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"Word to the Wise"

Philip G. Roets wrote a twice-weekly newspaper columns for the Oskaloosa Herald, Oskaloosa, Iowa, 1982-1994. Full collection is 1300+ columns.

Sample columns: Love, Friendship, Marriage
Word to the Wise: Selected Newspaper Columns

As I read today’s news, I wonder if people have forgotten the meaning of friendship. Friendship is not a quality or trait that just happens. People have to “make friends.” People have to love each other and friendship is the result. Love makes true friendship.

Love is expansive and makes the heart grow. Each time you love, your heart grows so that it is able to love more. Love is sharing yourself with others and receiving love in return. Watch this active quality of love as a boy and his dog greet each other. The dog barks and jumps and the boy hugs and pets. They enjoy each other.

The opposite of true love is greed or selfishness. Selfishness shrivels up the human heart and makes it incapable of giving or receiving. Discontent, complaining, sadness, fighting, and wars are the result. There is no universal remedy for the problem. Love is an individual quality. People have to love people so that nations can become friends. Who are your friends?

Good Deeds: A Hidden Stream.
Good deeds are actions performed to bring comfort, strength, consolation, and courage to others. They demand awareness of the needs of others. They include the generosity that does good without thought of a return favor. They presuppose cheerfulness even in the face of inconvenience and no words of appreciation from the recipient of the favor.

Good deeds can be compared to the gentle flow of a hidden stream. Few people see the stream. It makes little noise. Fish live and swim in its fresh waters. Trees, bushes, grass flourish along its banks. People come to rest and meditate near its cool, invigorating calm.

This is the effectiveness of good deeds. So often the deed and the person performing it are not noticed but the effects are seen. People are smiling, serene, secure, filled with courage and ambition. The hidden stream of kindness mingles among them in its good deeds and the people touched by the stream are winners.

Happiness Is Strawberry Jam.
Happiness of its very nature is radiant. It wants to spread out. To compare happiness to strawberry jam may sound a bit flippant but there are several points of comparison.

When you pick up a jar of jam, the sweetness, aroma, and color are already in the jam. This is the very nature of jam. As you spread it on the toast, there is a sense of anticipation. The taste buds are already reacting.

The same is true of happiness. It starts with a sense of self-satisfaction. The self-content, the delight, the inner joy are already there. As you come into contact with people, your happiness is already awakening anticipation in them. Your joy makes itself felt and takes in all you meet.

Happiness starts with you but it wants to touch others. As it spreads, like jam, some of it again rubs off on you. Your own happiness increases in the sharing.

Praise: Success Shared.
Praise comes in many shapes and forms. It can be sincere or merely flattering, concise or overly effusive, direct or rambling.

Everyone likes to receive praise. To be meaningful, this praise must be sincere, precise and personal. Above all else, it must be alive like the new dawn. Sometimes the dawn comes with a dull, gray, overcast sky. Even birds seem to find it an effort just to fly about. On these mornings, peoples’ greetings to each other match the dawn. They are dull, drab and listless. They are just a routine.

On other mornings, the dawn seems to just explode. The whole world sparkles like dew or frost touched by the sun’s rays. People are grinning with delight. A new wave of life is clearly flowing. Greetings of the day are alive and filled with vigor.

Praise should be an explosive dawn. Praise should mean that success is shared, enhanced, intensified - over and over again.

People-Builders or People-Wreckers.
People-builders are the construction crews in the making of people. People-wreckers are the vandals who maliciously or idly destroy people.

People-builders make a point of saying something good about people. They do not flatter nor falsify facts. They give only good interpretations to what was done. They do not attribute hidden motives. They are supportive without overwhelming or taking over the other person. Their conversations are about topics that expand, develop, and mature the participants. In talking about people, they discuss only the observable provable facts. What they say about people, they say to people.

People-wreckers are mentally very lazy people. They are ready to gossip to every pair of ears that comes by. Rumors are snatched up, exaggerated, twisted, and sped in all directions. The greatest license is used to attribute motives especially if they are condemnatory or destructive.

People-wreckers are a monstrous blight on all society. People-builders are our guarantee of a stable future.

Marriage Strength - Together, Not Alike.
The stability of all society depends on marriage strength. The strength of married couples depends not on how they are alike, but how they think and work together. In fact, too much sameness can become monotonous, boring and destructive.

Differences themselves are not the source of strength. If the couple can bring the differences together in harmony without destroying the differences, then there is strength. If a baseball club had nine pitching aces on the field at the same time, they would not have a good team. All are excellent players but in the same position. They need infielders, outfielders, a catcher, batters and runners. The differences make the team possible because they can play together.

