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How to Support a Friend Entering Religious Life

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year, it’s that plans can change faster than we can blink. I could list example after example of ways my life has changed this year, but nothing has been harder to accept than the change of my best friend entering religious life.

Vocations are something I always knew existed, and something I thought I understood. I was taught there were two paths: marriage or religious life, and I was okay with that because I knew my path. However, I realized in the past few months that my knowledge and understanding of vocations was slim to none.

I’m currently a college student, and at my university, I was lucky enough to meet Rory. We were both on the cross country team and quickly bonded over our love for the faith. Fast forward seven months, and my best friend is pulling application papers out of her backpack to enter with the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist.

I wanted to write something because I noticed the lack of other people talking about this topic in a serious manner. Supporting a friend entering religious life means putting away your selfish desires and just being there for them, and that is not an easy task to accomplish.

I’ve been through it all, the sadness, the guilt about the sadness, the immense happiness; it’s all a part of the process. Being supportive of your friend starts with getting your own emotions under control. You won’t be much help to your friend if you haven’t given yourself the time you need to accept and pray about this change.

Give yourself time to process the change.

I’m a planner, and when things change, I immediately go into fix mode, but Rory’s decision to enter religious life wasn’t something that needed to be “fixed.” Still, I was struggling with a lot of different emotions. When Rory first told me she was entering religious life, the first thing that went through my mind was the fact that I wouldn’t have a roommate next year. This isn’t exactly the most selfless thing to focus on, but my mind couldn’t stop thinking about everything that would change in my life because of this.

I wanted to be supportive of her decision, but I also knew the next year would look a lot different, and I was upset about that. All these emotions turned into anger that I directed at God. I was confused why He would put this amazing friend in my life and then take her away so quickly.

The truth is, you can’t support your friend until you get your own emotions under control. So, give yourself a break, and give yourself lots of time to pray and process the change. For me, I had to accept the fact that this was something out of my control. I had to accept the fact that this situation wasn’t about me, and pray for the strength to be there for my friend.

Having someone you trust to talk it through is very helpful. On my campus, we have religious sisters, and after Rory told me the news, I got lunch with them and talked through what the next few months would look like with Rory entering. Talking with the sisters gave me a chance to work through all the emotions I was overwhelmed with, and also helped reassure me that Rory entering religious life wouldn’t mean we would lose our friendship.

This time to process and pray is so important. Once you reign in your emotions, you will be more available for your friend. While you may be sad about her decision right now, she will be needing your support and love in the upcoming months. Make sure you are ready to help her and be there for her when she needs it.

Don’t go into panic mode. Make sure you give your friend the space they need.

All those emotions you’ve been feeling ever since you heard the news, your friend has been going through those for months, if not years, and now that they’ve made a commitment to religious life, they probably have a lot on their plate.

Something I quickly learned through Rory is that vocational discernment can be a very hard road for some. The decision to enter religious life does not come without suffering, especially if this is their true vocation.

I know that after learning your friend is entering, there is an urge to try to do everything with them as quickly as possible. All those plans you had together suddenly seem more important, and you almost can hear the clock ticking away, but take a deep breath.

You do not need to make every memory with your friend in the next six months. Once they enter, they aren’t leaving your life. Will your friendship look different, absolutely, but this doesn’t mean it ends the moment she enters the convent. Try not to get overwhelmed with fitting every plan in, and simply enjoy the time you have right now.

Your friend will be needing a lot of support in the next few months. She is going to need you to calm her down when she suddenly panics and starts doubting her decision. She is going to need you to be proud of her, to listen to her, and pray for her.

She does not need you to start planning every weekend full of activities until she enters.

While you may have a lot of questions to ask her, try to give her space. She just made a huge life decision, and she’s probably going to need some time to process it as well. Make it clear she has your support and love, and let her come to you with the rest.

Again, this is when having a mentor or close friend to talk to comes in handy. I asked all my “panic questions” to the sisters that live on my campus. I remember asking things like “When can I visit her” or “How many times a year can she leave the community?” Your friend probably doesn’t even know the answers to these questions yet, so bombarding her with them will just overwhelm both of you.

Pray, research, then pray some more.

I mentioned before that all of my emotions quickly turned to anger and frustration that I aimed towards God. I was truly just upset that I had lost the control on my life I thought I possessed. It took a few weeks of prayer and time spent in adoration to realize that Rory entering wasn’t about me. God wasn’t “taking Rory away” to punish me, he was guiding her towards Heaven, and while I obviously have no idea why God put Rory in my life, I like to believe it was to show me the true beauty of friendship.

The most important thing for you to do through this whole process is to take everything to God in prayer. Let Him know how you are feeling, ask Him for guidance and understanding, and if you are able, just sit with Jesus in adoration. Take this time to deepen your relationship with Christ; you may find yourself in need of His support in the coming months.

Also, don’t be afraid to do some research of your own. Take some time to look into the order your friend is entering, and find some answers to the many questions you probably have. Is the order cloistered or active? What is the order’s apostolate? Finding answers to these questions can help you better understand what the next few years will look like for your friend and will help you fill in some of the blanks.

Once you’ve done your research, pray some more! The best way for you to support your friend is through your prayers. Say a rosary for them, or even offer up a novena for their discernment.

Give it time and respect the process.

When you first learn of a close friend entering religious life, your emotions will be fresh and it may be hard to accept the change. I promise you, with time, it gets easier. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s one of the biggest cliches for a reason. It really will get better.

In the beginning, it’s so easy to only focus on what you’re losing and it’s even easier to fall into a cycle of self pity. However, with time and lots of prayer, it becomes easier to see the beauty in the situation. Your friend is answering God’s call! She is saying yes to Jesus and becoming the person God wants her to be. It is one of the most beautiful and joyous things to witness.

So, respect the process. Let yourself be sad and a little angry, but don’t let it overwhelm and blind you. After all, you aren’t losing a friend; your friendship just became a little more unique.

It’s also important that you respect your friend’s timeline. While you may want to tell everyone the exciting news, she may not be ready. Some people discern out of communities after a year, or may not even get accepted, so she might want to wait to tell others until everything is official.

Having a close friend enter religious life can be a tough change to accept. It can easily feel overwhelming and frustrating, but putting your trust in God and His plan is the key. God has led your friend to religious life for a reason, and He wants to see her fulfill her vocation. Supporting her in this decision and trusting in God will make your friendship that much stronger.

While it may feel as though you are losing a friend, your friendship is actually becoming more holy and beautiful. Even though you will not be able to text each other each day, or get lunch together, you will have a relationship built on love for our Lord, and together you can support each other in your journey to Heaven,

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Is Saying “Sorry” Good Enough For God?

“I didn’t mean to!“

I was kneeling in the back of church, I had just gone to confession. Like so many times before, I was worried that I “hadn’t confessed my sins ‘well enough.'”

This was pretty constant for me. Most confessions never felt like confession, I usually came out more anxious than I went in.

I was 24 at the time.

I had struggled with scrupulosity ever since I was 11 . Sometimes it was literally crippling (I remember a time I couldn’t pick a pair of scissors up off a table because I thought it might be a mortal sin). Other times it was less so, but still frustrating and anxiety-inducing.

I was praying for guidance. I was really confused. I was asking God to please show me why I was so afraid of making a bad confession.

I started to feel something in my mind. A sort of pressure. I could tell that it was an emotional memory, but I couldn’t see it clearly.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on the pressure. I pushed on it and tried to make it grow. I started to feel more stressed and anxious, and I knew I was close to uncovering the truth behind the emotional barrier.

All of a sudden a clear memory jumped into my mind.

I was 10 years old, sitting on my bed. I was crying.

My mom was sitting on the bed with me.

“I didn’t mean to, mom,” I said, “I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong.”

My mom answered, “I know that John, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

That was it.

In that moment, I understood. I saw the truth.

A major part of my scrupulosity, still haunting me 14 years later, was directly tied to this moment.

My mother was well-intentioned (ironic, considering her words), but she has no idea what her words would do to me.

