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Showing posts with label accepting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label accepting. Show all posts

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Accepting people even when you don't fully understand or appreciate them.

I won't go into much detail for anonymity reasons, but I became aware of a family that had faced a very sad circumstance in their life.  They were culturally very different from me.  I had had some experience (and friendships) from people of that culture.  However, those around me hadn't necessarily had the same.  So, not everyone in my circle fully appreciated the family's reaction to their sad circumstance.  When you broke down their reaction, the family's reaction is quite logical.   Fully embracing it publicly could, at least in theory, involve the loss of face.  Besides, as I discovered with the loss of my dad, mom and closest sibling in recent years, life and its grind and responsibilities do not stop just because you face hardship. 

Putting myself in the family's situation, I am sure I would react differently.   Part of me says, they weren't really reacting well.  However, as I have noted in prior posts, our reactions to life circumstance don't always follow script.   For example, love and grief do not always abide by what is expected or even necessarily socially acceptable.  I have to consider that maybe they are handling thing the way their life needs require them to, especially in light of their particular culture.

This gets to a larger point.  We are shaped by our life experiences.  We are shaped by who we grow up around and who we spend time around and the cultural influences we listen to.   This shapes the way we think and the way we read or interpret situations or people.   For example, if you grow up in an environment in which people are often duplicitous and will not necessarily tell you how they feel (or feel about you) to your face, you will be caught off guard when you run into people who are more honest and say what they think straight to your face.

Unfortunately, in our society, for worse or better, our life experiences, can limit us to understanding others who fall outside our familiarity zone.   For example, if a family member died doing something they shouldn't one family might quietly bury that person with little fanfare or acknowledgement.  The circumstances surrounding the death might bring too much 'shame' to the family and negative publicity in 'their community'.  So, they quietly handle it and move on.   That is their way of coping and surviving in their community, their circle.  They are probably broken up about it, but they also know they have to carry on.   Another family might publicly acknowledge their loved ones' flaws, how they missed the signs and even tell their story in hopes that other families don't have to go through the same heartache.  People not understanding the culture of the first family might see them as coldhearted and be totally oblivious to the pain they are masking and the obstacles they face to fit in.

Personally, often I am a very private person.  My father was a very private person.   There were things that happened in my formative years additionally which shaped this aspect of my personality which I won't get into here.   However, one thing I will mention is this: I have dealt with anxiety disorder since I was 17.   It used to be very debilitating, but between gaining confidence, learning coping skills and having access medicine to combat it, I have learned to cope with it such that I can live a 'normal' life.  That being said, one of my coping skills is being able--to a degree--to compartmentalize that which is bothering me (and that I cannot resolve immediately).  Part of being able to compartmentalize or set aside that which is bothering me is not continually talking about it.  If I am talking about it all the time, I am forced to focus on it straight on and that can cause me excess stress and anxiety, where it is not necessarily productive.   Now, if discover a story or article, find a person who might be helpful and/or have experienced the same issue or problem or have an epiphany on it, I will bring the issue or circumstance to the forefront and discuss or consider it, even if it ramps up my anxiety.   But, I will not keep on bringing up the issue or circumstance constantly when doing so will cause me too much anxiety without any real advancement towards a solution.

A lot of people in this circumstance find a need to 'vent' to find a way to get rid of their anxiety.   They might see the way I handle it as bottling it up or worse they may perceive that my lake of 'venting' implies that I don't care.  That would be the furthest thing from the truth.  Just as I see too much 'venting' as unproductive, stressful and a waste of energy, they might view the relative silence on my part incorrectly and even showing a lack of concern.   My environment and my circumstances shaped me a certain way, not necessarily right or wrong.  Others' shapes them a different way, not necessarily right or wrong.  

