It’s the same with people, too.

November 18, 2021

Pastor Freed used this quote in his post to his Jack’s Winning Words blog today – “When you look at a strange animal, that animal also thinks that a strange animal is looking at it.”  (Mehmet Murat ildan)

Did you ever wonder at the zoo what all of the animals that you walked around and looked at thought of you? Some may have seen you as potential prey and a tasty meal, which is frightening, but the majority of the animals that you encountered probably were either curious about you or a little frightened by you being there.

There is a similar experience on both sides of any encounter with other human beings. Most of us probably immediately notice any differences between them and us – maybe a different skin color or hair style and color, or maybe the way that they dress. If they speak to us, we note any differences in speech, such as accents. We are at the same time evaluating similarities and trying to find common ground between us; that is, if we are not so fixated upon the differences.

It is important to make an effort to not let immediate impressions dictate how we react upon meeting someone and to take control of our own appearance and mannerisms. Most people are not aware that their “at rest” mien (the face that you are wearing when you are not aware that you are wearing a face) can be very intimidating. It takes a conscious effort to smile and most of us don’t walk around making that effort. The result is usually an at rest face that may look angry or sad or anything but happy and inviting. Sometimes their reaction to your appearance will put them into a guarded mode, which makes it even harder to interact well enough to really get to know them.

So, what is one to do? You can start by adopting the old “innocent until proven otherwise” saw and assume that everyone that you encounter will be someone that you’d really like to get to know better. Some may not prove to be people that you’d want to be BFF’s with; but, you’ll still be better off for having made the effort to “see” them beyond your initial impressions. Unlike at the zoo, there is no little information placard for you to read to learn more about the person that you’ve just met. Taking the time to talk with them is the only way to learn more about them. And remember to smile.

Encountering people who are significantly different from you and your normal circle of friends should be seen as an exciting opportunity and not as a threat. It is through exploring and understanding different points of view and different sources of knowledge that we grow as human beings. You may realize that you’ve never event thought of some things the way that a different person sees them and that may change your perspective, or at least broaden it.

As you wander through this “zoo” that we all live in, take the time and make the effort to really understand those strange other people that you encounter, realizing that they, too, are trying to figure out the strange person in front of them. And remember to smile, you don’t want to scare the strangers off before they’ve even met you.

Hi, how are you?

Knowing when not to battle…

November 15, 2019

Jack used this quote today in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“Be selective of your battles, for sometimes peace is better than being right.”

That’s certainly good advice in politics and for life. How many of us have had to implement the old advice to “bite your tongue” or maybe to heed the advice that Archie often gave Edith in the Archie Bunker show to “stifle yourself”? Sometimes swallowing your pride or your need to be right about something is the better choice.

The use of the word “peace” in the quote is interesting. Obviously, it refers to being at peace with those with whom you might disagree. In the current political environment, one might substitute the word civility. Things would certainly be better in Washington if the politicians could find a way to act with civility towards those with whom they disagree.

Another aspect of the peace that the quote is alluding to is the ability of being at peace with your decision not to do battle just because you believe that you are right. The decision not to jump into battle over an issue requires that you pause long enough to consider the circumstances and the worth of doing battle. Is it worth possibly losing a friend? If you were to win this battle, does the other party have to lose? What possible benefit will accrue to you for having won this battle? What loss is there really in not doing battle? I think if we all stopped long enough to consider one or two or those kinds of questions there would be far less battling going on and more of us would be at peace with our decisions not to do battle over every disagreement.

The final aspect of the quote that bears some introspection is the final word – “right”. Right by what standard? Right based upon what proof? Right from what perspective? If one is “right” based upon unproven and unsupportable prejudices are they really right? If one is right, based upon” facts” that are not true are they really right? If being “right” is based solely upon ones opinion, rather than facts or proof, how right is it really? If I’m “right” must you be wrong; or, are we looking at things from two completely different perspectives? Can we both be “right” at the same time? Why not?

So, consider these thoughts today, as you encounter situations in which the impulse to do battle because you are “right” pops up. Try instead to be at peace with your decision not to waste your energy on skirmishes that really have little meaning or value in your life. That is not to say that you should be passive in all things. Rather, you should pick the battles that are really worth fighting because they involve things for which winning the battle will make a real difference in your life or the lives of others.

Have a peaceful day. It’s the “right” thing to do.

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.

