Column: Some words can really cost you

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. he has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.
Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. he has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

I owe Chiefs’ head coach Herm Edwards an apology.

Ever since the preseason, the Chiefs have been the subject of some snide public remarks from me. It’s easy to pick on a team when things are not going well.

All of that changed on Sept. 30 when the Chiefs played the Chargers in San Diego. I didn’t give our hometown boys any chance to even stay close in the game, let alone win it. Well, you might remember that the “good guys” did indeed win that day, 30-16. Although that victory surprised me, it’s what Edwards said in his postgame comments that impressed me.

He stated: “The credit goes to our coaching staff and players in really focusing this week and knowing that it’s very difficult to win on the road, very difficult to win against a division opponent on the road.

“We talked this week about our will. Don’t let the perception become our reality. The perception was we weren’t given much chance to win this football game. That’s perception, but when you’re a coach and player, you under- stand there is a reality: That you have to go play. That’s what we did. To their credit, they just kept playing. At times it didn’t look good, but we just kept fighting and pecking away. . . . Damon (Huard, the quarterback) stepped in there and got hit a bunch, but he kept coming back.”

Those words from the Chiefs’ coach are a pretty good description of what faith is like. It demands focus. Living in a world that is often indifferent to Christianity, and sometimes downright hostile to it, makes winning on the “road” — away from heaven, our home turf — very difficult. Success in faith depends largely on our will. How strong are we? How often and seriously do we practice our faith?

Like Coach Edwards said to his team, we can’t let the perception become our reality.

Often we see ourselves only as habitual sinners, part of a mediocre team facing unconquerable odds. The reality that we neglect to account for is the “x factor”: the power of God’s grace at work in us.

We have to play the game. We have to live out our faith in the world. We have to keep fighting and pecking away and, even when knocked down (by personal sin or by the words or actions of others) we have to keep coming back. And it’s that “x factor” that will ultimately make us winners.

There’s always a temptation as Respect Life Month comes to a close to “pack it away for another year.” We can’t afford to do that. First and foremost, this month is a call to keep life issues fresh in our minds — from the big moral issues to our day-to-day struggles in our families, workplaces and neighborhoods. Respecting life begins in our hearts and must be something that we live, day in and day out.

I recently came across an exercise that I intend to implement. It appeared in a Sam’s Club Source magazine article in late summer. There business coach Marshall Goldsmith talked about a visit he once made to a promising young COO, who was unfortunately quite stubborn and opinionated. When confronted about his inflexibility, the COO responded by saying, “But, Marshall, I don’t do that.”

“That one is free,” Goldsmith replied. “The next time I hear you start a sentence with ‘no,’ ‘but’ or ‘however,’ I am going to fine you $20.”

“But,” the COO said. ($20!)

“No, I don’t,” the COO continued. ($40!)

“No, no, no,” he protested. ($60, $80, $100!)

Within an hour that poor COO was down $420. What was even more amazing to the young executive was that, despite being conscious of avoiding those three words, he still said them 21 times. The COO, Goldsmith goes on to say, was able to modify his language and consequently became a great leader and listener — not only at work but at home.

There’s a lot of that COO in me. Just for fun, I started to fine myself in my head just a buck an offense. Even at that rate, I was bankrupt in no time! Therefore, I’ve downsized my “fine” to 25 cents each time I’m caught using the “forbidden” words. The fines will be sent at year’s end to a favorite charity.

Will you join me in this challenge? How many times do we thwart ourselves from doing good or disrespect others and their ideas by using “no,” “but,” or “however”? With focus, a strong will, and perseverance — as well as the “x factor” — we can reduce our use of these limiting words and, in the process, make our faith and respect for life more visible.

But will we? (Doggone it, there’s another quarter for the charity jar!)

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