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The Dangers of Should Have

ego-boxing

When I was a teenager, I stole twenty dollars out of my dad’s wallet.  I knew in my head it was wrong, but my thoughts justified my getting away with it. My dad would not miss the money. Knowing it was wrong in my head did not cause an immediate change in my behavior. I continued to rationalize my bad behavior until one day, I was hit by the truth: Knowing better with our heart or soul is a completely different matter than knowing in our head.

One of the fundamental reasons we ego-box with others is we think they should know better, and therefore do better. By letting them have a piece of our mind, we think we’re going to teach them to do better. Not in my experience. We cannot ego-box with others and expect them to throw their arms around us, kiss our cheek, and admit they are acting like a jerk.  Would you?

When people are cut off from the emotional responsibility of their heart, ego takes over, with endless justifications and rationalizations for negative, thoughtless, and self-centered behavior. It takes sensitive awareness to remain connected to and responsible for the way our actions impact other people and all life. The way we distinguish when people have awakened emotionally is when we see they are no longer blind to their impact on others. They begin seeing themselves in other people and other forms of life, and caring for them.

While growing up, a friend of mine was used as a punching bag by his father. He was the daily target of misplaced rage, disappointment, and feelings of inadequacy. Today my friend is a loving, peaceful, and thoughtful father. He chose to break the cycle of abuse by assuming responsibility for dealing with his emotional wounds, in order not to take his baggage out on himself, other people, or living things.

My friend knew better because he made the deliberate choice not to be like his father. He realized no amount of fighting back or screaming at his father had ever changed the man or gotten him to own up to his negative and physically abusive behavior. The only option my friend had was to do better, because he knew better.

When people know better on an emotional level, they do better.  Which means, until people assume responsibility for the way their actions negatively impact others, they will continue to rationalize their bad behavior. Believing other people should have known better, and therefore should have done better, is a fantasy. No matter what anyone else chooses to do, you can choose to let go of the fantasy.

Knowing better with our head and knowing better with our heart, so we actually do better, are two different things. Over the course of my life, I’ve done many things I am not proud of. I knew stealing the twenty dollars out of my dad’s wallet was wrong, but I did it anyway. Then one day I woke up emotionally by putting myself in my dad’s position. I questioned how it would feel to have money stolen from me. Asking “how would it feel?” connected me to a new level of awareness. It made me realize I am personally responsible for the consequences of my actions.

For me, stealing is a big issue, and wrong. For some people, stealing is wrong but still thought of as acceptable behavior.

So yes, those who abuse others comprehend, intellectually, their unsuitable behavior. But no, they do not realize it with emotional consciousness. If they did, it would enable the sensitivity of their heart to overrule the rationalizations of their egocentric mind and control their behavior.

I was around age eleven when a sixteen-year-old male babysitter molested me. He said, “I’ll cut your tits off if you ever tell anyone what I am doing.” I was terrified. Since he was the son of one of our neighbors, I was forced to see him often. I felt completely powerless. I had to keep the secret, unable to expose him or ask for protection.

When I was seventeen, a physician casually ordered his nurse to leave the room so he could molest me in private. He justified his actions as being part of the examination. But I knew he was touching me inappropriately.

These are two examples of times I’ve been deeply hurt or betrayed by the actions of others. For years I held onto the pain of being let down, ridiculed, bullied, slandered, persecuted, and abused. A continuous loop of negative memories played in my mind, keeping me shackled to a suitcase of blame and resentment for unjust mistreatment. Each day I grew angrier and more self-destructive from holding on to what I thought the people who hurt me should have done differently.

Refusing to let go of the fantasy of what could have been was like endlessly tearing a scab off a wound, preventing it from ever healing. I was unhappy and misguided, wandering aimlessly through life without the ability to focus on much else other than the growing list of ways I had been victimized. Perpetuating an angry-victim persona caused me to spiral downward into a state of constant annoyance, blame, and lack of self-respect.

Frustrated and feeling like a prisoner of the past, I finally sought help. I got other people’s advice. I went to a counselor. I attended support groups. I looked outside myself for years for the answer to how to heal. Yet no matter who or what I brought in to help, no matter how good the advice, I did not achieve the release I wanted until one day, like a bucket of ice water thrown in my face, the truth opened my eyes. To heal, I had to intentionally choose to move away from the past by no longer expecting people to know better.

The “aha” moment necessary for me to begin healing was accepting the lack of understanding on the part of the people who hurt me. They did not know better with the sensitivity of their heart.  No matter what happened to me back then, or what may have happened yesterday in an encounter with a rude driver, I was the one choosing to relive the negative event in the present. I was choosing to keep the hurt and resentment alive by assuming people who behave rudely, self-centeredly, and in hurtful ways should know better.

