Every Little Step Counts.

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Courage. Every day we all face our individual battles great and small. Life is a series of making choices, striving for personal improvement, and pushing ourselves forward (sometimes into unknown territories). Some things can be flat out daunting and terrifying. However, there is a quote by Ruth Gordo that I find to be very inspiring and true. “Courage is Like a Muscle. We Strengthen it By Use.”

Often, we make the mistake of looking at things too broadly. We look at the long road ahead, we think of how much work we have to do, we worry about what can go wrong….. and it all serves to weigh our hearts and feet down. We tend to have harsh personal expectations, and thus feel like failures if we are not able to leap straight into difficult situations, or achieve big goals overnight. In reality, big things are usually achieved via a series of small steps and actions. Thus too, is how we build-up our courage towards achieving accomplishments, or even facing down our fears.

Every time we take a little step of effort towards something, it is achievement. It is movement. It increases our courage and confidence. With time we discover that we can take additional steps, go further, and that the things that once might have caused debilitating fear in us have been conquered.

It is important to remember to be kind to ourselves. To be encouraging, and to give ourselves time to strengthen our “courage muscles” whenever we face anything in life that is difficult. Try to talk to yourself the way you would to someone else facing the same challenge, or striving towards similar goals. Congratulate yourself for every step—however small. It is a step, it is progress, it is a boost in courage, and personal improvement (no matter what it is you are facing, or working towards). Every little step counts, and improves.

 

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Splinters in Our Hearts and Souls.

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The sharp sting was followed with dread. I knew I had just received a splinter from the banister of my porch. I inspected my hand, and sure enough, along with a scrape….I could see a splinter deeply embedded up under the skin. The little bit of black was far from the path of entry, and out of the reach of tweezers.

Initially I told myself that if I left the splinter “be” (ignored it), that it would eventually surface on it’s own, and then I would not have to do anything painful. However, I quickly discovered that I was hindered by pain when I tried to type, or do other important tasks. It became obvious that I could not just ignore it, or hide it behind a band-aid. I so wanted to convince myself that it would resolve on it’s own, but recognized that it would just fester, and get worse unless I faced it, and took action. So, out came the needle. It hurt. I had to break the skin, and poke, dig, and prod…. but eventually I pulled the offending piece out. I then discovered that there was a tiny broken bit that remained. Once more I was tempted to just leave it, but knew it was best to attack it with the needle as well. Despite the broken skin, I instantly felt relief. So too, is the result when we face the difficult things that burden our hearts and souls.

Sometimes we ignore things that hurt, and bother us…because to address them would require facing uncomfortable truths, and making difficult (and even painful) choices. It can seem easier to ignore the issues, and tell ourselves excuses and justifications to cover-up, and avoid the truth. We want to believe that it will magically resolve, change….or that with time, we will be able to learn to live with, and around it. However, just as a tiny sliver in our hand can handicap us, so too can be the result of tiny barbed seeds that burrow into us on emotional, spiritual, and mental levels. Guilt, discord, resentment, unresolved problems, doing things we know that are not right, or that do not align with who we are—all plant dark seeds within us that do not simply dissolve. It often results in self-dishonesty, and even creating elaborate means within us to ignore, and deeply bury the issues. All the same, just like an ignored splinter…. those seeds can grow, fester, and lead to much greater wounds, problems…. and destruction.

Sometimes we carry weight and damage for years. Those seeds come in many forms—including the need to apologize, forgive, or address mistakes that we have made. At times, we may be faced with the need to distance ourselves from people we care about, but who pull us down, and harm us in some way. Typically, the choices and actions required to resolve these kind of issues involve pain, and even hardship. It is all the harder when we do not want to hurt someone else, or fear having to start over in some form (which is often what happens when we address mistakes). However, once again… just like with what happens when we break the skin to dig-out an invading splinter—we find relief. The pain we have to face and create, relieves the pressure, and frees us to heal, and move forward without that which was debilitating us.

I once saw a hand that was rotting from gangrene. I worked in a pharmacy at the time, and a man suddenly shoved his hand directly under my face. The skin was green, puss-filled, and rotting. It smelled like bad meat. The wound initially had been a minor injury, but had progressed when ignored and neglected. When questioned, he said he refused to go to a doctor (and had nonsensical reasons behind that stance). We tried to convince him that it was beyond an infection, and that he was risking the loss of his hand. He refused to listen to us, and wanted to believe that simply covering it would resolve it. So too, is what happens when we ignore issues that hurt us on internal levels. When we ignore a mistake, we can become caged by it. We will move forward in the wrong direction, and pile-up additional mistakes that can lead to a nasty destination. Yet, when problems/ things that are wrong are addressed early-on, we can avoid greater mistakes and pain—and creating it for others as well. As much as we sometimes want to avoid hurting others, what we ignore and lie about (including to ourselves) WILL eventually surface…and often it will grow to proportions that create destruction and pain on levels far beyond what would have occurred had things been addressed sooner. Ignoring problems does not spare others, it just insures that instead of giving them a bruise, you eventually will cause deep harm to them.

When children get splinters… we hold them down, and root-out the damaging pieces— even if they scream, cry, and protest. We do so because we know it is what is best for them, and that the created pain will only be momentary….and then they will be free to return to their play. We know this, yet will ignore doing it for our own selves—both literally, and figuratively. It can sometimes be hard to recognize when we are avoiding it, especially when we have created a tangle of justifications to block our view. A good indicator…is when it continues to surface, even when we have previously convinced ourselves that it was fine, or even resolved. When we lie to ourselves, or do things that do not align with us…. our core self/ soul knows it, and will continue to prod, and push at us. That unease will remain, and molder…. no matter what we do to shove it down, and ignore it. The moments where we succeed at convincing ourselves things are fine, or even great…. will only be temporary and not hold—-because it is false, and not true.

In order to relieve ourselves of a harmful splinter, we have to face some initial pain. The same truth applies when we have to free ourselves from deeper internal issues, and mistakes. However, once we make those choices, and are honest with ourselves (even when it is painful and difficult to do), we often feel a massive weight lifted from within us. That is how we know that we truly are making the right choice. We feel the peace that results when our soul is finally completely relieved of what was wrong, and not only hurting it….. but crippling it. Thus, it is important for us to strive for self-honesty, and to face the difficult things. Doing so frees us, spares others… and steers us in the direction that is true to ourselves.

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We Cannot Always Expect to Have “Our Due”. Manners Are Designed to Consider Others.

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While interacting in society, there are certain standards, unspoken rules, expectations, manners etc…. that we tend to use as guidelines in our interactions. Many of these “rules” are designed to maintain fairness, and to create consideration of others—typically things such as holding doors open, waiting for your turn, and stepping aside/ not blocking the way for other people. However, I occasionally witness situations where people are so focused on their own selves, and what graces they feel they are entitled to…that they overlook factors that should result in bending those “rules” in favor of consideration of the circumstances of others. Today was a prime example of such a situation.

I was stuck in the dreaded post office line. There were at least a dozen people ahead of me, and only two employees were providing assistance….so the line was very slow-going. Shortly after I joined the line, an elderly woman with a cane claimed the position behind me, and then was followed by a man who appeared to be in his thirties. The woman found a form that she needed, and while we were waiting in line, she used the counter next to us to fill-out her form. The man started to make irritated expressions and poses, and then progressed to verbal complaints aimed at the woman. He expressed to her that she should have filled-out her form before getting in line, and that it was not fair to him and others. He displayed his own package, and proclaimed that he had filled everything at home, so he should be in front of her. The woman was clearly shocked that the man was complaining to her, and explained to him, “I would have, but I did not have the needed form at home (and she did have several envelopes that were already addressed and stamped)”.

The explanation the woman provided did not quiet the man. He retorted back in a condescending tone, telling her ( unreasonably) that she should have picked-up forms to have at home in advance. He then proceeded to talk about how inconsiderate she was, and that it was not fair that she was in line. The poor woman was clearly baffled and not even sure what to say, and finally just asked him, ” Are you from New York or something?”.

The young man smiled, and with a patronizing voice and attitude said, “No, I come from a place where people are nice, and considerate of others, and actually have good manners.”

I normally keep quiet. I typically do not like to rock boats, or get in the middle of things with strangers, but the poor woman was being bullied…so I spoke-up. “Well, stating something like that does the opposite of demonstrating those things.” I knew as it came out that it was “snarky”, but at the same time felt it was a truth. The elderly woman chuckled, then gave me a big relieved smile. However, the man did not stop. He chose to again complain to her, and tell her that she should let him go ahead of her ( despite the fact that she was done filling-out her form).

Ignoring the man, I turned to the woman, and asked her if she would like to go ahead of me. The woman shuffled in front me, and then reached-out and gave my hand a squeeze in a silent thank-you ( despite the fact I had been coughing and blowing my nose throughout it all). I kept my back turned to that man, and did not say another word to him (I had no desire to get involved in an actual confrontation). I considered my body to be a barrier between him and his target…..because he would have continued to harass her had she remained right in front of him.