I was always getting in trouble as a boy. I was headstrong and didn’t listen, and I never wanted to do anything I was told to do.

At the same time, I also didn’t really have a good sense of what was appropriate or inappropriate. I would do all sorts of things without thinking about it, only to discover I was hurting someone’s feelings or breaking a rule.

In these moments, my words were usually the same. “I didn’t mean to.” It was true, I didn’t.

My mom didn’t accept that as an excuse. I still needed to “learn my lesson.”

But I didn’t learn the lesson I was supposed to. Instead I learned that it doesn’t matter what our intentions are, we’re judged only by what we do.

I learned my heart didn’t matter. Only my actions did.

As I grew up and started taking my faith more seriously, this view transferred from my parents to God.

God was now the one who said, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

God was now the one who demanded perfect actions, not a good heart. This was why, whenever I went to confession, I couldn’t believe that God forgave me. I kept sinning right? I kept doing the wrong thing.

If I was really sorry, I would have stopped this behavior a long time ago. God didn’t trust me anymore. My actions spoke louder than my words.

My “sorry” was empty.

God is Our Father

“God never tires of forgiving us, we are the ones who tire of seeking His mercy.” – Pope Francis

It took me many years to begin to understand the depth of God’s love and what His Mercy truly means.

The thing that finally opened my eyes was having my own son. One day I was praying in a chapel, and I was reflecting on my own fatherhood.

I was thinking about the fact that my son could never do anything to make me stop loving him. Even when I lost my temper or he was doing something he shouldn’t be, even the slightest look of contrition on his face and my heart would melt.

As I reflected on this, I heard God say to me, “as you look at Sebastian, so I look at you.”

In that moment I had a flash of understanding. It didn’t happen on a conscious level, but I felt deep in my soul that God loved me in a way I would never understand.

My own love for my son is a guiding light for me. God loves me as His because I am His son. He is my Father. Our own human parents fail us. I am currently failing my own son right now.

But God never does. God is not human, he is not like our human parents, he doesn’t have a temper. His love has no conditions.

The truth is simple. Your “sorry” is enough.

At one look of contrition from you, God’s Fatherly heart melts. It is literally true that you cannot make God turn His back on you. You are not capable of doing that. God’s forgiveness is beyond our human comprehension. You hear this a lot, so you probably stopped thinking about it, but it’s true.

This matters because our human comprehension is the thing that keeps us wondering, “will God forgive me.” We can’t conceive of such an unlimited mercy because our own human hearts are so bad at forgiveness and mercy.

God is not restricted by our shallow understanding. Your heart matters. Your “sorry” is enough. All God asks is for your effort.

He takes care of everything else.

OvertLife Stuff for Guys

How To Use Diligence To Crush Your Goals

Sloth Is Destroying Your Life

You’ve probably heard of the seven deadly sins, right? These are the unholy terrors of the moral life, lying in wait to trap you and turn you into a thumb-sucking, powerless, grown-up baby.

One of these seven sins is called sloth. Sloth is the captain of the Millennial generation’s lacrosse team. Sloth says, “you deserve a break,” or “look at how hard you work, you’ve got time to take a nap,” or “humans weren’t meant to work this much, you need 10 weeks off every year and an autonomous car to get you to work.”

sid the sloth: that couch looks comfy

Sloth is sneaky and clever. He shows up right when you’re at your weakest and whispers in your ear, “stay put, no need to exert yourself, you’re doing great kid!”

“[Sloth is] sluggishness of soul or boredom because of the exertion necessary for the performance of a good work. The good work may be a corporal task, such as walking; or a mental exercise, such as writing; or a spiritual duty, such as prayer.” – Fr. John Hardon

Sloth is destroying your life because hard work is not necessary to exist anymore. You can skate by on much less than “maximum effort.” If you really want to, you can eat, drink, and binge-stream yourself into a diabetic, sloth-ridden coma and stay there for the next 30 years.

You shouldn’t be asking yourself “can I?” because you obviously can. You should be asking yourself, “do I want this from life?”

deadpool talking about doing it the old fashioned way

“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” – Proverbs 13:4

Sloth, Meet Diligence

If sloth is the dragon Smaug, diligence is Bard’s arrow. Diligence is the siege engine used to lay waste the enemy castle. The diligent person is powerful and indomitable.

“The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” – Proverbs 12:24

Many people in the world want a certain kind of life. They want self-control, they want to wake up early and tackle the day, they want to reap the sweet, juicy rewards of a hard day’s work. And yet! How many people are doing these things in their daily life?

king arther taking the sword out of the stone

Diligence is the virtue by which we do our daily duty, every day, especially when it’s hard. Diligence is a holy habit of acceptance of, and commitment to, work.

Without diligence, we become fat, lazy couch potatoes, content to nurse a coke in front of the latest episode of The Boys till we’re drunk on dopamine and useless to anyone but Satan.

How To Be Diligent

Alright, so you’re convinced. You’re ready to join Arthur’s Knights of the Diligent Table. You’ve just got one problem: how to become a diligent person…

It’s easy! All you have to do is go into your kitchen and throw out all your junk food. Next smash your smartphone with a hammer. After that, you can choose between liposuction and exercise, but those extra 30 pounds have to go…

Just kidding!

It’s not easy, but it is simple. If you want to become a diligent person, you need to be more diligent today than you were yesterday. That’s it!

Diligence is not a superpower that you magically unlock at level seven. Diligence is a virtue, which really just means it’s a spiritual habit. We earn the grace to be virtuous by choosing to do virtuous things.

Diligence is superman and sloth is a tired girl on her computer

The more virtuous we become, the easier it is to do virtuous things. It’s like an upward spiral that lifts us to the heavens. It’s very different from the downward spiral of Netflix, sugar, and porn.

The best place to start is to find the areas in your life where you struggle the most and begin practicing diligence in those areas.

One of my biggest weaknesses is staying up too late watching TV or scrolling through YouTube. So waking up early is a habit I am working on to counteract my nightly sloth.

“Everything yields to diligence.” – Antiphanes

I’m not perfect, or even close, but the past 2 months I’ve been trying to wake up at 6:00 or earlier. I succeed more than I fail and at this point, my nightly TV habit has lost significant power over me.

The recognition that I must complete my morning duty of waking up gives me the motivation I need to leave the TV off and simply get in bed or read a book if I’m not feeling tired yet. Every morning when I get up, I use the suffering of being tired and the pain of waking early to ask for the graces I need to be more diligent.

So far, it’s working. God is blessing me with more diligence in other areas of my life. By tackling one of my biggest obstacles head-on, I’m earning the graces I need to win on other battlefields in my life.

Go Forth and Be Diligent

The real secret of diligence is in your will. You are a human person, which means you have a choice. Unlike animals, humans make conscious decisions.

At some point in your life, you become aware of a terrifying and empowering truth: if you don’t do it, no one will.

I would bet a lot of money that your life doesn’t look the way you want it to right now. Diligence can fix that. Diligence will set you on a path and build a foundation to foster a holy, peaceful, and meaningful life.

This life is not meant to be a morning walk on the beach in Hawaii. Sometimes we do get to walk on the beach in Hawaii, but most of the time we are facing the daily grind. Diligence keeps us on course. It keeps us grounded. It keeps us moving forward.

I now christen you a Diligence Warrior. You can do it!


How To Let God Run Your Life

Your Will Be Done

“Doing God’s will” is a pretty constant theme in the life of any Catholic. Hopefully, we are all doing our best to trust God and put our faith in Him. But sometimes it gets a little scary, and it’s difficult to truly surrender. We all want to let God run our lives, but we’re not really sure how to even do that.

The first step to letting God run your life is to understand what it means to follow God’s will. It can be easy to say that we will do God’s will when we’re sitting comfortably in church feeling the peace and consolation of Jesus in our hearts. It’s a different matter when we’re wondering where next month’s rent is going to come from, and God is telling you to start a new business.

father, if though will it, remove this chalice from me - Luke 22:44

Doing God’s will is simple but difficult. It requires that we surrender our own ideas about what our life should look like. It requires that we become comfortable looking different from the rest of the world. It requires that we abandon the rules and principles that the world tells us to follow in our lives.

