past present future

 

Our past, present, and future are all strongly inter-connected. If not for the past, we would not be the people we are today or having the experiences of the moment. Likewise, without our experiences today, we would not have our future of tomorrow.

 

Accepting The Past

 

Although many people would like to change the past, it is far better to accept the past for what it is. Whether it was good or bad, it was an element that helped make you who you are. When we don’t accept the past, it continues to dominate the present. Thus, the past doesn’t simply contribute to our present, but it controls it.

 

Accepting that the past does not mean we have to approve of things that happened during that era. Neither does it mean that we ride on our laurels of the past.

 

It is best when we simply acknowledge that in the past we have been in good situations and bad situations. Likewise, we have done things we are proud of and things that we would have liked to have done differently. Still, all those things remain in the past.

 

100% Responsibility

 

Sometimes we have challenges moving past things that others have done in the past. It is important to understand that we can and should take responsibility for those things that we have done. However, it is unhealthy to take responsibility for what someone else has done to us or someone else.

 

If we perceive something was done to us, we can use that to make us stronger and to move forward. If we try to own the other person’s actions towards us, we are giving them an excuse and not allowing them to own up to their responsibility. It also gives power to their actions.

 

As humans, we want to “fix” every problem, person, and situation. The reality is that we cannot. We can only take responsibility for actions that we have taken, learn from our errors, and move forward committed to live a good life.

 

Living Today

 

We must realize that although we cannot change the past, we can take control of today. It is critical to realize that the actions we take today will shape our future and may affect the future of others, as well. This isn’t to say that every decision made each day has to be fully analyzed for impacts on the future.

It would be impossible and frankly unnecessary to analyze every decision. For example, deciding to do the dishes or wait until later isn’t likely to have a big impact on our future. However, some decisions have long-term impacts. For example, deciding to check text messages while driving could completely change multiple people’s lives. Thus, it is important to check in occasionally and ask “Am I on track to make a better tomorrow?”

 

The Future

 

This all leads us to the future, which will become the present and then the past. Living in the future is similar to living in the past. Although the past and present affect the future, focusing on the future and neglecting the present will lead us down a path of regret.  

 

We need to plan for the future and realize the impact of our actions on the future. However, if we live only for the future, we will fail to live at all. For example, if we always save every dime for tomorrow, we will never spend it as tomorrow never comes.

 

Therefore, we must understand that the past, present, and future are intertwined. Remember, although the past helps make you who you are, it does not define you. No matter your current circumstances, you have the choice to act today in a way that will create a brighter tomorrow!

 

 

 

Communities, whether it refers to people in a geographical area, a church family, a school, or another group of individuals, sometimes have a need for healing. In some cases, this is a long-term need arising from neglect, lack of work, or on-going violence. In other cases, the need arises in relationship to a specific tragedy or natural disaster.

 

Healing a community is similar to healing an individual. However, the process varies a bit and can be complicated by having a number of people involved. On the other hand, the people of the community can also be helpful in assisting each other in their healing.

 

Deciding to Heal

Just like with a person, the community first needs to decide to heal. The challenge with this is that different people are of different mindsets with regards to healing and not everyone is on the same timeline with regards to grieving over what has happened. Likewise, those that desire to heal may remain on autopilot for some time simply dealing with the things that have to be done.

 

Support from Outside

 

Each situation is different. In the case of a hurricane, for example, outside assistance may be needed for shelter, food, debris removal, and rebuilding. However, the ultimate healing comes from within the community. The Red Cross and other volunteers cannot heal for the community. Likewise, they cannot force the community to heal. The only thing they can do is support the community while they heal, much like a cast supports someone’s leg while a broken bone heals.

 

Healing Within

 

Different types of traumas require different amount of healing. Likewise, they require different amounts of time to heal. For instance, healing from an earthquake that made various structures in the community uninhabitable might not require the same level of healing as an event that takes several people’s lives.

