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Friday, March 27, 2015

Forgiveness: The steps we go through for our own benefit.

As my dad's life draws to a close, I have felt the need to come to terms with what at times has not been the most comfortable or easiest relationship. In some ways, the most difficult relationship of my life. Part of what helps me come to terms with people and circumstances is writing about them.  In other words, allowing my thoughts and feelings see the light of day.  So, over time I have come to some conclusions about forgiveness.  (originally written 3/27/15 - he has since passed away)

About forgiveness:
I've heard it said that forgiveness is not something we do for others, but rather ourselves.   In a way, I see this as true.  This is especially true when the person whom is the object of our forgiveness either doesn't realize that he or she needs to be forgiven or doesn't care about being forgiven.  

We can confront the one who has wronged us and if he/she is ready they might even own up to their offense.  However, there is always a distinct possibility of them them not being recognizing or caring about the wrong they've done to us.  So,what then are we left with at that point: perhaps more resentment.

So, what do we do?  It's believe it's healthiest to forgive them.  I don't mean forgive and accept continued abuse. I mean to forgive them for what they have done and if necessary forgive them for their hurtful tendencies.

I believe the process to forgiveness can be a 4-step process: avoidance, acceptance, understanding and forgiveness  I will elaborate on that:
  • Avoidance 
    • We might have to pull away from the person who wronged us to prevent further hurt.  
    • Alternatively, we might have to pull away to avoid trying the temptation to 'settle the score'.
  • Acceptance
    • We still get irritated with or by the other person, but we accept that it is time to start trying to forgive our offender. 
    • They may not have stopped wronging or trying to wrong us, but we accept at this point that we cannot control them. They may be incapable or unwilling to change, but with avoidance, we've minimized their ability to hurt us.
    • This step is characterized by showing outward signs of forgiveness--going through the motions of forgiveness--but not necessarily internally being forgiving.
    • This is an important step as it shows we are moving beyond being the victim and worked towards forgiving them.
  • Understanding 
    • For our peace of mind we are trying to find reasons for why our offender is the way he or she is.  Is it personal or are we just the one in the line of fire?
    • This isn't meant to accept or condone their behavior but to understand it better.  That is to say we don't agree with, but understand how our offender could get to the place they are in their thinking or behavior.
    • In some cases, we may start to empathize with our offender, depending on what brought them to hurting us.
      • Perhaps, he or she had a tough childhood--abuse/neglect/tragedy.
      • His or her behavior, while not at all acceptable, may be a coping mechanism.  For example, if he/she did not have any control over rough circumstances during childhood, he/she might exhibit harmful controlling behavior in adulthood as a misplaced defense mechanism.
    • In other cases, we may just have to understand that perhaps our offender is wired differently.  Not everyone is wired the same.  We may on some level start to appreciate our offender is just wired differently and doesn't have the capacity to understand how they hurt us nor the capacity to avoid hurting us.  In the worst case, we might be left with understanding that they are (or have become wired to be selfish).  That's not very comforting, but understanding that some people are just that way can at least allow us to move to the forgiveness level.
  • Forgiveness
    • In this stage, we have pretty well let our anger and resentment go.  That's not to say we don't have 'flare-ups' of anger and resentment, but instead that it doesn't rule us.
    • This stage may be characterized by sadness.  Sadness that the relationship in question 'has to be' like it is.
    • We may forgive, but that doesn't mean we forget or put ourselves at risk in the situation again.
      • It may mean having the person involved--sometimes heavily--in our life.
      • It may mean forgiving from afar and for our own sake keeping a safe distance.
    • Sometimes forgiveness is expressed directly to the person.  In other cases, it may be implied or unspoken as we no longer showing resentment or anger in their direction.

I will close this by reminding my readers that forgiveness is an age old practice Jesus himself set the bar on this when he said:

...Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.   (Luke 23:24)

 I feel like if He, having committed no sin could do it, then perhaps the rest of us might do well to work on it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Giving in relationships: Controller rescuer, fixer rescuer, useful partnership OR healthy supportive?

In relationships, I believe most people wish to be helpful/supportive to their significant other.  Sometimes, it is in the form of emotional support and sometimes it is in the form of money and sometimes it is in the form of 'things' that money can buy.  e.g., paying another's bills, buying items, etc.

This blog entry will explore what I think are the types of giving, common aspects of them and the motives behind them.  Granted, sometimes we fool ourselves about motives and sometimes we have mixed motives, but I digress.

