Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Woe Unto Me, Me, Me

Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.       –Helen Keller

It's odd that you can get so anesthetized by your own pain or your own problem that you don't quite fully share the hell of someone close to you.  –Lady Bird Johnson

Woe, woe, woe …
everyone else is so blessed,
except for me.
Of course.

If only I had …
a prettier face,
better genes,
more money,
not married cousin It,
people who loved me,
a family that cared,
a better education,
gotten the promotion,
her connections,
his luck,

But I didn’t. I don’t. I never will. Woe, woe, woe unto me.

Self-pity is self-destructive
Self-pity destroys relationships
Self-pity is a synonym for self-absorption
Self-pity invariably seeks to manipulate others
Self-pity empties my soul and life of anything that is good and beautiful
Self-pity is a narcotic that leaves me feeling good about staying where I am
Self-pity prophesies continuing grief and then sees to it that it happens
Self-pity says that present circumstances own my head and heart
Self-pity is an excuse for not asking “Now what?” and moving on
Self-pity makes you incapable of empathy (See Lady Bird)
Self-pity is the sentiment of an ungrateful heart
Self-pity is a self-inflicted wounding of the soul
Self-pity is the antithesis of self-responsibility

Sure, sometimes excruciatingly painful things come our way. We hurt, we agonize, we weep, and our souls bleed: very human, very understandable. However, while a person with self-respect will seek healing and wisdom, the individual indulging in self-pity seeks pity-ers, or at least an excuse for sitting still. And even the slightest showing of strength or fortitude would rob them of those who would affirm their pitiable state and their excuses. (If you want to help them, don’t be a pity-er.)

Self-pity is a willful resistance of the faith, hope, and love, needed for seeing and working toward realizing all the possibilities that remain before you. If you truly want to be healed, to be free, to move on, you have to cut yourself free from this anchor that will keep you stuck in a never ending mawkish soap opera. If you think constantly picking at your wounds while sitting off in a corner alone or displaying them for the world to see feels good, just wait until you experience self-respect.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Victim Card: Starring Sergio Garcia!

Sergio Garcia: victim of Tiger Woods. “I could have made that shot but he played out of turn and the crowd yelled during my swing.” Maybe people would have given you some slack here, if you hadn’t been playing this card for over 10 years, now. Man up, dude! This guy is such a whining victim that we could say, “Hey, look who is playing the Sergio Card,” and most people would know what we meant. He even told a reporter who had asked him if he would have done anything differently, now that he had thought about it: “Hey, I am the victim here!” Serg, Sergie baby: you need a Life Coach!

And what can I say about those people on Facebook whose posts are constantly about how life is forever serving them bowls of dried-up worms. I am soooo tempted to “like” their post, or to write a comment such as, “You need to meet some of the people in Sudan I know who are so desperate for food that they are boiling tree-leaves to feed their children.”  You would be amazed how caring for those less fortunate than you, and being grateful for all that you do have, can cause you to let go of that victim card.

A lot of people create their victimization in their own minds so they can feel good about themselves, explain their failures in life, and so on. “Feel good about themselves?” Yep. That’s the pay off! All the fawning attention and sympathy: man, does that feel good. Poor, poor Sergio: you would have beaten that evil Tiger, too, if you had only been treated with respect. Does somebody need a hug?

Some people, of course, were severely abused in their past. Atrocious crimes were committed against them that were despicable and diabolical, leaving them with terrifyingly painful wounds. Yet, even here, is there a point where I am holding on to my status as victim rather than choosing to move on, taking possession of my soul, and creating a good life? Sure, this can be a long process, but it’s never going to happen if I don’t start taking back my life, now.

A woman once called me for a counseling session. As I knew she had been raped, I was expecting to be hearing from a very anguished and traumatized lady. Do you know what she told me, as soon as she sat down? “I am grateful for your empathy but I am not here to wallow in self-pity. My therapist helped me to get to a place where I refuse to give that man any more power over my life. I am here to ask you for help in dealing with all those well-wishers who insist on defining me as a rape-victim. It happened. It’s not who I am.”

