Tag Archive | relationships

7/6/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Put others first.

There are times where it is easier to be selfish.  It is easier to think about my own point of view.  I don’t feel generous or kind or patient enough to think about another’s point of view.  Those days are tough.  They aren’t tough because I feel guilty.  They are tough because when I put me first, I just feel lousy.  Those are the days that my irritability is high and my patience is low.  The things that go on in my head should never see the light of day because they are vile and ugly and mean.

What I learn from those days is that it feels crappy to be selfish.  It feels miserable to be wrapped up in myself.  When I feel like that, I don’t like me.  When I focus on me, turn my attentions and my desires only on what I want, I don’t like what I see.  And worse, those are the days that the people closest to me (you!) avoid me.  You tiptoe around, disappear into your rooms and try to avoid rocking the boat.  My selfishness becomes a poison in our house, and nobody is unaffected.

The times that you have been the most unhappy with each other is when you focus on your own point of view.

In contrast to all that, there are times when the focus points out.  There are magical days when we are all focused on each other, when we are more worried about what is happening to each other than what is happening to our own selves.  We defend, we laugh, we enjoy, we are happy.  Those are the very best days in our house.  I don’t think our good mood makes it so, because I think the good mood comes from the pointing ourselves out, giving ourselves to each other, sharing life from the collective point of view, instead of the selfish point of view.  It just feels better when we put others first.  I’m not sure what it says about the selfish thing that we actually benefit when we focus on others (is that a selfish motive??) but I do know it works.

The next time I am feeling snarky and self-righteous and mean, I’m going to work harder to turn it around, to focus on other, to see a different point of view.  Perhaps when I look through that lens, the cloudy veil of yuck will lift and we will all be happier for it.

Try it.  Put others first.

 

 

Advertisements

7/5/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Be kind, not right.

Being right isn’t all it is cracked up to be.  Sometimes being right isn’t right.

There are times when we find ourselves in arguments that seem critically important in the moment, that get us riled up with righteous indignation, that cause us to rant and fret and worry and stew.  Sometimes these arguments are truly important, but most of the time they are just arguments.  Their outcome will not make a difference in a week or a month and it is possible that in that time, we will forget what the issue was in the first place.  Most arguments fall into this category I think.

Those petty, small, unimportant arguments become a real problem when we decide that being right is more important than being kind.  Winning the argument becomes a higher priority than winning at friendship.  Our quest for right-ness causes us to say things that can’t be unsaid.  It causes us to forget why we are arguing and focus on who we are arguing with.  When we focus our argument on the person, being right has trumped being what we know to be right.  And then we all lose.

When people get hurt because of your victory, being right wasn’t right.

When you get the last word because your words have become weapons that have left someone battered and torn, you lose a little part of yourself in the winning.

When your argument has casualties, people who get pulled into the fray, damaged in your battle, bruised by your determination to prove a point, your point is lost because people will just remember how you made them feel, and not what you were so right about.

When people feel like they have to pick sides and things become so black and white that all the middle gray area, disappears, you have lost.

When your victory feels shallow and your triumph leaves you feeling empty, being right wasn’t right at all.

When you engage in battle over right and wrong, black and white, winning and losing, how do you FEEL?  When you make your point, are you focused on the issue or is your point just a dagger aimed at someone’s heart?  When you walk away from a conversation, do you feel good about what you have said or is there a part that you wish you could have back?  When you examine that part that you’d like to have back, how do you react?  Do you learn?  Do you apologize?  Do you use that weapon again?

The world is full of conflict and people and wars and battles.  In every conflict, there are two sides that believe they are right.  In every war, each side fights for the right-ness that they believe in.  How many winners do you really see in the bombed out remains of the battles big and small?  How many victors emerge without casualty?  What price do we pay for the privilege of being right?

What price do YOU pay?

What price would you pay if you chose kindness instead?  What would the spoils of victory look like if you didn’t win, didn’t defeat, didn’t end up on top?  What would your world look like if you made room for more than one right answer?

Next time you heat up for that argument, ask yourself what kindness would look like instead.

7/4/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters — Pay Attention!

In previous posts, I have encouraged you to make room for others on life’s narrow paths.  I have told you to lead by example and encouraged you to  try and fail and to not give up.  I have given you advice on relating to people and knowing when not to relate to people, when to speak up and when to be quiet.  But one of the things that I have missed is that we all need to PAY ATTENTION!!

