Monthly Archives: January 2013

Dog Eat Dog

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Dog Eat Dog

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”—Malcolm S. Forbes.

Like most animals, a dog will attack another dog when it feels threatened. Out of fear, people turn on one another. They fight for position, power, and validation. They reason out their undignified actions and justify their shady behavior. Leaving behind collateral damage, many people will do whatever it takes to make it to the top of their field. However, there are people out there who do not just look out for themselves; people who desire to be good at something but are not willing to take advantage of others. It is in the heart of most people to act out of integrity. Maybe we should start asking ourselves how can we protect others and still achieve our goals?

Being narcissistic by nature, we are typically self-serving. “What do I get out of this?” “What personal gain or benefit is there for me?” In the midst of pursuing life, liberty, and happiness  we must come face to face with worth and value. This includes our societal view, personal view, and world view. Insecurities stem from poor self image. It is not modesty or humility. This actually comes from negative self perception. First we must come to a healthy understanding of, “I am important.” Second, we must deal with the value of life in general and understand that “Other people are important.”  The conflict arises when we don’t know how to serve the needs of others while also attending to our own.

It becomes essential for us to push past the uncomfortably that comes from communicating about what is going on inside of us.
We do not have the right to blame others for our choices. Even in the face of peer pressure, ultimately we are responsible for our actions. Owning our decisions also allows for us to have grace to make mistakes. Doing this while living with other impephect people can be trying at times. It can be a lot of work, however, the benefits for everyone is tremendous.

Having children I see first hand the effects of egocentric behavior:

“Me first.”

“No me!”

“Hey, what about me?!?”

“Me, me, me!!!”

As our children grow, my husband and I are consciously teaching them how to take personal responsibility for their choices, including their actions. We are guiding them to operate in self-control. We teach them to tell themselves what to do and not try to control other people. We are instilling values for freedom and individuality. We are purposefully cultivating the celebration of each other. We want them to appreciate being in relationship with powerful people while also recognizing they are a powerful person themselves. The “I am better than you” mentality, or the “You are better than me,” has got to go. We use the phrase, “I am amazing just the way I am,” and “My best is good enough.” We want them to know that while we as people can always hone our craft and develop as people we can also be okay with where we are in process.

My husband and myself intentionally highlight the harms of comparing ourselves to others. We seek to remove jealousy between our children and others by focusing on gratefulness, building self-confidence, and a nurturing a personal  relationship with God rather than a religion full of rules. Our hope is that as our kids grow and mature they will get their identity from Him and not from what they believe others think about them.

As adults we need courage and wisdom to engage in “Brave Communication”. We need to risk rejection and let others know what is going on in our hearts as well as in our heads. We’ve got to get real. The security of being known takes vulnerability. It takes honesty; beginning with ourselves. It takes work. It can be hard, time consuming, and exhausting, yet, it is tremendously rewarding. What we fail to recognize is it takes just as much energy to bury our feelings as it does to deal with them.

In the midst of this we need to be careful not to tell others about them. This is called judgement. We assume we know the why’s and the motives of others, so we shove our judgements down their throat. We use deductive reasoning, we read body language, we listen to both verbal cues, and watch for non-verbal communications. All in all, we take the information we have gathered and observed, and after we process it we arrogantly think we know the heart and mind of someone else. We usually do not ask clarifying questions because they are awkward and uncomfortable. Instead we project on them our perspective, paradigm, and personal filters.

Growing in identity is the most important thing we can do as people. When we spend time with God we learn about His nature and character. We have nothing to prove to anyone. We don’t have to listen to introspective criticisms. We can ask Him what He thinks about us. Then we can either continue to believe a lie about ourselves as in the movie Freedom Writers, or we can change patterns, gain confidence, and prosper in life. Others may try to drag you back down like crabs in a barrel because it exposed the deep insecurities in their own hearts. Despite this we can learn to celebrate the success of others with sincere joy and also position ourselves to achieve our greatest potential.

