Okay folks, I want to open this by saying that this is not a “shame on you” entry. I know I’m going up against things that have existed since the dawn of time, and I don’t pretend that this entry will open eyes and magically change the world. I’m merely trying to raise awareness of unrecognized perils to something that we all do, and hope it will lead to some wisdom in actions. Likely not, but you can’t plead ignorance after reading this entry.
I’ll cut to the chase. We all play favorites. It’s not a “thing” limited to certain places or relationships. We do it all the time and we do it everywhere. It happens in families (you know it does). It happens at work. It happens at church. It happens in clubs, societies, sororities, classrooms, emergency rooms, waiting rooms – hell, I’ve even seen it happen at the county dump when the cute blonde in the sporty car was waved ahead of me to empty trash. Call it “favoritism.” Call it “the good old boy system.” Call it “cliques” or “popularity contests.” Call it whatever you want. It happens.
I know everybody reading this is shouting and saying “oh hell no.” Oh hell yes. Let’s drop the pretense and b.s. for just a few minutes. I promise not to go on too long and you can resume the “formalities” momentarily. Besides, I’m trying to help you here. At least in my own, strip-off-the-nonsense-and-call-it-like-it-is way. And remember, I said we’re all guilty. Me too. You too. Everybody too. Even my birds have their “favorite humans.” This could well precede not only time and space, but all of creation. Partiality happens. There’s no stopping it.
It’s a simple fact that yes, we are predisposed to react more favorably to some people and situations than others. It’s personality – some just go together better than others. It’s also life experience – we relate better to those that have faced similar experiences or have a similar lifestyle. There are complex nature/nurture forces at play that make us more receptive and gracious toward some people than others. Likewise, there are some types we throw up our guard against. I mentioned in the last entry that it miffs me that charisma wins over character so much – that’s because I’ve been the victim of people using charisma to hide serious character flaws several times. Their “God bless us every one” demeanor was hiding a nasty temper bent on utter annihilation. So naturally, I don’t trust “popular” people because I see the red lightsaber just waiting to stab me.
That being said, it happens. Despite modern science, I doubt we ever unlock the secrets of the human personality. It’s too complex and this is one of those things that you can’t account for. We naturally like some people better than others. And conversely, we naturally dislike those that strike us unfavorably. There’s no cure for it. You can’t fix it and people are going to play favorites. It’s going to happen. Now here’s where we run into the problem:
Nobody likes being a “not favorite.” Anytime you complement somebody, anytime you recognize somebody, anytime you put someone on a pedestal or offer public praise or thanks, then other people will feel left out and perceive it as a slight. Because no man is an island and no matter how wonderful Mr. or Miss Wonderful is, it’s unlikely they did it on their own. And, sad to say, some people are very good at getting other people to do everything and having the credit funneled directly to their feet. But that’s another entry for another day. Recognition – and especially public recognition – can open a nasty can of worms that you don’t even know until they’re crawling up your leg. At best, the people you failed to recognize will quit on you, and you’re setting your favorite to the test of picking up the load. At worst, they’ll turn on you. And God help you if it’s a former favorite that you’ve changed your mind about and they know stuff. Ouch.
So does that mean public recognition of good service should be banned? Not at all. I’m just saying that if you want the dog to stay in the yard, then you need to throw them a bone. And not just the head of the pack – everyone in the yard needs a bone. So if you’re going to thank people, be sure that you take off what I call the “swell guy” blinders and open your eyes to everybody. Don’t hold one person up unless you have darn strong justification to do it. And going the extra mile to find out what speaks to a person can also help. Some people don’t want public recognition. My colleagues are smart enough to know an occasional “thank you,” showing interest in my writing, and a bar-b-que luncheon once or twice a year will keep me from squawking like a pissed off parakeet. Which is hilarious, because it didn’t take them long to figure that out and my former colleagues never did get it. Some things are a mystery because you choose not to put forth the two seconds to notice, eh?
