Enough good

“There is enough good in the worst of us, and enough bad in the best of us, that it behooves all of us not to speak ill of the rest of us”

at least that is how I remembered the quote that Edward Wallis Hoch is recorded as saying. His actually said, “there is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us”

I guess I changed it to memorize his quote the way I saw it. I don’t think I agreed with the concept ‘so much’ good and ‘so much’ bad. There may not be ‘so much’.  There may be very little. There may be precious very little. But I think somewhere some good, and some bad can be found.

There was a preacher my husband worked for who is one of only 4-5 people that I place on my ‘evil’ list. Over time the preacher would treat my husband as I treated the preacher. If I kept my distance-as was my desire-he was micro-managing and critical of my husband. If I was ‘nice’ to the preacher, he pretty much let my husband do his job. It was a very unpleasant experience. This reason is not why I thought the man was evil. I thought he was evil because he had affairs, misrepresented himself and his ministry, lied, mocked people with disabilities, took money under false pretenses, and sat up at night thinking how he could ‘get people’; as in hurt their lives. He was injurious to people physically, mentally and spiritually.

At any rate, I had to think how to deal with this man. Eventually he was confronted and had to leave the ministry or be publicly exposed. In the meantime I had to cope. This is the next thing that I didn’t agree with in Edwards quote- ‘to talk about the rest of us’. I had to talk. I talked a lot. Not to the public at large but to my trusted friends. Talking helped me sort out how I felt, how to handle things and how to react to this preacher. (in the southern baptist church you cannot speak critically of the preacher. he is like a mini-god. I tried to talk to the deacons on several occasions and they had mute ears. see religionrecovery.wordpress.com for more stories on this preacher.)

So I considered what might be good about this person. He dressed well. Very sharp dresser. He spoke well. If I wanted someone to represent me, he could be the person. He spoke like a lawyer. hmm….what else?…..hmmm….

that was about all I could come up with. Then I could finish the quote my way…’not to speak ill of the rest of us’. I learned several things from this experience with the preacher:

1. I do not answer for other people. I answer for myself.

2. I cannot control other people, I can only control myself, my actions, and my reactions

3. My perspective was everything-how I framed things affected how I felt about them

4. Inform ‘authorities’ of behavior that you feel needs to be reported-then let them do their job

While I did the above, I was deeply affected by the whole experience. What we experience does change us. I no longer let a person stand in a pulpit and tell me how to live, how to think and what to do.

I think for myself. And one of the things I think is that it is important to find positive things to think about. That is why I try to live by Edward’s altered quote–look for good in people, and try not to speak negatively about them. If they are people that I cannot find good things to say about them, than I walk away from them. I don’t let them into my life. Being around people who cause me to use precious energy to try and manage a relationship with them is not worth it. It is like having a toxic drip that causes a hole in my bucket of energy; the energy just keeps going right out of that hole. I am left wondering why I am so exhausted.  Ending the relationship takes the toxic drip away and the hole in the energy bucket can heal, and you can feel so much better.

So I guess, dealing with people is multi-faceted. How we see them, what we allow into our lives, and when to discern when a relationship should be severed.

“You must not under any pretense allow your mind to dwell on any thought that is not positive, constructive, optimistic and Kind.” Emmet Fox

“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours” Wayne Dyer

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love is a choice

“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love” Stephen Kendrick

I grew up with the feeling of being loved. I believed that no matter what I did, I could talk with my parents about it, they would help me, forgive me, and love me. It made me feel so safe and secure…no matter what the world threw at me, if I rallied or if I failed, I could count on my parents. Not that I was always lovable. I am pretty sure that during the teen age years I caused some heart break. I veered from the path of strong love to a religious bent. I became a zealot and while I am sure I presumed to love my parents, I would also fall on my knees in sobbing pleas for God to save their souls-as I felt they were doomed for hell. I am afraid that during those times they didn’t feel love and acceptance from me, but could sense my thoughts of judgement on them. Despite my intolerant distance from them, they loved me.

I grew out of my zealot bent. I had an opportunity to show both of my parents before their death my devotion to them, full acceptance and great love. They didn’t expect an apology…it was all a part of growing up and experimenting with different philosophies, ideas, and directions. But I have apologized. To them, and to myself. It is one of my regrets: if I ever made anyone feel bad about themselves because their beliefs were different than mine.

I have also been the recipient of conditional love. My husband of 31 years could not accept me when I began to question the actions and dogmas of our strong fundamental conservative church. He was a minister and my freedom of thought was unacceptable. I often say, when I stopped enjoying the church, he stopped enjoying me.

In the end, I learned unconditional love from people ‘outside’ the church. The people in the church had ‘conditions’ on their love for me.

But I cannot answer for other people. I can only answer for myself, my actions, and reactions.

Love may feel very natural and instinctual. Sometimes it is, and most often it starts that way. But love is a choice and a commitment. When a child / teen starts to get involved in things that one might feel is wrong, and maybe it is, and maybe you need to show a little ‘tough’ love, but when you look into their eyes, you see who they are, who they will become and you believe they can do it. You have to look beyond the current moment.

When my daughter was born with spina bifida, she learned to walk with leg braces and crutches when she was two years old. It was wonderful that she could stand, it was also sad that she needed assistance. Sometimes she cried and didn’t want to put on the braces. After my hugs to her, I would look in her eyes and I didn’t see a two year old with crutches, I saw a beautiful young woman who was mobile and could get around independently.  I gave her strength through my belief that she could do it.

When my son was in college and feeling listless and couldn’t find direction in his life, he looked at me and asked , “what should I do”? This was during the time that Back to the Future movie had come out, and in the movie there is a family photo and people keep vanishing from the picture. He said, tell me what to do, I am vanishing… But I looked him in the eyes and didn’t see a lost young man. I saw a capable, bright, strong young man. I told him I could not tell him what to do, he had his own journey, but I knew whatever he chose to do, he would do it great. He could accomplish whatever he set out to do.

Today my daughter is driving a special equipped van and living in her own apartment. My son is a husband,  and father of a beautiful 4 year old daughter and gainfully employed. He looks at her and tells her she can be and do anything she wants to do. No ‘box’ to stay within, just a free spirit soar that her spirit can take.

Love can be challenging. Loving people can let in pain. Loving people can bring joy. But love them, it is a choice. That is what makes conditional love so painful—they choose to let go of their love if you don’t do as they say, or be as they want. When I met and fell in love with my current husband, he accepted me then, and now, for who I am, not necessarily what I do. When he hugged me, he hugged my soul.

“The fire that we call loving is too strong for human minds. But just right for human souls” Aberjhani