Thursday, December 08, 2005

I have had a hard time writing this post. I am don't think I am articulating what I want to say. Please comment.

One of the things I have been struggling with as a dad is to ensure my kids have a good perspective on life in general. I see so much damaging stuff in the world, and while I would love to insulate my kids from that, I know I can’t.

I want goodness for my kids. I want my kids to choose good things over bad. I want my kids to be good kids. I don’t mean things like don’t be criminals, even though I hope that is an end result. What I mean is much subtler then that. I mean avoid things that are damaging to your self, or other people. Avoid humor in mean things. Don’t find humor in bad things.

Things should make you happy. Not just giddy on the surface, but at a core. Things you see and do should add to your general well being. Stuff you see, do, and choose should add to your happiness.

How many times do we see things that are meant to be humorous but are really insulting? How many times do we find humor in others misfortune? Does this contribute to your deep down core happiness?

I work with someone is has the knack for finding the worst in something. She always has a off-putting wisecrack or negative comment around whatever announcement, project or whatever is going on. There is always a comment of how awful a project is, or how no one but her knows the reality of a situation. It gets tiring.

Why not talk of the good things in a project, or let whatever hassles and troubles slide away?

When I was in college, I sold buttons for some extra spending money. Most of the buttons I sold were political, cool pictures, or famous people. I had one that said “Study Naked.” I was showing off my buttons to a woman who was a Quaker and peace activist. I had a lot of respect for Peg. She was not only a talker, but also a doer. She went to El Salvador to walk with people who were in political danger – to essentially be a human shield at a time when people disappeared with no trace. When Peg saw the button, she told me “that is not a good thing, you shouldn’t sell it.”

This made an impression on me.

My mother had made similar comments during my growing up. When I came home with a new record album or t-shirt with a smart alec comment, She would ask me “is it good?” It took me a long time to figure out what she was asking. Not, is it cool, not is it high quality, not is it fun, but does it have a goodness about it. The opposite of is it crude, mean, or insulting. Is it peaceful, loving, generous, kind? I am also not talking about the warm and fuzzy feelings, this is just to trite. I mean the deep down contented happiness.

4 comments:

Ken Pierce said...

Jim,

There's a Scripture that says not to let anything come out of your mouth that doesn't build other people up. I admire that Scripture, though, as is generally the case, I don't live up to it very well.

I think, though, that your own kids have a huge head start, because what you tell them isn't nearly as important as what you show them. I know my wife struggles with this because, having grown up with a savagely self-condemnatory father who compulsively saw the cloud in every silver lining, she has to work to be able to see the good in every situation rather than the bad, and it horrifies her when one of our kids says something needlessly pessimistic and she hears herself in it. But she, like all of us, has to remember that the same rule applies to our view of ourselves: there's plenty of stuff we can condemn ourselves for when we're in the mood, and plenty of stuff to like about ourself. I think myself that a lot of what the Baby Boomers saw as "the importance of self-esteem" is actually the importance of choosing to accentuate the positive in people. I think that to try to help kids think well of themselves while at the same time teaching them to detest Big Corporations or The Establishment or (since the dynamic is the same in either political direction) Feminazis and the ACLU...I don't think that's a high-success-ratio type of endeavor. People are just way more alike than we are different, and it's awfully hard to keep from loving yourself like you love -- or fail to love -- your neighbor.

I don't know where that's all going, just stream of consciousness kind of thing, but at least you can tell you got me interested and thinking.

Regards to the family...

Carson said...

Following Ken's admired-yet-not-lived-up-to Scripture with another--think on the good things. Fill your head with the good, and you'll have an easier time filling your actions with the good, putting into practice the good. And then you'll get those deep down contenteds, the peace that passes understanding. I think there have been studies that show optimists live longer after a cancer diagnosis than pessimists. There's so much that we don't know about how our bodies work that I can believe those studies.

Thanks for visiting me, and thanks for commenting so that I could visit you. I'll be thinking this over for a while.

Jim r said...

I think that peace is certainly part of equation. Thanks for the suggestions.

Alexandra said...

Jim,

My father taught me many things, and many things I learned from simply observing him as a child, in awe of his incredible goodness and compassion to other's inadequacies.

Pessimism he taught me, is an illness of mankind. He said that the world was full of people who saw the glass half empty, and my job was to show them how it is half full.

He explained to me that this attitude is a part of the self preservation of their own emotions, in an attempt to protect themselves from being hurt. Sounds all terribly logical and for a split second you may think it makes perfect sense, but wait...the irony comes in the fact that through this very pessimism which they have built around themselves as a protective shield, they become deeply pessimistic and negative within themselves whereupon they cannot any longer distinguish between the shield and their true feelings.

When I was a little girl, my father taught me many things, but one of the most important was to have relentless faith in myself, and be positive in the knowledge that whatever I do, I have done the best I can, and whatever that is, was good enough for him. The worst sin of all was mediocrity as far as he was concerned, and by doing your personal best you elevated yourself out of the subjective hole of mediocrity.

There is not a single thing that he taught me which was more valuable than this lesson, in establishing my persona, and standing up tall and straight for the principles and people I hold dear.

Negativity and fear, are evil's direct way in, and you'll find in life that the more positive you are the more positivity will come to you, and the more that glass will look half full.