Saturday, July 30, 2016

Relationships that Cause Shame

Some people grow up feeling shame, whether because of physical abuse or sexual abuse, bullying, emotional neglect, or some other reason. But have you ever thought about this question: Why does one person, who feels shame, feel the need to shame another, while another person, who feels shame, feels no such need? Why does one person, who has struggled, seek to help others, while another person, who has struggled, feels the need to knock others down? 

I know some will say it's a choice. And of course, that's partly true. The one who doesn't choose to shame others or knock others down makes the kinder and wiser choice.

But that doesn't totally answer the question. I still wonder why. Why do we make those choices? I can't just put it all into neat little boxes of "good people" and "bad people".

I don't tend to judge people harshly…which doesn't mean I don't get angry at people for the way they treat myself or others; but I usually stop short of thinking of them as "bad people"…probably because I was sometimes treated badly as a child by other children who I cared about, and I didn't stop caring about them as a result.

When someone treats us badly, it's my guess that it probably doesn't take their own feelings of shame away. I think it would only add to it.

But as much as it hurt me, I can't throw out the good which I remember, too. It's there, all tangled up with the bad. It's confusing.

What I can do, and what I feel I must do – and what it took me years, even decades, to do! – is acknowledge that I was wronged. It wasn't my fault that I was mistreated. It wasn't that I was weak. It was simply wrong. "They" were not "wrong", like a "wrong person" or a "mistake", but neither was I.  

That doesn't mean I didn't ever do anything wrong or didn't ever hurt them too! It's just that some of us have a harder time acknowledging that not everything was about something we did, that we didn't do anything to warrant cruel mistreatment.   

Somewhere, buried deep inside, we must know that our own happiness and well-being is not less important. Secondly, someone else's mistreatment of us cannot - I believe now - bring them greater happiness and well-being.  

But we can allow ourselves to remember the good times or thoughts when they pop up, even while acknowledging the bad times. We can forgive someone for the very real harm they did to us without letting them do it again. 

In some cases, we may still be in touch and set boundaries; but I know there are cases where it isn't safe for someone to be in touch, and other cases where one grows weary of reaching out; but we can say a little pray for them, when we think of them, and wish them well inside our hearts. 

I believe that caring for ourselves – not only physically but emotionally, too - is not selfishness, but the kind of self-love that gives us the capacity to love others, and especially to find those with whom we can have relationships which are "right". In a "right" relationship, we care for one another, not just care in the sense of liking someone, or having fun with them, but also care in the sense of desiring the mutual happiness and well-being of both people.


Friday, July 08, 2016

In the Wake of Recent Tragedies

I was heartbroken yesterday. I am no less so today. I'd like to ask you one thing. Please don't let the media, any politicians, or anyone else make this an "us" vs. "them" thing for you. It isn't.
You might not guess this from my past posts, but someone close to me wears the uniform and carries the gun. I thought about that waking up this morning, and I hadn't heard about Dallas yet. Maybe I was feeling something. Yes, it's not easy being an officer, and we need to see them as human beings and value their lives, and appreciate the dedication of the many who are doing their jobs well. But please understand that doesn't mean we can't make some changes in the system. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't value the lives of those who are senselessly killed, without due process, for minor infractions or sometimes no infraction at all. That doesn't mean we can't call for accountability, as we would in any other profession.
Just for a little perspective, does anyone think that teachers, coaches, and those who lead souls should be allowed to sexually abuse children unchecked? No, we have worked to change systems to control and deal with that…fortunately, to the benefit of all those who are good teachers, coaches, and leaders of souls. In a similar way, it is not that all or most policemen and policewomen are bad people. For heaven's sake, many of them get into it primarily because they want to serve. But if you assume they are all good, all make good judgments all the time, no matter what they do…even if they kill without cause, then would you make the same assumption if it were your child or son or husband who was a victim? Would you feel the same if a teacher abused your child? We need to respect the law but we need to change some of the systems, so that we have better training, better vetting, and more accountability in the profession.
One can be upset about both what happened with the two men who were killed by police in the past few days and what happened in Dallas. That is not mutually exclusive. Sure, perhaps some in the media want to make it us vs. them, like a sporting event, so we will watch and read. But it isn't us vs. them! For one thing, if you go there, you are comparing apples and oranges, a profession and a race. What sense does that even make?
Wanting accountability within a profession doesn't mean someone wants carnage, the very kind of carnage some of us are hoping to change. Why would anyone who is trying to fight for better legislation to stop violence want more violence? Are people even aware of the reasonable means being used to try to bring about change?
What happened in Dallas was a peaceful protest, which was being followed by a moment of silence. Who the snipers were and why they were there, I don't know. I don't know if we will ever really know the motivation. But it is grief upon grief for our nation.
I do want to add that all my teenage and adult life, I've grieved so much whenever I hear people say derogatory things or make derogatory judgments about people based on their race. I'm not saying I'm perfect and that I've never had any kind of prejudiced thought in my life; but I check myself on it. I'm not saying I'm a better person; maybe I was helped by my sister marrying someone of another race, while I was just a young teen. But all I know is it grieves me deeply. I think it must grieve the Father more. If we look at someone and automatically make a judgment about what they might do or think or feel, based on the color of their skin, then what are we saying to their Creator?

