Examining Relationships...

With whom do I have the closest relationships? What connections are those relationships based on? How can I re-evaluate the depth of particular relationships to know where to put my energies? These are some of the questions I asked myself while sitting in on a course called, Your CrossRoads. Working with a non-profit for much of my career, I had considered literally hundreds of people to be friends. A belief is that the mission is held together by relationships and shared ethos. Consequently, I had almost no mental map to differentiate various relationships. However, when I left the group, it became more obvious who were my friends and who were relationships of convenience. True friends follow you in life; friendships of convenience or circumstance fade away. Now a couple of years out, I find myself thinking about my relationships and considering the differences between friends, acquaintances and colleagues. There are differences. In her CrossRoads course, creator Victoria Jeffs challenges participants to identify the foundations important to healthy relationships. The model helped me identify how I relate to various people in my life. The foundational pillars are touch points we have in common with others. Upon examination, I found that my closest friendships are with those people I share several touch points. They are: Intellect Emotion Social Spiritual Financial Physical Cultural Some people are in our lives due to circumstances. These include family members, work colleagues, and others we know through various groups in which we participate. The close relationships in our lives are those we have invited in. Like me, you can use the seven pillars to examine your closest relationships. This simple exercise can help you identify what aspects of those relationships are healthy and also what are unhealthy. Healthy relationships are life-giving....

Perception Checking

We think we see the world as it is. But we actually see it through our limited perceptions and stories we construct to explain it. We develop narratives about who we are, who other people are, and what events and communication mean. We’re on a constant quest to explain things to ourselves. Each of us was raised differently, had vastly different experiences, came from different cultures and were exposed to different kinds of information, so we all created our thinking patterns separately and distinctly. No wonder we have such a hard time understanding each other. “How could you POSSIBLY think THAT!?” we often ask. We forget we have limited perceptions, and over-trust our impressions. Even the Bible points this out, saying we only see as if looking at a reflection and knowing in part.* That is why ten people can witness a crime and all report a different story. It’s also why ten million people can watch the same television event and all have a distinct experience. It helps if we break down the process into a simple model: We are stimulated through our senses. What we observe (notice) is selectively based on what grabs our attention, meets a need, or is enjoyable. We then organize what we have sensed into thinking structures that make sense to us. Swiss developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget, called these knowledge or mental schemata that we developed from our unique experiences and what sociologists, Berger and Luckmann, called social construction.** After that we interpret; we assign meaning to what we sensed.  We confuse these stages, especially observation and interpretation. I understand how challenging this can be, especially in relationships. I have a good friend who is very different than me. We see the world in vastly different ways, and we...

Independence

As The United States celebrates its Independence Day, I thought it fitting to consider various forms of dependency. Dependence is defined as the state of needing something or someone else. Like it or not, we are dependent on each other for all kinds of things. We need acceptance, love and affection from others because we are social beings. A newborn child left alone without touch will die. We are dependent on each other to follow socially accepted behavior like stopping at red lights and contributing to common things like roads and schools. In relationships, we are dependent on each other to be there to share the workload, make a meaningful contribution and live up to our commitments. Healthy dependence is a really, really positive thing. Independence is freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others. When the 13 American colonies were no longer satisfied with British rule (and taxation without representation), they sought a divorce. It’s not unlike the recent decision by Britain to pull out of the European Union to preserve its sovereignty. It’s not unlike states in human development. Two that come to mind are the terrible twos. I think the twos are called terrible because children seek independence from their parents and other caretakers because they are coming into their own. They are clumsy and awkward, but they are determined to get around! Unfortunately, they don’t yet recognize the limits of social and character boundaries, so tend to severely test those around them. The other significant stage of finding independence IS, of course, during the teenage years. Children are transitioning to adulthood with changing bodies, increased responsibilities and fewer apron strings. Yet their raging hormones and lack of fully developed prefrontal cortexes (decision-making that fully grasps consequences)...

