August 16, 2022

You have more power than you probably realize….

by Rod Smith

…….. and it all begins in your thinking and in telling yourself the truth about who you are:

You have the power

  • To plan your own behavior in response to all that comes your way.
  • To say “no” to requests and expectations that are uncomfortable for you.
  • To say “yes” to opportunities and possibilities that broaden your horizons.
  • To say give me some time to think this through whatever it is that needs more time and thought.
  • To say “I have had enough” when you feel you are being tested or tried unnecessarily.
  • To decide “I want a change” when you are exhausted and need time for rest.
  • To decide, “I will be kind, I will learn from this, whatever it may be.”
  • To choose to be someone who learns from all people and all experiences.
  • To choose humility and mercy as your part of your gift to a hurting world.
  • To choose to serve rather than to be served and will therefore never be short of work or opportunity.
  • To bring light to others and to lighten the burdens of others as far as you are able.
  • To do no harm to others and avoid errors of the past.
August 14, 2022

The big fears: abandonment, rejection, and indifference

by Rod Smith

Fear of abandonment, rejection, and indifference strike something primal in the healthiest of men and women especially if they (abandonment, rejection, indifference) travel together and act as a destructive gang of sorts. 

“She closed the door on me after loving me,” and he talks incessantly about it happening without explanation. 

“One day we were really close, and the next day, nothing. It doesn’t seem to mean anything to her.”

“Different choices,” was all she said, in a text.

I sit with a man unaccustomed to sharing his heart. 

I know when I am hearing a broken one. 

He’s finding it very hard to understand how this woman can so easily be willing to be out of touch when they’d invested so much time and energy being in touch. It’s the small details of life together, life shared, that were so important to them both and are still important to him that she seems to have forgotten they ever enjoyed. 

He is mystified she can operate her life as if he no longer matters, no longer exists.

He’s feeling the loneliness he feared, beginning to accept he cannot sway, persuade or urge her to return to what once was.

“I’ve moved on,” she said to a friend.

He will emerge from this. 

A little kindness would make it all so much easier.

August 4, 2022

Listening

by Rod Smith

Listening to each other takes discipline, patience, focus and self-restraint.

It is an act of love and commitment and respect which requires deep awareness of nuance, tone and body language. It takes commitment to maintain eye contact, reflect on what is being said so neither person gets lost in the words or distracted by surroundings or seduced by “hijack thoughts” where totally unrelated matters capture one person’s imagination and they’re gone, even if they appear to be listening. 

Listening is a way of honoring and validating and an indication that the person talking and the person listening is thoroughly human and worthy of time and investment in every respect. To listen to each other’s is to hear the words and then to try to hear what is behind the words and what is inside the way the sentences are planned and packed and punctuated.

It is to enter into the world of another and get closer to his or her heart and nearer to the place we may all be truly seen, validated, and almost totally understood.

If we want to be good listeners it takes at least as much practice and anything else you may want to be good at like golf or the piano or tennis, writing, or art.

August 3, 2022

Reduce anxiety

by Rod Smith

When you are under excessive stress of deadlines and unknowns and trying to pin down moving parts there are a few step you can take to slow the world down and to release or lower your levels of understandable anxiety: 

Always look for the big picture. Asking yourself questions and being brutally honest with your answers can help: How do I fit into what is going on? What is my role in this? How did I get myself here and what may it take to get myself unraveled or untangled from the quagmire I am facing?  

Always be determined to take a position of learning and humility. This means giving up the idea of having all the answers and of having to solve all the problems. If you were that good at solving all the problems and having all the answers you may not be in the position you are in. 

Be easy on yourself. You are not alone. The circumstances facing you need not define who you are now or in the future. While there is life and breath there is always hope. Share your issues carefully and cautiously with men and women who have experience in the matters you face and not with those who are likely to enjoy your dilemma for the mere intrigue.

August 1, 2022

Families are complex places

by Rod Smith

It is easy to sit in judgment of men and women who do dumb and hurtful things within their families. It is easy to jump to trite and self-righteous explanations as to why he left her, or why she found another lover, why he resorts to pornography.

One or two line clichés seldom explain complex human behaviors and misbehaviors.

Everybody is living a complex story, a story born out of his or her own family complexities which often span several generations.

I do not know, after many years of consulting with families, a single family that I would consider free of family complexities, no matter how idyllic things look on the surface.

Conflicts and breakups and abandonments escape logical explanations because they come from confused and painful and illogical histories. This is not an attempt to excuse hurtful behaviors but rather an attempt to promote patience and understanding, mercy and love.

Dig deeper, always dig deeper. Listen closely, very closely. People are always leaving clues about the unsolved or unresolved issues of their family of origin.

