March 20, 2019

Column turns 18!

by Rod Smith

This daily newspaper column turns 18 today. It’s been that many years you’ve been reading my work and some of you have been with me every day from the very beginning. Thank you.

People often ask me why I do it. I can tell you exactly why:

  • Writing is a wonderful way to keep yourself somewhat sane. The daily joy of articulating matters of mental health and powerful living helps me to be the best version of myself (most days). As I’ve frequently written, I am my first audience and often my harshest critic.
  • It gives me great joy to hear from the many readers who have found the column helpful when making life-changing decisions.
  • The column keeps me connected with a city I love and a part of the world that’s inseparably part of who I am.

The manner in which a newspaper column can sometimes travel is fascinating. My best example is reflected in an email I got from Jamaica which read something like, “I was digging through some old newspapers here in Montego Bay and found this newspaper column and I wondered if you still have the same email address.”

Readers, occasional; readers, committed, I say a hearty thank you.

March 19, 2019

Healthy people

by Rod Smith

All emotional health is on a continuum, some days will be better than other days.

Here’s a quick self-reflection so you can see how you are doing today.

Healthy people:

  • Achieve their goals and keep strong relationships.
  • Know when “I” is “I” and “we” is “we” and the difference between the two.
  • Live in their own “space” and “skin” without being space invaders.
  • Maintain their individuality and embrace others at the same time.
  • Avoid siding with people even if it appears helpful.
  • Resist telling others what they need, think, feel or should do.
  • Usually say “I” rather than “you” or “we.”
  • Appreciate differences in people, seeing no person as “all good” or “all bad.”
  • Recognize emotional bullying (all kinds of bullying) and refuse to participate in it.
  • Hold onto beliefs without being rigid or defensive.
  • Can be clear-headed under pressure.
  • Cope in difficult situations without falling apart.
  • Know how much they need others and how much others need them.
  • Keep their voices under pressure without confusing thinking and feeling.
  • Spend very little time or energy trying to win the approval of others.
  • Resist playing games in order to feel loved or powerful.
  • Have learned that the voice of  “they” or “them” is better ignored if “they” or “them” are unidentified.
March 16, 2019

Swearing at your mother

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Wednesday

To the boy (about 15) who was swearing at his mother – I saw you, heard you, and you retreated in embarrassment when you were aware of others and of me.

Here are a few things I wish I could tell you:

Public scenes are very unattractive no matter who is angry with whom – you may want to try to avoid them.

Everything has a greater context and a history and I am sure that neither you nor your mother is a perfect person, but swearing at your mother (at anyone actually) is not good for you. You may want to see if you can stumble on some more helpful ways to address conflicts.

Swearing at the most important woman in your life (yes, your mother) suggests you will be able to swear at any woman in your life. It’s most unmanly to be disrespectful to women.

I have been around long enough to know that in our culture (North America) some will excuse you with “at least he’s expressing himself” or “he must have a poor role model” and other such nonsense. You are responsible for what comes out your mouth (and what goes into it) and no one else.

March 13, 2019

Ratchet up your functioning…..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Friday

Ratchet up your level of functioning and watch your levels of happiness and fulfillment surge, or at least improve…

Allow the “when we” in you to meet its inevitable death. Your future will be brighter than your past only if you can successfully overcome the hurdles of wanting things to be the way things were, but, are no longer.

Have the difficult conversations you might have been avoiding. The only things that disappear if you ignore them are you teeth. And, please don’t credit me with this cute axiom. I saw it many years ago on a dentist’s billboard. I have used it ever since.

Give up the search for a knight in shining armor to save you, or a damsel in distress for you to save. Simply acknowledge that the arrival of one or the other, or even both, will not really do you any good.

Say “yes” more than you say “no.” What you do do is more likely to challenge you and promote your growth than what you avoid.

Get a mentor. No matter how successful you are, no matter how famous or influential you are, find someone who will tell you what you need to hear, and not necessarily what you want to hear.

March 9, 2019

Longings…….

by Rod Smith

7 Longings….

The Mercury / Monday

Seven longings I have for myself, my children* and students (past and present):

• Personal Responsibility: that we live without blame, without the belief that someone, or something, is responsible for our futures, or, has caused our failures.

• Absolute Forgiveness: that we become women and men who are able to forgive others even when it’s neither deserved nor necessarily recognized as needed.

• Radical Hospitality: that we live with open doors, hearts, hands, and minds, ready to welcome strangers, waifs, loners, dignitaries, politicians, pastors, prostitutes, presidents, addicts, and enemies into our homes with generosity, love, and kindness.

• Self Definition: that we are able to stand up for ourselves, think for ourselves, express our unique views, beliefs, and vision, without harming others.

• That we be Interesting and Interested – given that there are enough lifeless, bored and boring people already.

• That we Love and Trust God – not a weird (often dangerous) perversion created and perpetuated by anxiety-ridden, budget-driven pastors and politicians, but the Exciting, Vibrant, Intimate, Brave, Edgy, Deliberate God of the Ages, Who, without question or reservation, loves ALL people with clarity and passion and Who gives dignity and inestimable value to ALL.

• See Beyond: that we be men and women who can see beyond the limitations we set for ourselves and the limitations others set for us (usually in “love”).