1. Controlling rescuer
    • Focus is on dominance.  
      • It may be subtle or it may not, but there is an 'or else' feel to this person.
    • Buys things, helps their significant other out financially.
      • e.g., gives an allowance, gives jewelry, pays many if not all of the bills.
    • Offers 'helpful' advice, that is not necessarily 'helpful'.
      • e.g., advice in dealing with family and friends will often be portrayed as 'reasonable', but practically speaking is a measure of manipulating dominance.
    • Behind the financial help lies a darker motive.  Effectively, a controller rescuer tries to buy control.  The implied deal is if you let me run the show MY WAY and just go along I will 'take care of you'.
      • e.g., if you don't complain about my drinking/womanizing/gambling/etc. I will give you what you need.
      • e.g., I will take care of you as long as you obey my requirements.  Don't talk to others, go out with friends, etc. WITHOUT my permission.
      • e.g., I will give you an allowance/give you some freedom IF you do what I need.  Instead of organically and lovingly coming to a split of duties/tasks that the partnership requires, a controller often strongly implies if not outright demands the type of help her or she requires.
    • Often positions the 'rescuee' in a position of continued dependence.
      • Independence is a threat, to a controller.  So, the controller will be careful of how much and what type of help they will give the rescuee.   Such as giving them an allowance, but not 'allowing' them to work or go back to school.

2. Fixer rescuer
    • Focus is on heroism.  Looking like the 'loving hero'.
      • He or she doesn't use dominance, but rather 'heroism' to manipulate.
      • Literally, the fixer rescuer may give until it hurts.  On some level, he or she hopes the fixee sees how much they give and feels compelled or guilt-ed into 'loving them back'.  
    • Characterized by 'idiot compassion'.
      • Idiot compassion is the highly conceptualized idea that you want to do good to somebody. At this point, good is purely related with pleasure. Idiot compassion also stems from not have enough courage to say no.
    • Buys things, helps their significant other out financially.
      • e.g., gives an allowance, gives jewelry, pays many if not all of the bills.
      • Often when he or she cannot afford it to do so.  Once again, giving until it hurts literally.
    • Offers 'helpful' advice, which is designed to make them look or feel heroic.
      • Wants to sound loving and heroic, but often is hidden manipulative.  However, once again the manipulation can be subtle.   They want to sound 'understanding' when under the surface, what they want is to be leaned on.  The trade off is if I am understanding enough, the other person will be compelled to love me.
    • This relationship is often characterized by strong codependency and can slide into a controlling rescuer relationship IF the fixer rescuer doesn't get what he or she 'needs' out of the relationship and the fixee is dependent enough.
    • In a way, a fixer rescuer may be seen as trying to 'buy low'.
      • The one he or she is attempting to fix and rescue may very well be someone who he or she would 'not have a chance with'.  But, the hope of the fixer is that through heroism, the fixee will love him or her.

3. Useful partnership
    • This is a give and take relationship.
    • This can be an element of a healthy relationship.
    • Motives can be mixed.
      • This can be a cynical tradeoff.  I'll do this for you, only if you do that for me.
      • This can also be a healthy division of labor.  e.g., I am handy and you are good at cooking.  So, I don't mind doing the fixing things around the house and you don't mind making sure I eat right in return.  Both of us win.
      • While motives are not necessarily pure, at least it is not a destructive relationship.  It is a relationship where 1+1 could equal more than 2.  That is, the relationship is a little more than the sum of the parts, but isn't a full potential relationship.
      • Alone it is not the basis for a good marriage, but a strong, cooperative partnership can be an important part of one.

4.  Healthy supportive
    • This is where each partner is supportive of the other because they truly care about their partner and his/her well-being.
      • They are attuned to their partner's needs.
      • They are attuned to the overall relationship as well.
      • They do not compromise their own needs in the process.
    • This sort of giving relationship will tend to positive aspects of a useful partnership, but will tend to minimize the selfish aspects of it.
    • This type of giving tends to maximize the relationship's potential.  It tends to be more altruistic.

Most people like to think of themselves as having the best motives.  You know, we want to think positive about ourselves.  We'd like to think we are the good partner or spouse.  It is best if we can be truly supportive of our significant other, but it is imperative that we at least try to have a productive if not 100% pure motive partnership.  Sometimes, in a relationship, our partner is struggling and perhaps we may even need to 'come to the rescue', but it is imperative that we 1) are grounded enough that we can afford to give of ourselves that way and 2) that our motives for 'rescuing' are not controlling or manipulative.  i.e., not self-serving.

