There are some phrases in widespread, common use that seem to be universal hot buttons to piss people off. Really, I don’t understand how it became commonplace for people to say things that erode the very respect that relationships are built on, and yet I hear people say it – and complain about having these things said to them – frequently.
Certainly, we should always be honest and authentic in our dealings with people, but discernment is an absolute necessity in our dealings with ALL people. Just because it flies through your brain doesn’t mean it needs to fly out of your mouth, and in fact there are many times when it’s best to keep that thought in your head and fake it till you make it with your words (or silence, depending on the situation). For example, here are some phrases you should eliminate (or at least, drastically reduce) in your vocabulary that will garner more respect, motivate people to cooperate and work well with you, and make you appear more intelligent and savvy:
1. “Whatever.” Nothing coveys the ignorant-inconsiderate-jerk trifecta like this one word phrase. You have the entire English language at your disposal and that’s all you’ve got? If it is, then it’s time to recognize the uncomfortable fact that sometimes, the best course of action is to gracefully back away and let silence be golden. And if you refuse to exercise the right to remain silent, then a simple “I hope that works out for you and wish you luck” is much more dignified than throwing out something that makes you look like a cross between an immature tween and a person that’s learning English as a second language - and isn’t quite getting it.
2. “Do what you’ve got to do.” I don’t hear this one as much as I used to, but it’s still out there, and it’s a sin for the same reasons as “whatever.” More accurately, that’s redneck for “I don’t like what you’re doing and would move Heaven and Earth to stop you, but that would reveal me as a selfish jerk to the rest of the world and I don’t want to do that, so go on and get this over with so you can get back to doing things that make me happy.” It isn’t your job to like or even understand everything that other people do, so let go and accept that people have a right to lead their lives, do things, and make decisions that work best for them regardless of what you say, think, or need. Instead, say “I understand this is important to you.” Even if you don’t and you hope it blows up in their face, just fake it and at least acknowledge their right to live as they see fit. Because I guarantee you’ve done things that made them go “Hmmm” in the past . Plus, if you want people to stay interested in your life, then you have to at least act like you give a crap about them and their life, even if you don’t care about them any more than you care about the extra 40 minutes in a Martian day.
3. “That’s not my problem.” I stand back when people say this because it’s an open invitation for the universe to hit you with its best shot, and that’s a challenge it ALWAYS accepts. Sure, you aren’t responsible for every single thing that happens in the world, and there are some things that aren’t your business, but have some dignity in declining to accept responsibility that you feel isn’t yours. “I’m sorry I can’t help you with that” is much more gracious and doesn’t invite fate, the universe, the world, or whatever you wish to call it to deliver an entirely new batch of problems into your life. Fake sympathy for the other persons’ plight even if you don’t really feel it because you WILL be at the receiving end of this one day, and the measure you get will be the measure you’ve given. It happens to us all.
4. “You don’t really want that,” or “Stop wasting your time on that and do this instead.” Excuse me, when did God appoint you to His position, because that’s what it looks like you’re playing at with either variation of this. You have no way of knowing what’s in other peoples’ hearts or what plans are in store for them, and they aren’t required to get your approval for it, either. People have a right to make their own decisions. You never know what might happen and statements like this may very well make a fool of you one day. Don’t take a chance.
5. “I told you so.” Even if you preface it with the I-hate-to-say-it-but clause, it’s still ridiculous because they already know. Demonstrate some maturity and don’t gloat over somebody’s failings, even if they asked for it and everybody knew it was foolishness from the start. As I said in the last statement, people have a right to make their own decisions and that means having the grace to let them make their own mistakes. Pray they’ve learned from the experience, and don’t gloat lest you wander into folly someday. Because none of us are as smart as we think we are.
6. “ I did that too, and let me tell you how I did it better.” Nobody likes a know-it-all or a show off, and a constant need to one-up people blinks “I’m insecure!” brighter than a digital billboard. You don’t have to be in the spotlight every minute of every day. Back down and let others have their day in the sun every now and then. Because we all know that nobody’s done everything under the sun, and there will always be people out there that have done it bigger, better and more recently than you have. Let go of the competition to always be #1 and learn to be happy with the life the Lord gave you.
7. “If I were you, I’d …” Turn off anybody that prefaces a statement with this immediately, because it’s a clear sign that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Wisdom gives options. Experience shares insight. Ignorance says that if they were you, they’d go out and kick the world in the you-know-where, and that’s most often foolishness that would make a bigger mess of things if anybody were dumb enough to take this advice. Plus, they wouldn’t have the guts to actually do it, because some people are good at telling people to do things they wouldn’t dare do themselves.
