The Freedom to Belch in Public

A couple weekends ago, Ainsley and I were out touring a local gym. As we headed up the stairs with the membership salesperson, listening as he described the cardio room, Ains let out a massive belch. When we got to the top of the stairs, she let out a second burp. Exercisers from across the room glanced over on their treadmills and elliptical machines, smiling at the discovery that such a tiny person had just let out such a booming sound.

When babies burp it’s adorable and hilarious but as adults this kind of behavior is taboo and quite simply, gross. At some point in our lives, we become aware of what is and isn’t acceptable socially and we begin to adapt our behavior accordingly.

While most of us would probably admit that belching in public is not preferable, there are other parts of ourselves that we hide due to embarrassment, insecurity or shame. For example, financial hardship, marital strife, a difficult child… we often don’t let others in on these struggles because we don’t want them to think we aren’t holding our families together. Or what about depression, anxiety or anger issues. At some point we learned that these are family secrets, not to be let out beyond the walls we’ve built around our lives.

If others find out, we fear they may reject us. They may not think we’re perfect (although, did they ever?). They may think we can’t keep it together… that we have issues. We were told that our tears are not worth shedding. That we “are just overreacting.” That “it’s not that bad.” That other people “have real problems.” We learned to hide instead of bring these feelings, circumstances and struggles out into the open. We are afraid that if we do, others may not like us anymore or we may become outcasts, when in reality, letting people in often results in the opposite; closeness with others and freedom for ourselves.

Sharing is a risk. It requires vulnerability. This is not easy and for some, the concept is entirely foreign. Shame and vulnerability researcher, Brene Brown, says in the Huffington Post article, Dare to Live Greatly:

Vulnerability is about uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. We have convinced ourselves that if we armor up every day — if we try to be perfect or know everything — then somehow we can minimize the things we fear feeling the most: disappointment, fear, shame, and unworthiness. But these emotions are part of the human experience. When we minimize them, we end up cutting ourselves off from the meaningful experiences that are born of vulnerability — that require vulnerability — including belonging, joy, creativity, innovation, trust, and empathy.

So how do we become more vulnerable, or at least more comfortable with the idea? According to Brene Brown:

What we need to figure out is how to have the courage to show up, to be imperfect, be human, be seen, ask for help, own our mistakes, learn from failure, lean into joy, and celebrate success.

That’s quite a list. What I’m working on right now is her first point; having the courage to show up.

This season has not been easy for Jake and me. Our little family has had our world turned upside down from a place of comfort and stability to the unfamiliar realities of parenthood, stressful work environments and isolation in a fast-paced new city. Each day we start over. We wake up to a fresh start and even if we accomplish nothing else, we simply try to be positive and present. We simply show up.

I Take Thee…

Three years ago I made the best decision of my life – I married my best friend. Last weekend we celebrated the fact that we made it! Three years may not be long in the grand scheme of things but when you’re living day-to-day, it’s not short.

I am not a risk-taking kind of person and thankfully at the time, I had no idea how big a risk getting married would be. It didn’t even occur to me, until I was sitting out on the balcony of my honeymoon suite in Cancun, that my life was not completely my own anymore. And boy did this hit me like a ton of bricks. My new husband was utterly confused and I’m sure more than a bit nervous at what he had just gotten himself into. He calmly explained that the day we got engaged he understood that he was stepping into a lifelong commitment. And that my life would impact his and vice versa. Somehow that fact had escaped me.

Three years later, after a number of other breakdowns, crises and major life events, we’ve survived. Not only that, we’ve become stronger and more joyful people somehow.

Marriage is kind of mysterious that way. The more you go through together, especially the hard stuff, the more beautiful it becomes. Like a potter who spends hours molding ugly, dirty, smelly clay. As it begins to take shape, a unique and precious piece of art is formed.

Want to know the best news of all? It’s not finished yet. We are not finished. Our marriage is still a work in progress. And if the past three years have been this good, I can only imagine what the next 30 have in store.

Day 11 – How to love those who are hard to love

Yesterday was all about the benefits of loving our enemies. But it’s a lot easier said that done. Today is all about how we do it. Or at least some thoughts on how we can try.

