Attractive and repulsive

When we say someone or something is “attractive” or “repulsive”, it is in relation to another.

It is more than “pretty” or “ugly”. We could use those terms to explain this concept, but they aren’t as illustrative.

Think of magnets. If they are opposite polarity, they attract each other. If they are the same, they repel. But a magnet on its own is just a magnet. It isn’t attracting or repelling. So people who are “attractive” or “repulsive” are only so in relation to other people’s perspectives. On their own, they just are who they are.

It is “all in the eye of the beholder”.

Our value should not be dependent on other people giving it to us. If we are truly to be self-sufficient and have self-esteem, our value as people has to start with “self” and not “other”. We have to see ourselves as valuable.

I don’t think seeing ourselves as “beautiful” or “rich” or “smart” is helpful either. Those terms are still in relation to others. In the case of those terms, others are not defining us, but we are defining ourselves in relation to others.

Simply know that you are valuable and needed, just as you are.

Bad seeds

I think it is very dangerous to spread news about young boys and guns in school. The stories about mass shootings at school where boys are killing strangers just encourage more of the same, rather than preventing it.

I think the media mentions it in the news so that everybody else knows what to look out for and be careful. But the problem is that when they spread the news they’re also telling other boys here’s a thing to do. People who never thought about taking a gun and killing random strangers at their school now have that idea in their head. It’s not that the rash of it spreads on its own, it’s that we plant the seeds.

So now, kids who feel ignored and overlooked have an idea of how to get attention and be noticed. Any attention, even negative, is attention. Attention is energy. That is what everybody wants. Being famous for a bad thing is still being famous. And, briefly, they feel powerful, which they have not felt before.

We have to address that sense of powerlessness and give everybody the attention that they need. Every person has the chance to grow up into a beautiful flower. Ignored, abused – they will grow up into misshapen weeds.

It is our choice.

All people need to learn how to express themselves and how to respect others while they express themselves. All people need to learn how to self-soothe and not rely on others for their self-esteem and happiness.

Achieve this and we will have peace.


The world goes out of its way to bring you down. Don’t join them.

Many people will show modesty. They will refuse to say that they are good at what they do for fear of being seen as arrogant.

I take it another way. God made you special. For you to downgrade or diminish something that you are good at is to talk badly about God.

Be proud of who you are. Let your light shine.

When someone tries to bring you down, they are really just jealous of you. They think they have to bring your down to raise themselves up. There is also a good chance that this is how they were talked to as a child. Their parents taught them that this is how you talk to people. They taught them to only see the bad. They taught them that they were bad.

This is a teachable moment.

You have a chance of re-educating them. You can respond gently, with love, that you are not the dirt they think you are. They haven’t seen your flowers yet.

If you let someone treat you like dirt, you’ll start to believe it too.

Don’t let somebody knock you down, even if that somebody is yourself.

How do you know when you are an adult?

How do you know when you are an adult?

Sometimes there are rituals and ceremonies. You’ve graduated college. You’ve gotten married. You get to see a change has happened. It is celebrated.

Or there are other milestones. You’ve gotten your first “real” job. You’ve moved out on your own. You no longer need a cosigner for credit applications.

In some African cultures, women are marked when they reach certain points in their lives. You can tell who is married and who has had a child for instance by looking at the scars on their bodies.

We don’t have such visible markings here. Our changes are internal. You have to let people know you aren’t a child anymore. The only external mark is a wedding ring, and not even that guarantees that you are an adult.

It is good to be childlike, but not childish. You want to be able to be independent. That is a sign of a mature person.

I knew I was an adult when my parents died. We had a next door neighbor who was at least 70 years old. I was instructed to call her Mrs. Miles when I was growing up. When my parents died, I started calling her by her first name, Margaret. I didn’t even think twice about it. She didn’t correct me either. To call someone by their first name is to say you are equals. Previous to my parent’s death, we weren’t equals. But now we were. I’d gone through a trial by fire and come through (mostly) intact.