8. “You should make them do it.” Guess what? Scientists have found the center of the universe and it’s not you. That’s the fastest way to run a person out of your life. You don’t make anybody do anything they don’t want to do, and if you try to then trust me – you’re ego can’t handle what they really think about you. If you have to control someone every minute to “keep them in line,” then you’re trying to force them into a place or relationship where they don’t belong. Don’t beg people to be your friend or try to force them to your will. Pray for what Joyce Meyer refers to as “divine connections.” Those are friends and acquaintances that you get along with so well that you don’t want to change them because you appreciate how their uniqueness enriches your life.
9. “I would NEVER do that/accept that/put up with that.” Never say never or the Lord will make you do it to show you who the boss really is. One never in your life that’s absolute: you never know what life has in store for you. Someday you could well be dining on crow while dealing with something that you thought you were too smart/special/good for. Life has a way of humbling us, and the “I would never” statements are a GPS on how to get that done.
10. Anything other than “I’m sorry for your loss” and “I’m praying for you and your family” at a visitation or funeral. Anything else sounds stupid and believe me, there’s nothing clever or inspirational you can say that will get through people in the depths of grief. The dumbest things I’ve ever heard have all been said at visitations and/or funerals because people try to justify death and offer comfort in religious platitudes. Folks, I’m Christian too, but this isn’t seminary or time to play preacher. I remember what C.S. Lewis wrote about death not being natural because human beings weren’t created to die and it’s the most painful consequence that we pay for sin. He’s absolutely right. There’s nothing right about death and there’s no way to wrap it up in pretty phrases or platitudes that makes it suck less. So give it up. Don’t engage in conversations with the bereaved if they try to start one, either. This isn’t the time or place to engage in theological discussions, discuss anything beyond condolences for the loss (no gossip or “what’s up with me” statements), and it certainly isn’t appropriate to leverage your personality or make a big impression. It’s a subdued occasion so dial it down, make an appearance, and for goodness sake, shut up.
Maybe you relate to some of this and are nodding, saying thank you for revealing it! Or maybe you see it as a calling out. I certainly don’t mean it that way, and I admit that I’m guilty of uttering some of these phrases. In fact, I had to work at cutting the “whatever” and “I told you so” out of my vocabulary, and I get along with people so much better now that it’s gone. My point is not to say “shame on you.” It’s to shed light on small things that chip away at trust and give guidance that I’ve learned in building bridges to cooperative relationships that last. It takes time and effort, but if modifying my vocabulary slightly will help with that, then it’s an effort worth making. I believe if you’ve read this far then you believe it’s a worthy effort, too.
That’s all today. Take care. I hope you have a Happy Friday tomorrow and a great weekend.
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’m often asked if the things that happened to Jana Lanning in my recent novel, Anywhere But Here, actually happened to me. For those of you that haven’t read this novel, Jana Lanning, the protagonist, is denied admission to graduate school, finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, helps her best friend get married and move out of town, and has to settle for a job that she’s overqualified for – and all of this happens within two weeks of getting her undergraduate degree. Then to make things worse, the office where she works starts a merger with another firm and Jana finds herself on the wrong end of office politics that are the final straw in her battle with depression. The thing people seem the most interested in are the office politics. People want to know if the happenings at Dixon Financial are reflective of my job before it was transferred to a new agency a couple of years ago.
In response to that I’d say not entirely, but I can’t deny that some things that happened to me early in my career are reflected in people and events that take place in the book. I know that’s cryptic, but bear in mind two things: The people and events are fictionalized and that was accomplished through a mixture of my personal experiences, experiences I’ve seen and heard of from other people, and instances I’ve read about in books, magazines, news and other media. It came from a vast pool and I’ll admit that I had experience with being on the wrong end of office politics – heck, how could you write about it even from a fictionalized perspective unless you lived it in some way – but it’s also a universal issue that anybody working in an office environment is going to be on one end or the other of. And sorry folks, but there are probably going to be times when you find yourself on the wrong side, at least from the perspective of the majority.
My purpose in both writing Anywhere But Here and this entry isn’t to bash my former workplace. These things happened a decade ago, and I must admit that I said and did things that weren’t wise and didn’t lead to the best resolution in the situations I faced. I certainly learned from those experiences and in retrospect, I’m glad I learned those lessons early in life or I certainlywouldn’t be where I am now. The purpose is to share lessons learned, because this is something that I believe everybody in the workforce faces at some time. It makes you feel isolated and lonely when it happens, but the truth is that you aren’t alone. Lots of people face it but few talk about it because frankly, it’s embarrassing.
