Do The Right Thing, Empathy, Getting Real, Wisdom

You’ll never read anything more honest than this.

We don’t have political problems, Friends, we have human problems. We are privileged with the responsibility of choosing our own leaders, so doesn’t it stand to reason that our leaders reflect the kind of people we are? That should scare the hell out of you right now.

The overt hate, selfishness, ignorance and general shamelessness that permeates American politics right has so many of us pointing fingers at our neighbors. The powers that be are well served by the distraction created when we turn on each other instead of turning toward them to see where the blame truly belongs.

What we must first do is turn inward, and evaluate the moral and ethical shortcomings within ourselves that not only allow this wretched state of the Union to exist, but nurture it like a favored parasite.

We have to get really honest with ourselves about the lies we’ve decided to get comfortable with because they support a prejudice or a grudge that we want to justify.

We have to jump off the bandwagon of discrediting the experiences of people who are of other colors, ethnicities, religions and social classes, and own that our denial of the well-documented, systematic injustice and that holds them back makes us complicit in their oppression.

We have to acknowledge that America does have a class system, and that what we think we know about those different from us, may be based on a convenient lie.

We must stop pretending that our hatred and prejudices are some kind of code of ethics, and realize that morality is something we are to measure our own character by, not something to impose on others and then excuse our bad behavior with their perceived failures.

We have to stop degrading our neighbors who depend on government assistance, as though they don’t pay taxes or have anything to offer society, as though everyone in this country actually has equal opportunity to improve their situations, and that sexism, racism and greed never contribute to poverty.

We must discard the notion that our country is inherently superior, and realize that it merely has the potential to be. It’s up to us to insist that potential is reached. This self-delusion will only make us blind to the problems that will ultimately destroy us, like doting parents ignoring the misdeeds of a beloved, spoiled child. It’s easier to be defensive or offended than it is to admit you just don’t want to acknowledge there is something wrong.

Those of you who are still insisting that this country was founded on Christian principles have to get serious about the glaring discrepancies between what you honestly know of Christ and the policies and politicians you support.

The only way things will ever get better is if decided to be better people, and take responsibility for making sure our policies, and the people who make and enforce them reflect that.

Empathy, Wisdom

I’m a red state refugee.

I have a vivid childhood memory of playing under a table at the local burger joint while the adults discussed what I now understand to be politics. That’s when I learned I didn’t want to be a Republican, because they’re mean.
I spent the next couple of decades or so (and maybe the rest of my life) trying to reconcile what I was taught in Sunday School, and the fairly ….some might say strict…standard of conduct set forth by my family and teachers with the exclusiveness, misogyny and judgement I saw in the world around me, and by world, I mean the 3.6 square miles of Iowa Park Texas, pop. 6,000ish. I’ve had to separate myself from everything I was certain about to be the kind of person those same people taught me to be.
My world is much bigger now. The distance and years have allowed me some perspective. I’ve come to understand there are categories of Republicans. Of course there are your “Mr. Burns” types; greedy, self-interested business people and the standard bigots, but then there’s this enormous chunk of people who are simply trying to make it to Heaven.
You see, in the Bible Belt it’s hard not to absorb the idea that you are inherently evil, and need someone to instruct you on the straight and narrow path. The respect for leadership that’s so intrinsic in their values also makes them susceptible to manipulation, especially when it’s been twisted to not only discourage questioning authority but trusting one’s own motivations.
Even among the nonreligious, being a respectable, honorable person is deeply rooted in the culture. It’s obvious to me at some point, many years before now, an evil politician realized how easy it could be to say just the right words to activate the powerful loyalty of a large demographic whose desire to do the right thing would keep them voting against their own interests for generations. For you see, some people feel they deserve to be on top, and for there to be a top, they have to create a bottom.  It’s a fallacy that has perverted everything pure about their faith and way of life, and it’s so insidious they can’t even see the major moral conflicts that are so glaring to the rest of us.
I want to be very clear that I will never make excuses for anyone’s bad behavior, especially the mistreatment of any other human being. I just want to offer some insight. I want to do my part to promote the practice of, not only researching the opposition’s agenda, but trying to understand WHY they feel that way, and where our common ground might be. That cultivates empathy, without which there will never be peace.
I hate that rest of the country will miss out on the good things about my culture because the bad has become so pervasive. I continue to mourn the stability, community and relationships I’ve lost because I can’t make peace between my values and the current political climate. There are no words to convey the intensity of my frustration in this matter, but if I lose my empathy and compassion, then I’m as complicit in the problem.
Relationship Food, Self-Rescuing Series, Wisdom

What are your true colors?

