Be brave, choose the third alternative…

September 22, 2022

Today Pastor Freed used this quote ion his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“Fear makes cowards of us all.”  (Shakespeare)

That brought to my mind the common statement that when faced with danger (something that we fear) the response alternatives are most often fight or flight. Yet, there is a third alternative that we perhaps too seldom choose – seek to understand. Be brave.

It is fear that provokes racist or homophobic responses in people when they meet someone who looks or acts different from them.  That fear is driven more by ignorance than by any real threat. Both of the alternatives of fight or flight are reactions born of cowardness and both are failures. Only by facing the unknown danger and trying to understand it can we learn from the situation and grow as human beings. Be brave.

You may not be able to control the wave of fear that washes over you when meeting someone who is different looking, perhaps even scary or threatening looking. That fear is fear of the unknown. The real choice that you face is taking action to avoid the perceived danger by flight, or even by fight, or regaining control of yourself and trying to understand the person or situation that you are facing. Be brave.

By trying the third alternative you are trying to understand two things – what is it that is causing the fear reaction in you and what, if any, is the real threat posed by this person or this situation? If you perceive that the treat is real, the flight response is almost always the safest way to proceed, rather than making things worse by choosing to fight. In any event, stopping to ask yourself why you reacted out of fear to the person, or the situation, will let you examine the premise upon which that fear was based. Prejudices are ugly things that are easy to recognize even within yourself; yet, still difficult to deal with. Be brave.

Acquiescence or going along to get along, especially in the face of prejudices like racism and homophobia, is an insidious form of cowardness. Staying silent is a form of agreement with the racists or homophobes with whom may associate and makes you an accomplice to their prejudiced behavior. Remaining silent when you witness such behavior never makes you feel better about yourself later. Speak up. Be brave.

So, resolve today that rather than continuing to limit yourself to only the two responses to the perceived threats that life brings your way – fight or flight – you will instead remain calm and seek to better understand both your own response and what real danger, of any, there is in the situation. Knee-jerk reactions driven by prejudices are just Jerk reactions. Be brave and choose the third alternative.

Who will you be tomorrow?

September 15, 2022

If you start out each day with the thought in mind from this graphic, perhaps you will be a better person both tomorrow and today.

Too often we do not put enough (if any) thought into our actions and reactions as the day progresses. Sometimes we act or react out of unfounded fears. Sometimes it is preconceived notions or prejudices that dictate our behavior. Maybe wed just go along with the crowd or “go along to get along”. If we rally stopped to think about situations as they occur, might we act differently? That is especially true when our actions or reactions are driven by prejudices.

 It is hard to constantly be aware that you are making decisions on how to act and to examine those decisions in real-time before acting or reacting. Most often you may reflect later upon a decision and realize that it was poorly made without any basis in fact. At least having that realization is a step in the right direction – the direction of trying to think and consider your action/reaction before you act in the next similar situation.

I have opined here a few times that I use a little prayer quite often, especially when I have one of those “after the fact” moments of realization that I’ve reacted poorly to something or someone – “Lord help me make good decisions today”. If nothing else, it puts me on notice to be more thoughtful before I make a decision or judgement and act. Try it.

So the real lesson out of today’s graphic is that what you will be tomorrow is in your control and is based upon the thoughtful decisions that you make today. Maybe instead of using the Nike ad advice to “Just Do It”, we would all be better served by the motto first used in 1911 by Thomas J. Watson of IBM – THINK.

Remember that what you become tomorrow begins with what you do today. Think about it before you just do it.

When NOT to see or hear…

October 8, 2021

I saved this quote from the Jack’s Winning Words blog because it seemed to be good advice for life – “If thou be a master, be sometimes blind; if a servant, sometimes deaf.”  (Thomas Fuller) 

As I thought about it, one can substitute the word employer for master and employee for servant and it makes sense in the modern world. It also makes sense when discussing marriages (substitute the words husband and wife on either end as appropriate).

It also brought to mind another quote that I saved from Jack’s blog – “Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.”  (Unknown)

There are many times in life when the wisest course of action (or reaction) during the events of the day is to overlook something or pretend that you didn’t hear something. That can be true in the workplace or with friends. It is especially true in marriages. One of the more subtle but damaging forms of domestic abuse occurs if one of the spouses is always critical of the other. Marriage is a partnership, not a master/servant relationship. As such the partners need to find ways to be supportive of each other and not critical.

In all cases, it is always better to stop and think before speaking (recall the old saw – engage your brain before starting your mouth). And, since you can’t un-hear something that might have been said to you, at least stop and think before you reply or even consider if you need to reply at all.

So whatever role you are in, heed Fuller’s advice and be willing to sometime overlook some things or pretend not to hear some things. Maybe saying that little prayer each morning asking the Lord for help with you mouth will help. If it at least makes you stop and think, before blurting out something that you’ll regret later it is a good thing.