The woman was elderly. Her cane, her hunched posture, slow movements etc… indicated that she was not in good health, and that it likely was a strain for her to have to stand for a long period. The line was slow, and filling-out the form while she waited was not holding anything up. That man chose to ignore all of those factors, and was mean to someone (an elder he should have respected, no less), all because he felt he was being denied something that was his due—a minute less of having to stand in line. He truly thought that he was in the right, and that the much older woman needed to be educated on manners. In reality he just was using bully tactics to try to get her to feel guilty, and give-up her place to him. He was the one who should have been considerate of her needs—those factors should have trumped any “rules” regarding who should have been next in line.

It is always good to be polite and respectful of others. We should wait our turns, but are also within reasonable rights to remind someone (that we see cut into a line) that we were ahead of them….but there are always exceptions. We should be aware of others who have needs greater than ours, and shift our expectations accordingly. Letting someone who is handicapped go before us, pausing in our cars to let someone standing in the rain to reach somewhere warm and dry……standing up to give a seat to someone elderly, pregnant, or holding a young child….all are examples of little gestures and sacrifices that cost us so little (often only a few seconds), and yet are the very things that make such a difference to what other people experience, and help to maintain our humanity towards one another. We cannot always expect to “have our due”. We live in a world with others, and at some point we ourselves will have circumstances where it will make all the difference for us if someone forgoes “what is due to them”. It truly can come down to, “do unto others”…..and the ability to put ourselves into the shoes of others, and be aware of their circumstances (even if we ourselves have good health, and have many years yet until we experience the physical strains of advanced age).

I recognize that most who read this will not struggle with grasping this concept, but given what I witnessed today (and on other occasions), there are clearly those who do not understand. It just upsets me to see people treated poorly, or bullied in any way. I hope that I was able to at least counter some of what that man did/ said to that woman, and restored some faith that considerate people still exist.

Love one another.

What Impact Does Expectation Have on Valentine’s Day?

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It is that time of year again. Everything is bathed in pink and red, and stores are lined with teddy bears, and foil-wrapped heart-shaped chocolates. Everywhere we turn there are reminders—commercials, ads on social media, people discussing their plans, and cupid decorations plastered on walls. As sweet as it all can seem, it also is a source of extreme distress and heartbreak for many. February always makes me cringe, because I know what primary concern clients will be calling about, and I witness the harsh emotional toll so many experience. Unfortunately, many people put a lot of stressful focus on the big heart day. They sometimes feel that not having a “valentine” reflects on their worth, and that no one loves them. They cry when they see commercials, and even sometimes take desperate harmful actions in hopes that they will be with someone (anyone) when that day lands. People often have unrealistic hopes of someone magically appearing for that day (exes, complicated situations resolving etc…). It is all just a natural response when people are lonely, and feel excluded on a day that they believe is about being loved. It is sad to see the destructive affect that this particular holiday has on people.

I have a secret. I have never had a “valentine”. No romantic v-day dates, no roses or chocolates…no declarations of love, or silly teddy bears wearing t-shirts. I think the closest that I came to it was a torn square of notebook paper in grade school from a “secret admir”. However, it really does not bother me. It did when I was younger, but I have gained a different perspective over the years. Some may say, “Well since you have never had it, you don’t understand why it is so important.” I can see some possibility in that, but I also think that looking at it from the outside perhaps reveals things others may overlook.

Firstly, it is a day. A single day. In particular, it is a day created by candy and card companies to push for sales. “You must buy your sweetheart candy and gifts on this date to prove your love.” Essentially, they were able to generate sales via creating the very expectations that also are so harmful. People anticipate attention, gifts, and romantic gestures. They see it as a way to prove, and validate not only that someone loves them, but some also see it as a means to prove to others how loved, and thus special they are (social media will light-up with young girls/ women wanting to show off their v-day prezzies and activities primarily for that reason). People feel pressed into gifting, and going to great measures, and are made to feel guilty if they do not. I have even experienced multiple incidences of young women in tearful rages because they felt what their boyfriends did do for them was not enough—sometimes out of concern that other people would not be impressed, or think that the man loves them enough. A lot of pressure is created on that single day, and the result is, that sometimes what is done, and given…is executed to fulfill the expectation, rather than truly being something driven by the heart.

Anyone can wine and dine for a day, gift sparkly trinkets, recite lovey sentiments…and essentially pull things from the typical Valentine’s day playbook. It can almost be like “play acting” a big show of love—staging things, and playing parts. Is it sweet? Can people truly do it out of love? Sure…but in reality, love is not about a single day. Additionally, it often is the unexpected gifts, and genuine small thoughtful acts that we value the most, and which reveal what someone truly feels for us. Thus, in a way… Valentine’s day is a little backwards. It is a big day of expectation, and performing…and though it may be fun, and romantic…in the end, it is still just a single day. It almost cheapens love, and makes it a farce of sorts due to the pressure to put on big displays coated in glitter.

Love does not need Valentine’s day to be celebrated, or proved. Love certainly does not need to be shown-off, or used to gain status and validation. Love is not exclusive to one day a year, nor does it exist in a box of chocolates, or kissy-selfies. True love exists every day. It is revealed the most when people do unexpected selfless acts of giving, and put the needs of others before their own without any expectation of anything in return, or as a means of creating material to exhibit to others. Love is tenderly caring for someone who is sick, even at the risk of getting sick yourself. Love is easing someone’s burdens….via helping them with tasks, and giving of time without complaint. Love is providing support, comfort, and holding hands when others are struggling. Love endures through hardships, losses, and dark times when people are broken, and unable to provide much themselves. Love does not give with the intent to guilt, or trap someone into giving, or loving. Love is revealed by those who remain loyal, without the need of big glittery displays, and constant idealistic attention and notions of love. Real love, is messy, because life is messy. However, when it is real, and strong, it can withstand the storms, and be found in the everyday thoughtful gestures and acts that demonstrate someone cares, and pays attention. So, anyone can “play at” love for a day (or even a short period), but only true love can last through every day, and beyond.

So, for myself? I do not feel sad on Valentine’s Day. I do not feel desperate to find a date, nor do I feel like I am missing-out on something special. I would rather experience genuine love…. someone who simply is there every day, and who is able to truly see me. I do not need (and certainly do not require) big stereotypical demonstrations of what card and jewelry companies say prove the existence of love. I would find more beauty in someone who just wants to share life with me—messy, broken bits and all. They do not need to shout from roof-tops, or buyout florist shops…..but rather just offer some cuddles and laughter. It comes down to what is truly important, and what actually creates love that sustains.

However, I am painfully aware that many people put great importance on Valentine’s Day. It especially is hard on those who are in the midst of, or have recently experienced break-ups (rubs salt into the wound). Even people who normally do not feel sad about being single, can discover that v-day creates a sudden, lonely awareness. I think perhaps, the word that many people are most afraid of is…. “alone”. We tend to fear it, dread it….and do anything to avoid it. We impatiently rush into relationships that do not fit us, and cling to people that even hurt us…. all because we fear that word. Thus, why the awareness that Valentine’s Day creates for people can be so devastating. In reality, we first have to love our own selves, in order to truly love, and be loved…. especially in healthy, authentic ways. Being able to be alone without fear, or intense need for someone else to fill and provide…is actually something crucial to gain.

So, for all those singles out there….celebrate your love of self! Treat yourself to something special, or do something that physically pampers, or makes you feel good about yourself. Love truly starts with us, so it is healthy to remember to give our own selves love…and V-day is a great day for that important reminder.

Additionally, Valentine’s day is not just about romantic love. Love can be felt, and shared with everyone—family members, children, friends, co-workers etc… So if you feel bummed that you are single, it may be helpful to shift the focus of the day to being about giving/ expressing love, rather than receiving. Bake cookies to hand-out, or invite a group of friends to a fun activity so that the day can be reclaimed as a fun day to create memories with friends. Additionally, consider those who you know have recently experienced break-ups, or who have expressed how difficult the day is for them. You can make a huge positive impact on someone by doing/ giving something that shows that you care about them….and it will be all the more special to them due to not being expected.

Love one Another. Love Yourself. Every day.

Ponderize: James 1:5-8

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If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

At first, I was intending to put my focus on James 1:5-6, but I decided that really the message felt more complete and supported when the following two verses are included.

Life is confusing. We wade our way through complicated, and sometimes even heart breaking choices. We have to try to differentiate between what is essential, and what is not truly good for us. Additionally, the world often pushes us in directions that conflict with teachings, and it can be difficult to resist those kind of lures— especially when we see so many others “indulging”. Temptations, desires, weaknesses, fears……all are personal inner obstacles that can cloud our judgment, and make it difficult to see the truth in matters. So where do we turn? How do we find true answers that will turn us in the right direction? We pray. We ask our Father for guidance and wisdom.

Essentially, James  1:5 tells us that He is always there. No matter the circumstances, no matter what mistakes we have made. If we are in need of help and answers, we can always turn to Him. When we reach for it, ask for it….. that wisdom is available. For me, “liberally” gives the impression of something that will be given in great bounty, and that it is something limitless, and even eagerly waiting to be given to us—but that we have to seek it, and open ourselves to receive. “Upbraideth not” informs us that no matter what mistakes we have made, that guidance is still available to us. We will not be denied, or somehow cast away from His love and help. We will not be “condemned” or given a virtual cold shoulder. However, we do have to seek Him (and those precious answers), with an open heart and mind…..with pure faith and trust.

