Love IS Sometimes Having to Say You Are Sorry

There’s one sad truth in life I’ve found  
While journeying east and west –
The only folks we really wound
Are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.
~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

How sadly true the words Ella shares above, we are more often guilty of hurting the very ones we love the most!  However ill intended it may be, it is a fact we tend to mistreat those we are close to and flatter those we hardly know.  We are then left with one very important action, and that is to seek forgiveness from those we love through apology.

Some of you will recall the old 1970 movie by Eric Segal starring  Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. A very touching love story of two young people who meet fall in love and then tragedy strikes.  The most famous line of the movie was “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”  Well, were this true, there would be possibly no love in existence at all. Very idealistic and I must say, wow it would be great were it possible!

Why might you think that this is so?  I have a few thoughts on this myself, but would interested in how you see this as well!  For one, we grow familiar with people through time and tend to expect a lot from them.  We expect them to see things as we do, or at least to know us well enough to understand why we act the way we do.  It is a bit pretentious but true, “she (he) should just accept me as I am, beside she (he) knows I love her (him) so what it the big deal!?” Or two, “why do I have to always admit mistakes, she (he) has made her (his) share of mistakes and he (she) never apologizes to me! The old always and never fallacy!

We expect a lot out of those we love, and tend to forget just how important reassurances are in a relationship.  It takes a lot of humility to love someone and it kills our pride to have to admit that we are not perfect as much as we would think we are.  Well, we aren’t perfect and so it unfortunately is necessary to admit this fact especially if we have hurt someone due to our lack of sensitivity towards them.  If we can rest assured with the fact that no one has of yet died of indigestion after having swallowed their pride, then we can be certain that it can’t be so harmful to swallow it now and then.  In fact it not only is not harmful it is healthy to apologize when we have wronged someone.

When you do apologize, it is a true sign that you are not thinking just about yourself, but you are taking into consideration the feelings of others.  So, given that fact, it is a definite sign of love, therefore saying you are sorry is saying that you do care and that you do love…it is love! It takes courage, it takes humility, it takes love, so if you need to apologize for something,  go for it!  It usually takes the air out of anyone that may be upset with you for something you did, and most often it can help solve a lot of problems before they become even bigger.


The Pitfalls of Praise

Few people have the wisdom to prefer the criticism that would do them good, to the praise that deceives them. — Francois de La Rochefoucauld

We all just love to hear our name mentioned, it is like music to our ears, unless it means that we are in trouble! We all need encouragement and praise is a very important practice that will surely lead to greater results and even save the lives of the praise depraved! It is so important to give credit where credit is due, praise your kids for the things they do to express your appreciation for their compliance, praise your co-workers for a job well done so that as a team you can continue to progress.  Praise is valuable and we do not do enough of it when it really counts.

But there is a time that praise can lead to not-so-positive results and I wanted to share a few here and see if you can come up with other examples. For one, false praise is detected quite easily when you want to gain some status for yourself so you are generous with your praise with the hope that you will be recognized and considered for promotion.  The kind of which I spoke in a previous post “Brown Noser or Contributor”.  It becomes obvious to those around you that you are quick to praise your boss or a leader for personal gain, then your sincerity and praise will  be placed in doubt when you finally acknowledge others.

Then there is when you are on the receiving end of praise, and perhaps you are a public figure, successful in business, an artist of some kind and you are overwhelmed with praise from the General Public, friends or subordinates.  This throws you in the limelight and you now “have a name”, unfortunately this can become an addiction and be downright dangerous.  It can easily go to your head and fill you with a pride that becomes toxic and dangerous to your very being.  It can  feel good, but it can also eventually make you feel above everyone and everything around you leading to do things that previously you would have never thought about doing.

It is good to bathe in the praise offered you for a time, but remember to get out of the shower and come back down on earth lest you be set up for a big fall.  You have remember that praise lasts only a while, and once you are addicted to it, and it is no longer, there you might find  yourself in great misery.  Just take a good look at those who have risen to fam, what kind of lives they have led, where did it lead them, are they really happy?