I used to think that people playing office politics were selfish jerks that like to hurt people, but experience has shown me that it actually grows from a root of fear. People that play with power are insecure and doubt their own ability, so they create an elaborate game of turning people and things to their advantage. I’ve found that there are 2 good ways to identify a person that is likely to use power to their advantage:
1.They cling tightly to cliques that are made up of people that are higher on the chain of command than they are; and
2.They don’t associate with anybody on the chain of command below them unless it’s absolutely necessary - and those people better give them what they want immediately or it’s insubordination.
It’s the people in category #2 that usually find themselves on the losing end of office politics because any wrong word or deed will be met with fierce retaliation. I won’t say that I never see office politics anymore, but I have found that I find myself in these situations a lot less since I’ve been reclassified to a mid-level position. I’d like to think this is because I’ve proven that my knowledge and abilities are valuable, but it’s more likely that I learned valuable lessons on how to deal with these types from previous experience – and people know it.
So what’s the secret to dealing when you’re the victim of office politics? If you’re right, stand by that. Don’t ever cave in and take the quick and easy way out because that’s a temporary end. If they’d turn on you once, they’ll turn on you again. Caving in only shows that you can be taken advantage of, and they will milk that dry, plus the consequences of doing wrong will follow you a lot longer than standing up for what’s right. They might not like you, but they’ll respect you and at least know not to let you catch them with their hand in the cookie jar again. If you aren’t right, correct yourself immediately and stick to your guns in walking down the right road. And whichever situation you’re in, it’s imperative that you have patience. Truth will show itself in time and it will be end game then. It might take months or even years for things to come around, but they will and you’ll be better off for it. The reward will come in patient endurance, and it will be something that nobody can deny. Sure, there are people that are so stubborn that they’ll refuse to change their mind no matter what happens, but don’t worry about them. Leave them in their ignorance and move on because it’s highly probably that they’ll be gone in time themselves.
I believe Jana Lanning in Anywhere But Here is a good personification of office politics gone wrong, because she’s the one in the weakest position. She didn’t do anything wrong and in fact suffered for doing right, but recent personal losses kept her from taking a stand in the right way and the right timing. The people that create these situations are masters at turning things against you even if you didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s exhausting to constantly defend your own character. Unfortunately, she found this out too late and suffered the consequences of crossing the wrong people simply by being who she was and not deferring to people doing things wrong. She was right and had proof of it, but she didn’t know how to present that truth in a combative work environment. That happens sometimes, and it’s awful. I think the worst offence in the world is to have to suffer for other peoples’ mistakes, and office politics are the ultimate example of that.
I think this is why eople tell me that they find Jana Lanning so likeable. She’s a good person that doesn’t deserve the hard knocks that come her way from people taking advantage of her shy nature, youth, and inexperience. She makes the same mistakes that all of us made in our early adulthood and we understand her confusion at why life is kicking her around. Reality is a hard teacher, and it’s the only one that can do the job once school leaves off. Remember the movie “St. Elmo’s Fire” from the 80’s? That strange, new world opening up is the exact thing that Jana faces, and we understand exactly where she’s coming from. She, like the rest of us, has to learn to find those gems of opportunity in the rubble of defeat to rebuild a new life from shattered dreams. In some ways, we may even relate to her right where we’re at, because life is always teaching us lessons.
So no, I didn’t start out in life exactly like Jana did. I actually did marry my college sweetheart, but I never made it to graduate school because I found other things that I believed were worth more in my life than higher education. I never struggled with depression, but I knew (and still know) many who do battle that demon, and I hope Jana’s struggle helps people with depression understand that this is a battle they can win if they stay in the fight. But yes, I did go through an office merger in my early years in the workforce, and I found myself prey to the power plays, albeit in much different circumstances. All I can say is that wisdom comes from experience, and I gained plenty in those few years.
And lest you think it’s impossible for poor Jana to face so much at one time, I call your bluff. Too much smashing my life to bits was the catalyst for my next novel, Splinter – but that’s one for a future blog entry. I’ll address it closer to the release date in mid 2013. Until then, enjoy Anywhere But Here and my other books - information on them and links to buy are on the other tabs of this website. I hope you find entertainment and inspiration in them.
That’s all today.
I was home sick with a sinus infection today and decided to watch the midday news. On it, they had a report on a state where sending children to school at age 5 is optional - they can do it, but aren't required to do it until the child is six years old. They touted this story as "does it give children an academic edge to wait a year?" but in reality, it was all parents saying "my child is too immature and I just think they need another year at home before starting school."
