January 20, 2019

Join the pilot-poet, Yeats

by Rod Smith

William Butler Yeats, the pilot-poet, used the term “lonely impulse of delight” to express the thrill he knew when flying. I’d suggest you (we) can join the pilot while having your feet firmly on terra firma.

You’re imbedded with powerful impulses of delight. There’s a set of really strong enduring and strapping desires that come downloaded with your humanity. They are aching to be expressed from within your beautiful heart to all the world around you.

With backbone, commitment, and practice – and the willingness to learn and to make mistakes – finding and acting on your imbedded impulses can become elemental to your thinking and to your behavior and rid you of all your inhumanity. In concert, these impulses can become daily habits and shape the way you see yourself and the way others see and treat you, and given practice and grace, you will live a joyful existence and be a delight to know.

The impulses of generosity, forgiveness, the impulse to spread goodness and kindness, to offer and to desire respect, and the impulse to discover, explore, and take adventurous risks are living within you.

As you exercise each, even in the smallest, most tentative ways, your heart will be right up there with the Yeats and your feet will be ever more firmly on the ground.

January 19, 2019

Dear Dad……

by Rod Smith

The Mercury

Dear Reader Dad:

Your laser focus upon your child will ultimately “sizzle” him (and you).

Not only that, it will probably sever (sizzle) the connection you so desperately desire with him.

The parenting you offer, so focused, so loud, so intentional, so present, I’d suggest, will backfire.

The closer you look at your son, his school, at every aspect of his life, and the more powerful your magnifying glass, the more you will fuel your own anxieties.

You may, as you say, have had a dad who was distant. I’d like to suggest that being too present has its own set of problems.

Back off. Please, back off, even if it is just a little. Try it. You may both like it.

No one can accommodate so much attention, and, when he is able, unless he is supremely unusual, he is very likely to be crushed at the thought of facing life on his own – or angry with you for trying to intercept his every opportunity for growth and discovery.

Sadly (and this is where my heart aches for you) he is unlikely to thank you for your efforts. If you are very lucky, very lucky, he’ll be filled with compassion for you.

Loving your son, and this is something I struggle with as well, is not the same as being constantly alert, anxious, and on guard. He won’t “get life” if you keep getting it for him. Part of loving him will require that you let him go, that you get out of his way, that you allow him to experiment and even to fail.

Your love is not proved in your ability to make his world safe, and sure, and filled with certainty. It is demonstrated as you prepare him for one that is none of those things.



January 11, 2019

Time together

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Tuesday / when we spend time together:

Appropriate for all relationships, casual to intimate….

Next time we are together for coffee or lunch or a walk on the beach …

• I will leave my phone at home or in the car or turned off so I can spend uninterrupted the time with you and give you my full attention.

• I will talk about whatever you want to talk about without turning the conversation to be about me, my children, my aches, my losses, my boss, or my past relationships.

• I will listen to you without waiting to speak, without following your story with something bigger, better, or more dramatic. I will actually listen. I won’t use every moment of silence as an on-ramp for my bigger, bolder, or braver story. Even when I ask questions, my questions will be an attempt to identify more closely with you rather than seek to steer you in the direction of what I really want to talk about.

• I will honor the confidentiality our conversation deserves and expect the same from you. A confidence is what you tell me about yourself and what I tell you about myself – I understand that all the rest is gossip no matter how well intentioned we may sound.

• While we are together I will not speak about other people in a negative manner no matter who they are and no matter how much we both might want to. Talking negatively about others when we are together is an indication that we have unresolved issues or conflicts between us. Let’s take care of what we are avoiding so we can leave other people alone.

[Cut, paste, copy, mail – please, use as needed]

January 7, 2019


by Rod Smith

There is always an option to be kind whatever the circumstance.

Being kind does not mean you cannot be assertive, that you must accommodate poor service or poor manners, or that you have to be a pushover. Such conclusions are nonsense.

Kindness begins and has its life within you already.

Or, it doesn’t.

Kindness is a character issue. It is not contingent on what’s going on around you. It’s an expression of what is going on in you.

If you or I believe our negative responses like unkindness or irritability or rudeness are subject to what’s going on around us we will continue to live as victims – and make others into our victims. While this is our mindset we will be played by circumstance and become as unpredictable as circumstance. People who trust and depend on us will become edgy as they perceive tides change around us.

When you and I take responsibility for ourselves and plan our inner-day and make kindness toward self and others a high priority, we become storm calmers, peacemakers, and the trust quotient afforded to us by others, especially those who are nearest and dearest, will enjoy and safe and steady incline.

January 3, 2019

It doesn’t have to be this way…..

by Rod Smith

The family break, the schism between brother and brother, daughter and mother, can be resolved. That loss of a long-held friendship, that business or church breakup, can be healed.

While being right is more important than being loving the schism will grow and the pain and the hardness will multiply and bitterness will become a way of life.

Oh, you may say there is no more pain, no hardness, but this is just one source of your anger.

That flare of hot anger you feel in totally unrelated circumstances? This is where it started. That capacity you have to ignore the needy, treat the outcast with contempt? This is one of the places that inhuman “ability” got a jump-start within.

You may indeed have been right, but you are yet alienated from each other just as if you’d been wrong. Now your anger is your unaddressed grief turned to hardness, sarcasm, and contempt, and it is playing its let-me-out-of-here game.

