Question: The pandemic has certainly caused many problems. Our neighbors, who lived next to us, lost their home. We’ve known them for over 10 years. We knew they had to leave, and they did, but didn’t tell us where they were going. We would like to have helped them in someway but, when the foreclosure came, they stopped communicating with us. We even put a note in their mailbox indicating we would do what we could but received no response.
We’re thinking they’re embarrassed but there was no need for that because jobs were lost, throwing them into financial ruin. In the meantime, we pray for them everyday and hope they’ll come back and see us when their lives are more stable, which we hope will happen. Please say something about letting others help out in times of need. We miss our neighbors and are sad they had to go through this experience. ~ Kindhearted Neighbors
Dear Kindhearted Neighbors,
It is clear you understand their situation very well, as well as the reason why they may have distanced themselves from you because of a sense a shame over what had happened to them. It was very kind and generous of you to reach out to reassure them of your desire for continued friendship and to offer whatever support you could. I am reassured of the innate goodness of mankind by your personal demonstration of humanity toward your neighbor.
The great American transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
We live in a society that has mixed views of failure. On the one hand, unlike in Europe a man can fail in business in this country and yet begin again. He or she can fail in business numerous times, and yet always have a new beginning if they so choose or can manage it. Unlike many other countries, our laws are set up to allow for this possibility. America was the Land of New Beginnings, both business wise and on a personal level.
On the other hand, many of us still do hold onto the inherited centuries old religious/cultural belief that if people fail, it must be the result of a personal flaw, an innate inadequacy that opens them up to both judgment and condemnation by either their peers or society in general. But the reality is no one gets through life without messing up … some worse than others, some more often than others. No one gives us a personal foolproof road map through life that will help us to always avoid mistakes and the shame we feel because we think we have failed; or thinking that others see us as failures; or thinking we are of less value, worth or capability than our fellow man. The sad truth is we are all born into ignorance and, oftentimes, in spite of our education or upbringing, we find ourselves having to wing it with no certainty as to the outcome. No wonder so many of us may lead lives of quiet desperation behind masks of normalcy. Instead of condemnation for those who fail, we should have the greatest compassion.
I am comforted to hear you pray for them everyday. Prayer has real power. Why? The Bible tells us the word has real power to shape reality. When we speak our word into the divine in the form of prayer, the power of our word can metaphorically move mountains. We have seen numerous examples of how language can shape reality as well what we, and even those whom we pray for, can experience. So it is important to consciously tailor our prayer to effectively fit the need.
So what does this mean? Rev. Ike once said that whenever he saw someone seemingly down and out, he refused to mentally acknowledge him/her as such. He declared internally with his word that this person was strong, prosperous and blessed in all things.
Jesus tells us, “It is done unto you as you believe.” In other words, we get what we believe, be it good or bad, positive or negative. This even holds true for what we believe about others. Rev. Ike refused to see this person as flawed or failed. He refused to believe the outward appearance of lack, limitation or failure was the divine truth of this person. His prayer for them was the prayer of faith, of their possessing already the good he desired for them. When we pray for others let us follow his example.
Here is a prayer you can use to help manifest goodness, blessing and renewed prosperity for your former neighbor. Speak it whenever you are concerned or think of them: “My neighbors (state their names) are divinely blessed and prospered in all things. They are freed from the burden of any shame or blame from the past, and are released into the joy of manifest divine mercy, forgiveness, goodness and blessings that is theirs by right as a child of God. I know that they are further blessed with a renewed prosperity and the security, peace and happiness of a new and wonderful home they love and enjoy. And so it is. Amen.”
Dear Kindhearted Neighbors,
This is an age-old problem: lose job, be very embarrassed and then hide. I’ve even heard of men losing their jobs and then leaving the house everyday pretending to go to work rather than saying anything.
My husband was laid off from his engineering job and it was very frightening and embarrassing. Through prayer, the loss of his job led to a better, more secure job with a good pension. We should all be able to ask for help in times of need but pride gets in the way. So please don’t take it personally and continue to pray that, in the long run, this will be better for them.
Question: I left alcohol behind 10 years ago and regularly attend AA meetings. My problem is with the holidays coming up. There are a couple of family members who try to get me to have a drink with them. Yes, this happens at each and every family gathering and, I have to say, it dampens my good time. I do agree to toast with non-alcoholic beverages.
Please make suggestions about what I can say without causing hard feelings and put this issue away once and for all. ~ Teetotaler Forever
Dear Teetotaler Forever:
It takes a lot of courage and determination to remain sober and you are to be congratulated for your 10 years of sobriety. Attending AA meetings on a regular basis is highly recommended and most important. Stay in close touch with your sponsor who can help when difficult circumstances arise.
AA does speak of anonymity, which sometimes can challenge an alcoholic who has been asked to have a social drink. Making an excuse can be difficult especially when a family member or close friend asks you to join them. Nevertheless, at all costs, refusal is essential; your health and welfare come first! Refusing a drink is not considered anti-social; it’s just refusing a drink. If your friends cannot handle your refusal, let it be their problem.
Remember, God is in charge and He listens when you pray to Him.
Stay sober; you’ll love yourself for it!
Dear Teetotaler Forever,
Congratulations to you for overcoming an alcohol addiction! Your family should be supporting you in your sobriety rather than pressuring you to drink – but such is life! There could be a couple of reasons some of your family members still insist on wanting you to have a drink with them. It could be a lack of understanding of how alcohol dependency affects you personally. They may only see you infrequently at holidays and don’t realize the big picture of the day-to-day detrimental effects alcohol had on you. Many times, people only hold to their own perspective about a situation rather than see how life is through the eyes of another. Because they may be able to control their alcohol consumption they are unable to understand that an alcohol-dependent person cannot.
Another reason they pressure you may be because sometimes when we change our behavior, even though it’s self-destructive behavior and beneficial to let it go, it makes others question their own behavior patterns that they haven’t looked at, much less corrected. Rather than change their ways, they try to bring things back to the way they were, which means getting you to change back to your old ways.
Tuning in to how you feel and what will make you feel best in the circumstance is the key. If you are truly dreading the encounter and these are people that are in your life everyday, I would say it’s time to have a more direct conversation. It takes compassion to be able to see how our words and behaviors affect others. They may be completely unaware that the pressure is bothering you and speaking honestly about how it makes you feel will make them aware once and for all.
If it’s just a general annoyance, for now the best thing to do is to keep doing what you’re doing – decline politely. You can let them know in a light-hearted way that the purpose of your gathering is to spend time appreciating each other and sharing all the good things going on in each other’s lives. Shift the focus to a positive interaction and the diversion may release the pressure long enough for the family members to gain a new appreciation of you and the time spent together as a family.
Rev. Mary Morgan