Saturday, December 31, 2011

Not so bad after all

Do you like yourself?

I heard a well-educated, highly successful man say the other day, "I don't like myself." He was not speaking in self-pity but simply as a matter of fact. He didn't like himself.

The truth is most folks don't like themselves. We distrust our instincts…we wear masks that represent a self we believe will be more acceptable…we quarrel, boast, pretend, and experience jealousy - all because we don't like ourselves. Mostly we do not know ourselves well enough to have an informed opinion about ourselves.

Are there not people who genuinely like you? Why not take their word for it?

Better yet, get to know yourself. Chances are you'll find out you're not so bad after all.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tug in my heart

A little boy was flying his kite high in the sky. Soon a low-drifting cloud engulfed the kite and hid it from view. A man passing by asked the boy what he was doing with a string in his hand. The boy replied, "Flying my kite." The man looked up and seeing no kite said, "I don't see a kite up there. How can you be sure there is a kite up there?" The child responded, "I don't see it either, but I know my kite is up there because every once in a while there is a little tug on my string."

When people ask me why I believe in God, I think of that story. I do not see the Holy One; I can't prove anything; there is no objective evidence. But, every now and then I feel a tug in my heart and I know he's there.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Negative Messages

Someone who counts such things, has written that the average child receives 431 negative messages per day: "Be quiet…Get down from there…Put down those scissors…Watch it…You're too small…Look at this mess you've made…I've already told you, 'no'…Stop playing and eat your food…"

Think about it, 431 negative messages a day. That is a lot of negative feed back. Chances are some of you have done it already today.

Maybe we should find a way to be more positive, more encouraging, and more pleasant with our children. After all, most of the things we get on to them about don't matter. Milk can be cleaned up. What counts is character.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Great People

When life offers you a challenge, don't let fear cause you to stay away from it.

Can you imagine Joan of Arc whimpering, "What? Lead an army? I can't even ride a horse."

Can you imagine Christopher Columbus saying, "How can I be right and all these other people be wrong. I'm a fool to think I know better than they do. What if I fall off the edge of the world or we get eaten by sea monsters?"

Suppose Thomas Jefferson had caved into his fears and said, "What makes me think I should write a Declaration of Independence from England. They are a great country. They will crush us and I will lose my property, my house and my life."

You say, "Yes, but these were great people." Right! But they weren't great people before they took up the challenge.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We Can Change

The famous psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, said that the most important concept we must hold on to while working with people is the conviction that people can change and grow. We should never allow people to get by with saying, "This is the way I am. I was this way in the beginning and I will always be this way." Dr. Frankl said we need to plead with such people: "Oh, no! Please don't say that. Don't think that. It's not true."

Yes, there is a strong current of determination in all of us. Bad habits, particularly habits of thinking, are hard to break. But, we can change. We can change to make different decisions, try new patterns. It's hard. It's painful. It takes a while before it feels real. We are vulnerable to falling back into the old destructive patterns. But, we can change.

Monday, December 26, 2011


The famed psychiatrist, Carl Rogers, talks about our human condition as being like a person who has fallen into a deep, dry well. We desperately try to climb out, but we aren't able. We shout, call out, knock on the side of the well - all this time hoping someone will hear and respond to us. If someone does hear us, we feel relief, even ecstasy.

Dr. Rogers says we feel somewhat like that when people listen to us, hear us, and understand us. We have an explosion of relief: "Someone finally knows where I am. Somebody finally knows what it's like to be me."

The most generous and self-less thing you can do for another person is to listen to them. It says to them, "I care. You are not alone. I am with you."

Sunday, December 25, 2011


We are creatures of habit. Every time we think or act in a certain way, a habit is forming. Like a groove that is being furrowed deeper and deeper, each repetition adds depth to the habit and makes it harder to break.

Our habits rule us. They dictate our actions and reactions. We think we are making choices, but in truth much of our life is predetermined by our habits.

The older we get the more set in our ways we get, so it becomes less and less likely we will change our speech and behavior patterns.

If you have habits that you are not proud of, deal with them now. It will be harder and harder to break bad habits as time passes.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Good Question

In Thornton Wilder's play, "Our Town," a young woman named Emily dies. Emily is allowed to relive any one day of her life all over again.

