Archive for February, 2023

February 28, 2023


by Rod Smith

There is incredible beauty and generosity and kindness in our immediate environment if we have the eyes to see it and the courage to embrace it and the willingness to be a part of it. 

Yes, there are shootings and there are liars and thieves all of which (and whom) cause distress and grief and much more, but goodness and beauty far outweighs the powers of all that seeks to ruin. 

All people are beautiful. 

There’s gold in everyone, even in those who seek to do us harm.

I myself have been misguided for so many years and harshly judged others many times I can hardly expect others to possess “less misguideness” than I “enjoyed.” 

Some years ago I met a young man – at the request of his church – who’d committed a double murder.  

After an hour or two once the trust barriers were broken and, despite the steel bars that separated us, I saw his beauty.

I saw it every time we met. 

No, I don’t think I lost sight of his dastardly and brutal acts or of the pain he’d inflicted on so many, but, I did see his humanity. 

I did encounter his beauty, the handprint of a loving God in his life.

It’s there, dig deep into your own magnificence and you’ll see it in others, all others.

Proteas – South Africa’s National Flower (I believe) — by artist and friend William Onker

February 27, 2023

Yes, he/she is going to work very hard to……

by Rod Smith

A man or woman who is a survivor of a difficult or traumatic childhood will often go to unusual extremes in several of life’s arenas.

“Make it perfect,” becomes the mantra.

The extremes are intense attempts at perfection to put right the past or stop it intruding on the present.

This may be particularly obvious when parenting.

The survivor of a difficult childhood whom you love will go to endless lengths to please you once he or she has broken through the trust barrier with you.

Once you are trusted it will be in ways he or she has never trusted before.

Be gentle as it could be very fragile.

When suspicious questions arise, answer as honestly as you know how you realize that it is not about your behavior, it’s about history repeating itself.

The man or woman whom you may love who is a survivor of a difficult childhood will often feel heavily let down if well made plans go awry. He or she may suddenly become completely disillusioned when discovering he or she was unable to create something perfect for you to experience together.

Remember, it’s all about quieting the past.

February 26, 2023


by Rod Smith

If you ever want a beautiful picture of mercy the Biblical account of the life of Joseph is the place to go.

His response to his desperate, begging brothers embodies the quality of mercy I have often received. 

While in Genesis, you will encounter with Joseph moments of extraordinary grace and healing, on top of surely being bombarded with the impulse to burst out in songs from the musical that bears his name.  

Following a rather violent and involuntary departure and after decades of separation from his family, Joseph abounds in kindness and mercy towards his brothers. This same band of brothers found young Joseph so threatening they discarded him into a well, as a kinder option to killing him, and then sold him to a traveling caravan. 

As a result  of their jealousy and violence Joseph spent years in isolation and torment. 

When, decades later and faced with his brothers, Joseph would be justified if he chose to have nothing to do with them or exercised his extraordinary powers in the pharaoh’s domain to have them arrested and held accountable for their crimes. 

But no, recognizing who they are, knowing his brothers have come in search of help, he discloses his identity.  

“I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?”

His first question is about their father’s wellbeing. 

I cannot imagine being cut-off from my extended family, all of whom live in distant countries. 

I cannot imagine not knowing if one of my closest relatives is living or dead. 

Joseph’s retribution quotient rests firmly at zero. When legitimately, there could be anger, Joseph expresses none. He fosters no desire for pay-back. 

“Come closer,” he says and weeps with relief and gratitude for the opportunity for reconciliation.

“I will provide for you,” he tells them and there are hugs and kisses and weeping all round. 

What a reunion! 

Many families long for such a reunion. 

Do you? 

“Something got in the way,” I hear a woman say revealing she has not spoken to her sister in decades.

“I will never talk to that woman again. She got mom’s dining room table she knew I wanted.”

A table got in the way. 

A dining room table was enough to sever a family tie? 

“Ah, it is not about the table,” may be a legitimate retort. 

I concede it may well not be about a table. Give me a few moments and I could suggest a variety of possible explanations for the schism a table may conveniently represent. 

Family estrangements can be horribly painful but, even sadder, we grow accustomed to them. We live with them. It becomes how life is.

“Something got in the way,” would have been a gross understatement had Joseph chosen victimhood. 

May we each do our parts in getting whatever got in the way, out of the way. 

Joseph embodied mercy when he had the choice to extract vengeance. 

Joseph chose humility, when he indeed could have demanded his brothers bow before him and beg for their lives.

By grace-upon-grace, may we each do the same.

February 25, 2023

Of COURSE he/she is hard to love (#2)

by Rod Smith

If you fall in love (or are friends) with a man or a woman who reveals having had a very difficult childhood there are a few things of which you may want to be aware.

Keep in mind that I am only one voice in a vastly explored arena. It is usually a good idea to get lots of insights from several sources.

Sad thing is that if you have already fallen in love you probably won’t be looking for help.

If you are, it’s because you’ve already begun to see how tough it is to love tough-historied people. (I rather like my euphemism).

“Troubled” or “unsettled” are pejorative terms.

Avoid them.

People from tough backgrounds can be very exciting, motivated and “world-changing” people.

