Walking Civil War

3 08 2017

Cognitive dissonance.  “Your walk doesn’t match your talk.” Integrity vs. hypocrisy.

Part of the daily journey on this planet is learning to be one person.  Not two.  Or three.  Or six.  Integrity is related to “integer.”  A mathematical concept.  A whole number.

To live in integrity means “wholeness.”  It means our actions match our words, our values, our creeds, our codes of conduct.  You have enough to do to simply be one person.  There’s not enough energy, time or sense to construct false selves and alternate lives.

Choosing a path of duplicity and hypocrisy puts you at odds…with yourself.  You become, in effect, a walking civil war.  Fragmented.  Battling with your own heart.  Here are the takeaways of such a lousy choice:

  • Sleepless nights
  • A default tendency to look over your shoulder. “Who’s after me?  Who knows what I’ve done?”
  • The need to invent more lies to cover up your lies.
  • You medicate.  Simple—you can’t live with all these selves.  So you numb pain.  Take your pick: Drugs, booze, sex, shopping, endless busyness.  And a thousand other bypaths.

Live what you believe.  Keep your word.  Be one, not six persons.  Then sleep in peace.

 

Suggested Resources:

Who You Are When No One’s Looking: Choosing Consistency, Resisting Compromise (Bill Hybels)

Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality (Henry Cloud)

 

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Switchfoot “Twenty-Four”





The Necessity of No

25 07 2017

“The most basic boundary-setting word is no.”  So wrote Henry Cloud and John Townsend in their bestselling book, Boundaries.   Some people excel at saying “no.”  My wife is quite proficient at it.  Me?  Not so much.  But I’m learning.

I know a minister who requires those he’s going to marry to read Boundaries.  He said this book is the most important book to him outside the Bible.  And to prove it, he asked a prospective groom—to whom he’d assigned the book quite some time before—if he’d read the book.  This was Wednesday.  The wedding was on Saturday.  “Uh, no.  I haven’t gotten to it.”  “Well, you better get reading or I won’t marry you guys on Saturday.”

He read the book.  It’s a big deal.

One of the go-to sentences we use a lot these days, especially with those close to us when we cannot say yes is “they’ll just have to figure it out.”  We are defaulting to this more and more, with good reason.

If you don’t know how to say no to people, you are like a painted target.  Those who have a poor sense of boundary and propriety hone in on “really nice people” like an F-15 locking on to a target in war.

If you don’t learn how to say no, you will have a life of varied chaos.  You will allow yourself to be taken advantage of.  You will enable irresponsible behavior.  And with such enabling behavior comes burnout and a loss of self-respect.  I know.  I’ve been there more than I’d like to admit.

People say yes to all sorts of requests for lots of reasons, some good, others not.  Sometimes we say yes because we are generous people who want to help.  But if one’s tendency is to always say yes to some appeal, it’s unlikely that the motives are pure and good.

We often say yes because we feel guilty saying no.  We say yes because we want approval.  We say yes because we’re afraid our egos will suffer if we do otherwise.  We say yes because we are anxious.  Most of all, we default to yes because we lack a clear sense of self.  Edwin Friedman calls this self-differentiation.

When we say no.  When we are not quick to step in when someone has gotten into a jam, with all the attendant drama, we not only hurt ourselves, we hurt them.  There is something healthy and ennobling about letting someone “figure it out.”  It is in solving the problems of life, especially the kind we’ve brought on ourselves, that we grow.

So here’s a challenge.  Starting with small steps, begin to know when to say no.  And then say no.  One of our favorite forms of no is “I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me.” If your default setting is to say yes, you probably need to work on changing it to no.  Take a step back and be brutally honest with yourself.  “Will this really help them or is it just sparing me pain in the shortfall?”