   In order to be open to receive, we have to be prepared to lay everything else aside. We have to be willing to lock-up personal desires, and what we hope the answer will be…. in order to truly trust, and accept what it is that we are given. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” If we waver, if we doubt, if we want to lean on our own limited view point, knowledge, fears, and temptations…..then we harm our own selves by creating our own barriers that block us from that knowledge. Basically, we cast ourselves adrift, and leave ourselves exposed to “the elements”(things, choices, people etc… that can harm us), because we will not be anchored in Him, and thus not have the guidance that can help plot-out a course for us that will steer us to the ultimate destination, and help us to avoid perils.

Imagine randomly jumping into our cars, and hoping we will end-up someplace good that will provide happiness, peace, and solutions…..but doing so without turning on the GPS. Sometimes we may think we have turned it on, but really we have the volume on low, and are blasting music that drowns it out (essentially allowing our own inner chatter, desires, and chaos to overrule/ drown out what we ourselves asked for, but are not truly willing to receive). Sometimes when we are blocked from hearing, He may even try to hammer through it and present us blatant answers via placing obstacles in the road, and blaring neon warning signs at every turn…..in attempts to help clear our vision, and open us to the knowledge that we desperately need. However, if we are not willing to see, hear, and trust…. we will just keep blindly driving willy-nilly on our own, and at the risk of creating hardships for ourselves that otherwise could have been prevented.

“For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”  It is a warning. If we do not trust, if we “waver” and lean in other directions, or if we put our faith in other sources (or let our desires, fears, and temptations dictate our choices)……then we should not expect to get true answers. In a way, it also may be explaining that if we “seek”, but do so without turning the volume on, and everything else down….. we are at risk of telling ourselves that the answers we want are spirit-led, when in reality it will be grasping for what we want the answers to be, and acting at our own risk and consequence……because it is not possible for it to be anything else under those kind of personal conditions. I think perhaps one of the reasons this was made clear, is because often people will make choices based on their own desires, but when it results in destruction….. they then blame, and feel like they were somehow deceived, or led astray by God, when in reality they had denied his help. It further hurts us (and our faith), when we are misguided in not only what leads to our choices, but also if we are unable to be honest with ourselves, and see what the true cause of our mistakes was.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

We cannot be made whole by tearing ourselves in two. We cannot have two masters. Essentially, sometimes we can end-up in situations where we are torn. We may want to be open to the spirit, to allow Heavenly Father to guide us, and to follow His plan for us. Our heart may know what is true, and we may even strongly believe in the gospel, and want to follow it…..but we also can become internally divided, and pulled in other directions, especially when we let our weaknesses and temptations cloud, and control us. Thus, why someone torn between two directions (“double minded”) essentially will be unstable in their actions and choices—it is the very nature of what results when a great contradiction is at play within someone. It causes a person to teeter, and shoot around like a pin-ball that is being slammed by opposing forces. It creates an inner battle. A person will flip-flop, and desperately try to find ways, justifications, excuses etc…. to make those two very opposing pieces fit, no matter how impossible. When we want, and do things that do not align with what we believe, and truly want deep down….. we tear our self in two. We create an inner injury….a rift. In order to live with that “rift”, we have to uphold dishonesty with our own selves in order to find a way to maintain both “masters”. We lie to ourselves, we lie to others, and we lie to Heavenly Father.

 Being double-minded is perhaps one of the most dangerous, damaging things that we can inflict on our own selves. In our effort to make the contrasting pieces fit, we may try to convince ourselves that what we are doing is something we have been guided by the spirit to do, or that somehow it will result in guiding us closer to Heavenly father. No matter how backwards our actions and desires are, we may try to tell ourselves that it all eventually will lead us to being true to our beliefs, and what we really want—because deep down, that is still what the deepest true desire and longing is. However, it just does not work that way. We cannot possibly be open to receive divine guidance when we are torn, and being dishonest. We cannot get to where we really want to be, if we move in the opposite direction.

In the end, we can only have one “master.” From what I have seen, there tends to be four stages in this kind of internal battle.

We debate. We stress. We feel the “chafe” of the contradiction when we want something that does not align with what we believe (and who we are/ want to be), and with what He wants for us. We likely are still able to at least partially see how things conflict, and are not right…..and maybe are even still open enough to get “nudges” from the spirit to try to help us see things more clearly. However, whether or not we follow those promptings determines if we are able to open ourselves, listen, and let go of what is creating the harmful conflict…… or if we progress to the next stage.

We Justify. We try to make things fit. We attempt to convince ourselves that the “wrong” is really right, or that the means will somehow be justified, and made right later. We blind ourselves to the things we do not want to see, and to the things that cannot be justified. We form disconnects within us in order to establish some kind of “peace” between the factions that are at war. If we do not look at what is wrong, then we can pretend that it is “right” and “good”. All of this completely blocks us from being open to the spirit. How can we claim to be open to, and even led by Heavenly father, when we cannot even be honest with our own selves? When we ignore our own inner alarm system that sounds off when we do things that do not align with our core self/ soul?

A “side” eventually has to win. If we continue to lie to ourselves, and make bad choices that lead us astray (all the while telling ourselves falsely that it is what He wants for us, or will somehow lead us to following His plan….), we bit by bit will hand ourselves over to the other side. We will blindly ease into the other direction, and it will eventually become “normalized”, and thus all the harder for us to discern when we are going astray. It will become easier and easier to move away from the shore, and to tell ourselves it is a good thing—all the more so because we are completely without any guidance. Eventually, we will find that we have reached the other shore, and can no-longer even see the original—that we have ended-up choosing the “other master”, no matter what guise or lies that we placed on it to ease our wrongful choices.

Final choice. Eventually we may become aware that our choices have been mistaken, and that we have become lost, and ended-up in the opposite place of where we had really wanted to be. We may be tempted to submit to it with a sense of defeat. “Well, this is where I am now, and I just have to stay here, and live with it…. no matter if I know that it is not right, and not what deep down I still really want”. We can become discouraged, and may even feel unworthy to turn back to Him after we have gone so far astray. We may also feel embarrassed, especially if we realize we had been telling ourselves that what we were doing was somehow guided by Him. It may seem easiest to just keep doing whatever it is that is hurting us, and trapping us on that new “shore”. Some people will give-up, and stay—no matter how much it chafes, or how much it limits them. They essentially trap their own self with their guilt. Sometimes they simply do not want to give-up the wrong thing (or things), that led them to that harmful destination to begin with. However, if a person is willing to let-go of what is wrong, and to truly open themselves up with trust……. well, then we circle back around to the initial verse. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

We can always turn things around, because His love, wisdom, and guidance is always there waiting for us. We simply need to ask, trust, and sincerely follow what it is that we receive/ are given. We need to make the choice to earnestly have faith, and to put other things aside. In doing so, we rely on him to provide us with what we truly need. We can be made whole again. We can move forward whole in spirit, heart, and mind, without the guilt, self-injury, and “chafing” that results when deep down we know that we are gaining something via doing what does not align with what He wants for us. It truly all comes down to our willingness to allow ourselves to be helped, and guided. He is always there for us. We are the ones who at times can become inconsistent, blinded, or blocked….. and I think that is an important thing to always consider, and remember.

Facebook Does Not Destroy Relationships. It Reveals What is Wrong With Them.

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Once upon a time, relationships were largely private interactions between two people. We of course would hear gossip down the line, or know of the circumstances of those closest to us….. but most everyone else was in the dark about the particulars. However, the introduction of Facebook (and other social media sources) has drastically altered many aspects of relationships—which is to be expected when there is an available audience for what should otherwise be something intimate and private. At times, instead of being a relationship between two people, it can become something opened to the rest of the world, and even in a way about, and for that audience. In reality, Facebook does not destroy relationships. It just brings to light what is wrong with them. Problem indicators can be helpful warning signs.

Over the years I have heard countless clients detail relationship interactions on Facebook—including using it (or others using it), as a manipulation tool. They put great importance on what happens, and does not happen on those public walls, and sometimes even break-up with others over perceived slights and omissions. When a client mentions Facebook, I can’t help but have an, “Oh no, here we go….”….response. What follows is rarely something healthy, or good for the relationship situation.

In what ways does a person’s Facebook activity reveal problems, and potentially self-focused/ manipulative intentions? Many. This article will detail warning signs, and explore the areas of seeking personal validation, manipulation methods, and issues with public break-ups. Bare with me, there is a lot of ground to cover…but those armed with the following information may be able to avoid problematic situations and heartbreak.

Validation/ Attention.

