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By Judith Connor, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

As therapists, we frequently hear it said, “I just want to be happy.” Still, #happiness can seem like a riddle because the more we seek it, the more elusive it becomes. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Neuropsychiatrist and holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl wrote, “For … happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen [and] you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”

A personal dedication to a cause greater than ourselves does not occur without the inner and typically intentional cultivation a generous spirit. An openness and willingness to share our material, emotional, spiritual and intellectual gifts with others regardless of our own circumstances is at the core of what is meant by generosity of spirit. Beyond charitable giving and volunteerism, generosity of spirit can be defined as a way of authentically being in and engaging with the world, free from fear, envy, and small-mindedness. It requires one to go beyond mere tolerance to a genuine embracing of the “other,” to risk knowing and being known, and to stand ready to sacrifice for what matters most. In other words, having a true spirit of generosity will often, and perhaps always, mean choosing the high road over the path of least resistance.

The good news is that none of us can attain, or even seek, a generous spirit without also serving and sustaining our own mental and emotional well-being. With each day that we live life informed by purpose rather than ease, when we live generously, we come a few steps closer to the lives we are all called upon to live. It is on that journey, then, that we find what it is to be really happy.

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by The Rev. Dr. Graham Standish, PhD, MSW, MA, MDiv Executive Director, Samaritan Counseling, Guidance, Consulting

Visit Graham's website: and his blog:

in Presbyterians Today.

It’s incredibly hard to know how to respond to the tragic events from Saturday’s Tree of Life #synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill. The word “tragic” can’t capture our feelings. It’s demoralizing. It’s even harder if you have a healer’s heart.

How do we help people heal when it feels like acts of devastating hatred are spreading?

At the Pitt football game on Saturday they had a moment of silence for the victims, and I couldn’t stop stinging tears from welling up. It’s so frustrating to feel powerless in the face of such spreading hatred and violence.

I’ve been a healer for most of my life. Early in my career I was as a therapist in a psychiatric hospital with children and teens, trying to help them heal from the pain of broken families and lives. As a pastor, I saw being a healer as my primary role. I hoped to help heal people spiritually, mentally, and physically. #Healing prayer was always a major part of my #ministry.

Now as executive director of Samaritan I lead an incredible team of healers who wade into the deep pain of people’s lives to help them heal from hidden wounds. Our therapists and staff are just as devastated as you and I are. They’ve committed their lives to healing, and most of them are more skilled at it than I am.

I’ve been struggling all weekend with what to say and how to respond to our wounds, especially from Samaritan’s perspective. I have some thoughts I want to share with you:

1. How do we respond to Saturday’s shooting? By being healers. I always gain strength from Samaritan’s DNA, which is the Good Samaritan story. The Samaritan cared for the wounded man regardless of the possible consequences. He tended to a man’s wounds in a dangerous place where he could have been assaulted. He then took him to safety, taking it upon himself to pay for his care. Whatever our feelings are, it’s important to find ways to be healers who help healing grow.

2. We all are the antidote to hate. Hate is a toxin, and acts of hate tend to spread hate like a virus. Holding onto hate, resentment, and anger poisons our minds and souls. We can be an antidote and a vaccine that spreads healing. When you feel the toxicity of hate overwhelming you, look for opportunities to spread kindness and compassion.

3. Look to what you can do to make things better rather than railing against what you can’t do. Look to what transforms bitter feelings into something better.

4. Remember that Samaritan is here for you as you struggle to find healing.

Our #therapists are healers who are trained to help people heal from wounds. And make no mistake, all of us have been wounded by what seems to be a constant flow of hate-inspired violence in this country. Our therapists struggle with this just as you do, yet they are also trained to help people heal from these wounds, and even wounds that may be coming in the future.

