This Easter is a triple celebration for me. In addition to the celebration of Easter itself, a dear friend of mine is being received into the Church at the Easter Vigil, and I turned 40 during Holy Week. I chuckled as I wrote that last line, given that I began writing for The Catholic Weekly as a contributor to the “Youth Voice” column!
Amid the joy of Easter and the reflectiveness brought by a milestone birthday, I thought I would step off the battlefields and – if you’ll indulge me – share some insights from my four decades on earth.
Oscar Wilde famously said that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” So let me flatter the great Jordan Peterson in offering my own “12 Rules for Life.”
- Show up
Presence matters. It has always mattered (hence the Incarnation). My first rule, then, is that you should never turn down an invitation you’ve received because you simply could not be bothered attending. You can never underestimate how much difference your presence makes.
- If in doubt, make contact
Related to the above is that when someone is going through a difficult time and you are not sure what to say or do, you should err on the side of reaching out to them. You might not be able to help them at all and you may not know what to say; that’s perfectly fine. Even just sitting beside them to witness and share their pain, in silence, is good.
- Be a flexible friend
Good friends are worth adapting plans for and doing things that are less convenient or even less enjoyable for you. As we get older, our lives get busier and it would be easy to make excuses to neglect our friends, but we should resist that. It might mean that for a few years, catch ups are more often held in living rooms and sandwiched between naps and feeds than they are at bars over wine, but friendship is worth it.
- There’s no shame in scheduling
If you’re like me, when life gets busy, you can sometimes forget to check in with people who aren’t in your closest circles. It might sound crass, but it helps to put people you might risk overlooking as a recurring appointment in your calendar so you can remember to call them and check in. There’s no shame in doing whatever you need to do to make sure you don’t let friends slip through the cracks.
- Not everyone has to like you
We want everyone to like us, but the reality is that some people won’t. Sometimes friends or family will turn on us, even when it’s not our fault. Some relationships will become toxic. It’s okay to let go, even of people with whom you were once very close.
- Apologise quickly
We all screw up: we make mistakes, we lose our cool, we are selfish. That’s not great but it’s okay. When you realise you’ve done something that hurt someone else, apologise quickly. It usually works.
- Truth matters
One of the most life-changing things I’ve ever been taught was by the great Dr Peter Holmes, who said that lying is worse than adultery. He explained that lying is a sin against truth, which is a higher good even than marriage. In a culture that is soaked in lies, it has never been so important to defend, speak and live the truth in our personal and public lives.
- Fight, even if you know you’ll lose
If I write my autobiography, perhaps I’ll call it: “How to fight a losing battle and lose.” Unfortunately, we are in a time when those who advocate for life, family and truth are getting our butts kicked. It’s important that we fight, even if we know we will lose because when history records this moment, it will record that the Church stood up. That’s so important.
- You will have to fight for your whole life
Some of my most treasured correspondence comes from Priests in their 80s and 90s, who write to offer their thoughts and support on the issues the Church is currently facing. I remember one Priest in his early 90s even copied a couple of pages of a book, by hand, that he thought would assist me. We stand on the shoulders of clergy and laity who have spent their whole lives fighting for the truth. We need to be prepared to be the same and never grow weary of standing for what is good.
- Delete the nasty emails
I get my fair share of nasty letters and emails. I imagine you do too. Throw the letters out and delete the emails, even if you don’t think you are upset by them. On your bad days you will be tempted to revisit them, but you can’t do that if they’re not there.
- Never wish hell on anyone
I shudder whenever I hear someone say: “I hope they rot in hell” or “they can go to hell”. I understand emotion and outrage but as Catholics, it’s very important that we guard against that type of language. We should want what God wants, which is for everyone to go to Heaven, even our worst enemies.
- God is real and on Easter Sunday He triumphed
To be honest, this is the only rule that matters! Happy Easter, dear friends.