Thursday, October 9, 2008

The OFG, unprompted (OFG XXIII)

It causes us real problems if we negotiate our way through our lives by being careful of other people's feelings to the inhibition of our need to express our own. To be very clear, it is never acceptable to beat up on other people. At the same time, it is sometimes necessary to express ourselves in a way which is unmistakably clear and which can cause conflict in the moment.

When the people with whom we express ourselves in this fashion disagree, they may well resort to the 'you hurt my feelings' defense. If what you said was carefully considered and a thoughtful offering to the other person, don't take it back. Instead, give that person some space to accept what you said and open yourself to a dialog about the issue at hand. You may, during the conversation, decide that your point was not one which was valid as you come to understand the viewpoint of the other. That's when taking things back and apologies are appropriate, not as knee-jerk reactions.

The importance of apology and forgiveness is the furthering of dialog, not the soothing of ego. When the person apologizing recognizes this, and the person to whom they are apologizing is able to forgive, egos are not driving.

On the other hand, if your perceived-as-hurtful comment was, indeed, one which you intended to use to cause pain, you need to either take it back or express it differently so that it still serves your need to be heard without causing your listener to shut down. If anger was driving your original intent, you may have a ways to go, a humblingly embarrassing ways to go, to reach a place of dialog with the other. This is when you earn your stripes as a mature human being! Go there. It is worth it.

We are all about community. No one can be well-served if we are not able to learn the dance of cooperation. We all can be enriched by the differing perspectives of others, but only if we are willing to learn what those differences entail in a spirit of quiet and heart-felt listening.

The lesson is, learn to express your own feelings. Do so, to the best of your ability, in a way which is not full of anger or blame. Accept the expressions of others and do your best, in those moments, to accept them in a way which refuses any call to arms (disarm your own hot buttons) and, instead, seeks understanding first and foremost.


Wisdom is a powerful and yet ill-understood concept. Yes, there are folks, mostly people who lived a really long time ago, who most of us can agree with referring to as wise people. The question is, what does wisdom do for us, does it differ from one culture to another, and how much credence can we allow for those whose so-called wisdom is offered up by folks for whom higher horsepower meant harnessing another horse to the buggy?

I have mixed emotions on this topic and no easy answers. I can hear the heart-felt sighs of disappointment coming from all my acolytes even before I press the "Publish" button.

To boil it down for you, my opinion is that human nature is largely either unchanging or changes so slowly that we are not yet recognizing it. This allows for the possibility that someone from 1000 BC can offer to us a collection of wisdom from which we may well benefit.

I also believe that there is local (meaning, within the hundred years it is expressed) wisdom which is most valuable in the time of its expression. Often times, it will be, in many ways, echoing the wisdom of the ages. Sometimes, it will offer value which no one in the time of Buddha would have been able to even understand.

Here's the thing: we won't know the difference. Wisdom we accept as such is acceptable because we find that it informs our own experience in a way which increases our happiness, our comfort, our understanding of others, and our ability to get along in the world.

I don't know about you, but I really don't care if that helpful information comes from Buddha or Christ or Muhammed or Robin Williams. I relish the learning and apply it. When I remember to do so, I credit the source as best I can determine it so that I can pass it along to others while honoring where I got it.


Now that my four daughters are well along their own individual paths toward becoming adults, it brings to mind that those in my age group are challenged with a time frame in our lives which are ancestors did not face.

Long ago, your body began breaking down at age 50 or younger because Nature was done with you by then. There is no advantage to Gaia in maintaining an organism which no longer reproduces. There, is, though, a significant advantage for the individual species when the elders were able to communicate their learnings to the whippersnappers.

Over many centuries, Earth Mother or Nature decided it was probably in her best interest to allow older human beings a few more years in their lifespan for the specific purpose of promoting faster learning than DNA offers. In other words, for as long as we had been around, we changed in ways determined only by our genetics. While that's efficient in the long run, we became a much more nimble species when we learned how to pass on intellectual information from the generation departing to the ones just maturing. It also can serve the planet if we are able to more-quickly change our habits to align more effectively with the Earth.

In recognition of this sea change which took place over thousands of years, I, today, seek to grant my daughters this amazingly astute wisdom, that which I have gained over my entire life.

In many instances, they remain unimpressed. Mother Earth said I could live long enough to impart my wisdom, but she never required of the younger generations that they accept it.

I hate loopholes.


It is a fairly well-accepted theory that burning one's bridges is a bad idea. Today, as I pondered some folks I know and how often I have seen them offer little in the way of human interaction, it came to me that there is an even more-obvious conclusion which I find valid: if you are burning all of your bridges, it may be too late that you realize that you now have no way off your island. No, I am not talking about the professor, Mary Anne, or Gilligan.


Ram Dass, one of my favorite spiritual teachers--and, I fully acknowledge not the least reason being his human and charismatic way of approaching spirituality--is still at it, now more than ten years since his stroke. I remember very well the grief of an entire, world-wide community, a community of loosely tied folks of all beliefs, as they anticipated Ram Dass' death then. They did not only grieve, of course, because the stubborn old balding man was listening to the prayers and chants and loving incantations from millions of them. Ram Dass was not ready to leave, and the calling of the many, the great many, for him to stay was too much for his soul to ignore.

I'm happy to say that, today, this very day, I was able to dive into twenty minutes of Ram Dass speaking before small audiences in two short videos. The peaceful and silent space he creates as he considers the questions asked of him--sometimes minutes long as he ponders and then composes his answer--is as comfortable as a fuzzy, thick robe on a cold winter's morning. It is a combination of his willingness to ponder and the affects of his stroke, and I don't care one iota what to attribute to either.

He is a gift, today. His time with us now is a gift offered to honor the prayers offered daily that he remain with us awhile longer. Such a gift, and such a tender sweetness.


Jane said...

Good morning Rick,

Great post! I've been a people pleaser my whole life and it's definitely something I've been working on.

So many times I think people hold back stating their thoughts because they fear a negative reaction from the other person.

It is all about the dance of cooperation. My boss, who is also a mentor to me, explained how she and her spouse have discussions that could be perceived as "hurtful". When one of them needs to have their feelings heard, they state that they need to have a "safe place" to have the discussion. The "safe place" is simply an imaginary space where there will be no judgement or resentment. They say it has worked wonders in their communication.

Rick Hamrick said...

Jane--thanks so much for your insightful comment.

I love pleasing people, and I have learned it is a self-sustaining process as long as I am willing to list my very own self as one of the people who need to be pleased.

The problem is not that we seek to please others, it is the fact that so many folks like us do so without regard for our own needs.

You express it perfectly, my friend. When we dance together in cooperation, we allow the energy to feed us all.

Angela said...

I really love these OFG posts, Rick! How convenient of you to have such a wise alter-ego.

It's unfortunate that in our culture we do not honor the wisdom of our elders very often, nor have we created an environment for folks to actually become wise. I see more wisdom in children usually. I think it's directly tied to our recent lack of respect for our Earth Mother and the pursuit of rampant materialism. You just don't get smart shopping.

Rick Hamrick said...

Angela--May I quote you on that?

"You just don't get smart shopping."

That's the most-succinct way of putting a powerful truth I have heard lately.

As always, thanks for stopping by.