Archive for February, 2017

February 27, 2017

Spirituality and spiritual abuse…..

by Rod Smith

Ten signs of the presence of spiritual abuse, manipulation, domination, or intimidation.

Spiritual Abuse (always on a continuum) is occurring when a pastor, leader, or even a friend:

  • “Hears” God for you. God apparently “goes through” him/her to speak to you. This requires a sense of superiority – from him or her and is often framed as being “more mature,” and a sense of being “less” from you.
  • Alienates (shuns, ignores) you if you do not adhere to his/her guidance, leadership, or authority. This is usually VERY subtle – so it is easy to deny.
  • Suggests that rejection of his/her “higher understanding” is done so at your spiritual or even physical peril. You will hear things like, “Be careful. You will move yourself from the covering and protection of God if you don’t listen to me.”
  • Rewards your obedience with inclusion, and punishes your questioning or resistance with withdrawal. Compliance gets stroked; resistance gets struck.
  • Demands “cathartic” honesty. Unless you spew out every detail of your life you must be hiding or withholding something and that “something” will, of course, impede your spiritual development.
  • Lavishes you with praise, acceptance, and understanding when you are “good” and “pushes” you away when you are “bad.”
  • Is apparently fixated on the use of titles like reverend, pastor, elder and cannot appear to relax in the company of “ordinary” mortals. The issue is not in the use of legitimate titles (or robes or religious garb) – it is that identity seems impossible without the titles or the trappings.
  • Leaves a trail of cut-off relationships. Usually in the trail are those who refuse to bow, to submit, to stand in awe of, to be thoroughly entranced by, the will of the pastor, the leader or the friend. Always regard with suspicion or caution leaders who are cut off or alienated from members of their family, especially their parents.
  • Lives from a “for me/or against me,” “black/white,” “all/or nothing” platform of “relationships.”
  • Genuinely sees God’s Call so zealously, so fervently that any signs of resistance are seen as the expressions of The Enemy or an enemy – thus, relationships are expedient (disposable) in the light of getting on with God’s work.

The perpetrators of abuse apparently fail to see that reconciliation, and forgiveness, “space,” and room to move, and room to respectfully disagree (boundaries, morality) are all part of the glorious work of the Gospel.

Freedom begins with recognition. Recognition must result in action.

Stand up to those who misuse their positions of leadership. Spiritual abuse serves the welfare or neither the perpetrator nor the victim – quite apart from the disservice it does to the church.

All authentic holiness, spirituality, Godliness, is LOCAL. If it’s not present and respectful in the most immediate one-to-one relationships (spouse, child, secretary, mail-carrier, in the traffic, at the airline check-in, with the dog) it will not be authentic in the one-to-many relationships, no matter how many thousands or tens of thousands make up the many.

February 26, 2017

Pardon me; may I whisper something in your ear?

by Rod Smith

A conversation means we both speak. You speak, I listen; I speak, you listen. We take turns. We build on what each of us has said. We ask questions related to content already shared. It’s really quite simple.

Appearing to listen while you are really waiting to speak is not listening.

The split-second you decide you know what I am going to say or think you have heard it all before is when you stopped hearing.

When I am talking and your eye contact is with your phone you are not listening. And, no, this is not the new form of multitasking. Listening takes focus and respect.

When I tell you something, respond to what I have said. Following what I’ve said with your bigger, better story, related or unrelated, reduces conversations to competitions.

Unless you are genuinely affirming people we both know I’d suggest we leave all others out of our conversation.

Our routine one-liners and well-worn war stories serve as shields. If we are really going to talk we either have to get them out of the way early on in our dialogue or we have to agree to focus on content neither of us has shared with each other before.

February 25, 2017

Step-up or step-down….?

by Rod Smith

Thank God for step-down transformers.

These are the men and women who live and work around us who have sufficient sense of self so that every issue that comes their way is not exaggerated.

They are able to self-regulate and therefore they are able to let the anxiety of an unanticipated event or of a sequence of unwanted occurrences hit them and when it does, the anxiety is significantly reduced, even contained, so that it goes no further. Step-down people are not afraid of necessary conflict. When it occurs they do not personalize it. They regard conflict as an inevitable product of groups of people being together or trying to do anything together. Step-downs turn mountains into molehills.

Step-up transformers are another kettle of fish.

These men and women are so rattled by the unexpected that it unseats them. Because it is too much for them to handle, they spread the anxious virus so it can take down as many like-minded people as possible. They leak. They amplify the smallest problems so every difficultly is proof the world is ending. Step-up transformers appear to have little sense of self. Any smidgeon of a sense of self they do possess is found in the uncanny ability to turn a molehill into a mountain.