I have known people addicted to the bottle and/or drugs, people who have no exposure to either of that in their life may see those people as 'irresponsible' or 'not caring enough' or just some variation of being a 'bad person'.   Yes, there are some people who are sociopaths (or psychopaths) who really don't care about others and will do whatever they want just to 'feel good' and don't care who it affects or who is hurt in the process.  But, with a background that included CSA (childhood sexual abuse), family dysfunction (stemming from at least my grandparents, if not further) and seeing similar issues in others, I know that people do things to try to escape the pain of their traumas, often times not understanding the risk when they start it.  With a relatively healthy childhood and circumstance, this may be hard to full appreciate.   This doesn't mean you accept or condone destructive behavior, but what it does mean is you just classify those who engage in it as selfish, non-caring, narcissist, or sociopath's without knowing the road they've traveled.

I grew up lower-middle/working class.  So, when I hear about a young man or women from a rich and prestigious who are throwing their life away, I can't necessarily relate.  Many assume that if they just have means, life would be totally better and relatively problem free.  However, imagine you grow up in a family with means, but with it you have so much expected of you.   You are expected to join the family practice, business, or become a doctor/lawyer/etc.   You are expected at all times to be on perfect behavior because your name is prominent in the community.   You have all kinds of people who wish to be your 'friend' and you don't really know if it is because they find you interesting or believe that doing so could help them get ahead.   Imagine, you are a person who is not cut out for this, imagine the pressures to succeed put on you by your 'family name' by your family and society, imagine the pressure they put on you to do what they think you should do and not what you necessarily want to, imagine wondering if people are your friends for what they think being such might help them.  Beyond that, we don't always know what demons might hide behind family portrait.  So, I try to listen to their story before I go to the "POOR RICH SPOILED KID" mantra.


Our life experiences are helpful to us in understanding other people and their circumstances.  However, we have to be careful not to let them limit us in understanding others, their thoughts, their ways.   Specifically, if we are not careful, we can actually get to a place where we judge others' thoughts and ways as ridiculous, invalid or illegitimate.  Unless we are completely insulated in our own cocoon or echo chamber, we are likely going to find people whose life experiences and/or individual circumstances have led them to thinking, believing, responding and/or behaving in a way different to us.  The point is we may not completely understand them, but if they are important to us, we will accept them even when while we are still working on understanding them.  Just like we wouldn't want them to put them into a box of 'their understanding' of us based on their experiences, we should not put them in a box based on 'our understanding' based on our own experiences.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Accepting a Serving of Pie = Providing a Serving of Love

Christmas at my mom's house was always interesting.  She'd get gifts she thought were cool (even if we didn't need them or it wasn't our cup of tea.  We'd sometimes trade some of our gifts among each other until we got what we thought were the best gifts for each of us.  She'd always cook a lot of food and without fail she'd encourage us to take plenty home.  Sometimes we weren't in the mood to have ham, pie or casserole for days, but we saw how important it was to her.  So, we'd take it home and eat as much as we reasonably could over the next few days before we got sick of it or it just got too old.  After about a week, the guilt of throwing away the excess food that we couldn't eat anymore of (or that had gone bad) would have been assuaged and we could go on with our lives.

Looking back it was a little sad, but it was kind of funny.

My mom wanted to be loved.  She wanted to feel useful.  She wanted to feel important.  She wanted to know she mattered to her kids.  I think in most cases among her kids, these things were true, even if she wasn't always sure of it.  It was like a little dance in a way.
I get you many affordable trinkets of my love--some really needed and others not so much--and I hope think well of me.  I feed you and provide you all the food you'd ever want and remember that I love you (and hope you feel the same way too).
I learned a valuable lesson from her.  Love doesn't have to be perfect, love can be a little needy, love can hope it is returned, but the main thing is the person providing it is trying.  They sincerely want to share it with you.  In and of itself there is immense value in that.  If someone treats you with warmth and kindness and tries to be there for you, does it really matter if it isn't always 100% on the mark or part of the motive for it could be hoping to get a little back?  Sometimes showing love is accepting that token, that attempt, that (sometimes imperfect) effort the other is showing you.  Sure, I may have not needed that piece of pie or leftover pie or helpings of turkey, but how hard is it to put away my pride or put away my "oh you really didn't have to do that" or  my "I can't take all this home" How hard is it to accept the 'serving of pie', the gift of love?