 

Suggested Resources:

Friedman’s Fables (Edwin H. Friedman)

The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth (M. Scott Peck)

 

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Be You

16 09 2013

be_yourself“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” (William Shakespeare)

Fall is nearly upon us.  It’s a new season in more ways than one.  Fall tends to put people into a more academic frame of mind, if you will.  Our children return to school and people are often eager to learn and grow as the weather begins to chill and the leaves to turn.  It’s always been that way with me.

Some months ago, I found myself thinking about what motivates the decisions we make in life.  There are numerous perceived and imperceptible influences that guide us in our decisions.  Some are healthy.  Others are not.

For example, you may have made decisions about where to make your home and your living out of a desire to please others, even those close to you.  You may have taken on burdens simply because you were afraid that if you declined—a boundary mechanism—you would lose favor with somebody.  And then you live with regret and varied degrees of toxic self-disdain and recrimination.

Some years ago, a pastoral colleague of mine shared something with me over lunch.  He told me that the most important book he’d ever read, outside of the Bible, was Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  In fact, he refused to marry any couple who came to him for premarital counseling and would not read the book, a requirement for him to solemnize the nuptials.  Yes, it’s that important.

Long and short of the message of Boundaries is this: The most important boundary marker you have at your disposal is the word no.  You simply have to use it.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and a little ornery, but I now realize that the person I have to live with until I die—every waking and unconscious moment—is me.  Christian Fahey.  And when, to paraphrase Shakespeare, I’m not true to myself…I don’t walk in integrity…I’m not true to my calling, my wiring, my passions for life and vocation, I have to live with me.  My conscience.  My memories.  My misgivings.

All of a sudden, pleasing other people at the expense of doing what I know is right and valid seems hollow indeed.  Life’s too short to be somebody else.

So here’s to moving forward, living in such a way that minimizes regrets and self-doubt.  Here’s to being true to the God-given vision for yours and my life.  Here’s to being true to oneself.

And it will surely follow that we’ll all be more true to others.

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Your Constant Companion

22 09 2012

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” (William Shakespeare)

Those of you who’ve been regular visitors to The Upside have noticed that my writing this past Summer has been intermittent at best.  My wife and I are in a new season of our lives, preparing for moves vocational, geographical and social.  We’ve spent the past three months getting our house ready and putting it on the market.  Now for a buyer.

Today marks the first day of Fall.  The autumnal equinox arrived this morning.  It’s a new season in more ways than one.  Fall tends to put people into a more academic frame of mind, if you will.  Our children return to school and people are often eager to learn and grow as the weather begins to chill and the leaves to turn.  It’s always been that way with me.

This afternoon I found myself thinking about what motivates the decisions we make in life.  There are numerous perceived and imperceptible influences that guide us in our decisions.  Some are healthy.  Others are not.

For example, you may have made decisions about where to make your home and your living out of a desire to please others, even those close to you.  You may have taken on burdens simply because you were afraid that if you declined—a boundary mechanism—you would lose favor with somebody.  And then you live with regret and varied degrees of toxic self-disdain and recrimination.

Some years ago, a pastoral colleague of mine shared something with me over lunch.  He told me that the most important book he’d ever read, outside of the Bible, was Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  In fact, he refused to marry any couple who came to him for premarital counseling and would not read the book, a requirement for him to solemnize the nuptials.  Yes, it’s that important.

Long and short of the message of Boundaries is this: The most important boundary marker you have at your disposal is the word no.  You simply have to use it.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and a little ornery, but I now realize that the person I have to live with until I die—every waking and unconscious moment—is me.  Christian Fahey.  And when, to paraphrase Shakespeare, I’m not true to myself…I don’t walk in integrity…I’m not true to my calling, my wiring, my passions for life and vocation, I have to live with me.  My conscience.  My memories.  My misgivings.

All of a sudden, pleasing other people at the expense of doing what I know is right and valid seems hollow indeed.  Life’s too short to be somebody else.

So here’s to moving forward, living in such a way that minimizes regrets and self-doubt.  Here’s to being true to the God-given vision for yours and my life.  Here’s to being true to oneself.

And it will surely follow that we’ll all be more true to others.

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