A test of character

| Joe O'Sullivan | July 23, 2018 | 0 Comments
Mountain climbing


I was entrenched in my task when I realized that I was actually, sincerely entrenched: My back was badly hunched over, my neck had begun cramping, and my eyes had started buzzing back and forth. I couldn’t fit another sentence in my head. I was experiencing burnout, and the textbooks in front of me suddenly sent a pang of anxiety through my gut. It tasted like a moment of defeat.

Over the duration of six months, I had experienced many such defeats in studying for a tough financial exam. At times it felt as though I could only lean on God and ask for his help, and having been humbled so many times in a row, that’s what I — finally — started doing.

There were many weekend nights when I wanted to go out, have a drink, go salsa dancing — you name it. But as a man, something internal spoke to me: These exams are testing not only my intellect, but my character as well. Both my success on the exams and my response to high stress will help me provide for and be a rock for my future spouse, family and friends in tough times.

As the saying goes, one does not rise to the occasion, but rather sinks to his level of training. “Tests” train us for the times when people will need us the most — when we’re really tested. God is always guiding each of us, and at the right time, we’ll give back what we’ve learned.

It’s been said that people learn the most when they start doing something they don’t know how to do, versus practicing something they already know how to do. When you throw yourself into a task, the brain does a remarkable thing for you: It starts to figure it out.

As G.K. Chesterton once said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” A failed sparring session against your textbooks — or any other battle — is never a failure; rather, “failure” in a strenuous task is equal to the measure of your growth against your goal. You would never know where you stand if you didn’t try.

Sometimes we lose the small battles to win the big ones: Failing in a practice exam now means you can improve for the real exam later; failing in an attempt at love now means you’ll be more prepared to love later on. It’s a war of attrition, and in the end, the virtues that we practice today will make it easy to say yes to God’s will tomorrow.

O’Sullivan is a senior market specialist at U.S. Bank and a parishioner at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul. He likes to read, be with friends, and do anything that involves sports, dancing or cooking. Learn about the archdiocese’s Catholic Watchmen initiative online or on Facebook.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen