“Sometimes the hardest person to face is yourself.”
Why is it so hard for us to see ourselves as we really are? It is almost as if we have put on a mask and forgotten how to take it off. We are very good at fooling others and even ourselves when it comes to who we really are.
The thing that drives us into hiding is fear. We fear what others will think, that we are not what we could or should be, or that we don’t measure up in comparison to others. We even fear change itself.
Can we take off our masks for a moment and really look at ourselves honestly? What do you see? The problem with being honest with yourself is that it requires each of us to be vulnerable. You probably won’t like everything you see. Everyone is flawed. Nobody on this earth is perfect and we all have issues. We just don’t want to talk about them much less admit them.
As we come to the close of another year, let’s begin by being honest with ourselves and work on those things we CAN change in ourselves for the better. Perhaps we need to eat more sensibly, get more exercise, work harder, get more rest, have more fun in life, work on our relationship with God or with our family, etc. Whatever it is, like the Nike slogan says: “Just Do It.”
If you can admit you need to change something, that is the first step. Then you just have to follow through and stay the course. I decided about a year ago that I was going to lose some weight. My cholesterol was out of whack, my blood pressure was high, and my back was hurting me a lot. I have lost almost 35 lbs. since then. I am not bragging…but telling you that it can be done if you set your mind to it.
I hope and pray each of you has a blessed New Year. It starts with being honest with yourself. Your Happy New Year can begin today if you are willing to face yourself.
What gets us in trouble on a regular basis? Our expectations. We expect great things from others which may exceed what we would be willing to do. Expectations are the cause of wars, arguments, road rage, divorce, etc.
Here is the truth:
You can’t change other people. Quit expecting them to do your will. You are not a genie in a bottle. The only person you can change is you, and that is a full-time job for anyone. Work on yourself first; then you can work on your communication skills with others. You still have to hold others accountable for what they have agreed they would do, but you have to find a way to communicate with them. Sometimes that is the greatest challenge, particularly if they will not accept responsibility and constantly divert the issue away from themselves or they play the victim card on you.
Managing expectations of others is probably one of the greatest skills you will ever learn when it comes to relationships…whether they are personal or business. If you are truthful, ethical, and communicate openly with someone they will receive that news much better than if you deceive them, avoid them, or ignore them. They may not like hearing bad news from you, but if you deliver the message with kindness, empathy, and honesty you have a chance of keeping that relationship alive.
If you find yourself being demanding of others, angry, or moody, check your expectations. If you have legitimate expectations of someone that are not being met, find a way to talk about it unemotionally. You may have to have a mediator if the situation has gone too far. The problem does not go away just because you ignore it. That wound will affect other relationships in the future if you don’t address it. Obviously, you can’t force someone to communicate with you, but if you approach them with humility, you are willing to admit your mistakes, and you are willing to listen to their side, they will more than likely meet you half way.
If you are going to expect anything in life, expect the best from yourself.
“Know yourself. Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are a wonderful person.” Ann Landers
Remember the show Cheers? Where everybody knows your name? I think that show touched a chord with people because there is this inbred need we have to fit in somewhere. The social aspect of belonging is huge.
Kids show this in wanting to belong to a club, a team, some organization, or just be part of the group of “cool kids.” Young people show it by joining a band, a political group, a frat, a sorority, etc. Churches and the military are filled with people looking for somewhere to fit in.
Here is what I have found:
It is common for everyone to want to fit it somewhere. If you are different than most then you have to consider the fact that you were born to stand out. That is not a bad thing (being different). In marketing it is the differences that give you the edge. In my opinion, we were all born to stand out. We put too much emphasis on fitting in instead of celebrating our uniqueness and using that to our advantage.
Knowing yourself is the key. If you have a healthy self-awareness you can deal with the fear and insecurity that comes from not fitting in. What other people say and think takes second place to what you know to be true…if you believe in yourself. What YOU believe matters. “What other people think is none of your business.” Regina Britt
Kids are vulnerable to the pressures of fitting in. They need to be affirmed in who they are and encouraged to be themselves. Yes, everyone needs to be able to socialize, but I am talking about those kids who will do virtually anything to fit in with a group, including compromising their morals, safety, and common sense. The world is full of people desperate to fit it somewhere, and there are countless groups who prey on them…gangs, human traffickers, predators, etc.
In a world where conformity is rewarded, I am encouraging us to just be who God created us to be. Allow yourself and others to have their quirks. We all have them. Some of us are just quirkier than others. I am reminded of this every day when I look in the mirror. LOL.
Hollywood has had some great movies about misfits over the years, but because I love westerns, there are a couple of movies that stand out in my memory: The Magnificent Seven. The group of seven men remained true to who they were, but came together to defend a helpless town; and who can forget Gary Cooper in High Noon? He did not fit in as sheriff of the town and yet stood up to the bad guys when everyone else ran like cockroaches in the light. He never did fit in, and yet was a hero to all in the end.
I hope you know yourself well, and that you do your part to not just conform…but to stand out…and help others do the same. We all have unique abilities. We just have to be willing to let them bloom and not worry so much about what other people think or say. Cheers to you as you march to the beat of a different drummer.
We live in a multicultural country. It is a microcosm of our world. One of the beautiful things about America is our diversity. You can find every continent of the world represented here. The beauty and wonder of our diversity, however, has its thorns.
We are not born hating other races. We learn prejudice through our own culture and through personal experience. Prejudice is a sad and sick way to view other people. Watch little kids. They are colorblind. When they talk about their friend, they don’t describe them with color. They describe them with love. We are not better than one another. We are just different. Why should our race be a dividing point? Why can’t we just respect one another and peacefully co-exist?
