LET US TALK ABOUT YOUR STORY

We ended last week by discussing stories. The stories we tell ourselves to prevent us from trying new ideas and concepts. I shared some of the stories from my life and how they have affected me. We even looked at stories that others tell us about ourselves. We looked at how we view stories, events and people from our past and how that can have an effect on our future. All of these examples can show how important stories are to our development and overall well-being.

Today we are going to look at your story. In the last few years I have learned so much from listening to the stories of others. Whether it is the stories from my friends Cari and Kelly who show me that even people coming from some of the most challenging circumstances can grow into some of the most loving people with wonderful souls. Listening to the stories about my lovely Margie helped me to better understand the woman I love and the people in her life that helped form her into the divine lady that she is today.

I know I could learn a lot from your story as well. That may sound like a bold claim considering the people who read this span the entire globe. You may be asking what can I learn from the individual from Tunisia who read this on Sunday? I can’t say exactly, but I can tell you for sure something. The examples may not be something I can relate to, for example I have friends who were abused, in foster care, divorced, lost children and a host of other challenges I have not faced. In them I can learn the principles of hope, faith, determination and love. I am eternally grateful to each and every person who shares their story with me.

You may think that your life does not offer any inspiration, but I am here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. I have heard stories from a friend in Romania about listening to certain music on the way to work. I have heard stories from my friend in Australia about the way she discovers indigenous medicine by visiting local markets. My friend from Mexico shares challenges that the local economy and health care cause him to face in his country. These are but a few of the countless stories I hear each and every day. Even those who share stories about their love, good fortune or healing give me a joyous feeling in my heart.

Perhaps you still think your story is nothing special? “I am just a person who wakes up and works to pay the bills.” Let me tell you that your story, and your life may be just what someone else needs to hear. It may be the challenges or amusing stories you have to offer about your chosen line of work. It may be amusing stories and episodes you have had raising your children. Maybe it is even the way you have approached a health challenge you have. After more then 20 years in the self-improvement field, I can tell you without a doubt, one of the most common feelings people deal with is feeling alone. Knowing that there is somebody else in the world who is facing the same challenge or has even made it through that challenge, can give their heart a little peace.

Please share your story. It may not seem like much to you and you may not understand how it will help anyone else, but it will. Whether you wish to start a blog like this one, write your own book or start a YouTube channel, please get your story out there. Someone is needing to hear just what you have to say. They may be in Armenia, Brazil or Zaire but they are out there. If you need any advice or suggestions on how to get started you can ask yours truly or make good use of Google which has many helpful tutorials.

A LESSON I HAVE LEARNED

There are a handful of lessons I have learned in my life that really stuck with me and defined who I am to this very day. One of them I was told was that “If you hate someone or something you just do not know enough about it. If you learn about it and still hate it, that does not mean it is bad, it means you still have more to learn.” This is something I keep with me to this very day.

If we are being honest, we would have to admit there are lots of messages telling us who we should dislike, who the bad guys are and why. From politics, sports and even religion have messages telling us that there are people who are less than us. When we read about some violent episode conducted by a group of people it can be easy to say “Look this group of people are evil.” If we were to apply that same guilt by association to every terrible act that has been done I fear we would all belong to some group of evil.

How can we ever not harbor some sort of negative emotions towards people who by their very acts cause the death of hundred, or even thousands of people? It is a very difficult question to answer. Quite often we must look back in history for answers as to why things happen today. Was there an event in history where this group of people were made to suffer under the group they attacked?

Even personal history can shed some light on why people can do acts most of us would find unspeakable. Did this person suffer years of physical and emotional abuse? Did their family constantly remind them of judgmental or even hateful beliefs that hand been handed down for generations? Were they raised in a neighborhood that also promoted these beliefs? Maybe while attending school for 8 hours a day surrounded by peers their age they learned to adopt their beliefs? They might have even did so just to fit in at first, but after years of trying to fit in those beliefs became part of their spirit.

This can be even worse when an entire society is fed information that is hateful. We can use both Nazi Germany during World War two, as well as early America as examples. In the 1930’s Germany began a campaign against the Jewish people. This was not only political, but in schools, the media and in the home. An entire generation grew up being taught a terrible doctrine of hate and evil. This resulted in the death of over 6 million men, women and children of Jewish decent. In the founding years of America the same thing happened. Americans were told the native people were uncivilized and less than they were. They were told they were violent and threatened their safety. It was also said that the Native Americans stood in the way of the prosperity and freedom of the white settlers. Again, this message was delivered in the media, the government, the home and even the church pulpit. This resulted in the death of over 100 million men, women and children. What is worse is that often entire nations and cultures were lost. Medicine and knowledge we could use today are gone forever.

