Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm Outraged! It's Time to Speak Out!

The other day I found myself singing along to a song on the radio, not really thinking about the lyrics, just singing along. I must’ve heard the song again last night and decided for some strange reason to google the video. I was absolutely horrified at what I saw. The song was “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem. Keep in mind, I was not put off by the language or by the fact that it was Eminem. I mean I expect that his songs will be vulgar and ridiculous. What horrified me was that the song stood for everything that I am against relationally. The basic premise of the song is that love = pain. And not just the pain of heartache, but an addictive, dysfunctional abusive pain that leaves people devastated and sometimes dead. What???? NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. Not on my watch. Not in my lifetime. I am taking a stand today against this message, and I’m hoping after you read this blog you’ll stand with me and repost this blog.

One reason I am outraged is that Eminem took his message to a new level. This video is so Hollywood. It stars Meagan Fox, Dominic Monaghan, Rhiana and Eminem, and it targets young people who still don’t know what real love is. He has gone above and beyond to make abuse look glamorous, seductive and appealing. It’s not. There is no magical deep connection that turns into rage and beatings. It’s a lie. Don’t buy into it!

Love does not abuse, it does not beat, it does not lose control. It is not jealous it is not crazy. Love doesn’t cheat, love doesn’t betray and love doesn’t use you and throw you away when you’re not convenient to deal with. Love doesn’t threaten and it doesn’t punish. Let’s call all this what it is, it’s insanity. I’m going to go through some of the lines he writes to really dissect what’s being said and promoted by all involved:

High off my love, drunk from hate

It’s like I’m huffin’ paint and I love it the more I suffer

That’s not love Eminem, that’s sick. It’s called self-hatred when you love to suffer, which brings me to Rihanna’s section of the song;

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn?

That’s alright because I like the way it hurts

Just gonna stand there and watch me cry?

That’s alright because I love the way you lie, I love the way you lie.

Here’s the deal, I believe you Rihanna when you say you like it, because you keep engaging with it, you keep choosing that for your life. It makes me so sad when people choose this, because we all decide for ourselves what we believe we deserve. Rihanna’s not the only one believing this lie, the lie that she deserves burning pain. What I hear her saying is she not only deserves it, but has come to embrace it as something to feel affection for.

Back to Eminem:

You ever love somebody so much you could barely breathe when you with ‘em?

You swore you'd never hit 'em; never do nothing to hurt 'em

Now you're in each other's face spewing venom in your words when you spit them

You push pull each other's hair, scratch claw hit 'em

Throw 'em down pin 'em

So lost in the moments when you're in them

It's the rage that took over it controls you both

And how is it that you can live with yourself displaying that kind of relationship as sexy, enticing, and enchanting? With great influence and great power comes great responsibility. Your voice holds a lot of power and influence in this culture (Why? I will never really understand…but that’s another topic). Millions of kids, and young adults look up to you Eminem, and you Rhianna. What kind of message are you sending here? What are you telling them, what are you promoting? It is the greatest perversion of love I have seen lately. I have lived this kind of torment. Thank God I got out, I don’t even know how I got out, I just did. I was saved from this by grace and now I don’t have the prison sentence that some have given themselves by living that kind of abusive life from here on out. Because I’m free, I have dedicated my life to helping others be free of it. So, this is personal for me, very personal.

You may wonder why I bother speaking out. I do it because “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” (Martin Luther King Jr.). To me this video is no different than if he had created one that made child molesters look glamorous and sexy. The picture of love that he has distorted and perverted is an abomination to me. I said this once already, but it goes against everything I stand for. It’s wrong, and someone needed to say it’s wrong. Someone needs to use their voice to fight for what’s right.

Sometimes I don’t even fully understand myself why I react so strongly to some issues and not strongly to others. I think I sense at a deeper level when things have the potential to shift a nation, or a culture, or a large group of people. This can be positive or negative. In those moments I will either get behind it or I’ll want to fight it with everything that is within me. I’ve been helping so many couples lately get back on track with their marriage. I’ve been contending for their families, helping them heal from wounds of the past, hoping to salvage what is left of their lives, and then this video comes along. This video screams “we’re so hot, we’re all about what’s hot right now, you know you want to be us, this is the glamorous life.” And I know some will buy into that. Some already have. But please don’t let it be you. Please don’t let it be your friends. This is not reality, this is not truth, this is not love.