Hopefully, as we grow in the knowledge of who we are, we will create a safe place for others to do the same. May we inspire people to be confident without becoming prideful. May we learn to be more assertive as that is where we have the most to gain. We do not have to become aggressive and run rough shod over others. We do not need to be passive and sacrifice our hearts or play martyrs either. Most certainly, we must be very conscious of becoming passive aggressive. We can’t pretend everything is okay when it isn’t: “I have no needs, no wants, and no dreams and only others are important”. Then we talk behind each others backs. We make sarcastic, cutting comments, and we undermine the core of relationships in general.

We get so concerned we will be taken advantage of. We do not wait until something occurs to a deal with a situation. We sabotage our success before we begin.  We are so afraid we will not get recognition that we draw negative attention to ourselves. We are so worried we will not get what we think we deserve that we rob ourselves from receiving honor when it is due. We get so wrapped up in others mishandling the relationship we don’t actually put forth the effort to have one.

Serving the vision of others can keep us in a place of humility. We do not all have to be missionaries to take care of one other. We just need to make people matter. We can do this by putting our money where our mouth is, our time where our social injustice passion is, or by tending to the needs and desires of another. Learning how to put people first, not exploit others for personal gain, and not live in a constant state of self-protection, takes self-respect. As a defense mechanism people hoard money, food, or random items. This is a sign of a wrong core belief. It is caused from a root of an unsafe psychological perspective. To counter this behavior in our children, we have adopted the philosophy of giving out of who we are. We choose to be generous no matter what. It does not come out of overflow and it is especially not used to manipulate.

What do you really want and what are you willing to do to get it? Blending dreams with vision is vital. Wisdom, rational, and faith are required to see the magnificent become reality. Being intentional about the direction you are headed in life and enjoying the journey in the meantime will make your traveling much more pleasant. It will also keep you focused, allow for you to navigate the turbulent waters of life, and get calibrated if you veer off course.

Don’t get me wrong. I want it all. The thing is, what I am willing to sacrifice to get it? Unlike Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization which is self seeking, self-serving, and self-focused, this way of life seeks first what is right, what is true, and the betterment of mankind. This is when we will truly get what is ours, others get theirs and more. Wholeness will manifest as you are satisfied mind, body, and soul. Being a leader is about serving not demanding. As in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” your wants will be met in the most unexpected way, because who you are will not go unnoticed.

We have the ability as humans to change our patterns of behavior. We have the ability to change how we have gone about things in the past and we have the ability to make different choices from now on. We can go from dog eat dog, to becoming companions who know how to live with strong and powerful beings.

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Expecting… The Unexpected!

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Expecting… The Unexpected!

Ever plan for something you wanted so badly? Did you ever do everything that could have been done and fight with all of your might? Have you ever seen a dream so real you just knew with all your soul it would become reality? Have you ever been crushed, disappointed beyond belief?

To hope in the face of despair, to pursue against the odds, to believe beyond doubt…. is it stupid to wish for the impossible? Or is it rational to be apprehensive to ask for our heart’s desires out of fear they won’t be answered the way we want?

It can be discouraging when what you seek always seems to be just beyond your reach. Such a helpless feeling when you are not in control of your own destiny. Even though many others have experienced similar pain it can still be such a lonely feeling. Yet you press in, you dig deep, you suppress those nagging feelings of frustration.

What happens when you have put your heart and soul into something but reality tells you it is not going to happen? Everything seems to turn against you. Even time itself ceases to be a friend. At what point do you finally put to rest the very thing that motivates you to live? How do you bury what you been imagining, and simply “move on”?

When it feels like you’ve died, at the point you finally let go, that moment is often the very moment your seed is finally planted, finally able to bloom. All this time you thought you had been carrying rotten fruit: dreams that seemed to be shriveling, decaying, and growing mold like a disease. Come to find out, like fruit decomposing into the soil, it is not what is seen that matters.  Rather it is the potential, the hope, the life it carries inside that matters. It is this self-contained life that gives this seemingly small, yet deeply meaningful, pregnant aspiration the potential to become great.

It can be difficult when others so easily acquire what you have been longing for. The thing that seems to come by accident to some, and even unwanted by others, is the very thing you yearn to possess. In those moments, not becoming angry or embittered, and remaining faithful and vigilant to your own dreams may be the hardest thing you ever do. However, this will cause your roots to grow deep. And relative to your surroundings, though you may not flower often, your blossom will be rare and magnificent.