She chooses to relive the day of her twelfth birthday. When she comes back, she is eager to savor every moment of this wonderful day in her life. She regrets that she just can't seem to look hard enough or experience deeply enough everything that is happening.

Then she notices that the people around her are not sharing fully in her joy in living. She pleads with her mother, "Come on, let us really look at one another!" She soon realizes, with great sadness, that no one else understands. She finally observes, "Oh, earth, oh life, you're too wonderful for anyone to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize the meaning of life while they are still living?"

Good question.

Friday, December 23, 2011


There is a rabbinic story about two brothers who loved each other very much and shared the profits from their family partnership equally.

One brother was a bachelor. The other brother had a wife and eight children.

One night after harvest time the bachelor brother thought, "I have only one mouth to feed. My brother has ten people dependent on him. I will take some of my grain and put it in my brother's barn."

The other brother thought, "My brother has no one to care for him when he is old. I will take some of my grain and slip it into his barn."

That night the two brothers went on a mission of mercy. Even though there was not a cloud in the sky it began to rain. It was the tears of the Almighty who was weeping for joy because two of his children had gotten the point that life is not about having. It is about giving.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Long ago there were two brothers who had been close all their lives. They roomed together as boys and even later in college. After college they entered a business partnership together. They were a model of mutuality for the community.

One day a $1 deposit went missing. A seed of suspicion was planted between the brothers. It grew into accusations and finally the brothers dissolved the partnership and closed their stores. For the next twenty years the brothers became a model of incivility for the community.

One day a stranger came to town. He called the two brothers together and told them how twenty years earlier he had been destitute and passing through town. He confessed that he had stolen a dollar bill from on top of the cash register to buy food for himself.

He offered to make restitution. As he told the story, the two brothers wept. Suspicion kills relationships.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Success and failure are to modern people what heaven and hell were to people in the Middle Ages. We think the greatest thing that can ever happen to us is to be successful, in the eyes of our peers, and the worst thing that can happen to us is to be deemed inadequate before our peers.

So our culture tells us, "Nothing matters except success. Win at all cost. Pay whatever price you have to pay, step on whomever you have to step on. Just get to the top. Happiness is at the top of the mountain."

Unfortunately, our culture lies to us. I know a lot of people who have climbed the ladder and reached the top. When they are up there they discover it's not what they thought it would be. It's hollow, empty, and lonely. There is no Camelot at the top of the mountain. Most of those that reach the top are filled with regret about the people on whom they stepped, injured, or were not present for.

Many things in life are more important than success.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Buyer's Remorse

Have you ever experienced "buyer's remorse"? "Buyer's remorse" occurs when you realize that you have paid too much for something and you did not get enough value for your money.

I've seen something like buyer's remorse happen to people at the end of their lives. They suddenly realize that they have spent their lives investing in the wrong things. They gave themselves to things instead of people, their vocation instead of their family, material values instead of spiritual values. It is a pitiful thing to see someone come to the end of his or her life and realize that they have wasted it.

Someone has said that no one ever comes to the end of their life and says, "I wish I had spent more time at the office."

Wisdom is knowing how to value things and knowing the true worth of things in our lives.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Follow the Leader

Have you ever heard an orchestra tune up? It is chaotic. You wonder about the disharmony and confusion. You know the musicians are skilled or they would not be on the stage, but the music they are producing is anything but pleasing.

Then on to the stage comes the conductor. There is a friendly applause, then silence. The conductor raises his baton and suddenly, almost magically, angelic sounds fill the air. Instead of fighting one another as they were before, the various instruments compliment each other. The symphonic strains stir the hearts of the audience.

So what's so special about the conductor that his presence changes everything? It is not that he or she is the best musician in the room. The reason this conductor changes the musical atmosphere is because everyone in the orchestra chooses to follow his or her lead.

Businesses, schools, government agencies and churches - none of them functions well unless everyone respects the authority of the leader.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Faulty Interpretation

Psychologists say, "Children are keen observers but poor interpreters." They see everything that is happening, but they often misinterpret what it means.

Think with me about some painful childhood memory that you have. Maybe it is about something you saw, something that happened, or something that was said. Listen to me: it is possible that you misinterpreted what happened.

For example, when children see their parents go through a divorce, they often feel responsible. They think, "If I had not been so much trouble…."