It’s time for the good guys to win. It’s time for marriages to succeed and for families to heal. It’s time for young women to know they are worth far more than that, and it’s time for young men to rise up and be the protectors they were created to be.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Passive Men & Pushy Women

Passive Men

There are so many classic dynamics that come into play when you talk about "nice guys". We've all known them, we've all dated one, and a lot of us married one. I want to start with the strengths of a passive/nice man. First of all, he is a peacekeeper. He is a nurturer, and he is a protector. He wants all those around him to feel valued and honored, and he cares deeply for those he is close to. He gets along well with many different personalities, and he is not intimidated by the strength or intensity of a woman. In fact, he is drawn to a woman like that. He tends to be a great listener and sympathizes well in difficult situations.

However, until he has found his identity and knows he is a powerful man, here are the constraints you will run into; because he is a peacekeeper, he will most often sacrifice taking action when someone has been inappropriate or crossed a boundary. People will take advantage of him and in extreme circumstances be abusive with him, and he will accept that kind of behavior from friends, family & strangers. Passive men that are high nurturers can sometimes end up protecting the wrong things. They will protect dysfunction and keep cycles of unhealthy behavior running for years. They do this because they don't know how to protect healthy core values, and set healthy boundaries. Because he wants everyone around him to "feel good", he won't be honest when someone has hurt him or crossed a line with him. He becomes a people pleaser who is disingenuous with his words, therefore not trustworthy.

The woman who married a passive man with the hopes he would never hurt her, well, she has a harsh wake up call when she realizes he is too weak to protect her. It's like hiring a body guard and then realizing you are stronger, smarter, quicker, and more efficient than he is. Which leads me to talk about...

Pushy Women

Just like I did above, I'll start with the strengths of a high maintenance/pushy/controlling woman. She is independent and often has ideas that will make the world a better place. She is tough, but the common misconception is she is so tough she doesn't feel pain. She feels pain deeply as well as rejection, don't let the tough exterior fool you. She is highly motivated and can perform well under pressure. She also cares deeply for those around her and feels highly protective over her closest friends and family members. She is perceptive and discerning and often picks up on the more subtle aspects of people and situations that others would miss. She requires a lot of deep connection from her mate and her friends, and her standard for life is very high (for herself and for those in her life).

Having said all of that, if she has never known the protection and true strength of a man she could be way out of control. Because she has so many ideas on how to "make the world a better place", she will fight for ideas instead of fighting for people. Because she feels pain so deeply, she will often use threats and punishment when she feels scared, hurt or intimidated. Performance can become her identity, and she will sacrifice relationships to get to the top. When she can't find a man strong enough to lead her or protect her, she will try to be her own bodyguard, and that is not pretty on a woman. She views vulnerability as weakness. When her discernment tells her something is wrong she can often let judgement and fear dictate her behavior. Because her standard is so high for herself, she can become unreasonable in expectations from friends, spouse and children.

The passive man who marries a pushy woman, his wake up call feels like, "hey - you don't need me to protect you, the rest of the world needs me to protect them FROM you!!"

So the pushy woman starts to feel misunderstood, unprotected, abandoned and this unfortunately translates into rage and even more outrageous, out of control behavior. She has chosen to act crazy instead of communicating what she needs.

The passive man starts to take on the identity of a martyr, "look at this insane woman I have to deal with!" He builds a case in his mind that he really is a saint and she just needs to get herself together. He is clueless as to why she has just gone off the deep end, and has no ownership whatsoever that it might be in response to his passivity.

So what's the answer? I have to give you the short version in this blog. Basically the man has to find his strength, and know that strength doesn't mean intimidation, or over-powering, or bullying or being pushy. Strength can be quiet, but it is firm. It is a wall that can't be moved. It is comforting, it is safe, it is fierce, and it is brave. He has to know that he chose a dynamic, intelligent, bright and strong woman. That choice will require more from him. My family pastor used to say, "If you buy a Ferrari, you better know how to drive it and take care of it."

