R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

December 13, 2016

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this post – “We don’t need to have the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful.”  (Taylor Swift)

Jack went on to also write – “Is anyone teaching manners these days?  I’ve read that how people treat others reveals how they feel about themselves.  How are you feeling today?  I like Taylor’s comment on the importance of being respectful.    😉  Jack

Aretha Franklin had a hit song about RESPECT and the Staple Singers had a hit called Respect Yourself. I suspect that what Jack was saying starts with the second song and then deals with the first one. You can’t respect others if you don’t respect yourself. Showing disrespect and contempt for the opinions of others is just inviting them to return the favor about your position on things.

debatersIn the current loud and fractious political environment in the United States, respect and good behavior seemed to have been trampled under the heavy boots of partisan politics. As the gulf has widened between the major political groups, they have lost the ability to even hear the other’s side of the story, much less respect the differences. Both sides seem to have reached the “my way or the highway” position on their opinions and disdain has replaced disrespect in the conversations. In fact the conversations themselves have devolved into shouting matches.

One doesn’t have to look far below the surface of the shouting and apparent anger to see that the root cause – fear. The hints are actually in the phrases that are used on both sides, like “take back our country” on one side and “continue the fight forwinner-loser social, racial and economic justice” on the other. One side fears that “those people” are taking things away from us; while the other side fears that “those people” are preventing us from having equal opportunity. Both sides fear the other and see the other side’s success as taking something away from their side. Both sides view the world as a zero-sum game in which the outcome must be a winner and a loser. The position taken by both sides is “I’m right and you’re wrong”. There is no respect in this game.

There has always been a difference of opinion and approach to matters between the so-hands-across-the-gapcalled conservative and liberal factions within government. In days long gone the crack that divided the two groups was just that – a crack. It was a gap in thinking and approach to government that could be easily bridged or crossed. There were many politicians on both sides who crossed back and forth on issues, based on what they perceived to be for the good of the county. Due in many ways to the recent (relatively speaking) focus on social issues by our politicians, that crack or gap has now widened into a chasm which politicians on either side find to be too politically dangerous to cross. So they stand on bridging-the-chasmeach side of the divide hurling insults at each other across the chasm. No attempt is even made to build bridges between the opposing ideologies. They totally lack respect for each other.

There is little hope that the strident politicians that occupy the banks of the current political chasm will find a way to bridge that gap. In fact, they do not see any political advantage to trying to build that bridge. They find comfort in joining in on the shouting from their side of the chasm and encouraging even more strident views. They have become “US” and they have no respect for “THEM”.

What is the solution? Perhaps it is not to try to bridge the chasm, but rather to jump into it and build a new, third party from the bottom of that pit that can represent a way of governing without such rancor. There are many historic precedents in international politics for the creation of more moderate and centrist political parties. Instead of standing on the sides of the chasm and yelling that “government is too big” or “government is not doing enough”; perhaps this new party could focus more on what government can do to better serve the people that it governs. Instead of being focused upon the “haves” and the “have-nots”, this new party could focus on the needs. Maybe we do need to spend more time and money fixing what needs fixing here at home, but we must always be concerned about the wrongs that are occurring elsewhere in the world and new-way-forwardhelping where we can to make them right. This new party could start by showing respect to the people and the real problems at hand.

Rather than fighting a rear-guard battle against change to the world as we knew it; maybe we need to embrace a new world and a new political party that is more diverse in every way than has been the case in the past. We can’t go back; but, we can do better going forward. Let’s show some respect for the real issues and the solutions. It’s just a thought.

In the meantime, maybe we can all go back to kindergarten and re-learn what they tried to teach us there about RESPECT.


Get help – give help…

December 12, 2016

“All of us, at certain moments of our lives, need to take advice and to receive help from other people.”  (Alexis Carrel)

Of course that little quote came from the Jack’s Winning Words blog that I get 5 times a week. Jack went on to write – Sometimes the advisers suggest “consult a pastor.”  There truly are problem situations out there in the real world.  Fortunate are those people who have someone “to lean on.”    😉  Jack

Jack is the retired pastor of the church that I attend and I’m sure many people have found him to be a comforting pillar to lean on over the years. I have always found Jack’s calm, yet warm, presence and reassuring words to be a comforting touchstone to which I could look for reassurance that things would be alright if I continued to put my trust in God.