Have a great weekend reflecting on the things that you didn’t say or hear. Be sure to thank God for giving you a hand (over your mouth).

You get what you reach for…

March 10, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, pastor Freed used this quote – “My life is part roses, part thorns.”  (Bret Michaels)

That’s a pretty simple thought and one that everyone can probably say about their own life. We all encounter adversities (thorns) in life and most of us can probably also point to beautiful moments (the roses) in our lives. A good number of us probably spent much of our lives focused upon doing things to avoid the thorns – to reduce the risks that we may encounter. A few spend their lives so focused upon the good things in life that they may become classified as Pollyannas.

Things that happen in our lives are often the result of actions that we consciously took – what we reached for in life – and not just happenstance. It might seem like a decision that turned our bad was made without thought, but that is seldom really the case. That decision may have been made out of a lack of concern for the consequences or perhaps was made based upon pre-conceived notions or prejudices; but there was some thought put into it, albeit not good thoughts.

You can take control of your life if you start by understanding that you will encounter thorns. These are usually things that you cannot control. All that you can control is how you react to them. If you reach out and grab the thorns they will hurt you. If you are cautious and careful you may be able to get through the situation without pain and maybe even be able to find the rose at the end of that thorny stem.

That is why it is so much better to stop and think about what you are about to do than to stop later and ask why you just did that. There are no take-backs in life, no do-overs; but there can be, “Wait, What, Why”, moments that can save you embarrassment or worse later.

Stopping to think about something before you react does not mean becoming paralyzed by indecision. Self-control is just a part of good decision making. Recognizing the risks and possible outcomes is another part. The final part is applying the moral compass that otherwise guides your life to the situation at hand. Hopefully that involves doing the right thing and not just the convenient or self-serving thing. That is where your faith comes into play. That is the WWJD input into your decisions.

All of this can take place in a split second. There are few real “no-brainer” moments in life; however there are many “I didn’t think” moments that we can all look back upon.

We get what we reach for. Think about it.

So, think already…

August 13, 2020

Today’s installment of the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote from Dr. Seuss –“Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.” 

God gave mankind a brain to do things other than just space our ears apart. It is supposed to be used before acting or speaking. Yet we constantly hear from people who have just done or said something stupid, “I didn’t think.” Entire entertainment shows, like Jackass and America’s Funniest Videos are based upon people doing things without giving it the necessary thought before they act. Much of what we find offensive in the words of others is probably caused by them not thinking before they spoke. Many times we would like to believe that they are not that insensitive or ignorant and that what they said doesn’t represent what they really think. If it does, then we should think about not associating with them.

People who blurt out some knee-jerk racial remark in response to news stories of a black live matter rally or maybe a story concerning some LBGTQ couple are allowing their pre-conceptions to take over the role that their brain should have. Their “thought process” usually starts with “All those (place whatever group is being denigrated here) are the same and that means, or justifies why, I don’t like them or fear them. They have left their brains in park and driven off to a conclusion riding on their prejudices.

Dr. Seuss was trying to point out what how much more interesting our lives could be if we just used our brains to think. Just think how many interesting people you might meet, if only you thought instead of letting your prejudices take over. Or, maybe how many wonderful adventures and experiences you might have if you were not constrained by unfounded fears. There is certainly nothing wrong with thinking about and considering any risks that may be involved in anything that you are considering doping. However, it is paralyzing to let your imagination run wild and to conjure up an improbable list of reasons why you should not even try. Thinking doesn’t have to stop you from doing things or meeting people, it just better prepares you for dealing with the unknown alternatives.

So do as Dr. Seuss advised and think left and right, high and low; don’t let thinking stop you, but think as you go.

So, think already…

If only I hadn’t…

July 27, 2018

Those are some sad words to begin your thoughts about something or someone. Somesorry 3 advice from today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog are well worth considering –

“Before you speak, listen.  Before you write, think.  Before you invest, investigate.  Before you criticize, wait.”  (Unknown)

judge thingsI might add, “Before you judge…” I’ll let you fill in the words that should follow that opening phrase. There’s the old Biblical saw from Matthew 7 – “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” It is the rush to judgement that provides the foundation of prejudices and fears.

In today’s social media world, one could add, “Before you post, pause” or maybe “Before facebook share buttonyou Tweet, reconsider.” The same is true of sending emails or text messages or posting to Instagram. Everything is retained somewhere these days and lots and lots of trials and media stories revolve around the content of those electronic posts that people seem to send off without regard to their future use or misuse.