On the flip-side, the woman has to find her vulnerability. She has to know that vulnerability doesn't mean you're weak and helpless. Vulnerability will be the bait that draws him in, it will be the thing that invokes his strongest instincts, to provide and protect. Vulnerability means you know your value and your worth, and you communicate that to those around you. A woman who is vulnerable is one who feels safe and secure. She is beautiful and attractive in that state, and she is most at peace with herself.

Jon is a self-proclaimed recovered Passive Man. And I am a recovered Pushy Woman. Through the years we have been on this journey of finding strength and vulnerability and we can both tell you from experience, the journey has been worth it! Life is better now than it ever has been, and it can be for you too!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Encouragement vs. Flattery

This blog somewhat piggy-backs off my last blog. It's all about defining these terms a little better so we are communicating with each other in the most efficient and most genuine way possible. I want to start by using some of the words the dictionary uses to define flattery and encouragement:

Flattery - honeyed words, sweet talk, smooth talk, buttering up, blandishment, excessive or insincere praise.

Encouragement - inspiration, motivation, support, morale-boosting, championing, promoting, furthering, nurturing, help.

Right off the bat we see which word feels more genuine and more effective. Yet, I think we still get confused as to how and when to use these tools of communication.

In my opinion, flattery is useless. If it were a literal tool in my toolbox I'd throw it out. There are things you can replace it with that will do the job so much better. For example, if you are using flattery in order to gain influence with someone, like a boss or a leader, you are using the wrong tool. People are perceptive and they will discern very quickly when you are being insincere in order to gain favor. Also, those around you who are at your level will resent your shortcut ways to get ahead. You will be dubbed the "brown-noser" of the group and that is a difficult label to shake once it's been given. Instead of using flattery, use genuine interest (encouragement) and observations to gain influence with people. For example:

"Wow, you handled that meeting with a lot of wisdom, I think I learned a few things watching you."

"You seem to lead with great confidence, I like that about you."

"I find it very easy to work under you, thanks for being a great leader."

The key is to only say it if you really mean it. And, choose an appropriate time to deliver your observations. Don't over-do it.

Another common scenario where people use flattery is when a friend or loved one asks them for their opinion, and they don't have the heart to tell them what they really think. So what are some ways to get around telling someone the blunt truth that may hurt their feelings? Let's say a stay at home mom decides to take piano lessons for the first time in her life. She plays her first song for you, and it's terrible. Here are some things you could say that would encourage, rather than flatter:

"I think it's amazing that you are stretching yourself and learning new skills instead of just living an ordinary, day to day life."

"I'm really impressed you are pursuing something like this, is it everything you'd hoped it would be?"

"Is piano your preferred instrument? Does it bring you joy to pursue this?"

Where it gets different and more specific is if this same person says they want to take out a $50,000 loan to cut a new album or start a career as a musician. Then you may have to sit down with them and say, "I'm not sure this is the area you've been naturally gifted in, are you sure you want to invest in something so uncertain?" Or, "To be honest I don't see you having a successful career in music, but I do think you are an amazing parent. You have so much to share with the world in the ways of raising good kids, have you ever thought of developing that more?"

Flattery is a dead end. If you tell someone they are good at something they are not, you could lead them on a wild goose chase, or at the very least, allow them to keep believing a lie. Encouragement tells the truth, but in a way that takes the spot light off what "sucks" and puts it on what is amazing. Everyone has an area they shine in. Not everyone was meant for the stage, but everyone has greatness in them. It doesn't take a genius to point out the flaws. A teacher of mine used to say that people are like gold mines. Keep digging until you find the gold. Anyone can find dirt, but why stop there?

How about the infamous question, "do these jeans make my butt look big?" What do you say if they do? I always like to say, "that's not your best look, I think that other outfit compliments your body shape much better." Or, "Well, your legs are your best feature, so I would wear something that shows them off" instead of "your butt looks huge in that!"

It feels like people are either like Simon Cowell, and just say what they think without any regards to someone's feelings, or they swing to the other side and they are Paula Abdul saying ridiculous things that don't even make sense in order to be the "good guy."

