Breaking through Assumptions

What do you think about reality TV? No, I’m not talking about “reality” TV wherein people try to find a significant other or people get dropped into the wilderness to try to survive or do all kinds of physical and/or mental challenges, I’m talking about shows like Dirty Jobs, all of the live police and rescue shows, and even shows like those being done with natural locations (Yellowstone, Egypt etc.). Yes, there’s editing in some/all of them because that’s part of TV, but the core of the shows remain: honest looks at what’s going on in our world.

I’m not a fan of news programs, I never watch the “nightly news” or morning news or anything like that, they typically cherry-pick what they want to show and never give you a fully honest glimpse of all of what’s going on. The live/reality shows are designed to show it all, from the very mundane and stupidly simple to the very intense and dangerous. For the more dangerous shows/episodes, you can’t predict what’s going to happen, you just have to do as much planning as you can and hope for the best. For the less fascinating or intense shows you have to play up the story and purpose behind what’s going on.

I hinted at it already, but here’s why I like these shows: because it shows a side of the world that most of us never see, and could never hope to understand without them unless we did a ‘day-in-the-life’ type thing, which most of us wouldn’t or couldn’t do. These shows can give us an awareness about things other people wish we knew or help us understand how things work (and why they have to be done certain ways). True, honest, open awareness reduces or eliminates fears, rebuilds trust, fights falsehoods, and gives us an opportunity to build our world and relationships on healthy foundations, not those of lies and fears.

So this summer as you explore on your vacations or just explore your world at home, I encourage you to put aside your knowledge and assumptions and be open to hearing and seeing the truth from the perspectives of those who live it every day, or whose ancestors lived it and have passed along the stories and ways of living. Be curious, be open to learning, be open to hearing the stories and experiences of others, and don’t let your preconceived notions get in the way of what could be great friendships and opportunities.

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Reality Reflection: Strength and Beauty

This past week in the UK there was another royal wedding, Princess Eugenie married Jack Brooksbank. One of the big stories of this event was, unsurprisingly, about her dress, but not for reasons that people typically discuss it. Her dress made a point of showing her back scars from her surgery as a child.  You would have to be close to see the scar, it’s not something that’s noticeable from a distance, but it’s certainly there to see if you’re standing close to her.

Yes, it’s brave and makes a clear statement for all children who have surgery or deal with an illness. It shows them that it doesn’t matter who you are, anyone can have to deal with physical challenges, and anyone can overcome them to live a happy life and get married or be in healthy, committed relationships.  But it also shows a huge measure of confidence and self acceptance she has for herself and her body, something that many people who don’t have visible scars struggle with.

I don’t know what I would do in her situation, whether I would want to go with something that covered it or show it proudly to the world.  I might want to cover it not because I was ashamed of it but because I wouldn’t feel the need to show it off.  But at the same time it would be a part of who I am and my life story, so it might be something I would want to show, like someone would pick a dress that would show their tattoos.

Ultimately, it’s a celebration of two people committing to spend their lives together, and the outfit choices are strictly their choice and should be whatever makes them feel most comfortable and look their best on their special day.  It’s our job to celebrate with them, and love them for the people that they are.

Building Relationships with Respect

With yesterday being Mother’s Day here in the US, I’ve been reflecting on families and relationships. Every day in the news there are stories of relationships gone wrong, of people letting others down, of people hurting other people and ways that people are destroying our world. But at the same time you can’t ignore the fact that some of those people are bad people. They’re not people you want in your life or around your kids, and they can’t be “fixed” unless there’s an Act of God. But fortunately, there aren’t as many of those people as the news makes it out to be. Most of us just have issues, quirks and traits that may or may not mesh with the people around us.

I do believe that we can learn to get along with just about everyone, whether it’s having a civil conversation or actually developing a friendship with them. But that does take a lot of work, typically from both parties. For some reason some people choose to hold grudges or make snap judgments about some people, and aren’t open in the future to changing those opinions, despite how they or the other person may have changed over the years. And no matter how kind or polite you may be to them, they’re just nasty. I’m not suggesting that you need to be best friends with everyone, but I don’t think we need to have the poor interactions and relationships many people have.

Does it take superhuman effort in some cases to get to that point? Yes, but that’s part of what God can help you with. Yes, the Bible talks about loving everyone, but for some of us loving is a big stretch. So let’s start with two things that are a lot simpler: treating others as you want to be treated and respecting others. God made them just like He made you and I, and I haven’t known God to make anything that was wrong or without purpose. So if for no other reason, choose to respect and treat them based on how you want to be treated, because God loves them. Not all moms are perfect examples, but many moms can run circles around us when it comes to loving and accepting their kids in a way that we struggle to accept and understand others.

This week I encourage you to think about your attitude and how you treat and interact with others, and spend time in prayer with God asking for His strength and guidance in how you can build more relationships and have more interactions that will honor Him.

“Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:17

Reality Reflections: Pictures and People

I understand that some people only respond to strength, and that’s one of the reasons that people (countries) go to war or send bombs. I wish that wasn’t the case, I wish that there was another way of making a big and clearly understandable statement without killing the people that we share the planet with, not to mention not hurting the planet either. Sometimes it seems unavoidable, like with WW2 and Hitler, or with the Rwandan Genocide in the early 90’s, those types of evil have to be stopped, and many people are willing to accept the cost of going to war or sending bombs as a result. But one of the reasons I think some people are comfortable with going to war or sending bombs in some situations that are less clear is because they don’t understand the place/people they’re attacking.

As I was thinking about what to write on today I came across this article with pictures from China. While China may not be quite the closed/secretive nation that some other countries are, I don’t think it’s a known country like France, England or the US. I certainly don’t know a lot about it outside from what I know historically or from the business side of things from the few companies I’ve advised from there. So paging through the photos I was again struck by how much China looks like other countries around the developed world, including the US. It certainly makes the people who live there seem a whole lot more like me than some unknown entity.

