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Posts Tagged ‘tolerance’

Today, I received a very good piece of advice. Even taken out of context, it sums up roughly to:

Have no more conflicts. Enjoy a positive association with everything.

Actually, both within and without the original context, I can’t think of a better way to put it. This is what I’m going to be working on over the next few days.

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I want to take just a moment to mention “those people”.

You know whom I mean.

They just don’t seem to be able to learn, do they?

And yet, aren’t they also walking their own path through this human existence? Aren’t they facing their own challenges, struggling with their own ways of overcoming that gnawing feeling inside that something isn’t quite right? Don’t they share our same potential for realizing the essential nature of humanity as simply beautiful expressions of earthly experience?

In my perspective, this makes “those people” vital members of “our family”, who are just as essential to the growth of this planet as I. There are ways I wish they’d walk their paths differently, but I must accept they feel the same way about me. In fact, I often feel the same way about me. I don’t feel qualified to judge, only to practice patient forgiveness with what frustrates me about them… and then also with myself for my own frustrations.

All I can do is love them through their struggles, and support them in their moments of pure growth. That’s what family is for.

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I’ve been thinking about writing a whole lot more than I’ve actually found the time for.  You know how crazy things have been lately, with time seeming to speed up while the task list just keeps getting longer.  That’s why I wanted to sit down to let you know how very much you mean to me.  You’re a beautiful, strong person, and I want the very best for you, always.

I know things haven’t always been going the best for you lately, but hopefully things have been looking more up than down.  Yeah, I know there’s things you’d hoped to be doing better on, but I also know you’ve been doing your best, given where you’ve been at.  It may not always feel that way, since you know you can do so much better — I know I can, at any rate.  But the way to get to that better place isn’t to beat yourself up over what you’ve done wrong.  What it takes is remembering what you’ve done right, and work out how to do more of that.

We’re coming into the wrap-up phase of this year, and I know we can use this time to get our goals synched up a little better with our realities.  The trick will be to figure out where we’ve been spinning our wheels and letting ourselves get off track.  It’s not that we need to work harder, it’s that we need to let go of things that are taking our time and energy away from where we really need to focus.  Relax and recuperate, sure, but things that are just fidgeting or, worse, making us fret or fuss, those are what we need to learn to let go of.

Anyway, I’m rambling again.  I just want to make sure you know how very important you are, and how much you’re capable of.  I sincerely believe in you, and I’m here if you need an ear or a shoulder, or even just a cheerleader.  I don’t care if we’ve never even met, you mean a lot to me.  You’re a fellow human being and that makes you family, and I love you, dearly.

So take care, and do something nice for yourself today.  And if you get the chance to make someone smile, give it a shot, so you can share in a little more happiness in this world.  You definitely deserve it.

Much love,

Nyn

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Yesterday, I talked about each of us being a specially unique piece in the big puzzle of life.  And I think that’s actually a pretty perfect analogy.  Each of us has a different shape, a different size, and a different pattern, comprising an integral part of the big picture.

And yes, this means you.  You, specifically, are necessary for the success of this world we all live in.  There is something unique about your exact combination of insights and experiences that only you can explore.  There’s a special kind of understanding to be found from living in your exact spot in the world, that only you can sort out.  The simple fact that you are here puts some hefty responsibilities on you to embrace whatever you find in your core self, and learn to live in accordance with it.  You’re already having an impact on the world just by having been born into it, in ways you may never notice until you start to look.

The problem is, we’re kept so distracted that we don’t generally know how to look.  And when we do start, we’re actively discouraged by the idea that we can think there’s anything special about us unless some Very Important People tell us so.  There’s this revulsion to the idea somehow, so much so that people can get offended by those who seek their own authentic self, and start accusing those others of thinking they’re superior, or betraying their past, or whatnot.

