Listen, learn, and share this episode with everyone you know! There is a message in it for everyone regarding human trafficking. It is not scary, but encourages us all to make positive steps to make a difference in our communities.
Praying my dad still talks to me after this one…
The question of course is more rhetorical, but as 2020 has created a situation in which many people in the world are using technology more than ever before to connect with one another, work, be educated, vent frustrations, be entertained, etc, I’m afraid we aren’t getting better at truly listening during these times. Many are simply putting their opinions out there (because it is easy to post opinions) and not listening to others. As I sit in my office and do Telehealth or in-person sessions and listen to people discuss the stress of the times, I’ve learned we simply don’t value the opportunity to listen as much as we should. Honestly, it is probably the most important skill in the field of counseling. It is arguably one of the most important skills in life.
Are you good at it? What do others think about your listening skills? Are you listening to understand or simply to reply? Do you want people to hear your point of view more than you want to listen to and understand theirs?
People have been asking a lot of questions lately such as:
-Does it truly help to wear a mask?
-Why are we still dealing with racism?
-Why are some police officers allowed to get away with crimes?
-What can we do to reform police departments, government, etc?
-What is the point of the protest?
-Are we going have to homeschool or virtual school our kids next year?
-Why can’t gyms open?
-Why are some churches comfortable opening and others aren’t?
-Why do teens love Tik Tok?
As I consider some of these questions, I can hear my own answers to them almost automatically in my head…(which are based on my own experiences, beliefs, values, etc.) As a therapist, I have to listen to and help others who often don’t believe what I believe spiritually, politically, economically, etc. and I have to be objective because it is my job. It is not easy and requires me to do a lot of reflection and at times has required my own counseling with another therapist, but the things I’ve learned from listening to those who are different from me are priceless. As a trained therapist, I do much more than listen, but listening is invaluable in my field.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a trained therapist to be a good listener.
The challenge I present you with today is to try and listen and not quickly go to the response in your own head. Really seek to hear someone today. Seek to understand the other person’s point of view, position, experience, etc. Ask someone, maybe who you don’t like, or who you know has a different political view than yours, someone of another race, etc. something today. However, don’t respond, just listen and try to understand. Practice helps in the area of listen. Trust me, I’m still working on this too!
Want to make a difference in the world today? Try listening to others more than you speak, and see what happens…
Show you care for others by listening this week and be blessed,
Here is some biblical encouragement for listening…
James 1:19 “..Be slow to speak and quick to listen.”
Proverbs 18:13, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 2:2 “Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding.”
Proverbs 21:23 “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Matthew 11:14, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
I love the quote by Simone Weil, “Attention is the rarest form of generosity.” Personally, I believe her quote rings true today more than ever. At a time where people can physically, be it at times technologically, connected, people often seem more disconnected to true genuine conversation and ultimately relationships than ever before. So you may ask what was going on in the world and personally for Simone Weil to make this statement in the early 1900s.
Simone Weil who lived during a tough time in culture 1909-1943, including both World Wars. According to some, she was a philosopher and political activist who eventually turned to religion. We can learn some about her through her essays and writings, but to me she seems like a person who was seeking truth and looking for ways to overcome the evil in the world. Some say she became a Christian and emphasized martyrdom and sacrifice as you sought to share her beliefs and give attention to the hurt of others, which led to her dying an early death at age 34. Simone wrote “Attention is the rarest form of generosity” in a letter to a poet friend ins 1942. It is likely she make this statement out of personal experience. Maybe she felt as if no one was truly giving attention to people (the part of creation made in God’s image). It was after all a time of world war, mass killings of Jews, development of nuclear reactor (which became a part of the first nuclear bomb), families being torn apart by war, etc. Whatever the reason, I can’t help but wonder if it was stated out of the feeling that no one was giving attention to hurting people in the world, likely including herself.
Maybe Simon believed that if people would show true care and concern for one another by giving them attention that people would respond with love and not fear which often leads to terrible behaviors. Consider the pharaoh in Egypt who thought the Jews were becoming too numerous so he treated them like slaves. What if he would have paid attention to them, learned more about them, listened to their stories about their God? Could this have caused him to love them and in turn not lose his first born son? (Exodus) What if Hitler would have given attention to the Jews in his country, learned from them, and given them a chance to be a part of the country he ruled? Could Germany have been a great nation still today instead of millions dying, including Hitler, for a terrible ideal?
