Saint Francis of Assisi is said to have admonished people to “preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” There’s the what. I was curious about what the Gospel meant, besides Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I learned that the Gospel admonishes use to love God with all our hearts and to love others as we love ourselves. That is the “why” anyone would do such a thing.
What then does “preach” mean? The dictionary says to preach is to publicly proclaim or teach (a religious message or belief).
There are a certain amount of cold, hard facts and concepts that constitute part of emergency medicine. Just because a physician works in an emergency department does not mean he is practicing emergency medicine. Following evidence-based medical concepts, prescribing the right medication at the time, coding some poor soul, balancing electrolytes, interpreting EKGs, those are just skills. They are more “whats.”
I think what defines us, not only as emergency medicine specialists but people in general, is how we do what we do, not what we do. That constitutes the message of Saint Francis of Assisi.
A successful life is one in which our intentions are matched by our skills. What I have come to call the Upanishad sequence—core values determine thought; thoughts determine words; words determine actions; actions determine habits; habits determine character; character determines destiny—is only half of the equation. The other half is how we do that. If our intentions are not matched by our actions, then it’s like intending to build a house, but our actions culminate in growing corn.
The bible verse, “You sow what you reap,” doesn’t address your intentions. St. Ignatius of Loyola nailed that issue when he said that the truly good life is lived for others.
I’ve got a better idea of what to do now and how to do it. The when is now and forever more. The who is me. I have to do this, no one else can do it for me. The where is anywhere I am, so will His message be. Those are my intentions.
Richard E. Draper, a double board-certified emergency medicine physician, blogger, and speaker, and practices in the Kaleidoscope Weekly distribution area. The Healer’s Heart is based on his perceptions and observations of his experiences in the ER over his career. Any similarities to actual patients are purely coincidental.