5. Look for what’s right in the world, not just what’s wrong. I recently read an account from someone who said he had an angel experience. He asked the angel how God could allow so much bad to happen. The angel gently said to him, “We see things from a different perspective. We see the world’s evil, but we know that all the evil acts in the world are only this much.” The angel’s finger and thumb were held in a pinch several centimeters apart. “We see all the world’s small self-sacrificing acts of kindness, compassion, and love happening in every moment of every day all around the world, and they are this much.” With that the angel’s arms spread out wide, stretching even further than arms should. What do I take from this? Whether or not you believe in angels, the comment is true. Look at the outpouring of kindness, compassion, and love in the wake of Saturday’s shooting. This is how the hatred will be overcome, and you are part of that angel-arms-wide-apart response.

However else you are called to respond, I want to encourage you to respond to the shootings with faith, hope, kindness, compassion, and love. Join us in being healers. And if you need help with this know that we are a place of healing for you.

Dr. Standish has written publicly about overcoming our culture’s divisions in the past. Please read his article on overcoming our divisions in his August 2017 op-ed in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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Updated: Oct 15, 2018

By Beth Healey, Director of Development and Marketing

Yes, adults ARE bullied. They're bullied by their spouses, neighbors, members of social groups, and by their bosses or other employees in the workplace. The focus of this blog is #bullying in the workplace. Abuse of employees is a serious problem that affects over 60 million Americans.

Are you a target of #workplacebullying, or do you know someone who is? Workplace bullying is cruel and demeaning, to say the least. The person being abused may feel hopeless and helpless. But there are ways to cope. Arming oneself with good information is a step in the right direction.

Hypothetically, let’s say you are a target. “Why me?” has probably crossed your mind. You're filled with self-doubt and may be having thoughts like, “I must be a weak person. A bad employee." If that is the case, then your thoughts are lying to you! Your negative self-talk could be due to the effects of overwhelming stress. (Anyone walking into a hostile environment five days a week is going to be pretty stressed!) Chronic high levels of stress affect both your mental and physical health. Your thought processes can become impaired (negativity, indecisiveness, lack of concentration, lost confidence).

High stress levels can increase the amount of cortisol in your body. A normal level of cortisol provides us the energy to cope with stress or escape from danger. Cortisol regulates a wide range of body functions including blood sugar levels, metabolism and immune system response. You can read about cortisol at

But consistently elevated levels of cortisol can have a wide range of adverse effects on a person’s health, some of which are:

• Clinical depression

• Anxiety

• Suppressed immunity

• High blood pressure

• High blood sugar

• Fatigue

• Decreased concentration

• Acne

• Impaired memory

• Insomnia

• Poor skin healing

What Makes You A Target for Abuse?

The truth is, studies have indicated that a workplace target is often:

• Highly competent (intelligent, skilled, creative)

• The most veteran and skilled person in the work group

• Well-liked by others

• Ethical, honest, caring

• Introverted

• Non-confrontational, unlikely to retaliate

• Bullied because of gender, age, race, religion, sexual preference, disability, or even appearance

Possibly, the bully perceives you as a threat; he or she is insecure and envious of you—and most likely struggles with self-esteem and other issues with which he/she does not know how to cope.

How to Deal

In researching, I’ve found that there is an abundance of resources that provide advice on how to deal with workplace bullying. But if I had to extract what I believe to be the most crucial piece of advice, it would be this: make your health (spiritual, mental, and physical) a priority. Talk to a loved one. Get professional counseling. See your primary care doctor if your health is suffering. People also reach out to their pastors, pray for the bully, and work on forgiving him or her. Applying your faith principles to your circumstances will provide you strength and comfort…and what a powerful way to model your faith to those around you!

Taking care of yourself as much as possible will help you to cope until you are able to make a change. The majority of targets ultimately leave the abusive workplace, which is a healthy solution--especially if leadership will not confront the issue and work to resolve it. But until you are able to leave, it is essential to maintain your health!

For help in dealing with the effects of trauma, abuse, and stress, contact Samaritan Counseling, Guidance, Consulting at 412-741-7430.

Sources for this article and other interesting reading:

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