September 9, 2019

The power of grief

by Rod Smith

The power of grief should never be downplayed or underestimated. Severe loss can leave a person in a state of shock for years and he or she may never recover if recovery means returning to the way things were before the loss. 

  • It is unwise to suggest a person move on, get over it, or has had enough time to grieve.
  • Listening is useful and helpful and can provide tremendous support even if very few words are exchanged.
  • Time passed does not mean grief diminished. A loss endured years ago can seem to rise up out of nowhere and hit a person afresh as the event just occurred. It is as if grief is time-locked, living within the griever, and has a life and power of its own. 
  • A person who has grieved for years is probably an expert at understanding the grief process. Understanding does not mean the griever is on top of it. Insight and understanding do not equate to completion or the diminishing of the power of loss. 
  • Attempts at logic do not usually provide comfort. Grief escapes and logic.
  • The “experienced” griever (who wants that title?) will often develop the ability to detect inner-rhythms of grief and know which days will be better than others.
September 7, 2019

My inner victim!

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Monday

Questions to quell the inner-victim….

There’s something very powerful about asking myself questions. The process puts me in my place. It quells the budding victim in me, especially when I face difficult circumstances or mistakenly think I’m not being sufficiently honored.

These nine live up my sleeve:

• How can I grow (up) from this? Immaturity is at the heart of victim thinking – at least for me (perhaps it’s also true for you).

• Where do I need to give up a desire to control others or an outcome? Coming face-to-face with my finiteness is occasionally annoying.

• What is (or was) my role in getting myself into this? I’m the common factor in everything I face.

• In a decade or so what about this will I remember? Importance drains with time the more trivial the issue.

• How important is this? Is this worth the energy already spent and are you ok with dishing out even more?

• Am I blaming anyone for anything? Other people are almost always NOT the problem.

• Is there anyone I have failed or refused to forgive? Transference and projection are victim breakfast.

• What is the brutal truth? Come on, you know it.

• What will it take to keep my integrity in tact and for as many people as possible to benefit from this circumstance? Sometimes you have to look over the horizon.

Answering such questions, as tough as they may be, helps me avoid becoming a victim, thinking like one, or turning others into my victims.

They remind me that I am responsible for my life.

When the voice of the closet victim tries to assert itself, these questions shut it down, so the grown, and growing man within me can act, and do what a thinking and responsible man has to do.


September 5, 2019

Maxims…… water-cooler chats

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Friday

Maxims …. for Friday water-cooler chat (do people still do that?)

I sat down with a friend last evening to discuss a few maxims worth inculcating:

• Nobody is all good and very few are all bad. The best of humanity are tarnished; the worst possess redeeming qualities.

• Make no heroes, and take no victims; fear nobody, fawn over nobody.

• Stand on your own two feet without pushing anyone else over. (O’Steven Reynolds)

• If you skating on thin ice you may as well dance.

• There are no knights in shining armor unless you sharpen your own sword, so stop behaving like a damsel in distress.

• Quick fixes lead to deeper problems than the original problem you tried to fix.

• All growth requires some loss.

• Always say goodbye well.

• Avoid the F-word unless you know what it means (it’s an acronym) and your intentions reflect the original meaning.

• Nobody needs to curse or swear. There are always better, less harmful ways to deal with the poison in your heart.

• You are part of the problem or part of the solution. Choose. (Dean Sherman)

• Don’t hide the family skeleton teach it how to dance. (Howard Crabtree)

• It’s never a kitty, it’s always a lion. (Hardly anything worth doing comes without challenges no matter how easy or innocent it may at first appear.)

Please, let me have your additions to this list.

September 3, 2019

Parenting ends……..

by Rod Smith

Parents have 15 to 18 years to train children for great lives, to face challenges, love others, and to serve their communities. 

Moms and dads get almost two decades to coach whole living. 

This is sufficient time to complete such training if it begins in the parents’ heads long before the child is born and if it begins immediately the child is born.  

As I have written numerous times parenting ends. While this has gotten the ire of readers occasionally it is usually from those sold on the belief of “once a mother; always a mother.” 

We do not stop being our children’s mother (or father) but our children inevitably exit childhood, which ideally, is also when parents end their parenting. You are still mother (or father) but mothering (and fathering) is done.  

If a 40-year-old still needs or demands parenting something is amiss in at least one of the involved parties.  

Actively teach your children from as young as possible to be independent of you. 

“The day will come when you can do all this (cooking, cleaning, laundry, finances) on your own,” and, “you don’t need me nearly as much as you think you do,” and “look at how capable you are,”  are wonderful things to tell your children. 

September 1, 2019

Families can be confusing networks…..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

Families can be confusing networks, routinely placing its members into double binds.

If your family says:

1. They want you to discover and use your talents but when these gifts lead you into uncharted territory you are met with raised eyebrows and unexpected resistance.

2. You can think for yourself and express your uniqueness but when you do you are met with powerful, often unspoken, pressures to conform.

3. You are free to be friends with whomever you choose and you can fall in love with whomever you choose but when you bring significant friends home they seem subject to close examination.

4. They want you to be free and to explore the world, but when you start planning and you book your tickets things seem to change.

Celebrate if any of this is true for you. Yes, rejoice. You belong. You are loved.

The challenge is to listen and to hear (there’s a difference). The challenge is to respect the cautions and the raised eyebrows received from those who have loved you the longest. The challenge is to be your own person in the midst of these binds without splitting the family AND without giving up on your uniqueness and your callings.

These double binds, and others like them (some even more ominous), come with the territory of being family.


August 29, 2019

Teenage boys and conversations about dad’s and divorce

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Friday

“In the context of divorce, what do teenage boys expect from their fathers? This was discussed when teenagers have shared time with both parents and when there are conversations about the ‘absent’ parent.”

