Five Minute Sherpa

an espresso shot of thoughtful guidance

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Excuses, The Human Condition, and Truth

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.” ― Flannery O’ Connor 

On my way in to the office this morning, I heard a report from the Sandusky sex-abuse trail that a psychologist has deemed Jerry Sandusky as having a personality disorder. I believe they are referring to the “Histrionic Personality Disorder” which they seemingly suggest is the reason he has such a high need to be appreciated (admired?) which caused his “inappropriate actions.”

Personality disorders are real, there is no disputing that fact. What I find offensive is the notion that having a disorder like this is the real culprit behind these egregious and evil acts of violence towards countless young boys. This excuse is an abusive use of non-scientific theory intended to lessen the consequences of Sandusky’s actions. There is so much grey area in the realm of personality disorders that if the need to be appreciated is the evidence for such a disorder, then every one of us should be sent to a hospital.

I don’t know if he is guilty or not. I don’t know what happened in the showers, in the bedrooms, or in the car with those boys. But I do know that now is not the time for Sandusky to pull out his personality disorder as the “get out of jail free” card it seems to be intended for. Evidently the defense believes if you have a personality disorder, you’re not accountable for abusing young boys. This is offensive to me, and I hope to you.

The human condition is broken. We all do stupid, inappropriate, and sometimes harmful actions towards ourselves and others. Sandusky is no different in his condition. He’s just like you and me. He’s a wounded man who let the pain of his condition and life dictate his actions towards others. However, if we’re willing to put down our swords and stones, we can learn something from him.

If you leave your wounds alone, they will resurface and wound others. Hurt people, hurt people.

It’s our responsibility to consider what stories we have lived and experienced as a way to keep ourselves from reenacting our stories with other people.

If you mess up, own it. Take responsibility for your actions. It’s not “if” you’ll screw up, it’s “when.” There is too much energy spent hiding the truth and skirting responsibility. Truth is a powerful motivator. If we tell the truth, judgement from ourselves and others is not too far away. Relationships might be lost, financial ruin could happen, and reputations might be tarnished. These are the risks of telling the truth.

What’s to be gained? Being known, trust in others, healing of our deep and dark wounds, and forgiveness of ourselves and others. When we hide what we have done and left undone, we prevent others from being able to give grace, mercy, and kindness. Yes, we risk being chastised and hurt, but if that’s the best those around you have to offer, perhaps those relationships aren’t the best.

It’s a simple formula that we will all spend the rest of our lives trying to cheat the system:

Know the truth.

Tell the truth.

Trust in the process.

 

 

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Creativity and Marriage

Along with 13-million other viewers (at the time of this post), I laughed and cried at the creativity and expression of love that was displayed in the “Live Lip-Sync Marriage Proposal” There are moments when I unequivocally believe the internet is one of the best inventions, ever. This is one of those moments.

After watching the video, I began to wonder what their relationship will look like in 5, 10, 15 years. If current relationships stats hold true, they have less than a 50% shot of being married in 10 years. Surely this couple can make it, right?

How can two people who are so in love with each other, so full of creativity and passion so as to arrange for 60 friends to lip-sync a song, fall out of love and end up split? There is no secret to a successful marriage. It takes hard work, just like the rest of life does. Just as this guy put forth countless hours to plan and execute this proposal, he’ll need to do the same once married.

I believe if they (and you) continue to put this much time and effort into expressing their love towards each other, they will make it. That’s not to say that marriages always make it if you put forth the work. The couples who continue to make efforts and strive towards creating new experiences with their spouse are the couples who find shared meaning.

 

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I Can Only Speak for Me

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better. – Anne Lamott

So… it’s pretty easy to talk about other people. To see their faults, cracks, damages, and also their giftings, goodness, and success in life. It’s much harder to see our own. (Which is why I think everyone ought to get married and/or have kids. Marriage and Parenting makes it really difficult to ignore the reflection of yourself. But that’s another topic for another day.)

It’s hard to talk and write about the stories you have that have been influenced by others without giving too much credit to the other person. What has happened to you, has happened to you. And you’re the only one who can tell the story of what has happened to you.

You can’t speak for the other person, about their motives or assumptions. It’s not your job to protect others from the impact they or someone else has had on you. Your only responsibility is to speak about your experience.

Not theirs. Yours.

“How will you respond to what’s happened?” is really the only question that matters. Because the last thing you want to do, is to respond like this:

 

 

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Seeing the Real You

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.