Very few appreciate what they have. Even fewer express true gratitude for what comes naturally. It is those whom have known the strain of struggle, the ecstasy of endurance, and the payoff of perseverance who truly value the prize. For it is the joy set before us that makes this life worth the darkness we go through to get there.

There are those of us who choose to never give up on our dreams. Though we choose to lay down our right to toil in vain, we trust that God keeps His promises. We seek peace during the process even when understanding evades us.  There are those of us who believe that the power of love is stronger than the power of hate. There are also those of us that live in the joyful expectation of good no matter if we get what we expected or we are happily surprised by the unexpected.


A Good Laugh Among Friends

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Laughter fills the air as our cares are left at the door like a pair of dirty ol’ shoes. The mood is easy and the conversation light. There is nothing like the pleasures of forgetting our worries, and the relaxation of being with those we enjoy. Good times to be had with good friends. From backyard barbeques on the patio to a nice drink in a pub, life fills the atmosphere as we have a good laugh among friends. We find our uptight, anal selves melting into a comfortable chair as we let our hair down.

Everything in the world is right as we gather with our smiles in full beam. Whether we slide down a cold hill of powdery white snow and sip hot cocoa at the bottom, or we watch sunsets over horizons on warm summer evenings, our spirits are refreshed as our hearts are happy to be with those we love.

It is in these moments we celebrate the simple things like roasting marshmallows or blending margaritas. We find meaning and hope in newly forged relationships. We also find safety and security in those that are tried and true. We mingle and discuss fine craftsmanship, sporting events, and fishing tales. We linger when it is time to go, capturing every last joke of the evening before time catches up with us and we must go back to our regular lives.

We hold on to these feelings of bliss as if they are treasures more valuable than any achievement we have accomplished. We find we are grateful to be alive and look forward to the tomorrows of the world. We get lost in songs that remind us of these special times. We are quickly taken back and transformed in an instance as we sing along to the melody. Burden free, we may even be silly and dance. After all, what is the fun in hanging out if we can’t loosen up on the reigns a bit?

Laughter is a good medicine for the soul. It produces endorphins, healing, and an overall sense of well-being. So don’t forget to tell your serious side it is okay to chill out, relax, and add some joy to your world!

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Perphect!

Perphect…

“Perfectionism”, this unattainable yet infectious complex, spreads like infected cells.  The consuming, pseudo reality plays itself out for humanity, especially in our culture’s ideology.  The presumptuous intellect knows best.  Each individual creates their own internal infrastructure with the assistance of nature, nurture, and social factors. I myself developed an idealistic persona in my mind. A person I desired to be, but could not attain.

The problem with lofty ideals is we often develop a mental picture of these and how we think it should be. Then we are discouraged when something does not end up looking like the picture we saw in our heads. We are stubborn. We think things need to go a certain way and produce a certain outcome. That is all well and good as far as intentions go, however, it totally screws with our head. Like an artist with an idea, it is frustrating when what is in our mind does not come out on paper.

I found the more I tried the further away the person I wanted to become would be. I sabotaged my joy by setting up unrealistic expectations. If I wanted to always be good at something and happy, I would push myself as hard as I could. I would find the brighter side to every moment. Now, those are good things. However, I was coming at them from an obsessive place. When things went out of my control, I was in chaos. My internal world felt out of sorts. The conflict heightened when worry entered the equation. Anxiety had found a place to rest in my heart. It caused turmoil to spin like a hurricane inside of me.  This storm surfaced the belief: If I could just be OCD enough bad things would stop happening.

Happiness, easy going, delight, and stress collided. I quickly realized to be fun and carefree I needed to pursue my dreams. I did not know how to do this practically, outside of  a fantasy world.  Yet, it was in this very place I delighted to be that caused the most frustration and disappointment.  I could not hope and be a realist at the same time. I relinquished one for the other. I developed a “poverty” mentality of surrender and slavery. I felt like I was constantly in lack. I became bound by my own perceptions and core beliefs. I was uncertain how to be happy and carefree from the inside out no matter the circumstances .