When we say, “Thy will be done,” we have to mean it. My mom used to say, “actions speak louder than words.” Nowhere is this more true or obvious than when we tell God we want to do His will and we actually do it.

I Want To Be Your Hands

I’ve got a story to illustrate a time that I know God was running my life. I was in Chattanooga, TN for my business partner’s wedding. I was in the wedding party, and we had to be at the church early to take pictures. I was also in charge of getting the sound system setup at the venue for the reception.

The morning was getting away from me. I needed to be at the church, but I also hadn’t eaten lunch yet. I was super hungry and knew that if I didn’t eat, it would be another 3 or 4 hours before I could eat at the reception. I said a prayer to my guardian angel, and he said to check my phone for places around me to eat. I pulled up Google maps on my phone and saw that there was a Subway a few blocks away from the church. I routed it on maps and headed over there. When I arrived, I saw that this Subway was closed, even though maps said it was open. I had noticed a Jimmy Johns a little further away on Google maps, so I asked my guardian angel again what I should do, and he said to go to Jimmy Johns.

I pull up outside the Jimmy Johns (this is downtown Chattanooga, so I’m parked on the side of the street) and head into the shop. As I’m walking in, I pass a homeless man in a wheelchair outside the Jimmy Johns.

old homeless man's face

Once inside, I order a sandwich and leave the shop. As I’m returning to my car, I pass the man in the wheelchair again. This time I ask myself, “Why didn’t you get a sandwich for this guy?? You saw him out here, you could have just bought him a sandwich too!”

As I’m having this internal dialogue, I’m still walking to my car, leaving the homeless man behind me. As I’m about to get into my car, I realize that I cannot keep the sandwich in my hand, this man in the wheelchair needs my sandwich. I quickly retrace my steps, hand him the sandwich and return to my car.

At this point I tell God, “You’re gonna have to help me now because I’m starving, and I don’t know how I’m going to make it through mass.” It’s probably useful for me to tell you that when I don’t eat for too long, I get really light headed and feel like I’m going to pass out.

By now I’m almost late for the pictures, so I don’t have time to get another sandwich. I jump in my car and return to the church. I walk into the dressing room where everyone is getting ready for pictures and start joining the rest of the groomsmen. After a couple of minutes, I hear someone say, “sandwiches!” I turn around and there, on a shelf at the back of the room, is a box of deli sandwiches that was bought so the groomsmen could have lunch.

We walk by faith and not by site - Corinthians 5:7

When I saw this, two thoughts entered my mind at the same time. The first was, “Thank you, God, for taking care of my needs.” The second was that the only reason I had gone to Jimmy Johns was because that homeless man needed a sandwich and God needed me to bring it to him.

Do I tell you this story to show how generous I am and how God has anointed me to “feed the hungry?” No. I tell you this story because there is one thing I did that day which enabled all of this to happen.

When I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, I asked God. More importantly, after I asked, I listened.

Your Will vs. God’s Will

The world is full of people who pray to God for guidance in their life and then proceed to do exactly what they want to do. They claim that they prayed about the new house they just moved into, so God must have failed them when their furnace and water heater immediately went out. Or maybe they said a novena about that new job, but a week after they started, the company went under.

There are two things you need to understand if you’re going to let God run your life.

praying and doing what you want vs. praying and then doing what God is asking.
  1. Praying and then doing what you want to do will usually end badly.
  2. Your idea of success and God’s idea of success are not the same thing.

Let’s discuss both of these ideas in more detail.

1) Praying And Then Doing What You Want

What do I mean by this? Am I suggesting that what I want and what God wants are never the same thing? No, not by a long stretch.

For example, my wife and I were living in a rented house. We loved the house, but the family who owned it was only supposed to be out of the country for a specific period of time and then they were coming back. We didn’t know whether or not we would be able to renew our lease at the house and were super bummed at the idea of leaving.

For months before the lease was up, I had been looking at houses for rent and trying to decide what we were supposed to do. My wife kept saying things like, “If we have to move, I’m going to be so sad because I love this living room.”

Finally, I asked my wife, “What is it that you want? Do you want what you want to happen or do you want what God has planned for us?”

My wife realized that she was allowing her ideas about what our life should look like to make her anxious and worried about our house situation. If God’s plan was for us to stay, it would work out. If God’s plan was not for us to stay, why would we want to stay? Why, if God’s plan is perfect, would we ever want something that wasn’t in that plan?

A soul who is really resigned to God’s will does not become attached to any created thing because he sees clearly that all things are nothing except God.

Blessed Henry Susone

The reality is that our human minds are close to useless. We’re succeptible to all sorts of crazy thoughts. We experience irrational fear and anxiety. We have ideas that the world puts in our head about what is “safe” or “prudent.“ We consult people around us who are just as confused and fallible as we are, and then we make decisions based on their answers.

Here’s the question I have for you. Are you really the person you want to trust to plan your life?

Are you that confident in your own judgment and ability to rely on yourself? If someone came to you and asked, “what should I do with my life?” would you feel like you were the best person to answer?

It’s this simple. God has a plan. When we pray and say, “Jesus, I trust in You,” that’s supposed to actually mean something. If I pray for guidance and then simply do what I want to do, that’s not trust, that’s not prayer. If I say “Lord, I want to do Your will” and then turn around and do whatever my friends or my parents think I should do, that’s not trust.

Lord what wilt Thou have me do? Behold the true sign of a totally perfect soul: when one has reached the point of giving up his will so completely that he no longer seeks, expects, or desires to do ought but that which God wills. – St. Bernard

In order for God to run your life, you must be willing to let God run your life. When we say “God, show me what to do,” we have to actually do the thing He puts in front of us. We can’t surrender our lives to God, only as long as His plans make sense to us.

The reason so many people struggle with this is because it can be terrifying at first. The good news is that the more you do it, the sooner you end up in a place where you have no choice but to simply trust God. The more God runs your life, the more you simply cannot run your life. It’s a good thing, but the first step is very difficult.

2) Your Idea Of Success Is Not God’s Idea Of Success

Now, let’s discuss the second idea. Your concept of success and God’s concept are not the same.

What do I mean by success? I mean anything that you use to quantify how you are doing in your life. Money, status, accomplishments, skills, relationships… anything that you use to determine how well your life is going.

I’m not saying that those things are not a measure of success, they can be. I’m saying that if you want to let God run your life, you need to stop thinking in terms of what the world considers success to be.

I find myself often reminded of Jesus’ words to Peter. “You are thinking not as God does, but as man does.” I reflect upon this often in my own life when I am tempted to assert my own will instead of following God’s will.

Go behind me satan - Matthew 16:23

Most often, when I want to assert my own will, it is because of purely human considerations. I’m worried about money, I’m worried about what someone else may think of me, I’m worried about someone not liking me or someone getting mad at me. Maybe I’m afraid that I’ll be seen as a weirdo, or I’m embarrassed to take a stand or be honest about a difficult situation in my life.

No matter what it is, I can always trace it back to Jesus’ words to Peter. I am thinking not as God does but as man does. A great example of this in my own life is when I came to the conclusion that God was asking me to share my struggles with porn addiction.

The last thing I wanted was to start telling people that I was a porn addict. I ignored God’s voice for months, but eventually I couldn’t resist any longer. The only way for me to find peace was to do what God was asking me to do. The results from me trusting God and doing what He asked have been immense. I’ve heard from many other Catholics struggling with the same thing, I’ve made progress in my own battle with porn addiction, and I’ve grown closer to God in the process.

Very few people would include telling the world about their porn addiction in their idea of success.

That’s the point. God’s plan has nothing to do with what we think about the world or ourselves. If I truly am God’s instrument, then I’m here to do what He needs to be done. If God needs my witness, then He has my witness. If God needs me to humble myself and open my wounds to the world, then that is what I will do.