Come to the table embracing Humility and you will find full reconciliation. Bow your heart, be the first to do it, even if you are the one more offended.

Forgiveness and reconciliation will not do their beautiful work while pride, entitlement, victimhood, and contempt are doing theirs.

January 1, 2019

The center of gravity has shifted

by Rod Smith

img_0968The center of gravity in my family has changed.

When the new year sauntered in each of son sent me a text. The one sent three lowercase letters that I was instantly able to decode as “happy new year.” The other spelled it each word. One was 5 minutes away at a party with all his basketball teammates, the other was an hour away with lifelong friends.

That both messages arrived on the nail of midnight meant a lot to me. It meant they were both thinking about me and, that they were thinking about me and both beat me to the keyboard to send greetings, gave me quite a lift.

But, I was far from down.

I could have been with either boy. I could have had us all together at New Year just as we did for at least most of their lives.

But, the center of gravity began to shift a few years ago and I was not going to get in its way.

I prefer a quiet new year.

Each boy has his own tight circle of peers.

The “we” of us is important but it the “we” in their respective peer groups is more so.

This “we” has served its purpose.

That “we” is doing its job.

Thanks be to God.


December 25, 2018

Christmas Day

by Rod Smith

Every act of human goodness begins within the deepest recesses of an individual psyche, soul, or spirit – call that beautiful center of a person whatever you will.

It’s truly an inside job.

Kindness, generosity, forgiveness are bold, inner-initiatives. It’s got to happen in you. It’s got to happen in me. Before the goodness can overflow and touch others, and change families, and ripple through communities, it must do it’s powerful and good work first within.

We have to welcome the divine impulse to enrich those about us. We have to hear its sometimes whispered cry, acknowledge its gentle nudge, or feel its severe jolt within us, however it may choose to get our attention, and then respond to it, welcome it, foster it, so it takes root.

And, when it has taken root, it will do its good work. Little can stop it. It will attack all remnants of all prejudice, all prideful propensities, all inclination to harbor resentment, spread gossip, or demean others. Goodness will assist in the joy of regarding others as an opportunity to offer grace and hospitality. It assists you and me to see others as the miracles they are and remind us that people are not as they appear to be – they are as we are.

December 23, 2018

Blaming others for outbursts of anger

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Thursday

Angry people often blame circumstances for their rage when it is circumstances trigger what’s already within.

I was second in line at a cellular phone outlet. The customer ahead of me began viciously screaming at the salesman. When encouraged to calm down he pointed at the salesman as if he himself was powerless over his own angry response. The man apparently sincerely believes his angry outbursts are the responsibility of others.

In backed up traffic I saw a vivid illustration: On my left a man was pounding his fists, waving his arms, and some poor soul was getting the thrust of his anger over the phone. To my right the driver was apparently listening to something really funny and the traffic hadn’t gotten to her at all.

It would be easy to suggest the man was in a hurry and the woman was not.

Actually, the one is angry, and the other is not.

The traffic is the catalyst.

Few angry people seem to understand that anger and happiness and joy and forgiveness and resentment and generosity are all inside jobs.

It’s a tough lesson for those prone to rage, but, when a willing learner understands it and does something about it, it brings huge changes and relief to a person and usually to an entire family.

December 21, 2018

Fragile, resilient, tenacious, and funny

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Thursday

We are a fragile bunch, we humans. I’ve seen it a hundred times in you and in me. A mere look from someone we love can render us broken-hearted and upset us for an entire day or until we find resolution.

We are a resilient bunch, we humans. I’ve seen it vastly more than I’ve seen our shared fragility. We know how to love, to forgive, and to give again and again. We know how to mine the best in others, even those who have not treated us very well. I’ve stood in wonder dozens of times by the resilience I have seen in people facing hard times.

We are a tenacious species. I’ve taken myself by surprise at my ability to get what I need and what I want for my sons and for myself despite considerable resistance from those who’d prefer me not to. Like you, I go at it, wanting nothing more or less than what is good and right for my family and for others in the firm belief that in all situations we can all win.

We are funny.

Born for family and born to thrive in community, and yet acting so often as if it’s the last thing we want.

December 19, 2018

Making life a little easier

by Rod Smith

Get out of the middle of relationships (issues, concerns) that do not directly involve you. Your spouse’s relationship with your parents (your husband’s relationship with your son) does not involve you. It is close, it impacts you, but you are not part of it or responsible for it. Being “piggy-in-the-middle” is not much fun for piggy.

Resist speaking for others, explaining people to each other or being “communication central.” Allow people to speak for themselves and to each other without your help. Retrench yourself from being the family switchboard.

Extricate yourself from unnecessary binds (inappropriate loyalties) by refusing to harbor secrets and gossip even with your best of friends.

Move beyond blame by taking full responsibility for every aspect of your life. While you may have had a lousy childhood you are now an adult who, despite the many failings of your nurturers, has an opportunity to embrace life to the full.

Forgive everyone for everything because it’s a whole lot easier than accumulating grudges and safer than hosting bitter poison.

Show up, stand up, speak up for yourself – it’s really good practice and an excellent deterrent of abusive, controlling types. They will run a mile when they see what you are made of.

Arrange your inner-life (emotions, attitude) before your plan your daily schedule (your outer-life).