Martin Luthor King, Jr. gave a sermon called Loving your Enemies at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957. I included a few excerpts from his talk as well.

1) Get to know the person. It’s a lot easier to be hateful to large, abstract people groups, than to real, live individuals we actually know. So often we pick an issue we disagree with and somehow the people who fall into that category – “them” – become an object of our disdain and disapproval. It’s one thing to disagree with an action but don’t turn the individual into an object of hate as well.

Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must not do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.

– Martin Luthor King, Jr.

2) Take a walk in their shoes. Once you’ve had a chance to get to know them a bit, try to imagine what their life must be like. They face struggles and hardships like the rest of us. They may put on a tough front, but is that who they really are? Once your empathy kicks in, it will be a lot easier to love them.

3) Take a deep breath and walk away. Sometimes the best thing to do is just take a break. My husband and I learned this in pre-marital counseling. When you’re in the midst of a fight you can keep yelling, screaming and refusing to understand one another or you can walk away (on the condition that you’ll come back later to work things out). Sometimes you reach a point where there is nothing more to say or do and all you need is some time away to process. The same goes when you’re feeling unloving or even utterly disgusted at someone. Walk away, gain perspective and come back fresh.

4) Find something to appreciate in “your enemy”. There has to be some redeeming quality in the person. Find it and remember it always. Once you’ve found one, try to find another. It is hard to hate someone who you actually like in some ways.

A second thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and everytime you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points.

– Martin Luthor King, Jr.

5) Forgive. Is this person your enemy because of something that happened in the past? Forgive them. You’ll experience great freedom when you do.

6) Pray for them. God will change your heart. He will soften it if you allow Him to.

These are by no means profound. This stuff is hard! These are baby steps that might get you thinking about forgiving and learning to love those people who are hard to love.

Any other ideas?

Day 10 – Love Your Enemies

It’s really easy to “love our enemies” in theory. I mean, for the most part we can generally avoid being around them. So what if you have a falling out with some of your old high school friends and then go your separate ways. You don’t have to see them anymore, you can choose not to ask about them and pretty much distance yourself from them entirely. Piece of cake.

Not that avoidance is a healthy answer but when it happens naturally it certainly makes “loving our enemies” easier.

But what about those people you see every day? The ones who just rub you the wrong way? The people who are a lot harder to love.

Whether you are a follower of Jesus or not, this idea is a valuable one. Yes it is biblical, but the truth is, hating people spreads misery and allows bitterness to fester inside of you. To love others is to be free and joyful so why not follow this principle?

I was reminded of this today. To love. Here are some compelling reasons I am trying to hold onto on days like this when it’s more difficult:

1)      Loving people will make me happier. Sound a bit selfish? Maybe it is. But to love others is to take the focus away from my own frustration  and shift it to the outside. My husband often jokes with me because he’ll leave me alone for a bit and inevitably I end up having all kinds of crazy ideas, new worries, irritations, stress and more. He tells me I can never be left alone for long. It’s true that when we have too much time to focus on ourselves we get stuck in our own thoughts and often lose perspective. Focus on others. Love others. You’ll be a happier person.

2)      Loving people will make others happier. Love is contagious. So is joy. Entire atmospheres can be improved when people are willing to let things go and focus on the positive.

3)      “To love another person is to see the face of God.” I learned this from “Les Miserables.” Isn’t it true though? God is love. So, to love others is to show them a taste of God. And a chance to experience His goodness for ourselves.

4)      Loving people sets a good example. It’s not that I’m suggesting you try to impress people or appear better than you are. But just like point #2, when you’re loving and accepting, others might see your example and strive for that as well. Especially if you have children or are a leader.

5)      Loving your enemies builds character. I feel like I am in a serious character-building time in my life right now. Let me tell you, it is not easy and it is not fun. But I am learning how to be a more patient person, more loving, more prayerful and did I mention more patient?

 

Tomorrow I’ll get into some “how-to’s” but hopefully by now you’re convinced that even though it can be hard, choosing to love is always the better option.