If you truly desire to let God run your life, there can be no reservations. You must be willing to submit completely to something outside of yourself. Once you start down this path, you can’t go back to where you were. This is why so few people ever attain this level in their relationship with God. It is truly terrifying to give up your own will. It is truly terrifying to let God’s will become your own.

At the same time, there is no life like a life lived in complete surrender to God.

Let God Run Your Life

It is really this simple. God is your Father. He loves you in ways you cannot understand with your tiny human mind. His plan is perfect and incomprehensible.

If we truly want to live a meaningful, holy, and joyful life we have to embrace the truth that we are nothing but lost children trying to find our way in the world.

Anyone who is a parent knows how utterly ridiculous it is when a 3-year-old toddler tries to tell you what they’re going to be doing instead of listening to you. We, as God’s creation, are far less aware of what is actually good for us than a 3 year old is, relative to their own parents.

Jesus gives us the blueprint when He says that we must “become like the little children.” This is not an exaggeration. Just as a child places absolute trust in their parents to feed them, clothe them, and guide them where they need to go, so must we place absolute trust in Our Heavenly Father. God wants to run your life, not because He is a tyrant, but because He loves you and your life will be amazing if you trust in Him.

You have a choice to make. Either you throw a tantrum like a spoiled child, or you run to your Father’s arms and let Him hold you. For me, the choice is clear.


If I Kill Myself, Will I Go To Hell?


I want to make something clear right now, the point of this article is to be helpful and hopeful. Suicide is not a laughing matter and this article is not intended to make light of it.

It’s necessary to discuss difficult topics to grow our minds and find truth. If you are reading this article because you are considering suicide, please seek help immediately.

Young people are killing themselves

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people age 10-24. This statistic should shock us, but the culture that surrounds us has left us desensitized to this horror.

I was surprised to find that suicide wasn’t the #1 cause of death for young people. When you look at divorce rates, music, TV shows, abortion, school environments, social media, pornography, and everything else than constantly bombards young people from the moment they’re born, it’s not really surprising to see hopelessness and despair rising.

40% – 50% of marriages end in divorce. Children of divorce develop PTSD.

Basically, half of children have gone through a couple tours of Afghanistan without ever leaving the “comfort” of their home.

There are two points I want to make in this article. First, it is not our place to judge those who kill themselves. Second, life is worth living.

The Catholic view of suicide

What does the Catechism say about suicide?

Let’s start with the Catechism.

“Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.” – CCC 2280

“Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing the suicide.” – CCC 2282

“We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.” – CCC 2283

Is suicide a mortal sin?

Many in the Church approach suicide with finality. It is a mortal sin against the 5th commandment and therefore those who commit suicide go to Hell.

While it is true that the Church’s teachings say that those who die in un-repented mortal sin will go to Hell, the Church is also very clear that there are factors which lessen or “mitigate” a person’s culpability for their sin, even mortal sin.

“For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: ‘Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.‘” – CCC 1857

“Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice.” – CCC 1859

It is estimated that 90% of people who take their own lives have a mental health condition. This could be depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, or substance abuse.

In these cases, it does not appear that the Catholic criteria for mortal sin is met. If mortal sin “implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice,” then committing suicide alongside an accompanying mental illness would seriously beg the question: was it a choice?

Mental disorders are not the only thing that can impair our ability to choose freely. As the Catechism states, “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing the suicide.”

We are never fully aware of the internal experience of those around us, even loved ones. It is never for us to make the judgment that someone who killed themselves “could have chosen differently.”

Suicide, as the objective act of taking your own life, is a mortal sin. However, we always have hope that God, in His infinite mercy, sees the plight of those who kill themselves, and responds with compassion and love. Again, the Catechism says, “the Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”

Am I suicidal?

I went to a Catholic psychologist in my early twenties. I was surprised when he told me my testing had revealed a suicide risk.

I never considered myself as someone who would even contemplate suicide. I had some serious issues I was dealing with, but I never imagined that it could get so bad that I could kill myself.

When he told me that the testing showed some markers for suicide, at first I laughed it off.

As I thought about it though, I realized that if my current mental and emotional anguish had continued without help, I very well could have reached a level of depression and anxiety that made death more appealing than life.

Suicide is not something to write-off because “I would never do that.” All around you right now are people who are hurting. In some cases they are hurting enough to consider death as a relief rather than an evil.

Hope in the face of suicide

This video from Fr. Mike Schmitz is hopeful and powerful. It lays out the reason why life is worth living.

Those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts need real help. They need someone to help them navigate their inner storm and manage their disordered emotions.

As Catholics, we are called to have compassion for others and for ourselves. The answer to the suffering of those around us should never simply be “deal with it.”

Just as Jesus comes down into our suffering to be with us, so we must do our best to meet those who are suffering where they need our help.

If you or anyone you know are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek help from your local priest or a Catholic psychologist in your area. There are many online resources for those seeking help with suicide.

Always remember, your life is worth living. You are worth loving. There is never a point where death is the better alternative. No matter where you are, no matter what you’ve been through, there is a God who made you and loves you and is calling you to Him right now, in this moment.

Don’t give up. There is always hope. You are loved.

All ya single ladies OvertLife

Strength of a Woman

St. Therese of Lisieux once said, “True love begins when there is nothing looked for in return.”

I’m a young newlywed, and I’m madly in love.

People may roll their eyes at this, but there is always more to relationships than the pseudo-romance people see on their Instagram stories.

I’ve been given the gift of a holy husband, and with that gift, God has offered me a taste of what actual love entails in a very short amount of time.

Within a few short weeks of marriage, we found ourselves in mourning.

My husband and I really push ourselves to grasp the concept of loving selflessly, and we do our very best to love one another that way. It wasn’t until we lost our baby that the mystery of loving with nothing in return became our concrete reality.

Strength isn’t always what you think it is.

There’s a certain level of strength women must possess within themselves to go about daily life, strength for the countless moments that they need to endure for the well-being of their families’ and for society. They need the strength of God to carry out His plans in their lives.

I felt very helpless and weak. I love a baby I will never know this side of heaven. I poured my body, heart, and soul into a life that I cannot see, into a personality I’m unable to delight in. (Notice all of the ‘I’s?) I didn’t realize my expectations to be loved back by this baby until we lost him or her. I had expectations of God and of myself. My joy in expecting was speckled with drops of selfishness. I could write for days about the lessons learned regarding love and suffering, but here I want to focus on the importance of strength.

I found myself wondering how I would get through this miscarriage without the weight of grief crushing me. I know God loves us and our baby loves us, too, but I never thought I would go my whole life without seeing it plainly in the physical world.

I needed strength when those moments hit me and still need it every day.

Women are, in fact, much stronger than they think. However, I’m certain the strength I’m talking about contrasts with most women’s versions of strength.

After I miscarried I wanted to be at perfect peace and trust God effortlessly out of the gate. I wanted to handle our loss with grace and pure acceptance. I wanted to inspire others with how fruitful it can be to endure suffering well. Don’t get me wrong, these desires definitely helped me focus on the right things, but I was approaching it with a bit of a perfectionistic mindset.

I had to give myself some grace. This was (and is) hard.

My love/hate relationship with perfectionism.

Over the years, I have been tempted by perfectionism, with always being put together and wanting to be in control of my life. I was a straight-A student essentially all the way through college. I like things crisp and clean and organized. I am big into efficiency and time management. If it were up to me, no one would be late to anything… ever. That being said, I’ve been known to wrestle with perfectionism. Acting like everything is great when you’re in the middle of true suffering is not being strong, it’s being unrealistic. It took me a hot minute to grasp this Truth after our loss, but I had to accept that it was time to rethink my approach. I couldn’t be the head honcho of my life anymore (especially now that I’m a wife.) It was time to let go of what I believed strength to be.

Here are a few things I needed to be reminded of:

Strong women cry and then pull themselves off the ground, because they know they don’t belong there.

Strong women lean on the holy men in their lives.

Strong women don’t complain, whine, or snap when they’re struggling.

Strong women ask for help and are patient in their waiting.

Strong women know their holy, beautiful, and immaculate place in this world and don’t scream or scratch for more.

