Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Did You Hear About...? A Look at Rumors and Gossip"

I abhor rumors and gossip. They're petty, destructive, and hateful. Yet, truth-be-told, I have engaged in gossip  from time-to-time. I'm not proud of it, just honest. I could try to justify it by saying that I've only done so out of concern for others. Sometimes the sharing of information about another person can genuinely be an act of concern. One may do so to gain insight into their behaviors in order to offer them assistance with a personal issue or to alert others who may need to know so they may intervene. In all honesty, I've never spoken unkindly about anyone to defame them, to damage their reputation or relationship with another person, or for the sheer entertainment of it. But I have gossiped. No excuse.

People who engage in gossip (whether it's initiating it, listening to it, or sharing it) relish the feeling of power and importance it momentarily affords them. "If you need the dirt on anyone talk to Sally. She knows everything about everyone!" However, gossip reveals much more about the one prompting it than the one being spoken about. Gossip exposes a person's insecurities and fears.  They struggle with issues of low self-esteem and need to engage in behaviors that give them a sense of authority and significance and restore balance to their lives. If I'm worried that John is getting too cozy with the boss, I may fabricate an unflattering narrative about him in order to damage his reputation and once again secure my status as the boss's favorite.  Problem solved (at least in my mind) but at what cost?. More importantly though, gossip reveals a definitive lack of character, moral integrity, and trustworthiness in those who engage. 

Some also converse out of revenge. You discover your boyfriend has been talking to his ex girlfriend again so you start a rumor that she's addicted to diet pills. Keep in mind that rumors and gossip have distinct differences. Rumors generally consist of spreading information without knowing it's source or accuracy and may or may not be about an individual. (Remember Chicken Little? He alerted the public that the sky was falling without checking his facts and got everyone's bloomers in a bunch.) Rumors can be relatively harmless or can cause damage or panic. The on-air reading of Orson Wells book, The War of the Worlds, caused wide-spread panic among radio listeners everywhere. Gossip, on the other hand, always targets an individual and generally is intended to cause some form of harm to them. Whether fact-based or purely speculative, gossip has been known to seriously damage reputations, poison relationships, end careers, and ruin lives. I have had vicious gossip mongers spread lies about me that seriously damaged my relationship with my children culminating in a ten-year estrangement. Another jealous individual attacked me professionally with purely fabricated propaganda severe enough to warrant a call to my attorney. I nipped that in the bud before sustaining any damage to my career.

Many years ago, two seven-year old boys spread a rumor that their teacher had molested them. Although she maintained her innocence, a trial led to her conviction and prison sentence. Ten years passed and the boys confessed that it was a childish prank. While she chose to forgive those who caused her embarrassment and suffering, her life had forever been changed.

In Exodus 23:1 the Bible clearly states that “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness."  Before sharing information with others, carefully examine your motives. Are you seeking glory? Do you feel threatened and insecure? Are you jealous and being spiteful? While you may feel tempted or perhaps feel justified in viciously spreading information, ask yourself the following question before proceeding: "Will this please God?"* If the behavior violates Divine Law one must carefully reconsider, for the consequences will be far reaching and more devastating than one can foresee.

"Let all of my words and actions be a reflection of God's Love in this world."*

*The Great Truth

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

To Fight or Not to Fight? That is the Question

Do you enjoy a good fight? I don't but I know some people who do. Regardless of who we are interacting with, differences of opinion, issues , and conflict will arise periodically. Some approach arguments with zest, others with great trepidation, and some avoid them at all costs. There are times when it is wise to circumvent the issue; other times they must be addressed head on. But is it possible to prevent a discussion from escalating into a full-blown fight? And how do you know when to proceed and when to simply walk away?

Let's begin by identifying the difference between a discussion, argument, and fight. Upon consulting with Mr. Webster, as I often do, and analyzing the definition of each term, I discovered the following: discussions, debates, disagreements, and disputes share certain characteristics. They are an exchange of opposing ideas - plain and simple. Arguments, on the other hand, include an additional component of proof:  proof of accuracy or fact, proof of being right. The moment we engage in issues of right and wrong we run the risk of a civil discussion escalating into an argument.  Many people struggle with insecurity and pride and will resist being proven wrong. It's humiliating and embarrassing and in order to maintain their dignity they will defend their position regardless. 

