Letter from the Editor: Be assertive

Veronica Novotny

In addition to editing the Troubadour and serving as co-head of sacred art for the chapel office, I dabble in freelance work. Namely, driving transportation Saturday at the inaugural Baron Blast tailgating-sports-celebration.

Now, I’m about the least-enthusiastic sports fan, but I am one of the most-enthusiastic Franciscan University of Steubenville fans, so this job was perfect for me.

Partway through my five-hour shift, I stopped having fun driving people from the fieldhouse to the soccer field and started getting hangry. So, after dropping off a minivan full of soccer spectators, I cut the grill line at the rugby pitch and snagged the only burger left on the tray.

Now, I thought I was perfectly justified, considering I was helping work the event and couldn’t wait in the line already 50-people deep, but there were a few grumbles and a weird look from the vice president of Student Life (who, admirably, was trying to honor the students who had patiently stood in line for 20 minutes).

My sister, however, congratulated me on my insistence on a burger. “Way to be assertive and stand up for yourself!”

I’m notoriously bad at asserting myself, asserting my needs and asserting anything except for exciting philosophical conundrums in my honors seminar.

But for those of us who are more pusillanimous, maybe we should learn how to assert ourselves a little more.

A friend recently lent me her copy of “Broken Gods” by Gregory Popcak, a Catholic psychologist, and it’s blowing me away.

Here’s a quote from the book about happiness: “The assertion that we alone can find our way to happiness is at the very heart of the sin of pride.”

According to Popcak and so many saints, God wants to meet our needs and fill us with an overabundance of good things. But we cannot get happiness on our own, and it’s prideful to think otherwise.

Popcak also writes that the antidote to pride isn’t to never speak about myself again, but rather to recognize that I am not the ultimate source of my own fulfillment and happiness; God is.

Popcak also draws a connection between abundance and intimacy.

He writes, “Research reveals that abundance can be defined by the pursuit of three qualities: meaningfulness, intimacy, and virtue. … Intimacy contributes to our sense of abundance by making us part of a community where we are loved, cherished, and valued as persons.”

Intimacy is the antidote to pride, Popcak argues, and I think he’s right. At least for myself, a prideful sense of having-to-do-it-all-myself can keep me from voicing my needs, concerns and opinions. And if I do voice something aloud, I sometimes stress myself out by wondering, “Did I just overshare? Was speaking three times in 10 minutes too much? Do they hate me now?”

But humility requires intimacy, and intimacy requires vulnerability, and vulnerability requires actually asserting yourself every once in a while.

I want to close with Popcak’s opening chapter:

“Imagine that you were to wake up tomorrow to discover that, by some miracle, you had become a god overnight. Not ‘the’ God — omnipresent, all-knowing, all-powerful — but ‘a’ god in the classic sense. That is to say, you wake up to find that you are perfect, immortal, utterly confident in ‘who’ you are, ‘where’ you are going in life, and ‘how’ you are going to get there. … What would it be like to live without fear? How would it feel to be completely at peace with yourself and the people in your life?”

Where would you be if you left your fear behind?

Where would I be if I left my own fear behind?