Asking for help or advice for others is hard for some people. They were probably told not tohelping-2 be a cry-baby when they were growing up and to “suck it up” and face things themselves. They may be embarrassed to be in a position to need help. Many want help, but just don’t know how to ask for the help they need. There are also people who seem to decline help of any sort from anyone. They push away those who are seeking to help them or stubbornly refuse to ask for the help they need, even in the face of certain failure. Of course there are also people who are so blissfully ignorant of their situation that they don’t realize that they need help.

We live in an interconnected world and it is important to realize that our problems do not occur in a vacuum, nor will the solutions to those problems be found in a vacuum. Problems may be caused by, or may impact, others around us. We are not alone in thishelp-me problem space and we may be able to get advice or help from others, based upon their experience with the same problems. It is also important to share our problems with loved ones, so that they understand what may be causing us to act as we are and not think that they are the cause of those actions.

In Jack’s post, he mentioned a couple of the advice columnists in our local paper and, certainly, that is one way to seek advice. A quicker way is to turn to those around you that you know and trust and just ask, “if this happened to you, how would you handle it?” For those problems that are too big or too embarrassing to discuss with casual friends, one may need to turn to trusted sources, often a relative or very close friend and sometimes a pastor, priest, rabbi or imam. Keeping problems that are gnawing at you inside just makes them seem bigger and scarier. The key is to get it out there and ask for their advice or help.

Sometimes, just summoning up the courage to share your problem with a trusted friend is being kind 1enough to release the pressure that had been building up inside of you. Even if that friend doesn’t have a whole lot of advice to give you, the fact that you got it out there and found a way to verbalize what has been bothering you many time allows you to take a whole new look at the problem yourself. You may realize that what you thought was the problem wasn’t what was causing all of the anxiety or concern, so much as how you were reacting to the problem. Stating the problem clearly also may allow you to take the step of saying to yourself, “So what?”

Years ago I wrote a post here about being able to say “So what” to life’s problems. That post was based upon some advice that I had received from a friend and neighbor, John Hussy. John often used the phrase “So what” when dealing with many of life’s issues and he advised me to stop and look at things the same way. If you can look at what has happenedso-what or what may happen and say, “So what? Did (or will it) it kill me?” Then you can put the problems into perspective. So what if I got turned down for the date or that new job. So what if I had a meltdown in public or at work? So what if I’m not in the “in crowd” at school or at work? So what if some people see me as “different” and don’t understand or accept me? Did any of those things kill me? If not, then why am I letting them dictate my life now? You may realize that it is not the perceived problem that is causing you the pain; but, rather your reaction to it. It’s time to say “So what” and move on. You’ve got better things to do with your life than worry about those “So what” problems.

The take away here is not to keep things bottled up. Seek help or advice from others. Then listen to their advice and sort through what makes sense to you to try or accept their help and get on with the task. Many times the path to a solution will become apparent just because you had to explain to someone else (and in the process to yourself) what you woman-prayingperceive the problem to be. Don’t forget God in your search for help, since talking to Him is often the best way to resolve things. I have written several times here about the calming and healing effect of the simple prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done.” Try it some time. Give God your problem. You may discover that giant weight is removed from your mind after saying that little prayer and believing that it will happen.

Learning how to seek and accept help is just part of learning how to live in our interconnected society. Another part is learning how to give help to those who reach out to us. So many times we get off on the wrong foot by starting out with some statement like, “I know how you feel”. No you don’t, so don’t just say that and expect a good reaction. It is better to say, “I don’t know how you feel, but I accept that you are in pain; how can I help.”