Praise can be great, just use it in small doses, otherwise it could led to pride and keep in mind that pride comes before a fall!  Make sure when you praise that you praise sincerely in order to help those who need encouragement.  It is amazing how some seemingly negative things like criticism can bring good, and other seemingly positive things can bring about something bad.

I covered some pitfalls of praise, can you think of others?  What are your thoughts on the matter?

The Compliment of Criticism

“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing” –Aristotle

Criticism is truly hard to take no matter how it is given.  There are however different types of criticism, constructive criticism that is meant to help you do your job better, usually administered by someone who would like to see you succeed in your work, and criticism given by a born critic.  Some people are plagued with a negative mindset and pretty much anything and everything will fail on the scale of their opinion.  They tend to thrive on negative thoughts, and if there is nothing bad going on, they are sure to invent it!

It is easy to grow defensive of our own work, after all you have spent a good amount of your personal blood, sweat and tears laboring away to accomplish something and then someone comes along and tears it all down with a comment.  The fact of the matter is, there is no way on earth you will ever be able to satisfy everyone, you can try hard at it, but if that is what you are attempting to do, prepare for great disappointment!  The best attitude to have when working on anything is to be ready and accept the fact from the beginning that you will be met with criticism.

The good news is, being criticized means that you are doing something!  Only those who do not do anything, never try anything, are too afraid to make any move are the only ones that never receive any criticism! So if you are being criticized, this could be a wonderful compliment, it means that you are going somewhere.  Criticizing can be due to many things, perhaps others are jealous of you and what you are able to accomplish, so in order to elevate themselves they will attempt to put you down.  They might just be chronic criticizers who have little or nothing else to do and therefore they have taken on this activity as their “profession”.  And yes there is the true friend who really would like to see you succeed and so he offers you a sincere criticism in order to help you to perfect what you are doing.

Leaders are usually subjected to a lot of criticism.  They are often in their position because of the fact that they are good leaders, but good or bad as they may be, because they are going places and doing things, they are the target of a lot of criticism!  You cannot desire leadership if you are afraid of being criticized, spoken bad about or eventually even hated by others.  This unfortunately comes with the job of a leader.  But a good leader will be open to this fact, be able to wade through the criticism, pick out what might be relevant and learn from it without being offended. If you are affected by criticism, do not seek out a leadership position!

I really do not look forward to election time, as despite the fact that debate is necessary in order to arrive to the solution in any matter, during the campaign stage there is so much senseless mudslinging on both sides of the aisle.  What those who tend to sling mud don’t take into consideration is:”he who throws dirt loses ground!” Most of the criticism is not constructive, if it were it would not just accentuate the obvious problem but rather clearly offer a solution.

So if you are a victim of criticism, cheer up, you may be doing something.  Just don’t let it get you down and to stop moving at all! Look at the criticism and try to evaluate whether it holds any possible point in truth and make any modifications that you deem necessary. We are all subject to the gossip of others, unfortunately that comes with life, just don’t let it be what influences your every decision!

How do you take criticism? Do you use it to make you better or allow it to  weaken you through feelings of failure?

Kids Can Say Some Of the Funniest Things!

Today I wanted to do something fun and share some stories of things that my kids had said when they were small. My hope is that those of you who might enjoy these stories will possibly have some of your own that you wouldn’t mind sharing.  So please make sure to take the time to share yours below!

At times it makes you wonder what might be going on in their cute little heads when they come up with certain things!  I’ll start with a story of my eldest daughter when she was just 6 years old.

We were driving across Texas on the way back home and it was getting pretty late at night and I was really needing a little help staying awake!  So I decided at a certain point to stop into a gas station to buy a Dr. Pepper from a vending machine.  Once back in the car and I got back on the road after a short while, I heard Sonia in the back seat whimpering and sniffing as she was obviously distraught about something.  Mom kept probing with the intent to find out what was wrong when finally she shared what it was that she was worried about.  In tears she burst out to tell us, “the TV says that you are not supposed to drink and drive, the police are going stop us and to put daddy in jail!”  Bless her heart!