My point is this – we all play favorites, but it helps to check yourself every now and then. Showing favoritism is generally considered impolite,; and I know we don’t care for etiquette in the 21st century, but this is a formality that perhaps needs to be reinstated. Did you notice in the paragraph above that I was open to what types I’m not partial to, but I didn’t mention what types I am partial to? No way I’m telling that. But at least you know what raises my defenses, so there’s my attempt at leveling the playing field. Now you know a trigger to avoid with me.
That being said, it might behoove you to quietly put your favorites in your inner circle and exercise discretion in your dealings. Don’t let it show. Throw the non-favorites something every now and then. And for goodness sake, if you do a public acknowledgement and get wind that somebody feels slighted, please take Dale Carnige’s advice to humbly apologize and rectify the situation. Digging in your heels and fighting to justify yourself won’t win friends or influence people. Just say “sorry, I am grateful for you and will be glad to acknowledge it with an apology for leaving you out,” do it, and let it go. That’s character and will close out the situation much faster that “well I did it because they did la de dah de dah and where were you then?”
And as for the rest of us, give us a bar-b-que luncheon. Yea, that’ll shut us up. For a minute.
That’s all today. You may now resume the formalities of pretending like we modern folks don’t do this crap.
Okay folks, this is my blog and today, I feel compelled to share something that has been on my mind for about a month or so. I held back because I wanted to make sure I wasn't being overly-sensitive or taking things out of context, but in reflection and talking with some others, I realize that it's completely within the bounds or normal, how shall I put it - pondering. Yea, that's a diplomatic way to say it.
I've known a number of people that have recently faced trials and life changes similar to the ones I faced a few years ago. Of course, I can relate to their struggles quite well, having been through something similar not too long ago. But one thing that rubs me kind of wrong is that a few years ago, people were quite bold to tell me to get my crap together and move on. I heard a lot of "if I were you" and "you need to get things under control" and "that's just life, you have to be strong and work your way through." I realize this is all true, of course - life throws you curveballs and the only way around is through. I knew that at the time and the truth of that still rings loud and clear. It seems, though, that when the situation goes from "it sucks to be you" to being the one it sucks for, well, that's different.
I asked Rick recently if this realization seemed harsh or hypocritical and he said (exact words): "No. People weren't afraid to get in your face and tell you to get it together. They made it clear that you were to make it stop immediately."
Okay, so it's not just me. There is a level of hypocricy going on.
I could get angry. I could get very frustrated and call people on it. But the truth is, I haven't had to. While nobody's come to me and said "oops, well I guess you aren't the only one reality can kick in the a**" their contrite attitude has clearly indicated that they finally understand what I was trying to communicate before: That it's not so easy when you're in the middle of it. Oops, you can't make things go back to what they are because you aren't God. Oops, you can't force other people to change. Oops, you can't just say "stop" and the universe will heed your call. That big, bad boldness is fine when you're on the mountaintop, but not so practical when you're in the valley and a flood is threatening.
I see that they get it, and I don't think their circumstances are the result of a lack of sympathy at my plight, or anybody elses'. Rather, I think it's the universal truth that reality is an equal opportunity smacker. It will knock us all down and bring us to a humility that we never imagined we'd have to face. I know I've had to become a new person from my own experiences. I had to completely change the way I thought about EVERYTHING and that's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Sometimes, I still have to remind myself to case off those old thoughts and embrace the new. It isn't easy, but to refuse would have been to sentence myself to a life of misery and depression, something that I simply won't have or allow in my life. If it's change my thinking to stay happy or hold to my old thoughts in a life that doesn't fit any more and resign myself to depression and misery, I'll change.
We all have to make that decision at some point. It's going to happen. C.S. Lewis called it The Law of Undulation in The Screwtape Letters, and I believe this is one of the most often ignored truths of life in this world just because it makes us uncomfortable and we don't like it. Life is a series of peaks and valleys. We will have times when we're on top of the world, but eventually the pendulum swings and we find outselves with the world on top of us. Sure, sometimes it's the result of bad decision making, but just as often it's the result of things beyond our control: things change. People change. Circumstances change. As The Bible says, "time and chance happen to them all" (Ecclesiastes 9:11). And all you can do is deal with it, for however long it goes on, until you work your way through to the other side.
