Doing Good When You’re Feeling Bad
Thomas Aquinas (I believe) said it first, and my good friend and former Bible Study leader, Andrew Henrick, used to repeat it all the time:
Do good, avoid evil.
Seems pretty simple, right? Umm… maybe not so much for high maintenance sinners like myself.
We all know it’s super easy to be sweet and a generally good person when you’ve slept well, had a good breakfast, and are in good overall physical and emotional health. In other words, it’s easier to do good, when you feel good. When morally taxing situations present themselves, you’re more armed to fight the devil head on when you’re feeling alive, awake, alert and enthusiastic! Not today, Devil, I won’t give in!!
Still, it’s hard to maintain that feeling 24/7. We get busy, lose sleep, our eating habits grow inadequate and situations (and people) come into our lives that just put us in foul moods. It’s so hard to be friendly and attempt to be saintly when you’re feeling tired and cranky! In times like these, my first instinct is to satisfy my desires. Other people’s needs take a backseat until my basic needs have been fulfilled. Of course, I have to take care of myself, but when I’m famished or exhausted, I have no problem putting myself first and telling others to take a back seat.
Luckily for us, Jesus was fully human (and fully God, see Council of Nicea) and understands our human weakness. Unluckily for us, one of the Beatitudes is not: Blessed are they who are cranky and want to be left alone, they should don pajamas and rest until adequately human. Jesus wants us to overcome our human frailties and love Him (and others) always, not just when we’re feeling perky.
So that’s tough. That’s really tough. It’s important not to discount that and to appreciate that hardship for what it is: a fact of life that needs to be reconciled with the demands of a spiritual life. The saints are phenomenal at achieving this reconciliation. Mother Theresa probably rarely snapped at her sisters even though she was probably tired, hungry and working in horrible conditions. Medieval saints attained sainthood without running water or heat! When faced with physical or mental hardships, it’s important to keep things in perspective. First, try your best to avoid malnutrition and sleep deprivation! It’s not always possible, but a bowl of oatmeal and an apple do wonders in the morning. Drinking 64 ounces of water throughout the day does wonders at keeping you awake and feeling healthy all day. Getting eight hours of sleep at night does wonders for your mental and physical health.
God knows what you’re going through. He knows you’re suffering and He knows that it’s not easy to be generous and kind to that annoying coworker who won’t stop asking stupid questions. What’s more, God knows that you know that this too shall pass. So the next time you’re exhausted and faced with a screaming child, an obnoxious driver, or a seemingly impossible conflict, take a second and give God your suffering. Ask Him to put that suffering towards some sort of greater good. Ask Him, when it’s His will to do so, to give you adequate rest and proper nutrition so you might continue fighting the devil the way he should be fought. Loving others isn’t always easy, but it gets a lot easier when you’re prepared and give God control.