Do some work with your memories, my friends. It's just possible that your observations were correct, but your interpretation was faulty.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mature People

Many years ago, Ernest Becker wrote a monumental book called The Denial of Death. He said that people in one culture refuse to confront the reality of death. Let me give you an illustration. How many of you have a will, a power of attorney for health use or a living will? Probably not many of you and do you know why? Because, we do not want to think about death.

Similarly, we also fear the full experience of life. We enjoy life as long as it is filled with beauty and pleasure, but part of life is pain - our own pain and the pain of others. We do not want to deal with that. When someone cries, we say, "Don't cry." Their tears may be cleansing for them, but we don't know how to handle it.

The sooner we stop running from the realities of life and death, the sooner we become mature people.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


If you are having difficulty solving a math problem and I help you, you do not have to take my word that the solution is correct. You can verify it for yourself.

However, if someone tells you that they love you, there is no way to verify it. For example, it is possible for people to treat you in loving ways and not love you. At the same time, it is possible for people who do love you to mistreat you. In the final analysis, there is no way to verify love. We either believe in people's word that they love us or we do not.

Your Creator is saying to you today, "I love you unconditionally. I care about everything that happens to you. You are my son/daughter in whom I am well pleased."

You either have faith that this message is true or you don't. Verification is not possible. The moment you accept that the message is true and act on the basis of it, you become a believer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Mind

Psychologists say that our minds have three levels:

The conscious mind, the thoughts and memories that are part of our everyday thinking;
  • The subconscious mind, the storage center just below the level of our conscious mind that we can bring up into consciousness when needed; and
  • The unconscious mind, the things we have seen, heard or experienced which are stored in our brain but of which we have no conscious awareness.
The unconscious mind is the basement where our memories and emotions are buried alive. The burial process is called repression. We bury our unwanted feelings and memories, we stop even remembering them, and think they are gone but, they are not gone. They continue to influence our thinking and behavior.

Friends, what you do not know about yourself can hurt you. The only antidote is welcoming self-knowledge and allowing things we have repressed to resurface.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


We learn to talk somewhere between the end of our first year and the beginning of our second year of life. But, according to experts, we begin to hear even before birth. And the last organ to survive is our ears. People's ears are technically capable of receiving sound waves after they die.

What is the point? We should talk to our babies even before we welcome them into the world. And, we should talk to our loved ones even when people tell us they can no longer hear us.

Many years ago I was badly injured. I was comatose and hooked up to a breathing machine. I remember the nurses saying to people who were in my room, "He doesn't hear you and even if he did, he would not remember it later." But, I did hear. I'm sure I was in and out of consciousness, but there were times I was alert even though my eyes were closed. I do remember what was said to me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Secret Shame

Most of us feel a strong need to have a portion of our lives remain completely private. There are things we do not want anyone else to know. We want a few things about ourselves and our past bolted behind a door and marked "Private- Do not disturb."

The reason we have a strong need for this private space is because of shame. We are afraid that when people find out who we truly are, they will reject us or humiliate us.

Instead of needing a place of privacy, we actually need a close friend, an intimate confidante, a trustworthy person to whom we can disclose our most shameful secrets. Here's the catch: in order to have such a person, we must risk disclosure. We must be willing to take down the "Do not disturb" signs, and gradually welcome someone into our private space, until finally there are no more secrets.

Remember: our secrets are what make us sick; self-disclosure with a safe person heals us.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


A relationship is only as good as its communication.

When we are in a healthy relationship, we tell the other person who we honestly think we are. This assumes we are reflective enough to have self-understanding, and mature enough to risk self-exposure. And, it assumes the other person is capable of the same thing.

In real relationships we are open to others correcting false self-understandings which are hurtful and destructive. Unless they help us, we cannot grow.

Relationships are about talking of things that matter most to us - our feelings, our needs, our values, and our dreams.

Relationships include bonding and boundaries, closeness and breathing room.

Relationships are covenantal - they are about the "for better or for worse" commitments that make authentic communication safe.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Love Others

The surest way to find God, if you are seeking the Eternal One, is to go out and love others: to get to know them, to embrace them, to accept them, to care for them, to be patient with them, and to serve them. Remember: everyone you meet is created in God's image, and therefore when you love them you love the image of God.

