Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The "OK" Solution to Criticism

We live in a harsh and judgmental world where people are quick to point out the faults and imperfections of others yet seem oblivious to their own. Some misguided souls believe they have a moral obligation and civil duty to help you to be a better person by telling you what a failure you really are first and then offering suggestions as to how you can improve. They are so brazen as to cleverly present negative comments under the guise of being constructive. But constructive criticism is an oxymoron designed to impose shame, embarrassment or humiliation on the other party without the repercussions of the purveyor being labeled mean-spirited or rude. Some are quick to criticize as a way of taking the focus off of their own shortcomings in an attempt to make themselves appear better, smarter or more qualified than the other. And while some may actually believe in their hearts that they are performing a noble act, their methods are skewed and faulty. Denigrate first, rebuilt second. If one's true intent is to offer suggestions for betterment, why not skip the annihilation phase and move straight into the supportive role?

So what is the solution to criticism? As always, one must first examine their own behavior as all change begins within. If you are the one imposing disparagement upon another, STOP. Make a conscious decision that rather than focus on the negative aspect of a person's performance or attitudes, you'll offer helpful suggestions from the get go. If I'm painting our living room and making a mess in doing so, I'm much rather my husband say to me, "This is a tough job. Can I offer a suggestion that might make it easier for you?" rather than having him point out what a sloppy painter I am and then tell me how I should be doing it. 

If you are on the receiving end of criticism, the "OK" response is a perfect solution. When someone comments negatively on a task you are embarking on or a personality issue, a natural response is to defend and attack. We seek to justify our actions and/or prove ourselves right while demoting the other party so as to restore balance in the relationship . However, this approach is rarely effective as it is ego-driven and puts both parties on the defensive. Instead, simply reply with "OK".  This concise one-word response acknowledges the other person's comment without agreeing with it or feeling compelled to engage in a debate about it. Additionally, there is no need to defend one's self or actions, to make excuses for or to attack the criticizer. It diffuses a potentially explosive situation and the fallout.

It is important to remain emotionally attached to what the other person is saying, to listen without feeling, to be an objective observer. There is much that one can learn from a negative review. When we train ourselves to seek value in every situation and seemingly negative comment we stand to walk away from such an encounter a wiser and more enlightened being. Did I make a mistake, was I at fault? Could I have done better, acted kinder, been more thoughtful? Did I give 100% of myself to the task at hand? Is there any validity to what the other person has observed in me? If so, how can I improve? Within each of these questions there lies the potential for personal growth and improvement.

As for chronic criticizers: it is important to set strict boundaries with them. Do not permit them to manipulate or intimidate you. Be fair and firm and remove yourself from their presence when necessary. 

In any event, one can learn to be "OK" with criticism and not allow it to negatively impact their life or relationship with the other party. Examine it for any potential truths, then let it go and just be "OK". 

Luke 6:37 "Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned."
Luke 6:41 "Why do you notice the sawdust in your brother's eye but not the plank in your own?" 

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Forgiveness is one of the powerful modalities we have regarding our spiritual and emotional healing. I have always found it easy to forgive those who hurt or offended me yet I am not as generous with forgiving myself. Professionally speaking, this is one of the topics I lecture on that I am most passionate about. I know I've enabled thousands of people to find peace in their hearts through the sharing of my knowledge and my own life experiences. In recent years, my spiritual journey has lead me to the understanding that forgiveness becomes obsolete with the awareness of two factors: first, when we recognize that every choice, every life experience, and every mistake is an essential part of our spiritual journey. What is essential for our growth does not require forgiveness. Secondly, the ability to view others through the eyes of compassion rather than judgment prevents the onset of anger or disdain, both of which require the forgiving process to heal from and move beyond. 

While learning to forgive others can be challenging for many, forgiving one's self can present an even greater obstacle. Why is it so difficult for some people to extend the same compassion and understanding to one's self as they do for others?