The sad thing is that my brother never got the message that I was an adult. He kept treating me as lesser. I was his little sister and he was determined to “keep me in my place.” It didn’t matter to him that I was 25, and had taken care of our Mom the whole time she was sick, and had handled the entire estate on my own.

To him, I was lesser and would always be. In reality, he was treating me as lesser to make himself feel better. He was pushing me down to raise himself up. He couldn’t accept the reality that his “kid” sister had done all the hard work and he’d run away from any responsibility. I’d proven I was an adult, and he’d proven he was a coward.

I refused to let him treat me as a child, and I still refuse it. I refuse to allow him or anyone to treat me in a disrespectful manner. If it means that the relationship has to be severed because of that, so be it. Life is too short to spend with people who are not kind. Life is too short to let people treat you like dirt.

Part of being an adult is putting a value on yourself and not letting anyone bid any lower than what you are worth. To let someone treat you badly is to tell them that is OK.

Now, to treat anyone as lesser is also a sign of immaturity. Part of being an adult is to know your own worth and to establish it. But it also doesn’t mean that you get to treat anybody else as beneath you.

Glasses for mental health

What if anxious and nervous is your normal? What if it isn’t something wrong at all, but just your way of being?

Think of it as the same as needing glasses, or a hearing aid, or an orthotic shoe. There is nothing “shameful” or “wrong” about these conditions. We can’t control the fact that we are different from “normal”. We can’t control the fact that we need a little bit of help to fit in with everybody else.

Why do we think we have any real control over our emotions?

Some of our emotions are trained into us. We are taught to behave and react in certain ways, some of which aren’t that useful. We get that from our parents. What if some of our neural pathways are different genetically as well? Forget nature versus nurture. They both have an effect.

What if we aren’t to blame for feeling afraid or angry or hesitant? What if that is just the way we are? What if we stop trying to define these feelings as “bad” and we just accept them for what they are?

There is a big push in society for everybody to be the same – but we aren’t. We all look different – but we can have surgery to all look the same. We can wear clothes to make ourselves look smaller or taller or skinner or have curves in different places. There are girdles and pads aplenty to make you fit in and make you look more like everyone else.

There are things to make you fit in mentally as well. There are pills if you are depressed or manic, or eat too much, or don’t eat enough, or have anxiety, or ADD. There are pills to counter every state of humanity.

But why fit in? Because it makes them feel better, or you? Wouldn’t it be healthier for them to see you being you? When you are honest about who you really are, then you are giving everyone else permission to be themselves.

I say we all just take off our masks and say that we are the way we are, and that is OK.


I’ve heard a lot recently about how teachers should be aware of how their behavior might cause their students to feel shame. They are supposed to do away with all measures of success because it will make the lower performing students feel shame. Sure, each child has a different learning style. Sure, each child learns at a different pace. So some kids will not be on the same level as others. This is normal.

But something seems wrong about this.

If every kid makes an “A” for effort, then an “A” doesn’t mean anything. Why work hard? Why study? Your grade will be the same as everyone else’s. There is no motivation to improve. There is no feedback as to how you are doing.

The world doesn’t work like this. When they graduate they won’t be in a work environment that congratulates them for just showing up. When they enter the work world they will wonder why people don’t appreciate it when they spend an hour on Facebook and Twitter rather than working. Why try? Why work? You’ll get the same grade, right? They will be in for a rude awakening.

It isn’t healthy to treat “average” as “amazing”. Does it cause “shame” to encourage a child to try his best?

It would be better to teach kids how to have self respect. They need to learn how to love themselves as they are. They need to be OK with being different – because we all are different. They need to learn self esteem.

Being different isn’t wrong.

Having the wrong answer doesn’t make them a bad person.

Learning this will save them a lot of trouble throughout life.

How much of this is the responsibility of the teacher, and how much of this is the responsibility of the parents? How come teachers are being expected to do much more than teach?

Sure, a teacher needs to be mindful of what she says. We all do. That is just part of being a good person. But the other part of the equation is that the parents have to do what they can to teach their children to not lose it every time they get a less than perfect grade.