My son Michael had just been talking with his mom who was trying to help him understand the sad plight of homeless people.  She had expressed how we need to be considerate of those who do not have a bed to sleep in and had to stay out on the street with only a newspaper to cover up with in order to stay warm.  Naturally she was trying to help him see that we should be thankful for how blessed we are to have somewhere to live.  A few days later while tucking him into bed before his evening prayers mom shares with him that the next day was our day off and so she suggested that he pray to ask the Lord to help us all to sleep in (as in not waking up too early).  On our day off our children seemed to want to get up extra early!  So, he was asked to say his little prayers for the night and he prays: “dear Lord, please help us to sleep in and not to sleep out” He was still left very impressed with the homeless people and was sure that he did not want to have to sleep out!

On another journey by car, we had been traveling for some time and our car had gotten pretty low on gas.  I commented how it might be a good idea to stop to fill up our tank.  Our son, Jesse who was about 4 years old at the time popped his head up just in time to notice that I had passed by a gas station which was on the other side of the road and so he wanted be a help and let me know, so he piped up and said “dad you passed gas!” Of course we all roared with laughter which he could not clearly understand why!  Well, since it made a hit that time, from that day on he attempted to say it again in the days that followed, but sadly the joke by then had grown old.

There are probably dozens more to share, I just don’t have them all so clear at this time, but I would be happy to hear yours!  Kids are so much fun, and they create memories that last a lifetime! I hope you enjoyed mine I look forward to reading yours!

Sensitivity-A Communication Killer!

The other day I wrote about tough love, which can come in the form of discipline or correction.  Correction to most of us is not so easy to swallow, it is like being given a plate of boiled liver, tough and not tasty, nonetheless  it is a necessary part of life because if there is no one there to help correct us in order to insure that things are done properly, we will go on through life making the same mistakes.

Today I wanted to share a point concerning the killer of communication and this is sensitivity.  There is a good sensitivity when you are sensitive towards the needs of others or their feelings.  When you are able to empathize with others and learn to walk in their shoes so as to avoid causing unnecessary hurt feelings or pain.  The other is not that positive, it is when you are overly sensitive to other’s words or situations and are easily offended, this is the sensitivity that I am addressing.

Some might defend themselves and say. “I have to be myself and let others know how I feel otherwise I am just being a wimp.”  Yes, while this to a certain extent is true, it is important the be able to express ourselves so that our position is understood, but when it comes to being overly defensive when our boss, friend or co-worker is trying to point something out about us that may need to be fine tuned or changed, it is best to keep our emotions toned down a few notches.

As time goes on, should we react continually in a defensive manner, we will find ourselves very lonely!  The fact of the matter is, on the work place, amongst real friends etc., should our reaction to any suggestion that we may be wrong be sensitive or offended, sooner or later our colleagues, or friends will simply stop attempting to communicate with us!  It becomes too much work to have to “pick up the pieces” when others fall apart each time we have to mention something that they may need to work on. So, human nature tells us to avoid the situation and pass on by.

By being overly sensitive we begin closing the door to any hope of growth or even social life.  The fact is, we all could use some fine tuning, and not that we are all always “wrong”, but we do need to co-exist with the rest of the world, and this is why we need to be open to change and willing to adapt to our surroundings.

In a marriage or relationship this problem, although initially may not exist, tends to surface after you have been together for some time. After growing familiar with one another, for one it is difficult to take criticism ever, and two you wonder why after such a long time your partner is getting “picky” over something that they used to seem to be fine with before.  You feel, “what is the big deal, this is how I am, just live with it” while the fact is, you have been doing something that has always been a little bothersome but it was overlooked through your “in-love” stage. But if you cannot learn to communicate honestly with your partner, you are soon to run into some pretty big problems.

Communication is absolutely essential in life! Not all communication is done “the right way”, so we need to learn to listen in order to respond in such a way that will leave the door open to others.  If we don’t, within time we will find that everyone will be side stepping us everywhere we go, and the world will become a very lonely place!

