Archive for ‘Boundaries’

August 2, 2018

The power of impartial listening

by Rod Smith

If you can find an impartial listener when you are troubled, or when you are embarking on new adventures, facing tough decisions, or find yourself in a relational impasse, you have found gold.

This person will listen attentively and ask probing questions. Questions will serve to drive you deeper to the heart and core of what you are facing. He or she will be unafraid to challenge you, evaluate your logic, and draw your attention to your blind spots.

Such invaluable encounters usually lead to greater objectivity. The very act of preparing and then articulating an issue can expose necessary steps or unearth essential nuggets to finding resolution, with or without the impartial listener’s help. Talking helps. Listening, even to your own voice can lead to new insights that may be unavailable otherwise.

Great comfort can be found in spending time with a person who has no ulterior motives, who can help you to reflect and act as your sounding board.

Perhaps even better than finding such a person is to be such a person.

Offer your mature, impartial ear to those who need it and you will be offering, and discovering, gold.

July 31, 2018

(quiet) Rage

by Rod Smith

I have met a few people who demonstrate what I call “quiet rage.”

They are usually very controlled, accomplished people who are often known for their ability cope with stress and difficult circumstances.

In truth, deep inside, they are often seething.

The controlled demeanor serves to bury agitation.

The façade serves a dual purpose: it gives others the sense that things are fine, it gives the perpetrator the idea that things really are under control.

This condition is filled with schisms and chasms within and among people. It creates separation both among others and within the self.

While quiet rage might not impact casual relationships in a meaningful manner (and of course it might), quite rage can be damaging for the host and all who love those who harbor it.

If this observation “rings a bell” for you I’d like to suggest quiet rage is deeply rooted in a few sources: disappointment, the desire to control the often uncontrollable, and in the painful discovery that each of us struggles to live up to our own expectations, never mind the expectations of others.

Quite rage will only be quiet and cooperate for a season.

Then, it grows. It wants out. It manifest in overt anger and illnesses.

Talk it out before it breaks out.

 

July 26, 2018

Friday (hearty) applause for:

by Rod Smith
  • Parents who hold demanding jobs, yet are involved in their children’s academic and sports lives.
  • Men and women who love and enjoy their in-laws and who break the stereotypes of the alienated or rejected in laws.
  • Grandparents who lavish their grandchildren with love and attention while supporting the family values treasured by their grandchildren’s parents.
  • Men and women who work the late shifts and serve their communities while most of the population are asleep.
  • Men and women who have beaten their addictions and live productive, sober lives as recovered addicts.
  • Teachers who have worked faithfully, decade upon decade, so their students may learn and grow and be equipped to find great success.
  • Bosses and supervisors who are kind, who listen, who seek to understand more than they seek to whip things into shape or to wield their power.
  • Churches and places of worship that embrace and welcome all people.
  • Single parents who are able to hold things together and provide stable homes for their children.
  • Divorced parents who are able to be kind and cooperative with their former spouses, even if it is just for the sake of the children they co-parent.
  • Men and women who deal graciously with the pain of the distance of having family living overseas.
July 18, 2018

Good with people?

by Rod Smith

Do you want to be an excellent employee especially when working with people?

  • Look people in the eye. Listen with your whole body. Listen to others before you speak. When you do speak, speak up and speak clearly. Avoid thinking you already know what a person is going to tell you or is trying to tell you.
  • Anticipate needs and wants of your clients (customers) while simultaneously being aware that you may anticipate incorrectly. It’s a fine balance. When you near perfection at this you will regard your work as art and not a job.
  • When faced with complaints or problems do not escalate matters, take sides, or assign blame. Focus on understanding and solving, not diagnosing.
  • Don’t chew gum at work, ever. Dress well and be well groomed, always. Shower, often (not at work).
  • Tell the truth efficiently and kindly. A good reputation, which can take years to build, can be permanently ruined with one lie.
  • Don’t date co-workers or anyone with whom you work. You’re at work to earn a living not find a spouse.
  • Turn your phone off at work.

Seeking a fellow teacher: A teacher, whom I know well, wants to have her 40 students (eight and nine-year-olds) correspond with similarly aged students in KwaZulu-Natal. Teachers, please reach out to Stacy directly at SGraber@SRESDragons.org.

July 15, 2018

Teaching personal responsibility

by Rod Smith

It’s never too early to model and teach children about personal responsibility. There are people of all ages who persistently refuse to assume it for their lives, treating it as some heretical or selfish notion:

  • It is not selfish, unkind, or “unchristian” to expect people of all ages to be responsible for themselves. Of course there are exceptions like the ill and elderly.
  • It is usually unkind and selfish and “unchristian” to expect others to bail us out of the consequences of our own irresponsible behavior.
  • Teaching personal responsibility is more modeled than it is taught, but it must also be taught and talked about.
  • The sooner a person assumes full responsibility for his or her life the better. The evolving plan, beginning at birth, will hopefully have children fully prepared to be responsible for their lives by age 15 or 16.
  • If we rescue and enable others (especially those whom we love) we deny them the joy of taking responsibility for their lives and endorse a message that they can’t get on without us.
  • Rescuing, saving, running interference for a sibling, parent, child teaches that person a way of life and sets the rescuer up for a lifetime of rescuing. Avoid behaviors you are unwilling to perpetuate.
July 12, 2018

Alcoholism

by Rod Smith

Why is it so hard to get obvious alcoholics to see or to admit they are addicts?

