Monday, November 30, 2015

Affirmations of Truth, the stories we tell ourselves.

     Recently I had a life changing experience.  Literally a life changing experience.  One of those experiences that leave you totally changed and exhausted for days.  Actually for weeks.   And when my feet finally touched the ground, I realized I was a better person and the experience did actually change my life.

     Let me explain, We live our lives through stories we tell ourselves and we actually believe those stories.  The stories start from a young age and some of the stories, actually most of the stories are stories that others tell us about ourselves.   Often times  the stories told, at least in my life were hurtful and hard.   We don't want to believe them, but when those stories are told again and again we start to believe them and live them.  Some of the stories are good and some of the stories are bad.

     Funny thing is we want to believe the bad stories and I guess for me the reason is that the bad stories were repeated most often.   I didn't want to believe them, but took them in and believed that if so many believed the story and told me the story,  I must be wrong and they must be right.

     The stories that have the most impact on us are one's told when we are young.  Our minds absorb them and we believe them and those stories are the hardest to get away from.  I have learned how important it is that we tell our children and everyone around us good stories about themselves.  Stories like you are good,  your wonderful,  your talented, your fun, etc.  I love the book the Help,  the part where the maid tells the little girl, "You is good, You is Special".   How often do many of us go through life and especially childhood and never hear those words.   It can have a dramatic effect on us and our entire lives, the stories we are told when young.  Good or bad stories effect us deeply.

    The stories I remember from my youth that were told time and time again was that I had no value.  I was never good enough,  I was a sissy and many many other hurtful and hard things.  I was thinking recently that for the first 18 years of my life I could not remember ever really feeling wanted or loved.   I believed the stories that were told and I retold them to myself for years.   It is amazing how we can come to believe such stories and it is also so amazing how our belief in those stories effect every part of our lives.

     So, back to the story.   I went on a weekend retreat of sorts.  Part of the retreat was designed to help us see the stories we tell ourselves and come to terms about them.  For example some of the questions asked were:

Is the story or belief true?
How do you react when you think about the story or belief?
Is this your own story or one from someone else you adopted?
Is there a benefit to holding on to this story?
Can you turn it around?

     It was an amazing experience to take a good look at the stories I have told myself for years and years and discover that the story had changed,  and mostly it was never true to begin with.  As the retreat continued, I was able to change the story and in the process my heart softened and my life has been changed.  I left with an overwhelming realization of how harmful we can be to ourselves as we allow those stories to be believed.  I left the retreat with an overwhelming feeling of peace and joy as I was able to leave some of the most painful stories behind and start to believe in good stories.

     Now when I struggle,  I ask myself those questions and work out the story in my mind and usually I am able to turn it around and take a better look at who I really am and not believe the stories I have told myself and the stories others have told me in the past and present.  

     The real story about me and everyone is that we are sons and daughters of God with unlimited potential for good.  The real story is that we are harder on ourselves then we should be and we spend to much time focusing on the weaknesses,  that in truth are only a small part of the picture, and not enough time focusing on all the good within, that in truth is the big part of the picture.  Can you imagine the power we could have when we come to the understanding that we are children of God and when we truly understand that with that comes the ability to overcome great challenges  and become great in the process.

      I came away from my life changing experience with the firm affirmation that despite is all,  "I am a Good Man".   We are all good men and women with unlimited potential for doing good.  Despite the stories told,  this is the real story about each and every one,  WE ARE GOOD.   I hope that you can dismiss the harmful stories you tell yourself and replace them with strong affirmations of goodness and joy.  And most of all I hope we all come to understand how important it is that the stories we tell others about them only lift and encourage and leave them feeling good about who they are.  After all, a good story or a bad story can effect anothers life for years.  I choose to tell good stories.


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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Debilitating Power of Shame

Over the past few months I have been totally amazed at how quickly we can be to shame someone for  things going on in their lives.  In more particular we are quick to shame when we don't understand or accept a certain lifestyle, habit, or mindset.  I have watched how shame causes heartache and confusion in the lives of those affected.  Both the one being shamed and the one shaming.