Fighting involves an element of hostility - a desire to overcome an individual; to gain control over; to dominate. Now, a mere disagreement has intensified to issues of authority over the other party to which they may respond with self-protective aggression in order to preserve their position and safety. 

While it certainly seems more advantageous to rationally and calmly discuss an issue, how does one know if and when it is necessary to elevate a debate into a full-blown (verbal)fight? 

Here are a few points to consider:

First: Determine the nature and seriousness of the issue at hand. It will fall into one of three possible categories:
                a)  insignificant (let it go - not worth the time or effort*)
                b) important (needs to be discussed to obtain a possible resolution)
                c) critical (matter of life or death, moral issue, involving personal safety - absolutely imperative to get resolved). 

Second: Examine your motives and intent.
                a) Are you seeking to be right? To prove the other party wrong? Do you want to teach them a lesson, put them in their place, or simply make a point? Are you arrogant, self-righteous, hurtful or mean-spirited? If so, you are operating in a place of ego and need to reexamine  your motives.
                b) Are you interested in learning about the other person's ideas, values, needs, and wants? Do you have a strong desire to gain a deeper understanding and awareness of the issue at hand? Are you concerned about clearing up a possible misunderstanding, resolving a problem, healing a rift, assisting the other party, or preventing harm from occurring? Spirit concerns itself equally with the well-being of all parties and make morally responsible choices.

So much of what we fight about is relatively insignificant in the whole scheme of life. Put everything into perspective. While debating issues can be exciting and rewarding, it is fully within our grasp to maintain them at a safe level and prevent them from escalating into something far more serious and destructive. Be discerning. Reserve the intense emotions for the issues that hold true significance. And even then, remain open-minded, fair, reasonable, and respectful. You will gain far more traction in successfully resolving the dispute when maintaining your integrity. 

*Refer to the 10 Year Rule: "Will this issue matter in ten years? Will I even remember it?" If the answer is "no" then let it go.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Kids + Divorce + Blended Families = Anger

Divorce - it's a word that makes me cringe every time I hear it. Mine was thirty-two years ago (not of my choosing) and was one of the most painful periods of my life. Two people brought together in love take a sacred vow to love, honor, and cherish one another for eternity. No one ever says, "Till I get tired of you" or "Until you become too much work" or "Unless I find someone better." If that were the case, I dare to say few couples would choose to tie the knot. 

Divorce impacts the entire family: parents, grandparents, siblings but most of all the children. They are the innocent victims of  promises broken. Love is a commitment that takes time and effort and lots of forgiveness. Kids don't ask to grow up in broken families where time with their parents is determined by strangers negotiating on their behalf telling them when and how often they can see each other. Children often experience a divided sense of loyalty towards their parents either due to their current living arrangements or  because of  spiteful, insecure, hateful parents who pit child against the one who jointly gave them life. Add to that mom's new husband (or dad's wife), a few uninvited step kids that they now share a room with, a new parent who they are told to love and who feels free to discipline them, and it's no wonder kids of divorce are angry! Young lives spinning out of control can easily lead to anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and (you guessed it!) anger. 

What can parents do to help their children navigate their new life circumstances?

1. Encourage open communication with your children, reminding all parties to be respectful at all times.
2. Help them identify the root cause of their anger (hurt, fear, or frustration) and assist them in healing those emotions.
3. Be solution-oriented. Ask them to think of ways to improve each situation, allowing them to contribute to making the changes.
4. Encourage all parties to be fair-minded, realistic, understanding, and patient in their expectations of one another.
5. Never force a relationship between the biological child and their new family. Do not expect them to love them or embrace them as you do. Expect respect - that's enough for now.
6. Allow each child to maintain their own friends, personal space, interests, etc. outside of their new family.
7. Never compare new family members to original ones or vice versa.
8. Be certain to schedule enough alone time with your biological children while balancing time together as a blended family.
9. Never bad-mouth or speak unkindly about the natural parents. Support a healthy relationship with them.
10. Choose alternative and affectionate labels for your new family members. "Bonus"* children sounds so much warmer than "step" children. 