My challenge to you is to use balance, truth and encouragement with your feedback. Don't be lazy by just saying the first thing that comes to your mind, and don't be a coward and basically lie to avoid awkwardness.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Constructive Criticism - How to Give it and How to Receive it

Constructive criticism is one of those topics that can really scare people. I'm sure everyone can remember a time they received criticism that devastated them, or gave criticism to the wrong person at the wrong time, and now that relationship is strained. I want to go over some simple guidelines that will help you determine in the future if it is the right person and the right moment to give constructive criticism, as well as some principles that will help you seek out healthy criticism for yourself in the future.

Let's start first by defining healthy, constructive criticism. If it leaves you feeling hopeful and renewed with passion to make something better or try harder - it's healthy. If it leaves you feeling devastated, hurt, torn apart and hopeless, then it's just plain old good for nothing condemnation.

2nd - let's talk about who has the right to give constructive criticism, and why should we pull those people into our lives to give feedback and point out the flaws or weaknesses of what we are doing?

I have a few hobbies I'm passionate about. One of them is photography. I started out taking thousands of pictures of my kids, and that led to a passion to capture many things with my lens. As I grew in my skill, I would notice other photographer's work that caught my eye, and I would ask a lot of questions. I generally chose photographers who took photos in the genre I was attracted to. I love the farm life, the country feel, the dreamy emotional side to life. I am somewhat traditional in my approach and yet I don't settle for boring. So I wouldn't have gone to a high-fashion, edgy, more abstract photographer to ask advice or to ask for feedback on my photos. It wouldn't really make sense to compare apples to oranges. I looked for people who fell into the same genre as me (not necessarily the same exact style as me). And then of course, I found people who had gone further down the road of success so I could glean from their perspective and experience.

The other thing to consider is I am not trying to launch a career with my photography. I cherish it as something that allows me to archive & preserve the best moments of my life, as well as meet my need to create and design something beautiful. So I'm not going to submit my work to the experts of the world and spend hours and hours perfecting and obsessing over it. I take a casual approach, welcoming honest feedback and asking those I
trust to critique. Those I trust would be people who I respect, people who have more success than I do, and people who have my best interest at heart. I would look for those who would want to build me up & not tear me down.

Now, if we are talking about something more important in life, like say, a marriage - then the rules change a little bit. I still look for someone who is more qualified than I am. I look for someone who has my best interest at heart, someone who wants to build me up and not tear me down. I also look for someone who falls into the same genre, or in this case someone who carries the same core values that I do, for example: if I am in a more traditional marriage where God is at the center - I would seek a marriage expert that would uphold and give advice lining up with those core values. However, I don't take a casual approach to the feedback I get in this realm. I hunker down, take serious notes, study and listen very carefully. Outside of my relationship with God, my marriage/family is the most important thing to me in this life. That warrants a very intense, focused approach where constructive criticism is not a luxury, it's a necessity.

Christians tend to get confused with constructive criticism because telling the truth is not always pleasant or fun. Some churches have a horrible worship leader on stage for years because no one has the courage to say "your gifting is not singing, sorry." It doesn't do anyone any good to tell them they are great at something if they are not. But there are things to consider the next time you give constructive criticism. To summarize:
  • Are you an expert or do you have more success and experience?
  • Are you comparing apples to apples?
  • Do you have their best interest at heart?
  • Are you seeking to build up and not tear down?
  • Have you been invited to give feedback or are you just offering?
  • Do you leave someone hopeful with your style of constructive criticism?
  • Are you able to point out the strong as well as the weak?
  • Is the person asking for feedback looking for casual or detailed and intense?
  • Is the person your addressing looking for constructive criticism or encouragement?

Some things to consider when seeking constructive criticism from others:

  • Do you really want the truth or do you just want to hear you are good at something?
  • Are you asking the right people? (those who have more experience/success)?
  • Were you left with a feeling of hope or hopelessness?
  • What's the intensity level you are looking for, casual feedback or detailed & intense?
  • Do you invite people into your life to give feedback or have you built your life to be unapproachable? Are you the singer that's been terrible for years but no one has courage to tell you?
  • Are you seeking out people who carry the same core values to give you constructive criticism (remember - not people who are exactly like you, just carry the same core values)

I hope that helps you to begin to view constructive criticism as something that can be valuable, helpful, and even welcomed into your life with the right motive and the right person.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Reality is just not good enough for me anymore!" (from the movie Inception)

*Spoiler alert* Don’t read if you haven’t watched Inception yet!