I guess maybe it’s fear, the fear that the status quo may be pushed aside, that maybe there’s something they should be reaching for but haven’t found the right way to go about it.  I really don’t know.  But I do know that you must never be ashamed of what makes you feel peaceful, joyful, and lighter just for being a part of.  This is where your power lies, and while you don’t need to cause havoc, you do need to explore these inspirations without worrying about whether they don’t fit in with the way you’re “supposed to” think and act and feel.

Actually, if I may, I’ll tell you how you’re “supposed to” think and feel.  You are supposed to think through your goals and values, and make sure they build up a sense of harmony inside your own head.  You are supposed to act in accordance with what seems truly right, no matter the pressures to choose otherwise.  You are supposed to feel at home in your own skin, loving your own heart no matter how much you’re afraid you may have gone astray, and feeling how that heart extends this love to those around you.  Everything else is just details.

If you decide to pursue these as your goals, this will put you more in harmony with your innately special nature.  And if anybody out there tries to tell you that there’s nothing special about just trying to be yourself, challenge them to try it with you.  After you’ve both been at it for a month or three, then stuck it through the inevitable backsliding-hurdles once or twice, to go a full year of ups and downs without letting up on your quest, then ask them how easy that was.

And then see if they’ll join you in helping others try it, too.

Personally, this is exactly what I’m working on right now.  If you’d like to join me, leave a comment (and it can be private if you ask because I moderate them).  Don’t sweat it if you find this long after I post this, because unless you happen to find a “Blog Closed” post on the front page, I’m still around, and still working on my path, and would love to keep you company on yours.

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Today, Ed Kilgore posted a blog called No More “Enemy Turf”, about the importance of not writing off any potential allies in your fight for what you believe in:

Yes, certain demographic categories may be “lost” to conservatives if you insist on a winner-takes-all definition, and no, aggressively pursuing support among such voters isn’t worth it if it involves abandoning key principles or essentially adopting the opposition’s point of view. But reducing the margin of defeat on “hostile ground” is often achievable simply by paying attention and not wilfully repelling voters, and in the end a vote is a vote whether it comes from a segment of the electorate that progressives are “winning” or “losing.” […]

A vote’s a vote; reducing unnecessary losses on “enemy turf” has enormous political value; and progressives need not concede, explicitly or (by silence or evasion) implicitly, religious or military voters. It’s good to see these simple lessons are being taken to heart.

I think that’s a lesson that’s vitally important in all aspects of life, not just the portion of it labeled “politics”.  Where you think there are only enemies, you are missing vitally important allies.  They may not (and probably will not) always agree with you on things you’d really like to convince them of, and they may even try to convince you of some things you really aren’t on board with.  But so long as that doesn’t get in the way of coming together to work toward much-needed help for those who need it, the work itself will provide you with the common ground you need to move forward.

And that’s the sticky point: where we feel others’ actions or beliefs are antithetical to what we hold to be self-evident, it can be awfully hard for us to give up the habit of “I’m Right, They’re Wrong, and that makes this Their Fault”.  It becomes a default mental and even neurochemical response to throw up the barriers between “Us” and “Them”, creating an addictive feedback loop that works both ways.  So instead of taking responsibility for bridging those barriers and doing what we can to create new solutions, we either get bogged down in tracing blame or just abandon “them” entirely.  Gay Hendricks’ The Chemistry of Blame is a great article to read in full regarding how this works in terms of personal relationships and “becoming a conscious creator”-style approaches, but here’s the quotes I feel are most relevant here:

There is a great fundamental issue that overrides many of the things we can do to heal ourselves and the world: the human tendency to step into feeling like a victim and blaming others, instead of taking personal responsibility.

Usually in couples therapy, the first issue to be addressed is: Are you willing to make a commitment to solving the problem? One of the most typical responses is, “Well, I’d be committed if she were.”

“Are you willing to stay completely away from blaming anyone, and instead make a sincere commitment to resolving all the issues we confront?”