 

Traumatic Events

 

For people outside the community, the biggest challenge is to allow the community to heal on its own timeline without imposing deadlines or expectations. After 9/11, there was tremendous support from across the country and around the world. However, over time that support for New York and the country in general waned. Thus, the expectations from outside the communities most significantly impacted changed. Yet, especially in New York City, many people are still dealing with the trauma. First responders, in particular, continue to have both emotional and physical issues as a result of their efforts that day.

 

Within the communities impacted by 9/11, the challenge from day one was that various people were impacted in different ways and to a different extent. The same is true of any community impacted by a traumatic event. Each person has a different timeline for grieving related to the event. Thus, after a year some people may be moving on with their life and really spend very little time thinking the event. Meanwhile, others may still be struggling to accept what happened.

 

Long-Term Situations

 

In situations, such as, economic depression, all of the above perspectives apply. The community may need a leg up, but will only truly heal when members of the community make a decision to heal. These situations have different challenges as the issues they are facing have often developed over generations. In these cases, it may be more difficult to gain the momentum to heal despite the desire to move forward.

 

It takes longer in these cases to attain true healing as the trauma has been reinforced over and over. People may have even lost their belief in healing, thinking that things cannot improve. One of the biggest things people outside these communities can do is to spread hope without expectation. If they help these people believe, the people will then be able to start healing.

 

Limiting Actions

 

One worst things people outside the community can do is to use these situations and the people involved to make political statements or to support some perspective that they would like others to believe.   Actions of this nature limit the healing of the communities. In some cases, actions with these types of motives may even cause additional hurt and damage.

 

The Best Action

 

The best action outsiders can take to help a community heal is to provide support and encouragement to the individuals in the community as well as to the community leaders. Within the community, it is important for each person to remember that each person will heal on his or her own schedule. No person can speed up another person’s healing nor should they judge that someone has healed too fast. As each individual focuses on their own healing, they will create an environment for those around them to heal more quickly allowing the community to gain overall momentum in its healing.

 

Remember, healing is possible. It just takes time.

Invest In Yourself

 

 Investing In Others

 

People often put others head of themselves. They see friends, family and strangers struggling financially, emotionally or in some other manner. When this comes to a person’s attention, they often jump right in to help even if it comes at a great personal cost. For instance, a family member may help a cousin that is going through surgery or illness. This is fine, if the person has the time and energy to invest. However, if they are not overly well, this additional burden may take a toll on their health.

 

Other times people observe or believe they observe something in others where they believe the other person needs to address some type of personal issue. For example, we have had numerous people that attended a class and remarked how someone they knew needed that class or an upcoming class. They proceed to attempt to get that person to attend future events. Often the person is not ready or simply not interested in making a change and the person fails to get them to attend. The person who tries to encourage them may become emotionally drained in their effort.

 

Other times, people feel driven to help people on the other side of the globe. They often donate time and money to these causes without knowing if the money and supplies will actually reach the people in need. The only way to know for sure is to participate in the delivery of services and goods, which can be quite time consuming, potentially risky, and at times expensive.

 

Knowing Your Limits

 

Helping others is a wonderful thing to do. It is important, however, for people to know their limits. Whenever possible people should match their skills, time availability, and financial situation to how they help people. For instance, I help people who are adopted find their birth families. This is something that brings them joy and for which I have skills. I would be far less efficient and far more stressed trying to build wells or homes in a third world country. Meanwhile, a carpenter might have no idea how to find a birth family. By choosing to help within one’s skills and limits, the person is helping others while also taking care of him or her self.

 

Still, there are times when a person has to simply take time for him or her self and not help others – even their friends or family. For people that say, “I can’t do that,” I remind them of the airline safety instructions. They tell you that if the oxygen masks are deployed you should secure your mask before placing a mask on someone that might need assistance. The reason, of course, is that if you can’t breathe, you can’t assist someone else.

 

The same is true in life, if a person runs out of steam and become wore down, ill, financially ruined, etc., they can’t help others. However, if they take time to invest in themselves, they have a higher chance of being healthy and vibrant. Thus, they will be in a much better position to help others.

