Archive for ‘Differentiation’

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.
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 16, 2018

Finding your voice (1 of 2)

by Rod Smith

Every person has a voice designed for full expression. Some have allowed their voice to be stolen or silenced and might find it necessary to take time to find or re-establish the voice they have chosen to deny or ignore. Thankfully, suppressing a voice seldom kills it. It can usually be found even after years of denial.

Any person who refuses to hear what you have to say or who tries to silence you doesn’t love you even if he or she proclaims otherwise. It is never a loving act, except in extremely unusual circumstances to stop another expressing who he or she is. Likewise, it is not a loving act to withhold your contribution to the world by maintaining your silence.

You were not created to be silent. You were not created to silence others. The world will benefit for hearing who you are and what you have to say. Part of having a voice, and using it, involves the process of discovering how best to package and express your voice so others can hear what you have to say.

One should not confuse talking with having a voice. Many talk and talk and talk and yet have never found their voice.

April 18, 2018

Depression

by Rod Smith

“Hi, I suffer with severe depression and cannot afford a psychologist can you help me?”

Thank you for your brief email. I am moved and sad that finances prevent you from appropriate help. You have asked your question for millions of people who similarly suffer and had the strength to contact me:

  • Depression comes in a variety of sizes, strengths, shades, and your experience is unique to you. It’s from a wide variety of sources. You’re not to blame for its access into your life. You didn’t do something to deserve or cause it.
  • Letting a handful of trusted friends into your inner circle and telling them about your experience is crucial for your wellbeing. I hope you have such friends and I hope you will let them in. Part of your healing will almost certainly come from significant integration into a caring, small community.
  • Identifying your emotional rhythms: when you are feeling good, when you are not, when you are empowered, and when you are not, and identifying the triggers bookending these rhythms, will give you clues, keys to handling yourself when things are well, and when they are not.

Writing to me took courage. I am a stranger to you. I am a face you see in your morning newspaper. I’d suggest you were in your “best self” when you contacted me, even though you may have been at your most desperate. Access that person. She’s within you. Live from her as much as possible. Let her guide your day. When she is unavailable or uncooperative, lay low, and trust your community. She’s not abandoned you. She will emerge and you will feel empowered again.

Despite the darkness that can be so overwhelming there is a powerful and emboldened woman inside you and she will come out on her own terms. How do I know this? She wrote to me. I have her email.

April 15, 2018

Monday’s prayer upon rising

by Rod Smith
  • May I be a source of healing rather than of hurt or injury.
  • May I value other people more than things.
  • May I apologize sincerely and efficiently when I wrong others.
  • May I be immovable about matters of my integrity but understanding when others fall short.
  • May I give my full attention when I am in conversation with others and listen more than I speak.
  • May I become the most generous and optimistic person I know.
  • May I learn to avoid using and believing damaging stereotypes.
  • May I resist knee-jerk reactions to issues of race and equality.
  • May I bring optimism to others when they most need it.
  • May I learn to avoid gossip or saying things that are unhelpful or untrue.
  • May I learn to promote the strengths of others.
  • May I learn from losing and not gloat in victory.
  • May I give my children all the freedom necessary for growth and adventure.
  • May I learn to be a listening ear.
  • May I learn to live fully in the present while designing a great future and valuing my past.
  • May I enjoy deep connection with others and necessary separation from others.
April 11, 2018

We are attracted to each other but….

by Rod Smith

“Is it possible to have a lasting and fulfilling relationship with someone who is on a different intellectual level and who also does not share many interests with you? Emotionally and physically there is a connection but I fear that eventually I will get bored or we’ll drift due to intellectual differences.”

People of varying or differing intellects can do well together. I’d suggest it is more complex. “Intellectual” is only one component.

If he bores you, you can always read a good book or spend time with a more interesting friend. He can do the same if it is you who bores him.

Rather, I am going to use the term “differentiated.” People who are equally differentiated (or not) will find each other attractive. Needs calls out to needs and strengths calls out to strengths.

Your mutual attraction is because you are similarly differentiated – despite levels of intellect. If you are not on a similar level of differentiation I’d suggest you’re in for battles.

The lower (more needy) levels will find the higher (less needy) to be standoffish or arrogant. The more differentiated person in the two-some will find the person lower on the scale to be high-maintenance or suffocating.

