Archive for December, 2012

Take Time to Reflect on 2012 Before Rushing to Plan 2013

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

As the year 2012 draws to a close, many people are busy looking ahead to 2013. While it’s important to set goals and figure out how you’ll achieve them (see my ebook, The Butterfly Principles: Nine Steps to Transform Your Life, for a step-by-step guide to doing so in a meaningful way that yields lasting results), and the start of a new year is a great time to do so, it’s equally important to take the time to look back over the year that is ending.

What did you accomplish this year? Of which achievements are you most proud? If you have trouble thinking of even a single good thing that you did, then it’s all the more important that you take the time to make a list. If you think long and hard enough, and ask loved ones for input if you’re still struggling to come up with anything, you will find some successes to celebrate. Nothing is too small or insignificant to include on this list! Too often, we minimize or discount our successes. Give yourself credit for what you did well.

Yes, it’s also necessary to reflect on our failures, but most of us do too much of that already. Go ahead and let your inner critic help you make a list of things that did not go as planned, and things that you intended to accomplish but failed to get done, but don’t spend too much time dwelling on these and beating yourself up. Acknowledging our failures is important, but wallowing in them is not helpful. Too often, we magnify and give too much significance to what we did wrong.

Next, what surprised you? This includes both wonderful surprises, like beginning a new relationship or winning the lottery, and unwelcome changes, like being diagnosed with cancer or getting laid off.

Finally, what did you learn in 2012? This can include things you learned about yourself, about what works and what doesn’t, about what you want more of in your life and what you want to change or get rid of…anything at all. Write it all down, so that you can refer back to it later, remind yourself what you learned, and hopefully avoid having to relearn it in 2013!

I hope that you find this process helpful, and are able to enter 2013 wiser and more ready to move forward because you took the time to look back first!

Love and compassion, even for murderers and their families?

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last week has left me deeply saddened. Of course, I grieve for the children and adults killed that day, and for their families. I grieve for the others who survived the attack but will be traumatized by it for years to come, and for law enforcement officials, medical examiners, funeral directors, religious leaders, and others who must tend to the needs of others while dealing with their own emotional responses to this tragedy.

I also grieve for Adam Lanza, his mother, and especially their surviving family members, who won’t get the support that all of the other grieving families will. Please don’t misunderstand; grieving for them does not mean I condone his actions, or his mother’s choice to keep guns accessible and teach him how to shoot them. It does not mean that if either had lived I would not want them to be held accountable for their crimes. It just means that I think it is wrong to see them as one-dimensional personifications of evil.

I think it is wrong both because it denies the reality that they were complex human beings, as we all are, with good and bad aspects, and because it lets the rest of us off the hook too easily. Mass shootings have become all too common in the U.S., and as long as we cope with them by writing the shooters off as evil monsters, and blaming their parents for not raising them right, or doing enough to protect the rest of us, we avoid facing our own complicity.

We have become a society that is so individualistic, so concerned about our rights and getting our own needs met, that when we notice someone in need of help, if we notice them at all, we make judgments about them and do our best to avoid them. We decide their family problems aren’t our business, and don’t attempt to intervene. We criticize the media for making killers into celebrities, even as we eagerly wait to hear the latest details about those killers in a vain attempt to make sense of their crimes, and don’t show that same curiousity about the victims. We demand changes to gun laws, but continue to reelect politicians who lack the courage to stand up to the NRA. We bemoan the lack of adequate mental health services, but are equally adamant that we don’t want to pay a penny more in taxes to fund those services. We criticize the violent imagery in TV shows, movies, songs, and video games, yet continue to watch, listen to, and play them, or buy them for others.

What will it take for us to decide to do something meaningful to change the direction our society is headed and reduce the likelihood of more mass killings? Will we continue to point fingers everywhere but at ourselves, or will we realize that each of us can only change ourselves, and that change starts with how we treat each other in our everyday interactions? It starts with caring enough to ask how someone is doing and pausing long enough to let them answer honestly. It includes teaching our children (and modeling for them, since actions speak louder than words) that violence is not the way to solve problems. It involves recognizing how fragmented and polarized our society has become, and learning to engage in respectful conversations with those with whom we disagree. It means choosing to purchase products that teach and encourage compassion and working together, and to support companies that pay a living wage and treat both employees and customers fairly.

None of these actions will necessarily prevent future tragedies like the one in Connecticut, though I do believe that simple human kindness, and caring enough to notice problems and offer help when possible, can make all the difference in some cases. What these actions will do is start to repair the fabric of our society, help us get to know each other as human beings who all need a helping hand at some point, and bring us together to hammer out compromises and maybe even reach consensus on some policy changes instead of attacking each other anonymously on the internet or shouting each other down at protests or political rallies. As Ghandi said, we must be the change we wish to see in the world.

Welcome and Help Yourself to my book of Christian meditations FREE 12/16-12/18/12

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Welcome to the Be True to Yourself blog! I hope that this will become a place where Christian women (actually, women and men of all faiths and no faith are welcome, but the content is likely to be most helpful and relevant to Christain women) can experience a supportive and empowering environment.

I find it deeply distressing that some within the Christian church continue to demean women, believe and teach that we are supposed to be submissive, and condone various kinds of abuse. Jesus himself certainly never taught or modeled that. Instead, he spoke respectfully to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (see John 4:7-26), at a time when men normally did not speak to women in public and Jews did not interact with Samaritans. He challenged the men who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery by saying “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8). He was moved by the weeping of Lazarus’ sister Mary, cried some tears of his own, and spoke and acted compassionately even when Mary challenged him by saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32-35). His first post-resurrection appearance was to a woman, Mary Magdalene, and he told her to share the news: “go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:11-18; see also Luke 24, in which the risen Jesus appears to a group of women including Mary Magdalene, and they proclaim the news not only to the eleven remaining disciples but “to all the rest.”). Obviously, Jesus didn’t have a problem with women preachers 🙂

Whatever you have been told and may have come to believe about yourself, the reality is that you are God’s beloved child. Whether you’re called to be a preacher, or teacher, or carpenter, or engineer, or doctor, or lawyer, or stay-at-home mom, or sales clerk, or truck driver, or writer, or artist, or anything else, know that you are precious in God’s sight and that God wants you to love yourself. Know also that your worth does not depend on what you do, but on who and Whose you are.

If you could use a reminder that God loves you and is with you even in your darkest days when you feel alone, forgotten, or unlovable, check out Timeless Truths for Troubled Times, my book of Christian meditations. I’m making the Kindle version available FREE, as my gift to you, from 12/16 – 12/18/12, so give yourself an early Christmas present…you’ll be glad you did!