Unintended Consequences

I used to believe in the concept of a victimless crime. Maybe coming home late at night and eating peanut butter to soothe my jangled nerves did not directly hurt others - so long as I left enough for Pete to have his nightly snack of Ritz crackers and a smidge of Skippy.

But I was wrong.

If I am not feeding my body with the nutrients it needs (substituting peanut butter for cruciferous vegetables for example), then I am not my best self. I may be more grumpy, sluggish, and catch more colds. I might eventually develop an allergy to my beloved peanut butter through overexposure.

The nutritional framework I need for optimal fueling may not be the same framework others need. But it is my responsibility to figure out how my body operates best.

If I fail to own this responsibility, I am not the only sufferer. My family and friends suffer my bad moods and reluctance to go on long hikes. My work suffers as my brain is not agile and sharp. Strangers who annoy me suffer my impatience and dirty looks.

We matter. You matter. I matter. What do you need to take responsibility for and change? Have you been under valuing your potential to do good (or harm)? What thought projects need your attention?

Cautious Courage

I previously called out my own contemptuous behavior (judging someone’s drink order) as is only fair.  But that was not the only concern of the day. Another core value I have relates to verbal abuse toward other more vulnerable individuals.  If someone who cannot speak up for themselves is being harangued, I believe this: when you see it, say something. This young barista was not in a position to call out the customer.  She has no doubt been trained to remain calm and polite. But I am not the barista. I can remain calm and speak up. Politely. I do not make apology for my attempt to interrupt his treatment of a young woman working hard to make my morning caffeinated.

 

 

We humans are complicated and our scattered internal processing often competes for our attention. I was initially distracted by my own inventory taking (necessary and good work to do).  I am keenly aware that I am not able to perfectly execute my own principles in thought, feelings and action. But we can all have this going for us: we can notice when we are thinking thoughts, having feelings, taking actions that are incongruent with our core values, and acknowledge the problem.  Consider this a given.

 

But I have a second point:  Our problem in one area does not excuse us from acting courageously in another area. Those are two separate issues.  In other words, I can never be so afraid of my own imperfections as to use them as an excuse to collapse in upon myself and give up.  

 

I can notice my judgy attitude about the guy with the complicated drink order and know that I have a process for dealing with that in the future AND actually do so.  I can also stay present in the moment and not get so caught up in the concept of contempt that I fail to notice that this dude is actually behaving abusively toward a young, vulnerable, female.  

 

Do you ever get so distracted by your thoughts and ruminations that you are unable to appropriately attend to the present moment?  If so, it really helps to have a process (like the 12-steps) and a tribe to report back to that you have confidence in. That way, when we see something we want to work through personally, we can take note of it and address it later.  

Success and transformation: It takes a while.

Click here if you need to get caught up.

It can take a lifetime to make a very small amount of progress living into our God-given identity.  Becoming a successful person means being willing to step out on a limb to simply try to accept this "new" self.  It's an act of great courage- because our failures will give rise to doubts. 

 

Are my efforts inauthentic?  Am I really trying?  Nobody is worse at submitting to God than I am.  Does God love me?  I'm too far gone.  There is no hope for me.  Have I rejected his love?  Will he accept me back? 

 

The courage comes in facing those questions head-on and pushing forward with our call to love ourselves, God, and others.  We will fail.  And yet, we proceed.  Proceeding is our call.  And it is an act of hope, particularly when are in the midst of despair. 

What if I don't feel like it?

If my parents had instructed me to do something and I said, “I don’t feel like it” - their response would have been predictable.  Here are a few likely options:

 

“I didn’t ask you how you felt, I am telling you what to do.”

“I don’t care how you feel, I care that you do as I say.”

“Shut up and get busy.”

 

Surely the world would be in chaos if everyone ran around only doing what they FEEL like doing. As far as it went, I believe my parental units wanted to instill obedience and the capacity to do hard things in their offspring.  There is value here but I’m wondering if additional conversation focusing on the nature of feelings might also be helpful.

 

Our feelings matter, even the inconvenient ones.  On a retreat last year I went rappelling and at the top of the cliff I DID NOT FEEL LIKE STEPPING OFF INTO THE ABYSS.  But I was participating with a group of friends and we had committed to do this significantly scary thing together.   After the guides suited us up with all manner of straps and protective gear I remember distinctly my friend Kathy turning to me and saying, “I am not going to lie, I am freaking out.  This is scary.”  And that gave the rest of us permission to agree.

 

It also gave us the courage to continue. 

 

There are several appropriate responses to the “I don’t feel like its” that come our way.  Ignoring our feelings, denying them, repressing them, suppressing them - NONE of those are viable options.  Maturity and good life mentoring teach us how to manage the “I don’t feel like its….”

 

Here are some viable options:  name them, own them, figure out the appropriate response to them in a given situation, deal with them, process them, respond rather than react to them - to name a few.  I haven’t seen it work well for folks who pretend their way through healing and recovery.  For the next few days let’s talk about what works when it comes to being brave and making necessary changes - even when we do not feel like it.

Wholeheartedness

In Brown’s introduction to her book Rising Strong she says, “I define wholehearted living as engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.  It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.  It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.”  (p.xix)

 

My friend with the serial adultery issue was the first to acknowledge that her adultery didn’t fit with her core values.  She is a pastor in a large church.  She teaches a course on ethics at the local community college.  She would be mortified if her daughter found out her dirty little secret. In spite of all that acknowledgement, she seemed very reluctant to actually DO anything different.  What was she missing?  Here are some things we can shoot for that might help us walk a path of personal growth, and we can perhaps use them to guide our own insights about what is “missing” in our search for transformation:

 

Courage

Compassion

Connection

 

Change is more likely to happen when we utilize courage, compassion and connection to do our work.  Sadly, I often hear parents lament over their children’s problems.  Having three of my own I have done my fair share of lamenting too.  But I’ve never seen it hurt a situation for those of us who love a struggling person – whether child, spouse, parent or third cousin twice removed – to do our own work of recovery.

 

I hope you have some dreams about what a wholehearted life would look like for you personally.  What foundational actions might you need to take to get the ball rolling in the right direction?  What small first right steps need to be in place so that you can move toward your wholehearted, whole hog life?  Can you find courage, compassion and connection in your own life?  What might have to change in order to access these 3 c’s?