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Remember, Your Actions Teach

My mother taught me to smoke cigarettes.  Of course it was not her intent to do so. But each time she lit up I learned by her example that smoking was okay, even though she told me over and over to “do as she said rather than as she did.” 

The problem with “do as I say not as I do,” is that 80-90% of all communication is non-verbal. That means our behavior is vastly more influential in teaching others than our words.   

One of the most important things for us to remember is that what to value and how to behave appropriately must be taught. You and I have the responsibility to be a positive example for others of how life works best, especially children, because they learn from watching us. So if we do not intentionally teach them how to behave and what to value they will learn on their own through television, video games, the internet, movies and their peers.  With something as important as values at stake, we do not want to leave their character to chance. One way to be a positive hands-on example is to remember it is our actions that teach.

Angels are Real

Yesterday my almost 90 year old father decided to remove some roots from his front yard. He went out with axe and began chopping. He worked hard all morning had a light lunch and a short rest. Then he went outside and began chopping again. After about an hour in almost 100 degree Texas heat, exhausted and dehydrated, he got very dizzy and almost fainted.  He staggered to a nearby tree and leaned against it. That is where Jonathon Keller found my dad.  He is a young man who just happened to be driving by. 

My dad went inside while Jonathon finished chopping all the roots. My father did not ask him too, he volunteered. And when he was finished Jonathon refused to take money my dad offered. He wanted to give my father, a complete stranger, the gift of finishing the job. 

This afternoon I called Jonathon to thank him for stopping to help my dad.  I was disappointed he was not home. When he returns he will have a message with my phone number and a request to call. I want to speak to the man who not only may have saved my father’s life but who selflessly gave his time to help a complete stranger.  I want Mr. Jonathon Keller of Marshall, Texas to know he is an angel, to me and my dad.

Face Your Fears

I have always disliked heights. So recently while visiting my parents I was tested. 

They live in the eastern part of Texas where humidity causes mold to grow on the underside of the eves and front porch of their house.  The only thing on my dad’s list of things I could help him with was to rid his painted siding of the mold.  I loaded a pump sprayer with a bleach mixture, carefully placed the ladder against the house, and began to climb. 

Reaching the top I bravely hoisted the sprayer onto the roof and carefully put one foot in front of the other, often crouching down as low as possible, as I slowly made my way to the top. Once at the peak I looked down and felt a flash of fear. Then I saw my father, looking small as he stood on the ground watching me.  Seeing him, my fear was replaced with determination. He needed me to do this.  No matter how stinky the bleach, or how hot the roof, or how my eyes stung when the wind caught the spray and sent it back into my face, I carried on. 

When I was finished I felt a great sense of accomplishment. While I am not ready for a career change to high-rise window washer or roofer, the next time I visit my parents I will climb back on their roof.  Doing so is the way to accept that while it is okay at times to be scared, it is not okay to allow fear to prevent us from doing what needs to be done to create our best life. That means it is necessary to face our fears head on so we learn that YES WE CAN!

Put Yourself in Another’s Shoes

I have not had the experience of serving on a jury. I have not been sequestered away from my family for weeks.  I have not been involuntarily thrust into a media and information vacuum. I have not been asked to wade through and make sense of mind-numbing and often contradictory laws and testimony. I have not been faced with having to listen and make sense of heart-wrenching and often contradictory evidence from both sides of a fence. And I have not been forced by judicial mandate to work cooperatively with a set of my peers to come to a decision that must by consensus both disappoint and please. 

No, I have not been asked to endure the psychological and emotional devastation that is the unavoidable fall-out of being a juror selected for a murder trial. 

One truth I have learned is that I do not have to walk in someone else’s shoes to know I do not want to follow in their footsteps. Another truth I have learned is that I would have to walk in their shoes to know for myself what mental and emotional hell going through such an ordeal is like.

 

Being Honest about Being Dishonest

At one time I was about $30,000 in credit card debt. I shopped and mindlessly charged in what I now realize was a desperate and misguided attempt to fill the emotional holes in my heart. My home was filled with stuff and no matter how much I bought, my heart was still empty. I was so tired of feeling out of control, like a hamster going round and round on a wheel.  

It was not easy to admit to myself how far removed I had been from personal responsibility. I ignored my gut and continued to lie to myself that shopping was good therapy. It was embarrassing and shocking to finally own up to the fact that I had been so dishonest with myself. Now I faced a huge financial challenge. Accepting the truth caused such a deep panic I remember falling onto the floor at the sheer impact of my situation. I was immediately filled with fear and worry.  I could not imagine how I was going to pay off all the debt. 

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and finally got control of myself. After a few days of living with the raw honesty of new reality I figured the only way to be free and to begin healing my heart-holes was to assume full responsibility for what I had created.  I tore up all my credit cards and established a payback plan. When the urge to shop hit I took a walk, sat alone outdoors in the natural world, called a friend to catch up, directly addressed the negative thoughts of my past, or went to a local organization and volunteered to help others. With time, each of the self-loving actions I took steadily wore away the need for something outside me to repair my broken heart. 