Stop giving victimizers (real and imagined) power over your life. Get out of the back seat of your life and start driving your own car toward the life you wish to create. If you failed to get the promotion, stop pouting and throwing temper tantrums and figure out what you need to do so as to add value to yourself and your employer. If your marriage failed, find out where you contributed to its demise, deal with yourself, and move on. Stop blaming your ex- for where you are today. You are where you are. (Monte’s Laptop: That is soooo deep! -- Yes, it talks to me.) If you don’t like where you are, change it. All the blaming just keeps you stuck in the past. If you want a future worth living, take back your power by taking responsibility for your present life circumstances. Or not. It’s your choice. Always has been.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Third Dimension of Life

If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.  –CS Lewis

About a third of my cases are suffering from no clinically definable neurosis, but from the senselessness and emptiness of their lives. This can be defined as the general neurosis of our times.   –Carl Jung

Our lives are stories we are telling each and every hour we are alive. For some of us, there is an overarching metaphor, or meta-narrative, or a true myth, if you will, that brings continuity, meaning, and significance, to who we are, and to all that we do. You may have never put this into words or thought of it in quite this manner but you have intuited its reality in the lives of others.

The teacher who sees himself (his metaphor) as a loving mentor…or (differing metaphor) propagandist for The Cause

The minister who sees himself as a priest loving people toward God … or feudal lord of his feifdom

The physician who sees herself as a healer … or well-paid mechanic

The entrepreneur who sees herself as an evangelist for her vision … or con who separates people from their money

Each of these individuals is conscious of being the protagonist in an unfolding drama that they are writing and directing. 

Metaphors lie beneath our attitudes and behaviors, and help explain our expectations of life, self, and others, as well as our frustrations. The opposing metaphors and, therefore, stories being told, of the teacher, minister, physician, and entrepreneur, explain the differences in expectations, as well as between their respective attitudes and behaviors as they live their lives. Of course, those individuals whose metaphors are held unconsciously have no idea why they expect what they do or where their frustrations come from. If you find yourself in this last category, start paying attention to your expectations or frustrations with yourself, others, work, and life in general, and you may be led to your metaphor for life. (You can always change it, of course!)

But what of those individuals who have no metaphor, no meta-narrative, no true myth? I think these are the people who live senseless and meaningless lives: lives without soul. Without a metaphor, the world is two dimensional: I will live so many days (length), and go so many places, and do so many things (breadth), but is lacking the third dimension of meaning (depth). It is your metaphor—your meta-story, your true-myth—that brings depth and soul to your life.

Monte’s Third Dimension
From the age of 14 or thereabouts, the meta-story that shaped and directed my life is along the lines of a Fairy Tale mixed with Arthurian mythology. Early on this story was held more subconsciously than consciously, but by 30 years old it was, by and large, fully formed and conscious. 

Life is a Quest for the Holy Grail of knowing God

Life is about honor, loyalty, and fealty, toward the King of all creation, and His Kingdom

Life is about sleighing dragons, defending the defenseless, and meeting out justice or mercy

Life is filled with frogs who need our love to be turned into Princes or Princesses, treasures to be won, evil witches to be wary of, and fellow knights who support each other on our respective quests

What is the metaphor that you will use to bring the third dimension of depth and soul, meaning and significance, to your life? Maybe the metaphor will start out as a single word-- Philanthropist, Healer, Mentor, or Artist. Maybe it begins with a phrase—Visionary Leader, Creator of Possibilities, Crusader for Love, or Facilitator of Transformation. If you intend to bring meaning and sense to your life, if you wish to bring the third dimension into your life’s story, it begins here, with the metaphor—the true-myth—you choose to create.  