March 8, 2019

Woman’s Day

by Rod Smith

WOMEN’S DAY – My bit…..

The successful, or the enriched woman …..

1. Knows she never has to participate in sexual activity she does not want; and knows that her body is her own and private temple which she shares, even in marriage, only when it is by her own sacred, deliberate choice.

2. Does not lose herself in her marriage, or to motherhood, or in taking care of her family, but is able to develop a strong, vibrant sense of self, even while being a loving wife, mother, friend and professional in her career of choice.

3. Does not allow herself to be taken for granted, to be sworn at, to be victimized by anyone, not husband, children, in-laws, siblings, parents or co-workers.

4. Lives above manipulation, domination, intimidation, and has relationships that are therefore pure and open, mutual, and respectful.

5. Is able to articulate her deepest dreams, desires, and fears to those whom she loves, without fearing a response of indifference or rejection.

6. Is a woman, who, in the midst of the pressures of work, motherhood and marriage, maintains her unique, powerful voice.

7. Is able to delay gratification for the greater good of her family and community.

8. Has a playful, open, adult relationship with her mother and/or woman in her mother’s age group, and is therefore free of feelings of jealousy and envy with her peers.

March 7, 2019

Out of control

by Rod Smith

You frequently write “stay out of control” and I’d like to know what you mean.

Thank you for the accurate observation. I also say it to my sons almost every time we part company for any length of time. I usually include that it is not an invitation to break the law or to cause harm to anyone or anything.

It is an invitation to:

  • Tell others who you are before the tell you (or decide) who you are.
  • Think of yourself as a unique individual even if you are in a deeply connected and committed relationship. Losing your uniqueness, your identity, to others, or being “swallowed” by others, especially those whom you love and who say they love you, is unlikely to be helpful to anyone in the long term (or the short term for that matter).
  • Think for yourself, speak for yourself, stand up for yourself, even if doing so upsets the people you are closest to.
  • Pleasing others by being quiet or by falling into line or by going with the flow invites others to see and to treat you as a doormat.
  • Keep in mind that we teach others how to treat us. If you accomodate or excuse bad manners or controlling tendencies you are endorsing what will probably drive you to distraction in the long term.
March 6, 2019

Conflict, anyone?

by Rod Smith

If you’re in conflict with anyone over anything please start here before you spread the information, seethe, engage or lawyer, or are tempted to hurt yourself or others:

  • What’s my role, how come I’m in this situation?
  • Where, or how was I unclear, where did I make assumptions, what did I say or not say, or hear or not hear, that got me here?
  • Have I said “yes” when I meant “no” or “no” when I meant “yes”.
  • Who was I trying to impress that I compromised my character during this process?
  • Have I told the truth as I see it in every step of the  journey?
  • Did I mishear, misinterpret, anything, because it suited me and my agenda at the time?
  • Is there anything for which I need to apologize, write a cheque, or uncover some of my prideful ways and replace it with appropriate humility?
  • What do I now know that I did not then know, and was this “gap” an honest oversight or does it reflect a lack of due diligence on my part?
  • What do I need to do so even my adversary may emerge with dignity? What essential lessons have I learned so I may do better in the future?  
March 5, 2019

Burnout

by Rod Smith

Men and women, those who hold positions in churches, schools, mission organizations, and not-for-profit organizations, regularly endure burnout. I’ve seen it paraded as somewhat of a medal of achievement.

  • Burnout is not the result of hard work. Adults were designed for hard work. We thrive on it. It’s inspiring.
  • Burnout is the result repeatedly doing the “wrong” work, attempting “impossible” work, it comes from doing the work others are supposed to do. It comes from the attempts at “saving others” from themselves. It comes from hauling the impossible load of trying to save face and serve ego. It comes from refusing to mind one’s own business. It comes from being cornered by impossible expectations, from assuming irrational amounts of responsibility while also being willing to have little or no authority to accomplish the task.

The right work – the possible, achievable, the work to which you are called, annointed, appointed; doing the work you love and over which you have at least some authority will not result in burnout. It will result in a sense of achievement, a renewing of the human spirit, and the kind of physical tiredness that is both holy and is replenished by well earned rest.

March 4, 2019

Lurking temptations

by Rod Smith

When I search my heart – the deep intersection of my mind, longings, regrets (profound and benign), education (formal and informal) – I see lurking temptations. They are gross and subtle, often holding hands the very best of who I am:

  • There’s a temptation to be bigger than others, to outwit, to demean with subtlety. This temptation can eclipse my sincere belief that we are equal, that we all have talents and skills, and that acknowledging, appreciating, and endorsing yours never diminishes mine.
  • There’s a temptation to undercut, short-circuit, play the system, to go around the process of whatever I am facing, and to want or feel like I deserve special treatment. This dark urge tries to overwhelm my sincere belief that none of us needs ever to use our power, real or perceived, to get our way.
  • There’s a temptation to dominate the room, set the agenda, sway the crowd, to lead, even in situations where I have no formal or informal leadership role. This life-long battle (sometimes won, often lost) blurs my sincere appreciation of the skills and talents we all bring to every context because in those moments I am so caught up in myself.

If any of this also rings true for you please let me know.