Bully Free School Zone

Last week we started a conversation about two of the challenges that kids going back to school face, and we started by looking at drugs. Today we’re going to talk about a topic that is definitely more talked about with relationship to kids and teens, but can affect adults as well: bullying. According to the dictionary a bully is “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. A man hired to do violence.” In some ways the second definition would make it easier if that was the majority of the way that bullying happened, but more often than not there’s no money involved, it’s someone who picks on others.

Let’s start by being completely honest. Almost all of us have at one point in time or another throughout our lives picked on someone else. Maybe we did it as part of a crowd, maybe we were there when others did it, and maybe it was done in jest, but most of us have experienced what it’s like to bully or pick on someone. When you’re bullying others or picking on them there’s definitely a rush that you experience, a feeling of power and domination, and it can be seductive. I get that, really I do. But there are so many better ways to experience a rush and be in power than to beat down on someone else.  If you’re someone who tends to bully or pick on other people I strongly encourage you to work on your interpersonal skills and channel that energy into more productive activities like skydiving or catching alligators.

The other feeling that most of us experience (because we’re not true bullies) is the feeling of guilt. That’s the feeling we need to keep at the forefront of our minds when we think about getting involved with a bully or bully someone ourselves. The other feeling we need to keep in mind when considering bullying is of course what the person being bullied feels, which again is something that most of us can understand. Maybe you’ve never been a true target that faced incessant, debilitating or viral bullying, but just about every one of us has been picked on at some point in time or another. It does not feel good to be the target of one or many individuals picking on you, how you look, what you say, how you say it, what you did, who your family is or where you live, or any other number of things that you may have been picked on regarding.

If you’re facing bullying or your kids are, or if you’re just wanting to prepare them for if and when it happens, start with talking about how bullying feels and why it’s wrong with them, and let them know that you’re there for them should they be bullied, as are their teachers and the other adults in their lives. Second, it’s important to instill self-confidence and teach them to value themselves for whomever they are, whatever they like, however they look and wherever they go. They don’t have to be the same as anyone else, they can and should be their own person with their own interests and appearance. Third, don’t let them dismiss it more than once from a person. Sometimes the best thing to do is ignore the person or people and they’ll stop. But if it happens again they (and you) have to learn to stand up for themselves and ask for help if they need it. Maybe the help isn’t someone charging in and demanding the person stop (maybe it is), maybe it’s just giving and/or teaching the person the resources they need to fight this particular bullying situation and individual or group.

With the number of bullying related suicides each year becoming more publicly known more schools and businesses are taking a stand against those who would be bullies or try to demean people. While we still have a long way to go, it’s good that we’re having discussions about it and taking steps to stop it before there are even more bullying-related suicides each year. So the question is, what are you going to do to stop bullying?

Freedom to be Different

This month one of the topics we’ll be taking a look at is the topic of freedom. Part of that freedom that everyone wants to embrace is the freedom to be who they are, to be themselves, and to not be ridiculed or rejected because they’re different. It’s not always easy to give others that freedom because we don’t understand them or their differences, or think that their differences make them wrong/bad. Part of that struggle is a conversation issue, but it might not be the one you’re thinking it is, because there are lots of people around the world having great conversations and lots of opportunities throughout social media and tons of other forums, which is good news.  But most of those conversations are happening between people that who share the same differences (for example between survivors of a particular trauma or people who have a medical condition or people with a passion for bratwurst).

I think a big part of the conversation issue is that some people aren’t willing to listen to others share about their differences, and part of that unwillingness has to do with fears. Fears about the other person’s story actually making a lot of sense, being able to identify with them, or even finding out that maybe the differences aren’t so different after all. If any of those things happen we have to readjust what we know and especially how we interact with them, and that can be really scary or intimidating. It also leads into the possibility that we were wrong about the type of person they are, or wrong about how wrong/bad/weird their difference is, and that’s not easy to swallow either.

I’m not suggesting that we should sit down with terrorists and try to understand or accept our differences, that’s a completely different conversation for another day. What I’m talking about here is two people (or a group of people) talking long before things would ever escalate to war/genocide/massacre level, or even to protest level. I’m talking about regular citizens having conversations with cops, people of different cultures talking, or the older generations talking with the younger ones.