Over several years I did pay off the debt and today I am debt free. Getting free of such an irresponsible past was one of the biggest challenges I’ve overcome.  It happened when I became completely honest with myself. When I emotionally owned what I had created, instead of mindlessly ignoring what I did, I finally found the strength to successfully get off the wheel that was taking me nowhere.  

Today I am truly grateful for the experience. I know now the holes in my heart could only be repaired with self-love and respect. These are two of the things I found once I had the courage to be honest with myself about being dishonest with myself.

 

Setting Boundaries Brings Higher Awareness

Until recently I had no clue was a troll is.  But in the past month about two dozen people have been banned from my FB page. Most likely their comments were not seen as the security filters are high or I quickly caught their comments.

I am blessed that the majority of us choose to gather on FB to share positivity, support, and messages of inspiration to grow ourselves into better, more responsible, peaceful and loving people.  With that goal in my heart I am happy to engage in discussions that are respectful and beneficial. Also it is certainly okay if someone questions or disagrees with something that is posted. But, I do not engage with people who sarcastically attack others through cowardly cyber bullying.

Being a group of people who are working to live more from heart than ego does not mean we are weak or push-overs. We do not need to be intimidated by those who behave unconsciously motivated by a negative, misinformed egocentric belligerence. I encourage us to remain compassionate in the truth, “if they knew better they would do better.” We remain respectful.  We remain peaceful and calm. We accept the wisdom that there is no merit in ego-boxing with people. 

While some may feel that these people are the very ones best served by remaining a part of our group, each of us must be receptive to looking within to grow and learn. It is my experience some people are stuck in blame, one-mindedness, and resentment to the point they are only open to seeing their angry, condemning and often distorted view of others and the world.

To bring a higher, wiser level of awareness to our lives we refuse to tolerate abuse because abuse is never LOVE. Therefore, part of our responsibility is to set boundaries with people who attack, insult, or bully others. We block them from FB, ban them from hanging around our children, removed ourselves from abusive family and friends, and whatever other actions are necessary to clearly define acceptable behavior in how we treat one another.

The Power of a Smile

Walking home from the gym I passed a very old man in a wheelchair who was sitting next to his care giver outside a local coffee shop.  As I walked by he said, “Hello, gorgeous!” I turned around and replied, “Well hello to you sweetheart.” “Come back over here and say that to my face,” the old man said smiling from ear to ear. 

I bent down, taking his hand in mine and said, “How are you today, sir?” “Just wonderful, and you?” “My day was great but it is even more wonderful thanks to you,” I replied.  He smiled even bigger and winked at me. 

As I walked away I passed a group of women who were walking in his direction. I heard the old man say, “Well hello there lovely ladies.” They were smiling as they stopped to say hello to the old man. 

What a sweet encounter and a great reminded how powerful a smile and a kind word are to brighten someone’s day.

Tough Love

One of the most challenging things about caring for others is accepting we CANNOT control or change anyone else but ourselves.  Our adult child is being abused in relationship, or faces jail time, or is hooked on drugs, or cannot keep a job, relationship, etc.  Yes, these things are hard to witness. And no, we cannot make their choices or live their life for them.

Each of us has our own journey in life. That means when we reach adulthood and we stumble we must choose to pick ourselves up. We cannot do that if someone is there to soften our fall or always pick us up. We do not learn, grow and make positive permanent changes if other people try to do our work for us.

It’s not easy to watch those we care for collapse under the weight of their negative choices. Sometimes we witness this over and over again. But we cannot “fix” someone. Unless that person wants to fix him/herself, our words will fall on deaf ears and a closed heart. 

What we can do is set boundaries to bring a higher level of awareness to the relationship we have with those who are hurting themselves and others.  We can focus our energy on staying centered and balanced so when the people we love decide to pick themselves up and change we are there to offer support. That is why it is called “tough love.” Yes, it is hard and yes, it is still love. 

Yes, You Can

Have you noticed when we tell ourselves we “can’t” do something it actually means we don’t want to? Deep down we know we need to leave an abusive relationship, or master ourselves to say in control of our behavior, or to set boundaries out of love for ourselves. Yes, we can do these things but by saying “I can’t” we actually mean we are afraid to take the actions necessary. We are fearful because we are familiar with our current situation, no matter how bad it is. It has become uncomfortably comfortable. We don’t want to change because we are frightened of how the situation will be if we actually go through by taking the action we know we must.

The absurdity of believing the ego-motivated fear “I can’t” is that we are intentionally preventing ourselves from creating the life we say we want. The actions we are fearful of taking are the exact ones that will end our suffering.

Yes, it takes courage, determination and faith. Yes, we must love ourselves more than we fear the unknown. Yet the hard truth is, we must earn our freedom from suffering and fear because a happy, peaceful and fulfilled life does not just happen. We must intentionally create it. We start the moment we stop telling ourselves “I can’t” and began the self-support of “Yes I can and I WILL find a way.”

Trust Behavior Over Words

One of the most important things I learned is that love is not blind. People showed me exactly who they were. Too often I preferred to see who I wanted them to be rather than who they really were, even when they continued to show me the worst of themselves.

Part of loving me was learning to see people’s behavior for the truth of what it really was rather than the fantasy I was creating and clinging to in the name of love. The first step was learning to see my behavior for what it really is too.