It doesn’t mean the kid is bad. It just means he has to work harder, or find a different way to learn the material. That is a good lesson for life in general.

Poem – kin/kind

Just because someone is kin to you
doesn’t mean anything.

Kinship without kindness
requires no fealty.

If your brother, mother, father
show you “love” couched in
threats, shame, or guilt
then walk away.

Love that hurts isn’t love.

There is nothing
about the accident of birth
that guarantees

There is nothing about
being a sister
that fosters

If kin are not kind
then “family” is an empty word.

Walk away.

You owe them nothing.

If they treat you
as an accident,
an embarrassment

then that is their loss.
It is not a reflection
of your worth
but of their blindness.

Set a high price for yourself.
even if your “family”
says you are worthless.

Or perhaps even because of it.

If the family you were born into
does not treat you as a friend
but ignores, belittles, embarrasses you

Walk away.

You owe them nothing.

Bullies can be brothers.
Rapists can be relatives.
Murderers can be mothers.

There is no “normal”.
There is no “average”.

There is only you, right now.
If your “normal”
feels wrong
feels unhealthy
feels strange

Walk away.

You can create
a new family
from friends
who know how
to love
the beautiful person
that you are.

“Be perfect…”

The word “perfect” in Greek is “teleios”, which is phonetically spelled (tel’-i-os). According to Strong’s Concordance it means “(a) complete in all its parts, (b) full grown, of full age”, in the sense of having reached its end, complete, mature, and adult.

I was at a meeting at a friend’s house and a lady brought forth the concept that the word is related to “telescope”. She understood for this word to mean that “perfect” isn’t an end, but a continuum. With her idea, the seed, the sapling, and the tree are all the same. They are perfect. She related it to when Jesus says in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus says this at the end of the section with the Beatitudes, and where he tells us to be kind to everybody, not just the nice people.

Now, her translation of the word isn’t accurate as far as I can determine, but I still like the idea, so I’m going to go with it. I think her understanding of it is far more helpful when we are trying to have patience with ourselves.

With her translation, Jesus isn’t talking about perfect in the way we think of the word perfect. How can we possibly be perfect like God is perfect? That is impossible. That is completely against human nature. We are fallible. We make mistakes. Making mistakes is part of the package deal for mortality.

God sees us on a continuum. We are not stopped in time with God. We are past and future and present all at the same time. Remember, God is the alpha and omega all at once. God is, was, and shall be.

There is a book called “Trout are Made of Trees”. It is a children’s biology book. The concept is that trees rot and fall into the water. Bugs eat the rotted trees. Trout eat the bugs. Thus, trout are made of trees. Subsequently, if we eat the trout, we are eating the bugs that ate the trees, so we too are made of trees (and bugs, and trout…) There is no beginning or end.

Thich Nhat Hahn says in “Living Buddha, Living Christ” that when we look at a flower, we are actually looking at time. We are looking at all the time it took for it to develop, and all the elements required to create it. We are looking at the sun and the rain that it took to grow the flower. It is simply those elements combining in that way at that moment that we name “flower”.

It isn’t a flower, really. It is elements, and time, and our perception.

We humans only see things as they are right now. How amazing it would be to see past and future at the same time, but I suspect it would be overwhelming. I just don’t think we are wired that way. I think it would short out our fuses. It is like trying to run a 110 appliance on a 220 outlet. It just can’t handle that input.

How much of that limitation is physical and how much of that is societal? How much of that is because that is how we are taught to see? We can imagine, however. Our Zen friends try to see this way. They slow time by meditating and by intensely focusing on the moment right in front of them.

We are perfect. We are made up of all that has come before us, and all that we will ever be. Where we are now is perfect. Who we are now is perfect. It may not seem like it, but try to see it with God’s perspective.

God knows our past and still loves us. God knows our future. God is in charge, and God is perfect. The prophet Jeremiah tells us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

We are who we are today because of our struggles. We will be who we are tomorrow and a year from now because of what we overcame today.

