Be brave; learn to overcome your fears…

June 11, 2022

Several of the little quotes that I collect seemed to coalesce onto a more complete thought today.

Nelson Mandela

“You fear what you don’t know.”  (Chad Druetzler) 

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”  (Nelson Mandela)

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. (Marie Curie)

I was a little unsure how to position the last two quotes, but I think the order is correct.

It seems to me that fear of things that we don’t know or understand is what underlies most of the hate, prejudices and conspiracy theories that we see and experience in the world.  Most, if not all, of that fear is caused by a lack of knowledge and understanding. We encounter someone who is different from ourselves and immediately become fearful because we don’t understand them – they are outside of our normal frame of reference and thus represent some sort of unknown danger. Fear takes over.

Unfounded prejudices are based on this fear reaction when the fear is generalized and applied to a group of people who share some characteristic or trait – perhaps the color of their skin, or the way they dress or speak (language, or even the color of their hair or the fact that they have a tattoo or piercing of some sort. It is easy to recognize within yourself, if your reaction to encountering someone different is immediate fear, disgust or defensive, without any additional reason.

It is much harder to take Mandela’s or Marie Curie’s advice and overcome those fears. The key is probably to be found in Curie’s quote and that is to shift your thought process from fearful reaction onto trying to understand what is causing your reaction. Just stop yourself to ask, “What am I really afraid of and why?” That pause alone will allow you to regain control over what might have been a thoughtless, “knee-jerk” reaction, which is often called prejudice.

Curie’s answer to Druetzler’s observation is to take Mandela’s advice and conquer your fears by making the effort to understand what is driving them. So, as you hit new challenges or meet new people; rather than approach those events in trepidation, embrace them in wonder and with a resolve to understand them, not fear them.

Be brave. Learn to overcome your fears. As a side-benefit, you will live a rich and more satisfying life.

Try to understand…

August 30, 2017


From my usual source for inspiration, the Jack’s Winning Words blog, comes this bit of advice –

“If you would judge, understand.”  (Seneca)

Understanding the point of view and motivation of others for the actions that they take or the things that they say is perhaps one of the hardest things for us to do. We hear alljudge things sorts of sage advice about walking a mile in the other person’s shoes; and, of course, there is that old saw, “Judge not, lest ye be judged”. The truth is that we all rush to judge the actions and words of others based solely on our own point of view. Even if we pause to ask ourselves, “What could have made them do that?”, it is hard to really understand the perspective from which the other person was viewing the situation.

How then can we make use of Seneca’s advice? Perhaps if we understand that we are judging something or someone it will give us some time to consider that judgement in a different light. Why does whatever just happened need to be judged? Did it offend me or threaten me in some way? Did it disparage something or someone that I hold dear? Does my opinion or the action or the person really matter or change anything? How can I try to see and understand the motivation and point of view of the person who committedno judgement the act that I felt I must judge?

Mentally going through even a few of those questions or more that you might think of can take the edge off of your need to render judgement and may even help you see the other side of the issue that caused the incident. You still may not understand the other side; but, if you can at least acknowledge that there is an “other side”, you are on your way to understanding.

Many times judgments are snap decisions rendered out of the emotions of the moment. Going through that small mental exercise of questioning the need to react can take the arrogantsituation out of the emotional realm and puts it into the intellectual realm, where logic and intelligence tend to blunt the need for a reaction. It turns the reaction into an exercise in trying to understand. You may never truly understand the other person’s point of view and actions, but maybe you will also hold your judgement of them in acknowledgement that you really don’t understand. I’ll bet Seneca understood that when he coined his little phrase.

