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Once upon a time, during what felt like a huge crisis, I received some great advice.
Since then, I’ve remembered it by way of the phrase, “Not a ‘crisis’, but a ‘life task’”. I try never to respond while feeling panic, but rather to wait until the ‘crisis’ has passed. The outward circumstances may still be quite pressing and yet my own interior sense of tension has calmed. Then, I’m ready to decide what to do.
C – caution, fear
R – reaction
I – imagining the worst
S – speed
I – identifying an enemy
S – survival, self, strength, sight
In the CRISIS mode, I react out of fear – not boldly, with confidence, but with cautious hesitation – instead of being proactive after making a conscious decision about what to do. I immediately imagine the worst possibilities, and must remember the scriptural admonition to “cast down vain imaginings”. These are ‘vain’ because they can’t actually accomplish anything, and merely work up more fearfulness and confusion.
Speed is almost always a factor in any ‘crisis’. I feel the demand for hasty reaction, and I fail to let myself stop to quietly assess, evaluate, and make a free judgment about what to do. In the fearfulness and narrow vision of a ‘crisis’ moment, I am liable to identify someone as ‘the enemy’, and (usually to my regret) treat that person accordingly. The CRISIS mode is characterized by my focus on myself, my survival, using my own strength, and depending on what I can see. Scripture comes to the rescue again, reminding me to walk by faith, and not by sight; in God’s strength, and not my own.
L – let it be a lesson
I – inhibit reactivity
F – fear not, stay free
E – encourage equanimity
T – trust God
A – ask for the help you need
S – slow down, stop
K – keep your eyes open
If the ‘crisis’ can be seen not as provocation, but as an opportunity, I’ve already changed my mode of action. If nothing else, each such experience can teach me something more about myself, the dynamics of relationships, and ways to apply faith in concrete experience. As a lesson, even the worst experience builds my spiritual riches, so I can face it with courage.
I’ve got to inhibit that first reaction, the snap decision, the reflexive self-defense, if I’m to be fully present to reality in this moment. Naturally, if there is a physical danger, that reflex can be life-saving, but too many ‘crises’ are induced by panic, and not by true danger. St. Pope John Paul II seemed to have his finger on the modern pulse when he cautioned, over and over, “Fear not!” He realized that the person motivated by fear is a person who is not free, and so is contributing to his own degradation.
In a ‘crisis’, if I can ‘encourage equanimity’ in myself and in those around me, the heat of the moment can dissipate. I also try to remember to ‘edify everyone’ involved in a situation, so that no one becomes ‘the enemy’. Trust in God is practiced in situations that feel like crises. Without them, we’d never need to consciously cultivate deeper and deeper trust, and the relaxation into His trustworthiness made possible by these challenges.
How many times have I forgotten, in a moment of ‘crisis’, to ask for help! It seems ridiculous, but when you realize that the CRISIS mode is characterized by a narrowing of vision, it makes sense that we immediately believe the lie that we are alone, and must trust to our own resources to survive. I can’t say it too many times: the enemy of equanimity, of peace, of courage, is speed! If I’ve learned nothing else in life, it is that a moment of ‘crisis’ demands I STOP, not speed up, which was always my natural reaction.
Keeping my ‘eyes’ opened means more than just looking around. If fear is the narrowing of my field of vision to the pinpoint of whatever threatens me, then opening my eyes means growing aware of the many other factors in the situation that are also true, also real. Fr. Luigi Giussani’s definition of freedom – “Freedom is the correspondence to reality, in the totality of its factors.” – reminds me to open the eyes of my understanding to see supportive family and friends, the beauty that surrounds me in nature, the many reasons I have for gratitude, the constant faithfulness of God in my life, etc….
I hope this helps you convert your next ‘crisis’ into a ‘life task’!
Here’s a reminder you can clip and take….and two for friends.
Let me know your thoughts!
Just a quick note from David Rock’s book Your Brain at Work. The author counsels us to choose ‘toward’ goals rather than ‘away’ goals, noting that we walk toward, but run away. I thought this was insightful enough to mention.
For me, it’s the difference between moving toward a new book, or away from a pile of notes: my desire for the book is engaged to make progress, whereas my aversion to the pile is not enough to motivate me forward.
My desire to move toward that next size down rather than to move away from the current weight is a better motivator for actual engagement of my free will in the accomplishment of that goal.
I can’t get away from the current ‘lack of community’ in the Church, but I can move in small steps toward the pleasant prospect of building community little by little. Semantics make a difference, I know.
I’ve written about engaging the motivating power of desire in Dare Your Something!
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I consider it a mark of intellectual humility to be docile to great teachers. On that score, here are a few who have influenced me, and for each a little hint of what gift I received under his influence.