I have told you to look  at the world and the people who are around and in front of you.   What I haven’t told you is that you need to notice the things and the people who aren’t there.  You need to learn to recognize the significance of absence.  Practice seeing the people who are crying out for help in their silence, in their apartness, in their NOT being on the path at all.

Sadly, it took a friend crying out on behalf of someone else for me to realize this.  And when she pointed it out, I realized with shock that I hadn’t even noticed that this person was missing.  How awful is that?  I have been so caught up in what is around me, concentrating on my reactions to people and situations and trying to make sense of the emotions that have cropped up because change is coming and departures are imminent.  I have been so focused on the obvious things that I haven’t even noticed the people who silently just went away.

Think about how you have felt when YOUR absence wasn’t noticed…when people stopped recognizing that you weren’t part of the group, when someone didn’t notice that you stopped trying, when someone didn’t reach out when you drew away.  How did you feel?  Now ask yourself how closely you pay attention to the silent comings and goings, the prolonged silences, the people who aren’t posting as much on Facebook, or who haven’t been to church in a while or who didn’t show up to a party that you attended.  What is going on with the people who aren’t there?  What are they going through that makes it easier to stay away?

We have all heard the expression, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” and it is very true.  It is sometimes so true that we treat the quiet wheel like it doesn’t exist at all.

Pay attention to silence.  Look for absence.  Seek out inactivity.  Pay attention.

7/2/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Be the Change

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Lately, I’ve seen so many examples of the youth leading the way.  You seem to have it figured out so much better than us “mature” adults….at least in some areas.

So today’s advice is to honor you and the wisdom that you have to offer the rest of us.

We live in a world of intolerance.  Kids your age don’t think that is ok.  You see the screaming adults on news channels and nasty campaign ads on TV and divisive rhetoric on the internet and you respond with head shakes (thanks for telling me what SMH means) and with tolerance.  The only thing you seem to be INtolerant of is… intolerance.  When a gay friend comes out publicly, youth respond with overwhelming kindness, support and love.  We all need to learn from that.  When you want the world to be more tolerant, bring tolerance to the world.

When you think the world has forgotten what friendship means, respond by showing the world what true friendship looks like.

When you think that people aren’t accepting of others, show the world what acceptance looks like.

When you think that Christians are giving Christianity a bad name, show the world what you believe it means to be a Christian.

Adults talk a lot of talk.  We complain and rant about what is wrong with the world, but we can’t seem to do much to change it.  We judge people for their judgmental-ness.  We pick sides.  We wag our tongues and whisper in corners.  We say one thing and demonstrate by our actions that we mean another.  If we want to change the world, we simply have to look at youth.

I know that none of this is perfect and that kids are bullied and can be incredibly mean sometimes.  But what I see more than that is a culture of acceptance.  I see kids reaching out to kids who have a different race, religion and sexual orientation.  I see them fight for the less fortunate and fight for the rights of others.  They show the world what it could be while we sit back and talk about it.

To all of us, follow the example of my beautiful daughters and the young people out there and be the change that you want to see in the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Just as I finished writing this blog, I got a message from a boy who recently came out publicly.  He was thanking me for supporting him even though I didn’t know him.  He heard about my Facebook status last night where I told the world that I was proud of the kids that supported him.  He made me cry.  I say this not to toot my own horn, but to reinforce the points that I have made here.  He told me that it wasn’t the support of his family and friends that meant so much because he KNEW he would get that.  What he didn’t expect was support from people who he didn’t know.  And he is getting that too.  Both of these things are remarkable…that we have come to a place where a young man can feel confident that he will be accepted by his friends and family is so different from what I have seen for previous generations.  But it is also striking that what he expected from the rest of the world was intolerance.  At least he has been pleasantly surprised.  The youth is indeed going to change the world.

6/12/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Zip your lip.

This is another post inspired by Pastor Becky and is related to this post about discernment.

There are times when I feel compelled to share the truth with someone.  My compulsion to share may not be at all related to the other person’s need or readiness to know.  When that happens, I am often quite surprised that the other person reacts so negatively.  I can accuse them of defensiveness or irrational reactions, or I may think they can’t face the truth, or that they don’t like me or my words just because I don’t agree with them.  In fact, often they are just reacting to my delivery, or my timing, or my lack of understanding about the whole picture.  Over time, I have learned to listen more, watch for queues and practice a soft delivery.  When I speak truth, I try to do it in a way that would be welcome to my ears if I was on the receiving end.  I am a work in progress, but I have gotten better.

