Tag Archives: Who am I really?

What’s the line between personal expression and being respectful?

When I was in high school and college, I was certainly one who had an eye out for fashion. I’m not sure how often I hit the mark, but I thought I was pretty styling (perhaps even the use of that phrase shows just how far off I was!).

For my senior year of high school, I had wanted a pair of pointed-toe, flat-heeled, black leather boots to wear with jeans.

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I had seen the whole look in a poster and couldn’t forget how cool I thought the guy looked. His haircut, his shirt, everything said what I wanted to say about myself. Even the incredibly daring small gold hoop earring that he wore in his left ear.

My best friend Bryan and I went on a quest to Salt Lake to shop for clothes. My favorite shoe shop in the mall was The Wild Pair. I’m pretty sure the name says it all; at any rate, the sign above the door was very appropriate.

I found them.

We’ve all had a favorite pair of shoes at one time or another. These were mine. Continue reading What’s the line between personal expression and being respectful?

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Anyone who knows me can state that I am a bit naïve, my wife being number one on the list. I didn’t even know we were dating for months. You can imagine the dumbfounded look on her face when someone commented and I turned to her and asked “Oh, are we dating?”

It’s kind of amazing that we are now such a happy family.

Over the years, I still have my moments where it is obvious that I have been flying under the radar and not clearly grasping reality around me. It’s part of the magic of being me.

At least, that is what I tell Ann.

But I feel like I am going through a bit of a learning curve lately.

I watched a presentation by a man with a PhD on “what Mormons believe.” I listened carefully and, even though it was pretty obvious he thought the beliefs were outrageous, he had probably more than 90% of it right.

In my naiveté I found myself asking the screen, “Why doesn’t that make sense to you? It makes perfect sense to me.”

Then I did some reading on what others feel that it means to worship the Savior Jesus Christ, to take His name upon us, and to be a Christian.

I will admit my jaw kept hitting the desktop.

Really?

Really??

I guess the situation had now completely reversed and I was like the man with the PhD. Even with an understanding of the technical aspects of his beliefs, it felt so foreign to me.

We should have been the same; yet we really couldn’t have been more different.

Here’s another thought.

While talking about this same thing Sunday morning, our daughter made an incredibly insightful comment. She said that there are many people of the Muslim faith who are good, kind people who are simply trying to help their fellow neighbor. There are people of the Jewish faith who are filled with love and make the world a better place each day. We can go around the world and find people everywhere who live lives worthy of emulation.

They exhibit behavior that is very, well, Christ-like. Very Christian.

Kind of a topsy-turvy world.

Christians telling other Christians that they aren’t in fact Christian. Non-Christians behaving Christian.

My little naïve mind could probably burst at the confusion of it all.

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Obviously there is not just one perception out there; there are many.

It made me wonder, what is my perception? What is my understanding of what it means to be a Christian?

Am I offended or angry when someone who doesn’t know me, has never met me, tells me that I am not a Christian?

I took the time to let this go through my head and bounce around a while.

All I could come up with is, no, I’m really not offended at all.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it.

But maybe I’m not asking the right question.

Am I offended or angry when someone who knows me, has worked with me, has watched me through the years, tells me that I am not a Christian?

This is a harder question.

No. I am not offended or angry.

I am ashamed.

And I think I have a little better understanding of what it may actually mean to be a Christian.

The Savior Jesus Christ is real. He lived. He lives.

To behave, as closely as we can, as he behaved, as he behaves, takes a lifetime.

There will be days that you watch me and witness things that I am not very proud of. On those days, I wouldn’t deserve to be counted among those who profess to follow His example.

We all have those days.

Perhaps part of being a Christian is not focusing on each other when we stumble, but rather holding out a hand and helping each other to stand back up.

 

To all the Christian-behaving Muslims, and Christian-behaving Jews, and Christian-behaving Buddhists, thank you for the example you show in helping us to be better Christian-behaving Christians.