Have a great, judgement free day…

Just accept me…

December 23, 2016

Recently, I spent some research time trying to gain and appreciation and understanding of two separate groups that are sometimes marginalized within our society.  One group are those with what we classify as brain or mental disorders of some sort, whether it is someone on the autism spectrum or someone struggling with depression or other disorders of that nature. The other group is made up of those living a different lifestyle who identify with being in the GLBTQI community. I posted here a few times along the way (see Trying to understand others without a frame of reference and What does depression feel like. Then I wrote about being there for those in need, Don’t try to understand and don’t judge, just be there.

acceptI didn’t realize it at the time, because I hadn’t gone back and liked for a common thread, but there was a theme that ran through all of articles and posts that I had read and referenced in those posts. The theme is the request from all of the people who may be living in any of those groups that they just be accepted.

As I went back and read more from each blog that I had visited I could see a common undercurrent that said – I do not want your pity. I do not need your “help”. Who and what I am cannot be “cured” by your misguided efforts. Who and what I am is not contagious and I will not infect you. I am not like you; but, I’m not asking you to change and become like me. All I ask is that you accept me.

It is part of our human nature to believe that anyone who is not like us somehow wants toarrogant be like us or would somehow be better off if they were more like us. That belief is based upon the rather egotistical viewpoint that we represent “normal” and be definition those who are not like us mus be sick or somehow are abnormal. So, we jump in to try to “help”; but that help carries demands for change and conformity to what we see and define as the norms of our group, for which we have usurped the title “society”. Behavior that is not like ours is defined as somehow being anti-social and wrong. We feel that we must do something about that. While all the while, the person that we are trying to “help” is saying:

Love me without restriction, trust me without fear, want me without demand and accept me for who I am – Unknown

I certainly hear all sorts of rationalization for this behavior of fear and loathing from people when encountering those who are different. Sometimes it is “Holier than thou” predjuicesappeals to religion or the Bible, sometimes it is just ignorance manifesting itself in fears of catching whatever it is that they find offensive. Many times parental concerns about the influence of these different people on children are sited as the justification for the bad behavior that we call prejudice. Yet that different person is not going to steal the minds of our children or infect the world with their difference; rather they are just standing there and asking you to accept them as they are.

For those living those alternative lifestyles or living with the pain and confusion of a brain or mental disorder, many times the problems caused by being perceived to be different are compounded by those seeking to either avoid them or help/cure them, when all they really want to be accepted and treated as you would want others to treat you. For most, the simplest way to put this is –

Love me for who I am, not for who you want me to be. – Unknown

Christmas is a great time to give the gift of acceptance to all who you encounter. Accept mangersomeone different from you today and maybe you will find that it will allow you to Stretch your mind and grow as a person.

Have a great Holiday season!

Trying to understand others without a frame of reference…

November 23, 2016

There are lots of things that I wish I understood better or maybe understood at all. Recently I visited the blog of a new follower for this blog and ran smack into one of those things. That new follower turned out to be the site, which is a site where people living on the autism spectrum can share stories and posts anonymously. One post title in particular caught my attention and it was actually a referral to another site – The Mighty – which has a wider focus on mental health issues. It was not anonymous, since it was from that different site.

The post is –

Lori Sealy of The Mighty shares – My Answer to the Question ‘What Does Autism Feel Like?’ talking about her sensory processing differences and how they contribute to her experiences as a member of the autism spectrum. This is a must read article that can help you establish how far from your own frame a reference for life someone else’s frame of reference can be. Once you understand that, you are ready to start trying to accept others.

As I read through Lori’s article the thing that really struck me was that trying to understand autism and how it affects the people who live with it is really trying to boredunderstand something for which I have absolutely no frame of reference. It is a common mistake when we try to understand things like this from our own frame of reference, our own life experiences and knowledge base. Lori’s descriptions of her sensory perceptions of the world are so far removed from my own that I had trouble even imagining what that must be like, yet it was trying to imagine it that helped me understand how little that I really understand. It also helped expand my thinking about how I react, or might react to others; especially those who might be far removed from my own frame of reference. I intend to follow up by reading more of the posts at the site and probably at The Mighty site, too.

