By Bob Mueller

When I attended seminaries in Louisville and Baltimore, I was most fortunate to have a wise spiritual director. He told me his goal was to make me

tough and strong for the journey ahead. His guidance and direction helped me to develop a deep spirituality, to emphasize ministry to others, and to preach by example.

One quote he always told me was, “You’ve got to have your wishbone backed up with a backbone.” By that he meant “one whose shoulders are back, whose chest is out, whose head is up and whose eyes are alert.” To develop this backbone, he taught me six important lessons.

  1. Wake up! Know what’s going on about you. Keep informed. Find out all you can about the people you have met or are about to meet. Then you’ll have much more in common to talk about. Who wants to listen to an uninformed, ignorant, self-centered individual? Increase your knowledge and the scope of your activities, and then interest will be greatly increased, as will the desire for greater things. Develop a keen sense of observation.
  2. Measure yourself and discover your faults. As William Shakespeare wrote: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Yes, the fault is in ourselves if we are not what we want to be and where we want to be. Don’t blame the stars. Don’t blame society. Don’t blame the world. Blame yourself. Get out of low gear and shift into high gear. Start picturing what you really want to be, and you’ll start to move.
  3. Stop moping. Wrap up your griefs and troubles in a neat little bundle and leave them by the road. Better yet, see yourself dropping them off a bridge so they’ll float away on the stream and never come back. Get out from under! You can’t be yourself. It is impossible to make the right impression on others, to attract good things to you, when you are staggering under a load of things that have already happened that can no longer be helped and that cannot be cured by moping about.
  4. Be ready to face anything. The tempo of life and developments are increasing at a rapid rate. Things are unfolding almost too fast for the mind to grasp. More and more earth-shaking developments are on the way. Much that was considered impossible a few years ago has already been accomplished. Anything may happen from now on — and probably will! We must train our minds to be mentally alert, to maintain an open mind, and to make contact with our creative power within so we can adapt to the changes that are coming. This way we will have the insight, the understanding and the courage to meet them.
  5. Put aside all limited thinking. Don’t restrict and shackle your mind by small and prejudiced thinking. Free your consciousness of feelings of resentment, antagonism, hate and similar emotional reactions toward others. How often do you let yourself become upset about something someone does or says? Irritations become aggravations. Get busy and eliminate them from your consciousness.
  6. Stop fooling yourself. You know yourself better than any close friend or relative can ever know you. You may be able to mask your real feelings and thoughts from others, but you can tell, deep down within, what you really think and feel about anything or anybody. If these thoughts and feelings are not good, get busy and make them good. Forgive others for what they’ve done to you. Assume your share of the blame. Don’t hold resentments or grudges or hates. They are poisoning your mind and your body.

I owe my spiritual director a great debt in his quest to provide me strength for the journey. He made me ask the fundamental questions:

  • Do you believe you are getting out of life what you should?
  • Do you believe you are giving to life what you should?

Bob Mueller is the vice president of Development at Hosparus in Louisville.