The Wandering Desert Monk

The Wandering Desert Monk

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Anger Transformation

There are two schools of thought about how to deal with anger: Anger Management and Anger Transformation. 

When most people talk about dealing with their anger they talk about how to cool down - count from 10 backwards or count to 20. Anger management classes which are often taught to persons whose anger got them into trouble with the law focus on skills - breathing, being aware of triggers, some ways to deal with your anger - exercise, punching a pillow. going outside and screaming. One of the best ones I heard told me to get a bowl of ice cubes and go outside and throw them against a brick wall. The goal of anger management is to 'manage' your anger. 

I am not a big fan of anger management; I prefer to teach people anger transformation.

Here are my teaching points: 

1. Anger is a normal human emotion. It is not anger that gets us into trouble, it's what we do with our anger that gets us into trouble. Breaking your partner's dishes, screaming curse words at co-workers, driving irratically down the street - these are all behaviors that will get you into trouble. Anger isn't the problem; its what we do with our anger that is the trouble. 

2. Anger is a symptom, not a cause. When you come home from work and your children (or partner) have left their clothes and dishes all over the family room/living room. What is your immediate reaction? Yelling at who ever is closest about the mess? Your increased blood pressure, your hot face, your voice are all indications that you are one unhappy person. 

3. The problem isn't the problem. We think the problem is stuff strewn all over the house. That isn't the problem. The problem is your unmet need. The human race has universal needs: needs for peace, harmony, community, communication, order, clarity, respect, etc. (To download the list of universal need see, What need of yours is not being met when you walk in the door and see the mess? Peace? Harmony? Community? Identify what need isn't being met. That is the problem. 

4. Now you have to communicate the need to your family. How do you do that? 
First, note your anger. Give yourself some self-empathy. Yes, you are darn mad at the mess in front of you. You want to detach someone's head from their body! 
Second, observe the mess. Note specifically what you see - cups, shoes, toys, etc. 
Third, formulate your message to the offender. 

*Begin with a compliment: "Honey, I love you" is a good start. 

*Then communicate the observation. "Honey, I see cups, shoes and toys on the furniture and floor." 

*Then communicate your need, "I have a need for order and harmony in my life." 

*Then communicate your request, "Can you, please, pick up the shoes, clothes and toys and place them were they belong." 

Now here is the catch. If the person responds defensively to your request, they probably hard the request as a demand. So say something like this, "Honey, I maybe I didn't say that right. Let me try again." Go through the message again.  (Some people begin with their need and then move to the observation and then to their request - either order is equally effective. It is what is comfortable to you.) 

I have taught the above communication skill, I call Anger Transformation, to many couples and parents. Many people tell me that the above communication skills have transformed their personal lives and professional lives. 

I would appreciate hearing how these communication tools help you. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Stay has been granted


"You have been granted a stay," the Judge drops his gavel on his desk.
My heart trembles in relief, head in my hands,
"How do I deserve such an act of mercy?"

Another day breaks, death escapes for one more night
My heart trembles in relief, head in my hands,
"How do I deserve such an act of mercy?"

With gratitude for this gift of another day
I will live as a gift to my world,
"How do I deserve such a gift of grace?"

(c) 2012 Ronald Friesen

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Do I continue on this path
Seeking meaning and purpose
In these cul-de-sacs of sameness
Going round and round?

Is there opportunity here
To find a difference
A challenge to repair
What is broken?

Where is the freshness
The energy for life
That renews strength
For the next one?

(c) 2012 Ronald Friesen

Monday, June 11, 2012

Inner communication

And the deepest level of communication is not
communication, but communion.
It is wordless.
It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech,
and it is beyond concept.
Not that we discover a new unity.
We discover an older unity.
My dear brothers, we are already one.
But we imagine that we are not.
And what we have to recover is our original unity.
What we have to be is what we are.

Thomas Merton, The Asian Journal

Monday, June 4, 2012

Merton on The life of contemplation

The life of contemplation in action and purity of heart is, then, a life of great simplicity and
inner liberty. One is not seeking anything special or demanding any particular satisfaction.
One is content with what is.

Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation. William H. Shannon,
editor (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003): 66

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hearing God's voice

How do I hear your voice, God?

Do I hear it as still small voice?
Do I hear it as a thunder clap?
Do I hear it in a whipperwill's call?
Do I hear it in a child's cry"
Do I hear in the cry of a woman being raped?
Do I hear in the wailing of a woman whose son was cut down in gang violence?
Do I hear it in the screams of a woman who pleads for her husband to stop beating her?
Do I hear it in the cries of a father who searches a garbage dump for scraps of food for his family?

I often hear your voice, God
I confess I often ignore your voice.
Help me to hear better, O God

(c) 2012 Ronald Friesen

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

O! What pain

O! What pain

What pain arises in my heart
Brought by my disobedience
That sets my being apart
Wounded by absence.

What brokenness! What despair!
Can release come about?
Where is the repair
Beyond all doubt?

My heart cries for healing:
Come, Balm of Gilead
Pour your salvation
Renew me inward

Come, Friend of sinners
My wandered spirit
Welcome to your dinner
Fill with your Spirit.

Ron Friesen © 2012

Loving Wounds

Loving Wounds

“This hurts me more than you,” says the Father, as he lays out his punishment.
“Stop it!”cries my heart, as the toll of brokenness piles up around me.

“These are wounds of love,” says the Father, his voice filled with tenderness.
“How can this be?” screams my heart, as the pain deepens inside of me.

“Your brokenness will be healed as these open wounds receive my loving correction,” whispers the Father.
“This will kill me!” protests my heart, as the wounds fester blood and water from my tears.

“Yes, it will kill you. Your will must die for life to be born out of these wounds,” breathes the Father.
“I don’t want to die,” argues my heart, as the wounds struggle in agony.

“There is no life without death, unless the seed die, “reminds the Father.
“Why do I have to die?” contends my heart, as the pain throbs.

“Your must die to your will. You must give up your rights,” proclaims the Father.
“In your hands I commit my will,” responds my heart., my brokenness is made whole.

Ron Friesen © 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hypothetical Questions....

Hypothetical Questions
by Richard Rohr, OFM

As I write a book on "the Resurrection and the True Self", I am researching a lot of Scripture, solidly for three weeks now.  One of many patterns that is becoming clear is that Jesus almost always refused to answer hypothetical questions.  He must have known the distinction Parker Palmer makes between honest and dishonest questions.  The only honest questions, Palmer says, are those that you do not already have an answer for.  Hypothetical questions are almost always meant to trap the other in an either-or dilemma, and to force the individual to reveal his or her group loyalties through stating this or that position.  They usually state the question on a highly theoretical level, where you can force a show-down.  Too often, they are not concerned about helping anybody in particular but making points with the crowd.

Check out these hypothetical questions:  Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not? (Matthew 22:17)  Is divorce OK or not? (Matthew 19:3) Do you have authority or not? (Matthew 21:23)  Which is the greatest commandment? (Matthew 22:35) By whom do you cast out devils? (Luke 11:16)  Are you for or against this adulterous woman? (John 8:6)  Who sinned, this man or his parents? (John 9:2)  Is the kingdom here or is it there, now or then? (Luke 17:20). These are the ones I noticed.  Jesus' answer in every case, refuses to let hypothetical questions impale him on the horns of theoretical dilemmas. In many cases, Jesus moves it to a specific example (which in the seminary we disparagingly called "situation ethics", and where everything was also discussed theoretically!).

Hypothetical questions have been a high percentage of questions I have been asked from the crowd for over 40 years on the road.  I wish I had learned from Jesus earlier, because such questions are usually not a sincere search for truth or for God.

-Richard Rohr

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Obama-Catholic debate

I have been asked what I think about the Obama/Catholic debt. Here are my thoughts.
I used to work for Catholic Charities who were in the same health care plan which covered all employees of the Diocese of Phoenix.
I have mixed feelings on this debate because like me most of CC staff were not Catholics. Same is true in most Catholic hospitals and colleges in the US. I guess if Catholic institutions want to turn down all government contracts and funds (inc. Medicaid, student loans, etc) and to hire only Catholic employees then they would be free to argue to uphold their view on contraception.
One of the ironies of this discussion is that I am hearing that about 96% of all Catholic women have used birth control pills.
The Amish would be a good example of a group who has been able to make their case that they are free of government interference because they don't accept any direct government aid. They do pay taxes which cover the services they receive like roads. These are my thoughts today.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What does Lent mean?