So no, I'm not mad at people. Rather, I hate to see them go through such times because I know the pain they fell. It's not fun and I pray it passes for them. That being said, I would like to share some things I noticed going through my own trials that I hope will give others facing hard times some comfort or guidance in navigating their way through the valley:
1. Be honest, first with yourself and then with others. The sooner you face that life is crap for you right now, the quicker you'll find your way through. But also realize the truth that this too shall pass and you won't be here forever. There's always hope. Likewise, don't be ashamed to admit that life isn't roses, unicorns and rainbows. Don't be afraid to tell people, when you must, that things are rough, but you're doing your best to work through. Now that being said;
2. Use discernment in who and what you share. You need to be honest with people, but they also don't need to know every single thing going on in your life. This is especially true when dealing with sensitive family matters. I'm sorry to say it, but there are some people that won't get it and others that will use it against you to embarass you later. I think we've all had those instances where you shared something personal with a friend because you needed to vent, and they brought it up VERY publically later to get a laugh or gain what I call "cool points" with others that they've decided they like better since you shared your woes with them. Keep your inner circle limited to a very few people and even then, use discernment. You don't have to tell everything, nor should you. It's fine to say "yea, I'm dealing with some issues with myself/ job/health/at home right now, but I'm working through and it will be okay. I just need an extra dose of grace and patience right now," and leave it at that. You aren't on reality tv, so you don't need to act like it.
3. Don't be afraid to seek outside advice. The problem with keeping it in your inner circle is that they are biased. They aren't going to be able to fully see the situation and sometimes their advice, although well meaning, will be off base because of the tendency to see what they want/like best (for whatever reasons). It's perfectly reasonable to go to a pastor, therapist, or vocational rehab service, even if just once, to get a clear perspective on the situation as a whole so you can understand how to best proceed. Just be forewarned that those closest to you may take a level of offence. I did this a few years ago and was told by a few "well, I'm sorry we all let you down so much that you had to go to a stranger for help." That's not the case at all. I was realistic enough to know I was too beat and broken to see it logically on my own and that those close to me couldn't see past my own pain (and their pain) to see it clearly either. I was that serious about dealing with things right the first time so we could all move on. A good barometer of knowing when to seek outside counsel is this: if you feel absolutely stuck and paralyzed with no way out, you need a third party intervention. It doesn't mean you're weak. It means you're strong enough to face all the ugliness of reality and have the determination to work it out correctly, no matter what.
4. Realize that some people "just won't get it" and decide right now if you are able to forgive them. General rule: if somebody prefaces a statement with "if I were you..." cut them off right away. They aren't you and that statement means "I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but I want to say something so here it is." Likewise, and this isn't flattering but it's absolutely true: Sometimes people are more sympathetic to others because they like them and their situations better than they like you and your situations. Okay, maybe that's harsh, but people are biased based on their own experiences, and what this means is that they'll come down harder on you because there's something in your situation they really hate but they'll be more sympathetic to another facing something similar because they like or relate to something in their situation more. We're all hypocrites, folks,and we all judge. It's not right, but it's true. You have to make the decision to forgive it and move on or you'll stay stuck in the mire of your own problems a lot longer than necessary.
5. There is one, universal solution to all problems. This is the good news, but it isn't easy news. That universal solution is do the right thing. All the time. No matter how hard it is, how much it hurts, who gets angry, or how tired you get. No matter what. And don't stop doing the right thing ever. It might hurt like hell, piss people off, and seem to destroy your life but trust me, it's temporary. Because "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28). Doing right always leads to right in the end. Some battles may be lost, but the war will be won. But taking shortcuts, doing things the easy way, or ignoring things and hoping they will go away will prolong the war indefinitely. It literally took two and a half years for me to get my life settled into something that could be called "normal," but I'm convinced the struggled would still be ongoing if I didn't dig in my heels and determine that I would do things right, no matter how hard I had to work, how tired I got, who got mad at me, or how much it hurt. Let me tell you, it doesn't hurt anymore.
So take it from one that actually did all of these things - it works. You have to be stronger than you imagined possible, but it works.