How do you handle correction or criticism?  Do you take in stride or do you tend to make it hard to deliver?

Tough Love–Discipline

The other day I wrote about the importance of appreciation and how it can tend to bring out the best in others!  We thrive on positive input, and by emphasizing the positive it can help in a great way to encourage a  positive reaction.  Today I want to share a little about the other side of the coin and that is, what do you do when you need to deal out some correction or discipline?  I am a true believer in the importance of discipline, as if you do not take the time to discipline a child, or a subordinate when they may have made a big mistake, you will be robbing them of an important lesson that could save them more trouble on down the line.

As a parent it is our God-given duty to “train up our children in the way they should go”, and it can be difficult to live up to, but oh so necessary.  With the fast pace lives that we now live, both mom and dad often are busy working and so kids are often given into the care of others.  By the time you get back home, or have time to spend with your child you usually prefer that this time together be positive, and so having to deal with a not-so-positive behavior or situation is not really your choice activity,  so we can tend to let the discipline slide. For one, your tired and two, you just want some positive time with your child.

We as humans since birth, don’t usually invite correction with open arms.  It is difficult to receive and we have learned since childhood to make those having to give us the necessary discipline feel as though they are being an ogre and that they obviously don’t care for or love us. My kids used to equate discipline to a lack of love towards them.  They used to say, “you don’t love me” which made having to continue my job all the more difficult, but I told them that this IS love, but that it was “tough love”.  I would go on to explain to them,  “God loves us all unconditionally as I do you, but although His love is a gift and it never goes away by His grace, on the other hand in order to receive His blessings we have to obey, and that is why that in order for me to reward you, you need to follow my instructions”.

As in all things in life, there is an important balance, you don’t want to create a world around you where everything becomes, no, don’t, you can’t etc..  On the other hand you don’t want to just let everything slide to be “Mr. or Mrs. nice guy” to where there are no boundaries.  We all need to have boundaries in order to accommodate the other six or so billion people in the world, but we also do not want to place our children or others in a box limiting them from learning lessons on their own and progressing into well-adjusted adults.

There are laws that have been put in place concerning discipline to assure that it is not administered too heavily which has been good.  Discipline is something that should never be done in haste or when emotionally charged.  You have the authority as a parent or an overseer, so there is really no need to get all emotionally excited when administering discipline.  I once read a good illustration of this point which used a police officer as an example.  When an officer stops you for running a red light or for speeding he does not run up to your car waving his arms in the air and start screaming at you all emotionally telling you what a terrible thing you did.  He usually walks slowly up to your car, politely greets you, (you are already pretty much shaking in your boots because of the ticket you are about to be issued), he then goes on to explain calmly and mater-of-factually why he is now going to have to issue you a fine for breaking the rules. This is how we should be with those we discipline as well, without emotion and without becoming unnecessarily mean.

At the end of the day, the goal is to help others to grow better, and possibly even avoid future accidents or unpleasantness.  Those you may have to correct today will thank you tomorrow for having been there for them in their time of need!  And you, contrary to how you may feel at the moment, will be even more loved and respected in the future than you would be if you just let things go too easily.

Do you find it hard to administer “tough love?  Have you been thankful now for the times there was someone who cared enough to discipline you in the right way?  Share your thoughts!

Appreciation–An All Too Neglected Practice

Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary. — Margaret Cousins

There are so many things in life that we simply take for granted, particularly the people that we live with, work with, and encounter in the course of the day.  It is so common to grow used to things being the way they are that we don’t pause long enough during the day to take notice of them let alone to express our appreciation for them through words or acts of appreciation.

It is interesting that this might be so since we all know how wonderful it is when someone takes notice of something that we took the time to attend to at work, or a special something we do for our spouse, or family member.  Not that this is why we do things for others in the first place, but when anyone sits up and takes notice of us, and expresses their appreciation to us, it makes us want to go out of our way to do even more things for them.