What if you paid attention to those around you? Would it improve your marriage? Would it impact your kids’ behavior? Would it allow for you to make a new friend? Would it change the trajectory of someone’s life? It certainly could! Finally, what if people paid attention to you? Consider how it could change your life.
While we can’t necessarily make people pay attention to us, we can be people who give attention to others. So, if you want to be a generous person give your attention to someone today. Here are some a tips for when you try:
-Be aware of the messages sent from your body language (make eye contact, think about your facial expressions). Put your phone down!
-Ask open ended questions and/or specific about the person and his/her situation? Demonstrate concern.
-Paraphrase to show you want to understand when engaging in conversation.
-Don’t interrupt or insert your own personal stuff while you are listening to someone.
-Verbally affirm others.
-Notice the person in the corner or notice the person who no one else is noticing and be friendly. Get to know your neighbors. Make a new friend at work.
-Spend quality time with others without technology and give undivided attention. (Don’t act like you are in a hurry).
I am a firm believer that most of the hurts in the world come from relationships, but so does our healing. My faith leads me to believe that ultimate relationship is with God alone. I believe He alone fills the void in our lives, but also uses others to spread His love and attention. Simone Weil also said, “At the centre of the human heart is the longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object in this world,” which makes me think she came to the same conclusion and belief I have in God.
I hope someone give you attention today!
Dr. Natalie Atwell
When I thought about making a New Year’s/January post, I wanted to mention the statistic I heard recently that only 45% of Americans have made a new friend in the past 5 years (www.studyfinds.com). This is sad, right?
As I listened to many this week discuss goals, resolutions, diets, fasts, etc. the only ones who mentioned relationships in those lists were mostly the ones looking for a mate. (Humor me with a detour for a moment)…The natural progression of the conversation of wanting to meet a mate goes to where does one find someone to date. These days around 40% of people first meet online. This stat may even be higher if you consider how others meet on social media by having “mutual” friends/contacts. With the increase of people meeting online, there has also been an increase in people sending “selfies”. As you can imagine these selfies come in all shapes and sizes with or without clothing from what I hear. So let me report this study I read recently in Psychology Today (Dec ’19 issue), “senders (of unsolicited photos of their genitals) scored significantly higher on measures of sexism and narcissism…” Basically, if you are sending these types of pics, it is likely you could be a sexist or narcissist. Also, “the flurry of emotions by those who received unsolicited images include anger, objectification and shame”. Therefore, if you are sending these, you should stop unless you want people to think or know you are sexist and a narcissist. In addition, if you are receiving these by a potential suitor, changes are he is not the one for you! Furthermore, what would your mirror say, “Really no one wants to see that. Some things should be sacred. Also, stop looking at yourself. Appreciate things besides your looks. Ok, I understand the need to check for things in your nose or teeth, but otherwise, go outside and enjoy God’s creation.”
Back on the main road…I wish you all a Happy New Year! I didn’t think about 2020 being a new decade until it has been mentioned by many this week, but wow ok a new decade to focus on doing amazing things for others! Let me challenge EVERYONE to set a goal of making a new friend in 2020. As Christians, it should be a goal every year to make new friends and meet new people as we share the gospel and make disciples. This was a command by the way…Matthew 28: 19-20 ” 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I pray each one of your mirrors at the end of the year 2020 says, “I’m proud of you, I didn’t see you much this year!
Go out and make a positive difference today, make a new friend,
PS: Michael Jackson’s “Man in the mirror” song wouldn’t work for nasty selfies people send to others…but we can all learn from that song in some aspects.
Teenagers these days often are described as being self-centered, lazy, unmotivated, and addicted to social media instead of living life without posting about it or considering using a filter for pictures they post.
I was encouraged this summer as I met a very amazing teenage boy at the beach who was so kind to my not quite teenage boys. He took them riding in a boat, helped them learn to kayak, and never acted like they were bothering him. He and his brother were very respectful and truly a joy to be around. One day, the teenage boy told me he was reading the book “Make Your Bed: Little things that can change your life…and maybe the world” by Admiral William McCraven. He also told me he wants to be a navy seal one day. I have no doubt that he will achieve his goal and will be a great leader one day.