Here are the three indications (only one is needed) of an addiction whether the addict is willing to recognize them or not:

  • Physical craving
  • Loss of job or status
  • Loss or threat of loss of a significant relationship

For the typical alcoholic the label “alcoholic” often suggests someone who is more desperate, more out of control, than he or she perceives him or herself to be.

Many alcoholics are well-controlled men and women who have perfected the art of charade. They hold important roles in our communities and appear successful.

To admit there is a problem with alcohol (or drugs, sex, or gambling) is costly. Denial is at least perceived as the better option than exposure, than seeking help. The closet is safe, it’s routine, and there are usually family members well trained in the art of enabling.

“Rock bottom” is a frequently used term suggesting that an addict will usually resist the label or resist getting help until he or she reaches rock bottom. It’s a sad place to reach for the addict and for all who love the addict and for all who are caught up in the addict’s web of denial and survival.

June 26, 2018

The power of a really good friendship

by Rod Smith

He or she is able to sit, stand, walk, and rest with you when times are really wonderful and when times are not.

He or she is almost always able to finish your sentences and complete your thoughts but chooses not to. Similarly, he or she is able to predict most of your moods, needs, and wants while simultaneously offering you all the room in the world to be unpredictable and spontaneous.

You notice, after years, that he or she has been a transformative influence in your life even though that was not the reason you became friends; you were not looking to be “fixed” or changed but it happened and is happening because your lives have touched.

He or she is unafraid to tell you where you may have blind spots and shortfalls but  delivers the message with such grace and kindness it feels like you are hearing really good news or discovering something wonderful about yourself and your life.

He or she is almost always excited to see you no matter how many times you cross paths and no matter how intertwined your lives are.He or she remembers things you’ve talked about and remembers things that are important to you.

He or she opens possibilities for you, extends your friendship circle, and is not possessive or jealous.

June 13, 2018

Are you desperate?

by Rod Smith

If you are desperate, perhaps wondering if life is worth living or even contemplating ending yours, there are a few things I would like you to know:

  • You are more loved and treasured than you probably realize.
  • Your voice is your most powerful weapon. Let someone know about your experience.
  • You have abilities and talents you are yet to discover.
  • Your life is a novel worth writing.
  • If you are still breathing you have the capacity to love.
  • Even if you have encountered rejection and faced failure for most of your life you still have the capacity to forgive and to love. Both capacities come with the human package.
  • There are people who will listen if you let them know you want to talk.
  • You have probably already faced more demanding challenges so you do have the resources to face this one.

You are correct if you respond with, “He doesn’t know me” or “he’s thousands of miles away.” Being far removed does not mean that I do not care. And, I am not the only one who cares. Please, let these simple thoughts seep into your being and perhaps become stepping-stones for you to find hope.

June 7, 2018

Both must come to the table….

by Rod Smith

“I told you a little bit about friends and family that we have had to cut ties with over the years. Recently you have written about reconciliation in families. In our sad experience it always takes both parties to come to the table and if they don’t then it’s pointless. For three decades we’ve had to put up with verbal abuse, insinuations, insults, and then being completely ignored by a family member. How does one even begin to try and reconcile with such an obviously troubled, unstable, irrational, angry and downright nasty soul?” (Edited)

Reconciliation takes at least two people. If you have done your part in searching your soul and cleansing your heart and clearing a path toward estranged family members, and you are willing for reconciliation to occur, then you have done all you can do.

Forgiveness takes one person. You are able to forgive the person who has treated you in the manner you have described. I’d suggest you do so, for your sake, not for the sake of the “downright nasty soul.”

Reconciliation is always better than estrangements and tension; forgiveness is always better than resentment and anger.

There are times when reconciliation seems impossible.

May 29, 2018

Rifts, wars, schisms, in families

by Rod Smith

Extended or immediate family discontent, even family rage, is more easily solved, healed, or negotiated sooner rather than later. Wait too long and it may go on for generations.

The longer schisms linger, the deeper they become and the more entrenched and “default” the reactive behaviors become. Bitterness, cynicism set in. Cut-offs become a way of life. Walls get higher and stronger.

The stories about who did what to who expand, often beyond recognition, in the heads of those who harbor and perpetuate the conflict.

To find healing or reconciliation, the “bigger” person, or the stronger member of the family, or the one who has the highest levels of “differentiation of self,” the one who wants the healing, initiates a conversation. That conversation must be devoid of all blame and all finger pointing. He or she does the necessary preparation and decides exactly what is wanted and what healing in a particular family may look like. Such an initiative demands humility, flexibility, and a deep desire for reconciliation.

Some families have been at war with each other for so long those who started it are long buried and those on the front lines do not even know anymore why they are fighting.

Please, don’t let that be true for you and for your family.

The consequences are too extreme, especially for innocent children who are inevitably caught in the crossfire.