Ultimately, the strength of a woman is precisely in accepting her weakness. That is the secret of feminine strength.

A humble woman knows that her greatness lies in being little.

Our natural desire as women is to run circles around people and prove ourselves. We look for reasons to pick up the slack before there is anything to pick up at all. I discovered a massive hole in this mindset. It does NOT work when you suffer greatly. Suffering is the quickest reality check of our weakness and our humanity.

Being little is hard.

Being little requires strength because it means we are susceptible to being knocked down by the winds of this world. We don’t need strength to be great. We need strength to be weak.

When you are a true woman of littleness and vulnerability, your guard needs to be strengthened so you don’t fall prey to those who will quickly take advantage of you. It may be other women, men, employers, businesses, demons, or tragedies in life. The wicked can smell purity from miles away, and women desperately need strength for the battles of daily life. Innocence and humility are favored by Our Lord. As Padre Pio said, “Holiness means living humbly.“

All we have to do is take a look at the Blessed Mother in all her precious femininity. No woman has ever been smaller or stronger.

This strength may come naturally to many women, but it’s important to know we can obtain and build up this strength in many ways.

  1. First and foremost, we get this strength from God by asking in prayer and through the Sacraments.
  2. We get it from consistency. An object in motion stays in motion, and growth mindsets are a holy habit.
  3. We also become stronger by choosing to. We have the freedom to decide how we will act every minute of the day. Now, women can surely be overcome by emotion and sentimentality, but regardless, we are responsible for our attitudes and behaviors. We have the power to choose strength over inadequacy any day.
  4. We can grow in strength by words of encouragement. It’s powerful to be told that someone believes in you, that living a strong, virtuous life is noble. I am amazed at how much simple phrases have strengthened me throughout my grieving. I absorb every word like it’s my first time hearing it. Things will get better. God has a plan. He will never give you more than you can handle. You can do this. Be not afraid.

A woman’s strength is different than a man’s strength.

I have come to clearly recognize now more than ever how backwards society views female strength.

The “fight for women” isn’t a fight for femininity at all. It’s rooted in despising men who fail to be real men. It’s pure resentment.

When feminists misinterpret humility as humiliating and worldly strength as a virtue, they directly undermine society. Women, more than men, have God-given capabilities to acquire a multitude of graces (creating life in the womb, compassion, submission). Yet, women must rely on men to direct and guide this precious and abundant power. That is man’s great gift: to reason, to be tough, to be in tune with God’s directions, to protect.

When men are removed from the greatness of women, women’s incredible power can be so perverse and misdirected that it wrecks the environment and produces an equally powerful evil. Women can be the greatest creature or the most wretched depending on what they do with the gifts God has given them. With great power comes great responsibility. Every single holy woman that has made it to Sainthood had a holy man leading her. Period.

Strong women rely on holy men.

For women to reach the potential God desires for them, they must be inseparable from their dependance on holy men. Holy men include fathers, spiritual directors, priests, husbands, brothers, and God Himself who takes the Masculine role of Father. Mother Teresa leaned on the priest, Celeste Van Exem, as her spiritual director. St. Zélie Martin was married to St. Louis Martin. Their daughter, St. Terese of Lisieux, absolutely adored her father Louis who called her “his little queen.” Mary Magdalene followed Jesus everywhere He went. St. Clare of Assisi was inspired by the life of St. Francis of Assisi and followed in his footsteps.

And of course, we have the Virgin Mary as our prime example. She is easily the greatest creature short of Our Lord, and it is evident that her cooperation in womanhood was her channel to heavenly glory as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Jesus was her protector and leader. When she lost Him who was her son, He placed her under the wing and protection of St. John. Holy women and holy men need each other. Women do not need to be “too strong” for men.

Had Mary refused Joseph’s protection during the flight into Egypt, we would not be redeemed by her Son.

She submitted daily to the guidance of holy men.

She submitted when the Angel Gabriel told her of her miraculous pregnancy saying, “Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.”

She submitted when Simeon prophesied of her spiritual pain.

She submitted when Jesus quieted her at Cana though respected her request, and again when she watched him be beaten by soldiers and hung on a cross to die.

She played her part well without interrupting or challenging any of the events that God laid in her path. She had incredible strength simply by accepting her littleness, her holy feminine weakness.

I look to Mary now more than ever. Her little life was her greatest strength. And after all… she lost her child, too.

Not just any man will do, you want yourself a HOLY man.

Imagine if St. Joseph or Jesus ignored her all those years, or poked fun at her purity. It hurts to even think about it, because her innocence and humility are so immense that it goes against any sane man’s conscience to think of her as less than she is.

Mary is like a little child who perfectly and joyfully obeys authority at all times without question or doubt. To treat her as a nuisance or burden is unnatural. St. John Paul the Great once said, “God has assigned as a duty of every man the dignity of every woman.” It is essential for men to love their wives more than themselves, like Jesus loves Mary or Christ loves the Church. It is absolutely essential. Men need to speak kindly to women, listen to them, respect them. Remember, their strength lies in being weak.

If man understood the magnitude of virtue and holiness his wife is capable of, he would do everything he possibly could to support her in achieving sanctity. The problem is that so many men don’t know how to do this or where to start. Man must look at woman the way God looks at her.

Men, think about the things you say to a a woman. She needs you.

  • How do you view her?
  • Are you proud of it?
  • Does it build her up?
  • Does it support and protect her dignity?
  • Do you make fun of her or joke around in ways that belittler her womanhood?
  • Do you cherish her?
  • Do you strengthen her?

Women truly deserve to be placed on a pedestal, not because they are better than anyone else, but because their frailty and preciousness demand it. If men want to encourage women to be holy, they need to recognize in themselves their own responsibility to preserve, encourage, and nurture the beauty of women’s littleness.

Women so often have a hard enough time recognizing how valuable and adorable their weakness is, that they don’t need others making light of it, too. A woman who is well-loved and secure is far more likely to cultivate strength.

Not everyone will see you the way they should.

So what happens when your beautiful feminine weakness is not protected, recognized, or cherished? It may not come as a surprise to you that there are many days in life you will feel trampled and overcome by the world. Thankfully Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” We will surely suffer in this world when evil seems all around us, and we don’t know where to turn. We may have to suffer alone sometimes when it seems like no one understands or cares. Trust me, I get it.

Our prized weakness may make us feel incredibly vulnerable. But, I assure you we are capable of being strong enough for the battles of this world because no matter how alone we feel, we are never truly alone. All we need to do is contemplate the face of Jesus and ask for His strength. He is ready to give us the strength we need in this life to fulfill the plans He has for us.

It wouldn’t make sense for God to veil women in weakness for no reason and watch them fall. The strength of a woman is all from God. He saturates us in grace and mercy. Because of Our Lord, Catholics can tenderly recall Proverbs 31, “Who can find a woman of worth? Far beyond jewels is her value.” “She is clothed in strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future.”

Call your mother.

Like Mary, I encourage you to rest easy knowing that God’s got it. He always has and will not abandon you when you feel too weak to tackle the little (or big) moments that pop up in your daily life. After all, He gave us his own mother to look to. She is our beautiful model of femininity and loves us deeply.

And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” Luke 1:46-55

Charlie Lux Hanus, ora pro nobis.

OvertLife Things for Teens

Why You Can’t Stop Binge Watching Your Phone

How to stop falling asleep watching my phone

It’s 10:30pm, you know you should be in bed. You’re tired. You know you’ll thank yourself in the morning when you’ve had a great night’s sleep. So… you jump in bed, open up YouTube and finally fall asleep 3.5 hours later… with your phone in your hand.

You’ve probably wondered why you can’t ever simply do what you know you should. I know I have. I’ve also spent hours upon hours looking into why I can’t stop watching my phone when I’m trying to go to sleep.

And it not just at bedtime. I find myself with my phone in my hand, and I don’t actually know why I picked it up. I’ve reach for my phone in my pocket, only to realize it’s not there and then I remember that I’m washing dishes and don’t want my phone in my hand to begin with.