 The fact that you are asking this question is a really healthy sign. Love is usually blind and avoids important questions.

April 9, 2018

Be the adult you want your children to be

by Rod Smith

Today, and every day, be the adult you hope your children will become. How else will they learn it?

  • Stop blaming the teachers, coaches, or the school for your child’s every challenge, difficulty, or hurdle. Blame restricts maturing, yours and theirs.
  • Stop blaming the government, the economy, or prejudice for every distress or dilemma you face, unless you think blame will be a good tool for your child to take into adulthood. If you want your children to be adults who take responsibility for their lives then show them how it’s done.
  • Your children won’t forget your temper tantrums no matter how young they may be; they will emulate them.
  • Demonstrate, by your own display of excellent manners, the manner in which you hope your child will navigate life and relationships. It is true, they are going to watch and learn from multiple sources, but you are their primary resource when it comes to how they will respect and treat others. Little eyes are watching.
  • Respect, visit, and be kind to the elderly so they know exactly how to do it when it’s your turn.
  • Dismiss no one; look down on no one. Young eyes and ears are absorbing how to be in the world, and you, parents, are the primary teachers.
March 27, 2018

Prayers for our children

by Rod Smith

Prayers and desires for our children, young and older….

  • That they may find useful, positive passions, and spend their energies on things they really love.
  • That they may make their livings from using their talents.
  • That they may find and enjoy deep and lasting reciprocal friendships.
  • That they may have mutual and equal and respectful relationships with everyone they love and know.
  • That they may neither be intimidated nor intimidate others no matter who they are.
  • That they may know they are deeply loved and respected by their immediate and extended families to whom they owe nothing but the return of healthy love and respect.
  • That they may be enduring students despite their academic achievements and patient teachers when others are trying to learn from them.
  • That they may love powerfully and be loved powerfully in relationships that are free and open and devoid of jealously and pettiness.
  • That they may grow into generous and kind people who are trusted for their integrity and goodness.
  • That they may have each other’s backs while risking the natural urge to rescue each other from self-made difficulties.
  • That they may develop goals and ambitions that far surpass making a good living but that include serving others and enhancing the lives of people whom they don’t know and may never meet.
March 17, 2018

I will call her Mary

by Rod Smith

I’ll call her Mary. She is a woman with a highly specialized career. Her work, traditionally dominated by men, takes her to multiple countries every year for high-level negotiations with government officials. Mary is known as a force to encounter and is widely respected. She is seldom intimidated by the challenges of her career. Mary and her husband run a home. Their high-school aged daughters, like her parents, are high achievers. By all appearances the marriage is solid.

Mary’s parents live within blocks of their daughter and they have not seen each other much at all in years. They wee her husband’s family a lot.

This is a source of great pain for Mary’s family. Cordiality rules, but there is no vulnerability, no free exchange of ideas, no joy. The tenseness is palpable when the generations meet for more than an hour.

“I can talk to boardrooms full of scary people without a problem,” says Mary, “but meeting my parents undoes me! I cannot put my finger on it.”

I am reminded of family therapist Rabbi Ed Friedman who claims it is impossible to have long-term emotional wellness while a person is disconnected from significant people their family of origin.

Deep joy (and some pain) awaits Mary as she determines to remove the blockage she experiences but cannot now name.

March 8, 2018

Is your high-school student a leading executive already?

by Rod Smith

How to know your son or daughter “gets it” when it comes to his or her future:

  • Blame runs for the hills. You no longer hear her blaming teachers or textbooks or peers or parents.
  • She gets down to it, whatever it happens to be. She regards immediate hurdles as opportunities to grow.
  • He assumes personal responsibility – for the people he chooses as friends, how he spends his leisure time, and especially how he uses money.
  • She “sees” her future and plans for it – this means aligning herself with the people and institutions that can help her achieve her goals.
  • He remains connected to his family but it aware that these connections can trip him up and become a problem. He therefore clearly states where he is going without apology and invites those who love him to join him on the journey.
  • Her sense of ambition is neither cold nor callous but it is determined in ways that observers admire.
  • He is quick to learn from errors and is open to hearing about how he could have better handled a problem – especially as it relates to dealing with people.