new puppy

Overcoming Willful Ignorance

One of the good things 2020 has given me is reconnection with old friends. For the past few months, I have been meeting weekly with a chum from college, Sammy. We have terrific conversations which range from intelligent and informed to silly and sassy.

One of the phrases Sammy uses frequently is how people being “willfully ignorant” really upsets him. To him, the right action, the right thought, the right way to be is obvious. And if it is obvious to him, that means other people are choosing to be contrary to what is right and definitely true. This week however, Sammy shared a story where he was the one perceived as being willfully ignorant.

little sister mei mei the new puppy
Little sister Mei Mei

Sammy has been posting frequently about his soon-to-be new puppy from a breeder. I had thought it was strange that he would purchase from a breeder as I assumed he would choose a rescue as he had in the past. One of his other friends thought the same thing and confronted him with her anger that he would be so willfully ignorant in choosing to purchase a pet from a breeder. He was outraged that she could accuse him of doing something socially and ethically wrong. How dare she judge him without asking him why he was doing what he was doing. I shared with him that I too wondered why he went that route and he had a very valid reason; short story is one of his rescue dogs will not be in this world much longer and the remaining anxiety-ridden rescue dog needs a new safe non-threatening companion and a puppy from a breeder is the only option.

Inspired by this event, let us explore the concept of willful ignorance.  Through the rest of this article, think of when you have accused others or been accused yourself of willful ignorance and therefore judged and convicted of wrongdoing before all the facts were known.

Who Made You the Judge?

I am judgmental. It is my inherent nature. My Myers-Briggs and Enneagram results confirm this. Even if you are not inherently disposed to be judge and jury like me, we all have experienced times where we assumed we have the right to judge others. Unless we are literally an elected judge whose job it is to determine if an action goes against a law, we should not judge.

Judgment without Facts

Both myself and Sammy’s other friend assumed it was absolutely wrong that anyone would purchase from a breeder. Like most controversies today, we only saw black-and-white; either you adopted a pet, or you were a horrible person. Neither of us sought understanding before we passed our judgment.

Seeing Only from My Perspective

The problem with how we reacted to Sammy’s choice was that we judged his actions from our perspective, experience, and beliefs. We did not seek to find out his perspective and why he chose what he did. If we had, we would have understood his backstory and that he was making a conscious appropriate decision.

I was called-out on a similar unconscious bias a few weeks ago. I had posted a meme vigorously proclaiming how those who do not return shopping carts to the corrals are in the wrong. I had posted it because I like to return the shopping cart every time I am able as I know I am becoming self-absorbed when I don’t. What a friend pointed out to me is that I have no right to dictate or assume what others should do. He brought up valid points that those who do not return carts my be physically unable or that they may not have a car. Usually I think twice before I post and I didn’t this time. Honestly, I was so focused on my own thoughts, beliefs and actions, that I didn’t really read what the post was implying about others. I appreciated my friend calling me out on my self-focus.

It is Me and You not Us and Them

When we are caught up in our own beliefs and judgments, we group people as this label or that type making them lose their humanity. What is hurting our society right now is not only that we judge, but that we lump people into groups. We are all shades of gray. We are all good and bad. We all have value and we all have foibles. When we dump someone into a group or a label, we miss out on connection and understanding.

As you go about your week, look for your desire and need to judge others. Watch how you lump people together by one action or aspect of their being. Notice how you leap to conclusions without knowing the whole story. Instead, make real one-to-one connections and seek to understand. Understanding leads to empathy and change. We can make the world better, one interaction at a time.

we look at the smae moon but live in different worlds

I Do Not Like That Man. I Must Get to Know Him Better.

Amid all the hate speech on and offline, I thought this quote from Abraham Lincoln provides some sound advice. He is noted for saying, “I do not like that man. I must get to know him better.”

Isn’t it easy to see something we disagree with online and immediately dismiss the person who wrote it? Isn’t it easier to attack or discredit them than to be the bigger person and reach out to make a human connection?  I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken to someone who hated this group or that ethnicity, but when I said, “Isn’t your friend Sammy one of THEM?” their response is often, “Well he is different than the rest of THEM. I know him.” Knowing someone personally helps us to accept, understand, and even become friends with those of different cultures or backgrounds.

As the world becomes smaller and smaller, we are not able to isolate and insulate ourselves like in the past. It is time to come together as a global community and begin to understand those who are different than us in appearance, culture, or thinking. Here are a few ideas to make that happen.

