Jim Cogley: Reflections Tues 2 April – Mon 8 April 2024

Note: The Family Tree Seminar in Our Lady’s Island scheduled for Fri 17th May in filling up fast so to ensure a place please book asap. For more details go to website jimcogley.com Also the healing Mass held on the first Wednesday has been changed this month to Wed 10th at 3pm

Tue 2nd April – Complaining

Everyone complains some of the time and there are some who do it all of the time. These could be classed as serial complainers. All complainers feel perfectly justified and think that its healthy to ‘vent’ one’s anger and annoyance. Yet psychological research shows that venting anger in the form of complaining just makes people angrier. Still, it is also true that airing a grievance is known to reduce anger. These two are almost the same thing, but there is one essential difference and that is who we are talking to. If you have a problem with Peter and you tell it to me, that is complaining, and doesn’t help matters. However, if you air your grievance with Peter then the feelings of annoyance will dissipate. This means that if the person who is ‘venting’ really wants to feel better, it needs to be with the person who can do something about the complaint.

Wed 3rd April – A Personal Policy

A great personal policy to adopt is that ‘all complaints should go only to the person who can do something about them’. Sometimes this demands courage, while going behind that person’s back by talking to someone else is a much easier option. Yet if we can frame our grievance as a request it can be much easier and helps the other to feel respected. The other side of this coin is that when someone is complaining to us about someone else, it’s important not to take it on board but to direct them to the person who is capable of dealing with the issue. Often in these situations we allow ourselves to be used; the complainer has a few balls to throw but lacks the courage. By offloading them onto us they hope that we might do their dirty work for them. Redirecting that person in the right direction is a form of tough love but in the end it’s the only way a resolution can be reached.

Thurs 4th April – The Hidden Dynamics

What are the hidden dynamics that we buy into when we listen to someone complaining about another? This goes on all the time because it’s so much easier to complain to someone not involved, than to the person who can resolve the situation. First by listening to Ann talking about Susan, I will likely end up offering her sympathy and siding with Ann, on the basis of only having heard her side of the story. This in turn will only serve to weaken my relationship with Susan and I may even become judgemental towards her. On the other hand, if I try to defend Susan, and put myself in her shoes, my relationship with Ann is likely to get strained. Either way this is a no-win situation. A third alternative is to say to Ann, ’I think that Susan is the one you need to be talking to about this.’ Sometimes a complaint is a displacement from an overall state of unhappiness and is made just for the sake of complaining or even seeking attention. If these are not worth bringing to the one who can do something about it then they are not worth us bothering about them either.

Fri 5th April – Clear Communication

One of the drawbacks of growing up as an only child is not having siblings with whom clear communication was necessary. The art of such articulation is largely acquired through sibling interactions and for those to whom it comes via that source it tends to be taken for granted. Many who are singletons, like myself, tend to assume that others know what we are thinking, and so when we give a message, or any kind of instructions, they often leave a lot to be desired. This has often left me feeling that I have not been heard, and it is only with mature reflection that I can now own the fact that the message was not clear in the first place. The fact that so many just don’t listen, and think they know what you are going to say, makes it all the more important to get the message across clearly. At this later stage of my life I still find myself making up for what I didn’t learn as a child. So, I have adopted two simple techniques: 1) I repeat myself and 2) I ask questions to check if the listener has heard correctly. Just by consciously being much clearer than I think I need to be makes a world of difference.

Sat 6th April – Don’t Assume

It’s a funny but true saying that ‘When we assume we make an ass out of you and me’. Assuming lies at the heart of so much conflict in relationships and is a form of poor communication. The list of assumptions is endless: ‘I assumed you knew I would be held up in traffic’, ‘I assumed you knew how I was feeling’, ‘I assumed that you would remember to call to the dry cleaners.’ At the heart of every assumption is a lack of clear communication and to each of the above the question could be asked, ‘But did you take the trouble to let me know.’ Sometimes assumptions go much deeper and are destructive. We assume a partner is going to always be there for us, unlike the parent who was not emotionally available. We assume someone is going to meet our expectations no matter how unrealistic. Often it is these unspoken assumptions that create bitter disappointment in the one who does the assuming, and resentment in the other who is unable to deliver.