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Stories and Secrets

Years ago I was counseling a couple who intended to be married. I didn’t know the young lady all that well, but I was familiar with her fiancĂ©. While speaking with her alone one day, she made the most painful yet intriguing comment to me, while expressing concern that he wasn’t all that in love with her. “I don’t show up in any of his stories with his friends. It’s almost like I am a secret, or worse, he is ashamed of me.” Long story short, he wasn’t ashamed, he was unsure, and the relationship ended. The moral of the story: You haven’t been included in his world, until you are included in his stories. If you are a bit player in his conversations with others, you can bet you are bit player in the drama of his life. Adjust accordingly. Anyway--

You can tell a lot about a person by listening to their stories. Whom all does he talk about most and in what light? Of the people you know who are in her world, who does she never or rarely speak of in her stories? What is the single most recurring theme? Are his stories usually uplifting, debasing, thought provoking, or clownish? What is the predominating emotional state of the storyteller: Caring? Anger? Hopeful? Bitter? Loving? Argumentative? Curiosity? Belittling? Encouraging? Scoffing? The prevailing emotional state or attitude is often telling a far more interesting and revealing story than the one being spoken!

Our stories reveal our secrets more often than we realize. There is the entertainer who keeps us all laughing so as to not see his pain. Then there is the victim (always blaming) whose stories seek to elicit our pity or “admiration” for all she has suffered at the hand of evildoers. One of the more fascinating “storytellers” (to me) is the guy who rarely if ever tells his stories: the man who witnesses life but rarely participates in it. Even when he does tell a story … it belongs to someone else.  

Whatever the specific micro-story and mindset of the storyteller, I think most people are wanting to tell the story of their lives but are fearful, so it comes out haltingly, in bits and pieces, maybe with defensive humor, or biting sarcasm, or the false-bravado of nonchalance. Even the most private of individuals can’t help but share something of his or her story. Why? Because we long to be psychologically visible: not to everyone, but, at least, to someone.

In his book, Telling Secrets, Frederick Buechner writes of how important it is to tell our story to someone lest “we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing.” Telling my story reminds me of who I am, where I have come from, and where I am going. Telling my story, secrets and all, keeps me grounded in the reality of my journey, which helps to keep me from taking off on a yellow brick road trip where I end up living out a story that belongs to someone else.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Trash Man Cometh!

The Trash Man Cometh

“Honey! Have you taken out the trash, yet?” Thought to have been first asked in the Garden of Eden.

It is downright tragic how some people can so thoroughly trash their lives and the lives of those closest to them, and be utterly blind to the fact that they created the mess they are sloshing through. What makes it particularly troublesome for them is that, because of their chosen blindness, they keep doing the same things that created the trash in the first place. Of course, you and I have never fallen prey to such blindness.

“Chosen, you say? Who would willfully choose to trash their lives or the lives of others?” Glad you asked.

Those who must be right
This trash can’t belong to me: my beliefs and choices are right, after all. The problem must lie with you, him, her, them, or it. As I can’t change any of you, there is nothing I can do about the trash. It’s “you” that is wrong and, therefore, you who must change.

Adam to God: Fruit? What fruit? he exclaims, with juice dripping from his lips.  Hey, I didn’t do anything wrong. Talk to that woman You gave me.

Those who need to be a victim
I need the trash, as it verifies my victimhood. Please, feel sorry for me, and admire how well I am doing in spite of the trash that all these other people have created for me. Do you want to hear about my wounds again?

Adam to God: That woman You gave me? It was her fault!
Eve to God: It was that snake Satan’s fault!

Those who need to feel good about themselves
Here the trash is somehow justified or willfully ignored, as the individual fights to maintain her self-image. “It’s good … it’s all good! Nothing to see here: move along! I am really doing well, thank-you.”

Adam to himself: It’s good. I am like God now, as I can see good and evil. That’s not trash; that’s a treasure! WooHoo!

Those who have established good-intentions as the only standard of evaluation
My heart was right. I meant well. I can’t help the outcome, here. (This is a tried and true justification for trash created by politicians. Only they won’t even cop to the trash!) Somehow it will all work out because my heart was right. And even if it doesn’t work out, well, my intentions were good … and would you please stop bleeding all over my carpet! This evasion is akin to, “I did my best, what more can you expect!”