Just my thoughts...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Baseball and life: The winner mindset, a tribute to the upcoming season.

In a story well known by St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans and by many baseball fans outside of St. Louis, the 2011 Cardinals defied the odds. They were 10 1/2 games out with 31 to play, 8 1/2 back with 21 to play and 3 out with 5 to play.  Furthermore, they were one strike away from losing the World Series that year to the Texas Rangers.  Yet, they fought back each time and won.

So, it occurred to me, why do some teams with great talent fold under pressure, yet some teams with lessor talent seem to win it all?  I believe it is what I call a "winner mindset".  In a way, like individuals we seem to live up or down to our expectations.

  • Some teams just have a bad history.  They can never seem to get over the hump.  Year after year they are subject to futility.  We think of the Cubs, the Padres and the Pirates prior to the past couple of years as such an example.  They have almost no recent winning tradition to speak of.  They may start out well, but typically they fade.  It is almost an expectation that they have that they will ultimately not succeed.  Comparing it to relationships, they've had so many bad ones before that 'seemed' to start out good that they have little expectation for new ones.
  • Some teams have a moderate to healthy amount of success   They know they have talent and they think they can win, but they just don't have that eye of the tiger.  In teams with talent, but not a culture of winning, this often leads to what we know as 'choking'.   They are underachievers in a sense.
    • The 2004/2005 Cardinals were such an example.  Arguably they were the best teams in baseball, but in 2004 they got swept by Boston and they didn't fare much better in 2005.
    • The Braves from 1991-2004, were pretty dominate--making the post season each year--but with the exception of 1995, they did not take home the crown.
    • Thinking it in terms of relationships, it is like hoping to find 'the one' and getting close to whom you think is the one, but never quite finding someone who is a good match.
  • Some teams just seem to know that they are winners.  It is as if they not only think that they can win, but frankly, expect to win.   The 2011 Cardinals were such an example.  The Giants of 2010, 2012 and 2014 are such an example.   It may come across as arrogance or swagger, but really it is believing in yourself.  Comparing to relationships, it is having a quiet confidence that you are with the right person.  In a sense, knowing that you can be yourself in the relationship and be accepted.


The progression to winning:

1) Bringing in winning leadership: Tony Larussa and Walt Jocketty and later John Mozeliak.
  • You have to have confident leadership to a) be able to determine which players are part of the problem and which are part of the solution and b) be able to generate/send a winning vibe. 
2) Taste some success.  In 1996 and 2001, the Cardinals tasted some success in the postseason, but in some ways, maybe just happy to be there.

3) Build a strong team, and think you can win, but not KNOW that you will win.  In 2004/2005, the Cardinals had arguably the stronger teams but they didn't know that they were suppose to win.  They thought that they could, but didn't yet know that they were suppose to.

4) The team knows that they are suppose to win.  It's an intangible, it is almost a sense of mission.  Where you know what your destiny is.  You don't just think you can win, but expect or know that you will win..  It is a quiet confidence.  I believe in 2006 and 2011 the Cardinals organization of recent finally matured and realized that they were meant to win, to be the team of destiny.

I believe the Dodgers know they have a good team, but haven't fully embraced that they are meant to win.  The Giants on the other hand have.  Similarly, the Washington Nationals haven't gotten over that hump either.   Sometimes, it is just a matter of having the right players/management combination and sometimes it is having a winning tradition built in your organization.

For me, the takeaway is this:
1) You work towards winning.
2) Even when you are unsure, you work through the motions of believing in yourself, even if you don't feel it initially.
3) You taste some success and gain confidence.
4) You start to believe in yourself.
5) Finally, one day you just know you can do it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Getting in our own way...