Sunday 7th April

The setting of the Gospel of today is that first Easter Sunday evening with the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room with the doors locked. The room was haunted by absence and full of bittersweet memories for all of them. The absence of Jesus is a constant reminder to them all. It was here that the Master had washed their feet and it was here that he had celebrated the Last Supper with them. It was here too that they had sworn their loyalty to him, which wasn’t even to last even to the following morning.

All of the apostles were wounded individually – wounded by fear, doubt, guilt and despair. They were wounded collectively because their unity was broken, two of their number were absent – one was dead, namely Judas, while another Thomas, was going through a crisis of faith. Like all people in pain those early apostles had erected a protective barrier around themselves. One of the effects of suffering is that it can isolate people who previously were very close. One of the survivors of the Hiroshima bomb said that when it exploded, in an instant everyone who survived became isolated, alienated human beings shivering inside the shell of our own unbearable hurt. At a lesser level so many families who were close up to a time of tragedy know only too well how easy it is to become isolated and drift apart especially when something is not spoken about and dealt with properly.

In one bold move Jesus breaks through that barrier and stands among them. While they are most fearful, guilt ridden and aware of their cowardice and betrayal, he meets them exactly where they are at and how he does so is most interesting. If ever an individual had the perfect reason to say, ‘I told you so,’ it was he at that time But such words while they might be true would also be cruel. In fact, whenever we use them it’s like rubbing salt into a wound and we should think twice. No. Jesus didn’t blame or scold them for failing him. He carried no blame or recrimination. He knew how they were feeling and he brought something they desperately needed. He said, ‘Peace be with you’. He said it not once but twice to make sure it sank in. In receiving his peace they were also receiving the forgiveness they so desperately needed.

Just then, the greatness and wonder of all that had happened must have struck them, that this Jesus who had gone beyond the veil of death had returned victorious, death was not the end of the story. It was as if they were witnessing the answer to the age-old question, ‘What lies beyond the grave?’ The presence of Jesus there with them was the assurance that good had triumphed, love had conquered and life was stronger than death. The humble Jesus had triumphed over all the forces of evil that had arrayed against him. A fresh start was possible and joy welled up in their hearts.

One of the things we notice about the risen Lord that has always fascinated me is that when he returned from the dead he still bore the wounds of crucifixion. We would almost expect the risen body of Jesus to be whole and without blemish. In fact, it’s by his wounds, caused by humiliation and torture, that his disciples recognize him. The wounds if you like were the greatest proof of his love and when he invited them to view those wounds he was really reminding both them and us of the greatness of his love.

It may well be that at the end of the day that it’s not what we have achieved that will be important but much more what we have overcome and that the wounds and scars that we have incurred along the way could become our proudest possessions.

Mon 8th April – Feeling Socially Awkward

This is something we must all have experienced at some time or another, not knowing what to say or do, and wishing the ground would open up and swallow us. As a chaplain on board cruise ships the single passengers always had a social gathering to get to know each other. The strain of people meeting complete strangers, with whom they had little in common, was more than palpable. Such gatherings were usually accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol and this helped people to relax. To consciously relax in new company is always a good idea since uptightness generally gives rise to being self-conscious and feeling stuck for words. One useful tool for such occasions is to ask questions that the other will enjoy answering. This makes the conversation easier for them. There are only around six areas that form the basis of initial social interactions. These are as simple as getting the person’s name and repeating it, asking where they are from. Then their family and areas like work, travel and interests. By drawing on these areas, points of common interest tend to emerge and so the flow of conversation happens.

Similar Posts

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.