I don’t believe that we’ll all love each other and everything will be perfect if we have these conversations, but I think that we’ll all be able to breathe a little easier if we were a little more open to each of us being different and that difference being OK. Yes, it will mean that we’ll have to suspend our judgment, be open to seeing the world in a new way and maybe even be wrong about what we knew before, not to mention become better communicators. But if we really want a better world for the next generation, I think it’s important that we take the conversations out of our individual groups and start talking among ourselves.  Will you join me in being open to being different, and maybe even someday to celebrating our differences?

Relationships are Scary

As we finish up Halloween I’m thinking about some of the scary things in relationships.  Relationships can be great opportunities to move into an amazing future with someone you care about.  They’re also challenging regardless of how perfect you are for each other.  I’ve always talked about communication as being one key to surviving and thriving in your relationship, trust, forgiveness and love are 3 other very important keys.  Let’s first talk about some of the scary things in relationships that can hurt them.

Our own fears and pasts:  Everyone brings stuff into a relationship, primarily what happened to you before you met that person and the beliefs you have.  You also bring the present into your relationship but for most of us it’s our past that has greater potential for damaging than our present does, mostly because we’re able to do something with our present and can’t do anything about the past.  Our past does make us who we are and does shape our decisions in the present and future. So for example if you were hurt or cheated on in the past, unless you have overwhelming trust and love in your current relationship it will be something that hovers in your consciousness whenever you have to make a decision regarding your relationship or partner.  Fears, however irrational can also affect your relationship. It can limit the experiences you can have together, and hold you back from communicating with your partner.

But what I find most scary about relationships is that some people don’t try them.  Life has painful experiences in it. That’s just how it goes.  You will fail, you will struggle, you will be hurt by others in life.  But I believe that hiding away because you’ve been hurt in the past or are scared you will be again in the future can only do more damage than giving relationships a try could.  Relationships aren’t always easy but every relationship I’ve had has added value or taught me a valuable lesson that has made me a better partner for my significant other.  I may hope that this relationship is the one that lasts, but I know that life has twists and turns you can’t predict that I won’t have to start over again with someone else, whether it’s 50 years from now or just 2.  But rather than fear the future or past, or let my fears hurt my relationship, I’m choosing to step forward and trust that my partner will support me through my concerns and challenges and I can support him through his.

Love and Fears

Today I want to talk about a very Halloween topic: fear.  In all areas of our lives at one point in time or another we’ll probably experience fear. We experience fear when we let our kids go out into the world with new activities (trick-or-treating with other families and not ours), we experience fear when they’re better at things than us (catching Pokemon), we experience fear when our mind gets the best of us (how long our partner is spending at work), and we experience fear when it comes to who we are (am I good enough?).  Maybe you don’t have to deal with a lot of fear in your life because you’re super confident or conquer (smash) your fears really quickly.  Or maybe you’re one of those people who are paralyzed by fear and struggle with it for a long time before being able to even contemplate moving on or next steps.  Some wisdom I read recently has a great insight that not only will help us with our fears but also strengthening our families in general.

“The more we love, the less we fear; the less we fear, the more we love. Sometimes we can address our fears head on and simply dismiss them—or at least manage them. Sometimes love can overwhelm our fear. Sometimes doing some completely gratuitous act of loving-kindness will break through the sclerotic accretions of fear and the fountain begins to flow again.”  Br. Mark Brown

That’s right: love.  I can’t say I’ll be trying love on any of those movie monsters in the near future, but I do know that applying more love to life will help me reduce any fears I have and conquer them quicker and in better form.  There isn’t anything that can make your life, family or relationship perfect.  But there are things that you can do to make them better and healthier, and one of them is love.  If you’ve established a foundation of love within your family and between your partner and you it’s much easier to begin the tough conversations, realize that some of your are baseless, and find the courage and strength to get over the fears that do have foundation.

I believe we can all use more love in our lives, how will you love more this week?

A Response to Violence

I’ve been receiving lots of emails about the violent deaths of black men and women around the US over the past few months and especially these past few days, and you probably have too.  I’ve shared some thoughts on violence before, but to sum up I believe it’s sometimes necessary, but only for reasons of showing your strength or defending those who are weaker and in trouble.  I don’t believe violence should be the answer to fear, differences, disagreements or the way to gain power.  We each have our differences and our similarities.  Just because we’re different in one way or another, it doesn’t make it right to treat anyone as less than a human with rights.  We all have our biases and beliefs, but if we really believe we’re meant to live in a global, connected world, we have to start working together at some point in time.