Be perfect, knowing that you already are.

Opinion poll.

Why do we care what other people think? I’ve read recently that humans need community. We need each other to create our understanding of reality. But I’ve found that if we pay too much attention to what other people think, then we stop being able to think for ourselves. We stop being able to act too.

Say I’m at work. A lady gets upset that I’m smiling. She thinks that I’m making fun of her, that I’m smirking. Then I’ll make a point of not smiling, and another person thinks I’m not being friendly enough. It is healthier for my soul to just do whatever I’m going to do and let them deal with their issues themselves. Otherwise I’m constantly second guessing myself.

I try to adapt myself to other people. I think it is kind to adjust myself so I’m at eye height to them, or that I know enough about their reading interests that I can suggest something for them to read when they ask. Remember how the apostle Paul tells us we must be all things to all people? Yeah. That.

But there is a big difference in being accommodating and being a doormat.

And there is something very dangerous in letting someone else shape your behavior. When you do, you are giving up your autonomy. You are giving up control. You are letting someone else tell you how to live your life.

I have a friend who was told that he would amount to nothing, that all he was good for was factory work. He was told this by an authority figure at school. Fortunately he had a strong mother who told him a different story. He is soon to graduate as a social worker.

Imagine the loss to our world if he had listened to that negative person.

We are often told that we aren’t good enough, that we can’t do something, or that we should give up or never even start. The secret is that other people are mirrors of you. If someone is telling you that, it is their own fear of failure they are pushing onto you.

Don’t take it. It isn’t healthy.

Think of this. Use “you can’t do that” as a dare, as a springboard. Use it as a sign that you are on the right path. There is something you are about to do that frightens them, because they think they can’t do it. But they aren’t you. Prove that person wrong. Do it instead of them. Do it because of them. But just do it.

And forget about what they think. They don’t know anything anyway.

The essence of “self-esteem” is “self”

I remember talking with a friend many years ago and saying that the most important part about self esteem is the word “self”. If you have to rely on other people for your self esteem, then you aren’t doing it right.

I saw a Facebook meme that had a picture of a happy child with a tagline that said something about how important it is for parents to fill their child’s bucket of self esteem so high that it spilled over. This may sound strange to say in light of my recent post about verbal abuse, but I think there might be something wrong with that.

Sure, I think it is important to encourage your child and to support her. Sure, I think it is essential that a parent be a good model for the child. But I think a dose of reality is important too.

To cheer someone on as if they are doing A-level work when really it is D-level work is to set them up for failure. Encourage and show them how to succeed. Yes, cheer on every good thing they do – they can’t do it perfectly at the beginning. But don’t tell them they have reached the top of the mountain when they are still standing at the base. They will never keep growing to their full potential. They will think they are already there.

We’re just now seeing the results of this kind of thinking in the work force. There has been an entire generation of kids who have gotten trophies just for participating. They have gotten certificates just for showing up. So they get into “the real world” and they wonder why they aren’t getting the same amount of praise for the same lack of effort.

It also seems odd for someone to say that another person damaged their self-esteem. Eleanor Roosevelt tells us that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” There are plenty of self-help books (that I’ve listed as “Survival Books”) that will tell you the same thing. You can’t change the other person. You can only change yourself. That is the essence of self-help. You have to help yourself. Someone else didn’t affect your self-esteem – you chose to let them bother you. This sounds in part like blaming the victim, but it isn’t. It is actually empowering. It is encouraging the person to stop being a victim – to stop letting things happen to them, and to be an active participant in life.

Sometimes this means leaving the situation. Sometimes the other person just isn’t healthy to be around, and they aren’t going to get nicer. Sometimes it just requires you sticking up for yourself and telling the other person how their actions make you feel. Then they have a choice to act differently or not. Then you have a choice to take it or not. But it is on you to make the choice to act.

Other people can encourage you and support you, but when it gets hard, you have to be able to take care of yourself. Ultimately, other people are not responsible for your mental well-being, you are.