Photo by Arie Wubben on Unsplash

Stop Lumping

One of the biggest culprits of bias is lumping people together by some label. All men, Mexicans, Republicans, or St. Louis Cardinal fans are horrible. Really?  Every single one of them? Our mind likes to label and name things because it helps us to recall information quickly. Yet in grouping people together, we are creating our own perception and judgment about people instead of seeing the unique individual. Look at yourself. What groups or labels could you be categorized by? What assumptions could people make about you if they only looked at a single aspect of you? What are they missing out about who you are if they only see one facet of you?

What Do You Value

When we label others, we are choosing to make some aspect of the person important above the rest. What does it say about you in how you choose to label?  What are you deciding is important? Nationality, gender, wealth? Why do you choose that element to judge others? When we prejudge people by one element of their being, we are saying more about our own fears than about the true character of the other person.

Second Chance

Let’s cut each other some slack. I would hate to be judged because of how I look or where I come from. I am guessing you feel the same, so why not extend the curtesy to others by not judging? Instead of judging and attacking, have the courage to reach out to someone who irritates you or someone who is different from you. Learn about them. Learn about their culture. Learn who they are as an individual. You may not become fast friends, but it will make moving around in the world easier.

Who have you met recently who has irritated you? Why was that? Are you making assumptions because of one element – nationality, ethnicity, culture? Try to be more open and welcoming this week. See if you don’t find more connection when you take the time to really meet and know those around you.

stuck in a prison

Cut ’em Some Slack

Over the last few years, I have watched as many people have become more and more black and white in their thinking. There are good guys and bad guys. There are people who agree with us and people who are wrong. There are angels and devils. There are the saved and the damned. There are Bears fans and Packer fans. Once we have labeled someone, they are stuck in that container. How many times do we label someone based on one aspect of their being or one mistake that they made?

Think of the most stupid thing you have done. Think about your biggest regret. How would it feel if you were judged for the rest of your life on only your largest gaffe? No one would remember the good that you did. No one would take in consideration your great sense of humor or intelligence. No one would see or consider anything besides this one foible. Wouldn’t feel that great, right?

Now consider, how unfair and unkind is it of you to judge others on only their mistakes.

Photo by Denis Oliveira on Unsplash

We are all human. We are created to make mistakes. We are by nature, fallible. One of the biggest gifts we can give to ourselves and others, is to be accepting, tolerating, and loving despite and maybe even because of our faults and failings. When we can love ourselves and others, warts and all, we are giving respect. We are giving space to improve. We are being realistic. We are being inclusive. We are providing a platform for growth and problem solving.

When we judge and label based on one incident or one aspect of a person, we are limiting their and our potential. If we only focus on the bad someone has done, we don’t see them as a full human being. Many times this is why prisoners are mistreated. All that is seen is that they broke the law (one aspect of their life) and are therefore bad. We don’t see their humanity. We don’t see that they were once children. We don’t see the people they helped out in the past. We don’t see their struggles. We don’t see the challenging situation they were born into. They are just labeled as criminals and sent away.

This does not mean that we excuse and accept bad behavior. It is ok and actually very important to create strong boundaries to protect ourselves and those we care about. And it is important to see and accept people for more than just one bad act.

If you find yourself judging someone, you may want to take some time to process why you are labeling them based on one aspect of their character. Why is it so important to you? Why does it hold so much weight for you? How does it feel to convict them for this sole action? How does convicting them also imprison you?

As you go about your week, notice how you are labeling and categorizing people by one aspect of their character. How does it make you feel and react when you focus on this sole aspect? How might you deal with them differently when you are able to open up to see them wholly? How do you think about them and react to them when you focus on more than one aspect of their being?

Second Thought, First Action

I am so glad I found Cine Club Los Cabos. Every Thursday they show movies for free at the local high school. This month will be French films with Spanish subtitles, which will be a fun language lesson for me. Last month they showed movies about and created by women. “BrØdre” or Brothers was one of the movies shown. Although it centered around two men, it was a film written and directed by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier. The film shows the progression of the no-good alcoholic brother becoming a standup man, and his brother falling into violence and lies after being an upstanding citizen, good husband, and esteemed military leader.

The start of the fall begins when the older “good” brother has to make a life or death decision in wartime. He may not have made the choice we would hope he would, but it was during a war and he was going to die otherwise. I couldn’t really fault him for what he did. What did become difficult to watch was how he lied about the incident again, and again, and again. In one scene, he goes to visit the family of the man he killed. If ever there was a chance to redeem oneself, this would be it. But instead of telling the whole truth or at least that her husband is dead, he tells a massive lie which gives the spouse hope of her diseased husband coming home with no potential of it ever occurring. As I shook my head and sighed, I noticed the woman in front of me doing the same.