  Relationships are obviously very personal and intimate connections….they involve two people sharing of themselves with each other, creating a bond, and possibly even striving to build a life together. However, things can become distorted when people see relationships as a vehicle to gain attention and validation from others. Too often people have idealistic notions of what love is about. They glamorize things in their heads, and fantasize over engagement photos and dream wedding plans in exaggerated, single-focus ways (which in itself is a warning sign—marriage is not just about a single, sparkly attention-receiving day). They view a relationship (or rather someone loving them), as a way to gain adoration and attention from others. In much the way some people may feel good about receiving recognition from special achievements (degrees earned, skills mastered, awards, career advancement etc…), some people view relationships as the ultimate method to gain attention (for themselves), display achievement/success, and even somehow receive a form of personal validation. “Look, this person loves me, so that means I am special and successful.” In a sense, it sometimes becomes more about them, the other person loving them, and getting attention from others (and getting to act out their fantasy notions of love)….than about the relationship itself, and truly loving the other person. At times it can reveal a lack of respect and understanding of the true meaning, and importance of that kind of bond and commitment. It can even result in using people.

There is a distinct difference between sharing joy and special events with people, and “showing off”. It typically becomes obvious to those viewing, because it becomes prolonged, and over-done. It is expected and understandable at initial onsets (when people are excited, and want to share the news), or to share special events (anniversary, vacation, holidays), but when someone posts constant pictures of even mundane moments (“Look, here we are folding clothes! Aren’t we the happiest couple ever!?”), and appear to do so with the expectancy, and hope of approval/ feedback from others… it telegraphs more as someone wanting to see others admiring, and verifying them (and the relationship). Pay attention if a person seems to view their friends and followers as a personal fan base, and if they assume that everyone is waiting with baited breath to admire relationship updates.

Some people think that sharing lots of pictures and cutesy things will prove to everyone how happy and perfect their relationship is, but often those viewing see the opposite (and become less likely to click the like button as they watch the pattern unfold). It comes across as insecure, and as needing to prove how great things are. In reality, most secure couples do not have the need to telegraph every moment together, or share intimate exchanges on their public walls—the relationship is about them, not the rest of the world (thus there is no need to have their relationship approved or admired by the world to make it good, real, or a happy situation). When you are solidly sure of something, you do not need to prove it, or convince others.You certainly do not see it as a source for personal admiration. I have distinctly noticed that it is largely younger clients who struggle with the misuse of Facebook when it comes to their relationships, which really is not surprising all things given.

It is always smart to pay attention to how someone portrays your relationship in public/ on social media to others— it can serve as a means to reveal if their relationship focus is really on the important factors, or if it is something more self-serving, and about gaining attention and validation. Even if the issue stems from having low self-esteem or self-worth, it still is a negative sign. Relationships involving people who are depending on the other person (and relationship) to help them form an identity, and a soul source of happiness…. are rarely lasting because they are formed for the wrong reasons, and are not balanced. Scratch the sparkly surface, and unpleasant things will be discovered. Sometimes people are more in love with the idea of being loved, and assuming that others (again), will see them as being special because of that.

Things to pay attention to?

*Do they seem to overly anticipate, and watch for “like” clicks and comments from others after posting things involving the two of you?

*Does it really make them excited when lots of people respond– and on the flip side–do they complain, and seem upset or negatively affected when not many people have “liked”, or given feedback to a post? (Huge sign that they put a lot of focus on the attention from others, rather than the relationship itself).

*Does it frequently feel like they are looking for opportunities to take pictures for the purpose of showing others ( instead of for personal memories), and do you ever feel like special intimate moments are being interrupted because they want to take pictures, or post something to the public about what the two of you are doing (essentially bringing others into your personal moments)?

*Do they make you stage things/ events for the purpose of creating pictures to display to others? Meaning, instead of going with the natural flow and course of things, do they want to make things “just so”, and seem more focused about how it will look to others, rather than creating special moments and memories just for the two of you?

*Do they alter details about events and circumstances that they share (exaggerate, blur, omit, or even flat-out fabricate), in order to make it (and the relationship) seem more appealing, romantic, and exciting to others?

*Do they share private details about you (or the relationship) to the public that you otherwise would not want shared, and without your permission? Do they dismiss you if you address them about those issues, or continue those practices after you have asked them to have more discretion (which indicates they are favoring public attention more than your feelings, privacy, and comfort levels)?

*Do they rarely post pictures of just themselves, or you alone? Are all of their posted pictures focused on the two of you together, even their profile picture? Such as—do they feel they have to always display themselves as connected to you, and remind people they are connected to you? Do they appear to no-longer have an individual identity?

*Do they get upset with you if your profile picture is only of you, and not the two of you? Do they seem agitated when you post things not involving them, or if others tag you/post things on your wall ( due to not being involved, or feeling like it is detracting from the posts about your relationship)? Do they express that they think others will assume that you do not really love, or are committed to them… if you do not include them in most everything you present on Facebook?

*If you, or others post on your wall about something not involving them, do they follow it with posts of their own seeking to push the other posts down, and steer attention back to them (or the relationship) in some way?

*Do they get upset if you do not share pictures and events involving the two of you? Do they press you, apply guilt, become emotional, or any other tactics to get you to share things on your end on Facebook? Do they have negative reactions if you do not click like, or comment on the pictures they post of the two of you, even if you have already seen them previously?

*Are the majority of their posts and pictures about the relationship? Is there a lack of balance, or little else they seem to have to connect their identity to, even after the new “honey moon” period has passed? ( That kind of single-focus is typically not a sign of utter devotion, but rather that there are unhealthy elements involved. )

A couple of years ago a male friend shared with me that he had come to realize that he often felt like he was a character in a play that his girlfriend was putting on for others, and to enact the fantasies she had previously constructed. He felt like much of what they did together was more about gaining material to show-off to others, and to present a dream relationship others would envy, rather then being about the two of them truly connecting. Anything he wanted, or did that did not fit in with her fantasy visions and what she wanted to present, was met with guilt trips, dark moods, and even accusations of not really loving her… until he was worn down into conceding and playing along in order to keep her happy, and maintain the relationship. She was unable to alter her pre-established relationship game-plan to adjust to the actual person she was with (and what his needs, preferences, and interests were), in large part because her plans were focused on creating the appearance of love for others to admire, and filling in the blank with someone…. rather than truly exploring and creating unique experiences focused on just the two of them. Sadly, it is a scenario I have seen many times, but most often people do not gain the awareness that man had, but rather play into it without recognizing the warning signs that indicate focus is not being given to what should truly be important in order for the relationship to be solid and lasting. People sometimes are willing to hand themselves over (and do things they normally would not do) to make someone else happy, all in the hope that it will result in maintaining the relationship, and in-turn being happy themselves. People ignore warning signs because they so desperately want the situation to work, and to not have to go back to being alone.

The ironic thing is, the majority of like-clicks and comments do not really prove, or validate anything. Most people will blindly click like and say “Congrats!” on anything that involves a happy event or milestone, regardless if they do not have any actual knowledge of the situation, or of the people involved….thus it doesn’t prove much beyond people being nice. I saw the proof of this first-hand. Last year for April Fool’s day, an old friend ( internet-based, lives across country etc…) and I posted a prank engagement to each other. I had recently made a reference about being single on my wall, and had never indicated anything about being in a relationship. Anyone could have looked at our profiles to see the different states, and large age difference…..not to mention the announcement date itself should have made it obvious that it was a prank. However, I awoke to discover a bounty of like clicks, and well wishes from people connected to both of us. We were both baffled that anyone had believed it, because we had assumed people would just respond with, “ha ha nice try”…… and yet, people automatically clicked like because they saw notice of a life event, and wanted to be nice…..and they did so without even looking at the obvious factors which revealed that it was a fake scenario. Thus, when someone puts a lot of focus and importance on social media responses and validation, they really are putting more value on empty automatic clicks and sentiments than on focusing on developing a true, secure relationship.

Manipulation.

Unfortunately, Facebook is a great tool to use to manipulate relationships, because when other people are viewing, it creates pressure and expectations that would not exist if the relationship was developed in privacy. Many people are fully aware of this, and thus use that audience to their advantage to push their agendas. There are many tactics and forms of manipulation, and often it can be difficult to see what the real intention is due to the sugar coating.

Clients report posting comments and hints about activities with someone (tagging them so it goes on their wall as well) they are dating in order to make others curious and aware, and thus to push the other towards commitment. It can be hard to really make a choice about a relationship for your own self once others start asking questions about it, showing approval, and even appear to be rooting for the relationship to develop (however, yet again, it usually is simply people being “nice” rather than having specific, personal opinion). Many people understand that making something public helps to “cinch” the relationship and push it forward due to the creation of awareness and expectations. It is harder for someone to decline, or back out of a situation once it has been made public. Thus, it is involving other people into what should be private and intimate choices. It is especially concerning if someone starts pushing things on Facebook not long into dating, or before there has even really been a chance to get to know each other (let alone determine if it is going to be a committed situation). Premature public sharing indicates that someone is over-eager to make things happen without even knowing if it is the right match, and also (once again) desire attention from others (thus they likely have those distorted self-serving reasons and love idealization at play). Over and over, I have seen people freak-out ( men and women alike) when someone they have only started to date and consider, starts posting on Facebook. The smart ones understand that it is not about someone being madly in love with you (especially when they barely know you yet), but rather signals large warning signs of many potential problems and twisted intentions. People desperate to have relationship perks and attention, and to be “filled”… push for things from the get-go, while those who are focused on truly getting to know someone, and insuring that a situation is solid and a right fit…. take time to make their choices, and do not see a need to involve the public, let alone to let others factor into something that is so personal and important.

