Archive for ‘Difficult Relationships’

May 5, 2019


by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday


I am convinced than that the miracle and beauty of a successful, meaningful life is rooted in the wealth and health of our deepest connections, and not, as so pervasively promoted, in the depth of our wallets.

Belonging trumps buying. Knowing we matter, in the lives of even a few, trumps the power of possessions – no matter how valuable, admired, plentiful, powerful, or envied the possessions may be. Knowing we love others and knowing we are loved by others, even a handful of people, provides security, fulfillment, trust and encouragement that no amount of power can successfully demand and no amount of money can buy.

This is the miracle.

And it (the miracle) has nothing to do with wealth, status, or the common understanding of what it means to have power, yet it offers it all. It unleashes an arsenal of goodness and almost unlimited healing power to be at the disposal of those who seek it least – for those who seek it least, can apparently, handle it most.

PS: One magnificent evening at Church of the Good Shepherd (“COGS”) Sean Dooley said this: “If all you have is money you are truly poor” and this sentiment and truth has reverberated within me and formed a basis for many of my decisions since. Thank you, Sean Dooley.

May 3, 2019

Spoiling a child

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Monday

“Spoiling a child” is more than giving him whatever he wants and creating unreasonable expectation of how the rest of life works.

Such children often grow up to be self-centered, demanding adults, but humans, even those who have not been “spoiled” seem endowed with a natural propensity toward this anyway.

The real terror of spoiling a child is that he grows up without having had to develop innate skills and abilities to cope with adversity, because one or both parents (or teachers and coaches) refuse to allow natural consequences following the child’s choices to occur.

Such parents (and others) constantly interject themselves as buffers between the child and what the world will naturally deliver.

“They (indulgent parents) spend huge amounts of time and energy trying to separate cause and effect, behavior and consequence,” a high school football coach observed recently.

Pain is a wonderful teacher and motivator. It develops character and promotes the development of crucial survival skills. While no loving parent wants his or her child to be deliberately subjected to pain, there are enough natural moments in any childhood where “clean” pain comes to teach, and the wise parent gets out of the way and allows it to do its necessary work.

April 29, 2019

I asked for an update…… and it came:

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

I asked for an update regarding a letter I responded to some years ago about an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

This response was in my email today and I am overjoyed:

“Regarding your request for an update in your article from a few weeks back about advice given seven years ago on a pregnancy out of wedlock. Just to let you know that that this beautiful and clever most precious child is loved by all close family and is a blessing to us all.”

Thank you. I am so pleased to hear from the writer. I am thrilled to know the child is doing well and is a blessing to his or her family.

He or she will join the ranks of about 12 young men and women known to me who were also the result of unanticipated conception. In almost all cases the pregnancies led to major family conflict, experiences of deep shame, cut-offs, bouts of anger and blame, and loss of face in the respective communities.

All the babies, each and every one, once born, won the heart of every family member and all the shame and conflict was for nought.

In none of the situations were things “easy” but they were all worth it.

April 28, 2019

News, events, our response

by Rod Smith

Mass shootings, expressions of rampant prejudice, church bombings, attacks on synagogues, attacks on schools – I could go on!

These unsettling events get our attention. They should. They make any reasonable person and group ask the question: “What can I do?” and “What can we do?”

Please consider these ideas designed to be deployed in unison:

  • Read the reports of these events, the ones that catch your attention. Meditate on the fact that there are innocent people involved. There are children, very young children involved. Let the horror hit you even if it is something that occurred on the other side of the planet. This is not an invitation to baptize oneself in horror but to allow oneself to grow in compassion and the capacity to identify with suffering. May the inhumanity of some help you and me to become more humane, more human, more caring, more kind.
  • Rid yourself of all prejudice – gross and subtle: racial, religious, and all the other ways ignorance seeps into our thinking and being. While we carry the virus we also spread it and when we do we are part of the problem and not its solution.
  • Revere, love, honor, and treasure all people, especially those with whom you have religious or political differences.


(As I have written a hundred times, I am always my first reader.)