There are many ethnic and  lifestyle groups that I’m trying to better understand, such as people who identify as members of the GLBTQ community. I felt like I was somewhat comfortable with my understanding of the GLB part of that; but the T and Q parts left me searching for a frame of reference to use, in order to better understand the experiences visualizingand point of view of people self-identifying in those categories. I read a rather scholarly article on the T part of that, which I found on the site (a site for Lutheran churches that wish to become safe haven places of worship for GLBTQ people who are seeking a church home). That article left me even more confused, so I ordered a more complete book on the topic from the site. In reality my understanding of the entire community is on shaky grounds, so perhaps that book will help some, or at least point out how little I really already know.

My point is that I have this trouble understanding most of these things, and I suspect many people have the same problem. Perhaps this is because we’ve all been trying to different-points-of-viewunderstand things from our own frame of reference, rather than opening our minds to an entirely different frame of reference and an entirely different way of looking at things. Maybe others, like Lori, have an entirely different way of processing sensory inputs and experiences or a different way of making choices – a different frame of reference.

The more that I’ve thought about that the more convinced that I am that I have not been trying to understand at all; I was just judging the people that I encountered by a set of standards that I call my frame of reference. My frame of reference is the result of my judge thingsupbringing and experiences, my education and knowledge base, my beliefs and my fears and misconceptions.  That judgement of others starts with the presumption that whatever I feel or think must be “right” and anyone else that I encounter who deviates from that definition of “right”, must somehow be “wrong”. Different must be wrong. Not acting, and reacting, as I do must be wrong. Not being like me must be wrong. Apparently, not being me is wrong. How wrong is that?

Then I recalled the response that Pope Francis had to a question about gay priests. The Pope said, “Who am I to judge?” I think that is a healthy attitude that can be applied across the board when dealing with others, no matter how different they may be from me or you. Who are we to judge? So, my new mantra will be, “Who am I to judge?”

I have concluded that I will never really understand another person’s frame of reference and I have decided that I should not judge others by my own frame of reference; so, what’s left? If I don’t judge others and I don’t understand others; how do I act and react with girls huggingothers? Well, there’re still a lot of options left. One could start with acceptance. Accepting the person as you find them and not immediately judging them or rushing in to try to change them is a good first step.  You could continue by striving for some level of empathy with that other person’s perspective on life. That requires other things, such as patience, sympathy, sharing, openness, kindness, perseverance and a willingness to learn, among others. One may end up quite often saying, “Wow, I never looked at things that way”’; and that’s a good thing. That’s a step towards understanding and so much better than just deciding that the other person’s point of view is wrong, just because it is not the same as yours.

It’s not easy taking that first step towards “acceptance”; rather than rushing into the more usual first step of judgement. In fact, I find that I must often step back from having made a preemptive judgement and recall the Pope’s words – “Who am I to judge?” If I can men huggingstop myself early enough, before I have caused the damage to the relationship that a judgement can cause; then I still have the option to accept that other person. Perhaps I will never get all the way to understanding that other person’s frame of reference for life, but maybe I can get to the point of accepting and appreciating them for who they are and trying to learn something from their different perspective on life. Who knows; maybe I can make a friend of someone, if I take the time not to make an enemy. Who am I to judge?

Have a great, judgement-free Thanksgiving!

Maybe seeing is believing…

August 20, 2016

Jack had one of those little “stop and smell the roses” sayings on his blog – Jack’s Winning Words – recently:

“As rough and tough as the world is, don’t forget to see the beauty in simple things.”  (Unknown)

That’s good advice in today’s hurried, multi-tasking oriented world. Stopping to puppyappreciate a beautiful sunset or a bird on your bird feeder or maybe just the loving pet sitting by your side can be rejuvenating and uplifting. Perhaps it’s the pause from the hubbub of daily life or maybe the quick association in your mind between what you are seeing now and a better or more joyous time in your life. Whatever it is, stopping to recognize and appreciate some small beautiful thing or moment is refreshing and perhaps has more meaning than you realize at the time.