(I am forever grateful to Rabi Ed Friedman for this helpful metaphor)

February 24, 2017

Highly functional work-teams

by Rod Smith

A highly functioning team, school, church, or organization:

1. Sticks with an essential, identified, agenda.
2. Knows why it was formed and why it continues to exist.
3. Knows what it wants to accomplish and can measure its progress.
4. Values individuals, values the “whole” without losing sight of either.
5. Regularly articulates group and individual roles, goals, and dreams.
6. Discourages rescuing (saving, over-compensating) behavior among team members.
7. Encourages necessary and helpful conflict.
8. Encourages internal dialogue and negotiation yet sets limits on each.
9. Addresses gossip, rumor mongering, and other group destroyers and cancers.
10. Plays at least as hard as it works.
11. Acknowledges necessary and helpful hierarchy without being driven or defined by it.
12. Encourages downward mobility or authentic power gained through service.

February 23, 2017

Abusive mother…..

by Rod Smith

Referring to Axiom #22

“You often write to promote a good relationship with your parents. What if your parents are both narcissistic abusers (according to professional psychologists), and you’re their scapegoat and they keep emotionally and verbally abusing you even when you’re all grown up? Should you keep chatting with and telling your mother everything about you still? She projects her garbage while acting holier than thou and takes cheap shots every chance she gets. Doesn’t seem like a very wise idea. Seems better to cut off abusers. Some people’s parents do in fact have character disorders. You can be as nice, as tolerant, as patient, or as appropriately assertive as possible and nothing ever changes. On top of that she’s an alcoholic.” (Edited)

If you have read
my work for any length of time you will see that there are always exceptions. Yes. There are indeed times when an adult son or daughter is better off without contact with a parent when the parental bond is so damaged. Of course self-preservation trumps entering connection that damages again and again and again. These extremes are sufficient reason for severance – of course.

Outside of these and similar extremes it remains almost impossible for a person to remain in enduring emotional wellness if he or she disconnects from his or her parents.

February 23, 2017

A most helpful principle….

by Rod Smith

Self-Differentiation (a term coined by family therapy pioneer, Murray Bowen) is a progressive, internal interplay between autonomy (separation) and connection (togetherness) while progressing toward developing and known goals.

Being an authentic adult is hard work and a never completed task. The pathway is paved with difficulty and challenge.

To become an adult, every person faces the task of the differentiation of self.

Not to differentiate is to fuse (the failure to become a separate person) with others and to place responsibility on others (or on situations, predicaments, and hurdles) for the way in which our lives develop. To differentiate is to provide a platform for maximum growth and personal development for everyone in your circle of influence.

Differentiation is described in many ways in the following points:

1. Growing in the ability to see where and how I fit into my family, the position I hold and the power that is and is not given to that position.
2. Growing in the ability to be fully responsible for my own life while being committed to growing closer to those I love.
3. Intentionally developing, at the same time, autonomy and intimacy. In developing autonomy I set myself towards achieving my dreams and ambitions. In developing intimacy, I allow those close to me to see and know me as I really am.
4. Being willing to say clearly who I am and who I want to be while others are trying to tell me who I am and who I should be.
5. Staying in touch with others (co-workers, family members, neighbors) while, and even though, there is tension and disagreement. (This does not include a former spouse or former in-laws or any situation regarding a romance gone sour.)
6. Being able to declare clearly what I need and requesting help from others without imposing my needs upon them.
7. Being able to understand what needs I can and cannot meet in my own life and in the lives of others.
8. Understanding that I am called to be distinct (separate) from others, without being distant from others.
9. Understanding that I am responsible to others but not responsible for others
10. Growing in the ability to live from the sane, thinking and creative person I am, who can perceive possibilities and chase dreams and ambitions without hurting people in the process.
11. Growing in the ability to detect where controlling emotions and highly reactive behavior have directed my life, then, opting for better and more purposeful growth born of creative thinking.
12. Deciding never to use another person for my own ends and to be honest with myself about this when I see myself falling into such patterns.
13. Seeing my life as a whole, a complete unit, and not as compartmentalized, unrelated segments.
14. Making no heroes; taking no victims.
15. Giving up the search for the arrival of a Knight in Shining Armour who will save me from the beautiful struggles and possibilities presented in everyday living.
16. Paying the price for building, and living within community. I am not suggesting some form of communal or shared living. I am suggesting the differentiated person finds a place with others while also being separate from others.
17. Moving beyond “instant” to process when it comes to love, miracles, the future, healing and all the important and beautiful things in life.
18. Enjoying the water (rather than praying for it to be wine), learning to swim (rather than trying to walk on water).

