Get up close and personal…

June 7, 2016

“It’s hard to hate up close.”  (James Comey, FBI Director)  – re-blogged from the Jack’s Winning Ways blog. Jack went on to write – Do you remember the song from The King and I?…“Getting to know you, Getting to know all about you.  Getting to feel free and easy When I am with you.”  Director Comey believes that police and citizens should have more face to face contact.  Studies show that most of us have a racial bias and use mental shortcuts when meeting “different” people.

Today’s blog title comes from the old ABC Sports coverage on TV, where they would get “Up close and personal” with various athletes that they were covering. It was a way of letting their audience know the life story behind the athlete – to get to know them.

I find Director Comey’s observations on prejudice and hate to be especially true. It is so easy to sit at home watching news events unfold on the evening news and to form criminalprejudicial thoughts about people that you see on the screen, especially people who are “different”. Sometimes when a story about a crime starts on the news I find myself having pre-conceived notions about what the perpetrator will look like if they show a picture later in the story. Many times I am wrong, but my own prejudices have taken over.

Perhaps we all allow something like that to happen in our lives. Maybe we see someone coming towards us and notice a tattoo or a nose ring or lip bead or maybe blue or purple hair; and, without any personal knowledge to go on about tatooed girlthat person, we form an opinion about that person; an opinion that prejudices our feelings about them without a word being spoken. Does something like that ever happen with you? You may pick your own set of visual cues.

Those instances in our lives are probably the times when we should try our hardest to put those prejudices behind us and get up close and personal with the person that we’ve just encountered. Life doesn’t always give us that opportunity; however, each encounter is an opportunity for you learn from and better control your own reactions.

Make it a practice to ask yourself after each unjustified negative reaction why you feel that way. Ask yourself what do you know about this person that would cause you to automatically fear or hate them? If the only thing that you come up with is that they look different and somehow menacing, then you have encountered prejudice within yourself and need to focus some time and prayer on resolving that personal flaw.talking-2

One of the better ways to work on prejudices that you may have is to take the ABC Sports approach and get up close and personal – take the time to really talk with and understand the other person – their background and point of view. Maybe it would help to star by saying to yourself that everyone you meet is someone’s child or parent, someone’s mate or friend, someone’s brother or sister, someone. Until you know who that someone really is, you really don’t know them well enough to form an opinion about them – to hate them or fear them.

Once you do that, you may find that Director Comey is right. It’s hard to hate someone
that you have met up close and personal. You are far more likely to have empathy with their life situation, or perhaps be ready to offer help, than you are to just hate them for different peoplewhat and who they are. In fact you may end up loving what or who they are and the free spirit within them that gives them the freedom to be “different.”

So, today, take the time to get up close and personal with someone that you may have avoided in the past or someone that you may have had a prejudicial reaction to when you first met. Understand them as a person. Listen to their story and see if you still feel the same about them now that you have gotten up close and personal. You may find that the opening quote is true – It’s hard to hate up close.

 

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Battling the enemies within…

October 21, 2015

Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer –  Sun Tzu

The attribution for that that little phrase is in some dispute. It is attributed by some to Sun Tzu in his book The Art of War and by some due to a bad translation of the letters of Machiavelli. Some even attribute it to the movie The Godfather. Wherever it’s from, I’d like to focus on a slightly different look at the enemy – the enemy within.

 “It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.”  (Sally Kempton)

In this little saying it is impossible not to keep the enemy close because the enemy is already in our heads, or at least has outposts there. What does that mean? Let’s assume for the moment that the enemies that you are trying to fight are prejudices or bigotry or any other pre-conceived notions about things that might lead you in a direction that you really don’t want to go.

How did the enemy, which rears its ugly head from time to time in your thoughts, get an outpost in your head?predjuices For most of us the answer lies in our childhood, in our homes and how we were raised. For those of us who are old enough to have lived through the racial ugliness of the mid-twentieth Century (or even earlier), you know that those outposts are there. They were planted by usage in the language of the time of derogatory terms that are politically incorrect today. But it wasn’t just the language. Also planted in those outposts were stereotypes, prejudices, and, in some cases, hatred. Knowing that they are there keeps one on high alert to not let those enemies escape the outpost and get out into your speech and your actions. These days there are new negative outposts being planted in our minds about such things as homophobia, stereotypes about recent immigrants or refugees, prejudices about religious preferences and more.

Other outposts which harbor our enemies within have other labels – fear, uncertainty, doubts, and anxiety. Many afraidof these outposts have names ending in phobia. Some phobia’s have such strong footholds in our minds that they can become debilitating. There are thousands of phobias that people might experience. According to the Web site www.fearof.net, the top 10 phobias for 2015 are these:

  1. Arachnophobia – The fear of spiders
  2. Ophidiophobia – The fear of snakes
  3. Acrophobia – The fear of heights
  4. Agoraphobia – The fear of open or crowded spaces
  5. Cynophobia – The fear of dogs
  6. Astraphobia – The fear of thunder and lightning
  7. Claustrophobia – The fear of small spaces
  8. Mysophobia – The fear of germs
  9. Aerophobia – The fear of flying
  10. Trypophobia – The fear of holes

There’s probably something on that list that you can relate to in your own life. I know that a couple make me squirm.