Adam to himself: God just doesn’t get it. Here I was seeking to be supportive of my wife in her time of need, my heart was right … and anyway, I gave her the best two days of my life and THIS is what she does? I think I deserve an atta’ boy for not throwing her out of the garden myself.

None of these people will allow themselves to imagine a scenario where the originator of the trash is the person they see in the mirror every morning. And as long as we choose to not own the trash, to take responsibility for what is piling up all around us, it will continue to increase until we either deal with it or it destroys us … like it did to King Saul. (Israel, circa 1079-1007 BC)

The Trash Man Cometh!
While Adam has to be somewhere at top of the list of all time Trash Creator, King Saul has to at least make it to the Hall of Infamy, here. Most of you are familiar with the story from I Samuel 15:

The prophet Samuel told Saul that the bushwhacker Amalek and his kingdom were so diabolically evil that he and his people had to be destroyed, along with all the livestock. Saul? Well, let’s just say that he thought he saw a better way of attaining God’s intended outcome.

Samuel arrives at camp and Saul basically greets him with his best and most religiously acceptable “Hail and Well Met, O Mouth of God! I have done all that His Most Royal Holiness commanded.” (I did right. Fist bump!)

Samuel: Really? I can hear the bleating of sheep and the lowing of oxen. (Translation: Is that trash I smell?)

Saul: Sam, Sam, Sam, the people did slaughter most of the livestock, but decided to take the best of the sheep and oxen and sacrifice them to the Lord! Come on Sam, this is a win-win! (This is what you call a three-for: Saul was still not in the wrong – he was a victim of the people, dontchyaknow, and his heart was all for obeying God  — and, look here, the people meant well, too! “All in all, we all did right, and all our hearts were all right!” Fist bump?)

Samuel: God is done with you, ol’ son, and is going to replace you with another king. (David) Look at all that trash: you failed and you know it.

Saul: Yep, you got me. They don’t call you a prophet for nothin’! I blew it … because I feared the people! (Needs to salvage a bit of his self-image, so he deflects.)

Saul decided he knew what was best, regardless of what was commanded. The Israelites would have listened to him and he knew it. It’s all over but the thud on the floor of the throne room when your best defense is, “I know what God said, but…”

The moral of the story is, Own Your Trash And Take It Out. It’s our responsibility and, trust me here, however messy a chore it is, our lives will be so much better and filled with more joy and freedom for having done so. Sure in the world, we don’t want to wait until God sends a Samuel who makes us eat it all.   

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Plagiarized Life

I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God's thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking. –George MacDonald

Plagiarizers are actors in a play neither written nor directed by them. All of the songs they sing are covers. Even their chosen virtues and sins are worn like ill-fitting suits because they took them off the rack of clothes valued by their culture or religious sub-culture. They do not think their own thoughts, come to their own conclusions, or feel their own feelings. On the contrary, they allow their cultures to think and feel through their brains and hearts.

With some people, this unoriginality is fear based. We fear rejection. We fear standing out and being different. We fear making “wrong” decisions and, so, base our choices on statistical analysis: “What is everyone else who matters to me doing?” There is also the case where, while there is nothing we want more than to be visible for whom we truly are, there is also nothing we fear more: a paralyzing psychological state in which to live, for sure.  

I think this last fear sometimes points to a state of self-hatred. “O, I know who I am and that guy is a loser, a zero.” Or at least we fear this is the case, so we live a plagiarized life. Not wanting to be outted as the loser we fear that we are, we choose the persona of movie actor, or saint, or one of our parents, or an amalgamation of all those personality traits so highly valued by our friends and coworkers. All of this is unsatisfying and leaves us feeling empty, because the approbation we receive is for a role we are playing, not for the person we truly are. And we know this.