Men and women don’t wake up one morning and make a decision to abandon a spouse and children. The person who does this has been living on a volcano for years and might not even know it.

July 29, 2022

Fundamentals

by Rod Smith

There are fundamental truths about all relationships. Here are 5 of many;

  • Patterns are set in place extremely early in all relationships. Don’t begin or initiate things that you’re unlikely to be able to continue.
  • The person who wants the relationship the most is likely to become the most needy person in the relationship. If it’s not mutual and equal from the outset it will not gain those qualities over time. Are you sure you want to continue this way?
  • Whoever works the hardest at the beginning of a relationship sets in motion an expectation for the other person (or people) in the relationship to not have to work as much. Are you sure you want this imbalance? It could go on for many years. 
  • Things are unlikely to change or improve just because you hope they will. All healthy relationships take work from all parties. It’s “pie in the sky” to think things will get better if you get married, or build a new house, or have a few children. Things don’t improve without a plan and without the free and shared commitment of all concerned.
  • People form relationships out of a some hidden historical backdrop no matter how honest or transparent a person may be. We all will all bring our unfinished business into our current relationships, no exceptions.
July 23, 2022

A broad summary of what we covered this week…….

by Rod Smith

I started the week challenging you to use up to 20 words to write about what you want. Once anyone knows what he or she really wants, he or she sets himself or herself in a direction that will graft purpose into even life’s most mundane challenges and tasks. It is improbable that you will currently know what you want – there are days I still don’t and I am 68 – but this is a good time to allow the thought to steep (what a tea-bag does in hot water) within you. Having goals, even very broad goals, will help you to define yourself. Remember, if you do not define yourself, someone will and you probably won’t like what they come up with.

I talked about size – the kind which has nothing to do with physical size. In some families a mom may be huge and dad is very small. In others, the dad may determine everything (be huge) and mom may have lost her voice (and size) in the name of love. In many families sons or daughters may dominate; wield too much power. It usually serves no one in the family very well. May you find your size, a size appropriate to your role in your family. To do this you will have to get into the driver’s seat of your life. Size is much more than about families: we said together and referring to all your other contexts like school and where you work and within your sports and music lives: Don’t mess with me and I won’t mess with you, there is room for all of us.

Power comes with your humanity. You, and all humans everywhere, have the power to love, create, enrich others, and to be a source of encouragement for others. You have the power to be very generous. You have the power to be kind, very kind. The positive use of your God-given human power will enhance your life even as you seek to enrich the lives of others. It is also true that you have the power to be vengeful, angry, resentful – and you may indeed have many reasons to exercise this power. Such power, too, comes with your humanity. I hope you will not use it. If you use your power to hate and hurt and ruin – even if you inflict it on people who you think may really deserve it – hate, hurt, ruin will boomerang and do its horrid work within and upon you. Unchecked, it will destroy you. Love, goodness, generosity expressed within you have the capacity from within you to be monitored. You will be able to manage such power. Hate, hurt, and ruin don’t. They run wild. Don’t give them a foothold. They are invasive viruses to any host’s emotional life. You will not be able to manage them. They will manage you. You may or may not recall that on Day 2 I reported that I regret every moment where I have used my personal power to harm others. The memories I hold of such actions often keep me awake even years later. I speak at events like RYLA in the hopes that you will do better at being human – rather than inhuman (indifferent, uncaring, unmoved) – than I have. It took me a very long time to learn these things – how to be human – and they were learned at great cost to myself and others. May you and I both, use our God-given power to enhance others and to do no harm.

I will remind you that everyone and everything (even trees) needs space if growth is to occur. The Collins Brothers showed this to us on the stage. Too much and too little are unhelpful in a healthy relationship. Healthy relationships make both parties more free, not more restricted. If you meet a potential partner with whom you feel your freedom reducing as you get to know each other and/or your voice getting quieter or the egg-shells around you getting deeper, be kind, be assertive, and move, soon. These are signs the relationship is not for you.

On Thursday I talked about SELF. Think of self as the deepest recess within a person. In an entire life-time you will probably be truly known by as few as five or six people no matter how well known or famous you may become. I have met people who have done horrible, terrible things, but I have never met a self who is not beautiful. I am sure there are some but I have never met anyone whom I can say is an ugly self, once I have gotten to know them. There are complex reasons people are the way they are. Once you get beyond the many facades most people are really practiced at, you will find people are beautiful. I believe there is something beautiful even about the worst of humanity. This is not condoning unkindness or even evil, it is recognizing the Handprint of God that is present upon every human life.   

