Graceful Tolerance

We’re living in a time of intense polarization among our fellow Americans. There are those that have such a passion for their beliefs, they do not allow others to express anything that may challenge it. In an effort to disqualify opposing views, they may attack or explode with toxic, abusive, and/or destructive behavior. This polarization is not just destroying relationships; it’s destroying our country.

With regard to politics, polarization has increased rapidly over the last 40 years. Meaning, citizens feel more negativity toward the other political party than their own. When people from differing political camps cease to respect each other, it’s much harder to make political compromises and to create good public policy.

In recent years, it seems that the divide reaches far beyond political opinions. Some people may be easily offended by others, with an insecure and unhealthy bias that is based on their own belief system.  With easy access to the internet and groups of various affiliation, it is quite easy to surround yourself with like minds, whether right or wrong.

Yet tolerance is the amazing quality of allowing others to do or believe what they want to do/believe, even if you do not agree with it. It is fair and objective. It does not judge nor condemn. Being tolerant of others is a moral virtue and a behavior we should all seek to characterize. Even further is acceptance, embracing and celebrating the differences of others.

When we tolerate the actions and beliefs of others, we are giving them grace, and giving grace to others is God’s will for us. With unconditional acceptance, we open the door to more wisdom, more peace, and more love. With grace, we provide the opportunity to learn from those with opposing views. And although we may believe that our way is the right way, given our humanistic capacity, we often fall short. We may seek to influence others with our own beliefs and maybe even change their minds, however, we need not fix our countenance on making it so.

Expressing tolerance for others can be beneficial for all involved. According to Psychology Today, showing tolerance to others allows them to learn from their consequences in their own time and find their way without trying to control them.

Ways to help you to tolerate others:

  1. Seek to understand their position
  2. Empathize with their beliefs
  3. Place emphasis on your similarities and ignore the differences
  4. Accept that uncertainty is ok
  5. Review your own beliefs, where they were derived, and whether valid

When you feel challenged with tolerance, check yourself first. Evaluate your thoughts and make sure that you are reacting from a healthy place. When your state of mind is disturbed by another, your ego may want to retaliate. Do not let it. Show patience with others by understanding that you yourself have likely, at some point, disturbed the peace of another. Whatever your surroundings may provide, you can always choose to grace with tolerance.

The Blessing in Reconciliation

It is not unusual for people to drift in and out of our lives. They may stay for a season; they may stay for our lifetime; but there’s one thing I know for sure, divine appointments happen for a reason. They can be a blessing or a lesson.

It is also not unusual to find yourself in conflict with someone you care or cared about. We all carry emotional baggage that can trigger us or someone else. There can be misunderstanding, hurt or neglect that causes significant damage. As unfortunate as it may be, it’s possible for a conflict to affect a relationship so badly that it causes a separation. Forgiveness and reconciliation may seem impossible.

Scarlett shared a story about her dad with “Love What Matters.” He was an addict and died of an overdose in 2018. Their relationship had been difficult. Scarlett often found herself angry at him, angry at his comments, angry at his inability to do life, angry at his drunkenness and homelessness. Although she loved him, she frequently found herself embarrassed by him. Now that he is gone though, there is no chance of a healthy reconciliation. She is still angry, but she is angry at herself. She’s mad that she let her inability to forgive him affect the relationship. She says, “give forgiveness, because my regret over withholding it is stronger than all the anger I felt throughout the years. I forgave too late.”

Sometimes in life we have to choose between doing what’s easy and doing what’s right. Mending fences may not seem easy, but it may indeed be the right thing to do. The path to mending these vial connections starts with a foundation of forgiveness and a genuine desire for reconciliation. When we take the time to understand others and what they have been through, it may be possible that nothing is unforgivable.

Obstacles to forgiveness:

Pride – So long as you are hurt, you may feel that you are better than the person who hurt you.

Shame – You will need to come to terms with what happened.

Seeking vengeance – Retaliation is rarely noble and often unnecessary.

Clinging to being a victim – do you feel special status with being a victim?

In reality, to reconcile means to forgive, and to forgive means to let go of resentment and anger. For your part, take a look at your responsibility in the separation, if any. If self-forgiveness is needed, give yourself that gift. Empathy and compassion are great tools. Empathy helps you to understand another and compassion encourages you to take the action needed to reduce suffering.