Am I mad at my realizations? No. People aren't perfect and I made the decision long ago that I wasn't going to get angry or hold grudges. There's no point in it. My mission was to recreate my life and move on in the abundance and blessing I could find in it, and I am. Now I pray that others going through hard times will find the strength to move through and to find their own blessings and abundance on the other side of their trials.
And there is the other side, folks. God promises that there's always hope. I'm living proof. So keep fighting on to do what's right, and it will be fine. That's a promise you can count on.
That's all today. Take care and have a good weekend.
A blog series on balance wouldn't be complete without addressing the one overriding issue of how our attitude affects everything else in life.
I'm going to be very honest here: I've seen and dealt with a lot of people with sassy, snippy attitudes that seem to believe they can force the world to conform to their expectations and bow to their wishes. Then they wonder why good things don't happen to them and why they keep getting "bum luck." Their ignorance absolutely amazes me. I simply don't understand how people can go through life with a two ton chip on their shoulder and expect good things to come to them when all they send out is negative energy. And yet, it seems to be a huge problem. It's a problem everywhere. It's a problem all the time. I'd dare to say, it's been a problem since the dawn of human history.
I know I talk about reaping and sowing a lot, and I certainly don't mean to beat you with a Bible. So I'll put it in worldly terms that should make sense to everybody.
What would you think if you planted tomatoes and cucumbers grew? You'd probably be surprised and angry. Those were tomato seeds, so how the heck did cucumbers come out of the ground? That's not right. You'd say okay, somebody sold me the wrong seeds, or something went wrong. Fortunately, that doesn't happen. If you plant tomatoes, you get tomatoes. It's how nature operates. It's how the world works.
Well, that sense or order and balance extends through all of nature and folks, I know you don't like to believe it but you are part of nature. No, you aren't the center of the universe. You aren't the center of the world. You aren't even the center of the little blip you occupy in the space/time continum. You're part of a whole, and that whole has a sense of balance to it that simply can't - or won't - be violated.
There's only so much energy in the universe and much like those seeds, you can only get back what you put out. So if you're rude and confrontational, you aren't going to make friends because people aren't going to trust you. They will, in fact, go to great pains to not only avoid you, but they won't be inclined to help you either. As the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. You can't get a blessing if you send out curses. That's just the way it is. Sorry folks, I don't make the rules. I'm just as insignificant a blip on the horizon as you are and I'm just reporting the facts. As Mark Twain once said, "the world doesn't care what you want. It was here first."
I'm saying this not only because it's true, but because I really hate to see people make their life harder than it has to be. I certainly don't mean for this to be a reprimand or a dressing down, but if you feel chastised, well, maybe it's not altogether a bad thing. Life is unpredictable and difficult enough. There's no need to make it harder by being a jerk. And if you're a jerk, it will be harder because you set up unnecessary struggles and create problems that you don't need to have. I shake my head at people going around with their bad selves because their attitude is screaming "come and get me! I dare you!" to the universe - and that's a challenge that's always answered. There are more than a few people I'd hate to be. They might have whipped things into shape for a time, but I wouldn't want to be them when they pay the price for their attitude. That's going to be a mighty painful one to pay up when it comes due.
I'll be frank. We all tend to get out of line from time to time. Every woman in the world can be a witch with a capital "B." Every man in the world can be a jerk. It's our human nature to show our ugly when the going gets tough, or when we feel challenged. We must remember, though, that human nature is imperfect. If we want the riches of grace and blessing to come our way, we have to overcome those base instincts and strive for the higher calling of decency, integrity, stability, and kindness. Yes, that is a challenge sometimes, but if we want a better tomorrow, then we have to be a better person today.
Alrighty folks, that's my soapbox speech for the night. I hope you have a Happy Friday tomorrow and a great weekend. Take care if you're in the path of that winter weather.
As we head into a new year, I ponder my resolution to have better balance in my life on a number of levels. One of those (very important) levels is in the area of stress reduction and reducing worry in my life. I think these are things we all struggle with, and recently I've come to realize there's a great deal that we impose on ourselves, especially when it comes to our relationships.