 

Invest In You

 

Investing in oneself doesn’t require a lot of time or money. However, it should occur regularly. It can be as simple as meditating for 10 minutes per day, taking a bath and shutting out the entire world, listening to music that you really love, or reading for pleasure. If the calendar and bank account allows, it is desirable to include occasional bigger investments, such as, long hikes, energy work, classes, or retreats.

 

For people that have a difficult time investing in themselves, they need to realize that all people need some self-care. They may not feel they need it. Perhaps, they feel they don’t deserve it. Maybe they feel there are others that need it more. No matter the argument, they need to go back to the basic concept, put your oxygen mask on before assisting someone else. That tells them everything they need to know. Care of self must come first before one can care for others.

 

Do You Invest In You?

 

So, the question is “How often do you invest in yourself?” If you don’t invest in yourself regularly, consider adding some self-care to your calendar. Remember, it doesn’t have to require a lot of time or money. You do, however, need to make an effort. No one else can do it for you.

 

Acting from the heart

 

 

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind. Get up. Go to work. Come home. Go to bed. In this mode, we are simply doing; not living.

 

We get in this mode because life is hectic. It is easy to do what our parents, culture, and influential people have taught us to do without really thinking. We even convince ourselves that we are making our own decisions and truly living. All the while, our actions indicate we have been programmed and are running on autopilot.

 

Simply Existing

 

When in this mode, we simply exist. Our actions have little power and it is often all we can do to care for our family and ourselves. Even though we love our family and friends, we may have trouble putting our energy into our relationship with them. The same is true when trying to help others. Often we are doing only what we believe we are supposed to do.

 

Acting From The Heart

 

In contrast, when we get out of the rut and allow ourselves to act from our heart, our energy is boundless. We begin to truly consider what is important and to base our decisions on our own beliefs instead of someone else’s. Our actions become authentic rather than automatic. In turn, our relationships blossom and become more authentic.

 

When we spend time with people, it is because we truly want to spent time with them. Likewise, when we help someone or invest our time or money in a cause, it is because we truly feel strongly about helping that organization. Simply helping because we believe that we are supposed to help people or organizations of that nature will not be as rewarding.

 

When we act from our heart, we are far more satisfied with our life than if we took the very same actions while on autopilot. Being heart-centered opens us up to both joy and healing. It allows us to grow as a person and provides a pathway to healing. Any traumas of the past – emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual – are more likely to heal when we act from out heart.

 

What Is Driving Your Actions?

 

So, ask yourself, “Are you are truly acting from your heart or are you on autopilot?” Consider your actions at all times including when you are doing good and caring for others. If you find that you are on autopilot more often than not, consider a change. Take some time to consider who you really are. Then ask yourself, “What is most important to me?” Once you’ve identified your priorities, act from the heart to honor those things that are most important. You just might find that you love yourself for doing it.

 

Don't Be Pushed Around

 

Have you ever found yourself doing things that you really didn’t want to do just because someone else wouldn’t stop insisting? I am not talking about the time you went to a chick flick with your wife or significant other because she wanted to go. Likewise, I am not talking about the time she agreed to put together a bunch of snacks so you could chill with your friends and watch the game. Those activities are a part of compromising and maintaining a good relationship.

 

Wearing You Down

 

What I am talking about are things that you do because someone simply wears you down. It can be as simple as someone offering you ice cream. You say, “No.” The person replies, “Are you sure you don’t want some?” and you again decline. After declining several times, people will often finally accept the ice cream just to get the other person to stop asking.

 

There are multiple problems with giving in to quiet the person. First, you end up eating ice cream that you don’t want. Second, you lose personal power and the connection to your own desires. Third, the other person learns that all they have to do is keep insisting and you will do what they want. Therefore, this becomes a pattern and they will do it again and again.

 

It Escalates

 

Once a person successfully uses this technique with you, it almost always escalates to bigger sacrifices on your part. A work example is when someone very kindly asks you to take on a piece of their work although your workload is as heavy or heavier than theirs. They may try to soften it with “just this time” or give you a story as to why they need you to step up.