As one who dreams often, and vividly (ever since I was a little girl), Inception was one movie I was really looking forward to. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I could tell immediately from the previews whoever wrote this script was a dreamer himself.

There were so many times they made references to dreams that I could really relate to. Like, when Cobb says “Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.” How many times has that happened where, when trying to describe your dream to someone the next day you start saying “now this is going to sound very weird, but in my dream it was normal!”

Then there was the scene where Cobb takes his protégé to the world that he and Mal built. I have constructed similar cities in my dreams, vast and empty and abandoned, waiting to be filled with people and ideas. I have visited old homes I once lived in, and places I have affection for from when I was a little girl. I have gone up and down the elevators of memories to different levels. Some are light and bright and full of joy, and some are dark and deep and not often visited.

Another aspect of dreaming that is so true is that you “never really remember the beginning of a dream, do you? You always wind up right in the middle of what’s going on.” And, “in a dream, your mind functions more quickly. Therefore, time seems to feel slower. Five minutes in the real world gives you an hour in the dream.” Again, so true! I can wake up at 8am, look at the clock, fall back asleep for 30 minutes and feel like I’ve dreamed a whole night’s worth of dreams!

Coming next is one of my favorite parts of the movie. The strategy for inception in Fischer’s mind:

Cobb: “I will split up my Father’s empire”. Now this is obviously an idea that Robert himself will choose to reject. Which is why we need to plant it deep in his subconscious. The subconscious is motivated by emotion, right? Not reason. Which is why we need to find a way to translate this into an emotional concept.

Arthur: How do you translate a business strategy into an emotion?

Cobb: That’s what we ‘re going to figure out. Fischer’s relationship with his father is stressed to say the least.

Eames: Can we fun with that? We could suggest breaking up the company as a “screw you” to the old man.

Cobb: No, because I think positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time. We all yearn for reconciliation. For catharsis. We need Robert Fischer to have a positive emotional reaction to all this.

Eames: Well, why don’t we try this? “My father accepts that I want to create for myself, not follow in his footsteps.”

Cobb: That might work.

I love it! Once again, a key revelation we should remember. A positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time. Sometimes we believe the power of negative experiences is the ultimate power. But they tapped into something so true here, true for life and for dreams. Positive trumps negative, every time. Even though their mission was to go in and plant a lie, therefore making the entire mission "evil", they still brought out that huge whopping nugget of truth - and accomplished their evil mission the very best way possible :-)

I say evil because the other premise of the movie was even when you have the very best of intentions, when you plant a lie in someone's soul, in their subconscious, eventually it will destroy them. Even if you meant it for good, to protect them, a lie is a lie. Lies destroy. So Cobb's experience with inception never did work for good. He learned the hard way with Mal and lost the thing that was most precious to him, and then unfortunately chose to do it again. Although I understand why he did it the 2nd time, to be reunited with his children. So, Cobb is still a good guy in my book. I just wonder if he'll learn that inception destroys, inception is the negative, and positive trumps negative every time.

To conclude, I want to quote Cobb's monologue with Mal in the end. This one made me tear up - so powerful:

Mal: I’m the only thing you do believe in anymore.

Cobb: I wish. I wish more than anything. But I can’t imagine you with all your complexity, all your perfection, all your imperfection. Look at you. You are just a shade of my real wife. You’re the best I can do; but I’m sorry, you are just not good enough.

That statement was so powerful to me. He recognized that even in his deepest levels of his subconscious he could never imagine his wife in all her complexities. He let her go because she was just a snap shot of who he knew. Even in the lifetime they'd already had together, he only knew a "shade" of her. Woman was created with so many mysteries and levels of depth. It would take a man many lifetimes to explore them all, and it would take him an eternity to understand them all. A man who is willing and eager to pursue and explore all of that, well...that's one you want to hold onto. That my friends, is love worth fighting for.