This realization came after having several people tell me things that other people said and/or did over the past few weeks and asked what I thought of it. I remembered that when I was under a therapist while going through my life changes a few years ago, one of the things she told me was that the secret to finding balance was realizing what was and wasn't my business. "You concern yourself with your responsibilities and what you control and let go of the things in the hands of others," she said. That's certainly true, and in fact remembering this advice upon being asked my opinion on these various situations and issues made me realize that people, in general, bring on a lot of their own stress by worrying about or fretting over things that other people think, say or do - things they have absolutely no control over.
Why do we do this? My first reaction was that it's arrogance. Frankly, we all have a tendency to beleive that everything is all about us - and that's wrong. The truth is that everything people think, say and do is all about THEM. It's a reflection of how they see the world. Even if they say that "others made me do it," the truth is that they made the decision on how to perceive things and on how to proceed. Nobody "makes" anybody do anything. Plus, by nature, people are going to do what's best for them and the ones closest to them. Why should they do something that benefits you 100% and them none at all when you aren't the center of THEIR world?
So there's one reason, but I don't think that's all of it, nor the major portion. In fact, I think if that were the whole reason, then it would mean that people in general are extremely selfish and short sighted, and I don't believe that such a narrow view applies to most people most of the time. Some maybe, but absolutely not all. Maybe not most. And remember, I said there's some truth to this. Maybe it's a small part, but I don't think that's a "once size fits all" explanation for it. Most people learn, grow, and gain a wider perspective on the world and as such, they aren't so shallow.
I believe another reason is that we want everybody to like us. The problem is, I recently read that there was actually some scientific study that at least 10% of people aren't going to like you. Frankly, I was surprised the percentage was that low. I thought it would be closer to 30%, but the latest study I read said 10% so we'll run with that. Why is this? Plain and simple, personality differences. Some types just don't play well together. If you don't believe it, ask any extremely emotional person I've come in contact with and they'll tell you I'm mean and don't give a crap about their feelings. I am, by nature, a person that leans more toward logic and reason in making decisions than emotion. I usually don't get along well with extremely emotional types that "just want peace" and "want everybody happy right now" because I beleive happiness comes from investing the time and hard work to do things right no matter how you feel about it "right now." If you do what's right, then it will work out in the end, and that's a happiness that last; not a vapor of high emotion that wears off when the party is over and the consequences have to be paid. In fact, since I've been working in professional licensing, I'd say my tendency to make decisions based on logic and reason have become a stronger because by nature of my profession, I'm obligated to do what's right no matter how people feel about it. I don't think that's a bad thing (of course), but I've caught some flack about it because I'm female, and by stereotype I'm supposed to be all about feelings. While I'm ok to say "alright, forget the 10% and thank God for and enjoy the other 90%, well, some people get awfully fixated on that 10% and believe that if they work harder then they can get a 100% approval rating. It seems their effort would be better spent nurturing relationships with the other 90% but in fact, sometimes they turn on the ones on their side to gain approval they'll never have, counting on forgiveness from that 90% that might come, but not realizing that it will have a higher price than they bargained for because broken trust is a very hard thing to rebuild. But it happens, all the time. I've experienced it; I've seen it; I've written about it. Hey, I'm a writer. The ugly underside of humanity is a playground of inspiration. Expose it to me at your own risk.
Just kidding - maybe. And a sidenote on the emotion thing: I'm interested to see if the stereotype of "hysterical emotion" in women downplays as more generations of women have careers.Working women don't have time to fret over every little wayward comment, rolled eye, questionable social media post, tear or tirade that comes their way. Or at least, me and my colleagues don't. But we'll see as time tells this particular tale.
So there's that. But not all people are emotional and out for approval ratings that would make politicians jealous, so reason #2 can't apply to everybody. But it does apply to enough that I believe it should be considered.
There is one more reason, and I think it applies to most of us. I believe the reason people get tied up in what others think, say and do is because they don't want to be alone in how they think or feel. They want to know that others agree with them. They want others to have an opinion with them, or to get mad with them, or to be sad with them, or to take up the cause with them because they don't want to be the only freak swimming against the tide. They want to know they're like everybody else and what the other person is doing is wild/selfish/stupid/crazy/nonsense/whatever. They don't want to be alone in their opinion or feelings because they don't want to look in the mirror and ask "is it them, or is it me?" We all want to be right. We all want the world to understand that our opinion is just as important as everybody elses'. We all want respect. Nobody wants to be a nobody. They want people to know that they're here, that they have value, and that they are just as important as the other 7+ billion people in the world.