Acceptance is the foundation to being a good source of help. Start with the mentality thatlisten says I accept you as you are, not like I would like you to be. Then ask them to share the source of their pain and listen (don’t talk). Being a good listener is the key to being a good helper. Sometimes you will hear things that the speaker doesn’t even realize that they are saying. It may be in how things are phrased or emphasized that gives you the clue to the real root of their problem. It’s hard to listen that intently if you are talking or thinking about what you will say next.

Another key to being a good advice giver is not to offer advice only within the context of opinionatedyour own life experiences. If your advice starts with, “Well, if it was me, I’d…” it is likely to be ignored. It’s not you and the person who you are trying to help isn’t going to react as you think you might. If you start off with, “Wow, I can’t imagine how that must feel”; but maybe here are some things you might try; at least you’ve gotten off on a better foot.

Having the ability to be a good listener and offering good advice only works for the other person if they perceive that you are willing to help. It’s hard enough for them to ask for help, much less trying to seek that help from someone that they perceive to be self-centered, aloof or uncaring. Being perceived by others to be a caring and open person, withhandshake whom they can discuss things, takes work. It means greeting others as if you are happy to see them and are interested in their lives. It means asking about then before telling them about things in your life. It means listening when they talk, instead of focusing upon what you want to say next. It means picking up on what they are saying and how they are saying it and asking follow-up questions. It means opening up your shell and dropping your shields first, so that they feel comfortable doing the same with you.

Being there to share their pains and to give help or advice is not for everyone and not for every situation or person that you may encounter, but it is critical for those in your life with whom you share bonds of love or true friendship. There is no greater calling or responsibility than to become a trusted adviser to your friend or loved one. Treat the role with the respect that it deserves.

praying-togetherSometimes the little prayer that I referenced above is a good way to bring both of you to a humble, open starting point from which to honestly discuss a solution to the problem. Nothing exposes your own vulnerability and honest concern for them more than asking the other person, “Will you pray with me?” If they cannot or will not respond positively to that request, then perhaps they are not yet ready to accept your help.

So, my friends, as we venture into a new week ahead; don’t be afraid to seek the help you need and be ready and open to give the help that you can to others. In either role, never be afraid to bring the power of God into the conversation. That may be the best advice of all.


Human Rights Day

December 10, 2016

Today (Dec 10) is International Human Rights Day. From the International Human Rightsworld-human-rights-day Day site, here is a little background –

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to  observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.

This year, Human Rights Day calls on everyone to stand up for someone’s rights! Disrespect for basic human rights continues to be wide-spread in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears. Humane values are under attack.

We must reaffirm our common humanity. Wherever we are, we can make a real difference. In the street, in school, at work, in public transport; in the voting booth, on social media.

The concept of human rights often gets misinterpreted, because it is often misunderstood.

According to the International Human Rights Day site –

digity-and-justiseRights are often considered fundamental to civilization, being regarded as established pillars of society and culture, and the history of social conflicts can be found in the history of each right and its development. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “rights structure the form of governments, the content of laws, and the shape of morality as it is currently perceived.”

From the Wikipedia site comes this definition of Human Rights –

Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory. Rights are of essential importance in such disciplines as law and ethics, especially theories of justice and deontology.

So, rights are not intrinsic to human life, but exist because as humans we feel the need to define how we expect (or hope) to live and how we expect to interact with others within a society. They are really expectations that we codify into laws.

Do you actually know what your “rights” are within the society that you live? Few of us do. Here are links to some of the “rights” that various levels of societies have declared.

The United Nations has declared a set of Internationals Human Rights, which the United States as a member is supposed to follow. Your right as defined by the U.N. are defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In addition, at the most fundamental level of rights as a U.S. citizen, the Constitution’s Bill of Rights defines a basic set of rights that we all enjoy.

The concept of U.S. Law includes the definition of additional rights under various laws that are passed by our governmental bodies at all levels. Most of these are lumped under the umbrella term Civil Rights. Civil Rights exist at both the national and local level. Example may be found at http://civilrights.findlaw.com/ and for Michigan at http://www.michigan.gov/mdcr/0,4613,7-138-69583—,00.html.