These broad suggestions are tough to implement especially in the context of a so-called “nasty” divorce – some are more civil than others.

A useful filter is the knowledge that there was a time when the former spouse was a deeply loved person with whom vows were publicly exchanged.

• Teenagers expect honesty. I’ve never met a highschooler who prefers sugar-coated or patronizing information. Most (appear to) “move on” rapidly.

• Ask questions rather than unload unsolicited information. The teenage boys I have counseled usually have zero interest in their parents marriage or divorce.

• Avoid conversations about the other parent when angry, feeling betrayed, or when financially stressed. Teenagers often “read” or attribute inappropriate self-blame.

• No matter how mature, or loving, resist making your child your friend, confidant, companion, or therapist. He (she) is not.

• The reasons for the divorce are (usually) none of the child’s business and ought to stay that way. I concede, sometimes it is obvious or public knowledge.

• Don’t turn an ex into a hero or villain. Your child already has a take on the reality.

• Teenagers want their parents to be strong, happy, productive and disinterested (not uninterested) in their teenage lives so they too can be strong, happy, and productive.

I hope there’s something helpful here.

August 27, 2019

Over, under, healthy – parenting

by Rod Smith

An unsolicited discussion guide for parent groups and schools

What over protection says to children:

  • You are not really capable and need all the help you can get.
  • Something missing or wrong inside you and you’ll never survive this rough world without vigilant oversight and extra help.
  • Someone is always watching out for you and picking up for you so there’s no need to grow up.
  • Your community will always rescue you. 

What under-protection says to children:

  • You are not worthy of love or protection.
  • Something missing or wrong inside you so fight off anyone who may see it or find out. 
  • You are alone and in the way.
  • A community, if you find one, can use you and turn on you.

What healthy parenting says to children:

  • You are treasured and capable and will sometimes need help and encouragement.
  • Every day you are becoming better prepared to be a fully functioning and loving adult.
  • You are whole and have everything it takes to face life’s many and beautiful challenges.
  • Every day, little by little, you need adults less and less because you can do more and more for yourself.
  • Your community loves you and expects you to achieve and become all you ever wanted to achieve and become.
  • The world is yours – go to it.
August 22, 2019

Things to encourage…….

by Rod Smith

It’s a well-worn cliche but love really does set people free. It really does seek another’s highest good. At least in the early stages, love ought to be more fun than feel like really hard work.

Encourage Freedom 

However close you may be as spouses or lovers or to a best friend, nobody wants to feel monitored or compelled to reply instantly to calls or texts. However much you may love hearing from each other nobody wants to feel anxious every time there is a text or an email or a phone call.

Encourage Space

Everyone desires space to think and to plan. We all need independence, time to be carefree, to relax and to not feel the pressure of carrying the load of an intense relationship. Autonomy is a God-given desire living within us. When it is squelched or infringed upon it doesn’t feel good no matter how much love may be in the mix. Armies invade, love doesn’t.      

Embody Trust

Nobody wants to feel obligated, guilty, on-edge, or feel surrounded by egg-shells or landmines. No one wants to watch every word, monitor every thought or be grilled about every feeling and thought. No matter how close you are nobody wants every move to be questioned, every word to be analysed, and every response to be assessed.

August 21, 2019

It all begins at home……..

by Rod Smith

Emotional wellness and health, like charity, starts at home. 

Wellness, or the lack of it, is always most evident with immediate and extended families. 

Our families see and experience the best and the worst of us. They have our triggers, our hot buttons, our passwords. They know much of our histories, they can get under our skin. It is within the family that most of us are faced with most of our most challenging emotional work. 

When we get to work on growing and become empowered within our families, our health usually permeates to all areas of our lives.

If you are sufficiently brave:

Approach family members with whom you have conflict. Do you part in making amends. The resistance you feel as you read this, if you feel any at all, is evidence of the need for issues to be addressed. Take responsibility for your part in the conflict even if you think you were not the problem. The healthier person is the one who initiates.

This suggestion does not apply to people who have cut themselves off from family for reasons of self protection. When any form of abuse or cruelty has occurred within a family it is never the victim’s fault and nor ought the victim be expected to seek amends.

August 21, 2019

Identifying highly functional people

by Rod Smith

Highly functioning people may not be the people with the highest salaries, the most prestigious titles, or posses the most social clout. They are people of all ages who:

  • Are able to be with their parents without becoming reactive, shutting down, or regressing into childhood mannerisms. They are able to be with their elderly or needy parents without becoming patronizing or authoritarian. They are able to discuss care for elderly parents with adult siblings without becoming reactive, vindictive, or childish.     
  • Are able to hold their own with all people without resorting to judgements, insults, or stereotypes.
  • Resist group pressures  – group-thinking, group-feeling, group-fleeing, group-seeing – and are able to think (and see, and decide) for themselves when in a crowd, especially when the crowd is family. 
  • Have the courage to speak up to authority when it’s necessary with calmness, politeness, and reason. At the same time they do not attempt to reason with the unreasonable.
  • Take responsibility for their actions, debts, conflicts, and do their part in finding solutions to the dilemmas and difficulties they face. They don’t blame anyone or anything for their problems and dilemmas.
  • Resist the pressure to over-function (do for others what they are fully capable of doing for themselves – polite favors and niceties excluded) and under-function (expect others to do for them what they are fully capable of doing for themselves) especially when it comes to immediate family.   

It is with family, extended and immediate, that our emotional health issues are usually most successfully triggered. It is within the family that most of us are faced with most of our work. Get it growing and right in our families and our health usually permeates to all areas of our lives.