This reminded me of what happened at my church recently when we lost our pastor and associate pastor last spring. When we asked about forming a committee to find a new pastor, the Synod told us to wait a few months because "the congregation needs time to grieve, heal and deal with the loss of their pastors."
Really? Time to adjust and heal? Time to get ready? Folks, I'm going to be bluntly honest with you - I call bullcrap on that. I'd use the alternate phrase, but I strive to keep this blog PG-13 rated. But you get the point. I think this is all nonsense. And I will be glad to tell you why.
Reality rarely gives us time to ease into adjustments. Sure, sometimes we choose to make changes, but sometimes things happen with no warning and we're left with no choice but to accept it. There is no adjustment period. There is no "time out" for emotional healing. Reality takes an anvil to your life and you have no choice but to get up and start putting the pieces back together before it beats you further and turns those pieces into confetti that you can't do anything with. The illness often strikes without warning. Jobs change. People move on or worse
yet, die. Life can turn around with one phone call. I've seen it happen in the blink of an eye and can tell you from experience that we should take nothing for granted and look for the possibilities in every situation.
Do you know how much time I was given to "adjust and deal" with my job move two years ago? Absolutely none! It was welcome, now get to work. You have regulations to draft. You have things to integrate into the database. You have forms to reformat and 42 boxes of files to scan into our database and 2 websites to help our IT staff set up for your programs because you're the one that knows this stuff and we can't help you because we need YOU to help US get it integrated into our system and tell us what it is so we can tell you how it will be from now on. The move was about a third of the work. There was plenty of heavy lifting after that, so to speak, and they made it clear that they expected me to not only rise to that, but to everything else set before me. And you know what? I did it. Sure, there were times when I broke down and came home saying "I can't DO all of this!" But I went back the next day and with enough "next days" and more hard work than I ever thought I was capable of, it got done and continues to get done every day.
And you know, a funny thing happened. I found the courage to submit my writing to epublishers again and by golly, two books got accepted. What the hell, I thought. I moved two programs. Why can't I publish two books? Why can't I be an independent author? I've always wanted to be a writer and this is my chance to be one. And I did it. I keep writing because I learned to step out and be bold and proactive in pursuing my writing goals from being pulled up by my hair at my day job. Reality punched me in the gut in one area, and by rising to that challenge I found the courage to take on the challenge of pursuing a personal dream in another area. Life's funny like that if you learn how to accept your situation and take advantage of every opportunity you find, no matter how big or small.
My point here is not to say nah nah, look at me and how I made it work. I hesitate to say it "worked" even at this point. Rather, I see the situation as "I continue to work hard and grow" because I am still learning and growing. It's a lifelong process. I still learn at work, and I'm still working on new writing projects and to build an audience for my published work. It's still a lot of hard work on both fronts. My point is that reality doesn't hit the pause button to pat you on the back and say "there there, take some time to eat ice cream and watch reruns of Supernatural (or whatever show you like) until you feel strong enough to deal with this." Reality is a witch (another PG-13 term for what I really think it is). It just happens and it doesn't care what you like or feel about anything.
I was raised with the "if the Lord brings you to it, then He brings you through it" truth, but this is a truth that we have to learn. It's not something ingraned in our psyche. Fear and helplessness are ingraned in our psyche. We have to learn that faith that we can face it. We have to learn to find that strength within ourselves to rise to what life brings. We have to learn to do the hard work, and to face the pain and struggles with the courage of a lion even if we feel like jelly inside. We learn by standing up to it and working through it. And folks, that doesn't come from taking an ice-cream and Supernatural rerun festival break to sob and wipe our tears while complaining of the injustice of it all. Life isn't fair. We have to learn to stand in the face of that. We have to work with the situation and figure out how to pluck out the opportunities in this "not fair" situation to work it out for our good and put ourselves on a journey to something better in the end.
We can heal. We can adjust. But more often than not, we have to do it on our feet. We have to heal while we move forward becauser stagnation brings further consequences and suffering that are completely unnecessary and can be avoided by acceptance and hard work.
So no, I call bullcrap on the "wait until your ready" mentality. Reality doesn't care if you're ready. It just happens. We do ourselves a greater favor by standing up to it sooner rather than later.
That's all today. Take care.
Folks, it’s amazing I’m alive. I stepped on a landmine recently.
Yep, I sure did. I asked someone I know if they had spoken to a mutual acquaintance lately and was harshly accused of trying to pick a fight. After some ranting and admonitions about “minding my own business” they revealed that no, they hadn’t spoken to the person.
Well, pardon me.