Day 2 – What I want to tell you about Introverts

My name is Angela and I am an Introvert.

Drawn to extroverts, I used to wish I was more outgoing like them, more of a jokester and more of the “life of the party” type. But alas, I’m not. And that’s okay. I am not even fun, really. (Also okay – a recent discovery). More reserved, I prefer one-on-one deep talks over low lighting and hot tea to the excitement of the latest social soirée.

Society seems to elevate extroverts and view them as the favored personality type. I believe that’s because they are more overt in their awesomeness. They are more of an open book. Introverts are awesome too but you have to be willing to crack the code before we’ll let you in. Sure, we’re tricky. But we’re worth the effort.

So, let me clear up a few misconceptions about us introverts. Once you understand us better maybe you’ll be more willing to solve the mystery that is the introverted personality. Pay attention:

1) Just because we’re quiet sometimes, doesn’t mean we’re not interested. We are! But, generally speaking, we don’t think quickly on our feet. We need time to gather our thoughts and formulate a clear, accurate picture of what we really think and feel. The last thing we would ever want to do is say something we’ll regret. So, cut us some slack; we speak with caution.

2) We are not going to jump at the chance to attend the next big social event. At least, not unless we are surrounded by close friends that we trust. The mere idea of meeting tons of new people all in one night is draining. We’ll do it. But we have to be in the right mood.

3) Let us be. After lots of socializing, we need time to ourselves. While you get energized being at big events with lots of people, we get energized being alone afterwards. Or debriefing with just one or two people. My husband is a big-time introvert, even moreso than me. During really busy seasons we like to schedule some time for ourselves to recover. In fact, I think my body physically rejects too much socializing at once. It seems like every time I overfill my calendar, I get sick. Coincidence? Nope, the life of an introvert.

4) Just because we need alone time doesn’t mean we hate people. I, for one, love people. I love being with people. I love learning about and understanding people. I have a degree in psychology for crying out loud. But that doesn’t mean I can be around them all the time.

I hope this clears things up a bit. This list is by no means comprehensive.

What about you extroverts? Need to clear the air?

Friendship is to the soul, what good food is to the body

In case you haven’t noticed after yesterday’s post (Thank you God That Life is Sweet and Not Just Bitter), I have been in a reflective mood lately. I just bought tickets to visit a dear friend in Florida and I can’t wait to see her. She had a baby boy in January and aside from a brief encounter over Skype, I haven’t even met the little guy yet which breaks my heart! Life gets so busy and money is tight and time seems to run away from me sometimes. 20 years down the road am I really going to remember the random busyness that consumes my days? Probably not. What about the fact that I have tried desperately to hold on to an extra few hundred dollars just so I know I have it in the bank? Likely not. But it’s the investment in relationships that have lasted forever and will continue for life… that’s what’s important. That’s why I’ll be heading to Florida next month.

College roommies

I remember clearly meeting this friend in college. I didn’t think she liked me at first. I remember running on the track at USC one night and we both listened to our walkmen rather than talking (this was before the convenience of IPODS). I can’t recall how the running date came about – but let’s just say, based on that night, a lifelong friendship was not sparked. It wasn’t until the following year that we shared a room in our sorority house with two other soon-to-be BFFs. We started running together more and actually talking on these long runs through the streets of downtown LA. We ran together for years, completing the LA Marathon and another half-marathon down in San Diego. After years and years of running and talking, we began to listen to music again on our runs but this time it didn’t feel so weird. It was comfortable. We each made mix tapes (I’m dating myself more and more) and traded off listening to them on our walkmen during long runs and races. We stuck together while we ran no matter what. Just like we have outside of the race course. I was her maid of honor. She was my matron of honor a few years later. We’ve talked and talked and talked about everything under the sun… especially spiritual issues. I look back on all of our memories with such fondness and a grateful heart.