There is a lot of good out there. Maybe through looking at each other with compassion and gratitude, it will help us to see ourselves as we hope to be.

And people won’t be so worried about what each other is or isn’t, but will just want to be more like Him.

That’s a win for everyone.

Aren’t we all insecure? Can we be securely insecure?

In-se-cure
1. Not confident: anxious and lacking self-confidence
2. Not safe: unsafe and unprotected
3. Unstable: not firm or steady

Have you ever had the experience where you were sitting in a meeting or presentation and all of a sudden you realized that you knew as much about the subject as the people who were talking?

For some, this may happen quite frequently; for others, it can be a pretty rare occurrence. But everyone deserves to have it happen at least once.

At any rate, it usually will bring a subtle smile to our face while our body relaxes almost imperceptibly. Our mind becomes free to focus on the solution and pretty soon we find ourselves part of the discussion.

Those are good days.

But we’ve all had the bad ones, haven’t we?

We are sitting at the same conference room table and we feel like everyone is just a step ahead and we aren’t quite sure what is going on. Time to duck and cover. Hope no one notices us. Time stands still as we wait for the end to come and we can escape.

Ah yes, we can all probably share an experience or two like that.

The thing is, over the years I have learned that most of the people in the room are in the same boat, and just doing the best they can with what they know. Often times we are prepared just as well as they are, and we have just as much experience in the matter as they do.

So, why are we so sure that they know more than we do?

I think it is pretty normal, and to a certain degree, pretty healthy. Can you imagine someone who walks into the room and is ALWAYS certain that they know more than everyone else? All right, we don’t have to imagine, we’ve all met one.

So, a little humility is a good thing.

Are humility and insecurity the same thing?

No.

Let’s go back to the definition up at the top: anxious and lacking self-confidence; unsafe and unprotected; unstable: not firm or steady.

As I read through these words, the same concept keeps filling my mind: alone.

When we feel insecure, we feel alone.

In the middle of a crowded meeting around the conference table we are miles away, on a deserted island, all by ourselves.

No boat.

No solution in sight.

It seems more often than not, our most basic instincts kick in and we cry out, if even only inside our minds.

Help me. Please.

Because the truth is that we are never left completely alone. There is always safety and protection for us, even if not in the exact manner we would like it to come.

How do we open our eyes to be able to see it?

We close our eyes and trust.

Very, very rarely is the whole escape route from our current problems outlined in detail so that we know the beginning to the end.

Usually, it is just the first step that is made known.

And usually, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

To us.

Will we do it anyway?

This is where we have a choice to make, a choice that will affect many choices to come. We can stand alone and do what we think makes the most sense, seems the smartest thing to do.

Or we can stand up and follow the first step, listening closely for the next, moving forward slowly, but forward nonetheless.

Glancing back we can see more than just our footprints in our path.

We don’t know what the outcome will be, or what the entire plan is. But we do know that it will work out great.

And we know we are not alone.

Suddenly in our insecurity we have become secure. Safe. Protected. Stable.

We walk on firm ground, our foundation solid enough to hold us up even on the days that we feel two steps behind everyone else in the meeting.

Because we will close our eyes, call out with our spirit, and trust.

And when we open our eyes, we will usually see a way forward, even if it is only the first step.

Do I accept you, or do I respect you? Which allows us to be who we are?

We live at a time when our lives are filled with advances in technology that make things much quicker and easier to get done. However, it seems to leave us more time to find things in each other that we don’t like. Of course, not everyone is angry with their neighbor. But if you listen to the media or read the latest articles it would seem that most of us are. Or we feel that most of our neighbors are angry with us for some reason.

I hear 30 second spots with people saying things like “I want to be accepted for who I am”. The message seems to be that they feel like outcasts. Ostracized. Unloved.

No one wants to feel that way. Each of us has an inherent need to feel love in our life, both given outwardly and received inwardly. I consider it right up there with air to breathe in importance.