All of these “rights” are things that we grant each other as members of the societies that we live in. These rights help set our expectations for how things will work and what things we can count upon; however, even the most basic of these rights are not guaranteed, unless the system of government that we happen to be under at the moment agrees toslave-chains-broken extend them to us. In the world in which we live, slavery and human trafficking still exist in almost every country on earth. Poverty exists and robs people of their rights. A lack of health care (affordable or otherwise) still robs people of their health and well-being. People are still being killed for their religious beliefs and people are being shunned for their lifestyles. Racism and prejudices continue to hold sway over opportunity and access to jobs, housing and other basic needs/rights.

To truly understand and appreciate the societal nature of what we calls our “rights”, one could watch an episode or two of the TV Reality show Alone. One can make the argument that the person depicted in that show has all of the same “rights” there in the wilderness that he has back in society; however, the society is not there with him to provide for those rights. He can stand there all day shouting that he has a basic human right to certain things, but it will do him no good.

So, we have “rights” because others in society that we live in agree to extend to us those every-human-has-rightsrights. The same society that grants us those rights usually imposes some restrictions or rules on the exercise of those rights and in many cases agree to pay (usually in the form of taxes) to make sure that they and you can exercise those rights. It has become somewhat normal to hear people claiming all sorts of “rights”, when in reality they are talking about needs or desires. Needs and even desires may eventually turn into “rights” if enough people in the society agree that everyone should have them and give the extension of those needs or desires the weight of law. That is especially true in those things that we classify as our civil rights.

Today, we celebrate the progress that mankind and our societies have achieved in recognizing and agreeing upon the many “rights” that we enjoy. None of those rights should be taken for granted, because none of them are guaranteed by anything more than the will of the majority in our society. All must be defended or they might be lost. Vigilance must also be kept to insure that the rules governing the extensionstand-up-for-rightson of those rights do not become so onerous as to render the rights moot.

Care must also be taken to insure that the rights of minorities in our society are not trampled upon by the majority. There is no group in our society, whether ethic, or racial or
gender or political or as measured by any other metric, that is not in some way a minority; when viewed from the perspective of the total of all people not in their group. The power of temporary associations of groups to make up a majority is fleeting, as is any power to extend rights or change our rights or the rules that govern them. That power must be used wisely, lest members of the majority on one “right” find themselves in the minority on another “right”. It is in our best self-interests overall to be kind and sensitive and human-rights-day-dec-10inclusive as we extend rights and the rules that govern them.

So, go read about our human rights as citizens of the world and our rights as citizens of a country and a state. Celebrate the fact that we have evolved enough as a human race to understand the need to extend these basic rights to all of our citizens. Be glad that you are not Alone. You have rights. Celebrate!


After the tears…

December 8, 2016

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog featured this quote – “I like walking in the rain, because nobody can see my tears.”  (Charlie Chaplin) Most people did not know about the great anguish that Charlie Chapman had during his life. Chaplin’s life was far removed from the funny little tramp that he played on the screen.

Jack also wrote – Billy Graham has said that he often prays to God with tears in his eyes. God understands crying, as did Leonardo da Vinci  who said – “Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.” 

crying-1Sometimes having a good cry is the best immediate response to something that has happened in our lives, both sad and happy things. Letting go for that moment and allowing yourself to weep provides a needed release from the unnatural control that we are all taught as we grow up. That same need for self-control also dulls the joy that we might otherwise feel from good things in our life. As Golda Meir once said – “Those who do not know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.”

Still, eventually life must go on, and as C.S. Lewis said, “Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” After the tears of pain or sorrow or even joy, one must put the cause of thatremorseful torment of tears into perspective within their life. Tears caused by pain, loss or sorrow most often involved another person and our memories of them. Perhaps the pain was caused by a snub or by bullying or by someone making a harsh or unfeeling remark to your or about you. In any case, life goes on and you must, too. “There is an ancient tribal proverb I once heard in India. It says that before we can see properly we must first shed our tears to clear the way.”  –  Libba Bray

So, what comes after the tears? I love this quote from Steve Maraboli – “Cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness.” There is forgivealmost always something or someone to forgive, even if you realize that it is yourself. I have witnessed people crying in anger at a deceased life partner because they felt like they left them here alone. They later have to forgive themselves for that selfish display. Perhaps the term forgive should include the thought of healing, too.