I often save the little quotes from Jack’s blog for use as topics or inspiration for later posts of my open. As I was saving that quote I noticed that two quotes above it in my little list was this one from an earlier post that Jack had done –

“When you can see God in small things, you’ll see God in all things.”  ― Donald L. Hicks

It hit me right away that the two sayings belong together and that seeing the beauty in simple things is seeing God in the small things in life. Once you allow that to happen in
meyour life; then, you can see God in all things in life and that helps you better understand and appreciate life.

Perhaps you can put yourself in the right frame of mind to see and appreciate God’s presence in all things in life by starting each day with this quick little prayer from Psalm 118:24 –

This is the day the Lord has made;

We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

You might be surprised by how good things “look” to you when you start off with that attitude about life and the day ahead.

Try looking for God in all things in your life. Start with the small things and work your way up. You can’t help but feel better when you start to see the beauty of God in all things around you.

I’ll be seeing you…

Love thy neighbor, be kind today…

June 22, 2016

“Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.”  (Samuel Johnson); as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog today.

One could say that cordialness is in our power, even if friendship is not. The point is that we make the choice of how to react and interact with others, even those with whom we disagreement2disagree or who don’t make liking them easy. In this season of heightened political passions it is particularly hard sometimes to be kind or cordial with someone who may be proclaiming the political opposite of what you believe.

Unfortunately in life and is politics we have become a more polarized society, with little opportunity for intelligent conversation about the middle ground or compromise. Discussing topics like gun control, birth control and the GLBT lifestyle have devolved from conversations into rants and arguments. We are forced into taking side in discussions where the only alternatives are “you’re either with us or against us.” We are not allowed to have a middle-ground point of view or to espouse a solution that involves compromise by both sides. Even the word compromise is now used as a litmus test against others in some political circles and has become associated with weakness or betrayal of strongly held beliefs.

Jack went on to write – Some people are really hard to get along with.  To “love” does not necessarily mean to be “fond.”  Kindness is what Jesus had in mind when he talked about love…trying to see with a different set of eyes.  Are you able to do it?

Kindness is not pity. Kindness is not false. Kindness is the conscious attempt to understand the other person’s point of view without prejudging it. Much of what others
may proclaim with loud bluster is actually masking deep fears and insecurities. Many predjuicesprejudices are rooted in the same insecurities and fears. We tend to fear what we do not understand, rather than make the effort to see things from that different point of view.

We need not try to force ourselves to like the choices or lifestyles that people we meet may have embraced; but, we need not fear them either. We also don’t have to embrace their point of view; just be kind and accept them for who they are. Once you can do that, you may even find them to be someone who you could be fond of. At the least you will no longer have to be afraid of them or prejudiced against them.

I have found that refusing to rise to the bait of a pushy or bully type person or stopping myself from jumping immediately to a conclusion about a person, based solely upon the judge thingsinitial visual impression that they make, helps me. It is that initial pause from making some immediate judgement that allows that ability to be kind to kick in. It’s not always easy; because I carry around the weight of a lifetime of fears and prejudices, as we all do. It takes a conscience effort and I am not always successful; but I have found that the rewards from making that effort far outweigh the alternatives, which almost always lead to regrets later. Making a new friend is much better than adding a new fear or enemy in life.

Try to be kind today and see if it makes a difference in your life. Maybe you’ll end the day with a new friend, too.

Make life’s journey more satisfying, take this side trip often…

June 11, 2016

“The most important trip you may take in this life is meeting people halfway.”  (Henry Boyle) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog recently.

The ability and flexibility to meet people halfway in life is comprised of equal parts of empathy, humility, intelligence and faith and is an extremely important and valuable part of making life better for you and the people that you meet. If you always try playing life as a win-losing zero sum game, you will soon find yourself playing alone. Everyone that you meet wants to win, too; so the real secret to a successful and satisfying life is finding ways to make every situation a win-win for all parties involved.