Let your children know that should they choose to love their extended family, they are not being disloyal to their family of origin. The more people we have in our lives to love and who love us in return the better. Love is not measured in inches or ounces;  there aren't limited amounts to be rationed out. And there are no expiration dates. 

Anger is always the result of unmet expectations. The more demands we place on our bonus families the greater the risk of disappointment. Expect less: allow the new relationships to unfold naturally. Accept more: be grateful for each small step and reward  every one with recognition. Patience, respect, encouragement, and acceptance are the tools that build strong, healthy families. Be a skilled craftsman in constructing your new family unit. Build it to last a lifetime.

*Phrase coined by Tommy Maloney, author of "25 Tips for Divorced Dads"

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How To Find Inner Peace

No matter where you go in life, you'll find that humans share similar goals: we are all seeking happiness, success, good health, wealth, and love. Some are fortunate to acquired some or all of them. And yet as quickly as we obtain them we can lose them or they can disappoint and hurt us. You study and prepare for the career of a lifetime, reaching the pinnacle of success only to suffer the consequences of a failing economy. At the end of a long day you return home from work to a wonderful family but all you do is bicker with one another. The nice home, fancy toys, and huge stock portfolio do little to add to the overall enjoyment of  life. Even with all of your acquisitions your ability to be happy is seriously impaired. At times, life hardly seems worth the effort. It's easy to become disillusioned and wonder if there isn't something more. In fact - there is. What's far more important than all of the above combined is something few people actively seek until they have reached a point of desperation - that is inner peace.

Inner peace is not some new-age ethereal  concept reserved only for enlightened gurus who sit high atop lonely mountains isolated from the realities of this harsh world contemplating the meaning of life. 

Inner peace is chosen state of being  
wherein one remains emotionally unaffected by outward circumstances.

It is the ability to find value in each of life's experiences; to realize that everything is exactly as it is mean to be; that each experience is a part of a greater purpose; to be able to face life in faith, not fear; to Align with the Divine and live in full accordance with God's Laws; to live to please God and only God.

There are three key areas we must address to create peace in our lives:

Within: making peace with yourself
1) Peace originates within each of us. Know that each experience, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant it may be, is an essential part of your spiritual journey. Embrace and appreciate the value in each.
2) Forgive yourself for the mistakes you made. They were all lessons in disguise.
3) Refrain from comparing yourself to others. Love and appreciate who you are. Separate your intrinsic value from your learned behavior. You are a perfect child of God. Period.

Family: healing the rifts
1) Reduce the number of demands you place on one another. No one is here to live up to anyone else's expectations. Accept each other "as is". Each is on their own personal journey towards enlightenment.
2) Set boundaries for any inappropriate behaviors being fair, realistic, and loving at all times.
3) Forgive the imperfections of others as you have forgiven your own.
4) Focus only on changing yourself. All attempts to change others are arrogant and self-righteous (and may I add futile?).

World: finding peace with others
1) Remove all negative judgments and labels. Value and appreciate the uniqueness of each.
2) See each individual as a sacred child of Almighty God. See them through His eyes only.
3) Calmly and fairly negotiate your differences making certain that your primary concern is the well-being of the other party.
4) If you are unable to resolve your differences, accept the circumstances as they are and, if necessary, gently release the other party wishing them well and move on. 

Keep in mind that in each circumstance, the above solutions are all interchangeable. Living in peaceful harmony is our birth right. Somewhere along the line, ego gained control and sabotaged our natural intended state of being . However, we are spiritual beings and must call upon our true nature to reclaim what is Divinely ordained. The interesting thing about peace is that once you have achieved it, happiness, love, success, and health all flow effortlessly into your life.

Peace begins within each one of us and extends outward towards family, friends, communities, and globally. Only when we create peace within do we stand a chance of ever achieving world peace. The time to begin is now.

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace." (Prayer of St. Francis)
"We cannot be a world at peace until we are first a people of peace." The Secret Side of Anger by Janet Pfeiffer

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