Then there are those of us who are like reeds in the wind. Giving absolutely no thought to such questions as, “Who am I?” or “Who has God created me to become?” we are products of every wind and current of fashion in our immediate world. We are passive-ists before all the circumstances of our world: I am whomever the winds make me.

Really now, is this how we wish to live our short lives here on earth? Throw away those suits, take off those masks, and defy the fears and the fear mongers. And know this: It is not the self you should hate but that which the self is not. Reclaim your heart, mind, and soul, as your own possessions.

You are a once in eternity individual who was fearfully and wonderfully made by the God who is Love, Beauty, and Goodness. Believe me. As you begin discovering your self, you will find reflections of these divine attributes. Your individuality is a gift to you and the world in which you live. The self that you truly are: that person is inimitable and irreplaceable. 

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fate, Destiny, or Unresolved Issues?

Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it.  -George MacDonald

Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”  Or …

If you are a Christian, you will call it “God’s will.” 
If a rationalist, “It was logic that brought me here.”
If a narcissist, “This is where following my bliss took me.”
If unconsciously fearful, “Here is where I feel safe. It's kismet!”


Until the light is taken into the very core of my soul, then I am a potential slave to the power of unresolved issues, unhealed wounds, and unidentified terrors. You’d think at the very least--realizing I do not know what I do not know—this would keep me humble in my decision-making, as well as desperate for insight and wisdom from older and wiser people. But we prefer quick closure to waiting patiently in ambiguity, self-righteous confidence to humbly seeking out the wisdom of others, because we already know what is best. But do we? 

Helping to Make the Unconscious, Conscious
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you face the Big Decisions, the life-altering choices that we all face, that may help you bring what is hidden to light:

Ask yourself, “How would I know if I were wrong?” and sit in the silence, allowing this question to permeate your mind and soul.  (Am I willing to be wrong? Am I willing to admit that where I am is not where I am supposed to be?)

If I was running from something or someone, who or what would that be? How would I know?

Am I being driven toward a specific action (There is no other way; I have to do this; I have no other choice; I must do this.), or are faith, hope, and love, drawing me in this direction?

What where you thinking and feeling, where were you headed, before you decided this choice was a “have to”? What happened? What changed you, specifically?

While making this decision, is there anyone you are studiously avoiding asking for input? Why?

Is there anyone in your life who knows your full story, secrets and all? Have you spoken to this person about your decision?

How much time has been spent talking to a minister, mentor, coach, or counselor about your life decision? How about a “disinterested” party: someone who has no vested interest in the outcome of your decision?

Consider those with whom you have confided regarding your life-decisions: how many of them bring a different perspective from yours? How many have always applauded your every decision? Is there anyone who most always challenges you down to the core of your being in times of decision-making?

Quick: Write down the three most traumatic events of your past. If any or all of these events are playing into your decision, how would you know?

For those of you who believe in God, how much time in prayer have you spent asking God for wisdom, and to show you all of your heart in this matter? How often do you implore God to reveal what is hidden in your heart and mind, and to heal what needs to be healed?

I don’t know about you, but I do not want unresolved issues, unhealed wounds, and unidentified terrors, leading me around by my nose. Been. There. Done. That. I don’t want to end up somewhere, calling it my destiny, when in fact it is anything but. And I certainly do not want to be in a place where my best is keeping God from giving me His best.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013 

Monday, May 6, 2013

It's Not All About Me?

I believe that the two most common motives for self-improvement and personal growth are self-interest and fear. Self-interest asserts, “I want to be a better person, and to be more successful in life.” While I think this is where many of us begin, such a motivation will only take us so far in our Quests, as it is inherently self-limiting. “Growth is all about…me!” Then there is fear. “I fear being poor, fired, divorced, cancer, being damned to hell, and need to change to avoid this.” This also will only take us so far because it is ultimately debilitating, as such fears are for slaves. And it too is, “All about me!” for what I most fear, I love the most.