I realized something last weekend.  Or maybe I'd realized it before, but it really stuck this time.  I had to make a decision regarding my dad's care.  Literally, a life and death type decision.  He was coming up upon a crossroads in his care.  
* Originally published on 3/18/15

I was so torn about what direction to take--that is until I got out of my own way and let God work through me.  Anyway, this led me to today's point.  Sometimes, we are so worried about the outcome of decisions we need to make and discussions we need to have, that we get in our own way.  Instead of surrendering our decisions to our God--our Higher Power--we struggle.  From my own experience and that I've seen of others we struggle for a few reasons:
  • Codependence   
    • We want our decisions to be accepted by others.  We want our choices to be accepted by all.  As I have learned, no matter what choices you make, you will usually have someone critical of them.  Best to pray on it, listen to the wisdom of trusted voices and consider what advice you'd give someone else in your shoes, in other word's step outside yourself.
    • We want to be accepted by others.  It is easier to avoid a hard discussion/decision and pretend that all is well than to open up the door to conflict/disagreement. This is especially true when what hangs in the balance is significant (marriage/life & death decision).
  • Lack of faith/fear/need to control.
    • When our faith is low, we believe we cannot count on others, especially God.  This leads us to rely on ourselves.
      • Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding
    • When we are so afraid of making the wrong choices/mistakes, we are paralyzed into not making a choice, which usually in and of itself a choice. A lack of choice pretty well means the choice is made for you.
    • When we are afraid of an outcome that is out of our comfort level, we will overcompensate and try to 'control' the discussion and/or everyone and everything in the decision loop.
I've learned in life there needs to be a happy balance--the balance between trying to 'control' life and letting life control you.  In other words, doing the necessary planning and then letting God be God and trusting.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Closer mentality: The outlook necessary to be a successful parent.

Being a successful parent means answering the call anytime under any circumstance often without a whole lot of warning.  The way I see it you have to have a closer mentality like as in baseball.  In a way, this applies most strongly to being a single parent, but applies to parents in general.

A successful closer (like a successful parent):
  • Has to be able to have a short memory.  He has to forget a recent bad outing.
    • He has to be aware on some level of what went wrong, but he cannot focus on the bad outing last game, lest he start to doubt too much his abilities.  Similarly, a parent has to forget having had a bad night last night with their child.
    • He can't focus on blowing the save and the game and letting his team down.  Last game is in the past and his team needs him now.  He's not very useful to them if he's letting last night's failure destroy his rhythm and therefore his success.  Similarly, a parent 'fail', whether it is like not being attentive enough as you are recovering from tough times or simply like forgetting to make sure they are fully packed for school on a yesterday, needs to be forgotten.   If you are focused on the fail, it is likely to distract you from the task at hand in working with your child.  
      • The batter at the plate will not care why you are distracted and ineffective, he will hit the poor pitches you throw a long way.
      • Your child might sense weakness in your resolve, due to guilt/shame associated with past failures, and take advantage of it to pressure you into giving him/her what they want.
  • Has to be able to fake it on a night when he doesn't have his best stuff .  He can't let the batter at the plate 'know' that he is having an off night and is lacking confidence in his stuff.  He has to exude--even if it is faked--an attitude that he owns the plate.  Similarly a parent might be having an off-night and/or a night of doubt, yet he/she has to fake confidence and/or decisiveness.  
  • Has spent time/years preparing for that role.  There are few to whom this role comes naturally to them.
    • Some have spent years of working on control.  They keep on tossing pitch after pitch after pitch until they get a groove or feel for the pitches.    In the meantime, they have to keep throwing.  Similarly, a parent often has to go through growing pains in which he/she presses their kid to do what he needs to, even when the kid fights it.  If a parent is consistent and persistent, he or she has a much greater chance of gaining 'control' over the child.  That is to say, having the kid listen fairly well.
    • Some have come from other roles such as a setup man and when they gain a feel, they get promoted.  This is like a parent who spends time building up authority with a younger kid and as a result is more likely to be able to exert that authority when the kid is older.

A little more specific comparison of closers vs. parents: there are two types of closer situations in bullpens.  Let's examine a closer situation in which there is THE closer.  He is the one the coach or team will live and die with.  That's just like a single parent household, ultimately in a true single parent household, a kid will thrive or suffer depending on if the parent is effective.  Alternatively, let's consider a closer by committee situation.  In that case, the coach will choose who will close out the game depending on factors such as who has the best stuff, is the freshest, has the best matchups and the like.  In other words, the coach has the luxury of choosing whom he thinks will best handle a given game.  However, if the one he decides appears to be struggling, he can readily swap out for another 'closer'.  Similarly, in a two parent house, on a given night or in a given situation, there is the luxury of choosing whom will primarily handle the exercise of authority.   If one parent seems to be having a bad night, he or she can defer to other parent to back him or or her.