If you are going to be partners you have to learn and understand what kind of music is playing in their heads and hearts and how they dance to it or turn it up or turn it down or turn it off (if they ever can).

They will often be way ahead of most people in terms of being street wise. They have had to be. They have been watching, negotiating, recruiting, debating and have had to have an eye for undercurrents for so long such behaviors are a way of life for them.

They will usually be cunningly intelligent but also possess zero desire to bring harm to you or others.

More about this sometime….

Artist: Trevor Beach – google him or find him on Facebook and buy his art. The above and another hangs in my office. I enjoy the idea that an artist named Beach seems only to paint Ocean Scenes.
February 23, 2023

Of COURSE he’s hard to get to know…….. (#1)

by Rod Smith

The problem with difficult childhoods in troubled families (pick your conflicts or addictions or stressors or health concerns – or a combination of several) is that children with difficult childhoods have had to dress for self-protection, and, as a lifestyle, have often had to prepare themselves for enduring domestic tensions or wars and regarded it as normal. This is how everyone lives isn’t it?

Once the child becomes an adult its difficult to shed engrained protection measures and essentials and throw off a guarded and conflictual lifestyle even if it’s no longer needed.

Carefree happy children may become carefree happy adults but it’s unlikely a stressed and anxious child will enter realms of stressfree bliss and trusting vulnerability on coming of age.

Adult survivors of difficult childhoods hear things like, “You’re so difficult to get to know,” and “You’re so difficult to get close to,” and “Why does everything have to be a fight?” and proceed with the hard work of adult life that mirrors the hard work of childhood wondering what on earth people are talking about.


Unrelated to column: got some new art in our home today: Cameroon artist Patrick Yogo Oumar (see Instagram if interested).

February 23, 2023

Getting ahead on Fridays

by Rod Smith

Greet all people with a smile, even if you’re faking it. It’s not insincerity. It’s being polite. It’s refusing to infect others with your inner discontent. Get rid of your discontent in private, when you’re alone.

Be as clear as possible with plans and expectations so possible hurdles and misunderstandings are minimized. Most people like straightforwardness and honesty more than they like complex surprises that could have easily been avoided. Clarity now usually means fewer confusions later. Try it. 

Talk less. Listen more. Ask questions that assist others to talk more. Promote other people’s dreams and desires. 

Move away from shifting every conversation to focus on you and your interests. Other people are very interesting, perhaps even more interesting than you may be.

Do simple things to lessen the load of others. Open doors, stand back, pick up after yourself, and say “please” and “thank you” a lot. Assume a servant attitude no matter how important you or others may think you are. 

Work at being the most generous, forgiving, and kind person you’ve ever encountered and you’ll be amazed at how many generous, forgiving, and kind people you will repeatedly encounter.

February 22, 2023

Final words…..

by Rod Smith

Have-you-eaten were mother’s final words to me. Mother gasped this well-worn phrase, one used hundreds and if not thousands of times, through the paraphernalia of masks and tubes before dying alone on the fifth floor of Addington Hospital.

During the 18 months prior to her death mom had had a breast removed, endless bouts of chemotherapy and visited every faith healer in the greater region. But, the cancer had spread, and coronary disease and lung failure were the scribed causes of death.

I was at home and asleep when mom died.

A nurse phoned and woke me with the news at twenty minutes past two in the morning on May 15th, 1980.

I was furious having repeatedly asked to be called if Mother’s condition deteriorated. The thought of Mother dying alone was very disturbing to me.  Dad gasped when I phoned with the news and after the brief call I headed towards the hospital on my motorcycle and strided through the quietness of the hospital to the ward and was surprised to find everything functioning as usual and mom’s bed vacant. Every trace of Mother was gone and new folded sheets and a pin-stripe blanket waited for whomever was next.  

I snooped my way to the hospital bowels in search of the in-house mortuary but a combination of fear of the nether world, of still, vacant-stare corpses, the possibility of meeting a masked, gloved worker readying Mother for some macabre final test propelled me to street level and and I roared towards the southern freeway to sleep the rest of night at Jenny, my sister’s house. My twelve-year-old nephew and I slept on the living room carpet and he rambled, trying to bring me comfort, although he too had just lost his beloved grandmother.

February 21, 2023

Power to love, power to forgive…..

by Rod Smith

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

February 21, 2023

We will be men…..

by Rod Smith

  We Will Be Men, My Sons

(With acknowledgement to Rudyard Kipling)

When we can negotiate without compromising our integrity, stand on our own two feet without pushing others over and love without controlling

….. we will be men, my sons.

When we understand and accept our uniquenesses, our resilience, giftedness, our frailties and failings, and within that understanding, and do no harm

….. we will be men, my sons.

When we can forgive all others, deserved, undeserved, requested or not, and freely offer mercy and grace even to those who have rejected us, deserved or not

….. we will be men, my sons.

When we can welcome strangers with radical hospitality, and yet foster independence, and be generous with all we own, while treasuring our valued possessions

….. we will be men, my sons.

When we empower others, desire their highest good especially when they can do nothing for us in return

….. we will be men, my sons,

………………..we will be men.

February 20, 2023

Live contact

by Rod Smith

I’m very grateful to the faithful readers of this almost-daily contribution to conversations about relationships and family and whatever else strikes my fancy.

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