For years, I’ve been a slave to my phone. Literally. I’ve tried everything. I’ve deleted apps, turned off my app store and had my wife make a screen time password so I couldn’t turn it back on. I’ve taken melatonin so I couldn’t stay awake. I’ve tried reading before bed, working out, practicing hobbies, everything.

No matter what, I always ended up right back in the same place. After falling asleep at midnight or later, I’d be frustrated with myself because I couldn’t put it down then wake up with a foggy mind swearing “never again.”

Why are good habits so hard to form?

All that was true, until now. I’ve turned over a new leaf in my life and it’s been genuinely life-changing for me. I’ve learned a secret that I spent years and years trying to figure out.

The secret is simple. Your habits can never change until your identity changes. This is a simple fact. It is as true as the law of gravity. If you jump, you will come back down. If you try to change a habit without changing your identity, you will never succeed.

The secret to learning new habits

Let’s say you want to learn guitar. You buy a beginner acoustic and sign up for lessons. The next day, you tell a friend, “I’m trying to learn guitar.” Unfortunately, I’ve got some bad news. You never will.

BUT, if you tell a friend, “I’m becoming a musician,” now we’re getting somewhere. The reason is simple. In the first example, you’re explaining a new goal that you have, “learning guitar.” In the second example, you’re assuming a new identity, “becoming a musician.”

How to stop bad habits and learn good habits

It is literally this simple, but it took me years and years to finally understand. The reason I couldn’t ever stop binging my phone is because I didn’t believe that I needed to. I actually bought into the insane idea that I could be on my phone constantly and still be a healthy, functioning individual.

I assumed that it was because I wasn’t “good enough” or that there was something wrong with me. Other people seemed perfectly capable of having their lives controlled by their phones, and they still managed to “succeed.”

My breakthrough occurred when I finally internalized reality. It is physically impossible for me to be the man I want to be and be stuck on my phone most of the time. I will never achieve any measurable success so long as I stay up till 1am watching YouTube and TV shows.

My identity needed to change. My habits were just a symptom.

I’m no longer “trying to stop watching my phone in bed.”

Instead, “I’m a healthy person,” “I’m a productive person,” “I’m a good man.”

Healthy people don’t spend hours on their phone when they should be sleeping. Productive people don’t constantly watch YouTube every moment they have a chance. Good men make good choices and set good examples for their family.

Taking control of your life

We all want to reclaim our lives. The lives that have been stolen by our phones. Social media, YouTube, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Apple TV, etc… are all stealing your life from you.

You know it. You hate it. But you can’t stop.

You’ll never stop.

Not until you change the thing that really matters.

OvertLife Stuff for Guys

Priests Are (Basically) Jedi

You know Fr. Stan, the mild-mannered, collar-wearing priests at your parish? He’s a jedi. And you can be one too.

One of the coolest things about being Catholic is that you’ve got the fullness of Truth. But it has a cool side effect and it’s that whenever anything in the world has a grain of truth in it, you can see a neat reflection of Catholicism.

So with that, we’re going to jump in our X-Wing and take a pass at the 3 ways that Catholic Priests are just like Jedi.

They Have Power You Can’t See

Jedi Power

While it’s true that Jedi can do super cool things like double-jump (well, depending on how far you are in Jedi Fallen Order) and block blaster bolts with their light-sabers, it’s no secret that the real magic of being a Jedi happens a little more behind the scenes.

Whether it’s using Jedi mind tricks or communicating across vast distances, Yoda makes it clear that the real power of a Jedi is not in their physical weapons.

Priestly Power

We often forget that priests have power. Real power. We watch movies like Star Wars and we think “power” means the ability to lift rocks with our minds or pull X-Wings out of swamps.

Real power is the power to forgive sins! Real power is the power to bring Jesus into our physical world in the Holy Eucharist! Real power is the power to crush demons with a Crucifix and some Holy Water!

Jedi Celibacy

The celibacy of Jedi is a constant theme in Star Wars. While it isn’t explicitly stated as “celibacy,” it’s clearly understood that romantic relationships of any sort are a “no-no.”

We’re all familiar with the most obvious example of why the Jedi Order had this rule. Anakin Skywalker famously destroyed the entire Jedi Order because of his fear of losing the woman he loved.

This fear, as Yoda foretold, led Anakin directly to the Dark Side.

It’s important to understand that this rule was not because love is a bad thing or that romantic relationships are dangerous.

This rule existed because Jedi had a higher calling and attachments to anything other than their service as a Jedi was a distraction and a temptation.

Priestly Celibacy

As early as the 4th century we have evidence of the Catholic Church’s teachings on celibate priests.

The Council of Elvira which was held in the early 300’s, made the following statement:

We decree that all bishops, priests and deacons in the service of the ministry are entirely forbidden to have conjugal relations with their wives and to beget children; should anyone do so, let him be excluded from the honour of the clergy. – Council of Elvira CC. 33

While this does make mention of wives, it is clearly understood in Church history that while there were married priests in the early Church, these were men who were married before they were ordained.

In the patristic tradition of the Church, unmarried men who were ordained to the priesthood were not allowed to be married once they took Holy Orders.

There is no reference to celibate priests in the early councils of the Church that would imply it was a new teaching, rather it is a ratification and reinforcement of something already there.

Therefore, it has always been true that Catholic priests were celibate, or at least meant to be.

While many people question the relevance of celibacy today, it is as important as it ever was.

There are a few main reasons for priestly celibacy:

  1. Chris was celibate during His life on earth.
  2. The priest’s real identity is to be an “Alter Christus” (another Christ) and as such, his true identity is found in Jesus and His Church, not in a marital union.
  3. Celibacy is a gift from God that is freely bestowed on those who are called to the priesthood. Priests willingly accept the gift of celibacy and understand what it means.
  4. The priesthood is not for the priest, but for the Church. Those who answers God’s call to the priesthood must be capable of giving themselves “totally and unconditionally to the brethren.” (From The Relevance of Priestly Celibacy Today by Crescenzio Sepe, Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy)

If you’ve got a few extra minutes, Bishop Barron’s explanation of celibacy is a good one.

Similarly to the Jedi, priests have a higher calling than marriage.

This does not mean that marriage is bad or that we should not desire marriage. It does mean that marriage is not the only option for men and that the priesthood should be seriously considered by all Catholic men before choosing to marry.

Just like the Jedi Order, the Order of Melchizedek requires detachment from certain things so that a greater purpose may be pursued.

Anyone who has been married (like me) immediately recognizes how difficult the life of a married priest would be. Neither the Church nor their family would receive the attention or commitment necessary to flourish.

They Have A Lightsaber

Okay, this one is a little bit of a stretch, but not by much! Priests don’t literally have lightsabers, but after I explain myself, you’re going to realize they have something much better.

Jedi Lightsabers

Most people are pretty familiar with the lightsaber. They can basically cut through anything, they block blaster bolts, and they made crime scene cleanup a thing of the past.

Most importantly, though, lightsabers are understood the be the weapon of the Jedi Knight. Jedi and lightsabers go together.

The Priestly Lightsaber

While priests don’t literally carry around a “laser sword” that can cut through any known metal with ease, they do carry a different kind of sword, one that has been shown to have immense power.

This video is only 2.5 minutes long. This is Bishop Oliver Doeme from Nigeria sharing a story about how Jesus appeared to him in December of 2014. Jesus was holding a sword in his hand and he held it out to the Bishop. When the bishop took the sword, it turned into a rosary.

Jesus then said “Boko Haram is gone” three times. Boko Haram was a radical Muslim group that terrorized Nigeria for many years.

Today, through the power of the rosary, they are all but extinct. History is full of stories like this, revealing the power of the rosary.

One thing that is certain is Mary has a special place in her heart for priests. Because Mary is the Mother of the High Priests, Jesus, she is in a special way the Mother of priests. Priests who devote themselves to the rosary truly do carry a sword in their hand to wield against Satan.

Finding Jesus In Star Wars

Just because something isn’t specifically Catholic, doesn’t mean there isn’t meaning in Truth. Whenever we bump up against true things, we see reflections of other true things, we see reflections of God in anything that is true.