God blesses us with people in our lives, people that are willing to make that extra effort to show us warmth, even if sometimes their desire to be loved or appreciated may seem over the top, I think it is important to be grateful for them and love them and show love to them for whom they are.  They may embarrass you at times, but dammit they are sometimes the sweetest people.  

As you might sense, this post actually hurts a bit to write.  I was blessed with a sweet mom who put up with my flaws and idiosyncrasies and all she asked was for a little bit of love in return.  God blessed me with a realization of this as I worked my way from young adulthood to "middle-aged".

I love you and miss you mom.  I wish I could have slowed down and spent more time with you (Even if by phone).  When given the gift of leftover turkey or pie, I will gladly take it home in your honor.

- Rich

(My mom passed away July 6th, 2014 to be at eternal peace with her Higher Power-God)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Demons Part 4: No matter where you go, you will always be with you...

Recently I was listening to "My Eyes Adored You" by Frankie Valli and it got me to thinking.  In this song, over time, he sings of a lady friend whom he has loved literally since he was a kid.  Even though she never returned his love, it still remained in his heart no matter where he was, how long it had been, and no matter what he did.  In short, that was his cross to bear.  One could say perhaps it was his demon as there was no escaping his unrequited love for his lady friend.  With my birthday coming up soon, I thought this blog idea (and quote) was quite appropriate.

I've come to realize that everyone in this life has their cross to bear--for some it is a physical cross, for other it is psychological.  Sometimes that cross to bear feels like a demon.  The funny thing about personal demons is that you can't outrun them.  You can try to hide from them, you can try to ignore them, you can try to 'medicate' them away, but unless you've dealt with them, they will be there wehn you 'finish the day'.  I'm not sure who quoted it first, but as a wise man once said, "Wherever you go, there you are".

One of my favorite Bible stories is that of Jonah and the Whale.  In that story, the Lord spoke to his servant Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh and preach to the Ninevites.   They needed to repent of their sins lest they faith His wrath and be destroyed.  Well Jonah didn't particularly like the people of Nineveh as they were enemies of Israel.  So, he was fine with the Lord destroying them and therefore tried to run from obligations.  Naturally, the Lord being the Lord, He wasn't going to just sit idly by while His servant Jonah disrespected His will.  So, when Jonah caught a ship going the other way, the Lord sent a great storm that way.  Jonah was then awoken by the ship's captain and implored to call upon God to calm the storm.  Soon thereafter, the ship's population cast lots and determined that it was Jonah who had brought the trouble with him.  Jonah realized at this point what he needed to do to save the ship and its crew.  After some resistance from them, Jonah convinced the crew to toss him overboard to calm God.  Eventually they did and immediately thereafter the great storm had ceased, putting the fear of the Lord in all of them.  Anyway, Jonah was swallowed by a great whale and after three days in the whale, he cried up to God to spare him.  The Lord chose to spare him and the whale spat him on dry land.  When the Lord ordered Jonah to go to Nineveh again, Jonah took the hint and went there, upon which time the Ninevites repented of their sins and were spared.  In this story, Jonah was fortunate as his demon or cross that he had to bear was blatantly obvious: He had to help those whom he hated, no matter how much it upset him.   In our lives, the demons are not always so obvious and/or more not have a way to be (fully) resolved.  Yet,  even if we can't make a demon disappear, we can find a way to come to terms with it even while we work to lessen it.

Dealing with "Demons"
  • Recognizing them
    • Awareness of their existence.
    • Awareness of what they are
    • Awareness of what they aren't
  • Accepting their existence.
    • Accepting the full extent of them.
    • Accepting whatever level of permanence they are at.
  • Dealing with them
    • Knowing what you can and should do to deal with them.
    • Knowing what you can't or shouldn't do to deal with them.
  • Coming to terms with them
    • Accepting the aspects (of demons) that you can't change.
    • Working to change the aspects that you can.
    • Being wise enough to know which demons (or aspects thereof) you can change, which ones you cannot and being willing to accept the difference.

