From the Bench: Another letter to my former self

Judge John Guy's next installment in his journey of self-reflection.

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  • | 2:15 a.m. September 7, 2023
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Dear John,

I know we covered a lot of your faults – I mean ground – in the last letter, but given the benefit of 30 more years of life, let’s plow on.

Fourth Judicial Circuit Judge John Guy

Consider your penchant for worrying. When you worry about outcomes you can’t control, you’re trying to collect smoke with your hands.

Think about it. Of all the things you worried about in the past year, how many of them actually happened the way you feared? See what I mean? Exhale, brother.

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t try to prepare for what you can. But  John, let go of what’s not in your hands. Get it?

Also, consider the worth of what it is you’re worrying about. It’s not rain on your wedding day that will doom your marriage.

On a related note, can we give up the emotional attachment to your sports teams? I know the games are fun. I know you grow as a person when Georgia loses. But losing sleep? Losing your temper? Not a good look.

John, it doesn’t matter if your teams are winning. What matters is if you’re winning. Please read that again. What matters are the things you can control.

What matters is: Are you the kind of person you want to be? When you respect the person in the mirror, the last-minute victories are icing.

Let’s talk about giving back. Remember the people who reassembled you when you were picking up the pieces of your broken heart? Remember the people who carried you when mom died? And all the people who accepted you when you moved to Florida as a teenager? It’s time to be that person for someone else.

There are so many opportunities to help; especially as an attorney. Break the threshold of a local school. You can speak, mentor a student or teach first-graders to read. Mentoring is especially rewarding.

How about your church? I’m thinking they’re not going to turn you away.

Or use that law degree in a new way. Hundreds of attorneys in Jacksonville perform thousands of pro bono hours each year.

John, to combat your professional shyness, join a local Bar association or one of the many American Inns of Court. There, you will find countless ways to give back. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll be an Inn of Court president.

Remember, as goes time, so goes change. You still believe the old adage about leaving a place the way you found it. But now, 30 years later, we believe the exact opposite, whatever you do, don’t leave a place the way you found it – improve it in some way before you go.

Let me close this letter with this: Soon you will be given the advice, “Don’t miss your life.” Re-read that too. It’s now 2023, and we still haven’t received better advice. As a prosecutor, and as a judge, you will watch firsthand as countless people “miss” their lives.

If you’re under the influence of anything or anyone, you’re missing your life. If you’re excessively on the internet (think unlimited TV channels), you’re probably missing your life. And if you’re ignoring your family and friends, you’re definitely missing your life.

John, after one week as a judge in domestic violence court, you’ll be certain you have the greatest wife and flawless children. But it shouldn’t take that. Realize it now. Don’t wait to learn about someone else’s plight before you appreciate your treasures.

Talk to you again soon. 

P.S. Families can’t have too many reunions; only too few.



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