How many times has that happened to you? You know what I mean. A memory trigger brings something to mind so you ask about it, only to be criticized for asking, or accused of being nosy, or being told to mind your own business. You didn’t realize that you were drifting into sacred territory – after all, it hadn’t been a sensitive issue before – but something changed and you get cut down for not knowing what you haven’t been told.
I know it does hurt. It’s downright rude and offensive. But in such situations, I think it’s important that we keep a valuable truth in mind: the harsh reactions are a protective mechanism. These reactions are as good as
renting a digital billboard saying “I have issues with this!” They think a harsh reaction will teach you to back off. They don’t realize that may work, but they’re also exposing a chink in their armor. I compare these attacks where there’s no threat to an allergic reaction: An innocent substance gets in your system but for some reason your body perceives it as a threat, so it reacts.
The truth is that we all have emotional issues that we hold close in order to protect ourselves. None of us are really an "open book" no matter how forthright and honest we are or strive to be. We all have things we keep in our innermost circle and don't invite others in. That's fine. There are certain things we should keep private. The problem is that some people stretch that inner circle to hold in more than others, oftentimes things that others don't have a problem sharing and even seek help and support in handling. How much we hold in is up to us, but we need to kill the correlation between the one thing that pricks us and the whole world being out to get us. Emotionally charged issues tend to cloud our judgement and scew our perspective to a point where we believe it really is all about us - and nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, most of the people in this world don't even know us, and a great number who do know us don't have an emotional investment in us. For all our trials and tribulations, we personally interact with a limited number of people at a time and believe it or not, most of them mean us no harm. Some (gasp!) might actually want to help and support us, and our knee jerk reactions to scare people away from sacred territory may scare them away. When emotions run high, it would behoove us to realize that, in the words of the late, great C.S. Lewis, "sometimes an apple is just an apple." Believe it or not, there aren't double meanings or ulterior motives to everything under the sun.
I think the best thing to do in these cases is to back off. We all tend to cut others off from very emotionally sensitive issues and if a person chooses to do that then it’s disrespectful to try to bully your way in. It’s a shame, especially when you want to help and support them. But if they choose to shut others out and suffer alone, well, it’s best to respect their wishes and let them. After all, you can’t force people to open up, seek help or do the right thing. Sometimes the best you can do is back off and continue with the rest of your life.
And as for the person I unintentionally angered, well, I am sorry. I see the “keep out” sign now and believe
me, I certainly will. I’ll give you the space you desire, but realize the ball's in your court. It’s your responsibility to let me know when or if the landmine is diffused.
That’s all for today. I hope you enjoy the video inspiration to go along with this entry below. Bye!
Villians may make the story, but let me ask you - what happens when YOU'RE the villian? It is possible to sabatoge yourself and self help experts and gurus will be the first to say that very often, the only thing we fight more than other people is ourselves.
It's true that we can fall into bad thought and behavior patterns that can sabatoge our own best efforts. In fact, this is a topic I'm pondering for my next book. The idea I'm working on is about a woman that compromises her integrity While she does struggle with other people and there will be a clear antagonist that will aid her in this endeavor, the true enemy is herself. The real battle is in how her thoughts and perceptions influence her actions and attitudes. And, in my classic fashon, it will turn toward mystery with a supernatural creature (I'm considering a djinn), a way-out-there-where-the-hell-did-that-come-from turn of events and, of course, a twist somewhere. Geeze, I hope I'm not becoming my own worst enemy by becoming cliche or (gulp!) predictable after 4 books. Hmm, it might be time to mix it up a bit. We shall see.
I feel this is a good theme to run with because I've seen it over and over, not only in other people but in myself. We all have tendencies that work against us, and the devil loves to use them. Fear is a pretty universal one that we all struggle with. We get scared and that pushes us in all kinds of places we don't intend to go: Stagnation, laziness, complacancy - heck, I call fear "the devil's shovel" because it's a handy tool he uses in us to dig those ruts we find ourselves in.
Our emotions can also get us into trouble. Whether we realize it or not, emotions are learned. YES THEY ARE! When we have an emotional response to something the first time it happens, we tend to continue to have THE EXACT SAME RESPONSE every time it happens after that. They can become conditioned. For example: You have an annoying friend that tends to call you every Tuesday at 3:00. Tuesdays are busy and you tried to explain that but they don't get it, so after the first 2 calls you grow annoyed with them. So how do you feel the third week when the telephone rings at 3:00? You get annoyed, right? Before you even pick it up, you associate a 3:00 call on a Tuesday with that person that annoys you, and just the sound of that phone ringing at that time makes you angry. Maybe you wise up on Week #3 and don't answer but you're still angry when the phone rings. How dare them, you think, without even answering this week - but still, you're mad because they made you mad the last 2 weeks. So we do learn many of our emotional responses.