Humans are complicated and life is messy. One of the many things we do to keep that theme running is miscommunicate, but before you can really communicate with someone else, you have to get on the same page with yourself.

If an 8-count box of crayons can represent your emotional spectrum, keep reading. This is about getting familiar with the super-deluxe 120-count pack.
Somewhere, somebody decided emotions are either good or bad. For example, happiness, love and gratification feel good, so we naturally want to do things that give us that feeling. Guilt, sadness and fear feel bad and are to be avoided. Anger spans both lists, because there’s often temporary relief in lashing out.
That’s all baloney, and here’s why: Every single one of your feelings serve a purpose, and if heeded appropriately, will help you navigate even the trickiest of situations and relationships.
Think of guilt as your emotional pain response. Pain is your body’s way of alerting you to a problem. It says “take your hand off the stove, Dummy! It’s burning!”. A healthy guilt response will let you know when you’ve behaved badly and need to adjust your behavior.
The same way guilt helps you look out for others, fear helps keep and eye on you. It’s the knot in your stomach that warns you not to take a ride from that stranger at the party, or the panic that makes you take your foot off the gas before careening out of control.
Anger is simple. It’s just mad, and everybody understands that. It’s so easy in fact we seem to want to default to it. Are you hurt? Anger. Are you confused by someone’s actions? Anger. Disappointed? Anger.
We’ve got the idea that being mad puts us in a more powerful position than being hurt. The truth is, being aware of your pain and honest enough to admit it, puts you in control because it’s the first step toward a real resolution. Reacting to a situation when you’re not sure, or not being honest, about your motivations is like taking medicine when you don’t have a proper diagnosis. At best, it won’t help; at worst, it can be dangerous.
You can’t be easily abused or manipulated when you’re in tune with your real feelings. Being aware of all the shades of your emotions makes your intuition much more sensitive
Humans are emotional creatures. We can’t realistically stop ourselves from reacting emotionally to both external and internal forces. If you aren’t honest and aware of what you’re reacting to and why, your response will almost always be inappropriate, dumping more turmoil and confusion into your life. Peace is a product of learning to use your emotions as a tool, instead of being a slave to your emotional triggers.
Relationship Food, Wisdom

I don’t know what to call this one, but it might help repair your relationship.

There were these popular storybooks when I was a kid.  They had pages of stickers in the back, and each page had indicated spots where you could put the sticker that completed the illustration and added too the story. I didn’t like them.  Stickers stressed me out because if you put them in the wrong place or changed your mind, it was too late. You could remove them, but the stickers would curl and never really stick again. The paper would tear and lose its smooth, fresh surface to a permanent scar.

In the grown-up world, our relationships are like those storybooks. We start with the cookie-cutter format society supplies, and then press the messages we absorb from our family, community, religion, culture and experiences to our lives like stickers.
We affix our dreams, needs and expectations to another human being who is just as fragile as we are. As time passes, things change. We are changed.
One funny thing about people is how we put all kinds of emphasis on teaching our kids how to get along in school and in business, but instruction on how to get along with other people tends to start dissipating after kindergarten. We don’t learn to talk about things in an authentic, open way.
Overwhelmed, we start pulling off our stickers, not understanding where it all went so wrong.  Hurt, bitterness, disappointment, anger multiply and wound. Friends, the remedy and prevention for this is trust. Trust is rebuild by communication.
It’s fun when you enjoy all the same things and laugh at the same jokes. It feels good when all our needs are being meet, but real life is a lot messier than that because we are all needy and flawed. A relationship is fulfilling and solidified when both sides are giving. When each spouse knows the other is equally invested, they’re both willing to give more.  Over time, the love will start piling up. The sun shines brighter, food tastes better and life’s blows are a little softer.
If you are in a struggling relationship, I encourage BOTH of you to try this: For six weeks, live every moment for your partner. Be courteous and kind. Try to anticipate their needs. Save the last snack for them. Learn their favorite song, and ASK why it’s their favorite. Start saying things like “Wait, I’m confused, can you say that again?” or “Maybe I misunderstood you”. “That sounded kind of mean. Is that really what your meant?” is really useful. If you get frustrated say so, BEFORE it escalates. LISTEN without being defensive. Ask questions and be EMPATHETIC. Seek understanding instead of validation or gratification.
During this process, at least one of you will screw up at least once. When it happens, be kind and forgiving. Someone should apologize without deflecting blame, and the other should forgive and LET GO! Don’t keep a record of every fault. Remember your spouse can’t read your mind. We’re all trying to figure it out as we go. Be gracious, merciful and humble. It will only work if both of you participate. Also, don’t make any major decisions about your life before you read The Velveteen Principles.