How Vulnerable Are You?

Seeing people with their noses buried in their devices is something I’m becoming more aware of in the past year. When my niece visited last year we saw more of her forehead than her eyes. I knew she was in bed from the radiant glow of her device snuggled in beside her. I now work with a number of 20-somethings that seem to be more connected to their device than to their duties at hand. At the risk of sounding my age I fear I might becoming a crank old man!

I have felt for a long time that the younger people in our country just don’t communicate with one another. A recent news piece I heard convinced me that I was wrong. People in general, including the younger generation, are communicating more often and in more detail than ever before via mobile devices. But something still just didn’t feel right to me. That’s when I remembered a quote from psychologist Sherry Turkle:

Technology appeals where we are most vulnerable.

Ever known of someone breaking up a relationship via email or a text message? It’s the 20th-century version of the “Dear John” letter. Did the person who initiated the end of the relationship tell you s/he did it because it was easier for the person being dumped? That’s about as big a lie one could tell.

An action like that has nothing to do with the dumpee and everything to do with the dumper. S/he just didn’t want to deal with the messy fall-out, the tears, the anger, or perhaps pleas to “try just one more time.” S/he didn’t want to feel vulnerable. It wasn’t kind, it wasn’t caring.

Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we're too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone. ― Steven Spielberg

Just staying in touch, checking in on Facebook or tweeting out our thought du jour isn’t the same as communicating. Granted, I’ve had deep, meaningful and intensely personal conversations via a messaging app.untitled It doesn’t take the place of face-to-face communication accompanied by human touch. But it can be a good and sometimes life-saving substitute.

I ask you this week to consider how you communicate with others and by what means. Think about this: If you can’t make the time to call someone on the phone or spend quality time with them in person, are you sure that’s a relationship worth having? If it is, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate how we show it through the ways we communicate that with each other.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Terry

The Illusion of Companionship

Are you reading this on your mobile device? Over half of my readers access my blogs and messages via a smart phone or tablet. But does yours feel like it’s surgically attached to you?

I sometimes feel like mine is, which is why I’ve been taking consistent and proactive steps to disconnect from the technology in my life for large blocks of time. One way we do that at our home is attempt to leave our devices out of family activities such as eating or watching a program together.people-on-cellphones However, the fact that one of the three of use doesn’t have a smart phone helps to encourage that…ahem.

That’s why I was so interested in a TED talk that recently came to my attention. It was given about two years ago by psychologist Sherry Turkle and called, “Connected, But Alone” (https://www.ted.com/speakers/sherry_turkle). Turkle shows how we can easily hide behind our devices while asserting we are staying more connected. She speaks to how we can easily present a very different person online than who or what we are in person. The person we portray in cyberspace can be who we want to be, not necessarily who we are.

Turkle’s not talking about a personal profile where I shave 15 years off my age or reduce my waist size by four inches. What she is talking about are the mistakes and foibles we make when cultivating friendships face-to-face. Those are frequently lost online. When friends see us for who we are it deepens our bond with them, even if the experience is unpleasant due to misstating our intentions.

Online we sanitize our messages, editing and re-editing what we say. How many times have you edited your Facebook postings? I do all the time. Sometimes I even delete them. The blog you’re currently reading has gone through several edits and re-writes in the span of only a few days.

Or you may have said something online or in an email you would never say to someone face-to-face. We can easily hide behind our computer screens or smart phones, as if the person we are online is some kind of avatar of who we wish we were.

I would urge you to follow Turkle’s suggestion that we “use technology to make this the life we can love.” For example, I get Tweets at just the right time, or text messages from a loved one that mean so much to me, especially when I’m away from home traveling, as I often am on a weekly basis.

That doesn’t, however, replace the safety and affection I feel in the arms of my beloved. Just as I love receiving wonderful eCards, I treasure the person who cares enough to send a physical card through the mail (you remember stamps, right?).

Without the technology of today and that which shall arrive in the future I would not be able to have the life and ministry I have. To say that I appreciate these devices would be an understatement.

Still, we must all strive to consider another quote of Turkle: “Our technologies give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.” Let us not have the illusion of companionship. Let us do what it takes to cultivate enduring friendships – warts and all – both online and in “real time.”

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Terry

Stop Tolerating Your Life!

In my last blog I wrote about accepting people as they want to be. In other words, stop trying to teach the pig to sing – it doesn’t work and it annoys the pig. Please don’t get self-righteous and tell me I’m calling people pigs, although that wouldn’t be an insult anyway. Pigs are perhaps the most sentient animals that we humans eat – enough of a reason not to eat them according to my friend, Michael! But I digress.

I encourage mutually supporting those around us, not pulling or dragging people to their magnificence. If someone in our life is obviously satisfied where s/he is, then who are we to demand otherwise?

The persons in our lives who don’t want to change
deserve our acceptance, not our tolerance.

The same, however, is true of us as well. You don’t deserve to be in any situation where you must tolerate anything, unless you’ve decided to be. I tolerate the smell in the bathroom after spending some time in there, but that doesn't mean I have to stay there suffering through the consequences until the odor dissipates! Opening a window, turning on the fan or some air freshener can help and that's exactly what acceptance and unconditional love does in the rest of our lives.

Is there someone in your life that you continue to tolerate? Ask yourself a very simple question:  Why?

The answer may surprise you, because it’s going to be one of two things.

  1. Either it’s time to let go of or back off from that relationship; or,
  2. It’s time to stop complaining about it and spending useless hours trying to make someone into something s/he is not.

In other words, the next time someone says to you, “I’m not good enough for you,” do yourself a favor:  Believe them.

If we are not going to cut ourselves off from someone then why continue to grumble about our circumstance? As always, when we come from love and compassion with unconditional acceptance the entire landscape will change. We will be happier … and so will our loved one.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Terry

Changing Others

"Just who do you think you are to tell God what to do?!?"

That's the response I got from a spiritual counselor years ago when I was detailing to her all the ways my lover at the time needed to change to have the life he deserved. "What makes you think what he's going through isn't allowing him to grow in ways you can't imagine?"

Dang. I just wanted her agreement to help me help him get off his butt and get a job. Sheesh!

You cannot have a relationship with someone's potential.

If only my life didn't reflect my inability to comprehend, apply and appreciate those words above all the times I wish I had... particularly since I'm the one who said it. Most annoying!

If only she'd stop drinking." "If only he'd stop smoking." "If only my kids would apply themselves." If only...

If only we could let the people around us be who they are and love them unconditionally like we often say we do! Yes, yes, I know. You only want them to change or realize their potential because they will be happier, more productive and achieve greater fulfilment in life.

Our couch potato
Dillon, our couch potato

Really?

We may couch our need to change others with reasons such as I just mentioned. But more often than not we find the actions (or the lack of actions) of others, particularly those people closest to us, to be embarrassing, infuriating or completely unacceptable to our better judgment. Well, ain't that just too bad!

There's also another egoistic benefit of deciding what others should do:  If we're fixing others then our time is usually too occupied to take care of our own lives.

If we see someone about to be hit by a bus we should probably intervene. Just seems like the right thing to do, right? But if s/he wants to keep smoking, eat unhealthy, fattening food or stay in a relationship that's going nowhere, what business is it of ours? Here's a thought:  Instead of trying to change others into what we think they should be, how about if we live the life WE were meant to live and be the example for others to consider for themselves?

It was a wise man who said people don't want to hear a sermon. They want to see results. What if we stopped preaching to our loved ones and friends about how they should change? What if we were willing to have our own life show them what it means to be magnificent?

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Terry