~Fritz Perls

 

It’s human nature to care what others think of us, but this nature can get us into trouble. If you care what others think, more than you think you ought to, then it’s a good chance you don’t know you. When we come to know ourselves, we come realize that we have flaws, dings, dents, and a beauty that is only possible because of those human things. Joseph Campbell says that we don’t love others because they are perfect, we love others because they are deeply flawed. Without flaws, there is nothing to love (See Good Will Hunting).

We care what others think because it’s easy. It’s easy to ask someone else to define you. To judge you. To tell you who or what you are (and in most cases, they will tell you what you are, not who you are). We want easy, because hard is painful. Hard is just that, hard. And not many of us like hard.

So, the warning flag that you’re not engaged with your soul, your true self, is that you care what others think. If that flag is flying, recognize it. Take it down, and find out who you are. Carry and write in a journal. Read a book. Sit outside in nature, and meditate on what you see. Consider what excites you, what scares you, and what you want out of life. What do you dream?

You’ll get down to some gritty and hard places if you stop wondering about others and turn inward. That journey will be a lot longer and harder than what people think. But frankly, people don’t think about you nearly as much as you’d like. And the ones that really care about you, those are the ones who don’t just think about you, they do something about it. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about what you see in yourself.

 

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Stop trying to be normal. You’re not.

    There is no great genius without some touch of madness.
          ~ Seneca 

The more normal you try to be (or the more like others you try to parrot) the less of you we will see. The move away from genius leads to people wanting to be normal, to not have to risk their necks with some dream, idea, or stroke of genius.

Normal is depressing. Normal is just plain vanilla, no toppings. Normal is the path of no resistance. Not least resistance, no resistance. Normal is normal, and more and more people are looking for the supposed feel-good nature of being normal. Let others define what normal is, then jump on the bandwagon to feel accepted, part of the team. But you’re not accepted or connected. You’re a drone that parrots what you think others want to hear, what you think others value as popular or normal.

The problem is, normal doesn’t feel good for long. It’s cheap. Like plastic forks. Good for the occasional use, but rely on it for too long and it’ll break. It’ll let you down. And then you’ll try another version of normal. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Trying to be normal is really about a misguided search for meaning. For purpose. For life.

Normal is death. It’s death to the soul. To the creative part of you that only you know, that only you see, and that only you choose to hide or show. Trying to be normal is self-rejection. It’s death.

It’s crazy to enter into and commit oneself to another person for life… It’s even crazier to become parents. Yet we put aside stats, conventional wisdom, and follow our hearts into some of the scariest, most dangerous, and land-mine-filled area called marriage. Over 50% of marriages fail today. Yet people still get married. Why? Because they’re in love. Because their heart believes that they cannot go on without the other person. That, my friends, is madness. Ignoring logic and going with you’re heart is madness.

And it’s genius. Pure creative genius. Picasso wasn’t a genius because of what he painted, he was a genius for when and how he painted.

The same is true for you. You’re not a genius for what idea you come up with, or what decision you make. You’re a genius for taking the risk to fulfill your dream. In putting your neck on the line and risk being called a fool. And trust me, those who will call you a fool are envious, because they’re normal and you’re not.

 

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Live to die once, not twice.

While watching a show on the Battle of Franklin last weekend, I was struck by a statement the narrator made about life, death, and story. While describing the Lotz family and house being caught in the middle of the Battle of Franklin, he said that every person dies twice. Once when our bodies stop breathing, and then again when our stories stop being told. The narrator said that his goal was to ensure that the story of the Lotz family was never forgotten.

This statement struck me because I am constantly intrigued by the concept of telling stories (my kids can attest to this with our bedtime story adventures). But more importantly, this statement about dying twice helped me to conceptualize how we go about engaging with the fear of living our lives. For one, we can live in fear of our human death, or secondly we can live in fear of our legacy dying.

Living in fear of physical death likely leads to a very safe and cautious life of not taking many risks, if any at all. I think this fear of death takes many different shapes. Sure, we can fear the actual human death when our bodies stop breathing, but I think the more prevalent death we fear is relational in nature. We don’t want to be left alone, to be dead to others whom we care or want to care about. We don’t want to fail at something or in a relationship. We don’t want to start something and not be enough to finish it. This fear of death confronts every one of us. This is the fear of starting a business, speaking in public, seeking out a new relationship, having children, writing a book, or creating something new. I often think that life would look differently if success was defined as how often we failed.