Love Bombing. Love bombing is a clinical description for those who hit hard and heavy early into new relationships in order to try to secure the situation fast. They want to convince the other person that they are perfect, everything they need and dream of, and that they are so in love with them, and are offering the best thing that they will ever find. They shower compliments, sentiments, instant claims of being soulmates… and typically will do all of this from all angles, and on all platforms possible. Text messages, calls, emails, pinterest, facebook….. it all becomes tools that can be used to smother the person with “love”… even if things are still very new, and much is still unknown about each other (and if they are truly compatible). They post memes and quotes to display and prove their love and devotion, and again, also involve the public because they want to convince everyone else how much they love, and how perfect they are for that person as well.

The intense sudden showering of “love” can create powerful reactions in people, especially if they were previously very lonely. It also can make them doubt their own hesitations and concerns, because the other person strives to convince them that they love them so much that it has to be a sure thing, and that they are wrong to question something so obvious. Thus, why it is called “love bombing”. Gas Lighting is also the technical name used for manipulations that aim to make a person doubt their own feelings and perceptions.  People who use these tactics often suddenly stop with the lovey quotes and hearts once they feel the relationship is “in the bag”…..but will pull it all out again if ever the other person starts to express doubt, or attempts to end things. They once again want to steamroll, and twist them around into thinking their concerns are not real, and that they will be walking away from someone so loving (when in reality, love bombing and gas lighting are used as intentional emotional manipulations that disrespect the boundaries, thoughts, feelings, and choices of others… it is all very self-serving, and reveals a lot about a person when they use those tactics). It makes it all the more difficult for the person when all of those sentiments are shared in view of others, at a time that they are considering ending the relationship. The manipulator knows this. They understand that if they post huge displays of love, that it could potentially make the other person look bad in the eyes of others if they appear to suddenly leave the relationship not long after (and many people will stay in unhealthy situations due to fearing negative public reaction, or people thinking they are a bad/ selfish person if they leave). It can all serve to corner someone, and make them even feel guilty for having doubted the other—and thus they lose trust in their own self in favor of what the other person wants to convince them to feel and believe.

Personal sentiments. Some things just truly are only meant to be shared between the couple. However, some view posting those kind of things in the view of others as another way to “cinch” the relationship, and validate things. They post, ” I love you” and intimate mooshy things that otherwise should be a private exchange not involving (or about) anyone else. However, posting it in public means that not only are they showing-off their “love”, and attempting to prove to others how much they love the other….. but they essentially set the other person up in a way that they too have to respond, and say, “I love you” back to them in front of others—all of their family, friends, and professional colleagues. It exploits the relationship, and feelings that should be intimate. It again reveals that someone wants to gain attention via the fact that someone loves them. Those kind of “shares” also again serve to love bomb the person, create public awareness, and make it hard for them to back out of the relationship. Ultimately there really is no healthy reason to share personal exchanges like that with the public…. there almost always is a self-serving motive behind it. “If he says it back to me in front of others, it will prove both to me...and everyone else… that this is all real, and he really loves me! He will never be able to leave me if he says it in front of everyone!” Once again, when a relationship, and the feelings involved are secure…. there is no need or desire to prove it to others, let alone make the other prove it for us.

Irony can (yet again) be found in attempting to convince others of the existence of love via proclaiming it on Facebook. Most people know that those kind of things are supposed to be intimate and private, thus when it is posted in public…..it is obvious someone is seeking to prove, show-off, and receive validation. It essentially backfires via communicating to others that it is possibly an insecure situation. There is a reason people tend not to click like on those kind of posts, and maybe even make snarky, “Get a room”….or “ewww”….comments. Typically they are trying to hint that it is odd for those kind of exchanges to be put on public display, and thus involve others who should have nothing to do with the relationship. This is the reason why many have made a plethora of ecards communicating the obvious flaws seen when people over-telegraph their relationship. However, those who post the drippy sentiments are not only blinded as to why others will not see it as proof, and something to admire…. but that they also display to others their misguided, and shallow understanding of what (and who) love and relationships are really supposed to be about.

Break-ups.

The loss of relationships can be some of our most difficult, and heart-breaking life experiences. There are many difficult emotions, personal details, situations, and choices involved. Break-ups often involve anger, heated exchanges, and having to face uncomfortable truths. It is difficult to sort through in private, let alone to have the situation play-out in public view of others. Essentially, Facebook can provide a billboard that disgruntled, vindictive people can use to air private details in front of everyone the other person knows.

People use facebook to gain validation and sympathy, especially when they are someone who is insecure to begin with, and cannot stand for anyone to think that the break-up was in any way their fault. They typically want to blast the other person in order to make them look like the evil one…. but also to hurt them in the form of potentially shaming them in full view of those whose opinions matter most to them, and maybe even to harm their professional relations, or future potential for relationships.

I cringe every time a client tells me of their revenge tactics they deploy on facebook. Some people are blatant, while others are passive aggressive with vague posts, rants, and quotes/ memes ….knowing full well other people will figure-out what it is all about. They typically have intent to stab virtual daggers into the other person, or want to attempt to make them feel guilty. Ironically, some people even do these things despite still hoping the person will change their mind and come back to them…. they think that all of the posts will somehow convince them that they made a mistake, or that they will even get back together with them in order to save face, and prove to others they really are not the horrible person depicted.

If someone previously love-bombed, and manipulated to show others how perfect and loving they were for that person, they then can attempt to use all of that established past public history to try to support their case, and get others involved. They want the attention of sympathy, they hope people will take their side, and in a way they often are manipulating people to question the other person and situation….. again for self-serving purposes of either validating that they are so good that someone would be crazy to leave them, the problem is not in them, or to try to get others involved in forcing the relationship to reconcile.

Scare tactics. Sometimes when a couple is having some kind of dispute, one will start posting comments and quotes making it sound like the relationship is over, and that they will be great on their own. They want to scare the person into thinking they are done, and will be fine and dandy without them (and of course will soon find someone else). They hope that those kind of posts will create panic in the other person to help scare them into dropping the dispute, as well as to make them do what they want. It is all about calling bluffs, and believing that they are capable of quickly moving on to someone else. I cannot even begin to estimate how many times I have tried to talk people out of posting not only the above tactics, but also using facebook to talk about fake dates, and other things suggesting that they have “already moved on”…. in hopes that the other person will see it, and come rushing back, and then do whatever they require to prevent the imaginary new relationship that sprung out of no where overnight. Usually these kind of manipulations are obvious and backfire, but unfortunately it does sometimes work on those who are terrified to be alone, and who are willing to concede even important things in order to maintain the relationship. When those kind of tactics succeed, it results in showing the manipulator that they have the control, and can easily influence, and scare the other into their agendas (and staying in unhealthy situations). In reality, people who truly are in love do not just switch gears like that, and quickly replace people. The only people capable of that, are those who did not truly love to begin with, or were only in love with the idea of being loved, and having their needs fulfilled (they typically cannot go very long without a “supply”, thus why those kind of people rarely last more than a couple months without being in a relationship, and quickly move on to someone else). Even threatening that they will soon find someone else, or inventing imaginary situations are red flags. If you find yourself frequently fearing that someone is capable of quickly finding someone new if you do not behave as they require(or that they are at risk of quickly leaving you if you do not always cater to/ appease them)…..then it is important to honestly consider the reasons for believing they are capable of that. It could provide you crucial (if difficult to accept) information about the truth of the situation and person.

Once again, often these public tactics serve to reveal true colors, and immaturity… and that someone is more concerned about their own self, and how they are viewed. Ironically, many who view public break-up displays will have the mental response of, “Whoa, its obvious why they had to break-up with that person!”  Thus, if you fear breaking-up with someone because you know they will behave in a negative way, and publicly reveal private things, or bash you….. then you also deep down know the truth that there are a lot of problems in the situation, and with that person. It is also not worth staying simply because you fear how they will respond, and what others will think of you. You have to make choices based off of what is best, and healthy for you. It is not about anyone else. The public does not have to live with your choices.

So, where is the balance? How can relationships be managed on social media in ways that do not cause damage, push agendas, or manipulate?

Firstly, people do not have to completely abstain from sharing their relationship—its natural to want to share happy, and important life milestones with others. However, it is best to wait until things are solid, and appear to be certain. By waiting to change your public relationship status, you greatly reduce the risk of awkwardness that could occur if chicks were counted before they hatched, and proclaimed to the public. It also helps to avoid the pressure and expectations that result when a  viewing audience factors into the very personal choices that are involved with relationships.

Secondly, avoid over-saturation of posting about the relationship. Again, doing so often telegraphs the opposite of what is hoped for, and people even get kind of numb to it when they see virtually the same pictures and posts posted over and over again….. and thus turn-off from maybe even noticing when something truly important is shared.