(Please PRINT this page and STUDY it. Spread it around your office and among your friends. Read more writers about this concept. The ONLY thing I ask in return is that you let me know you printed it – by leaving a comment – and you SPREAD the word to others.)

February 20, 2017

When your husband says he doesn’t want to be married anymore…..

by Rod Smith

Written by Anne, years ago — worth a re-post:

“Hi Ladies, just a bit of advice, if your husband says he doesn’t want to be married or doesn’t love you anymore, as much as it hurts, the best thing you can do is nothing. Go about your business, act happy, be nice, don’t beg, don’t plead, don’t cry and make him try to feel sorry for you. Listen to me, as hard as this sounds, it works. Work on yourself, be your own person, let him always see you are happy. Men don’t want to pull away from happy women! They want to pull away from a woman who is yelling, and nagging. I am not saying this is your fault by any means.

“Starting today, start taking care of yourself, pamper yourself, love yourself the way you want to be loved, throw your energy into your kids and yourself. Any contact with your husband or boyfriend be nothing but pleasant and nice: no fighting, no blaming. If he brings up divorce, breaking up tell him you don’t want that but YOU’LL SUPPORT HIM IN HIS DECISION. And leave it at that.

“Get your hair done, nails done (if you can afford to do so) give yourself facials, make yourself feel good about yourself and it will shine through.

“Remember, no yelling, no begging him, no freaking out on him, that will only push him further away.

“And don’t keep bringing up the past of hurtful things he has said and did, that just creates more drama.”

February 20, 2017

Domestic Abuse – finding the way out

by Rod Smith
  • It is never acceptable for you: to scream at, or hit, the children or me; to confine the children or me; to break things or throw things even if you own the house and everything in it.
  • It is not acceptable for you to cut me off from my extended family or the outside world by taking my money or keys, phone, or personal items.
  • I will not ride in the car with you when you are angry or drunk.
  • It is never acceptable for you to force or manipulate me into sex or sexual practices I do not want.
  • I am NOT responsible for your outbursts of anger or violent actions. Your behavior is your behavior and it is NEVER my fault.
  • Being really sorry for your behavior is not enough – you must get professional help.
  • Forgiveness is not enough – you must get professional help.
  • When I tell you forgiveness is not enough, that I will not come back to you, don’t turn it on me and say I know nothing about forgiveness.
February 20, 2017

My son and I need help to get to Minnesota

by Rod Smith

“I have a 7-year-old son. I applied for a divorce in 2012. ‘Free’ lawyers let me down and I am living with the person I am supposed to divorce. I have tried to get a job but nothing has happened. I don’t have a matric. A friend in Minnesota said he would help me with a place to stay but I need to raise $25,000.00 for 2 years studies. I have been down emotionally and have experienced every bad thing. I don’t know what to do any more. I cannot afford a private lawyer. I don’t have family to help. I feel a deep pain as I am writing this.” (Edited)

You are a woman and a mother. Resources for great success are latent within you. Access them. Focus on building a life with your son exactly where you are. Do whatever you can to get a job and a matric. While you think like a victim you will be one.

Even if you had the money, passports, a student visa, and air tickets, no legitimate college or university in the USA will admit you without a matric. If life in South Africa is tough (where you are familiar with the culture) Minnesota will be much harder and far more complicated.

February 18, 2017

Monday meditation

by Rod Smith

You may earn more than I do and live in a nicer house – but our loneliness is probably the same. When it rips us apart it doesn’t really matter who has the most cash or the nicest home. Loneliness doesn’t care where we live or where and how much we bank. Invite me in – perhaps we can be friends and ease our common pain.

You may be more educated than I am and you may have graduated from a respected university – but I know that if you regard anyone, anywhere with contempt, your education has given you little worth knowing. I may not be very bright by your standards but I do know that truly educated people never use it as a weapon. Talk to me – I might be able to teach you a thing or two.

You may be more travelled than I am and can talk about places I have not heard of or could afford to visit in my wildest dreams – but if travel has made you contemptuous of your homeland and its peoples then travel has not done its finer work in you. Citizens of the world find beauty and wonder everywhere. Come to my house – my culture is as interesting as any you will find on any distant shore.