Knowing how appreciation helps to spur us on to do better, it is a wonder why we don’t show our appreciation more generously to those who we live and work with.  Of course if you have been raised in an environment where little or no appreciation has been given for what you have done, then it can seem normal to you to treat others the very same way that you have been treated. In the Bible it says to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you“, but this often is miss quoted or miss applied as “do unto others as they have done unto you“.

Have you ever worked really hard to accomplish something at work or at home that you felt real satisfied with and that brought about real progress or improvement, but then it only gets a passing glance?  No appreciation for all the hard work, the long hours, the concentrated effort that went into it, and in the end no one acknowledged you for it?  How did that make you feel?  Did it make you want to continue to do it again or rather did it make you feel like “what’s the use”?” Most likely you felt like saving yourself the effort the next time around.

Now try this…stop and take a moment to thank your wife for having cooked a wonderful meal and let her know how much you appreciate the way she prepared the meal. Tell you husband how much it means to you when he takes the trash out with out you having to remind him.  Thank your son or daughter for the extra chores that they do around the house and make sure to reward them in some significant way for their good job! Express today to your co-worker your appreciation for all the details that they tend to throughout the day!  Do this regularly for a few months and see if you don’t notice a major difference in how they work, respond to you and reciprocate your attitude!

By applying this principal and putting it into practice, you are sure to notice a tremendous change for the better!  Appreciation is powerful, appreciation is yet another way of expressing love and it is love, not money that makes the world go around!  How has it changed your life when you have been appreciated? What was it like to go largely unnoticed? Your comments are appreciated!  (Yes they truly will be!)

Stretching Your Capabilities

“When you engage in systematic, purposeful action, using and stretching your abilities to the maximum, you cannot help but feel positive and confident about yourself.” –Brian Tracy

I mentioned the other day about having signed up at the gym and how it seemed as though I was dying since I hadn’t really done that much in the way of exercise in a while!  I’m the kind of guy who, in order to get exercise, prefers to chase a ball around o give me a reason to run.  When you are out competing in a sport it makes getting that much-needed exercise way more fun than when you are simply working out.

I love basketball and have played it since I was a kid, but here in Italy there are not that many courts available since the main sport is soccer and I am really not that good at soccer.  I also enjoy playing tennis, which unfortunately is not all that readily available where I am and so I have still not been able to get in a club to play. So I decided to sign up at a gym, and I am so glad I did!  There is a trainer there who follows you and he sets you up on a program in order to challenge you to make the progress necessary for your personal needs.

Whatever means that I do get exercise, whether it be at the gym or a sport such as basketball or tennis, I preferred to play with others who were better than myself.  In fact, there was a period whilst living in Taiwan when I had a couple of colleagues and good friends who were really great at tennis and so we made it a point to go play. As it turned out, most of the time I was on the losing end of the game, their capabilities were higher than mine, but this is why I enjoyed playing with them in particular. Eventually I began to win a few times too!

It is fun to win games as it can boost your self-esteem, but I felt that if I could at least become competitive with these guys, then I knew that I was growing and gaining great experience.  On the other hand, if I would always play against others who were not as good as I was at a game, I would never have the opportunity to improve, or would not really realize it if I had or not.  This opportunity placed me in a position to stretch my capabilities and therefore grow.

I feel that if you are always seeking the easy way out,  instead of challenging yourself with something more difficult, you end up robbing yourself of an opportunity to grow!  This is what life is all about, learning to overcome the various obstacles that you encounter along like’s path.  By doing so, you strengthen your muscles in preparation for the next obstacle that comes your way!

Do you seek the easy road or the road that leads you to greater challenge?

Entertainment Finding The Balance!

“Exactly when people are in turmoil is the time that the entertainment business has always been at its best. Because people don’t want to be reminded every day that they are under siege, or that they’re not having a great time of life”. –Lionel Richie

Isn’t it great to have entertainment, a way to get away from it all and to have some fun, especially during tough times! After a long hard day of work it is rewarding to be able to sit back and enjoy a movie, read a book, or even go out and join friends for a night of well deserved relaxation.  It would be truly impossible to carry on were there not ways to escape the reality of certain situations to maintain our sanity! It is actually a physical need that keeps us refreshed and re-energized to go back out the next day and to give it our best.