Those who mistreat others are oblivious to the pain they inflict. Even if the person who cut us off in traffic and then flipped us the bird were to emotionally wake up, assume responsibility for his actions, and beg our forgiveness, the past would still remain unchanged. What is done is done.

The act of understanding we cannot change the past allows us to wrap our heart around the truth: We are the only one capable of changing our present circumstances. To have the best rest of our life, we must take our power back by releasing the idea “people should have known better.”

Unless people are actively working to heal from their past pain, they unconsciously pass their injury onto others. We must remember, those people are clueless about how to change themselves to better their lives. So we must be the one who chooses to become more awake and aware. We are the one who takes responsibility for ourselves, our past, and our wounds, because it is by healing the holes within our heart that we become whole.

We have to be the one who ends the wounded dynamic from which we came.  Each of us must look within to find the source of our pain. Each of us must make the decision to heal. Healing our issues is all about the actions we take to release the resentment that came from wanting someone, or some situation, to be different than it was.

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If you are currently in an abusive situation, you must set a boundary with those people who hurt you. You must choose to respect yourself and walk away, if necessary. No matter how your heart might long for the other person to know better, they will not have a clue about their negative behavior until they choose to look at themselves with the honesty of their own heart.

Whether it is dealing with past abuse or someone who stole from you, release your “they should have known better” fantasy. Since you know negative behavior is not the way to create your best life, it is up to you to be the one who does better. The solution to healing your past and staying peaceful in the present is to let your behavior be proof: you know to do better.

Who We Really Are

My heart

I am far from perfect yet I have worked hard all of my life, and continue to do so, to establish myself as a kind, honest, responsible, peaceful, thoughtful, supportive, and respectful person.

I return the extra money given to me when someone makes a mistake. I pay my taxes. I obey the law. I look for the best in others. I give people the benefit of the doubt. When faced with temptation I intentionally choose to take the high road because doing the right thing makes life easier, more loving and fulfilling – even if it is hard to do. I am an open book with nothing to hide and no one to hide it from. And, each day I attempt to make the world a kinder and more peaceful place. So, I am confident all who know me will attest to and defend my  love in action character.

Yet, in today’s world my reputation as someone of responsible, kind and loving character could easily be damaged. Regrettably every day you and I see attempts to destroy the reputation of others. Some people seem to derive pleasure from participating in gossip, slander, and tearing down their fellow human beings. Some people are motivated by spite, money, revenge, wounded pride, or jealousy and actively attempt to hurt others. They do not hesitate to create false news and often create fake photos to support the lies they share. It seems we hear about this destructive behavior frequently in our social media and up-to-the-minute news reporting.

But, no matter what some among us choose to do, I will always hold onto a deep faith that the vast majority of us refuse to condone the creation of false stories and photos. The majority of us refuse to participate in slander and character assassination. The majority of us understand the desire to tear others down in an attempt to build ourselves us is motivated by fear, a lack of self-confidence, irresponsibility, and a self-centered agenda. And, I am confident the majority of us will continue to seek truth by consulting those who adhere to an ethical and moral code of reporting based on factual investigation.

As an ambassador of love I will continue to strive to be a person of impeccable character. I will continue to work hard to do as God asks us – to treat others as I want to be treated. Of course I will never be perfect, but I will continue to exercise the self-control necessary to keep myself from tearing others down to build myself up. I will continue to support others as I want to be supported. I will continue to consider the moral and ethical history of someone as a whole in order to determine who they truly are inside, just as I want the full body of my life’s actions and words to be considered when determining who I truly am.

Confidence is an Inside Job

Little Knight

Do you feel like you are your own person? Or do you feel insufficient without someone to complete you? Do you fear being abandoned? Or are you okay being on your own? Have you established your own worth? Or do you seek approval from outside yourself?

At one time, I had no self-confidence. I was insecure, needing other people to validate my existence. I would try to fix other people or completely lose myself in relationship. I sought approval from outside myself. I needed someone to complete me.

I was afraid of being abandoned. I clung to friends and the people I dated so tightly I smothered them with my insecurity.  In the end, every one of the “I must have you in my life” relationships ended.

At the time, I did not realize the fear of being abandoned had nothing to do with other people and everything to do with me.  I discovered other people are not responsible for always staying with me. I am the only constant in my life.  So my fear of abandonment, while rooted in childhood, was really about how I was abandoning myself.