Does this mean we should hate the German people who did not stand up to their government? Should we hate those who acted on the beliefs they were raised on? Should we still hate the American soldiers who killed pregnant Native American women because when they were being forced to walk from North Carolina to Oklahoma they were going to slow? Sure those acts, among many others in history are hard to understand and even harder to forgive for some people.

We must not only view the history, but be careful not to view it through our own eyes. It may be easy to say “If I was in Germany back then I would have told Hitler to go to hell !” We can say that as somebody who was raised free and without judgment. If we had been told, and often given ‘proof’ as to how bad this group of people were from the time we were born, we might act differently. While there is plenty of proof of people who have overcome very challenging situations to be loving non-violent people, it is impossible to know how we would act in the same situation. In fact, we will never know as we will never have their exact life and genetic makeup.

In a world that urges us to blame and condemn, there is very little accent on compassion and understanding. Those two elements are essential if we ever hope to change the world we live in for the better. Let me be perfectly clear on one very important point. Understanding someone’s violent action does not mean Condoning it. We can certainly condemn acts that harm others, and we should, but without following that with an equal effort to understand why they happened in the first place history would be doomed to repeat itself.

GIVE THEM A VOICE

Lately there has been a lot of attention to those who feel they have been suppressed or treated unfairly. With the #Metoo movement, protests of a political nature people are demanding equal treatment and pay for all. Personally, I am ok with this. It is my firm belief that regardless of what faith, political party, what the color of your skin is or whether you are a man or a woman you should be treated with equal dignity and respect.

I write this post not for any of the afore mentioned groups. This post is about those who cannot create a crafty hashtag slogan. They cannot come together to peacefully protest. They are not even allowed to vote and more often than not are too afraid to even speak up for themselves. Children. April is Child Abuse Prevention month. It is a cause I really wish to bring to light. Children are often not able to bring to light what is going on in their lives for fear of being punished for it. Sometimes the abuse comes from those very people who are supposed to be the ones protecting them.

The repercussions of child abuse can not only last, but continue to grow well into adulthood. I would implore you to take time to help protect a child so in the future we have less adults to heal. Child abuse can be hard to address and even harder to detect. I encourage us all to spend even a small amount of time this month educating ourselves on child abuse. There are plenty of resources available. Websites such as preventchildabuse.org and childhelp.org. There is also the national child abuse hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) On these sites there is plenty of information and additional resources.

There are also plenty of groups you could either donate to or become involved in. One of my favorites is Guardians of the Children(GOC) The mission of this group is to help educate on child abuse as well as assist the victims of child abuse and their families in crisis by providing strength and stability in a variety of different ways. I encourage you to consider joining or donating to their group. You can learn more about them and how you can help at their website http://www.guardiansofthechildren.com

This is only merely scratching the surface of what we can do. Look for local groups in your area to help, or even just Google ‘child abuse prevention’ to learn more. We may overlook a group that cannot post on social media or run to the news. It is for this very reason I encourage every one of us to help. By helping a child and giving them hope you will also be helping them become a successful and healed adult. Please do your part not only this month, but all year long.

THE ESSENTIAL CHANGE

My second book opens with the statement –

unless you change yourself, nothing will change; once you change yourself, everything else will change

This is a very important thought for several reasons. First, saying, or even thinking things like “I’ll be happy when…” hands over control of your life to other people and situations. Why would you let others decide whether or not you can enjoy your own life?

Another reason to realize you are the only person responsible for the quality of your own life are problems. When I hear people who consistently blame others for the situations they find themselves in, I know these people will never live a happy and successful life.

Let us be honest here, people can be jerks. They can say rude and hurtful things to us. They can put us in uncomfortable situations. What control do we have over that? A great deal. We can take a hard look in the mirror and see if there may be any truth to the things they are saying. If so, we can use it as constructive criticism.

What if there is no truth to what they say and it is just mean? Then we can raise our standards as to who we have in our lives. What if this person is our boss or some other person not so easy to dismiss? We can use that person for our own development. Practice our patience, controlling our anger, or having compassion for those who don’t deserve it. We can do all this while working to improve our situation.

Sometimes they are there to teach us a lesson. Such as no amount of money or job is worth our dignity. No amount off affection is worth any amount of abuse. These are all very difficult situations, but waiting and relying on the other person to change will most often result in no change.

Working on myself has lead me to my greatest improvements and my greatest joy. When I became a better man, my job became better, my relationships improved. I noticed when I treated others better and gave more to them, I received more in return.

To this day, I spend the most time and effort working on myself. Every improvement in myself touches and improves every area of my life.

DON’T BE COMFORTABLE!