 

You have to carefully consider the request. If it is someone who gives it their all and this is truly an exception, by all means step up and help if you can. However, if you suspect the person is trying to get out of work and may even take credit for the work even if you do it, say “No” and be firm about it.

 

Be Consistent And Don’t Give In

 

If you give in – even if you make them ask 100 times, the end result is you gave in. No has to mean “No” and stay “No.” If “No” turns into a “Yes” somewhere along the way, then the person thinks that every “No” in the future can likely be changed into a “Yes.” They may go as far as to assume that your “No” really is a “Yes” and may not even make the effort to get you to say “Yes.”

 

Once you start doing things for someone like this, watch out because soon you will be doing more and more of their work. It is also unlikely that they will give you any credit for the effort. In the meantime, your work or your personal time will take a hit leaving you dissatisfied.

 

Your Life

 

The next time someone is trying to wear you down, remember that you are answering for yourself; not for what they want. If you connect to your desires and honor what you truly want, in an authentic way, you are doing the best thing you can for yourself.

 

It is your decision and no one else has a right to decide for you. If you allow someone to change your “No” to a “Yes,” you essentially allow that person to define who you are.

 

So, gather your courage, connect to what you truly believe is best for you, and stand firm in your response. It is your life – not theirs!

 

 

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

 

 

Have you ever had a parent or other authority figure who said to you, “Do as I say, not as I do?” How did you react to the statement? Did it sound odd to you? Did you follow their words or did you follow their actions?

 

Statements directing a person to follow someone’s words instead of their actions are very confusing to them, especially if they are children. By nature children learn by mimicking other people’s behavior. This tendency to mimic the actions of others carries over into adulthood. As a result, when someone’s words contradict their behavior, it creates subconscious confusion for the people around them. Since their words contradict human nature, their words often don’t have the desired effect.

 

An Example

 

Let’s take an example. Perhaps a single parent goes out and parties on the weekend. The parent smokes, drinks, and stays out all night. This same parent has strict rules on dating and tell their teenage child that they should not be sexually active, drink, or smoke. When questioned by the child as to why it’s okay for the parent but not for them, the parent replies, “Do as I say, not as I do.” This phrase is a standard response that the child has heard over and over.

 

The Parent

 

First, let’s go into the parent’s head. The parent doesn’t want their child to do the things that they do, but they are not willing to give them up. The parent may even have been told that their behavior is not appropriate by family, friends, or a cultural belief. Yet, they continue the behavior believing that telling their children not to follow their example makes it acceptable.

 

The parent is attempting to connect their child with a different behavior than they are demonstrating. Meanwhile, they are denying the connection between their behavior and the behavior their child is likely to demonstrate.

 

The Child

 

Now, let’s go into that teenager’s head. Consciously or subconsciously, the child notices that the parent drinks, smokes, and sleeps around. They also know that the parent denies or downplays their actions by stating the preferred behavior. This may appear somewhat like a lie to the child. Their brain works to sort out this information since it is contrary to their nature.

 

The resulting behavior of the teenager depends a lot on the child’s nature. Some children will listen to what the parent tells them to do and follow those instructions out of a sense of duty to the parent. However, others will connect the parent’s behavior and words to conclude that it is okay to smoke, drink, and sleep around as long as you tell others that is not the way to behave. This means that the child may fall into the same pattern with younger siblings or may behave this way with their own children. Meanwhile a teenager with another temperament may simply see the parent as lying about their actions and conclude that they don’t have to listen to the parent at all. Instead, they do anything they want whenever they want.

 

Bottom Line

 

The bottom line is that you set an example for others with your actions. Therefore, your words might as well match your actions. If your words match your actions, you will minimally be seen as authentic even if your actions are not always ideal.