After I met him and talked to his mother about how she is raising two amazing boys, I saw a book at the library that caught my eye, “Sea Stories: My life in special operations” By Admiral William McCraven. Since this man obviously caught the attention of a neat teenager, I thought maybe I’d enjoy a book written by the same man. The book did not disappoint. I found someone who is very successful to also be humble and gracious.
Here are some things I learned from the book:
-Turn hardships into laughter, self-deprecating, unforgettable, and unforgettable stories.. it’s all in how you remember it!
-Don’t lie to your parents, they know. Give your kids a chance to tell the truth.
-Don’t underestimate the power of one act of kindness. Call a kid, encourage someone today it may make all the difference in the world.
-Take it one evolution at a time. Don’t quit, it’s not the smartest, fastest or strongest who are always successful. It’s the ones who stumble, fall, falter, persevere, who get up and keep moving.
-Sacrifice is worth the reward. God is always working. His hand is in everything . When it’s your time to go, it’s your time.
-People are always listening:).
-There are angels and spirits among us. Be aware.
-War gives your life meaning. Everyone longs for an honorable fight, a battle of convictions.
-Don’t be a bench sitter
-People deserve a second chance
-Be kind to people who are going thru tough times. Continue to fight regardless of your injury! Lose the paperwork…
-Bombs can be carried in shoes… Your decisions effect others sometimes long after you intended them to.
-Overcome evil with good
-Have hope that God can turn brokenness into something beautiful.
-Leaders must be prepared to trust who are fighting for them and to make tough decisions.
-Sometimes rough men have to protect the innocent.
-The sacrifices of the men and women in the armed forces help to save those who may be the best great scientists, doctors , pastors, etc.
-Millennials ask why, sacrifice and say they will be just fine, they are more inclusive, more engaged, not always unmotivated.
-It feels great when justice is served
-Practice the tough plans and drills, go over them and over so you are prepared.
-Tomorrow has stories too.
Be blessed today. Keep going, don’t quit, If it isn’t over yet, it is not the end…A brighter day is ahead.
I remember growing up and hearing this phrase, “identity crisis’. It didn’t quite have the same connotation in the 80s and 90s as it does today. As I look around, interact with, and watch people on television, etc. it is clear to me that many people are truly in an identity crisis. Some define “identity crisis” as a time of uncertainty, confusion, and insecurity related to changes in expected aims or roles in society.
Nerd note: Erik Erikson was the developmental psychologist credited with coming up with identity crisis terms, etc. Another psychologist, James Marcia came up with four stages or statuses of identity:
1-Identity Achieved: People who are committed to who they are and are continuing to explore.
2-Identity diffused: People who are are committed or exploring.
3-Moratorium: People who are on “hold” about making life decisions of who they are.
4-Foreclosed: People who are closed off to contemplated what they want out of life.
Marcia suggested the ideal status is Identity Achieved.
So what does a Christian believe about identity? What does the Bible say?
In Isaiah 6, God essentially tells Isaiah to go and tell the people that because they have continued to rebel against Him and sought after their own sinful and selfish desires they will, “…Keep on hearing, but won’t understand; keep on seeing, but won’t perceive…”
Paul says, in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
1 Peter 2:9, ” But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
The Bible, God’s word suggests that we were created by Him and to truly understand who we are and to do what we were created to do, we must follow Him and die to ourselves. I’ve also heard a wise biblical teacher once say, “If you don’t find your identity in Christ, God will take it away.”
I believe the path to true identity and fulfillment is to follow God’s plans for your life. This involves obeying His commands, following His word, serving others, loving others, sharing the gospel, etc. Anything outside of this will lead to an unfulfilled life.
The world including popular culture will tell you that identity is based in everything from sexuality, career, marital status, financial status, etc. where God’s view is totally contrary to these which often lead to destruction, pain, and loneliness. God’s call is to follow Him and to be like him. I dare you to try it God’s way.