G.K. Chesterton – The Spherical Man
Fr. Luigi Giussani – The Freedom Coach
Peter Kreeft – The Bubble Net
Fr. James Schall – The Teacher’s Teacher
Stratford Caldecott – The Full Courteous Man
Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Sayers, Gerard Manley Hopkins – The Poets
St. Elizabeth Seton – Motherheart
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – The Praise of Glory
St. Pope John Paul – My Marching Orders: The Recapitulation of the Person
Pope Benedict XVI – Go in Beauty
A. G. Sertillanges – The Intellectual Life
Josef Pieper – Sabbath Muse
St. Francis – The Eccentric
St. Thomas Aquinas – The Playground’s Fence
C.S. Lewis – The Myth Fulfilled
J. R. R. Tolkien – The World Weaver
“I can think of no better guide for homeschooling parents …”
Even if very few copies ever sell (think: zero marketing budget), the esteem of Joseph Pearce is satisfaction enough for me. Don’t get me wrong: I do wish copies would sell, too! But I am content to leave promotion in the hands of the Holy Spirit. My fondest hope is that groups of parent educators would get together and discuss a chapter now and then, and that I might be an encouragement to them in their profoundly important work.
Please help me welcome Upschooling into the world of print (cue applause):
Here’s a link to Upschooling on Amazon.
Here are all the goodies from the back cover:
If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. So says Chesterton. Homeschooling is so worth doing that it’s worth doing badly. It is, however, better to do it better. Charlotte Ostermann shows us how we can do it better. She shows us how to think so far outside the box that we can throw the box away. Even more important, she shows us beauty and how we can show beauty to our children. I can think of no better guide for homeschooling parents than Charlotte Ostermann.
Joseph Pearce, author of Frodo’s Journey, Catholic Literary Giants, and Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know
Charlotte Ostermann, veteran homeschool speaker, provides stimulating ‘teacher in-service training’ for parent educators. Each chapter is a meaty and inspirational seminar meant to challenge and encourage readers in their vocations. Parent, educator, evangelist, communicator, and anyone with an interest in the integral development of the human person will find this a rich resource for continuing education and intellectual growth.
If you missed the packed rooms where these talks were given in person, don’t miss this second chance to engage with the material. The author’s goal is to help you cultivate freedom for yourself and your students. Each workshop stands alone, so you may pick and choose to good effect. Pick one to read with a group if you love a great conversation!
“Charlotte Ostermann is a fine practitioner and excellent theorist of education. Those who read these chapters will find them winsome and wise; they are a source of potential delight and instruction for anyone interested in the nature and purpose of education or in practical strategies for educating one’s children or students well.”
–Benjamin V. Beier, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Education, Hillsdale College
“Charlotte has a way of communicating reality in a succinct yet rich way. Sometimes I remember her talk on flatitudes and floatitudes and it still helps me to have a lens through which I can analyze my choices and behavior on a day-to-day basis. She makes concepts that really are quite sophisticated accessible and exciting, as well as deeply personal and meaningful for my heart. Thank you Charlotte for being a missionary of Truth in today’s context! Anyone, not just home educators, can truly benefit from her work.” Brooklynn S.
“Charlotte’s talk left me with food for thought. It was well structured, thought through and presented.” Anna T.
“Her breadth of preparation and understanding, coupled with her unusually fine speaking skills, have made her a popular speaker for age groups from ages 18 to 80, from a variety of backgrounds.”
– Nancy Yacher, Department of English, University of Kansas
Praise for Souls at Work – An Invitation to Freedom
“Charlotte Ostermann’s Souls at Work is an engaging and beautifully written book that is particularly important for parents and home educators. I have been teaching my children at home for the better part of two decades, yet the ideas proposed about freedom and the life of the soul are new to me and have left me feeling refreshed and inspired.”
– Alice Gunther, author of Haystack Full of Needles
“If you are a teacher, or a homeschooler, or if you simply want to be ‘fully human, truly free,’ you will find what your soul needs in Charlotte’s gentle wisdom.”
– Stratford Caldecott, author of Beauty for Truth’s Sake
Flannery O’Connor says
“The ideal form for unadulterated wisdom is the aphorism.”1
A. G. Sertillanges, in Chapter 1 of The Intellectual Life, concurs:
“The world is in danger for lack of life-giving maxims.”
Well, here we go!
I love aphorisms, so may all my unadulterated wisdom be yours for the taking, or at least some of it I’ve managed to aphor-ize.
“Truth can comprehend error, but error can’t comprehend truth.”
“Don’t be a BB!”
“It’s not a great idea until it’s well-expressed.”
“Unless it moves through you, it doesn’t get to you.”
“Aim to get the child done through the work, not the work done through the child.”
“Your free act is an invitation to freedom for those who receive it.”
“Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.”
“You’re not going around in circles, but growing spirally, like a tree!”
“Christ makes you more truly and fully who you really are.”
“Today, you are more fully realized than ever before.”
“If it isn’t moving, it’s not mercy.”
“Sarcasm is the sound of one who despairs of being heard.”
“Frustration is the constant state of impatient souls.”
“Stop driving and dance!”
“To be free is to wield yourself according to your own desires, and to yield yourself according to God’s.”
“Think great thoughts!”
1Flannery, in a review of Walter F. Kerr’s book Criticism and Censorship, collected in The Presence of Grace (and other reviews by Flannery O’Connor), compiled by Leo Zuber, edited by Carter W. Martin, published by University of Georgia Press, 2008