There’s only one solution, and that’s to take 100% impeccable responsibility – and create a space for the other person to take 100% impeccable responsibility as well. Responsibility has a contagious effect.

As a therapist, I point out repeatedly, “Okay, having said that your husband is a worthless piece of shit, tune inside. Do you feel happier?” The person begins to recognize that although they feel that “glee-gotcha” feeling that comes from assigning blame, they don’t feel happier.

“Do you choose being right or being happy?”

It’s the same with mastering personal responsibility. Once a person shifts out of glee and experiences the real joy of claiming responsibility, everything is changed.

Like it or not, “those people” are in this boat with us, and we’ll sink if they do.  It doesn’t matter if we think we’re the only ones trying to bail ourselves out while “they” are poking holes in the hull.  It doesn’t matter if “they” feel the same way about us.  Because in reality, there is no “Us” that excludes “Them”; there’s merely “We”, all in the same boat together.  And while we’re busy getting angry or despondent or vindictive or even just exasperated, the boat is slowly sinking.  It doesn’t matter who’s right, it just matters who’s getting their hands on deck to pull our ship out of the storm.

And the thing is, at the core, we generally want to steer our ship down the same basic course.  The problem isn’t that our values are different, it’s more that we’ve gotten so sidetracked by our different perspectives on why they’re important.  Once we can set aside those differences we can free our energy to finding ways to work together toward our shared values, even if it means taking our hat in one humble hand to hold out the other.  As I wrote in Fighting Fire with Water: The Christian Role in the War on Women:

[T]he answer to the War on Women isn’t to fight back against our perceived “enemy” with the same condescension, derision and dogma we feel assaulted by.  We can’t win by returning anger with anger, and fighting fire with fire.  Instead, we must fight fire with water, returning their anger with patience and love.  We must struggle to develop new ways to show them how we’re ultimately on the same team.  We want the same things: a peaceful world where families can grow up happy and healthy and complete, cared for by each other and their community.  We need to show them how their actions are preventing these values from bearing good fruit.  We need to find better ways of working together to make our shared goals real.

And we won’t build these bridges toward our shared goals by trying to convince them their values are wrong, nor by refusing to understand how they can be as sure of their rightness as we are of ours.  This is especially difficult because in today’s world, the strongest dividers of “Us” and “Them” are on religious grounds, with the American Political Theater cycling through nonstop reruns of The Righteous Religious Right versus the The Superior Secular Left.  Each side is constantly being poked and prodded with how dangerously unhinged the other side is, and how the only way to stop them from destroying our world is through political (or literal) scorched earth tactics.

But this story has worn thin, and more and more, people are waking up to the holes in it.  I wrote When Atlas Shirked to explore how this “Us Versus Them” plot is breaking down, and share the narrative of what happens when the characters are ready to fix it.  A very young, very patriotic Christian American learns from those of other faiths who are working to strengthen families and communities, bridging the gulf where others may have widened it.  Those of other/no religions find her Christian group to be staunch allies who tirelessly give of themselves for the hungry, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  After learning of all the many (very familiar) corruptions and injustices plaguing her Orwellian American dystopia, she and countless others set aside their differences to start the heavy lifting of building a better world.

It’s a fairy tale, sure, but it’s one that I sincerely hope could come true.  I truly believe that we each have the means to make our corner of the world a better place, simply by committing to finding ways to take responsibility for our place in it.  And we don’t have to storm a capitol or go all that far from home to do make this difference.  There are opportunities all around us to help those in our very own back yards.  The more we look for these opportunities, the more they’ll show us ways we can pitch in.  It doesn’t matter if we can give only a little at first; this is one of those times where every little bit quite literally does help.

Don’t be surprised if the opportunities might be with those that others might call “your enemy”, because there are no enemies when it comes to doing what’s right.  There might be good times and ways to gently share your perspective without having to call theirs wrong, but that’s not what’s important about doing good.  The most important thing right now is to make sure that good gets done.