On the other hand if we live in fear of our legacy dying, we’ll be faced with living in pursuit for someone/something that is bigger than ourselves. This is the hard work of life. (And I stress hard work, because it is truly hard work). To live in such a way to this thinking beyond today. It is suffering the reality of delayed gratification (or perhaps sometimes no gratification). To live this way accepts the frailty of physical death and the robustness and power of a story.

One death is certain for everyone. The certainty of the other is what we all must face every day. Will you live to die once, or twice?

 

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Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
Chapter 5
I walk down another street.

~ Portia Nelson ~

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The ways we love

Recently there has been quite a stir about the Christian sub-culture around the issue of Rob Bell and his new book Love Wins. I’ve read a few of blog posts, some twitter posts (including a very prominent Author and Pastor who tweeted “farewell Rob Bell”), and some reviews of the book. While the debate is interesting to watch, I find the practicality of it all a bit obtuse. So in light of that, I wanted to share a few thoughts about how I see love and the ways in which we can love others (This is an article that will be published in April in a local health and wellness magazine).

Love is strong. Love is tender. Love is hard. Love is the nourishment of life. Of all the needs in life, none is more common or more core to us than love. We are all born into this world in dire and desperate need of love. In the early years of life, love was expressed to us through feedings, holding, rocking, and playing. As we grow up, we become more defined in our personalities and in who we are as individuals. And with each step of growth towards being independent, so too our need for the expressions of love we received as kids.

As adults, our need for love is no less than when we were infants. That’s the way we were created. Much research has shown that humans have a need and tendency to attach and connect with other humans: This is the basis of love.

So how do we love? Here are four categories that are broad in scope, but really give us some great insights into practical applications for loving others. “Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love covers all offenses.” Proverbs 10:12

First, we can delight in the other. My six year old daughter catches me off guard almost daily. Her creativity and artistic flare show me that there is beauty and glory much beyond what I comprehend in my mind. One of the ways that I delight in her is to give her my full attention. This little act of being fully present for someone will go a long way in communicating to them that you are excited and delighted to be in their presence. Another way that we can delight is through gifts, acts of service, words of encouragement, or touch.

Secondly, showing love comes through being curious. When we ask questions out of curiosity and interest about someone else, it communicates that we want to know more about what it is that they are sharing about. Taking people at face value often creates some undercurrents of mistrust or feelings of being unsafe. We are complicated creatures, and to assume or presume that anyone is as simple as they claim to be is not fully appreciating the complexity of the human race. Sometimes the complexity is comical, and sometimes it’s downright confusing. When you’re confused, ask questions. I saw a bumper sticker the other day which read “the shortest distance between two people is a story.” Curiosity is the fertile ground for stories to be told. And when stories are told, we get the experience of the other person beyond what any data could provide.

In a bit more difficult way, we can show others that we love them by being willing to stand in their way. This is a tricky way because it can often be misused and manipulative. Love is not self-serving, and does not return void. With that in mind, being willing to stand in someone’s way can be the most difficult thing you do, but could change their life. Addictions are running rampant in our culture and there are many friends and family members who are deeply engrossed in a loved ones addictive behavior by enabling. Standing in someones way is the opposite of enabling. Again, this is incredibly difficult to do, especially with adults, but it is paramount that we do this with those we love the most.

Lastly, we show others love by being willing to allow for painful situations to occur. This might be the most difficult to do and understand, but is one of the most rewarding aspects of love that I’ve ever experienced. Again, just as the previous example there is the possibility of this being misused or abused. With that said, consider this: Is it ever ok to burn or cut someone? Before you read on, think about that for a moment. In most situations the answer to that question is no, but not in all situations. But in some situations, it is necessary to burn and cut people for their care. Cancer patients need to be burned in order to kill the cancerous growths in their body, just as someone in need of a heart transplant must be cut open in order to be saved. In the common relationship, the ones that don’t involve chemotherapy and surgery, our unexpressed emotions or feelings can sometimes bring harm other people. We give too much power to silent and unexpressed emotions. What love calls of us is to be willing to do things that might hurt others, which is a very risky and scary thing to consider. But if you tell me a story about someone loving you well, I will tell you the story of how they risked hurting you to love you.

Love is what we all desire. Perhaps there is someone in your life that needs you to be curious about them, to stand in their way, or to delight in them. Consider risking love, because ultimately, love wins.