Legacy

What will you leave behind? That was the focus of a discussion led by my good friend Jack Woloshun. We were there to talk about the many crossroads in life and the people with whom we share the journey. Have you thought about what you would like to leave behind? What will remain once your flesh and bones no longer walk this earth? How will you be remembered? To demonstrate what’s possible, Jack pulled out a book his daughter assembled for his 60th birthday. She had contacted the many family and friends from Jack’s life and invited them to express their sentiments. The words were anything but shallow, very unlike canned drugstore greeting cards. Rather they were lengthy letters of affection, memories and hope for the future. Jack only read 3 or 4 letters from the book, but what he shared demonstrated what it means to leave a legacy. Jack has spent his life giving to others; he has chosen to be a giver instead of a taker. The letters reflect a lifetime of memories, influence and impact. I think that is what it’s all about. Legacy is something you may or may not have thought of; I think the answer is likely dependent on your age and to what extent you consider your life in the grand scheme of humankind. Legacy is not about leaving a hospital or street with your name stamped on. It’s not about things you did that elevated your ego. It’s not about how many toys you collected. It’s not even about how much money you left to charities or your kids. Legacy is fundamentally about who you are. Your legacy is a replica of how you live your life every day. What would happen if people were asked...

Make a Difference

Do you long to make a difference but find it harder than it seems? Here’s a lovely guest article by Amy Roemer that may convince you it’s easier than you think: On a recent cross-country trip, my family stopped in the tiny village of Folsom in northern New Mexico. The ranching community only has 55 inhabitants and almost no businesses, a shadow of what it used to be. Once it had the largest stockyards north of Fort Worth, Texas, but the town never recovered after a devastating catastrophe. It’s such a small place that when we arrived, we had to call a number to get the museum unlocked. The docent came and was so proud of the museum’s legacy that she eagerly shared local stories. We expected the museum to be about the primitive Folsom people, one of the earliest people groups in North America, but we were in for a surprise! We saw many antiques—from milk jugs and saddles to a dynamite detonator—from the founding and pioneer days in the late 1800s. Many of these were tagged with information—whose house it came from, and which family member had donated it. The sense of community was strong. But what struck us was learning about Sally Rooke—who was the local telephone switchboard operator—and how she made a difference during the Dry Cimarron River flood of 1908. Miss Sally received a call that a massive wall of water was heading down the canyon toward Folsom. She started calling friends and neighbors, warning them to head for higher ground. Eventually, the flood hit and wiped out the town. Sally was washed away from her post at the switchboard; her body was found some 12 miles down river along with livestock and only 16 others. Her phone calls...

Tea & Consent

Leave it to the Brits to come up with a clever message about sexual consent. Here is a little video used by British police to explain safe sexual boundaries using a most British staple,...

Know Thyself

How well do you know yourself? We tend to have a view of ourselves we think is accurate and complete. However, it’s just not true.

Do It Anyway

Today I share from the wisdom of Mother Theresa: “People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” – Mother Teresa   Royalty-free image by Amy Burton; retrieved from...

Mama Knows Best

“Some people come into your life for a lifetime and some come for a season; you have to know which is which. And you always gonna mess up when you mix up those seasonal people with lifetime expectations.” So says Tyler Perry’s mama character, Medea, in this clip from one of his stage plays. Staying in character for this entire 5-minute clip, mama Media gives some of the most sound advice on relationships you will hear...

Friendship

Do you have good friends? I really mean outrageously committed, better-than-you, willing-to-go-the-mile friends who love you at your best AND your worst? I often reflect on my life that has been so enriched with quality and diverse people. Yet the longer I live, I get to experience even more awesomely unconditional, profound levels of friendship. Every time I think I’ve reach the pinnacle of what friendships can be, I find another level. I was recently going through some particularly deep, troubling and emotionally disturbing issues. The cool thing is I didn’t have to go through them alone. I met with several close friends who helped me talk through and walk through intense pain, helping me come to new levels of freedom and release. But how seldom we allow ourselves to go to such depth. In my recent crisis, I was desperate, as the issues I faced were a long-time coming and connected to years of “stuff.” Isn’t that when we reach out? It’s often in the pain and suffering that we come to the end our ourselves and find ourselves in the arms of loving friends who not only comfort us, but help us graduate to the next level. I am blown away that so many people love me. They really, really love me. This makes me reflect on what had to be in place for that to happen. Have friends who are better than you. Don’t always be the smartest, most loving or wisest one in the room. Invest in others. Love them. Be generous with them. When you are in need, you’ll likely be surprised who steps up to love on you. Be vulnerable and open. When we open to others who are worthy of our trust, they can help us navigate...

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