Be encouraged today,
Recently, I’ve been reading a book titled, Six ways to keep the ‘good’ in your boy, by Dannah Gresh because I’m raising boys, interact with others doing to same, and have realized it is not a task for the faint at heart to say the least. Just yesterday morning, my son came in after taking our puppy out and explained that he had to grab poop out of her butt…(stay tuned for the rest of this story…)
It is a great book with some practical advice on raising boys. By the way, she has one written for ‘good’ girls too. She starts out addressing the fears of mothers, transitions into the importance of connecting with your children and then explains her six ways. Some of the ways aren’t surprising such as encouraging boys to go outside, hosting fantasy football parties, giving them a book to read, etc. However, one story in particular has really challenged me..
She discussed reading a book herself called, The Man who lives with wolves, about a true story of a man named Shaun Ellis who studied wolf behavior to the point that he was accepted into a pack. Wolves apparently are very family oriented and cubs are raised in two distinct stages.
In stage one (the first 5-6 weeks of the cubs lives), the pups are sheltered and nurtured by their mothers. During this time, the mothers teach them to be intimate by cuddling them and bathing them. She also keeps them safe during this time and teaches them to bathe, eat and rest. The cubs are rarely seen by the rest of the pack also during this time.
In stage two, the cubs start to come out of the den and learn about risk and purpose with their dads. The wolf dads begin by teaching them through games similar to a relay game. As the weeks progress, the dads lead the cubs further away from security and their den. The intent of the relay type game they are taught is to teach them to hunt which is how wolves survive. Dads teach the cubs their purpose in hunting and then they come back to the den where moms continue instilling the value of community. The moms and dad work together to teach their cubs needed values for survival.
Ok, you say, that is nice and we can learn from that but it’s nothing shocking, maybe not but this next aspect of “wolf dad” is. Shaun, the guy studying the wolves, was actually accepted into a pack of wolves. However, one day when Shaun and another male wolf was left behind during a hunting adventure to guard the den full of younger cubs, Shaun got thirsty and left the den to only to be found and pinned against a tree for several hours by the wolf dad. I can’t imagine how intimidated and scared Shaun must have felt. Eventually, the wolf let Shaun go and Shaun realized that evening walking along the stream where he was trying to find water to alleviate his thirst, that a grizzly bear had been where he was and the wolf dad knew this from experience. The wolf dad pinning him against a tree for several hours potentially saved him from being ripped apart by a grizzly bear. Wolf dads teach their cubs to play, take risks and eventually hunt for survival. They know when to push their boys and when to punish or discipline them. The mothers also know to stay back and let the dads do this at the needed time.
As human mothers, somehow we tend to want to stay in stage one way too long. We want to secure and nurture our baby boys and often get in the way of their fathers teaching them to take risks, push them to work hard and accept challenges which includes loving discipline at times. It is hard as a mother to see your husband parent differently at times than you do or feel is right. We may think they are “being too hard on them, etc”. However, I do not know what it is like to be a man in this world. My husband has experiences, gifts, talents and abilities according to his design by God as a man that I simply don’t have and vice versa. I have seen my boys grow as I have stepped back at times and not tried to nag the manhood out of the men in my house.
For example, the story about my oldest from the beginning is that he took the puppy out to pee and poop before school and noticed that our dog couldn’t get the last bit (turd-sorry but that is the best way to describe it) out by herself so our son grabbed a paper towel and helped the dog to get it out and cleaned her up. At times, I may have felt my husband was being tough on our son when it came to taking care of the dog. However, hearing that my son who is in still in elementary school saw a problem, figured out a solution and took care of someone else without coming in to ask me for help or wine about it…made me realize that I need to sit back at times and allow my husband to push my son to be the man God created him to be.
Again, I realize that there are single moms in this world and parents who abuse their children and this is not at all what I mean by loving discipline. I encourage single moms to find a good man to mentor their boys. The beauty of the family of God is that we are supposed to look at one another as family and help one another. Families need to be available and willing to help single moms also. I encourage fathers to lovingly push their boys to reach their greatest potential. Finally, I encourage mothers to nurture and teach intimacy but also allow dads to teach the other needed skills for their boys to survive and flourish in this world!
Proverbs 29:11, “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.”