So, what’s making people feel that they aren’t accepted?
I guess that would make me wonder what the definition of “acceptance” is. Dictionary.com provides the following:
1. The act of taking or receiving something offered.
2. Favorable reception; approval; favor.
3. The act of assenting or believing: acceptance of a theory.
4. The fact of state of being accepted or acceptable.

The first definition makes me wonder if there is a group of people out there offering something that is being rejected. That one is probably pretty easy to answer.

If we open up our circle to include the world of politics, then I think we could nod our head and say firmly “yes” that something is being rejected. But people don’t seem to spend time feeling bad about it; in fact, just the opposite. It almost brings a power and strength to their cause if they are seen as the underdog. They are energized by the fight.

It’s the second definition that seems to make more sense here. The message could be “If you don’t approve of me, you don’t accept me”. Maybe they are saying “I want others to see me as favorable, approve of who I am, and find favor in what I believe.”

We are probably pretty quick to say that we would accept a perfect stranger that we know nothing about. We have no reason not to accept them. We see them simply as that, a human being, just like us.

I think where the trouble starts is when “for who I am” is added. “I want to be accepted for who I am.”

Now they are more than another human being who is just like us.

Now they are NOT just like us.

Now they are different.

Different can be good. Different can also be bad. Each of us has to figure out for ourselves what would make different go one way or the other.

Now that we understand that they are different, we see that a condition has been put on the desired acceptance and approval.

I don’t know if they intend this message, but what we seem to hear is “I want you to approve of the same things that I approve of about me that make me who I am.”

Well, now I guess that all depends. Who are you?

A little vulnerability is now required, soul bearing if you will. For example, if I want to be accepted for “who I am”, I certainly need to know “who I am”.

There are probably countless facets and subtleties that work together to make up the general composite of who I am. Yet when I really think about it, there are probably just a few criteria that are truly important and that I would want to be identified by:

Am I a good husband? Does my wife know that she is treasured and loved and valued?Am I a good father? Do my children have the confident humility to move forward and make the difference in the world that they were meant to? Have I helped them to live to their potential?Do those around me know for certain what I believe, what I value, what truths are woven into every fiber of my being, simply through their association with me? What do they know about me through watching me quietly live my life in their midst?

I think when it comes right down to it, these are the things that I would hope state who I am.

But of course other people are going to see more than that when they look at me. They not only are going to see who I am, but also what I do, how I think, what I say, which things I support, how I treat others, what I do in my spare time. They see how I choose to live my life.

Knowing that others see more than I probably want them to see, I sat back and thought about whether I feel accepted or not accepted, based on the second definition from Dictionary.com.

Probably not.

If I lay my political views out there, there will be some who accept but certainly some who do not. If I state emphatically my religious beliefs I am sure that some will agree and some surely will not.

In fact, there may not be a single aspect about me on which I could find universal acceptance. Someone out there may be offended by the way I take up too much air.

There will always be someone who will find me distasteful, not approve of my actions, and not be in favor of what I am trying to move forward.

Always.

Interestingly, it doesn’t really bother me.

So of course I asked myself my favorite question: Why?

Well, on the things that I am only familiar with and don’t have strong convictions on, I’m the first to admit that I probably don’t possess all the facts and I’m still learning. My opinions could very well change as I understand more. So it doesn’t really affect me that others would not approve of me. As I come to know more, I may not approve of myself under these conditions.

On the other hand, things that I really feel strongly about or have rooted deeply within me, that’s different. I can look back in my life and remember when it really mattered to me if people agreed or disagreed, approved or not approved. But now when I really think about it, that doesn’t bother me very much either.

Am I a non-feeling hermit who doesn’t care about the world around me?

No. I actually care. A lot.

So, what happened that it doesn’t bother me now whether others approve or not? What changed?

As I close my eyes and search my heart, I feel it’s pretty simple. I have become more at peace with my decisions and my choices. They are mine. I own them. I choose them. I want these things to be a part of who I am. Others certainly have the freedom and the right to disagree and disapprove; just as I can disagree and disapprove with things that are deeply important to them.