Maid of Honor

Matron of Honor

As I am meeting new people every day and getting to know them as I get to know the streets and towns of North Carolina, I am reminded of the gift of history. I am praying that some lifelong relationships develop out of this east coast season in our lives but at the same time, I breathe  a sigh of relief knowing that the oldies but goodies of years past are still around too. Is there someone in your life that you used to be close to but because of time or space you have drifted apart? Or what about someone you talk to on the phone but haven’t seen in ages? Can you find a way to make a face-to-face visit possible? Trust me, the sacrifice will be worth it. Friendship is to the soul, what good food is to the body. Nourishment. Strength. Sustenance.

Day 15 – Communication Concepts a la Reality TV

Summer reality TV is here which means… Big Brother and So You Think You Can Dance are on in my house (well, it’s really more like my room since my husband is not a huge fan of either and I typically watch them alone. Either way, I am happy)! Big Brother is a recent addition to my DVR list.. one I have resisted for years. In fact this summer I had to be convinced on more than one occasion by a friend to check out the show. So I made the decision to commit to watching for one week… and now I am hooked.

Since I have decided now that I’m a regular viewer, I might as well try to glean some positive personal growth concepts from it.

CBS

Here goes…

Big Brother is fascinating. In case you haven’t seen the show, here’s what takes place: a group of strangers are selected to live in a house together. The players couldn’t be more different. They participate in competitions and strategize to kick people out until one person is left and named the winner of the game.

The key word in all of this is strategy. Players form alliances with one another and stab each other in the back constantly. The relationships are superficial for the most part and the players just use each other in whatever ways they can in order to remain in the game.

Personally, I don’t think I could ever be on a show like this. I have a hard time being fake nice and using other people (call me crazy)!

I think the takeaway for me, as I observe the relationships on this show, is that honesty and sincerity are two of the most important ingrediants in strong relationships. This, of course, goes along with what Nailah shared yesterday in her guest post “Building Relationships through Honest Communication.”

We all yearn for something real. We search for truth. And yet so often, to conform to societal expectations, to be popular, to be loved, to be (insert whatever else) we act fake. We participate in relationships that only serve to help us achieve, but aren’t genuine. We lose sight of who we really are and become clouded by what we want to attain. Sadly, real life often resembles a game where our main objective is to win, no matter who we step on along the way.

So my encouragement via Big Brother is: Foster genuine relationships where backstabbing and dishonesty do not exist. Communicate openly with people and although you may not always “win the game” you can sleep peacefully at night knowing that when someone tells you they’ll be there for you no matter what, they actually mean it! And they can be confident knowing you will do the same for them!

Day 14 – Building Relationships Through Honest Communication

This is a great guest post by Nailah Blades of Polka Dot Coaching. Nailah’s blog is incredibly inspiring… She helps 20-somethings “connect the dots of their lives” by embracing who they really are and focusing on what’s important. I hope you’ll find this guest post as helpful as I did!

 

I have long been fascinated with communication. I find it interesting that something that is so deeply intertwined in our daily lives can also be so misunderstood and misused. I’m particularly intrigued by how communication and our unique narratives help to form our connection with one another. Effective communication techniques play an important role in establishing authentic, meaningful relationships. Here are my 3 tips for creating deep connections through communication and story-telling.

Be an Open Book

The stories we tell allow us to form a strong bond with those around us. Storytelling opens the door for understanding and a mutual connection. In sharing our stories we are able to connect with one another on a deeper level. It is also necessary that we share our stories honestly and authentically. In order to truly connect with another and develop a powerful relationship, we must allow ourselves to be open books. That means being yourself fully and unabashedly.

Own Your Story

Everyone’s story is unique and valuable. Each of our stories assists in helping to create our individual realties. The poet Mark Nepo describes this best in saying, “I am finding that being who I am – not hiding any of myself – is a necessary threshold I must meet or my life will not evolve.” Open, honest communication allows for us all to evolve authentically. You have an awesome story. Own it.

Don’t Assume

The most important aspect for forming a connection through communication is to take things at face value. Miscommunications happen when we try to read between the lines of what another person has said. It’s important to simply mean what you say and say what you mean. However it is just as important to assume that everyone else is saying exactly what they mean.

Communication doesn’t have to be complicated. You can form deep, meaniful connections simply by remembering to open up, to own your story and to take others at face value.