A personal example
Anyone who knows me knows that one of my biggest demons is sadness, specifically missing my daughter.  I have less than half time custody of her (and only half the holidays).  I've learned to deal, but I still cannot escape the sadness.  Sometimes I just have to be sad and maybe shed a few tears.  But, I know I can't just have her whenever I want.  I've accepted that I will have times in which I don't get to see her and I will be sad.  However, I know there are things I can do to maximize my time with her-including volunteering to coach, offering to watch her when her mom has late/early morning meetings, asking for days during the summer if/when her mom offers it.

I've recognized my demon--sadness due to loss of time with my daughter--and accepted it as part of who I am (a man who has strong feelings).   I've recognized what I can do to deal with the demon and what I cannot.  I'm also working to change the situation to the extent I can (and therefore reduce the loss of missing her).

Anyway, just my random musing the week.  Hopefully, you are able to retrieve something out of this post.


Other posts on demons:

Demons: Facing Demonsl

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Are you pushing necessary society change or just avoiding yourself?

One time I was observing a group on the news disrupting a church service attended by a certain politician.  They used the forum to try to push their agenda.  I won't identify the issue or actors as I don't want to distract from the larger point.  But, I wondered what made their agenda so important that they felt the need to shut down the service and the harass the politician attending it?  A possible answer occurred to me:  People sometimes find it less painful to 'change' society than to accept themselves or change what they don't like about themselves.  In short, for some people forcing everyone to 'accept' them or their agenda is easier than coming to terms with themselves.  That is to say, they are unwilling to do the emotional, spiritual or mental lifting required to come to terms with themselves and would rather push society toward 'validating' them--even if such validation would be forced.

Before I dive into this topic further, I want to make a few notes or disclaimers as I see it.
  • I don't mean to dismiss the need for social change in some areas.  Nor do I mean to dismiss the right or need to protest for such.  Women's suffrage and destroying the Jim Crowe legacy were clear examples of the need for and the right to protest for change.  I believe, most people when you stripped away the excuses and rationalizations realized at the time that women should have an equal vote in our republic and that no one should be denied service due to the color of the skin they were born with.  Clearly, pushing societal change was the right thing to do.
  • Sometimes people pushing for social change might do so for different reasons.  One because he or she has inner demons to deal with, while the other would be due to a sincere belief in that cause.  Still another might have mixed motives. I'm focusing on the person who is using a 'cause' as an excuse to not deal with their personal demons.
  • People shouldn't generally be forced to buy into an idea or change.
    • It can speak of arrogance to those pushing it.  As if there idea or change is THE only right one.  Some ideas/changes aren't necessarily the right direction no matter how forcefully pushed.  See Nazi Germany as an extreme example.
    • Doing so can cause problems with the idea or change taking effectively.  This is especially true when other parties are denied a voice in the process.  Our Constitution anticipated this and while not perfect put processes in place: Having Congress write laws, having the executive branch enforce them, having SCOTUS review the laws for Constitutionality and giving us a process to amend the Constitution to seek consensus where there is not clarity.  
      • Changes done Constitutionally rather than by fiat, I believe have a better history of going more smoothly.  Constitutional amendments are rarely questioned today vs. those done by fiat as there is a sense of being better settled.
      • Changes done by fiat can also be undone by fiat.  If feel you were denied a voice in a change, you won't have as much of an issue with rolling back the change outside Constitutional boundaries.
    • Not everyone has to buy into an idea or change.
      • Sometimes forcing them to do so is to deny them their first amendment rights (to speak out).
      • If the change is for the better, society is more likely to gradually embrace it anyway. 
      • So ideas or changes don't require everyone to buy into them to become effective.