Married couples can be opposites. When they bring their differences together, they can form a strong union. A married couple has to think and act together, but not alike.

Marriage Is a Covered Dish.
Marriage is like a covered dish at a potluck supper. The covered dish arouses curiosity. Externally, the dish may be old, greatly worn, blackened by constant use. Yet, when the lid is lifted, the gourmet’s delight is revealed. Externally, a marriage may look drab but when the front door is opened, there bursts forth a picture of considerate, vibrant and growing love. Only the people who prepared the dish know the contents and how they will add to the pleasure of the feast.

Marriage is like the covered dish. Externally it may seem an endless chain of routine chores. But below the surface, a mutual, growing love motivates and warms the home in which it dwells. Such homes form and stabilize communities just as covered dishes make the banquet.

Is Marriage Viable?
About one of every two marriages ends in divorce. Is 50% failure a passing grade, a good risk or a safe investment? Marriage is a contract between two knowledgeable responsible people. They openly agree to give 100% to each other. They agree to this as a permanent union in spite of problems that might arise. They make these superhuman promises to guarantee that the next generation, the children, will have a solid basis on which to begin their lives as individuals and as members of society. This is the ideal that has developed from the experience of the human race.

There are exceptions to this ideal. This is a human contract and there will be errors. The contract will have to be rescinded. But these disruptions will be the exception, not the rule. In my estimation, when the failures reach 50% it is no longer an exception. Marriage is viable but it has to be a marriage between two people capable of 100% giving and 100% receiving.

Home Is an Anchor.
Children often say they will be happy when they are out on their own. Some parents feel that such children are unappreciative of their efforts or that they have failed to make the home truly happy.

As a matter of fact, if the child does not want to leave home, that child could easily be emotionally unhealthy. If the home is a solid anchor, the child will feel free to get out on his own. He will want to leave not because he does not like his home but because he realizes how safe he is there and that he will always have it for an anchor as he feels his way to other places. Parents should strive to foster ambition in the child and ambition almost always looks outside the home. The more ambitious the child is, the more sure the parents are that they have done a good job. The child is like the little bird who can't wait to try his wings. The child and the bird must go out. Each may fail and get hurt. Both nest and home should be an anchor to ambition but they should never become a noose of strangulation.

Marriage: A Long Conversation that Seems Too Short.
True friends often ask, “Where did the time go?” Their visiting was so pleasant, the time flew. Married people can often ask, “Where did the years go?” Marriage is like a long conversation that seems too short.

Some conversation expresses opinions on current questions. Some expresses disagreement between the friends. Some conversation looks to the future as it touches their lives. Some topics are momentous. Others are so minute that only these two friends would bother to discuss them. Some conversation involves questions or doubts that pertain to their own lives.

A successful and happy marriage demands this kind of conversation. Just one point is to be added. The more complete the marriage becomes, the more shared silence is also a conversation. Mere presence has the effect of a healthy conversation. The conversation and the silence make the marriage a success and a blessing because it is exactly what marriage purports to be: a close sharing of each other as total people.

The Value of Tears!
Physical pain, especially in children, elicits tears. The tears do not relieve the pain but they win sympathy from an understanding adult.

Emotional hurt is far more common. A sense of abandonment follows a friend's rejection. A sense of disappointment follows a competitive event in which you lost or were not chosen in spite of your effort. A sense of sadness comes from the loss of a dear one. In all these instances, tears can be a great release of emotional tension if they are kept under control.

Tears can also be a spontaneous expression of joy. You win. You were chosen in a competition. Some people talk and laugh but you cry. The tears release the tension and express the depth of your joy.

Tears have this key value of releasing tension due to emotional or physical pain. Tears express a need for and receive sympathy from understanding friends. Thus tears have great therapeutic and social value.

Silence Is Golden!
Silence is golden and restful. After a busy day or week, silence is restful and refreshing just because it is quiet and not demanding. Silence can be creative. In the silence of the backyard, by a lake or on a deck, a person thinks and plans. The silence rebuilds frayed nerves and relaxes tense muscles.

Silence can be mutual and communicative. Two people, husband and wife, love and respect each other. They converse and exchange ideas. They are also happy just to be with each other - to enjoy the silence together. They are deeply aware of each other and yet feel free to remain quiet. This silence is golden.

But this gold can turn to ashes. Silence is destructive if it hides the seething turmoil of anger. Angry silence easily becomes sullen, petulant, pouty silence. Angry silence quickly becomes sterile silence.

