Teach. Demonstrate. Encourage.

20171022_134126 (1)Three words that are so simple, yet can have a huge impact. This was my takeaway from this Sunday’s sermon. Teach. Demonstrate. Encourage.  It relates to everything that I do as a counselor/therapist, teacher, foster parent and now as a Christian. It is relationship based.  It’s so simple yet it dawned on me that there are many of us (myself included) who don’t always complete this series or achieve each of the three successfully.

Some of us get stuck in the Teach stage. As parents who want the best for our children, we sometimes shelter them from hardships thinking that we are helping them, yet we are crippling them. At some point they will be on their own to deal with life and because we never allowed them to experience hardship, pain, failure, etc., providing the opportunity for them to learn how to overcome it, they will flounder. We need to understand that sometimes teaching is active… and sometimes it is passive. Per the situation, we need to determine what we are trying to teach, why we are teaching it, whether it is active or passive in nature, if we are we helping, enabling or hindering and then step back and trust the process.

Then there are some of us who are great at teaching but get stuck in the demonstrate area. The space of “do as I say, not as I do”.  We know what the right thing is or the right way to handle something but in the moment, usually because of emotions, we do the exact opposite of what we would teach others to do. This is directly linked to our daily walk.  We need to remember that just because we are in a position of authority or able to teach, guide, or parent, that doesn’t mean we are perfect.  We all have experienced things that can propel us or hold us back.  We all have “stuff”.  It is our job to periodically pull the weeds in our garden. When we see areas of our lives that are not in line with what we are promoting, with who we are in Christ or what we are trying to achieve, it is time to evaluate and correct.

The final piece can easily be the most important piece and the hardest piece. Whether we get the first two right or not, we should be carrying out this last piece.  The bible talks about how we are to encourage and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). However, there are times when we might have the 1st two down, but the individual(s) didn’t do it right, fast enough, or the way we would do it.  We might try to reteach…but with frustration or we tell them they aren’t putting enough effort in, or worse,  we write them off.  We should be encouraging them to try again, to keep practicing or expressing the good things while helping them (in a loving way) to see where they need to work harder or change what they are doing. Per the online dictionary encourage means to: “give support, confidence, or hope to (someone)”, “give support and advice to (someone) so that they will do or continue to do something”, “help or stimulate (an activity, state, or view) to develop”.  Nowhere in there does it say that encouragement happens only in the context of a task that is carried out perfectly. Encouragement happens regardless of whether they were great at it or they did poorly and it takes words and emotions to fully express.  So, we need to make sure our emotions/feelings display love and kindness. Especially when we are stressed, frustrated, angry or exhausted with the task at hand.

Teach, Demonstrate, Encourage.  Such simple instruction, but if done consciously and correctly, it has the power to change lives.

Be Empowered

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22195411_10211819238770100_6760035525635320494_nAs the season changes and it gets a little chilly, I must remind myself that change is a good thing. I have not met many who have liked change (myself included) because there is a certain level of “the unknown” attached to it.  There are many who, out of fear, dig their heels in when change is on the horizon.  However, there is a natural cycle or path that living things move within…  If you believe that, you have to also believe that change is constant and always a requirement for growth.  The only options are to embrace change and push through the fear or to remain stagnant.  Continue reading

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Election Blues? Shame On Me!

This election took a toll on all of us.  Now that it is over, I sit confused at all of the words and opinions going back and forth. Why are so many people encouraging others to accept what is, and play nice when these same people spent the last 8 years spewing hate? There are certain things I tend to ignore until I hit a breaking point. I’ve been in many situations growing up where people felt comfortable enough to talk openly around me, even when what they were saying was outright offensive.  I’ve always chalk it up to ignorance, but as an adult, I see that it is so much more than that. Those qualities that seem so hateful overshadow any and all of the qualities that I was drawn to. An ugly heart will always overshadow the good in a person. If your heart holds hatred, you can have all the good qualities imaginable but that hatred will ooze out at every possible opportunity.

So, as we continue to wallow in nastiness of politics, I am reminded that when people show you who they are, believe them. You can’t be hateful Monday through Saturday and love everybody on Sunday.  Or drop little seeds of hate and negativity everywhere during the political season or when a Black man is in office (yes, I said it), then revert back to being a decent individual when its over. Life doesn’t work that way…The damage is done. 

Having opposing views shouldn’t be an issue for adults. Adults should be able to hold productive conversations about the issues without having to resort to negative, hurtful rhetoric. The unforturnate thing is that when we are dealing with hate and racism, productive conversations with all parties isn’t always possible.  Power looks to win, not resolve.  But on the flip side, that doesn’t mean we all have to resort to that same type of behavior.  And if that’s considered “adulting”, I refuse. We need to figure out how to deal with the issues while respecting everyone (even if that respect does not flow both ways, which it’s clear that sometimes it doesn’t).

Those who don’t see their behavior or way of thinking as a problem will never change. In 2016, if you don’t understand that people from a different background, upbringing or race might be offended, not because you have a different opinion, but because you spew negative systemic hate, then there is nothing left for me to say. This election brought out what has been in the undercurrent all along.  However, that is not the world I choose to live in.  Shame on me for entertaining negative, archaic, double talk.  If you use facebook (or any other social media platform) to talk or argue politics or the issues we face as Americans, I have no problem with that, as long as it is factual and productive. I might even join in… But double talk? Negative, unnecessary comments? Ignorant rhetoric that does nothing but keep the situation stagnant? No thank you. I just assume skip over your posts. 