Creating win-win scenarios doesn’t necessarily require that you lose. Meeting people half way isn’t losing, it is allowing both of you to win. As a society that has become a lot harder discussion over tablelately, because opposing views have hardened and compromise has taken on an undesirable meaning that is associated more with losing than with everybody finding a win out of the situation. Our political process, especially at the national level has effectively broken down because of the inability of the parties to compromise and the increasing polarization of those we elected to govern. They cannot govern because they cannot compromise. To them politics and the decisions that they control is a win-lose game.

Life doesn’t have to be like that; your life doesn’t have to be like that. Psalm 34:4 says – “God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears.” It’s those different beliefsanxious fears that sometimes drive us to stand back or shy away rather than even try to understand someone else’s point of view. It is our own insecurities that make us cling to old, outdated or bigoted stereotypes, rather than to take the chance of embracing someone new. Perhaps you can meet them half way.

Keep in mind that the other person is also moving away from their comfort zone in order to meet you in the middle. They may be having just as hard of a time seeing your point of view as you are having trying to seeing theirs. If you can start with the thought that neither point of view is right or wrong, just different; then, perhaps, you can take the next step and consider that things might look different from men huggingtheir vantage point and that may drive different decisions or behaviors. Maybe you’ll even have an “aha” moment in which you finally understand their perspective. You don’t have to embrace it, just accept that it exists. You don’t have to go all the way there; you can usually see it, if you’ll just meet them half way.

So take a few little side trips as you journey through life and find out how other people live by meeting them halfway on things. Who knows; you might even like their point of view, once you understand it. You’ll never know until you try.

Be a peach and not the pits…

April 28, 2016

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, but there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”  (Dita Von Teese) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Everyone wants to be liked. In fact I get messages everyday asking me to “Like” someone like meor something. Jack wrote about that social media phenomenon in his post that went along with this quote. He observed that young people in particular seem to crave the acceptance of “likes” on Facebook or other social media. “Likes” are even a measure of the acceptance of posts to blogs like this one and I must admit that it feels good to have some of my readers take the time to “Like” a specific post.

The gist of today’s quote is that it’s impossible to have everyone “Like” you for everything that you are or that you do, even if you behave like you are “the ripest, juiciesbad attitudet peach in the world.” Understanding that and accepting it will make life much easier and help you avoid getting down on yourself because someone doesn’t “Like” you, which is the pits. Some people are just natural contrarians who find the behavior of happy, friendly people to be offensive. They enjoy being grumpy and resist any amount of effort from you to cheer them up. For them, disliking you is as much a mark of your impact on them as a “Like” might be from someone else.

You could just write off this reaction and go about your merry, happy way; however, you might also accept this as a personal challenge. The challenge is to really take the time to understand what it is that is bothering this person so much that they express their pain or kissing mirroranger or frustrations with life by disliking you. Perhaps you have become, as some might put it, “too sweet, too cute or too syrupy” in your approach to others. What that says to them is that you are oblivious and insensitive to their needs or situation and too wrapped up in yourself to make the effort share in their current feelings or needs. To their way of thinking you’ve become the pit and not the peach that you think you are.

A lesson for us all out of those types of experiences is that “Likes” in life are to be earned and not just ask for or expected. The way that you earn a “like” from others is to be genuinely interested in them and sensitive to their needs and not just wrapped up in girls huggingyourself. It’s OK to try to cheer them up or to share your happiness with them, so long and you first understand their situation and make an effort to earn their “like” through empathy to their needs and not just through the aura of your own happiness.

So, be a peach today, but be sensitive to the needs of others that you meet, so that you don’t come across as the pits to them.

What will you get out of today?

April 16, 2016

“If you haven’t found something strange during the day, it hasn’t been much of a day.”  (John Wheeler) – from a recent post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I might have put it a different way – “If you haven’t learned something new today, it hasn’t been much of a day.” The thought is pretty much the same. Hopefully each day brings opportunities to learn something new. Some days may, in fact, present stranger things than others to learn from; but all days likely have something new that we should take note of, if we pay attention. Paying attention is probably the key to learning anything. So much of our attention these days is diverted towards the device in the palm of our hand that we miss many things going on around us.