So, it is good advice to take the time to think about what one is saying or writing or boredposting before opening one opens one’s mouth or before hitting the send/post button. In interpersonal settings, the advice should probably be to listen more than you talk and to carefully choose your words, if you feel the need to express an opinion or to react to something that someone else has said. I recall the quote –

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Unknown

You might not be thought to be a fool, perhaps shy, quiet or somewhat withdrawn; but, jerkany of those is better than becoming well known as a prejudiced bigot. It is better to be considered to be somewhat of an enigma than to be well known as a jerk or an idiot.

I was going to write more about the topic of applying this advice to discussions about politics; but then I took the advice from above, stopped and thought. Enough said and written.

If you are reading this, I decided to hit the post button. If only I hadn’t…

Well shut my mouth…

March 22, 2016

“An open mind and a closed mouth work better than the opposites.”  (Purple Clover) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

The DonaldToo many Donald Trump is the epitome of the opposite that is referenced above, with a mouth that is seldom closed and a mind that certainly appears not to be open. He’s obviously an intelligent person; although seemingly ignorant or intolerant to the feelings and needs of those who don’t fit into his somewhat narrow and bigoted view of the world. While he uses the term “deal” quite a bit, I don’t think I’ve heard him use the word “compromise” at all.

Today’s saying seems t also work well with another saying about opening you r mouth – “engage brain before opening mouth”, which is EBBOM in Internet slang. Both offer good advice which is all too often ignored. Unfortunately even engaging your brain if it isopinionated working off a perverted or bigoted knowledge base, won’t prevent you from blurting out things that are hurtful or which you may wish later that you had not said.

Having an open mind does not necessarily mean that you agree with or accept whatever comes your way; however, it does require that you at least give those things the courtesy of a good, non-biased look before making your decision on how to react. Many times the best decision may still be to keep your mouth closed, rather than express the conclusion or position that you have reached, once you have considered things. Perhaps just saying nothing is the best course, when whatever you might say would express a non-favorable judgement. That’s sort of the live and let live approach to things.

visualizingThere is one final saying that best sums up the strategy of keeping your mouth shut – “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.” – Unknown. I doubt that most will think you to be a fool if you don’t open your mouth and say something stupid. I’ve known quite a few people who weren’t big talkers and the thing that was most often said about them is that they were very private and kept their thoughts and opinions to themselves. That’s not all bad and certainly better than being known as a loud-mouthed blowhard.

So, think before you speak and if have nothing to say then don’t say it. We’ll all enjoy that moment of silence.


Do you hear the alarms going off?

October 16, 2015

“A guilty conscious is a faults alarm.” – from the Graffiti cartoon

It’s amazing how many cartoonists also turn out to be pretty good philosophers. Most of them occasionally use the simplistic characters and story lines of their cartoons to explore some very weighty moral issues or to make moral points. There was great advice for life to be found in the fun that was drawn in Pogo, or Peanuts, or Calvin and Hobbs. The Graffiti cartoon uses only words (as they might be written or sprayed on a wall) and they are used sparingly; however, it often hits a moral issue or judgement dead-on. The brevity and cleverness of the little sayings of Graffiti often makes you stop and think. Sometimes you have to decipher and expand the little saying to understand its meaning, but there is always meaning.

whining childToday’s little saying makes the case that our faults often result in having second thoughts, remorse or regret later for something that we’ve said or did. The fault is obvious – not being enough in control of ourselves to stop the remark or action before it occurs. Does that happen to you? I know that I have a tendency to sometimes blurt out things, either in judgement of someone or something or in reaction to something or someone’s remarks to us. Yes, I hear the alarms and realize that they go off all too often.

Sometimes the “fault” might actually be found in not saying or doing something when the situation requires it. Lowering your eyes or turning your head to avoid eye contact in situations when the right thing to do is to push back or challenge or rebut are also faults that also leads to a guilty conscious. Not standingtimid up and helping the kid that is being bullied is just about as bad as being the bully himself. Not pushing back and sticking up for yourself when being bullied is also wrong. Letting the boss or the co-worker continue to get away with inappropriate behavior that makes you feel bad or insecure or even frightened, is not “going along to get along”; it is just another wrong and only adds to the problem. You may say, “It’s not my fault; however the fault of not doing something about those things that you know are wrong is yours and yours alone.  Is that a nagging little alarm going off in the back of your mind?

The point of all this isn’t to send you into a weekend with a guilty conscious; but maybe to suggest that you listen to those little alarms that go off in your head, often in “real-time”, as the incident is occurring. Rather than reflect alarmlater on the faults that may have allowed you to act or react badly. Listen to the alarms as they start going off in your mind and pause to think before you act or react, before you blurt out a response or hit the send key on that flamming email. If the alarms going off are telling you that you’ll regret this action later, don’t do it.