I know, it's hard to do this. Some people out there are obnoxious and not nice. But, some of the time, their misbehavior is their way of shouting, "Will somebody please notice me? Will somebody please love me?" If we could look past their behaviors, see their hurt, and love the image of God in them, both they and you would experience God.

Why don't you at least try it? Look for God in the people you meet today.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Fear is a terrible thing. It is like throwing sand in the equipment of life.
You are never less creative than when you are afraid. It lowers your vision. It deflates your faith.

You are never more selfish than when you are afraid. It causes you to think about yourself instead of others.

Fear is a thief. It steals from you opportunities and adventures that you otherwise would have had.

Fear is the voice in your head that says, "There will not be enough. It is not going to work out. You are not going to have adequate resources to face the 'what ifs' of the future."

There is only one antidote to fear -faith. You can't buy enough insurance, have enough therapy, or take enough prescriptions to deliver you from fear. Somehow you've got to believe the voice of the one who says, "There is enough. I am with you and it's going to be OK."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Love Yoursef

Carl Jung, the great psychiatrist, once reflected on the words of Jesus, "Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me."

Jung asked, "What if you discovered that the least of those who needed your love the most - the one you could help the most by loving - the one to whom your love would be the most meaningful - was you? Would you still be willing to fulfill the mandate of Jesus?"

Good question. It is easier to love other people than it is to love ourselves.
I like the way a friend of mine puts it: "The one who created the universe loves you as though there were no one else in the universe to love."

Don't be afraid that affirming your being is going to turn you into a vain person. Go ahead and love the least of these - love yourself.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


One of the great tragedies of life is that when we do not feel comfortable with whom we are, we pretend to be someone else. We wear masks and play roles. It is about self-defense, fitting in and being accepted.

We feel safer behind these facades, but they guarantee a life of loneliness and isolation. We cut ourselves off from genuine and authentic community.

Worse, we start believing that we are who we pretend to be. We forget that we are merely performing a role on the stage of life. The result is emotional immaturity.

Even worse, we adopt multiple personalities. We play one role when we are with one group of people and another role when we are with a different group. This leads to a lack of integrity and the fear of exposure.

Get to know who you are and say to yourself, "It's good to be me."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

True Beauty

There is a fairy tale about a beautiful young maiden who was imprisoned in a tower by a wicked witch. Over and over the witch told the young girl how ugly she was.

One day the young maiden was gazing out the window of the tower. Prince Charming saw her and immediately fell in love with her. The young girl threw her uncut hair out of the window. It fell to the bottom of the tower. The prince braided her hair into a ladder and climbed up to rescue her. Prince Charming showed the young maiden herself in the mirror and she discovered that she was not ugly after all. She was beautiful.

What is true for the young maiden is true for many of us. We are tyrannized by a false understanding of ourselves. We need to see our true beauty mirrored in the eyes of another in order to be liberated from the towers of self-loathing in which we have become imprisoned.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gifts of our Parents

The truth is that much of the way we view ourselves is the gift of our parents. Parents are the mirrors through which we learn to see ourselves. If our parents show unconditional favor for us when we are young, we usually grow up with healthy self-esteem. If our parents communicate to us that their love is conditional on our performance, we become either pleasers or rebellious persons. Fear and poor self-appreciation dominate our lives.

But, there are ways to overcome the deficit of positive parenting. We can allow someone else, whose word we are willing to accept, to speak unconditional love into our lives.

Would you allow me to be that person for you today? Listen to me - you are special and precious. You are worthy of respect. You are uniquely gifted. You are unconditionally loved by your Creator. The one who made you is saying to you right now, "You are my beloved child in whom I am well-pleased."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Basic Questions of Life

The two most basic questions of life are: "Who am I?" and "How do I relate to others?"
It is interesting that our awareness of these two questions begins in infancy.

Babies first discover themselves. They explore themselves - their feet, their hands, their faces. They discover how to get attention and gratification. They wonder: "Who am I?"
Next, children find out they are not the whole of reality - that other beings are not an extension of themselves. Other people are distinct, separate from them, that no one sees or feels what they do. The question is: "How do I relate to others?"

The interesting thing is that most of us go on struggling with these two questions our entire lives.

Let me try these questions out on you: Who are you? How do you relate to others?