Thursday, July 07, 2016

To My White Friends Today

Today as I drove to the store here in Baltimore, as I saw black men walking from the subway or the bus to their jobs, as I always do, I really thought seriously about what it might feel to be them, to be walking, and to never know how that day might go down. Or how about the many who are working professional jobs, driving their cars to work or recreation, not knowing what might happen at a traffic stop?

As I shopped, my heart just kept breaking, feeling the pain that must be in the hearts of my neighbors here, those I shop with and those who serve me at the store, those who put the food on the shelves so I can buy it, the men and women who check my food through when I'm done, the woman who kindly made sure I remembered to remove my card from the silly new chip reader. How do they feel today? Last month? Last year? Every day?

I know how I felt that one day when police came to my door in bullet proof vests with adrenaline oozing into the atmosphere, guns at the ready, asking if my son was home, asking which room he was in, demanding that I step aside so they could enter the room of my sleeping son.

I don't know what anyone might do who is wakened from a sound sleep to a strange situation. I don't know what policemen "on the ready" might do. So in my fear, I did something which could have been very foolish. When the officer told me to step aside, I just stood there. I sometimes wonder how that would have gone down if I had not been a middle-aged white woman? Yes, I think I'm privileged. It's not a choice I've made, and it breaks my heart that, for someone else, it could have gone differently.

I don't even know where the words came from, but I asked, "Are you sure you have the right person?" Somehow, in that moment, the officer released a degree of his fear and readiness, and brought out a flyer to show me.

Next time you think that surely someone "didn't cooperate", first of all, it might not even be true; but even if there may be cases where it appears that way, please, if you would, remember me, standing there between armed officers and the door to my son's bedroom while I was told to move, and I didn't cooperate; I didn't comply. It wasn't wisdom and it wasn't bravery; it was just what I did in the moment without thinking.

It wasn't my son they wanted. After showing me a flyer, they believed me, and they let me be the one to wake my son so they could talk to him to see if he knew anything about the wanted person (he didn't). It was a case of mistaken identity, the right name, but the wrong person at the wrong address. It happens. It wasn't the first time it's ever happened to anyone; that's why we have a name for it. It happens in homes and it happens with cars.

You might have heard me tell this story before, but I tell it today to share the fear and reactions of a mother, a woman who was brought up in the 50's and 60's in a small town in Washington...brought up to think that all police are always our friend, always there to help, and as long as we cooperate, everything will be just fine. Yet, in that moment, I felt their fear and their readiness, and I was very afraid for my son.

I agree with those who say that many policemen just want to do their job. And yes, of course their lives matter. Of course all lives matter. But when we say black lives matter – at least when I say it - it's my way of saying that we need to acknowledge that there is a problem. And we need to work toward improvement without delay: better training and especially more accountability! And we need to be empathetic instead of defensive about the loss of black lives.  

All I'd like to ask from my white friends for today is a little honesty with ourselves and a little empathy. How would we feel if we were that wife and mother, that girlfriend, that sister, father, brother, or friend of someone whose life was threatened or violently ended over a minor infraction or, in some cases, perhaps no infraction at all?  How would we feel if we were part of a group for which this just kept happening again and again and again?