Whether or not you approve of me, or are going to say “I think what you are doing is wonderful”, makes really no difference on my decisions and choices. It may make them easier if you approve, but in the end it really won’t change what I choose.

Lack of approval doesn’t make me less of a person or somehow damage me. I know who I am. I have chosen to be who I am, what I am, how I am.

The things about me that I don’t approve of, I am working on. I am not a victim stuck with something inside me I can’t change.

For example, mental illness is something that I am wired with, but I don’t call myself a mentally ill person. It doesn’t define me. I can work every day to control and change my response to these mental urges and issues.

Because I want to be more than just that. I want to be a good husband, father, and neighbor, remember?

So let’s ask our question again. What about the people who do not accept me for who I am? Let’s say they don’t approve of how I am trying to live with the mental illness.

I guess I need to divide up just “who” these people are. Are they strangers? Neighbors? Family?

I’m probably not going to spend a lot of time worrying about what the strangers, or even neighbors, may think (of course, Ann would tell you with my obsessive compulsive nature that may not really be true, but you get the point). It doesn’t really matter what people outside my safe circle think.

My family’s opinion, however, does matter. I will admit that I did need the people I love the most to understand that this mental illness is actually something biological in my brain that is happening, and not me being in a very bad mood.

Or at least, I want it very badly.

Without that, I am not sure how I would continue on the fight. However, once I did have this acceptance of the people I cared about, then I found it much easier to not be concerned about other’s approval or favor.

So, let’s go back to that 30 second spot of the person asking to be accepted.

I wonder if the person isn’t asking all of society to approve and embrace his or her particular thoughts and actions?

I wonder if they really are asking those they love the most for approval, for acceptance?

Now, what happens when those we love the most then choose to not approve, not embrace, not receive with favor the things that we want to fill our life with?

Is this when we turn and seek that approval from society at large? Sort of grasping at a “second best” solution?

Certainly those closest to us have the freedom, the right to approve or not approve. Everyone is on their own journey and we are all at different points in our learning and becoming. Remember, we have to choose for ourselves what makes different good or bad.

As I get older and fatter and balder, I’ve learned that I can absolutely love someone and love many, many things about them and not approve of particular things. They know my position and where I stand on these particular things. I don’t apologize or try to minimize issues that we disagree on. Part of me being me is being able to stand up and speak clearly the things that I feel to be true. It’s who I am.

But I also don’t attack or fight with them on the things that we disagree about every time we get together.

A long time ago I was taught that real love is being able to separate the behavior from the human being. I believe that is true. I know where they stand. They know where I stand. We understand each other.

Of course, if we really think about it, all of us have parts of ourselves that we don’t really like much. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that we should we then expect others to love everything about us, without exception, would it?

Maybe we are asking the wrong question. Maybe we need to change the word from acceptance to something like tolerance. Can you love me even though I have this or that about me that you don’t approve of?

My wife knows absolutely everything about me, every wart, every problem, every struggle. There’s a lot there to not approve of.

But she loves me anyway. Truly loves me and wants to be with me.

Maybe a step farther than tolerance would be respect.

Can you respect me even though you don’t approve of everything about me? Can you feel kindness toward me?

The reality is I can disagree with things you feel are important, just as I know that you can disagree with things that are deeply personal and vital to me.

Here’s a concept: Knowing we disagree, can we still work together? Build a friendship? Based on things we do agree on, can we develop genuine respect for each other?

Yes. I will say it firmly and with conviction. YES.

So, even though you don’t agree with me, don’t approve of some of the things that make me “me”, I would like to work with you on common ground projects. I would like to get to know you better and find things that I do like about you. I’m willing to bet that for most of us, we would find the number of things that we do like about others will always be more than the number of things we don’t particularly approve of.

And I feel that regardless of that number, I choose to give you my respect.

So, do I accept you? Or, do I respect you? Which one allows each of us be “who we are”?