I wanted it all. Yet how could I reconcile my hearts desires, live in the here and now, and be okay with the inevitable imperphections? I was afraid I would let my dreams hinder my capability to apply wisdom and practicality.  I began slowly suppressing myself, my joy, my nature, my being….the very name that I was called to be.  My fear and worries slowly took over my spirit. I was drowning in quick sand.

I buried my heart. I began setting my standards lower. If I could achieve it then I would not be a failure. I would protect myself from disappointment by only attaining what I knew would be possible. No risk…no pain! I tried intently to avoid rejection and disapproval. I began to plan ahead so I could prevent mistakes. If I could overdo everything then nothing bad could happen to me, right? I was continually in a battle with discouragement and disappointment. I was bleeding love and hemorrhaging acceptance. I needed a tourniquet. I did not know how to genuinely receive a compliment. Overwhelmed by insecurities, I focused on my flaws. It was a dark place with too much introspection. It is a place where people go to get depressed. It was a place I desperately fought to get out of.

Still, it did not matter how hard I tried, all I saw were my flaws. My attention was continually drawn to what I could be doing better. I underestimated my worth and personal value. I did not think I had anything to offer this world or the people in it. I felt as if I needed to earn affection, earn approval, and keep on earning things once I got them. Imbalanced, I felt as though I could lose love if I wasn’t pretty enough. I believed I would lose acceptance if I let anyone see the real me. I also felt I could lose everything I held dear if I let just one thing slip through the cracks. I had so much weight on my shoulders. Even when I did manage a smile anyone who truly looked into my eyes saw I was hiding enormous amounts of pain. My dreams were drowning in my pursuit of perphectionism.

But “hope deferred makes the heart grow sick”. To live in hope I needed to believe in the joyful expectation of good. The problem was, I was constantly waiting for the next problem, for that proverbial “other shoe to fall”. I had this ever constant, looming feeling something bad was just about to happen. There was a foreboding atmosphere surrounding me. This constant state of fear had stolen my peace and rest, and had run away with my joy. I struggled to keep them in my heart. Occasionally I would grab them by the leg and force them to hang out for few hours, but could never get them to take up residency.

Eventually, I was able grasp grace. I finally realized I could understand my limits, and still pursue excellence as a way of life. Priorities are important. Reconciling discipline, healthy habits, and a strong identity remain beneficial. To this day my house is typically very clean. I exercise on a regular basis. I am actively involved in my children’s education and extra curricular activities. I adore gardening and the outdoors. I love being fashionable. I enjoy arts and crafts. And I pursue my dreams. Yet through all of this, I am motivated by intentionality. After removing the stress, anxiety, and pressure that comes from thinking my actions determine my success or failure as a person, the things that at one point I thought “defined” me are now operating out of who I am. Though I will always grow as a person, I will also know my best is simply the best I can do.

It was through experience I discovered love was not based on performance. It was through discovering “JOY” that I finally became comfortable with my imperphections.  Often times the hardest demons to tell to go to hell are Fear of Failure and the Fear of Rejection. However, false humility is our own worse self-deception. I found when I compared myself to what I saw in others, all I could see is where I fell short. I had to be honest with myself and believe the truth about what I liked in me. I did not have to make up stuff, I simply had to discover who I was and then except that person. I had to choose to use my talents, my abilities, and the person I am. I had to blend my nature with nurture and walk in my own shoes with confidence in the direction I was created to head.

If we don’t grow and mature as people we will be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually stunted and even retarded, twisted by what we have made agreements with over the course of our lifetimes. I’ve learned a lot from taking risks, from trying, from making mistakes. As I’ve learned how to walk I’ve had to be okay with falling. Falling is fine. Getting back up is the important part. I found it vital to keep my eyes focused on the goal, rather than constantly looking down and seeing only current restraints. If we don’t go after our what is in our hearts, we will live in envy of the lives of others, and we will not do the very things we were created for.

Remember: it is what we believe about ourselves that becomes our reality. If we think we need to be perfect to be good enough, we will never be good enough! We can remain in our self-absorbed cesspool breeding bacteria or we can flow within the current of our own rivers with all of their individual eddies and idiosyncrasies. We can enjoy the ebbs and flows and the path laid out before us. We can trust, for no matter what comes around the bend, we will eventually make it to our ocean.

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