So today I wanted to share with you a few of the comments I have heard that stood out to me, I may reflect in depth on some of them on the Life and Spirituality blog over the coming days and weeks as well.

“We[‘ve] talked about the terror some of us feel in our own homes. Scared of feeling rejected, ignored, dismissed, or unheard by the people who matter most, we reactively retreat to passivity and self-protection.  This is not the path to peace in our own homes, nor in our own hearts…Ultimately, learn to represent your fullest self to the fullest. That way you give yourself, and the ones who matter most, the best chance at the relationships we all crave.”  Hal Runkel

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“… the attack is a reminder that no life will be safe and truly valued until we also confront the broader American culture of violence.”  Kai Wright

“There is a deep wound in this nation and we must re-double our commitment to be a part of healing it — and it must be done nonviolently.  The only way we can truly generate healing is to take the skills and values of peacebuilding deep into our communities.”  Matthew Albracht

“Everybody’s got to reach deep down and find some empathy.  If you cried for the brother who bled out next to his fiancee, but you didn’t cry this morning for those police officers, it’s time to do a heart check.  If you cried for those police officers, but you have a hard time taking seriously all these videos that are coming out about African Americans dying, it’s time to do a heart check.  Because we are either going to come together or come apart.  There’s enough pain on both sides that there should be some empathy starting to kick in.’  Van Jones

“You need the courage to push yourself beyond your own fears.  You need to embrace your fears in order to make your life everything it was meant to be.”  Chris Howard

The world you grew up in is much different than it was for your parents, and the world your kids and their kids grow up in will be much different than the world you grew up in.  I want a world that will be a place to grow, thrive and blossom, and that’s not possible if the threat of violence remains so high.  What world do you want to create for your future generations?

Creative Mistakes

When was the last time you made a mistake?  Was it recent?  It probably was, I know I’ve made a bunch of mistakes today!  As adults we often see all mistakes as bad and really wrong, can you remember the last time you laughed at a mistake you made or it honestly didn’t bother you?  Kids are really good at letting things go.  They have very short memories about most things, or at the very least don’t let it bother them as long as we hold onto things.

Kids are good at making messes and mistakes, at least they’re mistakes as far as we view them, they may not view them that way though.  Often what we see as something not quite right that kids have done is their way of being creative, their way of trying new things and their way of learning about the world.  By letting them discover on their own we’re helping build their creative muscles and letting them learn how things work and about cause and effect.

The other great thing about kids is that they’re not worried about right or wrong to the same degree that we are or in the same context.  We’re so worried about things going right or being perfect in our eyes or the eyes of the world that we don’t open ourselves up to trying new things and doing things differently like our kids do.  So the next time you face a change instead of just doing what you’ve always done or doing things the same way, try a different approach and see what kind of results you can create.

“Because of their courage, their lack of fear, they (creative people) are willing to make silly mistakes. The truly creative person is one who can think crazy; such a person knows full well that many of his great ideas will prove to be worthless. The creative person is flexible; he is able to change as the situation changes, to break habits, to face indecision and changes in conditions without undue stress. He is not threatened by the unexpected as rigid, inflexible people are.”  Frank Goble

How Others See Your Fears

We each have different things that scare us, some people will be scared of heights but others absolutely love reaching them, just like some people spend all day with live snakes and spiders and others just kill them on sight. Sometimes our fears can make us look or feel silly. We don’t usually want to be afraid of what we’re scared of, it just happens. For most of us one of our biggest fears is being told by other people that your fears or the fears that your kids have are silly.  It’s important to know that their thoughts about your fears or the fears your kids have shouldn’t be your concern: the fear itself should be.

Fears aren’t about right and wrong, often fears are irrational, even silly sounding, but that doesn’t make them any less real or make us any less embarrassed by them when others find out about them. This is one reason that many of us hold back on getting the help we need to deal with our fears. Instead we let the fears just simmer and exist in our minds and lives until they wreak havoc on our lives and the lives of our kids.

Don’t ignore your kids when they tell you they’re scared, and don’t tell them or let anyone tell you that fears are irrational or wrong because as long as life remains the way it is we’ll have to deal with fears that seem very real to us. Don’t let other people tell you or your kids what’s right or wrong when it comes to fears, just try to be understanding and deal with the darkness in the fears and shine light on them.

“Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light?” Maurice Freehill

Overcoming Success Fears

Today I want to share a few final thoughts on addressing fears in our businesses. The past two weeks we’ve really talked about the fears that stop our business success, so today I want to talk about overcoming those fears and maybe even stopping them before they even start.