Much of want you can learn on any given day comes out of the interactions that you have with the people that you encounter. All of them walk into your life from a direction that is handshake3different from where you were looking and they all carry different information and different points of view. Haven’t you ever wondered how things look from their perspective? If you encounter people with backgrounds that vary greatly from yours, maybe an immigrant or a person from a different ethnic group, haven’t you ever been curious how much different their take is on things than yours? Did you ever ask? What did you learn from that? It’s OK to start from the position of “I don’t understand you”; however, it is wrong to jump from there to “and I don’t like you, or I’m afraid of you, because of that.” Why not try to use the experience to learn something about that person. You may be surprised by who they really are.

Other learning opportunities grow out of the adversity that may come your way on any given day – roadblocks to achieving a goal or unexpected disruptions or rifts in a roadblocksrelationship with a friend or loved one. Not only can you learn problem solving techniques from each incident, but you also learn something new about yourself and about the other parties involved (and adversities almost always involve other parties). Try to make each encounter with adversity a learning experience.

Stop and ask yourself if you understand the differing point of view of the person with whom you are having some difficulty. Understand that whether or not you feel that their disagreement2point of view has merit; to them it is the perspective from which they are viewing the situation and the basis upon which they are making their decisions. Ask yourself if you
even considered that point of view? Now that you understand their perspective does it change your position at all? If not, why not? Obviously there are different ways of looking at the situation and no way to determine that your way of seeing it is the “right” way to see things. Maybe there is a compromise that you just have not yet considered. To overlook that possibility leads only to polarization and stalemate.

At the end of each day, take a moment to think back on the day and see if you can pick out the things that you learned during the day. That is a great way to actually make thosebored learning experiences a part of your knowledge base and a step towards turning knowledge into wisdom. What did you see today? Who did you meet today? What did you learn today? What did you get out of today?

Don’t wait for the perfect situation…

April 5, 2016

“Do what you can with what you have where you are.”  (Theodore Roosevelt) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog recently.

waitingDo you tend to procrastinate because things aren’t just right for you to take action on things? We often hear people lamenting that that can’t do something because the timing isn’t right or that they aren’t where they need to be or that what they can do is not as much as they want to do…so they do nothing. “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” 

I think that Roosevelt’s advice is particularly important when one considers the big issues of our time – the poverty and need that surround us or the prejudices, intolerance and bigotry that seem to be all around us or perhaps or perhaps the pain and suffering of wars and natural disasters that we see on the nightly news.  After all, what can one individual do about those big issues? Take Roosevelts advice and “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” 

You can’t solve those problems by yourself, but you can be a part of the larger efforts thatgiving are underway to help. Join the efforts that are underway by groups like the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Lutheran Social Services or other non-profit groups. Contribute to them or, better yet, join in their fund raising efforts or in the work that they do to collect and distribute needed items of food, clothing or household goods. Volunteer to work on a house that Habitat for Humanity is building. Fill backpacks with food for the Blessings in a Backpack effort to provide food for needy school children who might not otherwise have anything to eat over the weekends. Donate money or food or household items to local groups like Community Sharing. In other words, “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” 

When you see a friend, a neighbor or relative in obvious pain due to the loss of a loved one or perhaps in a state of depression, due to the burdens of life, don’t hesitate, waiting for them to invite you to help or for that perfect moment to offer your help. Jump in and offer a shoulder to cry on, a hug to offer support and an ear to listen to their story. You don’t have to be a physiatrist to recognize their need nor a professional counselor to offer them support or relief; just, “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” 

seerving othersSo, don’t wait for life’s perfect moments to jump in and do something to help. Those moments are now, when you recognize the need and the something that you can do, the something that is needed, is for you to get started and take action. There is a theory called Chaos Theory that postulates that even the flapping of a butterfly’s wings half way around the globe causes an effect on the weather on the other side of the globe. So, be the butterfly and start flapping your wings and your little efforts to fix the problems that you see around you, where you are, with what you have to give will have an impact around the world. “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” 

Have a great and action filled week ahead.