Back to the main point, however.  For successful parenting like closing you have to:
  • Train yourself to 'forget' the bad days.  Don't get stuck in the self-blame/shame.
  • Fake confidence on days in which it is lacking.  Fake it to yourself and others.
  • Be consistent and persistent.
Applies to biological as well adoptive parents:

Just because...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Is it too much to ask?: Surrendering and expectations

A had a discussion with a friend one time, actually it was a group discussion.  Anyway, we were discussing expectations in marriage.  Part of the discussion centered on the idea that tensions in marriage are largely caused by unmet expectations.  If a marriage is beset by a history of addiction or codependence of any sort, it is hard for one or both partners to be 'present' in the marriage.  As as result, it's hard for one or both to meet each other's expectations. 

Bearing this in mind, a question came to mind: Given such problems, when are marriages worth fighting for?  I believe if you have kids together, and especially if a marriage is started on a friendship, then perhaps such a marriage is worth fighting for.  Anyway say you've answered that question--is it worth fighting for--in the affirmative, the follow-up question is what do you have to do to make it at least livable, if not thriving?  I've always thought one of the keys to success or at least tolerability of an imperfect marriage is surrendering expectations.  That doesn't mean you don't push for what is important to you in the marriage.  What it means is that after you've expressed your marital concerns to your spouse, you surrender them to your Higher Power. 

From the AA Big Book

"My serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations of other people are, the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations. But then my 'rights' try to move in, and they, too, can force my serenity level down. I have to discard my 'rights,' as well as my expectations, by asking myself, How important is it, really? How important is it compared to my serenity, my emotional sobriety'? And when I place more value on my serenity and sobriety than on anything else, I can maintain them at a higher level - at least for the time being."
Alcoholics Anonymous,
p. 452


We tend to have significant expectations of those close to us and we often find ourselves getting disappointed.  In pondering that, the following occurred to me is:
  • God imbued me with free will, but He also imbued others in my life with free will as well.
  • How can we expect others to necessarily live up to our expectations, given their free will when given our own free will we don't live up to the expectation of our Creator?
  • In other words, the free will we cherish and leads to us disappointing God is the same free will that prevents others from meeting our expectations.

In closing, a little realism in expectations and a little understanding of the way we disappoint others--including our Higher Power--can go a long way towards helping a marriage.  If we are able to better see our own faults, we can be more realistic accepting that perhaps our spouse isn't perfect either.

Just some thoughts... 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Fine Line: Failure takes no effort, success takes a lot of work

I believe if you have been around long enough and reflected a little, you'll come to realize (at least on some level) that life is full of fine lines.  To wit consider:
  • In sports and competition.  
    • Winning or losing a 100 meter swim or sprint by .01 seconds
    • Fouling back a pitch vs. hitting a home run.
    • Throwing an incomplete pass vs. a touchdown pass.
  • With a change of a word or two, something meant as a compliment can be taken as an insult.
  • With a moment of inattention we could be in a major accident on the highway.  
  • Going out a few minutes earlier or later or signing in a few minutes earlier or later could make the difference between finding a companion who treats us well vs. one who treats us poorly
  • A couple answers on a test can mean the difference between getting a scholarship or not or getting into the school of our choice or not.. 
I don't know when I came to it, but having lived my life without much of a safety net or extras or flash tends to make you realize the fine line between success and failure.  I realized that if I didn't succeed in college that I would never have any type of life as I tend to be less handy with my hands and more handy with my mind.   I realize that if I didn't succeed I would not any help to speak of from family.

As I likely have adult ADD, sometimes learning takes a little more effort.  So, while I am very smart, sometimes I have to really bear down and focus to get the job done.  So, I knew success wouldn't come easy for me.

I have seen people around me fail by making very little if any effort at all, but alternatively have seen people succeed by trying hard.  It has become clear to me that failing is actually very simple, often times it is a matter of doing little or nothing.  Like if you take your hands off the wheel when driving, you will eventually crash vs. getting to your destination.  If you don't look for work you'll stay unemployed.  Etc.   Success on the other hand typically means pushing past when you are tired, pushing past when you are ready to quit, pushing past when you are 'done'.  Success often means reaching for that little extra when you are physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually exhausted.  In other words, it is a fine between giving up and failing and success.

I guess the take away is this:

  • Failure is the eventual default position, but success is the position that takes a lot of planning and/or effort.  That is to say failure is the default state and success is the state that you have to work towards. 
  • The difference between success and failure is often a very small amount.  That is, a fine line.