How easy it is to see what someone should do and how difficult it is for us to do it in our own life.

angry action
Photo by Heather M. Edwards on Unsplash

I have been doing a lot of personal work lately (again, still) and one of the things I am focusing on are my thoughts and reactions to situations.  I am noticing how my first thoughts when I am triggered are to blame the other person. I can put together a laundry list of how they are a bad person and how what they did is inexcusable. My first desire is then to attack them for how bad they are. Instead, now I try to stop and to look at my part. Once I can see how my words and actions caused or inflated the situation or maybe how I would act the same as they did if the roles were reversed, I can find empathy for the other person and find the right words to make it a growth experience for both of us.

It is not easy, or even commonplace, to not act rashly out of anger. Go on social media for 10 seconds and you can find 50 people who are more than happy to blame the other for the ills of the world. The other political party, the other race, the other gender, the other baseball team. Someone can always be found to blame for the bad in our lives. As a society we thrive off being justified in our anger, outraged, and attacks on the “bad guy.” What we are not good at is taking personal responsibility. I am certainly not perfect at this either. A concept I heard that helps me and has become my mantra in contentious situations is, “I am responsible for my second thought and my first action.”

Second Thought

We are human. More times than not our first thought will be self-serving. Our first thought will be anger. Our first thought will be attacking others. Our first thought will be self-protecting. Our first thought will be based on the fears we learned in our childhood. We are not bad people because we have that first thought. We all do and that is ok. Where the power and freedom and strength come in is when we pause and allow ourselves to have that second thought. When we can look past ourselves to what the other may be experiencing. When we can find empathy and understanding for their situation. This second thought frees us from how we always react. It frees us from mental pain and anguish. This second thought opens up better ways for us to approach our lives and our relationships.

First Action

Most of us tend to live life using knee-jerk reactions. We get cut off in traffic, think the guy is a jerk, and find ourselves flipping him the bird before we consciously choose to. Much of the actions we do during the day are done unconsciously and based on our first, not-so-ideal thoughts. When we take the time to stop and think a second thought, and have the courage to wait for that second thought before we act, we can create a brand new life.

As you go about your week, be aware of your first thoughts. Can you pause long enough to have second thought before you act?

conformity

I’m Not Normal, and it’s Awesome!

For my entire life, I thought I was not normal. Not being normal, not fitting in, made me sad. I had a hard time relating to my peers. I wasn’t good in groups.  I laughed at what others didn’t laugh at, and it was awkward. I perceived the world in a way that others did not. I was not like other people. I felt alone and longed to fit in.

conformity
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

In my 30’s, I had a brief stint with the cool kids. I was accepted as normal.  I was part of a group.  We did everything together. At first it was exhilarating. Until it wasn’t. What I realized was that to be part of the group, I need to think, act, and speak exactly how they did. Individuality was not welcome. I watched as they all started to have the same catch phrases, clothes and haircuts. They had to do the same things and were always together. They were lemmings. Identical little robots. To fit in, to be normal, I could no longer be me. As soon as I began to be me again, the group went away.  And that was ok with me.

Today, I may not be fully and utterly myself each and every moment. But I am certainly more myself, more not-normal than anything else. I don’t fit anyone else’s mold. I don’t look and act like others.  And I am pretty happy. Normal is defined at “conforming to the standard or the common type.” If to be normal is to be made to conform, to be like everyone else, then no thank you. I’d rather be me.

I saw a terrific TED talk the other day by Caroline McHugh. She is in the business of helping people to know, accept and truly be themselves.  She believes that we all know who we are and what we are here to express. We see it clearly as children and then begin to see it again in our later years. We see our truth without the fear of what others will think of us and without the restrictions of other’s expectations. We are boldly and unapologetically us. Being oneself frees us from comparison. I am not trying to be someone else so being more than or less than them doesn’t exist. I am not comparing myself to them and their accomplishments. My only goal is to be fully, completely and solely me. As is mentioned in the TED talk, when “we have our own thing, that’s the magic.” We can never excel by imitation. Success, achieving our life purpose is found only by embracing the true self we were each meant to be.