Each time I did not stay aligned with my principles and values and went along with the crowd or allowed people to abuse me, I abandoned myself.  When I was financially irresponsible, or went against what I knew in my heart was best for me, or looked to someone else to make me happy, I abandoned myself.  WOW! What a wake-up call to realize the entire time I feared being abandoned, I was abandoning myself.

I have not feared being abandoned for many years.  I cannot make other people stay in my life, and it is not comfortable to have people who are clingy and fearful of being abandoned in mine.  I am the best friend and biggest supporter I’ll ever have, and my happiness and peace are the result of remaining true to myself by behaving with impeccability. When I accepted this, I released the fear of being abandoned.

Love yourself by taking time to uncover who you are and what you really want from life. Self-confidence comes from being comfortable marching to your own music, creating your own style, and refusing to just follow the crowd. Self-confidence comes from ending dependency and fears of being abandoned by not abandoning yourself. Self-confidence comes from refusing to waste time attempting to get other people to change. When you wisely invest the same energy in making the necessary changes to yourself, you will be comfortable in your own skin.

Self-confidence comes from being okay knowing there is no one coming to your rescue. Be your own superhero, your own knight in shining armor, by accepting this reality: A healthy sense of self-worth comes from knowing confidence is an inside job.

Change Begins by Accepting What Is

woman face in mirror

After two months at a job selling advertising for a small, family-owned newspaper, I was fired. There was no warning. There was no indication my performance was less than acceptable. In fact, I had received praise for increasing ad revenue. It did not make sense that I was abruptly terminated. Regardless of how much I wanted to identify the reason, no one in the company returned my calls. I became angry and depressed. Without accepting the reality that sometimes things happen with no logical explanation, I was stuck, unable to move on. For the next few months I did little to find a new job.

Many years ago I dated an alcoholic. I did not recognize the condition in the beginning, but over time it became clear as the incidents of intoxication began to add up. After each occurrence there was an apology, a request for forgiveness, and a promise it would not happen again. No matter how much I wanted the drinking to stop, it did not. No matter how much I prayed for follow-through on the promise to seek help, there was none.  I chose to believe what was promised, rather than accepting the repeated actions as proof of what was actually true. The result is that I stayed in the abusive relationship far too long.

A family I am acquainted with lost a child to a tragic accident. Before the accident, the father was a pillar of strength. He was also kind, compassionate, and had a positive outlook on life. That changed. Over the next few years he sank deeper into depression, clinging to what he thought should, would, or could have been. Blame was cast, lawsuits were filed, and a focus on revenge erased the memories of his once joyful life. Without the ability to forgive and deal with the tragedy, he was not able to be thankful for the joy life still held for him. He died a frail and bitter man unable to move on.

How much precious time do we waste wanting other people or situations to be different from how they are? Positive change begins by honestly looking at how unreasonable it is to suffer under the false impression we have the power to control or manipulate other people or the negative, frustrating, inconvenient, or heartbreaking situations we encounter in life.

Maybe someone leaves us for another or just ends the relationship. We have two choices. We can be angry, dwelling on what we think should be, but isn’t. Or we can mend our heart by learning from the experience, feeling our sadness, and picking ourselves up to move on. We choose to exchange a fantasy of the past and what “should be” for the opportunity to create a better “what is” reality in the present. This same formula works with whatever situations life throws at us.

Traffic jams and other delays are a frequent part of life. We do not receive the job we badly want and need. We realize we are in relationship with an abuser. We become conscious we are the one with a problem. The people and pets we love are sometimes taken away from us through illnesses or tragic accidents.

Relationships end. Our affection for another is not reciprocated. We slip and break an ankle. Our car is damaged by a hit-and-run driver. We lose our wallet or keys or our purse is stolen. Our luggage becomes lost or our flight is delayed or cancelled. We are diagnosed with cancer. Our parents become ill or their behavior radically changes. Someone is rude to us.

No amount of anger, yelling, worry, or desire for revenge changes what is real in the moment at hand. Only by accepting the present circumstance for what it is, rather than what we think it should, would, or could be, do we help ease the stress and upset that comes from the misconception we can control or change people and the uncontrollable and unchangeable situations of life.

When something happens in life that upsets your plans, take a deep breath. Slow down. Count to five. Relax into the truth that only by accepting what is real in the present can you take the necessary action to leave an abusive relationship. Or rebound from losing a job. Or seek help for an addiction. Or deal with an illness. Or appropriately honor the memory of a loved one.

Change begins when you accept what is, so you can begin to create what you want to be.