I ask a few simple Questions.

What is the reason we choose to shame someone in the first place?
Do we think by shaming them we will get the desired result from them?
Does the act of shaming make me feel better about who I am?
Does the act of shaming make others feel better about who they are?
Does the shaming cause change or the desire to be better?

Question #1
What is the reason we choose to shame someone in the first place?  I have observed that when we choose to shame someone we are often filled with lack of understanding.   We act out on fear of what they are doing and most often the person we are shaming is close to us and we are consumed at how what they are doing will make us look.  Often it is not about them at all.  We are worried that someone will judge us because of what they are doing.  For example,  a wife that finds out that her husband struggles with Same Gender Attraction (SGA) shames him,  she is not thinking about the burden he  carries,  instead she most often struggles with what others will think of her.  Questions like,  Am I not good enough for him, and what have I done wrong.   Filled with these questions shame is piled on the man  when what he really needs is understanding and compassion.  Shame should never be applied or used, especially when someone is struggling with what we may consider a weakness.  We use shame as a shield to protect our image and our hearts.  When we strike with shame it justifies us and our feelings.  Yet in the process it destroys the trust and love of those we are shaming.

Question #2
Do we think by shaming them we will get the desired result from them?  Shame has never or never will give someone the desire to improve.  I should state that someone should feel regret for his actions, but shame is not the motivating power to get someone to even take a closer look at what we might consider a weakness.  Once again I will use the example of SGA.  Many who struggle with this are already filled with shame and frustration.  Does anyone for a moment think that anyone who struggles with this asked for this struggle.  Absolutely not and by shaming them we only add to the huge burden they already carry.  Shame does not lift or comfort,  it pulls one down deeper into despair and frustration.  If we really want someone to grow from the struggle they have we must put shame aside and open our hearts to love and understanding.  Even when we have no clue or comprehension what they are struggling with.  Shame does not heal,  it opens the wounds deeper and deeper until all hope is lost.

Question #3
Does the act of shaming make me feel better about who I am?
If we feel better after shaming someone who is struggling with any challenge we need to take a good look at our hearts.  I find myself examining my heart on a regular basis and find I need a constant reminder to remember that I have challenges of my own that others do now understand and so I try not to judge or shame those around me that are struggling.  Simple things that we might find offensive are often nothing in reality and the person who does them often times is unaware that what he is doing is offensive.  Often times when they are aware of what they are doing,  they are fighting the battle of personal shame.  We are our worst enemies when it comes to shame.  We really don't need anyone else doing it for us,  we do fine on our own.

Question #4
Does the act of shaming make others feel better about who they are?
I don't know anyone who feels better or has gained strength to improve after being shamed.  I believe that it just pulls one down and takes away the desire to be better.   On the other hand when we love and lift and encourage others who are struggling they move forward with faith and joy knowing that someone believes in them.  Kindness always wins and understanding always brings out the best in others.  Shame only destroys and often the heart is so tender that it takes very little shame to do a lot of damage.

Question #5
Does the shaming cause change or the desire to do better?
NO, NO, NO.   Shame is a horrible, mean, damaging thing to do.  If we want change in those around us we need to love, lift, and understand.  Only when we can put ourselves in the shoes of another and really try to see where they are coming from can we begin to have the power to lift others out of the shame they feel.  Shame is not a fix it all.  Shame does not bring about the desire to change.  We are not helping the struggling person when we try to shame them.  We need to be lifters and encourager's to build faith and confidence that no matter what we can all rise above any challenge we might have and live a life devoid of shame inflicted on us by others and ourselves.  We should never define ourselves by the shame we feel.  We are so much greater in every respect then the shame we bring upon ourselves or the shame that is inflicted upon us.

Shame only leads to frustration and heartache.  It does not build and strengthen.   Shame, I believe, takes away from the Divine Power of Grace.  Blessed be the person who comes to understand the Worth of a Soul and sees beyond the weakness or fault and can lift and love another without shaming them, even when we don't understand the burden they are carrying.

Greatest success to each of you as you learn to lift others above the personal shame they may be feeling.

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