Here are six possible reasons:

  • While we may be understanding and compassionate of others for their perceived imperfections and mistakes, we often hold ourselves to a higher standard. "You did the best you could at that time", "You didn't know any better" are common responses to those who have committed a wrongdoing. Yet we put greater pressure on ourselves believing that I could/should have tried harder; I should have known then what I know now. While it is permissible for others to be weak or imperfect at times, I expect myself to be smarter, kinder, more fair, and courageous than what I displayed at that time.
  • It can be hard to forgive ourselves if others refuse to put the past behind us. They continually remind us of how badly we hurt someone or of how selfish our behavior was. Still others try to impose guilt and shame for the poor choices we made. "Your gambling problem completely bankrupt us - we have nothing left for our retirement! This is all  your fault!" One cannot move forward into reconciliation when trapped in past events. However, sometimes it is not the other party but ourselves who keep reliving the sins of our past.
  • How often are we compared to others?  "Your brother always been here for me since my diagnosis with MS. Now that I'm dying you come to visit me? Where were you all the years I needed help?" Typically comparisons  are intended to hurt us, to point out flaws and so-called poor judgments. They keep us trapped in feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing. If one does not see themselves as valuable, how can they receive the gifts of mercy and compassion?
  • There may also be a concern that if I forgive myself  I am diminishing the serious nature of my offense. Am I in essence suggesting that the other party just suck it up, that it wasn't as bad as they claim it to be, that they are not the only one who have ever been hurt in life? It can be misconstrued that I'm giving myself a free pass to repeat the same offense or another.
  • It may be easier to forgive myself for the poor judgments or indiscretions that only impacted my own life. However, if my actions caused pain and suffering for another, how can I possibly excuse myself for involving someone who was completely without fault? They may have put the incident behind them but for me the remorse of unintended consequences imposed on one who was not deserving of such is a heavy burden to carry.
  • Have I lowered my standards, abandoned my values, betrayed those who believed in me? Am I stuck in grief or remorse? Is the other party still suffering from my mistakes? Am I not worthy of forgiveness? If I irresponsibly caused a car accident due to driving while intoxicated causing an innocent passenger of the other vehicle to suffer traumatic brain injury they will never recover from, what right do I have to heal my anguish and resume my life of happiness and success? As long as they continue to suffer, is it not only fair that I do so as well? This should be my penance for the remainder of my life.

In each of these scenarios, we have a different set of criteria for forgiving others vs ourselves. Forgiveness is a universal gift afforded to each of us without stipulation. Jesus instructs us to "Love your neighbor as yourself." As yourself: one cannot love and judge simultaneously. We are commanded to be as kind to ourselves as we are to others. After all, if God can forgives us who are we not to extend the same mercy to ourselves?

Keep  in mind that our God is a forgiving God who did not create us to suffer. The same gifts He bestows on others He blesses you with as well. So be kind and compassionate with yourself. Learn the lessons, make amends, let go, and love again. Be at peace for that is what our loving Father has intended for each of us. And without self-forgiveness there can be no inner peace.

Jeremiah: I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.

Acts 3:19  Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.

Please check out my very powerful 3 minute video on the healing power of forgiveness at 

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ten Tips to Fight Fair

I'm not a fan of boxing nor professional wrestling. I find that, as in real life, the players don't always fight fair. I understand that much is done strictly to boost ratings but still I find it distressing. In real life it is even more disturbing for much damage can occur when one or both partners gets down and dirty. Conflict arises in every aspect of our lives yet sadly very few of us are taught at an early age how to resolve our differences peacefully. Many adults still employ the juvenile tactics from childhood that are fear-based and aggressive. It's time to re evaluate the way in which we settle our disputes  making it a more equitable process for all. Here are ten tips to fight fair:

1)      Approach the disagreement  with an open mind and an equally as receptive heart. Remember, the mind is like a parachute: it only works when open. And the heart is where love resides, a much needed ingredient in reasonably resolving disputes.
2)      Listen to understand  rather than formulating your response. When one feels as those they are being heard and understood they feel valued and hopeful that they can come to a meeting of the minds.
3)      Although it's tempting to begin your conversation with such statements as "You make me...You always... You should/shouldn't" openers such as these only put your partner on the defensive. Accusatory statements put other on the defensive as they feel they are under attack. Some will choose to defend themselves; others may retreat from the dialogue. Ask God to formulate your words before they depart from your mouth. Temper them with kindness and respect.
4)      Stick to one topic, avoiding the temptation to branch out. Would you go to hairdresser who was not only cutting your hair but applying color to another client, giving a perm to another, and blow drying a third simultaneously? Of course not. You would expect that her undivided attention was on you so as to ensure a flawless haircut. So it is with resolving disputes. Stay focused on the issue at hand.
5)      Repeat back what you think you heard the other person say. "Let me see if I heard you correctly. You're concerned about the amount of debt we've accrued but you're not stating emphatically that we can't go on vacation this year. Is that correct?" This one technique alleviates the other party's concerns that you are not fully grasping their position.
6)      Identify the issue in three minutes or less. Then refocus your attention to the desired outcome. What is it that you want to accomplish and what are the best steps to achieve that? In this way, 99% of your time, energy, and creativity will be focused on the solution. It also eliminates the opportunity to engage in blame.
7)      Let the other person know from the get go that you are open to a compromise. In that way, they will feel more at ease knowing you are entering this with an open mind as well as a genuine concern for their well-being and needs.
8)      Put yourself in the other person's shoes. See things through their eyes to gain a better understanding of where they are coming from. You don't have to agree with their position or share the same passion but the willingness to be compassionate and empathetic pays huge dividends.
9)      If you find the situation is becoming heated, stop and take a break. Unless the issue is a matter of life or death nothing is so urgent as to risk a debate escalating into an argument filled with anger, bitterness, and hurtful words.
10)   Limit the amount of time you spend addressing this issue. Very often, the preconceived belief that this discussion could continue indefinitely is enough to raise anxiety in both parties, contributing to a decrease in patience and tolerance. You can being with a suggestion of  "Let's try to wrap this up in 15 minutes. I think that's more than enough time to address this issue."

Fighting fair isn't hard. It means leaving your ego locked securely in a closet in the basement and approaching your opponent as your ally. Keep it short, simple, and respectful and you'll be amazed at how easy it is to arrive at a peaceful and mutually satisfactory resolution.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Rage Against a Lion Killer

The recent trophy killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe by an American dentist  has enraged the world. Social media has exploded with demands to bring the killer to justice and ban hunting entirely. I am an animal lover in every sense of the word and share in the anger that so many others feel.  Yet as angry as I am over the senseless slaughter of one of the world's most majestic creatures, I am far more horrified at the gruesome beheading of Christians around the world by radical extremists. Planned Parenthood, with the recently released videos admitting to the dismembering of unborn babies and the selling of their body parts, is sickening. Yet to me there is a disproportionate level of outrage among these issues. In a recent discussion with some of my colleagues I began to search for the reasons behind this imbalance. I found several:

1. Even though there are raging debates on trophy hunting, animals are generally considered a less controversial topic than humans. Typically, unless attacking a human or for the purpose of controlling over population of a species, their killings seem senseless. Whereas with persons, arrogance has divided them into groups and subgroups, each being assigned a specific value. Those adults who do not conform to our personal ideals or to society's dictates have lesser worth than those who comply. One who is different, has opposing views, or one who has the potential to harm us is demoted in significance. The unborn are offensively considered by some to have minimal value as they deem them not yet human. And are we more upset at the murder of an attractive teenage girl than one who appears to be an alcoholic homeless man living on the streets? Even in the animal kingdom, those whom we consider to be more valuable evoke a stronger response when murdered than those whom we assign a lesser significance. The grandeur of a leopard, for example, may trigger greater outrage than perhaps a less appealing warthog. 

2. Social media is inundated with images of slaughtered animals. These sickening photos make the issue far more real and linger in our memories long after it is no longer considered newsworthy. If one were to post actual photos of a human who's head was severed from their torso or the individual blood-stained limbs and tissues of an unborn baby, people would demand the sites quickly remove them - far too graphic to be shown publicly. The old adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, certainly holds true in this case as does out of sight out of mind. The more powerful the image the more intense the emotion it triggers. Animals receive more coverage; hence more outrage.

3. If one is attacked by a vicious animal or deranged human, self-defense is a rational and universally acceptable response. However, in each of the aforementioned instances those murdered posed no threat and were in fact considered harmless at that time. The thought of such a grave injustice being imposed on an innocent life is appalling to most members of the human species. It is a senseless act without provocation or justification. And in some cases it can subsequently evoke fear for one's own safety: if someone can take it upon themselves to gruesomely slaughter another, what guarantee is there that my life, or the life of a loved one, won't be next?

Humans have lost all regard for all life, both human and animal. All life is sacred to God for each is an expression of His love and goodness. Furthermore He resides in all of His creations. To deliberately destroy one of God's handiwork is an abomination against the Divine. 

So take your anger, take your outrage and use it for a productive and universal good. Take a stand for life, all life, for all has value. Life belongs to the One who created it and in that regard God has exclusive dominion over it. Be respectful - treat all of God's creations as the sacred gifts they are. 

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