 

Losing focus on intent

 

I watched a Facts of Life episode the other day where Jo, a college student representing students at a school board meeting, was upset that the college didn’t have the funds to support new scholarships. At the same meeting, the chairperson of the board was thrilled to announce that an alumnus had just offered funds to build an expensive new scoreboard for the football stadium. All the attendees, except Jo, were excited to have the opportunity to purchase a new scoreboard. Meanwhile, most of them seemed quite indifferent to the lack of funds for new scholarship.

 

Scholarships First

 

Jo believed scholarships should be funded before a scoreboard, which she viewed as unnecessary. She could have requested that the school approach the alumus to request that the funds be directed to scholarships. However, she became focused on rejecting the scoreboard leading a campus-wide campaign to against it.

 

Under great political pressure and with the approval of the contributing alumnus, the school board chair proposed a compromise where the funds for the scoreboard would be split between a less expensive scoreboard and scholarships. Neither side would receive 100% of what they wanted, but they both would benefit. Jo, however, refused to compromise.

 

No Compromise

 

Jo had lost focus on the intention of getting scholarship funding. Instead, she was focused on refusing any new scoreboard at all. Her refusal to compromise forced the board to reject the donation entirely in order to retain other donations that had been threatened due to the controversy. As a result, the school would receive no new scoreboard and no additional scholarship money.

 

Jo was excited that she had been able to stop the scoreboard until Blair, Jo’s friend, pointed out to Jo that her perceived win was actually a loss. At that point, Jo realized her mistake. She also recognized that she had to apologize to the students who had put their faith in her to do the right thing for them. And, she had to grovel to the chairperson in hopes it wasn’t too late to accept the proposed compromise.

 

Lost Focus

 

Jo had become obsessed with the scoreboard, which really had nothing to do with her original intent. Such obsessions can happen to all of us. Our minds make associations between two things, but sometimes the associations don’t really exist or don’t exist in the manner that we perceive them.

 

The more obsessed we are with a particular outcome, the less likely we will be receptive to compromise. Sometimes we lose our ability to see clearly. This may lead to conflict that has no possible resolution. Therefore, becoming obsessed with something not really connected to your intent often results in nothing but stress and frustration.

 

Be Open To Alternatives

 

The next time you feel like there is one and only one solution take a break and rejuvenate yourself before coming back to the topic. Make sure you are open to hearing alternatives. One or more of these alternatives may result in a win-win for everyone, even if it means some compromise.

 

Lessons From Our Ancestors

 

 

In the previous series “The Day The World Stopped,” we discussed various eras and proposed questions to the reader regarding specific challenges of each era. Only a few eras were discussed with a very minimal set of challenges described. Many more challenges were considered for each post. However, in the interest of focus and length, a very narrow focus was determined for each article. Each of the modern eras would require an entire book to take an in-depth look at the challenges of each era.

 

Life In The Past

 

This brings us to the question “What can we learn from our ancestors?” A study of history shows us many different things. In some cases, they did things we applaud, but in other cases we disapprove of their behavior. We also know that their lifestyle was very different.

 

Many people in the past lived in conditions that we would not be able to tolerate today. Likewise, they ate food and drank water that we would consider inedible and undrinkable. They also had a different perspective on life. The behaviors of people today would be considered abhorrent to people of years gone by.

 

Perspective

 

Thus, as much as people find some of the behaviors of people in the past unacceptable, people of those eras would find behaviors of today equally unacceptable. This is something to really consider. Are people today really better? Are people today in a place to judge?

 

My argument would be that until we understand history and learn from it, we should not judge those who came before us. Each of them has a story and until we know enough to begin to understand their life, we cannot know their struggles or their joys. We need to understand the cultures of the past as well as the life of any individual that we are judging. Additionally, we need to judge on all merits not a single dimension that we deem bad.

 

Changes Through Time

 

Views on everything from marriage, families, work, social norms, slavery, war, and more have changed throughout time. Some of the changes one might say are because we have become more sophisticated and aware while other changes were a matter of necessity. We will take a brief look at a few examples.

 

Families

 

The family unit has changed dramatically over the course of history. If we limit the scope of discussion to the approximately 400 years since Europeans came to America, we will see drastic changes. For instance, many families years ago had a large number of children – partially out of necessity (e.g. children to work the farm) and partially because of limited forms of birth control. Today, the average number of children per family is small with many people having no children.