April 25, 2019

Note to self……

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Thursday

Note to self ….. perhaps you’ll join me

Note to self: the best time to begin a journey of no regrets is today, right now, this very minute. Please join me in meeting the following challenges:

• Contact that estranged relative. Begin a process of mending and healing. Do so while first protecting the integrity of your immediate family and taking care of your primary responsibilities.

• Establish firm boundaries with everyone you know, from the most casual of acquaintances to the most intimate of companions.

• Do what you can to right your known wrongs. Also, acknowledge that some errors of judgment and lapses of integrity are, with the passage of time, beyond your power to redeem. Sometimes, all you can do is sincerely apologize and not repeat the same errors.

• Embrace unusual challenges and opportunities, especially the opportunities to serve others and those opportunities that test and challenge your natural desire for comfort.

• Go counter. When others are seeking power and influence do what you can to give it away. When others are angry and resentful, look for opportunities to bring peace. Find goodness where it appears to be absent.

• Acknowledge that there is more to life that what you know and others have the capacity and the power to teach you, no matter who they are, if you are open and available to learn.

April 23, 2019

Joy – its causes

by Rod Smith

Causes of joy…..

1. Generosity – giving more than you can afford.

2. Faith – in God and in the humanity of others.

3. Forgiveness – absolute, and especially when undeserved.

4. Transparency – living without deceit or hidden agenda.

5. Openness – willingness to try new things and new adventures.

6. Awareness – of the impact left on others and on the environment.

7. Kindness – treating others in a manner that fosters their highest good.

8. Assertiveness – finding your way without impeding the growth of others.

9. Usefulness – finding a meaningful place in a community.

10. Love – deciding to love without expecting recognition or reward.

April 22, 2019

Nine very simple truths

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

May these be your first thoughts every morning and may they infiltrate your every move and relationship:

I am….

• To be respected and treasured and able to respect and treasure all other people.

• Capable of expressing my opinions and will do so with growing and greater confidence.

• Uniquely gifted and my gifts are useful to my immediate and broader community.

• As unique as the proverbial snowflake and yet part of the human family, tainted with its vulnerabilities, failures, and frailties.

• Capable of forgiving the worst of offenses I have endured, and capable of seeking forgiveness for the worst offenses I have committed.

• Able to encourage the discouraged and offer hope to the hopeless.

• Unafraid of the talents of others and able and willing to help others find their greatness.

• Capable of becoming the most generous person I know.

• My own best friend so that I may be a friend to others.

April 20, 2019

Give your boss a gift

by Rod Smith

A gift for the boss

• Offer loyalty, not blind or unquestioning loyalty, but in accordance with your mutually understood employer/employee agreements. Do not speak poorly of your boss within the organization or to outsiders. If you are unhappy with his or her performance talk directly to the boss or to those empowered to act on your behalf. Such talk ought not be with peers – when you do this you are a source of toxicity in the organization and are part of the problem, whatever it (the problem) is.

• Offer trust, not blind or unquestioning trust. If an employee cannot trust a boss, something deeper needs to be (efficiently) addressed.

• Focus on your work during work hours. It’s not time for you to catch up on Face Book or to be glued to your phone. It’s not time to plan your child’s birthday party. Advance only the purposes for which you have been hired.

• An eye for how to improve the organization and the gift (tact, nuance) of when, how, and with whom to express such observations. Much at work may not make sense but an employee must earn the platform to point them out before he or she becomes a self-appointed troubleshooter.

• Offer honesty. Be brutally honest about finances, expense reports, vehicle usage, and reimbursements. NEVER take a cent that is not legitimately yours no matter who else may be doing so. You alone are always responsible for your honesty.

April 19, 2019

Followers hit the wall

by Rod Smith

I’m intentionally getting a little ahead of my Midwest self because for some friends it’s almost Easter Saturday already:

Easter Saturday:

Easter Saturday, a little more than two thousand years ago, the first followers of Jesus hit the wall. His execution was complete; the corpse secure in a tomb and the courageous teacher was gone.

He, who had done no harm, who’d loved so intimately, lived so passionately, challenged everything so profoundly and, like none before or since, practiced what he preached, was finished.