Today is the first Sunday of Lent. If you go to a church service, someone may ask you, "What are you giving up for Lent?
It is not uncommon for people to say something like this, "I am giving up Chocolate." Or, "I am giving up Starbucks."
I don't think this is what Lent means. Lent is a time when we reflect on the true cost of following Jesus of Nazareth. The true cost is being shown us by the pastor is Iran who is facing execution this week because he refuses to deny his faith in Jesus.
Lent is about thinking about going all the way to the death for the One who went all the way of death for me.
(c) 2012 Ronald Friesen

Friday, February 17, 2012

How are Conservatives and Liberals alike yet different

Conservative versus Liberal Morality
by Richard Rohr, OFM
Jonathan Haidt says that the question "What is moral?" is guided by one's attitudes in six categories: 1) care for others, 2) a sense of fairness, 3) the value of freedom versus oppression, 4) loyalty to values and people, 5) respect for basic authority and tradition, 6) and a sense of the sacred versus "nothing is really sacred unless I decide it is".
He says that those who call themselves liberal or progressive tend to be nominally strong on the first (care for others), and also a bit on the second and third (fairness and freedom), but rather dismissive of the last three categories.
Those who call themselves conservatives at least pay lip service to all six categories, although all at a much lower level than the high of the liberal value of "caring for others". HIs conclusion is that, for all of their biases, conservatives do present a more honest valuation of full human nature, and that is why they can more easily create strong "groups". I think he is largely right. But Haidt also sees that conservatives can not usually recognize their over-identification with that very group and their own denied self interest in maintaining the status quo. Comfortable people tend to be conservatives ("conservare" in Latin).
How can we find the best of both groups? Human caring and a love of true freedom--that is also loyal and with a sense of the Sacred. Liberals deny the traditional values of the "first half of life" and falsely dive into the values of the "second half of life" in an often half hearted way (Ungrounded Enlightenment). Conservatives tend to do many "first half of life" values very well, but then sacralize them as if they are the whole journey and remain stuck right there (Naive Purity). There has to be a way to bring these two worldviews together. I see it most commonly in very humble people, especially if they have suffered hardships. They have their feet on the ground, but are searching for better ways to do almost everything.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


"Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing behind
one sees the path
that never will be trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road--
Only wakes upon the sea."
--Antonio Machado

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Newt has a problem with Saul Alinsky - I think Mother Teresa would have a problem with Newt

In 1969, Saul Alinsky received the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award, given annually by a coalition of Catholic groups in the Midwest to commemorate an encyclical about human rights and alternatives to war written by Pope John XXIII. Most honorees have been ardent reformers of one faith or another: Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu, Cesar Chavez, Daniel Berrigan, and Jim Wallis are on the list—as is Lech Walesa.

Newt Gingrich would, no doubt, point to some of those names as proof of how the Left can seduce innocent devotees of his new-found faith. But he might find it difficult to criticize the woman who received the award seven years after Saul Alinsky: a community organizer from Calcutta named Mother Teresa.

What for politics?

"I must say that among educated people, politics occupies far too great a proportion of their time. . .Questions of higher spirit cannot even be compared to the sort of blinking frivolity of politics. The ultimate problems of life and death show the colossal nature of this difference even more...People are prepared to stuff their heads with anything, and to talk on any subject, while actually blocking off any true contemplation of the [whole] issue. This is the reason for the increased pettiness of our society, and our concentration on the small and the irrelevant." - Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Monday, January 9, 2012

Merton on love....

"Love is not a matter of getting what you want. Quite the contrary. The insistence on always having what you want, on always being satisfied, on always being fulfilled, makes love impossible. To love you have to climb out of the cradle, where everything is "getting," and grow up to the maturity of giving, without concern for getting anything special in return.

Merton, Thomas. Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979: 30-31