Keep moving forward toward the dream

The difference between failure and success
Is often when you've decided to continue or take a rest

The goal seems too far away
But, if pushing forward you stay

Focused on the prize ahead
Despite all the effort you dread

You will find that as you continue to move forward
Close and closer to you reward

Will you get, until one day you have achieved your dream
Then all the your effort will seem

To fade into the background
But you on the other hand will still be around.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Life's misfortunes: No one is to blame

I was playing the song, "No One is To Blame" the other day by Howard Jones and realized that it applied to circumstances in the lives of a few people currently or in the last few years (as well as my own).   The quote above in a way captures the concept.

(Post originally written 3/5/15)

We make many choices in our lives:
  • Without the luxury of hindsight and often under pressure.  Hard to change a flat on rolling car, isn't it?
  • Without ever having had a positive example in the matter.
  • Without an 'instruction book' (at least that we know of).  That is to say, on very limited information.
  • That often seem equally as good or bad as any other.
  • Often in a lose-lose situation.
The point is that we do the best we can with limited resources and not always having good options.  We attempt to do the right thing, but are often restricted from or don't have enough time to see the bigger picture.  

In my own life, my marriage was failing and at the same time, my brother was struggling with his own demons.  Could have, should have, would have and the like.  In a better situation, I would have had the freedom to let him stay with me when he was struggling.  He asked me not to tell others in the family about the 'place he was'.   I made a judgement call that a)  doing so would shut him down to me and b) very likely would not have led to the help or support he needed anyway.  Due to the train-wreck that was happening in my own situation at the time, I had to step away.  I got the call that he was found deceased of a likely suicide.  I questioned myself: Did I do the right thing? Did I let him down?  If I'd hadn't temporarily stepped away would he still have been alive?  So many questions, so few answers.  Guilt abounding.  He was the one closest to me in personality and I had a beat on him, I had a bad feeling, I had bad vibes.  Yet, I couldn't save him.

I've come to realize that at best I would have bought him a little more time, but I was not equipped to deal with his level of hopelessness.  Beyond that, I'm just assuming that I could have made any difference.  Sometimes circumstances are what they are and the sooner we realize it the better off we are.

In the song, "No one is to blame", the implication is that the narrator is in a disconnected relationship.  He is bemoaning, the temptation of infidelity and the frustration involved.  "And you want her, and she wants you, no one is to blame" is the key phrase.  Through no fault of his own, it is likely that due to issues in his own relationship, someone else caught his attention.   Ultimately, it doesn't sound like he truly acted out with this other person.  I don't think he's condoning infidelity but more or less saying the temptation of it sometimes sneaks up on people.  He will not feel awful about being tempted, that these things happen.   In this case, his partner has a role in the disconnect and he likely has a role in the disconnect.  So, in a way, they are both at fault, but yet due to their imperfect relationship knowledge/experience, perhaps the disconnect that led to his outside temptation was inevitable and unavoidable.

There are many possible circumstances in life in which it is easy to blame, but if you step back and look objectively in a way, no one is to blame.  Below are a few examples:
  1. A person close to you ends their life, even if you had a sense of trouble, it is easy to blame yourself for not being there, even if on many occasions you had been. 
  2. Someone you know has health issues and you blame yourself when something bad happens.
    • They don't take care of themselves properly and you finally stop hounding them to and something happens to them.
    • They refuse to see a Dr. or go to the hospital and you relent and something happens to them.
  3. An unexpected/unforeseen illness/tragedy happens to someone in the family.  It tears the family apart. 
  4. In a marriage, for one or both partners, demons from long ago such as abuse/neglect have not been dealt with properly.  The coping mechanisms which were crucial in helping us survive the abuse/neglect were never shed in adulthood, never allowing us to develop effective positive relationship skills.  Over time, this leads to friction/damage in the marriage, perhaps to a point of irreconcilability.   Sure, blame could be tossed, but what good does it do?  In some ways, it might have been inevitable.
The way I see it is this: you do the best you can with the information/strength you have at the time, You hope and pray for the wisdom/strength to make the right choices.  For perspective, you keep in mind and are grateful for the good that has come in life, but are aware that misfortunes do happen, which are out of your control.   Mourn those misfortunes and realize that at times trying to control/fix/avoid these is like trying to lasso the wind.  In other words, reflect on, but don't get stuck on the misfortunes.  In short, sometimes everyone is to blame, but at the same time "no one is to blame".