The answer is actually simple, but implementing it is the challenge. What is the one thing that cures racism? Love. When you love someone regardless of their race, you are starting to see people the way God does. He does not look at the outside. He does not care if you are red, white, black, brown, or purple. He looks at your heart. He loves everyone regardless of race and expects us to love one another as well.
Racism exists within every culture, and the only way to eliminate it is through love and respect. We have to come to the point where we don’t see ourselves as better than anyone else. Next time you have to check a box indicating what race you are, remember that we are all part of the same race…..the human race.
There are only two rules you have to remember: Love God and love people. You can’t say you love God and hate your brother…for we are all brothers. Let each of us do our part and spread a little love.
I was at the Doctor this week and we were talking about our origins. He was bragging about being related to a famous person who died many years ago. I said, “That is good, but I have traced my roots all the way back to Adam!” LOL.
You can count the number of seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the number of apples in a seed. Apple seeds are like acts of kindness. You don’t always see the results of the seeds you plant. Here is a fact you can take to the bank: you will always reap what you sow, but you don’t always see what you reap.
People who are unhappy in life have a common thread. They don’t know how to sow. People who have learned this lesson know that giving is truly better than receiving, and yet in giving, we always receive! We don’t give to get. We get to give. It is counter-intuitive.
Calvin Coolidge said: “No man was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” You would think that people would get this, and yet, many seem to be stuck in the “me” mode. It seems to be about control with so many folks.
I am convinced that the world would change overnight if people just became givers. We would see the end of wars, divorce, corruption, poverty, hunger, homelessness, etc., etc. Giving is the fruit of love.
What will it take for this to happen? I know I can’t make anyone else change. I have a hard enough time changing me! That has to come from within each of us if it is going to last. What I CAN do is be a giver, plant the seeds of kindness wherever I go, and let God do the rest. If I can encourage those who cross my path, help them through the storms of life, and give them hope…then who knows the ripple effect that will have? The effects will be felt for years to come.
That is why I teach and write. I know that I can have an impact on countless generations with what I say and do. I pray that my words and actions produce the fruit of giving in others, and that the seeds I plant change the world to be a little bit better place for all of us to live.
Learning to rest in a world that is full of hustle and bustle is not easy. There is so much to do and everyone I know is “busy.” Here is the problem with being “busy:” Just because you are busy does not mean you are productive. In fact, it may be a clue that you need to re-think what you are doing and how you are doing it.
Most people I know have a lot on their plates. They have to juggle work, family, friends, health, entertainment, and their faith. They work long hours and then have to engage with their family. Even for those that don’t have family, the work is not done when they come home. There is always cooking, cleaning, picking up laundry, taking care of the car, the lawn, etc., etc. Life is just busy. We are one of the busiest countries in the world, but are we too busy for our own good?
Here are some lessons we could learn from the world:
Two weeks is not enough vacation. That is enough time to get somewhere and start to unwind, but then you have to go back to work just as you were starting to chill out. I know some countries have vacation time that lasts over 30 days as policy. I am not sure what the magic number would be for us, but two weeks does not cut it.
New Mom’s need time to bond and care for their kids. I don’t know what is reasonable for someone to be gone from work and take care of their child, but I know that too many women have to come back to work before they are ready.
Some countries have 4 day work weeks. I love that idea. I personally would be in favor of that, but I realize it gets tricky because our country is focused on 40 hours a week as being “fulltime.” Spreading the 8 hours missed over the 4 days worked has problems as well. Perhaps we need to re-define what fulltime is.
Working two, three, or four jobs at once may be necessary in emergencies to make ends meet, but it should not become the norm. Even God rested on the 7th day. You can burn the candle at both ends for a time, but eventually you burn out.
There are always going to be times where you have to put in extra hours for work, whether you are a teacher, a lawyer, a fireman, or whatever. Every job will encounter times requiring overtime. That is life. What we have to come to terms with is balancing work with our life. Our work should never BE our life. If that is the case then you need to get a life. Working 50, 60, 70, or 80+ hours a week will take a toll on other relationships, your health, and even your ability to do a good job where you work.
Take time every week to rest. Relax and do something you love doing and don’t stress over all the things on the to-do list. That list will always be there…trust me. Somehow we have to learn the power of rest. We seem to have lost that as a country. By the way, one of the meanings of the word Shalom is “complete rest.” I like that.
Camo kids are all around us. You don’t see them because they blend in. They are not troublemakers (though they may be troubled), they are typically quiet and subdued, and they are not very social. They don’t volunteer to answer questions, and they may appear sullen. We tend not to notice them because we are drawn to the kids who need help, the ones we have to constantly correct, or the ones who we naturally like. Camo kids may be the forgotten ones. If they are absent from class, you might have trouble remembering who is gone.
This is not to point a finger at anyone, but merely to heighten the awareness of all the children in our care. Because they tend to blend, we have to be intentional in building relationships with them. Next time you are with a group of kids, notice:
Who is it that is not participating?
Who is it that is extremely quiet?
Who is it that avoids eye contact?
This is not a given that the kid has problems. They may be fully functional and intelligent. The point is that all kids need to be noticed. They need to know they matter. They want you to know their name.
This last point was driven home to me this week as I was tutoring a small group in reading. I called on one girl and she immediately said, “That is NOT my name.” I took a quick peek at my notes and it was indeed her name, so I asked her, “What IS your name?” She said, “That is how you say it in English, but not in Spanish.” I knew she was Spanish but it never dawned on me that she pronounced her name differently until she pointed it out. I apologized and assured her I would work on learning how to say her name correctly. No name is more important to a person than their own…especially if they are a child. If you learn to use someone’s name, it goes a long way in showing you care about them and value who they are.
My challenge to you is to take note of the camo kids and be intentional in getting to know them. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you discover, and the relationship you build with them may indeed be life-changing for both of you.