First, ask questions.   Instead of just forging ahead with things always make sure to ask ‘what if’ questions and consider what could go wrong to address your fears before they become an issue.  You should ask questions like “do we have the right talent for this?” “what are our specific goals with this?” “who will be accountable for what and to whom for each aspect?”  This way you’ll be less likely to be surprised by things that happen, can deal with fears that might arise to stop you from completing the project and be more assured of success.

Second, have solid values.  When fears show up they can distract you and keep you from focusing on what’s really important.  But if you have solid, well-established values for the company you’ll be able to ground yourself in them and work through the fears and come up with resolutions that are in line with your company and don’t do any more damage then the fears may already have done.

Third, pay attention to your focus.  When you’re focusing on your fears it’s very hard to see anything else, let alone be a good leader or properly support your clients.  Fears are really good at sucking us in and trapping us in them.  It’s your job as leader to stop focusing on the fears themselves and instead focus on resolving not only the situation but what caused the fear in the first place.

Fourth, take action anyway.  Don’t let the fears stop you from being successful.  Sometimes the best thing to do is to keep working in spite of them.  That doesn’t mean to disregard them or consider them unimportant, just that they should have only the power to warn you of something not right, not to stop you from pursuing your passions and goals.

Don’t let your fears conquer you or let them stop you from sharing your talents and abilities with the world.  I’m confident in your ability as a leader to step up for yourself, your team and your clients and be successful despite the fears you will face.  What fears have you conquered, or are still trying to conquer in your business?

The Enemy of Success

Our lives are created by a few things including our thoughts and dreams, the people in our lives and the things they do and say, and the things we do. We can talk ourselves out of doing good things just like others can. We can also talk ourselves and others into doing things that aren’t the best to do. Many of us never get past the talking and dreaming about what could be to actually making it a reality and one major reason is the fears that we uncover or create when we are thinking and dreaming.

I talk with really smart and creative people every day, people who could do great things in the world but let their fears of what could be or fears of changing what is overrule the potential that they could create. I don’t blame them for having fears, we all have them, and we all have to choose to face them or let them continue to impact our lives. Change isn’t usually easy, it usually takes work to make the change happen in addition to the work of putting into place the dream or great idea you have.

One of the secrets to having all you’ve ever dreamed of and all you want in life is taking action. Very few people are handed all they want in life, most of us have to do stuff to get what we want. Fears help us stay wrapped up in our thoughts and never let us get to the actions that need to be taken.  Fears tell us that we’re aiming too high and we’ll never get there. But the reality is that you don’t climb a mountain in one step, there are months of planning, working out and gathering gear leading up to the climb and then the actual climb itself which is done one step at a time.

Don’t let your fears tell you that you can’t accomplish something, instead take a step back and take your first action on your goals by making a plan that you can conquer a little bit at a time, or in bigger steps if you’re feeling bold and ambitious. Don’t let your fears stop you from living and taking actions to make yourself a better life.

“Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.” Charles Stanley

Life Beyond Fears

This month we’ve been talking about fears. The thing about fears is that they hold us back more often than they help us.  Yes, they’re there to protect us, but many times they’re more over-the-top than helpful.  Today I wanted to share about one of the drawbacks of fear: what you miss out on.  When you’re busy looking over your shoulder you’re too busy to look in front of you and see life’s potential.  You’re missing out on the cool things, the weird things, the things that make you laugh and smile, the things that cheer you up, the things that challenge you and the things you fall in love with.  Fear means that you’re too busy looking back to appreciate all that you have or could have.

So while I can’t magically poof your fears and issues away, I want you to take just 5 minutes to really see the world around you this weekend.  Stop and check out the leaves changing colors, stop and smell the crisp scent of fall in the air, stop and see what the people in your world are doing, stop and see the changes going on all around you as stores prepare for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and see what has become of your life.  Take time to see the world around you and be grateful for all you have and all those who are part of your life.

This week on the Spirituality and Life blog I shared about overcoming your fears (part 1, part 2), and sometimes the thing to do is to face them and work on overcoming them.  But sometimes what your fears, your life, and the people in your life need is more thanksgiving, love and joy.  When we learn to focus on those things, and not the fears and challenges that seem to be taking over our lives, we’re able to see life from a whole new perspective, and often be freed from our fears without having to do anything.

“The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”  Henri J M Nouwen