The idea of this article is not for you to watch a million hours of Star Wars thinking it will make you a better Catholic.

The point of this article is to help you see that the real war is not a fantasy one in a galaxy far, far away. It’s very easy to get caught up in all the stories and imagination that comes with modern movies and video games.

The only problem is that there is a very real story happening right now. Your story. That story doesn’t involve lightsabers and telekinesis, but it does involve real power, real villains, real heroes, and most importantly, you.

Priests aren’t really Jedi, no. They’re way more important.

If you’ve ever wanted to be a Jedi, you might just want to be a priest.

If you’ve ever found yourself wishing Jedi were real, well maybe you should take a closer look at Fr. Stan next time you’re at mass. 😉


How to Pay Off Your Student Loans in 2 Years without Selling Drugs

I grew up in a relatively happy home. I was the oldest of 5 children and so I ruled the world. I had a captive audience at all times. I enjoyed my power.

Quite understandably, when it came for me to attend college my parents did not have the money to pay my way (if you believe in that kind of thing). So I was then responsible for selecting and paying for my college education. Three and a half years later, when I graduated college I had about $25k in student loans. I will be the first to admit this isn’t really that bad, but that is also part of how I paid them off in 2 years.

Despite the availability of education in the 21st Century, the infamous “student loan” plagues students across the globe (probably). Millennials are shooting their own lives in the foot, as they attempt to begin their careers entrenched in copious amounts of debt. The imagery is vivid.

We talk about being Eco-friendly and how climate change is going to ruin the world, yet are we living lives that are conducive to making the world cleaner, fresher and colder? People seem to much rather live lives of materialism, debt, and general self-centeredness.

(Bear with me, I’ll get the paying off part in a moment.)

What if we started to live with an attitude of humility and frugality? What if we focused on spending time with others rather than what we can get for ourselves?

If everyone lived with this mentality, the world would be a far better place.

Without getting into the depths of philosophy of life, here are some practical examples of how you can start saving money and start paying off your debt. The reason I bring up all this other stuff is because I now believe it’s more than just carrying out actions or “tricks” to reach debt-free living. It’s an entire mindset shift.

This mindset requires you to be a problem solver. You have to get creative. It’s an art. A game that most people refuse to play. People would rather solve a problem by throwing money at it. Rather than think and figure it out for themselves, they pay someone else to solve the problem for them. Sometimes this may be worth it, but for most of us we can’t afford that type of lifestyle.

Part of getting this to work requires you to think. Want a gym membership? Try working out in your living room, push-ups are free. Running around your apartment complex’s lake is free. Running away from cops is also free. Think outside the box. Be resourceful.

(I do not condone running away from the cops.)

Well, now to the meat and potatoes. Think of the following as a 4 year program that is part of college education. For those of you who are graduated, it’s a 2 year program.

I hate loans more than anything else in the world.

Just a little background, I hate owing people money. I like paying for things myself. I don’t like losing money to interest. It’s another reason I hate renting, but that’s a different story for a different time. I decided when I was young to put together a plan to pay off my student loans. It wasn’t so much as a plan as it was a lifestyle I decided to live.

There are three stages to how I saved enough and made enough to pay off my loans. If one doesn’t seem to be relevant, please feel free to skip it.

Before College

Don’t worry about having to make tons of money, just focus on saving money and learning to start working hard.

1. Save money

It’s the little ways of saving money, lay off the Gatorade, the candy, going to movies. All things in moderation. Have a good time, enjoy what’s left of your childhood, but you can start saving while young. The key concept here is to learn self-control and don’t waste.

2. Work summer jobs.

I was working from the day of my 14th birthday. It was not fun counting tiny bolts in an industrial battery warehouse, but I did enjoy learning to work and it made me realize if I didn’t work hard I could end up counting bolts my whole life. I didn’t want to do that.

Find a job, any job. Mowing lawns, watching your 3-year-old cousin, painting the garage, doing Billy’s math homework for $5. There is a world of opportunity out there and it starts when you decide to seize the day.

3. Apply to scholarships.

This was an area in which I really fell short. I could have saved a ton of money if I had taken advantage of it. I would encourage you to look into major-specific scholarships offered by your school, those tend to be forgotten. There are millions of dollars out there, free for the taking.

4. Do well in school.

When it comes academic scholarships, depending on the school, SAT and ACT scores can have a HUGE impact on the money you can receive. I was lucky to get some pretty great scholarships. I am not that smart, but I took the SAT a second time because I knew I could get my score up and I did. 100 additional points. This bumped me into the next scholarship bracket.

5. Take college courses.

During highschool, I paid the $300 for college courses that were offered at school. The workload really wasn’t too hard and as a result I was able to graduate a semester early—saving $17k!

During College

For you young kiddos still in college, here are some tips to saving money while still having a good time. There were many times I didn’t do things because it cost money, but there were even more times where I still had an awesome time and found a way to do things that were free.

Keep in mind you probably won’t be able to make a ton of money at this stage, because your main focus should be school.

1. Pay as you go.

Remember, you don’t have to pay college all at once. Part of the reason I only had $25k in loans was because I managed to pay off the rest out of pocket as I went. There were some times I barely scraped by, but my main goal was to avoid getting any additional loans outside of my government loans.

2. Worked various jobs at school, from day one.

I found a job in the school computer lab that would let me work up to 20 hours a week on campus, no commuting necessary. Because campus had a limit on hours you could work a week, I also found a job that was shooting talks on campus, where I was paid per video shoot, so that let me get around the school’s rule that you can’t work over 20 hours.

3. Save money.

This might seem obvious, but it’s still worth saying. Work, birthdays, Christmas, no matter the income source, you can’t view the money as yours. It’s not yours. It belongs to Fannie Mae, Discover or some other institution and they are letting you borrow it—for a fee!

4. Spend time with people, but don’t feel obligated to spend money.

When we’d go out to restaurants on Friday nights, there were many, many times I was the one who ordered a water and ate the free bread. I was saving money to pay for college and if that means being a cheapskate, I don’t mind.

I believe this is where you can save the most. People love eating out and they love dragging people out with them, I’d be happy to spend time with people, but I’m not spending $8 on a sandwich I can make for $2 at home.

5. Reel in the drinking habit.

Drinking is very expensive. It’s really not worth it. From a purely objective point of view it’s a complete luxury. If it’s a necessity to you than your problems may go deeper than student loans…

6. Don’t get a car.

You’ll save more money than you can imagine by not getting a car. I understand for some people this is not an option, but once you get a car there are mechanical issues, routine maintenance, insurance, gas and other things that inevitably show up with car ownership. It’s a pain not having “our own vehicle,” but we are trading convince for money here.

7. Re-apply to scholarships.

Oftentimes you’ll end up with one-time scholarships that are only good for a year. Apply to scholarships every year to make sure you’re not missing out on new opportunities.

8. Negotiate with the admissions office.

If you are really close to being able to paying in full for a semester, you can reason with the admissions office. They often have the inside information on new scholarships, available funds and if they like you they might be able to cut you some slack.

9. Major in something that will actually make you money.

I know we’ve hear it before but a philosophy degree is not going to put food in your mouth or Netflix on the TV. Pick a major that is going to make you happy while getting you a job that justifies the investment of an education.

10. Get that summer job.

Summer jobs are your opportunity to sprint ahead and catch up on some of your missed revenue opportunities during the school year. Personally, I recommend finding a job that is a balance between the most profitable and something that is related to your field, perhaps doing a bit of both if you can!

After Graduation: Make More, Spend Less – A Modern Peasant’s Lifestyle

I recently heard Pete the Planner speak and he talked about the dangers of what he refers to as “Lifestyle Creep.” This is where you start to make more money and slowly scale your lifestyle to match. This is why people never get out of debt. This is why people feel like they are always drowning. To counter this, here’s my approach. Every year the goal should be how to cut costs and how to increase revenue.