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

How we come to our faith

I made an earlier post about accepting people where they are.  I believe a corollary to that one is how we come to our faith. It is Sunday morning and my church called off services this morning.  So, I think I will take the opportunity to give attention to my faith and show praise by blogging about faith.   (originally blogged on 3/1/15)

People have different paths to and different speeds at which they come to their faith.  I will share a little about my path and then express how I see the faith of others developing and growing.

My path:

  • Early years-when I was born my mom and dad were going to a Catholic church (St. Sabina).  I don't ever remember going to church there, but I was of course just baby.  At some point they stopped going, but it apparently wasn't until I was at least 2.  I had Guillian-Barre Syndrome at that age and my parents did not know if I was going to make it or not.  I obviously did make it, :), but in the process of preparing for the possibility that I didn't, they had me baptized Catholic.
  • Fast forward a few years later maybe.  My dad didn't go to church and my mom didn't know how to drive.  She went to a church around the corner from our house.  It was a hellfire and damnation church, where you'd go to h*ll for breathing the wrong way.  Literally, I was taught the FEAR OF GOD.  I remember hearing from the minister's family that Escape to Witch Mountain was devil driven.  I call that "uptight religious".  I don't remember enough about the movie so I won't comment too much except to say that perhaps it wasn't 100% consistent with Christian beliefs??  However, I really have a hard time believing a Disney Kid's family fantasy movie is trying to undermine the basis of the Christian faith.  But, I digress.  So, I had my Christian faith "shocked into me" at around 6.  I would figure later that that's what I needed.
  • This below is why I needed that "shock," I didn't have the most healthy environment growing up and I won't go into that as I have previously, but let's just say among other things, from the age of about 8-12 (to my best estimate) I was sexually molested by a man whom my older siblings met at church camp.  He was a "church camp counselor" and became a friend of the family.  So, along with the other dysfunction that had a destructive effect in my life.  I'm setting this up for my later in my story. 
  • At some point my mom stopped going to the church and started going to First Christian Church of Florissant.  I don't remember the transition.  Anyway, my brother Bill and I in the meantime  grew up to become runners in high school.  Both the boy's and girl's cross country coaches were Believers and they ran a chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  The coaches let us know about it and an older teammate invited us to come.  So, eventually we did.  They genuinely cared about the spiritual well-being of their athletes and were there as mentors.  Sometimes, just being yourself you can affect the lives of others for generations to come without really appreciating it, but I digress. Anyway, ultimately this lead to my brother Bill and I going to church with my mom, accepting Jesus and being baptized in our Sophomore and Freshman year of high school, respectively.
  • As you might imagine, life didn't suddenly become easy and problem free at this point.  As a new Christian, I was disappointed that other Christian teens weren't always so accepting and warm towards me. But, at the time, I saw them as non-caring.  Even at times, I saw some people act a certain way on Sunday, but on Monday-Saturday, a different way.  Around that time my dad filed for divorce from my mom.
    • People, especially young, go through their own battles, teen angst, and their own pace of growth and maturity in their faith.  At the time, that wasn't so clear.  I was looking for acceptance among whom I thought were my Christian peers and was 'let down'.  However, there were a couple people that were there, but in my teen mind, it wasn't near the degree of acceptance or fitting in that I needed, especially given turbulence on the homefront.
    • I tend to be very intellectual.  But, at the same time, I have an emotional/passionate side.  So, the disconnect, between behavior and deeds got to me.  I don't know how, but I think God blessed me with a certain understanding.  1 + 1 = 2.  It doesn't matter if everyone around me acts like, 1 + 1 = 3 in their daily lives, the fact is that 1 + 1 will still equal to 2.  In other words, God is God and the truth is the truth REGARDLESS of if others don't live up to their professed faith of it.  What I have come to realize is that if you live a life very inconsistent with your professed faith, it doesn't discredit your faith, but it will make you compromised spokesperson for it.
    • No one can live a perfect life, which I felt awful when I failed, almost hopeless about my faith.  What I came to realize is that forgiveness doesn't end when you take up your faith, it is an ongoing process of trying to be a more Godly person while asking forgiveness when you fail.
  • I transferred to UMR (Missouri School of Science and Technology) and stopped going to church and fell away.  It is easy when you are around those who you know from church and those who might keep you accountable, meaning they'll point out when you are not at church.  But, what happens when you leave that environment?  My faith wasn't strong enough at that point to stay active in the or a Christian church.  
  • Fast forward, I was not happy in my job/life.  Not exactly at a high point.  A Christian coworker, shared his faith with me, I was polite but in my mind, I was like, "leave me alone".   Not that day or not that week, but eventually his words did get my attention.  I was about 26/27 and started going back to church and more actively practicing my faith.  It was it this time, I gave my second major push for understanding why I believed what I believe.  I did extensive bible reading and got a number of books on the foundation, basis, evidence, and rationale for why to believe Christianity.  This was an important push as my point below as will be evident later.
  • Shortly, after going back to church, I had started dating seriously with the intent of eventually finding a mate.  After many disappointments, which I may recount elsewhere one day, I stopped going to my church and went to a girlfriend's church.  Eventually, when we broke up and I felt homeless with regard to a church and I drifted again.  I met my now ex and she not only didn't share my faith, but she didn't seem like she was not open to it as for reasons, I never fully found out.  I'm not one to judge a person's faith walk.  I feel that is up to God, not me, but as it affected me, we were not even in the same zip code in terms of faith and it appeared that there was no path towards sharing a faith.   
  • We moved in together, then got married a couple years later.   This, in hindsight was a HUGE mistake.  I should have waited until I got married to move in.  But, that's a whole different blog on why I think felt like that was a bad idea.   Anyway, so without going into detail, we had a lot of problems in our marriage,  I had not yet got counseling for the hurt, dysfunction and the pain of my childhood.  I didn't practice my faith like I should have.  We were too different to make it in our marriage, but I do have a daughter out of the marriage, so I don't regret the role marriage played in my life.  It was a chapter with good points and bad points, but as a friend said it was a chapter and chapters eventually end.  I strive the next time for a continuing story rather than a chapter, but I digress.
  • Near the end of our marriage, I realized how lost I was in my faith and how I wasn't giving my daughter a chance to learn, understand, appreciate and accept my faith.  So, I asked one of my childhood friends which church he went to.  Eventually that led me to Harvester Church of the Nazarene where I practice my faith today.  Currently, I'm working on sharing my faith with Olivia and hope one day she comes to embraces it in the way that she is meant to.  Anyway, the previous push I made for understanding the basis for my faith was important here as I am better able to reconnect with it and answer questions my daughter has on Christianity.
  • In my life, it was important to have the shock treatment of faith given to me early so that my faith would survive the early turmoil and turmoil over the years.