Make sure your silence is golden so that it is creative, communicative, restful and deliberately chosen.

Love Is Blind but Jealousy Sees too Much.
This title, if understood, could prevent many a misunderstanding and heartache. Love is not really blind but love teaches a person to overlook words, actions and looks that might irritate or cause anger or hurt feelings. Love concentrates on all the good qualities and teaches one to ignore the qualities that bother or hurt. Love overlooks the tiny faults for the sake of all the good qualities present.

Jealousy is just the opposite. Jealousy notices all faults and avidly searches for hidden flaws. If no faults are available, jealousy manufactures some. Jealousy squeezes the vitality out of self and tries to do the same to everyone who is present. Jealousy overlooks all the good qualities and concentrates on the disagreeable. It squeezes out life and makes it barren. Love makes life worthwhile. It makes the forest into a pleasant garden. It squeezes out life and turns all into a barren desert.

One Path to a Happy Marriage.
In marriage, a husband and wife want to be PITIED a little, PRAISED a little, and APPRECIATED a lot. These are carryovers from a happy childhood.

Parents give children lots of attention, pity - just a bit - when the child is feeling sorry for himself, praise when he succeeds or makes an efforts, and appreciation for all cooperation and kindness. These help the child develop.

The child grows up feeling worthwhile and wanted because he is pitied a little, praised a little and appreciated a lot. The child grows up and marries another grown-up child. They both need the same bit of pity, bit of praise and lots of appreciation from each other to bolster their adult egos and have a happy married life.

I’m Sorry.....
The two words that form this title are a short form for an apology. They are two of the most important words in any language. As long as people live and work together they are going to offend one another. If the same people would learn to say a sincere “I’m sorry” most problems would disappear.

“I’m sorry” means you recognize the rights of others and know that you have infringed on these rights in some way. An honest “I’m sorry” will repair the damage immediately and that’s the end of the matter. Sometime you have to compensate for objects that have been damaged or broken.

Learn to recognize your mistakes and be ready to say “I’m sorry.” But also learn from your mistakes, try to avoid them and be ready to go beyond the words if the occasion demands.

Just Listen.
A shy timid person is always welcome at a party. All the others will be happy to talk to them. The shy person can shine. All he has to do is look interested and listen. If he trains his memory, he will remember what is said. Out of every party he will probably come up with three or four great ideas that he can developed.

His shyness is really a mixed blessing. He makes it possible for the talkers to feel important. He puts himself in the mainstream of the conversations. He is the sounding board for almost all ideas. Sooner or later he will come up with a really great one.

Home Is ...
Home is where people can laugh without shyness. A home is a place where everyone is accepted exactly as they are. The members rub shoulders a lot and as a result some of the rough spots in each character are removed and the people are improved. But to accomplish this polishing by rubbing, people have to feel at home, have to be themselves and act as themselves.

A home is a place where the heart’s tears dry at their own pace. There is no embarrassment because the tears have come. Hence there is no need to suddenly brush them away as if they didn’t belong. Tears are just as much a part of life as smiles. People feel sad as well as feel happy. Therefore people have to feel free to show their sadness, by tears if they want.

In short, home is a place where you can be yourself in order to get help to become the person you want to become, to receive love and give love.

Tiny Threads, Not Chains.
Marriage is our topic. I have heard married people refer to their partners as “ball and chain” as if marriage is held together by a log chain. The exact opposite is true. Through the years, hundred of tiny threads sew the married couple together. These threads always are thin and fragile. They can be so easily broken and the whole marriage falls apart.

What are these threads? The first is a pleasant smile followed by respectful speech, attentive listening and supportive feedback. These are tiny threads. They are small fragile acts - easily forgotten or overlooked as the years go by. If these threads are not constantly woven, the marriage becomes weak and unstable. The older the couple gets, the more these threads are needed. Fortunately, they can become a habit if the young couples work at the loving process earnestly.

Look at your marriage. How are the threads holding up and what new threads have you woven today?

Where Does Love Look?
Love looks three ways: outward, together and in the same direction.

Love looks outward because there is danger of looking at self too much. Like a plant that turns in on itself, a person filled with too much self-love will shrivel and die. There has to be love of self that turns your vision outward to see where and how to grow.

Love looks together for mutual growth and happiness. If love grows only in one party it can easily become a type of subservience.

Love looks in the same direction. Unless the two people are looking in the same direction, they can seek divergent goals. If they look in the same direction, they can talk to each other and promote mutual understanding.

A love that looks outward together and in the same direction will grow and create.

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