1. Get a good job.

This might seem dumb, but it’s often a mistake people make. Jobs can be hard to get, but they don’t have to be. Spend some good time putting together a well-written resume, a cover letter that explains why you want to work at that particular company and really try to find a company where there is room to grow.

It’s amazing to me the number of people who just dump their resume into an Indeed template and shoot it off to everyone in the world, regardless of how qualified they are.

Businesses are dying to find great employees. Be that great employee.

2. Never eat out, never drink out.

This sounds depressing, but it’s true. No matter how you shake it, eating out is a luxury and is one of the biggest ways people waste money. You have to remember: this is a temporary pain that will pass. Once you pay off your loans you can eat, drink and be merry.

Apart from giving yourself a slight “reward allowance” You need to bake it into your head that eating out is ALWAYS a waste of money. It’s never worth it. The only time I let myself eat out is when it’s with a bunch of people. It’s less about eating and more about the time I’m going to spend with them. But even this is rare. It’s okay to go out with friends and just order a water. It might feel dumb at first but you can always say you’re vegan or something like that.

Food and alcohol are expensive and it doesn’t make sense to go out to eat when you own someone $30k. Even with a low interest rate.

3. Work a second job.

From what I hear, a lot of people are doing this, but it’s important to not just get any job. You want to find a job that allows you to get the best return for your time. If I had gotten a different job, I could make way more money, but I decided to start a company with a friend of mine, helping businesses with their websites and their marketing. We brought in about $7k in our first year, it might not seem like much but that was money that I could put towards my loans. I also see this as an investment, to make way more money in the future.

There are tons of part-time opportunities. You can get a remote job working a couple hours a week from you house. You could bar tend down the street. Uber and Lyft are another way to bring in some extra cash. The point is that especially if you are single, you have a bunch of extra time and there is a 95% change that you are not using that time well. You could start your own store on Etsy. You could sell things on eBay. If you have a secret skill or a hobby, try to leverage that to get things done and make money!

4. Sweat the Small Stuff: Walk to work

It’s not about winning the lottery or finding 100 dollar bills on the street, it’s really a constant flow of small sacrifices that result in a big difference over a long period of time. I moved a bit closer to work which allowed me to walk, save on gas and I got a free bike from a friend which made commuting even easier.

5. Cheaper Rent

I found cheaper rent for my second year. It was in a crappier apartment, but it knocked $130 off my bill each month. Not only was it cheaper, but it was closer to work!

6. Get rid of internet

I decided to get rid of internet. Being a designer/web developer this was a major thing. I would often talk about how the internet was my “life blood” and how it was essential to every bit of work I do.

I’ve started to realize the internet is also poison. So I figured it couldn’t hurt to see how long I could go. I made it an entire 14 months without internet at my apartment. If I needed internet I used my phone for the small things, went to Starbucks or Panera or just went to my office and worked there. It really was not that bad. It forced me to focus on what is important and prioritize when I’m working on internet-related projects.

7. Don’t pay into your 401(k)

The goal is to pay off your interest, so if you’re paying 10% interest, your money is worth more paying off the debt rather than making investments this early in your life. I’m not a licensed financial planner so don’t quote me on that.

8. Go with a cheaper phone plan

Chances are you can get away with WiFi only in this wonderful world we live in, or perhaps downgrading to 1GB a month is managable. You can save a lot of money downgrading your plan (and your phone.)

9. Get rid of the excess

This includes Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Spotify anything extra. Especially those pesky subscriptions. Spend some time going through your credit cards and canceling anything that is not essential to life. You don’t need it and you can always go back.

10. Eat like your life isn’t depending on it

I won’t lie, I ate oatmeal for breakfast for 2 years.

Now there was some variation here and there, I won’t be totally dramatic, but for the most part it was oatmeal. Oatmeal is a very cheap, filling, and healthy breakfast. The only thing it’s missing is taste.

Shopping at Aldi was the other half of the equation. I was able to save so much on groceries, it wasn’t funny, all while eating healthy. I believe eating well is a critical element to this entire lifestyle. Say goodbye to the processed foods and the pre-made goods. I even started making my own bread and biscuits from scratch. They were delicious. And cheap.

I buy a ton of fresh veggies, fruits, eggs and meat. Stick to the basics. I spend on average $35 in groceries, which lasts me about ~9 days or so, but that is pushing it a bit.

  • Use the “price per ounce/lb” to gauge what product is most worth your money
  • Don’t buy packaged goods, buy it fresh
  • Cut back on meat (it’s expensive)
  • Skip things that aren’t on sale (this means eating based on availability)
  • Keep laying off the alcohol (it’s not worth it)
  • Get a bread machine, it takes about 10 minutes of prep to make a loaf of fresh bread.

11. Let people know you’re trying to save up

It’s easy to become ashamed of being cheap or trying to live a life of frugality, but I say to just hold your head high. People will definitely look down on you and give you a hard time, but the fact is that they will also give you their old furniture when they redecorate their house, food when they are going out of town, and they will understand your behavior better when you don’t want to go out to eat.

Really what you are doing is preventing waste and being about as eco-friendly as possible.

12. Get a cheap car

This is definitely a tricky one, but the fact is that you can get a car that works great for $2k-$3k on Craigslist. It can be a little stressful, but I honestly believe you are just as well off getting a Craigslist car as you are getting one from the dealer. Dealers are just as likely to screw you as someone from Craigslist.

13. Craigslist free list

I got most of my furniture from the Craigslist free list. It’s amazing the stuff. People give away desks, chairs, shelves, couches—you name it. They usually just want it taken out of their garage. Sure it would be nice to get it nice and new from Ikea, but what about getting something free? That’s less stuff in a landfill.

Bonus: Give 150% and Ask for a Raise

This isn’t always available to everyone, but it is important. Especially if you are a hard worker, chances are you are probably being underpaid.

The only way this works is if you truly make yourself an asset at work that no one can find anywhere else. This means working late, finding ways to save the company money and bringing real value to the table. Exceed expectations in every way. You can’t just ask for a raise because you feel like it—you need to make it obvious you deserve one. I once heard that 1 Million Dollars was left on the table in your lifetime…because you never asked for a raise. That is a lot of money.

Approach your employer with a pitch for why you want a raise and your reasons for your target range. Put together a roadmap to show how you have helped grow the company and save the business money.

Also take some time to research negotiation skills, there’s a book called “Never Split the Difference” that I highly recommend. Too many of us won’t stick up for ourselves and so we spend most of our lives being taken advantage of.

In review: Mindset Shift => I Deserve Nothing

You need to realize that when you are in debt you own nothing. The money you’re making is someone else’s money. Once we learn to think like this it’s much easier to start living the meager lifestyle necessary to pay back loans like this at such a rapid rate.

The prevalent attitude of rewarding ourselves with money that doesn’t belong to us is fundamentally flawed. We keep lying to ourselves. I think this is one of the critical issues in the minds of millennials. We need to grow up and be responsible for our own lives and our own educations.

Focus on People
I think really a lot of this can be fixed by changing how we live our lives and making it less about us. Going out the movies is a lousy way to spend time with someone. Try going for a walk. Go hiking at the state park. Find a free museum.

Don’t Despair! Despite being a generally boring person, I did a lot of fun things during this same period of time! I traveled abroad in Europe for an entire semester, I purchased 3 cars (please note: they were crappy cars and mostly at separate times), I bought my $3k laptop, had great times with friends, moved across the country and wasted PLENTY of money. My point is that you can still enjoy life here and there, while saving money.

We’re trading convenience for money, so life is going to be a bit inconvenient for a bit, but it’s worth it!

Have a Party There is nothing more freeing than paying off your last student loan. It has been almost a lifelong goal of mine. Now I can say that I paid my way through college and I’m debt free at 23.

I encourage you to throw a party when you pay your last loan. Let loose a little, spend some money to enjoy yourself. You deserve it. Me, I bought a handle of bourbon, a flank steak and enjoyed both by a crackling fire…or maybe that was Ron Swanson.

Good luck out there 🙂

How did you go about paying off your student loans? Any tips you want to share?