Counselor's Corner: 'If only' never works and is wasted energy

By Fred Cavaiani

If only people acted the way I want them to act. If only I didn’t feel sick. If only the diminishments of life never happened to me. If only you could be perfect. If only the world would be different. If only you would be the person I think you should be. If only I could win the Lotto. If only all my friends had no limitations. If only I could have no faults and always know how to say the right and wise thing. If only I had enough money and never had to worry about bills. If only I was a better person. If only I knew God better. If only you were a better person. If only you could be more kind and holy.

Most of us will get into the rut worrying about how the world should be and how other people should be and how we should be. It almost seems to be part of our human nature. We can spend so much energy criticizing others and wishing that others would think differently. We also can keep criticizing ourselves. What a waste of spiritual and emotional energy. “If only” never works and is wasted energy.

We can see that “if only” is not a healthy way to live. Yet we can become taken up with this attitude as we watch television. When people see things differently than we do, this attitude will also creep into our psyches.

Conversations about how other people should change and how bad the world or other people might be doesn’t lead to a healthy attitude. Every time I have engaged in conversations like these I have never left the conversation feeling better about myself. But every time I have had a meaningful and affirming conversation with someone, whether a friend, relative, or acquaintance it has always consisted of someone being kind and affirming toward others. It has also consisted of someone telling me about their inner self in a humble and honest manner. And when I do the same with others it becomes a profound connection.

Bonaventure, a Franciscan priest in the 13th century, humble, intelligent and a very prayerful and loving person said so accurately: “Now just as none comes to wisdom save through grace, justice and knowledge, so none comes to contemplation save through penetrating meditation, holy conversation, and devout prayer.” In modern terms Bonaventure was telling us: Be quiet, listen to God, and listen lovingly to others and always be loving toward others. He practiced this persistently and became an icon and example during the 13th century. Wisdom happens through compassion and quiet reflection. Justice and knowledge can only happen in our personal lives if we take time to be reflective and loving.

Think of the people in your life who seem to always treat you in a loving and affirming manner. What is it like to be in their presence? Think of the most meaningful times in your whole life and I am sure you will discover two qualities in these meaningful times: you either had a profound experience of God like being on a mountain top, sitting quietly in a church, experiencing something beautiful and awesome. The other experience would be when someone simply paid attention to you and showed you love and affirmation by their positive attention toward you.

Human nature becomes its best when there is an experience of a loving God and a loving person being present to us. But to find this I must make the daily effort to become quiet and reflective and the effort to be always loving and caring toward others.

Life is never to be built on “if onlys.” Life never works when I sit around waiting for life to change or others to change. Life becomes wasted energy when I use my energy to wait for you to change or whatever I think should change.

However, when I become reflective, compassionate and loving, I create the atmosphere for change. The one person that for sure will change for the better at these times will be me because my energy is going in a positive direction. God takes over and pours the love and energy of God into me. I in turn can do the same for others.

In my last article two weeks ago, I violated this principle by criticizing Donald Trump. Regardless of how I personally feel about politics and our country, the criticism I wrote of Donald Trump wasn’t necessary. It helps no one. It may be true, but it helps no one. I apologize to all my readers for my remarks. Whether those remarks are accurate or not is not the issue. I should not have written those negative words. The issue is that change only comes about when all of us spend more time in quiet reflection, profound and meaningful spiritual conversation, and a consistent reaching out in compassion towards all. I am sorry for violating this principle. No more “if onlys,” “never works” and “wasted energy.”

The focus should always be meditation/contemplation, loving conversations and expressing gentle compassion and affirmation towards all. This creates the environment for everyone to look deeper at life and deeper at ourselves. The great leaders of every century have had these qualities. The people who change the world for the better are those who are positive and affirming. Whenever I am not positive and affirming and promoting positive changes with a positive attitude, I contribute negativity to the world. But when I affirm you, promote goodness, and look for the positive I start a change in my corner of the world that sends out love and hope and a deeper connection with everyone.


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: Fredcavi@ and his website is


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