Another way we sabatoge ourselves is through wrong thoughts. This falls into that same pattern where we learn emotional responses. We do something and one or two people have an unfavorable response to it, so we avoid it in the future because "that doesn't work out." This is something I struggled with a lot when I went through my job transfer. I was at my former place a long time, so when I moved I tended to assume the people at the new place would have the same reactions and attitudes as the people at the old place. For example, the former place where I worked didn't think much of my writing. They didn't like it and even told me that it wasn't company related and to keep it out of the office. So when I moved I assumed my new colleagues would feel the same. I had to fill out a "dual employment" form when I got my book contract for Blurry, so I turned it in as quietly as possible. Imagine my surprise when my boss called me in her office and asked me to tell her more about my writing! She loved that I was doing it. In fact, it turns out that many other people there have "side ventures" and the agency regularly featured these on their internal website - they even featured me when Blurry was released and shared the link to my Amazon.com profile. (In fact, they sent out an email earlier this week asking if anybody had news or accomplishments to report so they could celebrate it at our employee appreciation picnic in a few weeks.) I was absolutely shocked by how enthusiastic and supportative my colleagues were, especially when I spent so many years in a place where I was ordered to keep it quiet. It took a while for me to get used to that, but it also made me realize the other areas where I had wrong thoughts. Even after 2 years I still struggle with that and have to stop and tell myself "remember, they aren't the same people and don't see things the same way. Be fair." Thank Got I realize it and am working through it.
Yes, there are many ways we can be our own worst enemy, and we really have to guard against that. Sometimes we even project our own faults and reactions on others - but this entry is long enough, so let's save that for next time!
I'll close with a challenge - think about it. Are there any ways where you are your own worst enemy? Do you have thoughts or reactions that work against you? Think it over. It's worth it because really, these are easy things to correct. Often just stopping and realizing it is the path to breaking the pattern.
That's all for today. Happy Friday and I hope you have a great weekend.
I don't know about you, but I get frustrated with people that complain about their life all the time, but they do absolutely nothing to change the things that they complain about. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying things, but it seems that if you're truly miserable then you'd at least try to change the situation, right?
Well, I do but it seems I'm in a minority. It seems there are a lot of people out there that are comfortable with the ruts they're in. And I wonder, maybe, if they fear what it might mean to stick their necks out and pursue a change. After all, where they are might not be a "happy place," but it's familiar. There are a lot of people that fear change, and the unknown.
I know my recent experiences have shaded my perception in this area. I used to fear change too. Yes, I was one of those complainers. My former boss found it quite amusing, in fact, But if she could see me now, she wouldn't know me. I've found nothing but change around every corner for the past 2 years. I expect it now. In fact, now if it doesn't happen then I wonder what the hell's going on because something must not be right for things to stay the same for, oh, more than a little while. It's amazing how life and reality can beat the fear right out of you, and mold you into a whole new creation. I used to say "oh no!" to change. Now I say "so what?" It's pretty normal for me. And while I won't say that I'm fearless - yes, I do feel some anxiety over the unknown - I'm not frozen by it. I've seen my faith grow in proportion to the reality of my life and find myself much more flexible and less fearful than I used to be, even 3-5 years ago.
So I suppose that explains why I'm not very patient with complainers. I've been forced to adapt with change. With changes in my job. With changes in the family. With changes at church. With changes in my friends due to these transitions and losing 3 of them to cancer. Yes, I said I lost 3 friends to cancer. That was not a typo. And all in a period of 15 months while everything else in my life was looking like a clown's juggling act too. Maybe that explains why I was disgusted with hearing somebody earlier this week complaining about something bad that happened to them years ago - like over a decade ago. I was appalled. Either they have a very thin hide or their "life pain" file is at a low level that I envy. Life hasn't hesitated to beat me with a baseball bat from time to time, so I suppose I'm not very sympathetic to the delicate souls with low emotional resilience.
Honestly, though, I do think we get used to talking and talking and talking and not doing. I know I'm guilty, so I really can't point at the splinter in others' eyes when I have that log in my own. It's taken real life to show me that true value isn't in words, but in the actions that back them up. In fact, I was under a therapist for a while a few years back and one of the first things she told me is "don't listen to words, look at actions. People lie with their mouths, but they act on truth." Man, that got a lot of people in trouble with me. They did not appreciate that jewel of wisdom. But it also convicted me to look at the match between my own words and actions and lo and behold, I did see a rift. I've worked very hard over the past couple of years to be more mindful of this by ackowledging how I really think and feel, defining my true values and boundaries, and ensuring that my actions match my thoughts and words. It's not always easy because we live in a society that tells us to do whatever it takes to make others happy right now, and work around it later, but it's an easier way to live. And really, I believe it really makes having relationships with others easier too. I've noticed that my relationships have improved drastically since I was mindful of this. Of course, excercising discernment has also helped, but that's an entry for another day.