Don’t wait until it is too late to reconcile a relationship. You can take action now. Release the negative emotions, forgive them, and reach out. Do what you know to be right, and don’t be a Scarlett.

Redemption

The term redemption can have many meanings. It is an act of buying back something sold, delivering someone from captivity, or saving someone from sin.

Reference to the second definition can be found in the movie Shawshank redemption. The lead character in the move is sent to prison for the murder of his wife and her lover. During the trial and even after incarceration, he continued to proclaim his innocence. He made good use of his time in prison (20 years) by helping others. He expanded the prison library, coached others to attain their GED, and was a finance guru to those in authority. When he finally escaped the inept justice system, he revealed the corruption and began a new life in Mexico with proceeds skimmed from his financial assistance to others. The title of the movie emphasizes his delivery from captivity.

Are you yearning for redemption? Is there a situation or trial in your life that is making you feel trapped or captive to it? Perhaps it is a job, or a relationship. Take some time to evaluate the situation and examine your options. Try to move forward with action in the most practical manner. Consider seeking an objective perspective from someone you trust. Understand that your circumstances, whatever they may be, are not forever. Change is the only permanent aspect of life. This too shall pass. Have faith, hope, trust, and the courage to keep your focus on what is best for you.

According to Encyclopedia.com, Christian theology defines redemption as God’s deliverance of mankind form the evil of sin and His restoration of man to the state of grace by an act of divine power and merciful love. It is a fulfillment of Christ and a representation of both forgiveness and salvation. It is a gift to all and deserving of all. We cannot accomplish spiritual redemption in and of our own strength.

There are many verses in the bible that address redemption. Romans 3:24 says, “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God. Jesus talked a great deal about faith, a catalyst for grace, leading to redemption.

It is in the spirit of love, that Jesus has paid the ransom, releasing us from sin and providing us with everlasting life. Know that you are worthy to accept his gift of love. As we surrender to his will in our life, we embrace his tender mercy.

“The doctrine of grace and redemption keeps us from seeing any person or situation as hopeless.”

~ Timothy Keller

The Spirit of Offense

Have you ever been offended by something someone said or did? According to the dictionary, to be offended means to feel or express hurt, indignation, or irritation because of a perceived wrong or insult. The key word in this definition may be “perceived.” The bible says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

According to Psychology Today, there is an epidemic of offense spreading faster than Ebola. With world events and politics so easily shared on social media, people are quick to judge and are also intolerant of any view that might differ from their own. While it is possible to take offense to rude language, for example, people will often take offense to what was meant or implied, rather than what was actually said. This happens when we are triggered by what is said or done. We are triggered because we choose to identify with it, perhaps due to a past hurt that has not been healed. This often leads to reaction.

The spirit of offense is subjective. Which means ill feelings may be more about the offended than the offender. What incites a reaction in one person may not affect another, and although we may have many reasons to be offended, should we be? Perhaps the spirit of offense is optional, a choice.

If you find yourself in a situation that offends you, pause before reacting. Take a moment to do a self-check. Ask yourself if your feelings are justified and if your response is due to a past hurt. Reacting, in turn, in a way that is hurtful is not the answer. Seek first to understand the other’s position and perception, then you may choose to foster a heart to heart discussion to calm the waters.

Taking unnecessary offense to another, can destroy a relationship and lead to misunderstanding. Overcoming the spirt of offense is possible. We can make sure that our expectations of others are realistic, acknowledge and heal our wounded spirit, and never assume negative intent of another.

Even if the spirit of offense feels justified, you can always go another route. You can take the high road, and keep your peace.

Cultivating Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is the ability to control your behavior in a way that leads you to be more productive, have better habits and achieve positive results. The key, some might say, is in the control. Our ability to control our thoughts, feelings, and behavior is a catalyst to self-discipline. In addition, there seems a direct correlation between self-discipline and societal success. The world glorifies those deemed successful. So how can we cultivate self-discipline and transport ourselves into our own personal success story?