Certainly there is always something to learn from any event that causes us to come to tears – both good and bad – and we will be forever changed by that addition to our knowledge base. The memories of a lost loved one always influence our own future decisions.

The final step to take is to move on. Life goes on and so must you. It may be harder now, at least for now; but you have shed the tears that have watered your future and now it is timecivil-war-tear-catcher to make the best of that future.

Going back to Biblical times, in some cultures (ours included in the 19th century during the Victorian Era) tear catchers called LACHRYMOSA or LACHRYMATORY were devices for capturing tears of sadness and loss and saving them. Often the tears that were captured would be used in small vases into which a single flower might be placed at grave sites of the lost loved one. It was a ritualistic way to end the tears and bring a sense of closure to the cause of those tears by using them to honor the lost loved one at their grave site. Life could then move on.

Have faith that God sees your anguish and hears your cries. Psalm 56 says,

“You keep track of all my sorrows.

You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book.”

rainbowSo, go ahead and have that good cry;  whether it be in sadness or in joy, forgive and then realize in the words of John Vance Cheney that – “The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.” Find the rainbow after the tears and move on. God will keep track of those tears for you and makes the rainbow to show you the way forward.


Don’t try to understand and don’t judge, just be there…

December 6, 2016

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”  (Harper Lee) – as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I’m not sure I agree with how Harper Lee phrased this quote. I might have said it this way – “You can never really understand a person; but, you can consider things from his point of view.” I’ve made a couple of posts recently about what I called the “frame of reference” through which someone with autism or depression might view life.

The posts referred to in my posts were based upon articles written by people two who view their own lives through those frames of reference. They both wrote “What does it feel arrogantlike..” posts to blogs. My point in both was that it is very difficult, and perhaps even a little disingenuous, to say things like “I know how you feel” or even “I can imagine how you must feel” to someone suffering through bad days with either of those conditions. They may mutter something like, “thanks for being understanding”, while all the while thinking, “No, you don’t understand at all.”

Rather than end up making some lame, condescending effort to understand that person, perhaps you could spend some time considering what is driving them to act and react in the ways that they are. You could try to look at the events that they are reacting to from the point of view of being in pain, or torment; of being frightened and confused; of feeling alone and helpless; of seeing no way out of your situation and having no hope. How do you think you would feel and act, if all of those emotions and feelings came crashing down on you at the same time? Then up walks Mr. or Ms. Dogooder and puts their arm around you and says, “I know how you feel”.

So what do you think you would do? Perhaps you see yourself drawing away or lashing out. Maybe you think that you would panic and run. It could be that you would fall into their arms and sob uncontrollably or maybe push them away and loudly proclaim that you don’t need their help or their pity. If you can imagine any of those responses for yourself; why are you so surprised when they might happen to you when you were “just trying to help”?

handshakeThe support that you might imagine yourself needing does not come from pity or from some false sense of “understanding” how you feel. Rather it comes from them accepting you as you are and offering to help in any way they can. It comes from admitting that, “I have no idea how you feel; but, I’m here to help you find and get to a better place, if that is what you want.” Sometimes the best thing that you can do is just to be there, to listen and to support, not to judge or feel that you must intervene. Sometimes what people need is just a friend to talk to and not a savior (they already have one of those).

One of the hardest things to do is to stop judging people who need your support. What they do is not right or wrong it is just different; and that difference itself is just a valueno judgement judgement that you make based upon what you think you might have done. Making those right or wrong judgments is in no way helpful and actually gets in the way of you providing the support that is really needed.

Another hard thing is to stick with it. Providing the support needed that people with any number of conditions that make them a little different is not a short term thing. These are not usually things that they can just “snap out of” or “get better”; rather they are conditions with which they will live for their entire lives. So, you cannot expect to fly into their lives, work some magic to make it all better and fly out. Long term understanding and support are what is needed.