I guess I just wish that others were as honest with themselves and would do this kind of inner exploration. Look within and find the truth. When you complain, are you really unhappy? If so, you'll try to change it. Even the act of trying to change it will help make you happier because you know you're doing something, and doing something is always better than doing nothing. But if you aren't, then admit that you're temporarily frustrated, but that you still believe the benefits of whatever's pricking blood out of you now outweigh the frustration of piercing your emotions.
I think that in the end, it boils down with being honest with ourselves, and letting that trickle down into being honest with others. And that always leads to better and more stable relationships. Anything built on truth will last.
That's all for today. Happy Friday to you. I hope you have a great weekend.
I’ve often said that when you first tell people that you want to be a writer, expect a lot of blank stares at best, and a reaction akin to announcing that you plan to become a serial killer at worst. That is, until you get published. Then everybody will know you and proudly proclaim that they knew you “back when.” They’ll completely forget all the times they said “why do you want to do that?” or “didn’t you graduate? Why not go back to school instead if that’s what you want to do?” Or any other number of “helpful suggestions” that included doing anything but that.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have support. Of course, those closest to me wanted me to succeed at making my dreams come true, but let’s face it – your inner circle is usually pretty small. Most of the people you know won’t be in it, and they certainly won’t understand the things that are most important to you. In fact, even those in your “inner circle” will eventually lose their enthusiasm for your personal pursuits if they don’t see results face, and often. It’s unfortunate, but peoples’ attention spans are usually much shorter than God’s timing. Most people don’t have patience to stay the course, especially in a culture where everything is instantaneous and available with the click of the mouse or the press of a button. That’s why I believe that internal motivation is perhaps the most important element in pursuing your authenticity and purpose in life.
What is internal motivation? Basically, it’s the determination and inner drive to see things through to the end, no matter what it takes. I’ve said before that God will only reveal purpose to you, and for that reason you simply can’t rely on others to hold you up and carry you through the finish line. They have their hands full with their own lives and frankly, they are probably overwhelmed with keeping up with the day to day grind of reality. You must have strength within you to stay the course and be determined to see things through all the way to the end, no matter how many battles or struggles you must endure. There path to purpose isn’t a straight line, but rather a winding highway. There will be progress and setbacks, trials and errors, success and failure, as you wind through the journey. Some people will be with you for all of it, some for part, but remember that they are also taking their own journey’s. We all only have so much emotional energy and must dedicate it to those things that matter most. And let’s be honest, what are you more concerned with: Your own life or somebody elses’? That’s not being selfish – it’s just the way it is. We must attend to our own obligations and priorities first and foremost.
Likewise, there are also people that don’t want to see you succeed. This usually isn’t personal, even though it feels like a very real attack on who we are. It’s really smoke and mirrors for their own insecurity. I believe we all have these “emotional vampires” in our lives that can find the dark cloud in any silver lining and discourage us from doing anything that causes us to rise above where we’re at. Their security is in making sure that you (and often, everybody they know) stay inside the convenient box they’ve put you in for their own comfort. You must realize that this box isn’t your problem. Do yourself a favor by dealing with these toxic relationships quickly and efficiently, and moving on. In fact, that might be the very thing that makes them realize the right thing to do so they can get on with their own lives. Doing the right thing and refusing to accept other peoples’ problems is often the best living testimony we can provide to the world.
Yes, the journey to purpose can be a lonely one at times. There are journey’s we must take alone and things we must discover on our own. The good news is that we are never really alone. The Lord is always right there with us, to ensure that we stay on the right path. He will always do His part as long as we do our part by following the prompting of the Spirit, but sometimes what is right isn’t what looks or seems right. That’s why it’s so important to be internally motivated. These promptings are usually very personal, and we have to be able to stand up to scrutiny, discouragement, and sometimes even attack to see the victory. But as I’ve said so many times before, the reward is well worth it. There’s nothing better than realizing you are uniquely and wonderfully made, and being content with who you are.
Next Time: Contentment – The Secret to Joy.
I hate that song "When Peace Flows Like a River." It's a filthy lie.
I suppose that statement deserves an explanation, so here it is: I went to a funeral for a friend yesterday that died from cancer. It's the third friend I've lost to cancer in 18 months. To say I hope I never see the face of this ugly beast again would be an understatement.