  • WHAT IS YOUR END GAME? Take some time to develop a realistic and achievable goal. Write it clearly with specific language and intent.
  • SET REALISTIC MILESTONES. Break down your goal in individual units or tasks. What does the completed task look like and what is the most effective timeline to achieve it? Make sure to post specific dates or the planned duration for each task.
  • EVALUATE MILESTONES. Set appropriate time(s) to analyze the milestone that you are current in the process of achieving. Are you putting in the time and effort needed to achieve the milestone as planned? If not, what can you do to adjust your effort? Make those adjustments as needed.
  • STAY THE COURSE. All great athletes started somewhere. It is guaranteed that they were not an overnight success. Self-discipline requires a motivation to success and the perseverance or patience to continue moving forward through any challenges that might arise.

Self-discipline can be helpful in all areas of life, how you eat, exercise, work, play, and love. If you can master it in one area of your life, you can transform that blueprint to other areas as well. There are many books available to assist with attaining and maintaining discipline and self-control.

Distraction will surely take you off course. If you find yourself distracted, your mind is seeking an escape from the task at hand. To reduce the risk of distraction, manage your time and stick to a schedule. Remind yourself as distracting thoughts arise, that they can be addressed later, when you have completed the needed task at hand. Stay focused until the task is complete.

When you choose to purse your goals with intention and perseverance, you build something better for yourself, you build success.

The Passion in Compassion

In 1995 Christopher Reeve became paralyzed from the neck down following a horse-riding accident.  He landed on his head, suffering a cervical spinal injury after shattering his first and second vertebrae. From that point on, Christopher was dependent on a wheelchair for mobility and a respirator for breathing. His wife Dana is known for her compassionate caregiving and support of her husband, post tragedy.

While compassion and empathy both refer to a caring response to someone’s distress, compassion can lead to action. For example, Dana’s compassion for her husband’s fate invoked a passion to care for him. Compassion creates space to suffer along with others, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate that suffering.

With bible translation, compassion means to have mercy, to feel sympathy and to have pity. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul directs them to “be kind to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

How can we show compassion for others?

First we must see, acknowledge, and feel the suffering of others. As we seek to make the world a better place, we can be motivated to improve the lives of others, to give what is needed, to show humility and the light of humanity. We can speak kindly and softly, advocate on other’s behalf, and offer resources, while showing empathy to their strife.

We were not created to live on an island. We are meant to live in harmony with others. The gift(s) you give to others can never be taken away. It becomes part of your and their history, withstanding all aspects of time. What does it cost you to be kind? If you find yourself in a place of abundance, look to share it with someone less fortunate. It’s really a win-win. Associate with the difficulties of others, honor and respect where they are, and give what you can, whether it be time, service, or money. You can lift up another, and with that true and honest compassion, lift yourself.

Trusting

Trust:  A firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

The term ‘trust’ can be used to describe a belief in the truth of an object, for example, “I believe that the rope bridge is safe, therefore I will venture across it.” Yet more often, the term is used in the context of a relationship. To trust in someone is to rely on their integrity and a belief that what they communicate through words and deeds is indeed true.

In the initial stages of a relationship, you don’t really know the person yet, so there could be no trust, or you may trust not so much based on their words or behavior, but rather on your personal bias towards others. For example, if you have not been betrayed in the past, you may be more likely to trust quickly. There are no rules that outline how long it should take to trust. Trusting may be more about the personalities involved than about any allotted timeframe. No matter the circumstance, the trust of others should never be abused or taken for granted.

Trusting in the ways of life is easy when things appear in flow, but to trust when your life is falling apart, that takes a great deal of faith. When life is challenging, and you feel that you have no one to turn to, know that you always have someone in your corner. Someone who will have your back, who will listen with empathy and guide with compassion. Our God is trustworthy and steady. Seek out his wisdom and spend some quiet time listening for his guidance.

The truth is, God is everywhere. He is on the mountain top and he is in the valley. He is in the sunshine and in the rain. He is in the cries of the newborn, and the smiles of the elderly. Know that you are here for a reason and whether you are on the mountain or in the valley, God is with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. He hears your prayers and understands you heart. Trust in his will for you. Trust in his timing.

As you trust in him, be yourself trustworthy. There is a saying that states, “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.” We may not have the ability to control the words and deeds of others, but we can be a person of integrity ourselves. We can be an example of truth to others. We can proclaim our truth and live by it.

Resiliancy

A boy named Peter began swimming at the age of 3. He won so many metals in swimming events in his youth, that he earned the nickname Dolphin. His dream was to win an Olympic medal for his country.