Every corner of the world is different, but from a few photographs some similarities are clear, maybe enough similarities that we can begin to understand that we’re not all that different after all, especially with regards to the things that matter most. We live in small homes and large high rises, we go out in nature, we worship, we spend time with family and friends, we eat, we run businesses, we work jobs, we remember history, and we work towards tomorrow. I don’t think it’s necessary to share our deepest secrets with the world or publicize everything, but if sharing photos like these can help us avoid wars in the future, or encourage us to act sooner when tragedy strikes, it’s something that should be done more often, from all around the world.

What things have helped shift your perspective or understanding of a place or culture in a positive way?

Learning to be Content

Over the weekend we in the US experienced the bi-annual time changes known as Daylight Savings Time, and in the next few days the northeast USA is also looking at another big snowstorm, and of course quickly approaching is the celebration of Easter on the 1st of April which is early. I don’t know about you but sometimes all of this just seems to add extra stress to our lives that we don’t want or need, especially because we don’t have any control over these things. As I was reflecting on these events I read Philippians 4:11 which says

“…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…”

That’s a tough statement to make, for someone back in those days and someone in these days. In some ways we’ve each got some things easier or less complicated than the other, but much of our lives is still the same and includes the same challenges of work, family, relationships, finances, weather and health. Content in and of itself is a challenge, because there’s a difference between being content and not having aspirations or goals in life. More than anything content is about having an attidue of gratittude towards the life you have and the blessings that God has sent your way.

So rather than focus on the many things going on over the past and next few days and weeks that may be stressing you out, today I encourage you to be grateful: enjoy the special blessings in your life, smile and laugh along with the little kids playing, take a moment to appreciate your evening beverage or sweet treat, celebrate that you’re another day closer to spring and summer, and/or call a friend just to chat. Once you’ve done that if you want to take a moment and pray about the stresses in your life and ask God to help you come up with a plan to manage and prepare for everything, you can, but don’t just return to stressing about things, instead work on being content with the now and plan for the future.

What will you be content and find peace in today?

Reality Reflection: Why All the Hate?

Many people are thinking about the topic of love this month, and sometimes that brings out the no-so-happy feelings. It’s not awesome to have your heart broken or for someone you trusted to break that trust, and sometimes people are nasty for no reason that we can figure out, which isn’t fun. I can understand the frustration regarding injustice and need to step up and fight that, but I can’t understand why people allow their opinions or experiences to become so tainted that ambivalence or personal opinions/preferences become hate.

To use a famous, historical example, it would be one thing to say you dislike Jewish food or don’t agree with what the religion of the Jewish people teaches, but for the Nazis to turn dislike into hatred and persecution, is an unnecessary escalation. It’s OK to not like or be passionate about everything, I’m not particularly passionate about spiders or snakes, but that doesn’t mean I hate them or want to kill them all.

Why can’t people accept that everyone and everything has their differences and that’s OK? It doesn’t mean you have to marry someone of a different race/culture/background or have kids or own a gun or love wild animals. It means that as long as what someone else is doing or believing doesn’t hurt someone else and isn’t detrimental to themselves, leave them to it.

If it’s as simple as hating something because you truly don’t understand it (or think you understand it when you may not) and you don’t want to just come out and ask your questions, you can reach out to a relevant organization anonymously online and talk with them to try to understand (create a new email address, in the message give them a little background on why you’re reaching out, promise to do your best to keep it respectful, and ask some questions), or even just do some research in your favorite search engine to learn more about something you might have an unfair or biased opinion of.

Hating something or someone takes a ton of effort and energy. Yes, over time it may feel like it’s second nature and just part of who you are, but it’s still can drain you of energy that would be much better used in other ways. For example, just because you don’t like salad there’s hundreds and maybe thousands of other ways to get greens without launching an all-out hate campaign on salad. There’s really no reason for the hate, just move on to something better.

This week ahead I encourage you to take a look and see if there are hatreds or building hate in your life, and if so choose at least one to work on moving past. Why focus on the bad when you could move forward with the bigger and better?

“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” Coretta Scott King

Reality Reflection: Everything to Everyone

I’m a fan of saying no to people, you know why? Because you don’t have to be everything to everyone. Not only is is about being honest to who you are and not putting yourself in positions that you’re completely unqualified for or incapable of doing, but because every time you take on something that you’re only slightly capable of (or not at all), you take away an opportunity from someone else who is qualified. If we really want this world to be all it can be, I think we have to be willing to share a little of the control with others, have to be willing to let them do their thing, and not get in the way when they take charge.

Yes, there are time when you’ll go a little outside your preferred box to help a friend or to try something new, and that’s a good thing. We should be trying new things to keep our minds engaged and learning. But we have our safe zones for a reason. The good news is that my safe zone isn’t the same zone as yours. You’ve got talents I don’t have and don’t have any inclination for developing. I believe there are plenty of opportunities for us within the things that interest and drive us that we should never have to take work, resources or life away from someone else.

But that does mean that we all have to step up in that which we are gifted in, and a whole lot less slacking, hiding or letting someone else’s sub-par job suffice. You need to take responsibility for what you can do in this world with your unique talents. Be proud of who you are and what you can do. That doesn’t mean you have to start a business or blog, it may just mean finding a company to work with and bring your unique talents to (one that fits better than your current one), or donating your time on weekends or vacations.

This week I encourage you to give others the chance to do what they do best, and choose to do what you do best. Who knows, you may not cure cancer today, but you certainly may bring a smile to someone’s face or relief to their life in some other way.