Anyway, they seem to love this hymn at funerals. There's just one problem: No, it's not well with my soul. I don't understand why three people I know had to suffer like this. They were good people. They wanted to live. It seems so unfair that their lives were cut short when I look around and see people that don't appreciate a thing - or that play hard and fast, like they don't care about putting themselves or others in danger - and they keep going on and on.
I hate that hymn because it's arrogant and it's a lie. Are you ok with anything that happens? Life can whollop you and it's just "well, praise God and glory be." No folks, not in the real world. Real people get frustrated. Real people get angry. Real people are confused and hurt and don't understand. I'll admit that I'm a real person and my soul's got problems. I don't get it. In fact, there's a lot I don't get.
Another reason I don't like this song is because it implies that faith means never questioning anything - just blind acceptance. You can reason out everything, even if the reason is simply "it's God's will." While that is true, and I suppose it all does boil down to that, it's been my experience that human beings aren't that simplistic. We do try to understand. We do ask questions. We do get frustrated and angry in our confusion and lack of understanding. It is through these struggles that we find what faith really is: Not a lack of questions, but an acceptance that we won't have most of the answers. That in the grand scheme of things it does make sense, and being ok with the fact that only God may know how it fits into that scheme. And most importantly, to realize that it's ok to not have the answers or to work through whatever processes we need to work through to get to this acceptance.
That's where I'm at. My soul does hurt, and it's confused. I know all three of them are at peace now, and that there's a greater plan that I won't see this side of Heaven. Intellecutally, it's there. Emotionally, I'm still on the journey to that point. I miss them and those absences do hurt. It's hard to remember that they won't walk through that door at church Sunday morning any more, that they won't be at that committee function or in Sunday School or passing by at functions with their cheerful smiles. The reality that they're gone and never coming back is still stinging. And I don't think there's a thing wrong with that sting. It means I feel. It means I'm still human. It means I'm still alive.
So no, it's not well with my soul, and I'm ok with admitting that. My soul is hurt and it needs to heal. I know the truth and accept it, but I'm just going to have to work through that process to get these pesky emotions at that same level. And I don't think I'm alone. Many others are on that same journey. I have plenty of company on this road. My comfort is that tomorrow is a new day. New mercies every morning. Great is thy faithfulness.
Now that's one I can live with.
That's all today. Happy Friday to you tomorrow.
Stress levels have been at an all time high at my work, as we've spent the past month going through a major internal reorganization. There's a lot of anxiety and confusion on the redistrubution of duties and responsibilities. Yes indeed, a lot of nail biting is going on.
Only thing is, I'm so used to this that I barely feel it. Every job I've ever been at has gone through some sort of a major internal change within my first three years there. To me, this is almost normal. I can't count the number of times I've been moved, shifted, and re-trained for my job. My father-in-law once told me that nothing changed in his job in his entire 20+ year career. I laughed, having lost track of the changes by the time I had been in my job 7 years.
I think that harkens to a very important change that's taken place in our society. I recently read that the level of stress we currently consider "normal" would have been considered "acute" 50 years ago. I can see why. Advances in technology have sped the world up to the speed of light, and we've become accustomed to a lifestyle that would have left our forebearer's breathless just to hear about! Needless to say, in this fast paced, time crunched society, "slow and easy" are not terms used to describe the modern lifestyle of most. Well, at least most people that aren't retired, according to what I hear. ;) But that's another blog post.
The question is; how do we deal with these increasing levels of stress? We all know the problems it can cause with our health, but it seems to me that most people don't know how to combat it. There are many ways, and I'd like to explore some of them in the next few entries. I'll start this series by telling my first secret, which is having a hobby. I believe it's very important to have something that is wholly and completely your own for no other purpose than to bring you personal happiness and satisfaction in life. Something the rest of the world can't touch. Something that serves no purpose than to bring you joy.
We all need at least one hobby. I believe it's important to our emotional well being. If your life is too busy to carve out a few minutes of your own during the day, then there is a serious need to sit down and set some priorities in your life. You MUST take care of yourself. Otherwise, you're going to break down (physically or emotionally), and then you'll be no good to anyone. So if you want to be the most productive and helpful to others, then you need to take some time out for yourself.
My writing is my hobby. This is my place to create my own worlds, to decompress, and to work out issues and concerns in my life in a context that I'm comfortable with. It gives me a place to handle things my way, and to work things out through alternate realities. It helps me to reconcile the rabbit hole of my life, so to speak.
So what's your hobby? This is the topic of my latest forum post. If you don't have one, I believe now would be a good time to consider what you could do to carve out some time and space of your own in the world.