One particular day while traveling to a swimming event, Peter and his dad were in a terrible accident. Both were severely injured and were admitted to a nearby hospital. When Peter regained consciousness, he learned that his father had not survived. Although Peter survived, he discovered that he had lost both his hands in the accident.

After months of treatment, Peter returned home where he came across an old poster crafted by his father which said, “Proud to be Peter’s father. One day my son will win the Olympic metal!” Peter broke down. His mother consoled him, “Peter your father always wanted you to achieve big in swimming. I’m sure you are going to fulfil his dreams.” He replied, “Mom how can I? Can’t you see me?” She said, “This is not the end of the world. Go and find a way to achieve your dream. There is always a way, my Dolphin.”

Peter then began to explore a path to achieve his dream. He began training for the Paralympics swimming event. He slowly progressed and began to break records and win events. Fulfilling his dad’s dream, he went on to win multiple medals in the Paralympic games. Peter showed resilience in the face of great tragedy.

Resilience signifies the ability to bounce back after adversity or trauma. our ability to be resilient may be affected by our upbringing or social circle, how we view the world around us, and/or our specific coping strategies.

According to in-depth interviews with 150 leaders, a well-developed network of relationships can help a person rebound from any setback. It’s possible to cultivate meaningful authentic connections via many aspects of life. These relationships become a toolbox that we can draw from during difficult times. It is never too late to create a tribe of refuge.

And remember that in the midst of challenges, there can be growth in suffering. Tap into your community database, accept change, act despite fear, and gain emotional regulation. It is never too late in the game to learn resilience. Move forward into your new superpower and shine bright.

References: https://winnersstory.com/short-stories-about-resilience-1/?expand_article=1

https://hbr.org/2021/01/the-secret-to-building-resilience

Living Authentically

Authenticity is the degree to which a person’s actions are congruent with their values and desires, despite external pressures to social conformity.

The world may direct you to be someone or something that does not correspond to your true authentic self. When you follow that direction, you are being inauthentic. Learn to quiet the noise of the world; restrain your desire to place value on how the rest of the world is thinking. What is authentic to you is what you feel in the core and depth of your being, in innocence. For the innocent heart is not needy and needs not the approval of others.

Anytime that you see yourself not living authentically, take a deep breath and let your illusions be shattered by becoming transparent and telling the truth. You may feel a sense of isolation in being authentic, yet, you no longer will feel the need to look a certain way, or succeed a certain way so the judgment of the world can nod its head in affirmation. When you do not live in authenticity, you create imprisonment for the soul. Begin the process of discovering what thoughts, beliefs, and values are yours and not merely the influence of others.

Ask yourself:

  • Where am I being inauthentic?
  • Where am I just showing up in a way that others expect me to?
  • Where am I following a certain ideology so that I might feel superior to those that are not?
  • Where am I denying my humanity in order to present a specific image to another?

When we truly step into who we are, living authentically, we cultivate deeper relationships while respecting ourselves and others more fully. We can have the courage to stand tall in our character and surrender to the outcome. As we do so, we create space to relax and expand in our truth. When we trust the journey to authenticity, we are beautifully and wonderfully made anew.

The Art of Grieving

WHAT IS GRIEVING?
Grief is an emotion that everyone will likely experience at some point in their life. It can be expressed as mental suffering due to the loss of someone or something. The expanse of the grief that might be felt can vary from person to person and also with respect to the actual event. For example, two people may both lose their jobs from the same employer at the same time, yet one may experience more grief as a result. Everyone’s walk is different yet there are strategies that may be helpful to all.