Loving yourself is not (necessarily) selfish: Self-Awareness, Self-Assuredness are all good and expressions of self-love, until they are not. They can easily transition (devlove) into Self-Absorption and Tiresome Arrogance. Try not to go there although it sometimes feels inevitable – to me – and I have to self-correct. Learn how to love yourself. If you don’t love and accept yourself you can hardly expect others to do so.

Extraordinarily simply (and a metaphor for our purposes) think of your brain and three interlinked parts: your stem (which does not have the brains to think), is limited to fight, flight, or freeze. The Stem is purely reactive and designed only to protect. Your limbic (which only has the brains to feel) will sweep you through highs and lows where you feel good or bad, accepted or rejected. Your Limbic is where self-pity hangs out. Then, there’s (thankfully) your Neocortex. This is your much larger (than the other parts) and developing front part of your brain. This is your brain of Endless Options and Possibilities. Take time to purposefully engage your neo-cortex – let it lead – and you will save yourself a lot of trauma and cash on therapy.

Find and use your Voice. Stand up. Stand on your own two feet but don’t push anyone else over. Speak up. Speak up for yourself and for others. Say what it is you really want to say. The voice I am talking about is usually one of few words. People who have found and use their Voice usually do not have to talk very much. Be careful not to confuse speaking with having a voice. Talking and talking and more talking is not necessarily using your Voice.

Finally, love is NEVER jealous or possessive. A person who loves you won’t even try to dictate how you dress or how much time can or cannot be with your friends. No one can love and control the same person. I will remind you that we see the world around us not as the world is, but as we are. Similarly, we love others as we are, and not as others are.

It all comes down to this: what kind of person do you want to be?

Peace, joy, fulfillment be yours.

07/22/2022

July 19, 2022

Power – you have it now how will you use it?

by Rod Smith

Power comes with your humanity.

You have the power to love, create, enrich others and to be a source of encouragement for those around you. You have the power to be very generous. You have the power to be kind, very kind.

The positive use of your inherent human power – we all have power and no one is excluded – will enhance and enrich your life as you seek to enrich others.

And, you also have the power to be vengeful, angry, resentful, and you may have many justifiable reasons to express vengeance and anger and resentment.

Such power, too, comes with your humanity.

I hope you will not use it.

The deployment of your power to spread negative emotions and damage upon others – even if you think they deserve it – will ultimately return and do its destructive work upon and within you. 

Unchecked, it will ultimately destroy you.

I regret every moment where I have used my personal power to the detriment of others and the seeming benefit of myself – which is the essence of selfishness. The memories I hold of such actions often keep me awake at night. There is nothing I regret more than inflicting my unmet needs and unresolved issues onto others. 

These were people who certainly did not deserve to have to cope with my boundaryless, harmful ways.

May you and I use our God-given power to enhance others and to do no harm.

July 14, 2022

Therapy success?

by Rod Smith

Do you see a therapist about your family or relationships issues? Here are a few ways to measure your progress. 

  • You’re gaining the courage you need to define yourself more and more clearly. You’re learning the futility of trying to define others, especially the people to whom you’re closest. Defining yourself means you’re declaring who you are and what you want in the nicest, kindest, most self-assured manner, and anticipating that those to whom you’re closest will do the same, or not.
  • You’re urging your ego to opt for being quieter, less defensive, and more curious. This is with the welcome knowledge that you have a lot to learn from how you got into the circumstances you face. You understand that you are the common denominator in all of your relationships. You blame no one for your choices and take full responsibility for your future choices, as loaded and as difficult as they may be.
  • You are able, more than ever before, to get a bird’s eye view of your family and your individual life. You are seeing how all things work together for gains in emotional health or, sadly, declines in emotional health. You know that all relationships and connections impact all relationships and connections and therefore you are being more careful with yours.
July 5, 2022

Toughness redefined

by Rod Smith

Please, dismiss the idea of resilience and toughness as a man with a ball scoring an unforgettable try – although indeed he may be both resilient and tough. 

Some of the toughest people I know are slight women who’d confess to embodying zero athleticism. I’ve met 14-year-old girls with apparently more resilience and grit than adult and professional millionaire athletes.

Grit and toughness and courage and resilience include:

  • Holding onto yourself when things around you appear to be falling apart. Self care when others appear not to care (about you). It’s getting an “above” view or objective view of what’s going on around you. 
  • Speaking up for yourself and others when the trend would prefer or appeal for your silence. It’s also, of course, knowing when not to speak at all. Remember, most people speak too much and listen far too little. Courage invites the necessary flip.
  • Waiting for the optimum moment, the opportunity, the gap, when waiting seems counter to the action required to reduce anxiety. This is another form of “holding onto yourself.” It’s realizing that if you miss the moment it probably will return.
  • Embracing the “opposition” or problem without it (the issue) knocking you off kilter or allowing it to shape your predetermined well-considered plan.