Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

Where I do some of  my best thinking - the drive home from therapy
After writing Reconnecting with Community two weeks ago, I prepared to post it to the blog. The cursor hovered over the “publish” button and I hesitated. The post was very personal. It could make some people in my community feel uncomfortable. I read it over again to be sure that I wrote authentically—without an agenda, without trying to control an outcome.

Yes, it reflected who I am and what I value. I hit “publish.”

Encouraging comments began to appear on Facebook and on the blog. The post had value to others. But, as the week went on, I began to feel uncertain about it. What do other people in my community think of me? What are they saying? “Did you read Gayle’s blog? Why would she write that? Why is she dragging up things in the past?” Or, “She sure is good at playing the victim.”

I recognized the feeling of uncertainty as vulnerability (thanks to Brené Brown’s books). I am learning that when I feel vulnerable, shame rushes in to fill the void.

When I saw my therapist last week, we spent time talking about my feelings and my vulnerability. Dr. Anna reminded me (as she often does) that other people’s thoughts and actions are beyond my control. She asked, “How do you know what they are thinking? Does it matter what they are saying? Does it change who you are?”

It was a really good session and made me think. But the Big Realization hit me on the drive home: What I think others are thinking and saying is what I would be thinking or saying if I was in their place.

Those are the things I think about others when I am feeling defensive and hurt. I would play the blame and shame game in my head or even say it to my friends and family. I would think they are playing the victim and it would make me feel angry.

Whoa! The “good girl” inside of me doesn’t want to think I can be mean, insensitive or flat-out judgmental. And, yet, I recognized my thoughts. My thoughts, not what other people are saying. My thoughts.

Then I realized it isn’t necessarily what other people have thought or said that makes me feel shame; it is what I think and say to myself that opens the trapdoor into the sea of shame.

In other words, I judge myself in the same manner as I judge other people.

In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

I always took this to mean when Judgement Day comes, I’ll be judged in the manner I’ve judged others. But, it is mind-blowing to realize I judge myself with the same measure I judge others. And I can never measure up. How can I expect it of others?

It’s the same as “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). If I don’t love myself and treat myself with respect, lovingkindness and compassion, how can I love others?

I went back and read Chapter 6 in Rising Strong again. No surprise there. Brené Brown wrote that the people who didn’t think others were doing the best they could “judged their efforts in the same exacting manner that they judged the efforts of others.” She noticed these were the same group of people who struggled with perfectionism.

Today I showed Dr. Anna what I had written in this post to this point. I hadn’t finished it. I had a week full of revelations that I shared with her, which I’ll be sharing with you in the future.

Once again, my mind opened up more on the drive home and I had these thoughts:
  • It is easier to judge and avoid connection than to connect and work through conflict.   
  • Avoiding Connection = Avoiding Conflict
  •  The opposite of judgement is acceptance.

I’ve got more wrestling or “rumbling” (Brené Brown’s word) to do…

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Who I Am

Who I Am

I am darkness and light.

I am perfect and imperfect.

I am shy and outgoing.

I am music and silence.

I am joy and sadness.

I am saved. And I am a sinner.

I am weak and strong.

I am courage and fear.

I am love and hatred.

I am judgment and grace.

I am selfless and selfish.

I am human.

And when I acknowledge, embrace and integrate all that I am,

Instead of denying, hiding, covering, or running,

I am me. All of me.

(copyright 2015 Gayle Gresham)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reconnecting With Community

Cape Canaveral Beach, Florida where I spent last weekend with my daughter

Some situations in our community the past couple of years left me and my family feeling singled out, rejected, and talked about. In one word – ostracized.

After these situations, I ventured out to the Christmas Bazaar last fall with my daughter, daughter-in-law and grandbaby, feeling vulnerable, but trying to be brave. Most people were friendly and spoke to me. One woman wouldn’t say “hi” back to me when I said hello. But the woman beside her came around the table, hugged me and made a fuss over my grandbaby. Thank you, again, for your kindness. One lady turned away from my girls when she saw them. This broke my heart when they told me about it.

Whether the ostracism was real or perceived, the result was the same. I withdrew. My family withdrew.

We withdrew from the community where John was born and raised and where our children were born and raised; the place where we have lived 28 out of the 30 years of marriage; and where we have been involved over the years in the school, library, 4-H, fire department, and church.

I am writing this, not for you to feel sorry for me. I am writing because I know I am not alone. If there is one thing I know about my community and your community, it is that there are many wounded hearts, people who have been shunned or who feel ostracized from their community.
It isn’t something we like to think about.

It’s easier to explain away why someone doesn’t fit into our community. Sins become scarlet letters, which makes it OK to talk about someone and tell everyone else what they’ve done. We label people because it is easier to label someone than work to get to know them for who they are. Personal lives are treated like the soap opera on television, “Did you hear about so-and-so? Can you believe it?”

Is it any wonder so many of us hide out and stay away from community?

Or, we flat out have a feud. We try to control what others think. We draw people to our side by telling them how bad those other people are. We have a verbal shoot-out in a public meeting.

The result? Either we have power and do everything we can to keep control. Or we withdraw. Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms.

Well, I’m tired of eating worms. Worms infiltrate your system with hatred, bitterness, loneliness and rejection.

Last week, I stepped out and returned to the Book Club at the library. It had been over a year since I had attended a meeting. The women welcomed me back with hugs and smiles. And graciously forgave me when I spent much of the meeting talking with the new branch manager of the library.

It felt good to be with a group of community members and to be accepted as I am – broken, hurt, vulnerable, but striving to be brave and courageous.

Last week I read Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong. Her words define what I am feeling and inspire me to keep muddling through and finding the ability to rise strong. But Chapter Six, “Sewer Rats and Scofflaws” stunned me. In this chapter Brené shares a situation with another person in which she felt very uncomfortable. Her therapist asks, “What if that woman was doing the best she could that weekend?” Brené struggled with this idea.

Brené asked her husband, “Do you think, in general, that people are doing the best that they can?”

He answered after much thought, “I don’t know. I really don’t. All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”

Read his response again. “My life is better when…”

How will our lives change when we assume people are doing their best? What will happen if we stop judging and accept people for who they are at that moment? How do we focus on what is instead of what should be or could be?

Looking back at my experience at the Christmas Bazaar, I know the pain of rejection was real. I experienced it and I felt it. The rejection devastated me. My thoughts ran with what should be or could be. She should have said hi to me. She could have stepped forward and spoken to my girls. She should have fussed over my grandbaby.

But what if each lady was doing the best she could at that moment? It doesn’t make the rejection any easier, but it makes my judgment a little less. If I can accept those moments for what they were without dwelling on what they should have been, then I can let go of the pain and anger I’ve held for a year.

I am doing the best I can.