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Why on earth would I not want someone to be comfortable? Trust me, I am all about comfort. When I get home it is in a warm bed with a nice electric blanket and a perfect pillow! I love sitting on the porch in the sun with a good book and some great coffee. So what on earth am I talking about here? I’ll explain in just a moment, but let me explain how this topic came to be. Last night while bartending on what turned out to be a rather busy night I had some great conversations. One in particular stood out. It was a conversation between myself and my friends Meghan and Bret. Meghan was mentioning to Bret and I how people can get comfortable with the wrong type of environment.

What did she mean by this? Let us consider people in an abusive relationship. They start to get used to the things that happen. How on earth can someone get used to being in such a relationship? It is like the story of a frog. If placed in a kettle of boiling water, the frog will quickly jump out. If, however, the frog is placed in a pot of warm water and the water is slowly brought to a boil the frog will get used to it until it is dead. That is often how we become used to things that are not good for us. If slowly people begin to treat us harshly and then that treatment increases to the state of abuse we may have become so used to it we do not see it for what it is.

Besides being obviously bad for our well-being, it does something that can be far more damaging. When one finally escapes the abusive relationship and finds the good fortune to be loved the way they should they often find it hard to accept. If you are told over and over that you are less than, or no good it may be very difficult to fully realize the beauty that is inside of you. Even when surrounded by people who are angry and emotionally abusive one may have a hard time feeling completely comfortable in a calm and healthy situation. This may sound crazy for those of us who have never went through it, but it really is not.

So what is the takeaway here? If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who used to be abused, understand they may need more time and you may need to exercise a little more patience. They may need more reassurance and it may be difficult for them to accept or believe genuine compliments. Do not get frustrated and realize you are actually working to not only love this person, but heal them as well. If you tend to be the type of person who is prone to anger and saying things you might not mean, remember these can have long-lasting effects. Sometimes taking years to heal and undo.

Lastly, if you are a person who has been in an abusive relationship. This is what you need to know. You are good enough. The actions, words and feelings you suffered through were not your fault, but the action of a person who had not matured enough as a human being. Understand that the people trying to make you feel good are doing so out of love and their care and concern for you. Accepting what they have to say will not only help heal yourself, but make their heart feel good as well.

Please like/share/comment on this post. There are sadly far too many people who need to see this message. People who fill all roles of this tragic situation. Feel free to leave and questions, comments or suggestions you have as well. Let us work together to heal the world.

ARE YOU IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP?

Before we start thinking about how wonderful our spouses are or are not, let me clarify the opening question. The relationship I am discussing here is the most important relationship you have in your life, the one with yourself. Now before you start to dismiss this as an absurd notion, or one that does not apply to you, hear me out for  just a second. I was at a friend’s birthday party at a local drinking establishment this past Saturday and ran into a former coworker and his wife. We began expressing our concerns for a former coworker of mine who never seemed to be happy and how she may be helped. Think if you know someone like this in your life. She seemed to always have problems with those around her. She felt as if the world was out to get her and that is why nothing ever went right for her. On the rare occasion that it did she was still unhappy it did not go even better. When speaking with her the truth became clear after only a few minutes of conversation, this lady was unhappy with the world and all of the things and people in it because she was really unhappy with herself. Her skills with finance were lacking and she always seemed to find herself falling further and further behind. Instead of addressing the problem and encouraging herself to chip away at it she would do the opposite. She would ask herself very disempowering questions. “Why can I never get my bills paid?” “Why am I so stupid when it comes to money?” then she would just graduate to referring to herself as stupid. This made her feel like she had no control. When she did answer herself she was doomed to fail. Instead of asking why she could never pay her bills which assumes that she never will. she should have asked “What can I do to at least start getting my situation turned around” That takes the focus from the problem to the solution. It also gives us a sense of hope. Remember doing something stupid and being stupid are two entirely different things. We have all done stupid things. I remember after a few shots of rum I once woke up on a pool table with one shoe. Not my proudest moment, but I had acted stupid I was not stupid. Now if that happened every Friday we may have to reconsider that. The conclusion my former coworkers wife had come to was a brilliant one “It is like she is in an abusive relationship with herself!” It is one of those simple statements that have profound meaning. How many times have you found yourself saying “Why was I so stupid?” I know I have muttered that to myself far to many times to be proud of. Still how many times do we take time to cheer ourselves on? At first mention this may sound silly, but why? Why is it that reprimanding ourselves comes so natural while encouraging ourselves sounds so foreign? I have made an effort when struck with fear, worry or some other disempowering emotion telling myself “You’ve got this Neil” To statements of a more powerful nature. Our relationship with ourselves is affects us greater than any other relationship we have. Let us make sure it is empowering one. No matter who we are, we could all stand to be a little more encouraging to the person in the mirror. Think of ways you can encourage yourself. List them here to help get others started. Oh, and if you have too much rum, trust me a pool table is not as comfortable as it looks.