April 8, 2022

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Despite challenges, choose to live more fully no matter what

David Bethuram

We cannot change the past, but when it weighs us down, we can turn to God for comfort.

Throughout the world, people are mistreated and traumatized, and many carry deep scars throughout life. Not everyone’s experiences are extreme, but even mild hurts can fester, affecting relationships and self-image. Something as common as betrayal or rejection by friends or family can lead to distorted thinking and negative behaviors.

Unhealed hurts can lead to various symptoms, such as feelings of inferiority, fear of failure or criticism, and oversensitivity.

Some people cope by criticizing others in an attempt to make themselves feel better. Others misinterpret innocent comments as personal attacks. Hurt can also overflow as unpredictable anger because a person who’s been wounded is more likely to lash out at others. At times those with a distorted self-image become loners because they’re concerned about others’ opinions of them.

Now and again, we’re bound to experience some of these feelings, but God doesn’t want us to be trapped by the hurt we’ve suffered. Nor does God want us to be so crushed by our experiences that we feel worthless. Those who know the Savior will find comfort, healing and trust in God’s love. Then, painful experiences can make us more like Jesus so we can glorify him with our responses.

In our works of charity, we are often placed in situations where we need to encourage someone to let them know that we care. We care about their fears and encourage them to work through them.

John is one of the most positive people I know. He is always in a good mood and always has something encouraging to say.

He was a manager at a restaurant. If his employee had a bad day, John always helped him to look at the positive side of a situation.

One morning, John left the restaurant‘s back door open and was held up at gunpoint by three armed robbers. He tried to open the safe, but his hands shook due to nervousness and he slipped off the combination. So the robbers shot him. Fortunately, John was quickly found and taken to the nearest hospital. After many hours of surgery and long intensive care, he was released home.

I asked what his thoughts were during the robbery. John said he should have locked the back door. As he was lying on the floor, he said he remembered thinking he had a choice to live and a choice to die. He said he chose to live.

I asked if he was scared. John said that when they wheeled him into the emergency room and he looked at the faces of the doctors, he got truly scared. He knew that he needed to do something. So when the nurse asked him if he was allergic to anything, John replied “yes.” The doctors and nurses waited for his answer. John said he took a deep breath and yelled “bullets!” They started laughing, and he said: “My choice is to live, treat me as I am alive, not dead. I trusted that God wasn’t going to leave me alone.”

Now John is alive, owing it to the skills of his doctors; however, his amazing attitude played an important role, too. I learned from him that every day we should choose to live fully no matter what. God will bring us comfort.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at dbethuram@archindy.org.)

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