Thirdly, keep private sentiments…..private. There is absolutely no healthy reason to display those kind of things in view of others. It is not because people equate lovey displays/ interactions to something vulgar or negative….. it is because they understand that it diminishes something that is supposed to be sacred and intimate, and that should not be opened for others to view, or be involved with.

And last, avoid using a ready available audience to turn break-ups into reality drama for others to view, and judge. Even if you have been wronged, or hurt…..it is better to hold your head-up, and show grace in how you handle the situation. If you feel you have to communicate how that person hurt you, and is wrong…. do so in private with that person. Do not involve others who have absolutely nothing to do with the situation—it will not help your situation, or prove anything. It especially will not help anyone to telegraph those private matters and details in front of professional contacts. Consider quietly taking things down, and hiding your relationship status from public view for a while. It is okay if people see those changes, and understand that it means the relationship is over…..in fact, it serves as a way to communicate that without having to air dirty laundry, shame anyone, or make the circumstances more difficult. It really is not the business of others why choices were made to end a relationship.

If someone attacks you on facebook, it IS okay to unfriend and block them. It is not immature or petty to take protective measures when someone is actually harming you, not to mention if they are making others uncomfortable with public posts as well. If you fear someone might take that kind of action (but do not want to jump the gun on blocking them), you can change your account settings to review/ approve any posts or pictures that you are tagged in, or that are posted to your wall (that way it will minimize how many of your personal contacts see any “blasts” they do put out, and if they do post those kind of things on their own feed, you then could consider taking things a step further to unfriend, and block them).

Be smart. Insure that both you and your partner are completely focused on each other, and what is best for you both individually, and as a couple. If you find either yourself, or the other person revealing signs that things are overly focused on, and dependent on the attention, response, and opinions of others… then it should serve as something to investigate to determine if the relationship is really formed for the right reasons and factors. In a very real way, Facebook can serve as a tool to reveal problems and true intentions—which in turn could aid in preventing large mistakes and heartbreak.

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A New Year, a New Me.

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This entry is of a personal nature…..just a bit of a life update. I keep intending to write articles, especially ponderize ones (and even have a couple entries that I have started and saved as drafts, and other ideas for future articles that I have made notes on), but time has been a commodity lately. That typically happens during December— the rush to juggle clients with holiday planning, events, wrapping etc…. so all of that limited the ability to poke around for hours at a time writing.

I prepared for, and jumped into auditions last week, and am super happy and excited to be in a musical production after a long dry spell of that kind of activity. I have missed it more than I can express, especially the social aspects. So the good news is that the goals I have been working towards are being realized…..and I could not be happier. I get to sing, play with people, and not be such a hermit. As much as I enjoy helping my clients, I need to remember to engage in more of a life for my own self…..and I am striving towards that.  I also am on “phase two” of sorts when it comes to my weight-loss and health goals, and have hopes ( or rather determination!), to complete that this year. So in general, things are picking-up momentum. Last year was very difficult due to the loss of my sister, and everything just kind of shifted….and I am trying to both get back on track, as well as to improve upon many things, and “live” more ( which I know is what she would want me to do).  I hope to have more time to write, and complete the drafts that I have saved later this week. Funny, I realize not many read my blog, but I just love to write and explore…. put little peeks at my inner-workings “out there” so to speak…. so I have felt the tug to get back to writing, and look forward to it.

 

Happy New Year Everyone. 🙂

Ponderize: 2 Corinthians 4:18

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While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

— 2 Corinthians 4:18

My head is swimming and twisting around the different concepts that this verse can be applied to, and which direction I should go for the sake of this blog entry. I think I will attempt to cover a few different areas. That is what “ponderizing” is about, right?

Firstly, our perspective is limited. Our notions of time, what is truly important, what it is we need to experience in order to grow, what will make us happy etc….are all constrained by our mortal vision and understanding. It is very easy to get wrapped-up in the “now”—who we presently are, what our struggles are, what choices we have before us etc…. We tend to be focused on immediate desires, results, consequences, emotions, fears, goals—essentially elements that are directly on the table before us, and within “view”. It can be difficult for us to grasp the concept of eternity, let alone to understand the reasons behind our experiences, tests, and trials, or how far-reaching the choices that we make now can truly be. In the daily commotion of trying to pay bills, navigate relationships, and reach for goals… everything tends to be centered on our immediate perspective and impression of what we think we need, and what appears to be important. However, that limited viewpoint can often cause us to make mistakes, lose sight of what is truly important, and to even lose our faith…. and our hope.

Mortal ambitions. There are many things that we strive for that ultimately have no importance in our eternal progression—essentially the things that “you can’t take with you”. We seek, and desire wealth, material items, fame, “power”, physical beauty, and immediate pleasures/ gratification (in various forms). Our mortal world constantly promotes that these are the things that will make us happy, and thus are what we should endeavor to achieve. We want to live in comfort, to have stylish clothes, to impress others, to have an attractive person on our arm, to achieve this or that rank within our social circles and work places etc….but really, most of it is temporal, and even shallow. It is stressing importance on our existence in the limited “now”, and on the opinions, and admiration of others. Would Heavenly Father be impressed by the size of our bank accounts, social status, our external physical beauty, or how much temporary gratification we were able to achieve? Of course not. And yet, when we limit our focus to the now, and only what we immediately can see around us (what we desire, and who we want to please and impress)…..that is when we often get pulled off-course from what we should truly be achieving. Ultimately, what matters most is how we live, learn, improve, and grow. It is about the beauty inside of us, the good that we do, the people that we help, the families that we create, and the love that we give….and most importantly, it is about striving to follow the example that Christ set for us. A small, over-looked person (who does not seem like much to mortal societal standards) may achieve more eternally than someone who focuses on wealth, beauty, and immediate “temporary” achievements and ambitions that will end with their physical death. We can take internal growth and beauty with us…but not temporary achievements, or external shiny “things”.

Tribulations. During times of struggle and heartbreak it is easy to feel that we are forgotten, or that we maybe are even being punished, or betrayed in some way. It can feel like everything for us has ended, is broken….and like we will never be able to recover. We can become incapable of seeing how anything good can come out of a dark situation. We may even question our faith, and think that we are alone. In truth, it is through those experiences that we learn our greatest lessons. It is how we discover what is right, and what is wrong for us first hand….. it is how we build our inner strength and faith, and it is also through our hardships that we discover true appreciation, and perspective for what matters most. We learn patience, and even compassion for others and their struggles. Trials refine us, thus our experiences are tailored specifically to challenge us, assist us in overcoming our struggles and faults….and to help us to learn, improve, and grow— and hopefully progress on paths that will lead to greater eternal destinations. However, when we are in pain, all of that can be drowned-out. It can be difficult to trust that something good can be gained—even in the form of knowledge, or self-improvement. Yet, after time passes, it can be shocking to look-back, and see that what happened was truly for the best—that somehow we ended-up spared of something that would have been harmful for us, and directed towards something better… or that we learned crucial things that ultimately guided us into being a better version of ourselves. Just as we sometimes apply tough love to those we love ( and let them fall so that they can learn), so too does Heavenly Father at times perhaps see that as a necessity to help us grow, see things with more clarity, and to discover the eternal paths that lead towards Him.

Grief. The loss of a loved one can be devastating…. as I well know. It can seem like they are forever lost to us, and that we will never see them again. Even if we can grasp that we will be reunited, it seems like something that will take so long….so we still lament. It is natural, especially when we deeply love someone. However, what seems so long to us, is really a blink—a small particle—in the scope of eternity. Our grief, and time without them is temporary, and our eventual reunion will be eternal, and vast in a way that is impossible for mortal perspective to grasp. Love continues, there is no end. I remind myself of this every day, and every time I feel the ache of the piece that is missing from my heart.

People. This may look like an odd area to correlate, but really it applies. So often we view, and determine who people are via their physical appearances, or initial impressions (thus, what is “seen”and temporal), and fail to see what is inside of them, and who they truly are (the “unseen”, and what is eternal). I would be lying to say that I myself have not made that mistake before, and I suspect most of us have done it. The same mechanism works in opposing ways. We may look at people from limited standpoints, and dismiss them based on surface factors that obstruct our own selves (via the restriction of assuming we “know” them, and our lack of desire to discover anything else) from being able to see their inner beauty, talents, and positive offerings. In reverse, we can be deceived by physical beauty, and by what we want a person to be—we can literally choose to see, and hear only what we want to believe, even if it means putting blinders up against seeing what does not fit with our desired beliefs of who they are. We find ways to twist and excuse-off the things that we do see— including behaviors or selfishness that could actually reveal inner “ugliness”, or anything that is even harmful for us. Trapping our perspectives in this way, and placing importance on temporary factors ( can’t take our bodies with us, and they wither even in our mortal lifetime) results in harming our own selves in the form of missing-out on the truly beautiful elements within people, as well as putting greater value on packaging in ways that can create self-deception, and turmoil (once true contents are revealed, and consequences happen). We simply get locked-down in wanting to only see what we want to see/ believe, and then deny it when they present things that oppose what we want to see and hear.