In being our self, we not only remove comparison, but we can accept ourselves completely. I have been listening to an Insight Timer course by John Siddique called Self-Acceptance through Authenticity. In one of the modules, I finally felt a piece of myself integrate making me whole, maybe for the first time. For many years, I have rejected the judging part of myself because I thought it was bad. The Myers-Briggs assessment told me I was a judger. My honest appraisal of myself tells me I am a judger. I felt this was bad. Judging others is bad, right? But it is innate in me, so did that make me innately bad? I have tried for decades to get rid of it, but I can’t. Judging is second nature for me. What finally clicked through this course, is that my ability to see defects and flaws in others is what allows me to be a good coach. I don’t attack people with my judgment it as I did when I was younger. I use this ability to see clearly and deeply into someone helping them to see themselves fully, so they can use the information to become the best person they can be.  I can not help from seeing people’s glitches. And that is ok. It does not make me a bad person. It is actually one of the things that makes me, me.

Being normal, adhering to a standard is restriction. We are not meant to conform to a standard. We are not meant to be anyone else. We are not meant to fit a certain mold. We are each unique and different and are here to bring something special to the world. Stop blocking your purpose. Be weird. Be abnormal. Be you. And notice how much happier you are and how the world is better because of it.

queer eye

Lies and Truth

Have you caught the reboot of Queer Eye? Netflix has picked up the series with a new Fabulous Five and a mission this time to teach and learn acceptance. Both of the new Fab Five seasons are must see, but the Big Little Lies episode in the second season caught my eye. If you don’t have Netflix, you can learn a bit about the episode here.

It is easy to get upset with Ari, the young man the Fab Five are helping. He is a liar. It is easy to see from the first words that leave his mouth that he shirks responsibility and tells tales. It is also clear that he thinks he is charming people into believing him, but he isn’t. Like most liars, the only one who believes the lie is the liar.

queer eyeWhen we run into liars we want to call them on it. We want to yell at them to cut the bull and tell the truth. Unfortunately, if we do this, the only result is the person becomes defensive or combative and digs deeper into the untruths. In the episode with Ari, I thought they were going to call him to the carpet when they hooked him up to a lie detector, but then the show takes an amazing twist **spoiler alert** they don’t give him the results. In fact, no one looks to see if or what he lied about. Instead of the Fab Five being the condescending parent or authority figure calling Ari on his BS, they turn responsibility for Ari’s lies over to him. Ari is the only one who knows if he lied in the test and now he has to live with it.

When I first saw the episode, the lesson I took away was regarding my own lies and half truths about my time in the UCLA theatrical directing graduate school. I had been embarrassed that the school kicked me out, so instead of boldly telling the truth, I said “I left.” It was true. I did leave. What I did not express was the fact I was asked to leave. When Queer Eye did not force Ari to fess up to his lie, what I heard was that the only person who knows, needs to know, and needs to live with the truth is me. I did not tell the whole truth because I was afraid of being judged. It became easier to share my truth when I realized that I was already being judged – each and every day by myself. Being completely honest also helped me let go of the incident. I could let go of my fear of being imperfect and move on with my life.

Lying is a defense mechanism used to protect ourselves from how we think others see us. Lying on the deepest level is a way for us to hide from ourselves. It is hard to be 100% open, honest, and truthful with others and even more so with ourselves. It is scary to see ourselves naked and vulnerable; to be an open book. It takes courage to be completely open with everyone, including ourselves, in every moment. But when we do, we are empowered like never before.

Without the lies hiding our fears, we are free. We can tackle anything because we are free of the bondage of our lives. To move forward in life, we need to release our fears, let go of the lies, and share our truth. Fear and lying only hold us back.

Fears

What are you afraid of sharing? What is keeping you from being 100% honest? Many times it is our fear of being less than. We are afraid of others being upset or leaving us due to our actions, thought, or beliefs. Yet these fears may be unfounded. We can never know 100% how people will react until we share our truth.

Acceptance

We may think we are getting away with a lie, but usually we are not. A lawyer friend of mine used to joke, “Nothing is illegal, unless you get caught.” Many of us live our lives lying under the radar. And many times we can get away with our lies. Either no one knows or no one calls us on it. We think we have gotten away with something and in one way we have. But in a much bigger way we have not. We have to live with our lie. We are the ones up sleepless nights worrying about being caught. Our lies and fears eat away at us day and night.

Courage

Being 100% honest in everything, takes a lot of courage. Many of us have told little white lies to protect someone’s feelings or not ruffle feathers, but is it truly the best choice? Every time we run from our whole-hearted truth, we are making a small tear in our relationships. We should never share a truth that would intentionally hurt another, but everything else is fair game.

Watch yourself this week. What lies are you telling? What are you trying to cover up with the lie? What are you afraid of? What do you need to accept about yourself? Do you have the courage to tell the truth?