Here's the thing, though: Going about it by getting tangled up in other peoples' business is a sign of insecurity. If you truly walk in faith and you're confident in yourself as the authentic human being you were created to be, then you don't need to beg or scream for attention. You humbly go about your own business, believing that the life God set before and the purposes you serve speak for themselves.
That's the cure. That's how you break free from this stress. You get busy living your own life and tending to your own businss and have the grace to accept others and the decisions they make without intruding into their lives with your opinions.
Does this mean you ignore others and don't care what they do? Of course not. You should always do your best to help people in need and if there's something you can do to help others on their life path, you certainly should. The key is to use common sense and discernment. Yes, we all have opinions on things, but we don't need to share them all the time. Everything that flies through your head doesn't need to fly out of your mouth. If you aren't asked for your opinion or advice, assume it's not wanted or needed and keep it to yourself. I'd even go so far as to say that you should still use caution in giving advice even if you ARE asked for it. As one of the elves said in The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring, "elves don't give advice because all paths may run ill." Think before you speak. If in doubt, don't. And realize that advice is a take it or leave it thing - and in many cases, people leave it, so be prepared to have your advice or opinion rejected just in case and be prepared to not get offended. And please, for the love of God, if it won't make any difference and you have a thought - don't. Stop right there and go no further. If it's done and/or there's no way it's changing no matter what anybody says and you really need to get it out, set up a private blog or buy a journal to work it out, but don't go off on tirades and complain to everybody in the world about things you can't control involving people close to you. And don't ask or expect people to take sides with you unless you want to do the equivalent of renting a billboard that says I'M THE ONE WITH THE PROBLEM. It makes you look bad and it makes other people run like hell from you when they see you coming. If it's something so big that you can't live with it, find a way to either deal with it or distance yourself from the situation. Just because a war's going on doesn't mean you have to be a soldier in it. Other people might want you to have their problems, but they can't draft you. You don't have to accept them and if you choose not to accept their problems, well then, it's over.
The point of this mile long blog is that I'm coming to understand that balance is something that we have to strive for in every area of life, and personal relationships are certainly a big element there. We do live in the world, with people, so having good, balanced relationships is an extremely important thing. And one way we can achieve balance in our relationships is by not being a busybody, minding our own business, and having the grace to let it be.
Thanks for hanging in there with me on this one. I hope you had a Happy Friday and that you have a great weekend.
I wanted to take this time to give a special shout out to my current employer and colleagues. Tomorrow will be a year since I was transferred to your Department. Words simply can't express how much I appreciate your kindness and patience. It takes a tremendous leap of faith to accept two licensure programs that have been in existance for 35 years, and an even greater leap of faith to accept an employee with those programs that you did not hire and had no choice but to accept with the programs.
I thank you not only for this, but for the way you have unconditionally accepted me. You accepted me for who I was and have worked to discover my talents and to work with them. You have never put me down or made me feel bad for who I am. You have never made me feel like an outsider. You have never tried to hammer a square peg in a round hole - in fact, I haven't felt like a square peg since I moved here. You have done the one thing that my former colleagues couldn't do in over 12 years - you accepted me for who I am. Because of that, I feel I have accomplished more in the past 12 months than I have in the past 12 years combined. That's what happens when people have the right attitude and they care about doing things right for the benefit of all.
I know that my licensees, Board members, and council members thank you as well. You've been great. It's not perfect but we are committed to greater goals and never forget that. Our eyes are on the goal of providing the best we can. It's not about power trips or "putting people in their place." It's really and truly about what's best for all and helping people. That is what I signed on for all those years ago and it's so good to finally see it, at long last.
It's been a tremendous amount of work, but well worth it - and very successful with your help and guidance. We still have a way to go, but I have every faith that we will get there.
Thank you and bless you.