“for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Temporal:

Relating to worldly as opposed to spiritual affairs; secular.

Synonyms: secular, nonspiritual,worldly, profane, material, mundane, earthly, terrestrial.

1. Of or relating to time.

2. Pertaining to or concerned with the present life or this world; worldly: temporal joys.

3. Enduring for a time only; temporary; transitory (opposed to eternal).

 

Eternal:

 

Lasting or existing forever; without end or beginning.

 

Synonyms: everlasting, never-ending, endless, perpetual, undying, immortal, abiding, permanent, enduring, infinite, boundless, timeless, “eternal happiness”.

 

1.(of truths, values, or questions) Valid for all time; essentially unchanging.

 

2.Characterized by abiding fellowship with God.

 

Sometimes, I find that it helps to directly look at definitions, especially when it comes to making comparisons. Even when you know the definitions, juxtaposition has a way of snapping everything into a sharper, more defined level of focus. The contrast between these two words is vast. What strikes me are the synonyms. Temporal—nonspiritual, worldly, profane. Eternal–everlasting, abiding, infinite, “eternal happiness”. Looking at the two in this way seems to make it so clear and simple as to what we would really want to achieve and focus on….and yet due to the noise of the world, our immediate desires, and our limitations of basing things off only what we can see “in the now”…. the simple truth can get drowned-out, and even forgotten.

 

Ultimately it is our choices that determine not only character, but also whether our feet take us down a short path that will quickly take us to a dead-end……or a path that continues forever, and leads us to true lasting blessings, happiness, love…and Him.

 

Our mortal perspective, lack of patience, and immediate desires can tempt us to reach for the things/choices that are temporary. In our desperation to fill our “hunger”, we essentially become willing to sacrifice a never-ending feast in exchange for one tiny little morsel of temporary fulfillment and pleasure/ happiness. However…what happens once that morsel has been digested, and maybe even has made us sick? The table in front of us will be empty, and so too will be our cramping stomach. Yet, if we are willing to wait, trust, and focus on what will be lasting….we will get to sit at a table loaded with endless bounty, and never again will we have to endure a moment of hunger. Likewise do these results apply when we make our choices with everlasting goals in mind. Temporary pursuits can twist back around on us and cause damage (in addition to leading to emptiness)—our rush for pleasure and happiness can result in far greater pain and hardships than we had even been able to fathom previously (despite whatever desperation caused us to make those kind of choices). We could end-up making yet more damaging temporal choices one after the other in our attempt to “fix” things, ease our discomfort, and to once again grasp at a shred of fleeting happiness….and we can become blinded by our own lack of eternal perspective, and by the intense need, and emptiness created within us due to our narrow vision, and the resulting misguided choices. Sometimes we have to dust ourselves off, be honest with ourselves, and retrace our steps. We need to figure-out where it was that we went wrong (and why–to prevent us from blindly doing it again), and first stepped onto the wrong path. We then need to start anew— in the right/ eternal direction. We have been blessed with the atonement, so there is no amount of distance that we cannot turn back from, and renew ourselves—and re-direct our ultimate destination.

 

The trick of course, is being able to determine what choices will lead to things that are temporal, and which will lead to eternal. We are very clever at deceiving, and convincing ourselves that temporal pursuits will somehow actually benefit us eternally—especially when we have strong desires, or even pain within us ( no one ever wants to admit to themselves that what they are reaching for is temporary, or even bad for them… and we typically do not aim for it on purpose). Our pressing needs, desires, and worldly definitions of values cloud us—they are what we directly “see”, so it can be difficult to keep focus on the “unseen”.

 

I have a method that almost always helps me to clear my head, be honest with myself, and gain true perspective. I mentioned it a little in a previous entry, but will share it again since it applies here as well. Heavenly Father knows everything that is inside of us, every little thought, struggle, temptation, lie, and feeling—on every inner level. There is nothing that we can hide from Him. Using that knowledge, I ask myself, “What would He say about what I am thinking, and what choices I am making? Would He tell me my thoughts are noble and true, or that they are an attempt to hide the truth so that I can justify continuing with something? Would He tell me that the choices that I am making will better me, bring me happiness, and lead to eternal goals…..or would He say that I am hurting, and limiting myself? Would he tell me that what I am wanting will result in leading towards, or away from Him?”

 

It is almost like magic. Simply trying to look at myself from His vantage point forces me to be honest with myself—almost instantly. I find that I cannot uphold my inner deceptions, and that things are put into a greater perspective. At times I have even felt ashamed, foolish, and embarrassed to have not seen the truth of my own mistaken beliefs and actions sooner…because it suddenly becomes so obvious, and clear. Knowing that I cannot hide from Him, forces me to stop hiding from my own self. It helps me to correct my mistakes, be honest with myself (and Him), and make better choices from a much broader viewpoint.

 

Its all about discovering what can help us focus on the truth of what is truly important, and eternal. We have to learn how to overcome our impatience, “hunger”, and self-deception in order to wait for, and choose what will result in everlasting happiness.

 

Ponderize: Isaiah 43:18-19

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Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.     –Isaiah 43:18-19

  I love this. For some reason when I read it, its like seeing a wise old grandparent smiling at a child who cannot see what is a simple truth, and saying in a kindly voice, “Oh child, you can let go of that tattered blanket that you are clutching….it doesn’t keep you warm, or serve the purpose that you need. If you let go of it, you will be open to receive something new and better… something that is warm, and made to fully cover you!”

It really is a simple truth, yet sometimes we just can become blind to it. If we keep clutching the wrong thing…. our arms, heart, and mind are closed to receiving something new…. the right thing.

   “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.”

  Let it go. Its a message to free ourselves of what is not serving us, and anything that is holding us back from being where we should be, being who we should be, and achieving what we should. It could be a situation that is not working for us, a relationship that is misfigured, a career path that is making us unhappy…..but it could also be guilt, anger, resentment—negative emotions and mindsets that keep us from progressing. Mistakes. So often we beat ourselves up over past mis-steps in ways that keep us chained to the situation, and fearful to try again. We also tend to cling to, and continue on with our mistakes, and situations that are not really meant for us …out of hopes of somehow turning it around (or not wanting to even admit it is a mistake), and being afraid of losing the perceived time and investment. We fear if we let go of it, that there will be nothing else for us—that we will be empty-handed (we sometimes would rather clutch something that hurts our hands, than have them be empty). We have to have the courage to recognize mistakes, and step-away… otherwise we risk staying on the wrong path that will just keep leading us to more mistakes one after the other. In reality, the longer we cling to something that is wrong, the more damage that will happen, and the longer (and harder) it will be to turn ourselves around—and to have our arms free to receive something that is right.

  We are supposed to trust Heavenly Father. Trust his timing, his plan, his knowledge of what is best for us, and what we truly need. Our own understanding is limited, and often clouded by temporary desires, fear, inner noise etc….We often try to deceive ourselves, and block out both the voice of our own core self, and that of the Spirit when we are being told to set something down— that it is not what is right for us. We can bury those nudges and promptings, try to convince ourselves it is just our fears speaking… but true promptings will keep resurfacing until we act on them (no matter how hard we work to ignore the things we do not want to see and hear). We may creates excuses, or tell ourselves the nudges are just our fears of failure, but often it is our way of hiding the truth from ourselves that what we really fear is listening, obeying, and letting go—we so desperately want to cling, and believe that we can make the wrong thing work. It can be scary to relinquish ourselves to that trust in God ( and promptings), and risk those empty hands……but it is that very trust that can free us, set our feet on the right path, and bring the best blessings truly meant for us. We cannot progress if we limit our own selves, and do not even let Heavenly Father help us.

  Sometimes we continue to hold on to our mistakes, or things that do not fit us…. because we want to believe that if we have faith, that thing will somehow be made “right”, and then it will all work out. However, that is not always how it works. Sometimes that is the exact opposite of having faith/ trust in God. At times, it could be that we ignore his promptings, and continue to cling out of our own fears, and lack of faith. We fail to have faith that if we let go, he will provide us with something better suited to what we truly need. Its akin to clutching to a duck, and telling ourselves that if we keep holding on to it, and pray really hard, and have faith…. God will turn it into the unicorn that we really want, and need. In reality, we need to let go of the duck……so that God can give us the unicorn. Its all about true trust, and faith, and being able to recognize when we are letting our fears misguide, and trap us.

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

 This is basically a promise. If we let go, if we have trust…. he will always bring us something new, something beautiful. “Shall ye not know it?” Seems to be like asking, ” Do you not trust me? Can you not see I want good things for you, and will provide what you need?”

  He will bring us that new thing, no matter how dark or impossible we may think it is to do so. We may see barren desert with no water in sight, a fortress of wilderness blocking us from love…. but he will be able to cut through all of that, and provide us with what it is we truly need. Once again, our perceptions are limited… and our sense of obstacles, or fears that nothing else will be available for us….could very well be wrong, and restrictive. We have to trust that he will provide, no matter how scared we are, or how bleak it looks to our eyes.