So moving forward, I will pay closer attention to what I allow to access my inner peace. When I see negative, hateful material that is offensive, I will block you.  If you engage in double talk without actions to back up your “change of heart”, I will probably skip over your posts. And it doesn’t matter who the posts are directed toward. It’s not ok to spread hate or lay stagnant in it (content that your side won, or angry that your side lost).  Again, that is not the world I choose that live in. It also doesn’t matter who you are (family or friend) or what race you are, or if it might be awkward seeing you, knowing that I ignore your posts…or deleted you from my account. It is what it is… Hatred is learned. And ignorance is only bliss when you have no alternatives. If you are not open to understanding the views of people who are different or if you’re just comfortable with your line of thinking, it is not my job to convince you about what is right or wrong, why certain things could be considered offensive or the ins and outs of playing nice (something you should have learned in kindergarten). 

As a Christian, it doesn’t matter who is in office, I know who is in control. And I choose to not allow this election or the residue from it change who I am. I don’t agree with hatred on any level, towards anyone, and I will not allow myself to be pulled into anything that keeps us in this same spot (of division).  Let’s figure out a way to fix the problems…Not play nice because you got what you want, or wage war because you didnt. Let’s look at the true issues of racism, poverty, healthcare, education, etc. Whether we agree or not, engage in that conversation and I’m on board. But from this point forward, regardless if I love you from near or from far, I’ve done my time. And I will no longer entertainment ignorance…

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Worth the Wait

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Today, I’m trying to figure out how to have patience in an impatient world.  It seems like there is a cookie cutter invention for everything, producing quick fixes and causing more restlessness.  Everything is so quick, fast and in a hurry, with a pace that doesn’t seem to slow down. When did waiting for the natural progression of time become such a chore?  If it’s quick and fast, does that always equate to good? Sometimes the natural progression allows for things to  mature.  It allows for adjustments, coordination of efforts, authenticity  and finding the right fit.  Much like picking fruit from a tree…If you pick it too soon and it doesn’t have an opportunity to ripen, that effects the look and taste.  Such is life… When we rush to get the end product, without life’s natural pauses, sometimes the quality is not what we want nor what we need it to be. Consciously choosing to wait allows for thought, insight and ultimately growth.  The hard part is learning how to wait in a world that counterintuitively discounts time and the need to respect it. But if we take a step back and look at what we truly want, isn’t it worth the wait?

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The Hearts Intent

  
I recently saw a post in my Facebook feed that read: “There are people who will take advantage of your kindness.   Selfishness is their problem, not yours… You must never change.”  It came at the right time, as lately, I have been wondering if I’m too naive or too forgiving. Maybe it’s a combination of both.  I am a firm believer that you have to be vulnerable to have genuine relationships. So regardless if it’s family, friend, significant other or anything in between, you have to be willing to open your heart, with the expectation that you may get hurt. The alternative is having superficial relationships, which, while they definitely come in handy and serve a purpose, as a standalone, they are unfulfilling. 

So, depending on the interaction, even if it is calculated, being open on some level is a necessity.  However, when the situation is not ideal and that openness is not reciprocated, or something goes astray, I find myself giving chance after chance for it to be corrected or giving space for the other person to somehow make it “right”. Part of it is knowing that I don’t have the full picture and thinking that there is something that I am missing that will fill in the empty spaces, giving a valid reason and rhyme to their behavior.   What if I misinterpreted what was said?  What if they are hurting or in need?   Or what if they just haven’t been shown the kindness that I have and simply don’t know how to receive it or return it?  There is so much that can hide behind miscommunication and behavior that  sometimes  I have a hard time leaving it and walking away and there are other times when I am too quick to walk away.  Regardless, even after I walk away, if that person needed me, I would still be there… 

I guess that’s a hazard of being a therapist… It can be hard to separate personal and professional, in terms of dealing with feelings. I allow too much thinking and too much leeway for other people’s feelings.  While it works out sometimes, sometimes it does not. Coming to terms with the fact that some people simply don’t have the same morals, sincerity and heart that I have has taken time and it’s something I’m still coming to terms with. For some people, lying and manipulation are a way of life, while for others past hurts prevent them from experiencing life, and love completely. So, while I know there are bad people in the world, I also know that there are hurt people in the world.  Sometimes, unfortunately, the behavior resembles.  And it is almost impossible to decipher the intent of someone else’s behavior.   

While I am no fan of pain and confusion, I do realize that I am making the concious decision to give them the benefit of the doubt, which raises the question of what is right and what is wrong. It’s almost like hesitating when a homeless person asks for money. I used to wonder, if they would use the money appropriately or would they go buy alcohol or drugs.  I’ve since stifled that internal argument. It’s the intent of my actions that matter. Once I release the intent, what they choose to do is not my concern.  It is not the determining factor in why I give. I give because it is in my heart to do so. 

So, I have resolved to approach this issue the same way. I cannot control anyone else’s feelings or behavior, only my own. I know that if I remain tight as a bud, not allowing myself to experience emotions, then I rob myself of actually living. My intent drives my behaviour and my actions. And I have come to realize that regardless of the outcome, there is beauty in the purity of my hearts intent.  And that is definitely something the world needs more of…

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