Day 13 – Communication Techniques for HELPERS continued…

In Day 12, three communication techniques for those of us in helping professions were explained… Are you a teacher? A medical professional? A counselor? A parent? If so, pay attention to these next few important tips as well!

Ask open-ended questions

Sometimes people need to be drawn out. (Kinda obvious right)? But even for the most extroverted, chatty person, when it comes to talking feelings it’s natural to shut down. Some people simply aren’t comfortable with it. Open-ended questions are useful because they don’t call for yes/no answers and they don’t call for quick, factual details. Rather, they elicit more thoughtful responses. For example, you could say to someone, “Talk to me about what you were feeling in that moment.” (Although it’s not framed as a question, you are asking the person what they were feeling at the time. You are also asking them to “talk about it” not just give you a one-word feeling response).

Make observations

Observations are huge! A lot of times, we have no idea how we are perceived by other people. We may be fidgity and therefore come across as nervous. Or we may neglect to make eye contact with people which makes us seem like we aren’t being truthful. A lot of times, the non-verbals we aren’t even aware of can lead to important discoveries. For example, when I was a kid I used to have a baby blanket. I chewed the four corners until they were no longer smooth. At some point, I got in this weird habit of rubbing the four corners of the blanket between my fingers. To this day, I still find myself mimicing that movement with my fingers and it happens most when I am feeling nervous or uncomfortable. I guess subconsciuosly I associate that movement with my old security blanket and am comforted by the motion… as bizarre as that may be! Learning these tidbits about ourselves is important and can reveal interesting information about what we are experiencing internally.

Confrontation

One of the hardest parts for many people in the helping profession is having to confront people. It’s uncomfortable for the confronter and it’s uncomfortable for the confrontee. However, when else can you get confronted in a safe space? We need to know when we’re being inconsistent in terms of our behaviors, words, attitudes etc. so that we can begin to understand why and eliminate any internal chaos we may feel as a result. Confront in a gentle way and remember, you may be the only person to speak truth into the life of this individual. It’s an honor and with kindness, can make a huge impact on someone’s life!

Day 12 – Communication Techniques for HELPERS

Do you work in the Helping Profession? Counseling? Medicine? Ministry? Teaching? Are you a parent? There are certain techniques that can be incredibly helpful when working in some kind of interpersonally-focused job. (And from everything I know about parenting… it IS a full-time, all-consuming job)! So how do you:

  • Facilitate good conversation
  • Get people to open up
  • Promote a trusting relationship
  • Help people feel safe
  • Encourage personal growth

 

via

Here are some communication tips to help:

Show empathy

There are few things better than knowing someone truly understands you. Empathy and sympathy are two different things. Sympathy can be shown by saying “I’m sorry for what you’re going through.” It indicates sad feelings but also comes across a bit disconnected from the situation. Empathy indicates you really get it. You understand on a deep, personal level what someone is really experiencing. People feel understood when you label their emotions and say something like, “Wow that’s <horrible, scary, sad, exciting etc.>” Or, “It can be frustrating when <a, b or c> happend.” They feel like you really get it and are  versus simply letting them know you feel sorry for them.

Use Silence

Silence can be awkward for many people. In “real life” people do whatever they can to avoid moments of silence by telling jokes, stories or just chatting away to fill the time. But in the helping profession, silence can be a valuable tool. Silence can be used to break up constant chatter. It slows people down, allows them to take a deep breath and really sit and process what they’re thinking and feeling. In a sense, it is communicating to them, “Breathe. It’s okay. I’ll sit with you while you take a moment to think.” Many times we cover up our true feelings by talking “over them” so to speak. Silence allows them to rise to the surface so they can actually be addressed.

Summarize

Have you ever had a conversation that went off on tons of rabbit trails? Or what about one where the person telling the story gave so many details you now know the their mom’s favorite food and their aunt’s cousin’s birthplace? Sometimes we have so many thoughts that we want to get out and we aren’t sure which details are relevant so we just vomit out all of them. As a “helper” it’s often beneficial to summarize the most important points stated, to not only clarify for yourself, but also to help the speaker clear up any confusion in their own mind.

See you next time for more tips for Helpers!

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