 At times, it could even be a test of sorts. A means to teach us so that we can build in our faith and trust. If everything is just handed to us, if he turns all our ducks into unicorns….how would we learn and grow? True trust, is when you can let go, let yourself fall backwards…. and have faith that arms will catch you. If we remain rigid, and cling… if we are not able to let go…. then we are telling him that we do not really have faith in him. Its a harsh thing to think of, but so very true. Its just like the “trust fall” experiment—if you stagger, catch yourself, or even completely refuse to let go/ let yourself fall back…. you communicate to the other person that you do not have trust in their ability to catch, and protect you. So what does it say to Heavenly Father when we ignore the promptings to let go of something not meant for us, and refuse to let him catch us, and provide for us?

  It is scary. It is hard. It is supposed to be.

In order to grow, improve, and be open to receive the things meant for us…. we have to let go of the things that hold us back, and send us into the wrong directions. Mistakes teach us what is wrong, and what hurts us… so that we can truly know first-hand what is right for us, and where we should be, and where we should put our trust. Mistakes teach us how to trust, and the need for it…. but we have to let go in order to learn that. Following promptings, and letting go…. is how we demonstrate, and live our faith. It is how we open our door, and our arms… to Him. He will always provide.

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Aside

 

formyself

This originated as a FB post and conversation ( primarily about making health/ lifestyle choices), but I decided that since it is such a common issue that people struggle with, that I should make it into a blog entry and expand on it.

Improving ourselves, making big changes in our habits and lifestyles, and even altering our way of thinking/ viewing things…. can be very difficult to achieve, and yet is crucial in order for us to progress, and achieve goals (and who we would like to be). However, in order for changes to be real, and lasting…. they have to be something that we firmly want to do for our own selves. Real changes cannot happen just to please others, or for some kind of temporary gain (both purposes result in temporary changes, if even that). It all starts from within.

We all have layers of “self”/ conscious within us. The top surface levels are where our chatter is—our active thoughts, worries, reactions etc… and is also where we lie to, and attempt to deceive ourselves. Our “core self” is deep down, at the very bottom. That is where our truth is. Our core is where our true desires, needs, beliefs and personality exist. However, sometimes our surface layers try to resist what our “core” tells us—usually due to temporary wants and desires, fears, wanting things not good for us, wanting to please others, being scared to face truth, or act on things etc….We drown our “core-self” out sometimes with all that surface chatter and noise, but our core-self will keep prodding and shouting until we hear it….and will continue to do so no matter how many times we try to block it out, or deny what it is telling us. These mechanics are the very reason why we have to truly want something for our own selves, on all levels, and for the right reasons. Our core is our basement, and is where all the wiring and gears are. Thus, to make true, lasting changes for ourselves…we have to be able to get down in there, and re-arrange things. That is not possible if only our “surface self” is engaged in the act of making a change.

When we try to change something about ourselves to please others, or for an interim goal….it results in being a temporary surface desire, rather than something that our core is engaged in. We all do it. We want to lose weight for a special event, or to try to interest someone in a relationship……we want to stop smoking because someone else has given us an ultimatum, we want to improve our work performance to gain a promotion etc…… Often those goals in some form still involve making a change for someone else, or to “fit” ourselves in some way. Once the desired result is achieved, we often return to our old ways ( because what is the point of still doing it when you no-longer have to? ). Worse yet, if we did not get what we had hoped we would gain, we tend to see all our efforts as a waste, and then we binge on whatever it was that we had been restraining ourselves from (that we really had not wanted to change for our own selves anyway). This is why we cannot change for others, and why we have to be committed to something on every layer of who we are (down to our core-self) in order for a change to truly happen.

When faced with changes others want us to make, we can think it is a true and noble reason to make alterations to ourselves (especially when we really want to please someone, and fit ourselves to what it is they want). However, unless it is something we came to on our own, and that we truly want for ourselves (and not just to please others, gain a relationship etc..), any changes we make will likely just be temporary. Our true self ( that is not on board) will hammer away at us until it breaks free, and might even (again) want to gorge on whatever it was being restrained from.

In reverse, expecting others to change themselves for us (no matter if it is something for their own health and well-being), very rarely works. Ultimatums essentially insure that whatever change you are desiring for someone else to make will most likely fall-apart—you essentially are setting that person up for failure. They might try really hard to do whatever it is you want of them, but in the end their true self will smash it apart with a wrecking ball. They have to be able to come to it on their own, for their own self, and without feeling pressure, or expectation—they have to want that change on their own. Something I often ask clients is, “Would you have wanted this for yourself if they were not in the picture?”…Or…. “Would they have wanted this, or come to this on their own without you?”  If “no” is the answer to either of those questions, then it is a change that is not being done for the right reasons, and it will have very little chance at being lasting. Take a moment, think of changes you made in the past to please others ( maybe even under pressure of an ultimatum). Did they stick? Are you still implementing those changes?

Sometimes people will feign at making changes in order to achieve what/who they want. They will make promises, and even sometimes a few initial motions at that change for the sake of appearances…. but often just long-enough to get the other person off of them, or to get that person to commit to them. As soon as they think they are in the clear, they will revert to their normal habits, and who they really are ( thus why it is important to not trust words, but rather to pay attention to actions). Often people will try to force others into being ready for relationships, or want to convince them that their love and desire compensates for the hesitation of the other—and thus try to force things to happen prematurely, or with someone who otherwise would not/ does not want to get involved on those levels. These are examples of relationship-related expectations of changes/ choices by others that will likely not be for the right reasons, and thus will eventually result in destruction in some form. We cannot push our agendas on others… even if they try to please us, eventually their “core” will fight against what does not align with it.

Addictions. This of course is one of the most difficult, and needed areas for personal change. It is also of utmost import that we do not pressure loved ones to “do it for us”….or to whip-out ultimatums, or threats of leaving etc… because again, any changes made under those conditions will likely only be temporary, no matter how much that person wants to please, and keep us in their life. In order for a person to truly be able to fight that kind of battle, their core self has to be armed with sword and shield…..and completely want, and be ready to do it for their own self. If we shove someone into it before they are ready on their own, they may end-up standing against their demon in their underwear. Even once changes are achieved, it may still be a battle they have to revisit at times…. and thus our job should be to support, love, and encourage them in healthy ways focused on their welfare, rather than anything we want for ourselves ( unless it is something harmful to us, then we may need to remove ourselves under those kind of conditions). They need to feel secure in our love and support, rather than judged, guilted, or pressured. That is the often the best way to help someone struggling with those kind of issues.

If a person truly wants to do something for their own self, and are engaged completely on all inner-levels….then making others happy, and achieving various other related gains and goals etc… can be contributing factors that help to bolster, and increase the conviction that they already have.

Sometimes we have to accept that a person is not going to change, or has no desire to do so on their own. It can be difficult if it is over something that is deal-breaking. We may not be able to change others, or choose for them…. but we always have the option/ability of making changes for ourselves– and sometimes that is in the form of letting-go, and removing ourselves from situations that are unhealthy, or not working for us (when the other is not able to make real changes to their core self).

I can think of many examples in my own life when I have either failed, or succeeded because of the reasons behind attempts at changes. Years ago when I was investigating a big choice…. I had to refrain from talking on the matter with someone who was really eager for me to make that choice, because I did not want the risk of them (and my desire to make them happy) impacting something that was so important, and personal. It was confusing to that person, and even difficult to resist at times, but it was what I personally knew had to be done in order to make sure it was something that I felt, and wanted for my own self. It was hard, but it insured that I made that choice for the right reasons. Had I just done it to please, I might have skipped crucial thinking/ steps that ultimately led me to investing myself “on all levels”.  Sometimes it can be a matter of knowing our own selves, and what we have to do to make-sure others are not the reason for big changes and choices that we make for ourselves.

The big obvious change for me this last year has been in the area of improving my lifestyle and diet to achieve weight-loss. I had losses in the past, but because I was usually focused on short-term goals and reasons, and had not addressed the true reason behind my habits (comfort source), I always slipped-back as soon as something stressful happened, or when what I had wanted did not result. Now, because I have addressed the root-cause and fully-engaged myself…..I have made solid changes that I feel have become my *new* habits, and I was able to maintain myself despite a devastating event that occurred this last year. The difference is simply being fully engaged, and wanting new and different things for myself…to be healthy…. not just in the short term, but for the rest of my life. I am still working on reversing past damage, but have no doubt that with a little time I can get myself down to the person I truly am, and was supposed to be all along.

So, the message is…. truly evaluate yourself honestly when it comes to making changes for yourself, or expecting others to make changes. It is crucial that we truly want it for our own selves—otherwise we could end-up making mistakes, reverting in ways that damage us even worse than before, or doing things prematurely in a destructive way that makes us fear, or even decide against working towards those changes at a later time. Always ask those important questions ( would you (or they) come to it, and want it on your (their) own?). Know yourself, be honest to yourself, and be true to yourself…. all of those are keys towards true self-improvement and growth, and knowing what we need to achieve those things.


 

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Lasting Changes Require Committing 100% on Our Own, for Our Own Self.