People are hungry.  Children are being kicked out into the streets.  The sick and the hopeless are being abandoned.  They need our help, not our ideologies.  They can’t seek shelter under our philosophies, and they can’t eat our prayers.

So there we have it: it’s our job to do what we can, with whoever will join our efforts.  The task now isn’t to bar the doors against those “on the other side”, but to open our own doors, and knock wherever we think we see a light on.  Some will get slammed in our faces, and some will open for a while, only to slam shut again.  That’s okay, it’s not up to you to make anyone else do what they need to do.  Just keep taking full responsibility to do your part.

When you’re working to fulfill your part in all this, you’ll know it’s less important to convince people of what you think is right.  You know that what’s most important is to get out there and do what’s right.  The rest will follow.

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This morning when I realized it was the National Day of Prayer, I went on to Twitter to share a prayer an hour, as close to the hour as I could.  I did a pretty decent job (of the schedule, though I feel pretty good about the prayers too).

For today’s thoughts, I want to share these prayers with you, and sincerely direct them for your personal good:

  • May our hearts know peace, that we may share pure Love one to another, free of judgment or fear for who & what they choose.
  • May we lovingly forgive ourselves our faults, and with love forgive the faults we envision are in others.
  • May Love for Truth give us courage to live according to the wisdom in our own hearts, & let others live by theirs.
  • May our hearts be opened in love and support for those who are suffering, without condemning the what & the why.
  • May we have courage to accept when we’ve been wronged, seeking reparation & healing through love, not vengeance.
  • May our hearts expand to hold all humanity as family, sharing our generous lovingkindness with all who need it.
  • May we have patience & understanding for others, especially those we’d disapprove of or disagree with.
  • May we receive more than we need, that we may enjoy a little extra & share the rest with others in need.
  • May we have acceptance for our past, courage for our present, and hope for our future, no matter what.
  • May we allow anger and frustration to exist without overtaking us, letting them guide us to solutions.
  • May we not shrink from sadness, whether ours or another’s, but embrace it with patience and love.
  • May life bring us opportunities to feel the warm glow of love, and teach us to shine forth its light.
  • If we feel like sweating the small stuff, may we indulge in recreational griping and lighten our load.
  • When it’s time to rest, may we fully relax, allowing the earth to bear the weight of our burdens.

And most of all, may your day bring you joy, and your night bring you peace.

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As human beings, our perspective is inherently limited, and therefore in a broad sense, inherently wrong. Possibly wrong in very minor ways, but often wrong in ways that are hugely consequential. This becomes especially important when we are in a position to enforce our perspective over others. This can be as benign as being unpleasant when people disagree with you to as horrible as harming or incarcerating other people based on your opinion of them.

When depriving someone of liberty, health or even life, we generally need to convince ourselves that we do so only to those whose character requires it, and even then only for wise and noble causes. Otherwise, we might have to question whether our cruelties are cruel, and whether that makes us cruel, and therefore villainous and any number of other bad things people usually don’t want to choose to be.

Yet history is built on a long succession of people doing brutally cruel things to other people for their own “wise and noble causes”. And history being what it is – with hindsight and distance and all – we can look back at them and see so clearly what they wouldn’t see themselves: that they were wrong, sometimes ridiculously wickedly so.

And I’ll say “wouldn’t see”, not “couldn’t see”, because they had the ability to recognize that they couldn’t know everything. They had the power to realize they could be mistaken, and therefore worked harder to know and understand before lashing out. Mistakes could still have been made, but those acts would have been nobler mistakes rather than acts of mistaken nobility.

We have that same ability, with the added responsibility to apply the examples they’ve gifted us with. We need to learn from them, and realize that we aren’t any more omniscient than they, and use their short-sightedness to help us work better with our own. Otherwise someday we might find ourselves judged by those with their own powers of hindsight, and found cruelly wanting.

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