Perhaps the point of view that you need to adopt is one of an accepting and understandinghugging-bears friend who is ready to be there when needed and to back off when necessary; ready to lend a shoulder to cry on, without pity; and ready to listen when they talk without judging. Be the person that you imagine that you would need if you were experiencing life as they are living it. Don’t worry about understanding them; you won’t ever; so, don’t judge, just be there for them.

Have a great and non-judgmental rest of your week.


Stretch your mind and grow as a person…

December 2, 2016

Recently Jack Freed posted this quote to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words – “A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”  (O.W. Holmes Jr)

Jack went on to write – Dr Robert Cooper, a neuroscientist, says that we only use 10% of our brains.  We have programed ourselves not to stretch into new thinking.  “We’ve always done it this way!”  But, a willingness to explore new ways can open us to limitless ideas.  Have you had an “aha!” moment?  (Now, I get it it!) 

I belong to several local community organizations and serve on the boards of some. One of the things that I hear very often when something new is proposed in board meetings is the phrase. “We’ve always done it that way.” Usually this is in defense of resisting any change or anything that no-changeis new and different. In fact it is often used preemptively, before the idea is even discussed to try to shut down new ideas or suggestions of change before they even get a hearing. If can be very frustrating, especially if I believe that the changes or new idea are necessary to keep the group viable in the community.

Many small, volunteer community organizations (and even churches) die out because they resist all efforts to make changes that would keep them relevant to the changes in society within which they exist. Small, traditional churches seem to be having the most trouble staying alive in today’s highly secular environment. Many small local groups have particular trouble making the changes that will keep them relevant within their local community. The trouble is that the “we’ve always done things this way” mentality prevails over most suggestions for change or trying new things. Hopefully that is about to change, due to them having “Aha” moments before it’s too late. If not, those organizations will slowly disappear from our communities, although few may even notice.

At a personal level, we all need to challenge ourselves to expand our thinking and our experiences and to continuing growing as people. One of my dad’s favorite sayings was “Go with what you know.” My wife and I often use that when considering where to go out for dinner on weekends. It is so much easier to choose from our short list of well-known local favorites that to be adventuresome and try a new restaurant. Yet, when we reflect on it, all of the great places that we like to go now were once in the unknown category and it is only through trying something new that we “discovered” them.

comfort-zoneIn life in general the same thing is true. If you never get out of your comfort zone and venture into new relationships with people, you may never meet the person that becomes your BFF or even your life partner. If you shun those who are not like you, you will never get to understand their point of view on things and miss out on the new colors that they could add to the pallet of colors through which you see and experience life. You will never have that “Aha” moment when you understand why they do or say the things that they do, because of their completely different frame of reference for life. If you just go with what you know and who you know, life can become very boring indeed.

Many people find safety and comfort in the sameness of never venturing into the unknown experience or meeting the unknown person; however, even they must admit to themselves that those carefree risk takers who always seem to be meeting other people and doing new things appear goth-personto be having a better time than those pressed back against the walls in fear of trying anything new.

So, take a chance. Say hello to that person with tattoos and a nose ring and purple hair. Engage them in conversation and find out more about them. They are, after all someone’s son or daughter, someone’s boy or girl friend, maybe even someone’s wife or mother. They have opinions and feelings and life experiences that may be different from yours and maybe you’ll expand your mind by trying to understand those things. You may even find that you share a lot of common ground, too.

Instead of turning away from the LBGTQI person that you encounter, engagement them in lbgtqi-symbolconversation. They won’t bite you and standing there talking with them is not going to give you some horrible disease. Being open to them doesn’t mean that you are joining or even agreeing with whatever movement or lifestyle they are pursuing; it just means that you accept that there are differences and hopefully that you welcome the opportunity to try to see things from their different perspective.

So stretch your mind and grow. Try something different. Eat somewhere different. Meet someone who is different. Think differently. Grow and you won’t want to go back.

Before you go with what you know; grow with what you don’t know.