So, that is my path to my faith.  It is a long and winding one with high peaks and steep valleys, but in the end, I am working my way to being where I know I need to be.

As with the previous blog about accepting people where they are, people are in different places in their faith or Christian (Catholic) walk.  I believe in God's eyes we are all His children and He is a loving Father.  I am of the belief that He loves all his children and doesn't think one is more important than the other, we just play different roles.  So, I am not here to judge, but I will let that be His role.

I'm probably missing some paths, but this is my initial assessment on paths to our faith  of our adultlhood:
  • Some people grow up in a two parent household in which both parents are serious in their faith and show it in their everyday life.  The kids have a certain luxury of being able to follow their parents initially and the jump to a strong Christian/Catholic faith of their understanding as they get a little older.
  • Some people grow up in a two parent household in which there are deep inconsistencies such as the following or they grown up in a broken home in which both parents practice their faith. They have some appreciation for Christian/Catholic faith but their are obstacles:
    • One parent goes to church another doesn't.
    • One parent strongly practices his/her faith, while the other doesn't.
    • Both parents go to church for apparent show, but during the week they don't seem to live their professed faith.
    • The divorce/separation of the parents is inconsistent with the concept of a strong/loving/united Christian household
  • Some people grow up in broken households or single parenthood in which 'going to church'/Christianity is practiced actively by one, but not by the other (if the other is even present).
    • Child takes the faith of the active one, but there is a disconnect with the missing parent or parent who is in not active in the faith.  This can cause obstacles.
  • Some people grown up in households (single/two parent) in which a Christian/Catholic faith is rarely if at all practiced.
    • There is little spiritual basis in the immediate family for the child to grow up with a strong faith.  
Ultimately, some have it 'easy' to finding their faith, some have it more challenging and some have it extremely difficult.   This also relates to not just having a Christian/Catholic faith, but rather how strong their faith is.  


Ultimately, it is not up to us to judge where others are, it is God's role. If relating your faith to another is important,  be aware that not everyone is in the same place, nor will they have the same set of beliefs, and everyone has different routes to their faith.  It is important to respect our where each other is and the routes/obstacles each of us has had along the way.