Friday, August 17, 2012

HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired?

Elijah went a day's journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
"This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers."
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.

Ethiopian athlete Meseret Defar provided one of the most emotional moments of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games when she crossed the finish line in the 5000 meter race to win the gold.

She then pulled a picture of the Virgin Mary out from under her jersey, showed it to the cameras and held it up to her face in deep prayer.

An Orthodox Christian, Defar entrusted her race to God with the sign of the cross and reached the finish line in 15:04:24, beating her fellow Ethiopian rival Tirunesh Dibaba, who was the favorite to win.

A teary-eyed Defar proudly showed the picture of the Virgin Mary with the Baby Jesus that she carried with her for the entire race.

What I find so beautiful about this is that Defar brought together in the Olympics what we are all called to bring together – Our Bodies and our Spirits. 

We are in fact “embodied spirits”.  So what we do with our bodies deeply impacts our spiritual lives.  There is an old philosophical saying that “Grace builds on nature.”  The idea is that in order for grace to work fully our natures have to be in order.  We have to take care of our bodies in order to get the fullness of grace for our lives. 

Defar over all these years of training had perfected her body and honed and shaped her body through discipline, dedication, and desire for the gold… and through it all she did so with the inspiration of the Icon of the Virgin Mary. 

The idea is that we too need to take care of our bodies in order for our spiritual lives to really blossom to the fullest.  The question is “How are you taking care of your body?” 

One of my favorite acronyms to teach people is HALT.  Whenever you are overstressed, dealing with very significant issues, or feel that things are out of control in your life – HALT.  Before you say or do anything that you may regret HALT and ask yourself… Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired?  If you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired don’t make any decisions, don’t say or do anything critical until you take care of yourself.  HALT.  

HUNGRY:  If we are hungry we need to take care of ourselves and have a good, healthy meal.  This is so true in my life.  My family knows it, my good friends know it, even the people that I work closely with in the parish know it.  If I don’t eat I start to get irritable, lethargic, and moody.  All you really need to do is put something in my mouth, give me a chance to eat, and everything becomes much more manageable.   It’s true with all of us.  We need to feed our bodies and take care of our bodies.  You can do this too.  If you are feeling the pressure to make a decision, or there is a great deal of stress in your family or marriage, before you talk about the important issues.  HALT and share a good meal together first.  Everyone will be in a much better place if they are well fed.
-Ultimately Jesus knows our hunger.  He invites us to come to Him in our hunger “I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.” 

ANGRY: The same is true with anger.  If you are angry it is ok to say “HALT”, “I’m very angry now and it’s not a good time for me to talk.”  When we are angry we think and act irrationally.  It’s much better if we can first take the time to diffuse the anger, release the pressure and get it out.  Go take a run, work on something, scream, vent, talk it out… whatever, just get the anger out in a healthy way before you say or do something to hurt those that you love.  The deal is that you do have to come back to the issue… it’s unfair to avoid it indefinitely.  Tell the person you love: “I’m very angry now so it’s not a good time for me to talk, can you give me (a few minutes, a couple hours, until tomorrow, until the end of the work week, etc.) to talk.”  The idea is that you are not avoiding the issue but fairly letting the person know that you need some time to process and diffuse your anger and then you can talk about it more rationally and lovingly. 
-St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians writes: “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice.  And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”

LONELY:  Loneliness is one of the greatest dilemmas of our time.  We all have a loneliness that is there in our lives and so often instead of going to God or to the people that he has placed into our lives to fill that void we seek it in many harmful ways.  If you are LONELY, once more HALT before you make any important decisions or find yourself thinking life is miserable.  Ultimately, Loneliness is a call to prayer.  I say this because God is the only One who can fulfill our loneliness.  It is only in the depths of prayer that God can speak to and touch that void in our lives.  We try to fill it in many different ways.  Think of what you go to in order to fill your loneliness.  Many will turn to very unhealthy outlets: drinking, gambling, drugs, pornography, masturbation, shopping, eating, affairs, and a myriad of other addictions and distractions.  All of these only increase our loneliness and isolation.  If we are lonely we need to turn to God in prayer.  Make some significant time of silence to be with God.  Pray with scripture and be in silence. 
-Loneliness is ultimately a call to intimacy with God…  Jesus invites us: “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.”   If you are lonely go to Him… as the Psalmist proclaims “blessed the man who takes refuge in him.”

TIRED: This is another important and often overlooked need of our bodies.  Our bodies and minds need rest.  I can’t tell you the number of people, including myself, that begin to think all is lost, everything seems to be too much, or God seems so distant.  Are you tired?  If so, then before you take any of these thoughts to seriously or wrestle with these issues: take a nap, get a good night sleep, take a day off or a vacation.  When we are rested all seems well again.  The world seems manageable, we’ll feel better and God will seem closer, all is well after a good nap!  Again, it’s ok to tell people HALT if you are tired.  Maybe you’ve come home from a long day in the office; it’s ok to tell your husband, wife, children or parents.  HALT.  “I’m very tired, give me an hour to rest and I’ll be much better to deal with.” 
-Sometimes when we are tired we begin to think negatively, say things we shouldn’t, and become moody.  Jesus corrected the people when they grumbled saying:  “Stop murmuring among yourselves.”  Elijah became tired after a day’s journey in the desert “until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.  He prayed for death saying: "This is enough, O LORD!  Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers."   Sounds pretty tired to me. 

Notice what happens when he HALTs. 

He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

He was hungry and thirsty so he ate and drank, lonely but he prayed and was visited by the Angel of the Lord, tired so he rested in the shade.  It wasn’t until he HALTed that he was able to get up and continue on the journey. 

Grace builds on nature, so we do have to take care of our bodies and make sure the nature is right so grace can be allowed to work more fully.

Just as Ethiopian athlete Meseret Defar trained her body for the Olympics and kept the image of Mary and Jesus on her body, and Elijah rested, prayed and was nourished, we too need to take care of ourselves Body and Spirit. 

Remember before you continue on the journey, make any important decisions, or say or do things you may regret HALT! 


  1. Father Michael, I am struggling with God as I have been unemployed for three years. I have sent out 100's, perhaps even a thousand resumes and nothing is happening. I have lost hope. Have I lost God? I don't think he is listening. I am in a state of despair, lonely, depressed etc. Is there ANY hope?

    1. There IS Hope!!!! Just the fact that you reached out shows you haven't given up and God will bless this. You haven't lost God and he hasn't lost you... you've lost a job it sounds like, but that doesn't change how loved you are by God... Allow myself and others to support you and get you through this time... we rely on the love of others and this is one of those times you may have too, like it or not. I think we need to do everything we can to get you out of the depression that you are in. I can help, will pray, and can get you with people that will help you as well. Reach out to others as tough as it is. Click on the Counseling tab at the top of my blog as well and go down the list until you can see someone... they will help and can work with you regardless of the job/money. You can also call or email me - click on contact --- Unfortunately I don't know how you are so I can't do much unless you reach out:) "Hope in the Lord."
      and take every helpful person or situation that he gives you!

  2. thanks for sharing.


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