You can’t walk the walk; but, do more than just talk the talk…

April 10, 2015

“There’s a simple trick for getting along with all kinds of people.  You climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  (Atticus Finch)  – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write – The Civil Rights Movement was stirred by more than the marches.  The novel, “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” also played a role.  Do you recall that the character Atticus from that book and movie helped his children see civil rights in a new way?

man in big shoesThere is another well-known saying – “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

While I agree with the underlying sentiment of both expressions, the reality is that none of us has the ability to truly put ourselves in someone else’s skin or shoes, so that we experience things from the same perspective. There have been attempts by whites in the past to understand the perspective of African-American, the first reportedly by journalist Ray Sprigle. In 1948 (from WikiPedia), Sprigle disguised himself as a black man and wrote a series of articles under the title, “I Was a Negro in the South for 30 Days“, which was published in many newspapers. In 1961 journalist John Howard Griffin published Black Like Me, a nonfiction book which describes his six-week experience travelling on Greyhound buses (occasionally hitchhiking) throughout the racially segregated states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia passing as a black man. Griffin kept a journal  of his experiences which became the material for the book and later the film. Griffin was a white native of Dallas, Texas and underwent treatments under a doctor’s supervision that turned his skin dark. His book was turned into a 1961 movie starring James Whitmore.

Both Sprigle and Griffin reported quite a bit of harassment over their articles and the book’s assessment of racism in exclusionAmerica at that time. One can perhaps make the leap through time to see that today we have greatly expanded the categories of people who are stereotyped and discriminated against in our society. African-Americans have been joined by other identifiable racial or ethnic groups who have migrated to American and who are “profiled” to use a modern term by the white segment of our society and many would say by the police and other authorities. Add to that list the whole GLBT category of people whose appearance may blend in, but who fail the “WHAT” test for the so-called moral majority. There is no way to get some Doctor to help you disguise yourself in enough ways such that you could, “climb into his skin and walk around in it” for each of these groups.

So, we really can’t put ourselves into the skin or shoes of another person. Most of us can’t truly understand what it’s like to be judged by what you are or what you look like rather than who you are. The people who make those judgments seldom take the time to get to know who you are, since they have already formed an opinion of you based upon what you are or what you look like. It is also interesting that those very groups who are being discriminated against many times develop stereotypes about their tormentors, which they then indiscriminately apply to all who share a similar appearance. not like meAfrican-Americans, many with more than enough reason from personal experiences; often have “white bread” stereotypes that they use as a broad-brush for all Caucasians that they encounter.  The GLBT community likely has some strong stereotypes about the “straight” community, as well. Unfortunately, all too many of the traits of these caricatures are based in observed behavior by all of the groups involved. We tend to hold onto the worst case scenarios that we observe and let the good that was also there fade in our memories.

The strength of those dueling stereotypes can make the establishment of true lines of communications difficult. Fortunately most of the groups have one thing in common that is both powerful and useful for getting passed the barriers that separate – faith. None of the stereotyped groups is shunned because they are atheists. In fact, many have very strong religious beliefs that were born out of the need for God’s help to get through the hardships of the discrimination.opinionated Some of the most virulent haters may thump their Bibles and claim that those they hate are Godless  or that “Their God” condemns the behavior that they don’t approve of; having put aside the most basic Commandment of all to love one another as they love their God. Pray for them for they have truly lost their way.

So, it is not surprising that often the churches that these groups belong to and the church leaders are often at the forefront of the efforts to promote understanding and acceptance between the groups. It is hard to continue turning the other cheek when you have been slapped upside both sides of your head, Tased and perhaps shot. It is hard to stay positive and motivated to work within “the system”, when the system has denied you the basic marital rights that you deserve. It is hard not to get angry when you are stopped and search every time you try to fly somewhere just because of where you or your parents came to America from. Put yourself in those shoes and you won’t be able to walk a mile before you are stopped and questioned about why you are walking through “their neighborhood”. You should, it will be pointed out, “go back to where you belong.” For all of these reasons, it is critical that the churches keep delivering the messages of forgiveness and love for your fellow men; and that they keep reaching out, no matter how many times their hand is rejected.

The church leaders who are preaching against hate and discrimination and for tolerance and love are just trying to show us all the way back to the core beliefs of our Faiths. There are more than a few examples in the Bible of Jesus and theWWJD Disciples reaching out to people who were not “like us”, not Jews; and even a few descriptions of Him going into their homes to share meals. Eventually, those who were ”not like us” became the majority of the believers, because they accepted the message of the Good News.

I have a feeling that our goal may not have to be to get all the way to understanding everything about the people in any of these groups; but, rather, to get rid of the hate that comes along with the stereotypes that we have adopted about them. I could walk 10 miles in the shoes of Snoop Dog and still not understand some of the stuff that he says or where he’s coming from; but, maybe I should stop worrying about that and focus instead in accepting him as a fellow man. I may never understand the attraction between two men (or two women) for each other, but I do understand the concept of the love that they can share and that’s enough for me.  To use a famous phrase from someone who had every right not to be in the mood to say them, “can’t we all just get along?”