1)      ACKNOWLEDGE THE PAIN: Hiding your emotions, avoiding the feeling of pain or loss can only prolong the process of grieving. Sit with them. Although we may be wired to run from pain, this natural instinct cannot lead us to a place of healing. Accept the event or loss. Tell yourself, “Yes, I recognize, understand, and accept that this event happened to me and I feel _____.”
2)      LABEL THE EMOTION(S): Investigate your feelings at a deeper level. You labeled a feeling in step one. Are there more? Has the event left you feeling shame, guilt, anger, sadness, fear, worry, rejection, envy, hopelessness, distress, sorrow, disappointment? With introspection, you are likely to uncover more than one feeling or emotion tied to the occurrence. The more of them that you can acknowledge and label, the more hope you will have in healing them.
3)      HAVE INTENTION: At some point, you will decide that it is time to end the grieving process. You will be ready to be done with it and move on. When you are, say to yourself several times a day, “I intend to express and release this emotion (feeling) from my body.”
4)      EXPRESS THE PAIN: Studies have shown that negative emotions actually weaken the body. Suppressing them utilizes high amounts of energy, robbing our bodies of useful, vital function. There are several safe methods that one might use to express negative emotion.
a.       Exercise: Physical movement provides for elimination of physical, emotional and mental toxins while triggering the release of endorphins that make you feel good. Exercise need not be taxing. Walking near moving water can be especially soothing.
b.      Writing: Journaling allows you to tune in to your true feelings. It has no impact on others and allows you to express yourself in a safe environment. Start with a description of the event, then turn your focus from the external to the internal. Express your feelings with as much detail and fullness as possible. And if you choose to write a letter to someone else, it is a means of catharsis, whether you ever actually deliver it.
c.       Art therapy: Art therapy has been very useful for the expression of feelings in children. There is no reason why it could not be equally useful in adults. Create a sketch of what you are feeling. It need not be museum quality. Only you need see it. Freedom of expression and self exploration is the key.
d.      Verbal Expression: You can confide in a close friend or relative. Just be mindful that this form of expression may challenge the relationship over time. Another option might be to acquire the service of a therapist, counselor or wellness coach. Feeling safe to express yourself honestly and without judgment is critical. As crazy as it might sound, talking to yourself in the mirror may also be helpful.
e.      Aggressive Expression: This may sound a bit strange but I have found screaming to be quite helpful for expressing my emotions. You can find a remote area, put your hands over your ears and just let it rip. Screaming into a pillow may also work. Just don’t try it in a confined space, like your car, it is damaging to the ears. You might also consider breaking something, something of little value of course.
f.        Music Therapy: You could say that emotions resonate at a certain energy level or vibration. For example, hopefulness resonates at a much higher vibration than hopelessness. There may be a certain type of music that you are drawn to during the grieving process. Music that aligns with your energy. Music can be very healing. Continue to seek out music that makes you feel good during your journey.
5)      RELEASE THE PAIN: Releasing the pain is similar to expression yet one step further along our path. When we are ready to release, we understand that the grieving process has served its purpose. It no longer serves us and we are willing to let it go. Do not place judgment on yourself or others with regard to the timing of this step. There is no right or wrong, no pre-set timeline when it comes to grief. You will know when you are ready.
a.       Breath work: Sit or lie flat in a quiet, comfortable location. Breathe gently through the nose while placing attention on the heart. Imagine that with each inhale you are taking in grace, love, and acceptance. With each exhale, imagine that you are releasing those negative emotions that no longer serve you. Continue with these deep, long, slow inhalations and exhalations for a minimum of 10 minutes. Breath work is especially helpful when done outdoors in the “fresh” air.
b.      Meditation: Meditation has been shown to improve psychological balance and enhance overall health and well-being. Sit or lie comfortably and focus your attention on the breath. Try to clear your mind of any thoughts and just focus on your breathing. Counting each breath, counting during each breath, or humming might be helpful. Try to stay in this space for a minimum of twenty minutes. You may find that after practicing mediation, certain insights become more apparent.
c.       Laughter Therapy: You will reach a point when you are ready to laugh again. Laughter therapy promotes overall health and wellness by relieving emotional stress. It can lift the heavy burden of loss and provide a welcomed respite. In fact, I know of a woman who believes she successfully treated her cancer by watching comedies on TV. Laughter is not only a form of expression, it is a form of healing. Give yourself permission to laugh.
d.      Emotional Freedom technique (EFT): This is a wonderful technique that utilizes the combination of talk therapy and acupuncture meridians. You basically say out loud, “Although I feel ____, I love and accept myself.” And you say this while tapping through several acupuncture points. You can find specific guidance if you search this topic on-line.

Grieving is a process and everyone’s journey is different. Feeling uncomfortable with someone else’s journey through grief is normal, but placing a deadline or judgment on someone else is unhelpful. Each of us needs to set our own pace. With respect to you, allow yourself to feel your feelings and walk through the stages of expression and release. You need not feel alone during the process. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for love, comfort and acceptance. But always keep in mind that ultimately, total acceptance can only be found in self. Find the good in your situation, bless the event for what it provided, then release it and move forward into the light of your grace.