That’s a tall order for anyone and requires a self-control that few have naturally. It starts by realizing and admitting to yourself that you have that tendency, to go off half-cocked or with only half of the story or that you sometimes act too hastily and get yourself into trouble or make the situation worse that it was. Think back on situations or incidents where you didn’t exercise that control and ask yourself why you did or said what you said and why you regretted it. Perhaps that will serve as motivation to develop a new personal habit to stop and think before you react – whether it’s stop and count to ten or to bite your tongue. Both of those pieces of “folk advice” are essentially artificial and mechanical ways to just get you to stop and think before you act.

If you can get yourself into the habit of stopping and asking yourself a few quick questions, such as – Do I understand what just happened and why? Why do I feel a need act or react? Do I have enough information to make a wise decision about what to do or say?   Is what I’m about to do or say likely to resolve the issue at hand, calm the issue at hand or make the issue at hand worse?  While that seems like a lot to think about whenthinking woman you read it here it really takes only a few seconds of thought time and could save many hours of remorse later. Snap judgements and the actions that we take based upon them are wrong all too often. Stop and think. You’ll make fewer mistakes and have less to regret later. It will also be much less noisy in your mind, with fewer alarms going off.

Have a great weekend. Practice your new habit of stopping and thinking before you act and that will help you when you  get back to the more hectic work world.

Make today your DIY project…

June 3, 2015

“I hope that everyone that is reading this is having a really good day.  And if you are not, just know that in every new minute that passes you have an opportunity to change that.”  (Gillian Anderson) – As seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Gillian’s advice focus attention on the fact that only you can change the way the day is going and your attitude and reaction to the events that are unfolding in front of you. You may choose to shrink down into a fetal ball and cry or wail overwhelmed“Woe is me” or you can decide to take action to change things – starting with your response to events. Sometimes we confuse a flurry of activity with actually accomplishing something, when all that it does is take our mind off things for a short while. There’s a little saying about that – “When in trouble or in doubt; run in circles, scream and shout.” That may sound funny to read, but that is what many of us do (at least emotionally) in a crisis. Accept the fact that in order to make things better, you must Do It Yourself (DIY).

So, today’s advice is about dealing with what life throws what you and changing how you let it affect you. There’s a little personal safety ditty about what to do if you should somehow catch fire (your clothing, I presume) – it goes “Stop, Drop and Roll”. Apparently, the initial reaction for many who catch fire might be to run, which only fans the flames more. So stopping rather than running is a good first step. The drop and roll advice is the way to smother the fire by taking away its air source. DIY.

thinking womanIn the normal day to day world we seldom catch fire; however, there are things that can burn us, whether they are work related or personal. Sometimes out initial reaction may be to run away from those things or maybe to run our mouths in reaction to them. Perhaps we should adopt a variation of the fire advice and “Pause, Think and Act”. DIY.

The first thing to do is to stop; to pause and let the event sink in a bit while you take step two which is thinking. The tendency to react to things too quickly usually gets us into more trouble. Lashing back at something or someone, whether physically or verbally, seldom does anything but add to the problem. Stopping to give yourself time to think allows you to formulate a proper response to things and not just a knee-jerk reaction. Sometimes, if the event involves another person, pausing also gives them a moment to reflect on what they just said or did and it gives them time to quickly apologize before you react. DIY.

The next step is thinking about how to react to the event. Perhaps making an effort to better understand what just happened or what caused it can help. Maybe saying, “Wow, I didn’t know that you felt that way” or “What brought that loving coupleon; was it something that I did?” will give the other party a chance to explain their own outburst or action. It is important to understand that for the other person, there is a perception of reality that you currently don’t get. They see things differently than you do at that moment. Neither one of you are necessarily right or wrong, just on different wavelengths at that moment. Finding a way to a common understanding of the issues is the first step to resolving the difference. So now you’re thinking. DIY.

The next step – the “Act” part – is the first important step to resolving the issues. It is important that you act instead of react. Reacting to situations, unless you are very well trained and experienced in just such events, is almost always a self-protective move. You are punched, so you punch back. You are insulted, so you insult back. You are hurt, so you try to hurt back. Rather than react in those self-protective ways; having paused and thought about it, it is better to act in a way that will result in a more positive outcome. Maybe that will be to turn the other cheek. Maybe it will be not to take the bait of an insult or a hurtful remark. Perhaps it is as simple as asking yourself, “How can I make this better?” DIY.

painted into cornerIt is not easy to always follow this advice, but I think that if you practice it on some of the simple things that you run into on a daily basis it will start to ingrain itself in you such that the little “Stop, Think, Act” ditty will pop into your mind when you hit a problem. When that happens you are in control. It may not make getting through some issues any easier, but it won’t make them any harder, which is what your old way of thinking may have done.  You’ll also feel a little better if you start out with the thought “I’ve got control of  this” in mind, rather than just panicking. DIY.

Like Gillian, I hope that you’ll have a great day, too; however, if things aren’t going the way you’d like them to remember to Pause, Think and Act. DIY.