I believe the highest and healthiest motivation for seeking transformation is love: love for God, for self, for others, for creation, for life itself. When Jesus was asked, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” he said that loving God with all of your heart, mind, and soul, as well as loving your neighbor as yourself: this summed up the entire Law.

When my motivation for transformation, self-improvement, and for all my other Quests, does not have love for God at the very heart of all that I am seeking, my soul’s connection to the transcendent God who is love is cut off, or at least severely weakened. If my loves for self, neighbors, creation, and life, are uncoupled from what is to be my Primary Love—love for the transcendent God—then all my other loves take on various degrees of idolatry. Without love for God as my chief motivation and focal point, I am saying that meaning and definition, significance and fulfillment, are to be found solely (or primarily, anyway) in self, or in others. When this takes place, I am a slave to an idol that will ultimately rob me of the life I was created to live. Or so I believe.

The Quests we take are because of love. Loving God we seek the Holy Grail of knowing Him more completely. Wanting to demonstrate our love for Him, we go on a Quest to become the person He intends us to become. Loving others, we are motivated to do for them what God has done for us: accepting them as He accepted us (in all our messiness), seeking their best interest just as He works for ours. Loving creation, we engage our God-given talents in making it more beautiful, more fruitful, and more God-honoring.

We all act as we do because of love. The only question is who and what do we love? Love for fame will send us in a different direction from where love for God and others will lead us. Love for power will cause us to behave differently than love for God. Love for riches will motivate us to conduct ourselves differently than what love for God and others will provoke us to do. (From my book, Legendary Leadership.) 

As the God who is love created us out of love and for love, it is love alone that has the power to convert and transform our souls in a manner worthy of our Creator. Loving God keeps us free, rather than living as slaves, for, in loving God, we remember that we have immortal souls that belong to Him, alone.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Bight Light of a Great Soul

The Wrong we have Done, Thought, or Intended Will wreak its Vengeance on Our SOULS. –Carl Jung

Remember, we Christians think man lives for ever. Therefore, what really matters is those little marks or twists on the central, inside part of the soul which are going to turn it, in the long run, into a heavenly or a hellish creature. –CS Lewis

We are very aware of what kills the body, so we eat organic food, run 4 miles a day, take our daily vitamins, and stay away from neighborhoods where we could be shot. But what about what kills our souls? What happens to the health of our souls when, for the sake of the approval of others, we act with duplicity: mimicking the language, behavior, and attitudes, of others in ways that go contrary to our core values? Are we paying attention to the drip, drip, drip of poison that is seeping into our minds and hearts with every compromise? Do we really think we can debase our souls without consequence?

Our culture is spiritually impoverished. We have taken soul and spirit out of every arena of life, speaking and acting as if the material world is all there is and that the spiritual world is of no meaning or consequence. How do we maintain the health and integrity of our souls while living in a culture that praises and supports those individuals who have lost theirs? How do we defend or cleanse our souls from the filth that is gilded in fool’s gold that pervades our culture? And no, the answer is not to hide in home and church.

I suggest that this Herculean struggle begins with c-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-l-y reminding ourselves that we are more than blood, muscle, and bone, and that life consists of more than what we can see, touch, and taste. If you believe that your soul is immortal than every thought, every intention, every word, every choice, and every action, is shaping your soul “into a heavenly or a hellish creature.”

The next step is to begin asking yourself: “What feeds my soul?” Maybe it will be rituals that serve to remind you of the sacredness of life. Having friends with whom I can share soul is something that has always nourished me. What about daily spiritual exercises? Work that fulfills you definitely nourishes the soul. Creating experiences that leave us with memories that cause our hearts to glow is not something to overlook here. One such experience would be learning to appreciate art in all its forms and expressions. Gratitude also nourishes the soul, as do acts of love and care.

We live in a time when a man can gain the world, lose his soul, and his culture applaud him for having done so. However, rather than wringing our hands and muttering, “Woe be unto us,” think about this: living in such spiritual darkness means the bright light of a great soul is all the more powerful, vivid, and illuminating.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013