There’s little doubt that depression and dejection hung heavily in the air for his followers.

They had traded all they’d had and known, to be abandoned by one who could walk on water, still storms, raise the dead but not avoid his own death on a criminal’s cross.

Then……..somewhere between midnight tonight (two thousand years ago) and early the following morning, Christians believe that Jesus, if you’ll excuse the cumbersome phase, stopped being dead. He cast death aside, walked from the tomb, embraced life in an eat-fish-and-walk-through-walls body.

Believe it or not, you’ve got to give it to them, Christians that is; a rebound of this nature from anyone, let alone their beloved leader, would stimulate celebration.

This pivotal weekend, Easter weekend, rekindles so much for Christians: grief, loss and grief, then exuberance.

Believers, of every background and representing every cultural extreme and every ethnic diversity in every country on earth will flock to church to worship their risen Lord and proclaim death defeated. On Sunday morning they (we) will greet each other with, “The Lord is Risen,” to hear in response, “He is Risen indeed.” What they are really saying is, “On Friday I was horrified at what was done to my Lord. Yesterday I grieved his loss. Today he’s alive and there’s hope for us all, so let’s have a party.”

Great things can be learned from Easter: deep reflection, acknowledgment of grief, fresh beginnings, unreasonable generosity and partying with abandon.

Let’s all do it, Christian or not. Let’s grieve deceased family members, relationships strained or severed, our possible role in the atrocities of greed, prejudice and plundering committed across the globe.

Let’s acknowledge opportunities missed and misused and deliberate to see the impact we have on others. Let’s evaluate where and how we are a part of the world’s problem rather than the solution.

The uncanny thing about Jesus is that even if you don’t, as Christians do, believe he was the Son of God, doing the things he said is still good for people. Making a fresh start with someone you haven’t seen in a long time, like a brother, sister, and an in-law who gets your goat or an estranged business partner, is good for the soul, rejuvenates communities. Reconnecting with people, offering grace, space to others, letting forgiveness emerge for your harshest foes, your bitterest enemies is a movement in the opposite spirit of what is expected. It disarms explosive, stressed or polarized relationships and empties our tombs of unbelief.

Call your debtors and say something like, “I’m canceling your debt. I cannot afford to have you owe me anything.” They might not deserve your generosity but Easter is not a do-or-do-not-deserve-it time. It never was, never will be. Besides, who among us can want what they deserve without experiencing feelings of fear and trembling? It’s about getting what you do not deserve. It’s about not getting what you do. It’s about grace, about being unreasonably forgiving, wildly extravagant with kindness.

Finally, celebrate your humanity. Dance with delight at the human capacity to reflect, repent and be revived. I’ll peek into my tomb today and do what it takes to clear it of resentments, self-pity, unrighteous anger and all else that keeps me from dancing. I trust you will peek into yours, find it wonderfully empty and join me in a rich and loud celebration.


1. View from our front yard, and. 2. A view of the south and “main” entrance of First Presbyterian Church New Castle Indiana…… ALL WELCOME…… to keep up with our events please befriend F Pres Church:

April 19, 2019

You have to see it first…….

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Friday

If you want that healthier family, university degree, professional credential, dream job, or to travel the world……. you have to see it, whatever it is, first in your mind’s eye.

Possibilities are born first in your fabulous* imagination.

Once the dream or vision has time to germinate and gain shape within you, a shape you are able to put into words and onto paper, it has a starting chance to survive, thrive, and become a reality.

Every great achievement was first an idea, and this is the very private part of the journey.

Healthy people (of all ages) are usually dealing with several competing such visions and walk a tightrope of concurrent ambitions while having a lot of fun (mostly) while doing their part in making them happen.

This is just one small part of the wonder of being human: we are able to dream great dreams, break our dreams and desires and visions into steps or goals, couple them with the hard work of plowing our efforts into making them a reality – and hurt no one, including and especially ourselves, along the way.

* How do I know your imagination is fabulous? You are human! It comes with the package.


To the boys (young men) who have shared life with me for the past 21 and 17 years…… go, go, go, into all the world……let nothing and no one hold you back: