Posted June 3, 2008
Book: Thoughts for Daily Living
Author: Fulton J. Sheen
St. Pauls. Staten Island. NY. 2008. Pp. 184
An Excerpt from the Jacket:
In a wide-ranging variety of topics, Sheen brings his inimitable style to these very practical and highly pertinent thoughts for daily living. Initially published in 1955, it is amazing how very relevant these brief reflections are fifty some years later. Happiness, love, habits, environment, will, character, forgiveness, humility, communication, hope freedom, and the practice of religion are the general categories under which these thoughts are arranged. In this work, Sheen discusses fifty-nine areas of daily living and provides biblically based advice on how we can grow and prosper spiritually by putting these thoughts into practice.
An Excerpt from the Book:
Emotions and Restraint
Has it ever entered into the heart of modern man to think that if he reversed his thinking on certain subjects, and held to the very opposite of what he is now doing, he would be very happy? True, our age calls itself revolutionary, but this is merely a tag to cover up the rut the world has been in for several centuries. Communism, for example, prides itself on being revolutionary; actually it is not the beginning of a new era; it is the dying gasp of an old one. It has the same basic principle of the last century, namely, materialism and there is nothing revolutionary about materialism. Our world is like a giant passenger ship at sea: it has plumbing, tasty cuisine, push buttons, organized labor, well-stocked shops, social gatherings, gaiety and order — but it is headed in the wrong direction.
Almost all modern thinking, education and living has been geared to the false directive that man must be given free play in the use of his emotions or instincts; that every counsel to deny himself something is to be regarded as “an unhealthy repression.” Self-discipline is looked upon as a restraint of personality, asceticism or self-denial of even the legitimate things of life is frowned upon as cruelty to self.
It is strange that psychologists and educators have not seen the fallacy behind these ideals. The “no-restraint” group assumes that every instinct and emotion, urge and libido, is good. The truth of the matter is they are not good nor bad; they are rather amoral like the keys of a piano. There is nothing n the keys which make some of them right and some of them wrong. No one can say that the white keys are right and the black keys wrong. The determinant of rightness and wrongness is something outside the keys, namely, their conformity or nonconformity with the notes of a musical composition. So it is with instincts and emotions; it is the object of the emotions that determines their morality. Hence, love of a husband for a wife is right, but love of a husband for another man’s wife can be wrong, though the emotion is the same. Tolerance of certain socially obnoxious persons is right; being creatures of God, they are worthy of our love because they are still worthy of God’s love; but tolerance of certain evil practices, such as adding twenty dollars and twenty dollars on the meat bill to make sixty dollars, is quite wrong.
Emotions and feelings constitute a remarkable force which can be utilized for good or for evil, much as a locomotive can be used to pull freight, or run through the other end of the roundhouse. Since these forces are so gigantic, it follows that not only should they be surrounded by protective barriers, but they must also be given right objectives through moral education.
To practice self-denial of the emotions is not, as so many believe, a kind of perverted sense in which one takes pleasure in giving oneself pain. Does the boxer who trains for a fight take a perverted pleasure in his road work and his shadow boxing, or does he do it for the sake of victory in the ring? A husband who goes without a drink once a week during the year in order to buy his wife a really good Christmas present does not do so because he takes a perverted pride in his self-denials. If the husband can practice self-denial for the love of his wife, why cannot the Christian practice self-denial for the love of God? The purpose of asceticism, self-denial and mortification is the growth in charity or love of God. Christian self-denial is not based on the idea that the world, or the flesh are intrinsically wicked, but on the conviction that God is intrinsically good. Just as a ship, in order to make progress in a storm, will throw certain surplus cargo overboard because of safe arrival at the port is more important than the cargo, so the Christian ascetic will abandon certain lawful pleasures to attain a more intimate peace. It is not a question even of making himself a saint or a wise man, but rather to deliver himself over entirely to charity.
To practice restraint of anger in the face of violence, to be temperate in drinking when tempted to take it in excess, to give away things rather than to be avaricious, to deny oneself a dessert to help the poor of the world, is not because one takes pleasure in self-torture; it is only because one loves the Highest and the Best, which is God and neighbor.
Table of Contents:
Habits and Environment
Reflections on religion and man