later that same day, another car stopped and again a man got out and said he was being transferred and would be moving to the town. He asked the old man what kind of people lived in the town. Again, the grandpa asked the same question, “What were the people like in the town from which you are moving?”

“Oh my whole family is so saddened that my job makes this move necessary. The town we are leaving is such a wonderful place to be. The neighbors are so kind and caring and they are all sad that we are moving”.  The grandpa looked at the man for a moment and then said, “Fortunately you are going to find the same kind of people here.”

After the man had gone, the granddaughter was puzzled and wanted to know why her grandpa had such different answers for the two men.

He answered, “ If you expect people to be hard to get along with, they likely will be, and if you expect people to be kind and caring, there is a good chance they will be.”

It is a wise and thought provoking answer. As the old saying goes, “That which I expected has come to pass.” Our attitudes and expectations for others often create the realities with which we live and ways we interact with them. It is most important to remember the wisdom of the saying, “We see the world not as it is but as we are.”

Wise people know that personal judgments can very much affect what we see. Through personal experiences and academic training, nurses and doctors are trained to look for certain symptoms as they assess the health of a patient.

It is no less important to consider the person simply as a human being that needs as much personal attention as professional attention.

One of the Detroit newspapers used to run a column of short statements attributed to an Ashley Brilliant and one I remember so well was, ‘I believe my dear there is no such thing as a cold person. There are only frightened people and cold is the temperature of fear.”

Abraham Lincoln was making the same observation about our attitudes and the reality with which we live. Said Lincoln, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Likewise, In his poem Invictus, William Ernest Henley wrote, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Our expectations and our will power create the realities with which we live.

I have heard people say, “You made me angry” or “You made me feel badly.” They chose to blame other people for their behavior rather than recognizing that the decision regarding how respond was theirs to make.

I find it helpful to think to myself, “I choose to be angry,” or “I choose to feel badly. “ Such a self-admission reminds me that I am the one responsible for my reactions to what other people are saying and doing.

We are all capable of becoming the masters of our fate and the captains of our souls. We can choose how we relate to others. We are capable of being caring and kind to the grouchy or angry person. We can choose to behave consistent with the person we are becoming and the person we want to be. It never hurts to set daily goals for how we want to live each day and work at our goals. Even when we are not successful, it only means we have to practice the next day and the next day and the next. It is exciting to be the person we are constantly working to become!

As Mahatma Gandhi so wisely said, “ You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”





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