I have learned that sometimes the best truth I can share is none.  Sometimes I just need to zip my lip.  There is a time and a place for truth.  Just because I believe it to be truth, doesn’t mean that I should share it.

So today, my advice to you is to learn to zip your lip.

Ask, Seek, Knock.

It is important to ask what is going on in someone’s life (understand the “truth” from a different perspective, or at least with additional color), seek perspective from their point of view, knock on the doors of their heart.  And if they open the door, if they invite you in, your truth will not only be more credible, but more welcome.

This will be frustrating.  You will mess up.  Sometimes you won’t ever get to say what is on your mind.  All of those things are ok.

What is important is that you always respect the place the other person comes from.  Recognize that your truth is not going to be their truth, and that nobody likes to hear that they need to be fixed.  Relationships are more important than your opinions…and you have to know that your “truth” is actually just your opinion and it is no more or no less important than someone else’s.

If you find yourself wondering why people don’t want to listen to you, why they don’t like what you have to say, and sometimes don’t like you, ask yourself, “Should I just zip my lip?”  I think you will find that more often than not, the answer may be yes.

And yes, I recognize that you may think  that I need to practice this one some more.  And you are probably right.  Maybe we can work on it together.

6/2/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Believe

Faith really can move mountains.

A little over two years ago, my dear friend Kristen was given unimaginable news.  She was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon cancer that had spread to her liver.  It is hard for me to even imagine how she and her family processed this news.  As her friends, we were shocked, scared, stunned really.

This is Kristen today:
image

Today, we celebrate her battle and her victory.  Friends and family joined her to walk in the area’s first 5K in support of colorectal cancer research and funding, “Get Your Rear in Gear”.  The team shirts say, “Rump Shakers – Never fear. We are here for Kristen’s rear.”

I don’t know how much you know about color cancer, but a stage IV diagnosis is about as bad of news as you can get.  To many, it is a death sentence.  But not Kristen.  I could tell you what the odds were.  Kristen doesn’t know this (until now) but I researched the odds.  I did what you aren’t supposed to do researched on the internet to try to determine her chances.  I cried my eyes out that day.  I was devastated.  I won’t mention the numbers I found because they didn’t mean anything to Kristen.  Numbers are just averages, and she isn’t average.  She was young, otherwise healthy and had the kind of faith that really can move a mountain.  She decided that she was going to kick cancer’s ass, and that is just what she did.  She had two MAJOR operations to remove the infected part of her colon and part of her liver, had setbacks with infection and healing, spent a combined several weeks in the hospital, and went through two separate rounds of chemo.   During that time, she never stopped smiling, never stopped believing.   The prevailing joke was that she made the whole “cancer” thing up for attention…that is how good she looked throughout.

She taught me that faith is everything.  Believing is everything.  The love and faith of family and friends is everything.  I’m no dummy.  I know there were times when she got discouraged and had doubts, but she had this massive contagious faith thing that she had spread to all the people around her.  That faith grew in all of us, and I hope there were times that our belief carried her when hers was feeling shaky.

Sometimes when things seem absolutely impossible, you just have to believe.  Believe in a truth that doesn’t make sense and defies conventional wisdom.  Believe in the faith that sustains you and believe that you can spread that faith around.  Miracles happen every day.  Not only is Kristen my hero, but she is a walking talking SMILING miracle, not just because she beat this terrible thing, but because she inspired us, made us believe, increased our faith…and that gift IS one of life’s miracles.
image

5/23/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Embrace the gray.

The world will try to convince you that things are black and white.  Us vs. Them, Democrat vs. Republican, Christian vs. Non-christian, Straight vs. Gay, Right vs. Wrong.  You get the idea.

The truth is that there is so much between the two extremes.  When we define people into polarized categories, we focus only on the differences, the blackness and the whiteness, instead of all the gray in between.  That gray represents the things we have in common.  It represents our humanity.

Black and white is easy.  Black and white means you don’t have to think for yourself, you don’t have to wrestle with issues or deal with the humanity all around you.  Picking sides means that you miss out. You miss out on the merits of the people on the other side of the issue, and you miss the great big gray.  The gray is where you learn.  It is where you find common ground with people you thought you had nothing in common with.  It is where you learn compassion for the human condition and all of the things that make black and white not work.

So embrace the gray, and all the uncertainty that comes with it.  Doing so will unlock a rainbow of color in your life.