 

If we look at households, we will find many more single parent households today than 150 years ago. In part, people in the past were much more likely to marry if a woman became pregnant than they are today. Secondly, men needed women to cook, clean, and care for children while they worked and women needed a man to provide for her and the children. Thus, many marriages were a matter of convenience and not love.

 

Another major shift is that elders today typically live on their own or in some type of senior living. Years ago, they would live with their children. If they had no children, a younger sibling, niece, nephew, or neighbor often helped care for them. Facilities still existed, but they were mostly for people who required help their families could not provide.

 

Slavery

 

When people think of slavery, a lot of them think of early America. Slavery, however, has existed throughout recorded time and has existed in various forms.

 

If we look at slavery in America, it varied widely. Slavery, thought of as restricted to the southern states actually existed in the northern states for a period of time. Even in the South, the number of slaves and percentage of people owning slaves varied from area to area. In 1860, one source states that 75% of white Americans owned no slaves; however, this was across all states. The story is very different if you focus on the southern states.*

 

Plantation owners with lots of slaves were likely to treat slaves as we perceive slave life. ** However, families that had a handful of slaves treated them in a variety of different ways. Some were treated no different than those on plantations. However, others were treated more humanely. I have personally seen a will that provided financial support for an elderly slave for the remainder of her life. In another will, land was designated to become the property of the head of a slave family if the laws at the time of the person’s death allowed him to own property. If not, the family was to be allowed to continue living there indefinitely.

 

There were other groups, such as, the Quakers that strongly believed slavery was wrong. Some of these people actually became slave owners to keep the slaves from being treated poorly and as a means to free them. Thus, when you find out that someone was a slave owner, you really need to ask the question, “What kind of a slave owner was he?” Knowing the person owned slaves is not enough to determine the person’s character or behavior. In those days, there were many different perceptions and practices when it came to slavery.

 

War

 

The last example is the view on war. It seems nations, clans, regions, etc. have always been at war with each other. Conflict appears to be part of human nature and the various cultures around the world. Yet, the view on war has changed over time.

If we consider the Revolutionary War, most people in America considered it a necessity to gain independence. Even the Quakers, who technically did not support war, found ways at times to provide support to the men who were fighting for independence.

 

Revolutionary War soldiers were considered heroes; hence, the creation of Sons of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Revolution. Soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War were also treated with great respect. Later, after WWII, the soldiers and the people of the time were referred to as the greatest generation.

 

After that, however, Americans view of war began to break down with those who served in Vietnam being treated awful by the public. People failed to see that those who served were simply doing the job their country requested of them. Instead, they saw the service members themselves as bad.

 

Today, people appear split, often along political lines, in their support for the latest conflict and for our service men and women.

 

A New Perspective

 

With these examples, you can see that views and perspectives have changed over time. Sometimes the changes have been for the better, but have they always been for the better? And, how many things really haven’t changed, but we simply perceive that they have.

 

The next time you find yourself beginning to judge a group of people of the past, a specific ancestor that may have committed a crime or lived a less than stellar lifestyle, or even someone in your life today, stop. Instead of judging, ask yourself, what do I really know about their life and the choices that the person/group may or may not have faced.

 

I highly recommend that you research and learn about the people and the era. For situations since the time print has existed, I recommend books and newspapers from the era as a source of understanding. Books and articles written later have a perspective of people of that time on the past and are less accurate at conveying the real situation. Research often gives you a much better understanding of the person and the perspective of the times.

 

If the person is someone in your life today, research by talking with the person and truly seeking to understand. Whether, in the past or present, truly trying to understand someone else, their culture, and the issues in their life is a great way to expand your awareness. You may even find your life changed because of it!

 

 

*https://www.theroot.com/slavery-by-the-numbers-1790874492

** 31% of slaves in 1860 were on plantations according to https://www.theroot.com/slavery-by-the-numbers-1790874492