As debilitating as phobias can be the outposts in our minds that can lead us into depression are worse because they actually turn us against ourselves. We may have funny comedy skits about a phrase like “I’m not worthy”; but, that phrase, and the enemy outpost in the minds of many,  lead them to dark places. Feelings of being exclusionunloved, unwanted, unworthy can be as debilitating as any phobia. The writings of too many recent serial killers point to the enemies within those outposts taking over and leading the person to take actions that we cannot even fathom. From the outside we ask, “How could they do that?” From the inside the answer too often is, “I had to.” The enemy within took over from the outposts in their heads and made them outcasts in their own minds.

What can we do to help ourselves and others fight off or keep under control these enemies within? Logic and rational thought can only take us so far. I suggest that we keep our friends just as close by giving them outposts in our heads, too. Just as you can have negative or ugly outposts in your head as the result of exposure to teachings and events, you can plant the good things to balance your life out by embracing faith and givinghand reaching for heaven outposts to the teachings of the Bible. You can start small and simply by giving an outpost to the Ten Commandments. You can build an outpost for The Lord’s Prayer and raise the flag over another outpost for The Apostles Creed. Add to that outposts for the messages that you receive when you read the Bible or pray and soon you will find that the enemies that have outposts in your head will keep hunkered down in the holes where they live, because they cannot stand up to the light of the Son.

As I’ve mentioned here before in several posts, one of the most important steps that one can take is to let go of the need to feel in control of everything. The frustration and sense of defeat that comes from not being in control of events in your life can become overwhelming. Let it go. Use the simple little prayer that I’ve offered up here several times – “Not my will; but, thy will be done.” You aren’t giving up. You can praying in different religionskeep trying; but realize that any and all outcomes must be accepted. It’s not your fault. I guess that makes the acceptance of God’s will the ultimate No Fault Insurance policy. Blast that over the outposts of evil that may lurk in your mind and those thoughts will keep their heads down where they belong.

Have a great day and keep building good outposts in your head.


Don’t rush to judgement…

August 20, 2015

“We should not judge until we see clearly; and when we see clearly, we will not judge.”  (G.D. Gregg) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Detroit Prosecutor Kim Worthy went to great lengths recently to explain her decision not to prosecute a Federal Immigration Officer after he shot and killed a young black man during an arrest attempt. What she was trying to do was explain clearly the facts that had been gathered in the case and the conclusion that she came to concerning the shooting. Due to the number of recent incidents involving white police officers shooting black men during police actions, there was a considerable rush to judge this latest incident as just another case of the use of excessive force against those of color. People had been judging the case without clearly seeing the facts; so, Worthy made a lengthy and detailed explanation to explain her conclusions ad decision not to charge the Immigration Officer, who happened to be white.

opinionatedThis little saying has widespread applicability in our daily lives. Many of us, and I have to admit to being in this group from time to time, rush to judgments without clearly seeing all of the facts. Snap judgments are often based upon the use of stereotypes or prejudices – some preconceived notions that we have going into a situation. It is very difficult not to have some mental “pre-sets” in life and even more difficult to learn not to use them to render a quick (and most of the time incorrect) judgement of people or situations.

How many times have we all looked at someone who might have been dresses strangely or at least differently and made a snap decision about them? You might decide that they represent a danger to you or that they are to be ignored or avoided, because of how they look. Perhaps you just silently say “tsk, tsk” to yourself and wonder how they could have such poor taste in clothes, at least according to your different lookstandards. Perhaps they appear to be unkempt to you. These are all judgments that you might make before you even speak to them (if you speak to them at all). Have you had experiences where you ended up talking to them and discovering, to your surprise, that they turned out to be very interesting people? Do you remember how quickly your concerns about their appearance faded into the background, once you got to know them? Once you saw them more clearly were you still ready to judge them solely on their appearance?

Situations can also present the opportunity to pre-judge or rush to judgement, before we have all of the facts (or maybe any facts at all) to support those judgments. Confrontational situations almost always cause us to get on one side or the other without understanding all of the facts involved. Situations involving the unknown or possible dangers may provoke reactions or responses made without taking the time to see things clearly. We may avoid participating in an activity that turns out to be fun because of some preconceived notion of the risks or dangers involved.

The key word at work in the opening quote is “judge”. It is very hard to put off making a judgement about people judge thingsand situation until we have the time to collect and analyze the facts that should be driving that decision. We seem to have this need to respond; to answer the internal question, “What should I do?” Sometimes the best answer is to do nothing at the moment. Instead of “think fast” we should just think and try to get a clear picture of the situation or the person. Secondly, one must ask the question about the word judge – “By what or whose standards?” Taking that extra moment to think before you judge may help you see that the judgement you were about to make is based on prejudice or pre-conceived notions and not supported by the facts at hand. At least it may allow you to take the extra step of trying to see the picture more clearly, before you rush to a judgement. Most of the time the answer to the question “what don’t I know?” about this person or situation is more important and more interesting than what you think you know already.no judgement

Ultimately we can get to a state where making judgments is not something that we spend much time and energy
upon. Perhaps if we rushed to learn more about people, rather than rushing to judgments about them we’d have less fears and prejudices and more friends.

Have a great day and put off judging those whom you meet today. Try to make a friend before you form an opinion.