So back to my main point.  It occurred to me that some of the people pushing the hardest, shrieking the loudest and/or tolerating no dissent sometimes are doing so because of inner demons they have regarding the issue or change they are pushing.  In short, as Shakespeare said in Hamlet, "The lady doth protest too much methinks".

To wit:
  • Mark Foley, a champion against child pornography and who led the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children and led pushed for stronger laws to protect children against possible pornographic exploitation with the Child Modeling Exploitation Prevention Act of 2002.  The Act failed in part due to its overly broad nature.  In any case,  in 2006, he had to resign in disgrace from Congress when he was exposed to have have sexted underage pages.
    • On the one hand he practically carried 'protection' of children on his shoulders by himself, but on the other hand he struggled with exploiting underage boys. 
    • It is important to protect children and they need champions for them in high places. However, the extent that he pushed for 'protecting children' ultimately appeared to be either a cover for or a shame reaction for his own demons. 
  • In Oregon, a Christian couple was being pushed to bake a cake for a reception of a gay wedding, when it was probably obvious that they were "Christian-owned" business (Sweet Cakes).  My understanding it that they were likely not comfortable with the idea of 'condoning' gay marriage by participating in the celebration thereof.  They balked citing their faith and ultimately had their business and livelihood destroyed.
    • As they were located near Portland, OR, a number of similar businesses nearby could easily have met the wedding cake request.  This was likely known by the couple who requested the cake.
    • The couple that requested the cake, were probably aware of the the nature of the business, but instead of turning the other cheek (and respecting that a faith-based business could disagree with them), they pushed forward and sued the bakery into oblivion.
    • Instead of accepting that others could disagree with celebrating their lifestyle choice based on freedom of religion, it would seem that they were determined to 'force' society into complete acceptance and condoning of their lifestyle choice.  
    • It wasn't enough that the state accepted and condoned their lifestyle choice, the couple seemed to 'need' additional validation of their choice and couldn't accept that anyone could disagree with celebrating it (even if their faith dictated that).  In short, accept and celebrate us even if it is against your sincere and traditional religious beliefs OR we will shut you down.
    • My take is that in some of these cases, the 'advocates' would rather prove to everyone (and to themselves) how righteous they are by trying to force everyone else to agree, rather than reaching deep inside them and accepting that that is isn't necessary.  In short, forcing society to artificially 'validate' them rather than being comfortable with who they are.  

I'm not going to be the referee of what causes are worthy to push for provided that the 'innocent' aren't hurt nor is our safety or security.  I'm not going to tell others how to live.  Ultimately, I believe that each of us has to answer to our "Higher Power".  That being said, I don't want my right to free speech or free exercise of my faith smothered by a 'need' of another to be at peace with his or herself or their agenda.  That I believe is the start of fascism.  The very act of shutting or crushing another's freedoms for your own comfort or benefit is fascist in my humble opinion.

As Evelyn Beatrice Hall said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".  This applies to the right to practice your faith.  The Constitution doesn't guarantee a right to be free of being offended. 


My takeaway?
  1. You have a right to express your Constitutionally protected beliefs.
  2. You do not have a right to deny others the same regardless of your 'needs'.
  3. If you are too damaged to cope with others having an alternative belief to you, you probably need to work on yourself.  
  4. If you 'require' or need to 'force' others to agree with you to have peace in your life, that's an indication that you probably need to work on yourself.
  5. If your first instinct is to try and shut other down rather than convince them, its a clear indication that you have fascist tendencies and need to work on yourself.

I know this post was controversial, but I've got to be true to myself.  My journey through understanding addiction, codependence and human nature is intended to help others, but is not intended to be a whitewash of how I see things.  It is intended to give a perspective perhaps that hasn't occurred to everyone or even anyone.  I know that I am not anywhere near being always right and try to own when I'm not.  However, it is most important to me to express things as I see them.  As I've told a few others when I 'see' unpleasant 'truths', I don't enjoy it and sometimes I wish and hope what I 'see' isn't so.

Thanks for reading and I hope this hasn't at least given you food for thought or at possible understanding of what drives some people.

- Rich