Last week, I learned about the death of a criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta. He was only 58 years old. The cause of death has been reported as being a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. I was shocked.
I was shocked because I had met this lawyer and had been to a seminar that he had organized at the State Bar Headquarters in Atlanta. He seemed to be one of the most happy and gregarious men I have ever met.
He was also one of the most liked attorneys in the metro area. I heard that not only his fellow lawyers and friends wept at the report of his death, but law enforcement officers and prosecutors shed tears of sorrow.
I do not know why this happened or any of the details surrounding his life. However, it got my attention in a profound manner. This tragedy reminded me that we never know what another person is going through at any particular time. Also, outward appearances do not always reflect what we are feeling on the inside.
This tragedy also turned my attention to how I deal with stress, adversity and life itself. All of us have varying levels of stress, happiness (or sadness), and spiritual health. We also cope with problems in different ways.
For instance, for many years, I dealt with stress and adversity in an unhealthy manner. While I still encounter both of these facts of life daily, I am blessed that I have found a new way to approach life’s problems. Some days are of course better than others, but today I strive to give my problems to God each morning before I begin seeking His will for me.
There are many other healthy ways to deal with stress, unhappiness and adversity. Regular exercise, meditation, yoga, helping others, avoiding unreasonably confrontational people, and developing a personal relationship with God are just a few examples of how we can improve our overall well-being.
Obviously, there are many situations where a medical doctor or other professional is needed to assist. Conditions like clinical depression and uncontrolled high levels of anxiety can lead to deadly results if not treated in a prompt and responsible manner. We are fortunate in west Georgia to have such a large group of professionals who can assist people suffering from a variety of emotional or mental pain.
Another concept that I adhere to is that of “lifetime serenity.” This concept is so important to me that I have a section on my website that addresses the meaning. Lifetime serenity is a manner of living whereby the individual engages in activity outside of work that assists in bringing about peace of mind and spiritual focus. Again, there are many examples of how to do this and they can differ for every person.
As you might guess, for me the American outdoors brings with it a high level serenity and peacefulness. I make it a priority to get into the woods during the spring and fall as much as possible in pursuit of wild game. When I am in the woods, I feel God’s presence more strongly than in any other environment on Earth. It is also a joy to have Jake accompany me to the hunting camp in Meriwether County. Jake is not ready to hunt yet, but he is an expert camper and loves to sit with his daddy beside the campfire. Such moments cannot be purchased with all the gold in the world.
The pursuit of lifetime serenity must be an ongoing endeavor for me. Because my law practice is also extremely important to me, it is easy for me to get too focused on work and lose focus on my own state of well-being. I must constantly be conscious of the undeniable truth that if you cannot take care of yourself, you cannot possibly take care of other people.
There is one last thing that I try to remember while I am in the midst of a storm. My friend, Stephen Garner, once said that “our character is forged in the furnace of adversity.” This phrase has proven to be true throughout my lifetime.
Swindle is a local attorney at law.