But there is also a down side to it as well, as there is to anything in life, if we do not find the proper balance and overdue something.  Anything that you take to an extreme can have an adverse affect on you, and therefore it is important to find a balance in all things like, eating, sleeping, working exercising, sex etc..  They are all necessary and important, but when abused or taken to one extreme or the other they can do more harm than good.

As humans we are led largely by our emotions, some more than others, but it is a fact that we tend to believe that whatever feels good must be good and what ever does not feel good is bad.  It had been a long time since I had gotten my needed exercise and so I  made the decision to sign up at the local gym.  This gym has a wonderful trainer who makes himself available to all the members and helps you learn how to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself.  Well, day one, after not having done much of any exercise for quite some time, by the day’s end I was not feeling so good! So therefore it must be bad? Not at all, it is good for me, but boy I am having to stretch myself to do what I would really rather not do in order to get where I want to be. I thought to myself, “how silly, I am paying this guy to kill me!”

With the multitude of avenues for entertainment and the thought that what feels good must be good, much of humanity are overly addicted to being entertained.  If something is “boring” then they don’t want to do it.  So they seek the easy route in order to get it done faster so as to get to what they like doing rather than plodding along doing what is really needed. Water always seeks the lowest level and flows down hill, and so do we when we are not challenged with doing otherwise.  We tend to do the same, whatever is easiest, I’ll just flow on down hill and hope for the best.

Entertainment is a wonderful thing and very needed, but it needs to be kept in perspective.  Even tough mundane duties can be “fun” if we change the way that we look at them.  If you know that something is going to eventually make your life better by sticking with it, such as my new exercise torture example above, then you can have a whole new outlook on it and even begin enjoying it.  It would be nice if you can get your emotions to desire something that you don’t particularly enjoy, because emotions can be really deceiving!

Have you found ways to have fun doing the boring things in life?  Do you have any tips to share?  Thanks!

The Weed of Bitterness

Song Verse: “So watch the garden of your heart, never let the evil start, little thoughts are little seeds, growing good or evil deeds, into flowers sweet…or weeds….they all must grow!“–Author unknown

I talked about forgiveness in my last post and how it can be liberating if you learn to forgive. Today I wanted to talk about the potential consequences of holding on to bitterness and ill feelings towards others, your current situation or towards anything for that matter.

When you occupy your mind with ill feelings or bitterness or negativity of any kind, you are blocking the way to any potential forward movement or progress of any kind.  Holding on to bitterness or negative feelings wastes so much of your valuable mental resources that it leaves little room for constructive thought or creativity.  Your mind tends to go on and on building up a case to justify your feeling the way that you do.

Bitterness is like a weed that unfortunately doesn’t just stop at the negative feelings that you may have towards a person or situation, but then it will go beyond this and will begin to  absorb the nutrition from the blossoming flowers of progress, creativity and life-giving thoughts or ideas that you may otherwise be able to nurture.

Bitterness can grow to such overwhelming proportions just as certain weeds can tend to do, that once they have grown to a certain size, they are much harder to eradicate.  The roots grow deeper, and the stalks grow so thick that in order to cut them it will take an axe instead of a simple weeding tool were you to have tended to it from the beginning!

If allowed to grow and fester for a prolonged period of time, bitterness can even cause you to develop into much more serious physical illnesses that can even be fatal!  You have to guard yourself from this awful weed! Guard the garden of your heart from the terrible weed of bitterness.  If you take notice of bitterness popping up its ugly head in your heart, take action right away, do whatever it takes to get ride if it, before it grows into a monster of a plant that saps you of your strength, both mental and physical!

Have you had experiences where you held on to bitterness and were able to finally let it go?  How did it make you feel once you were freed from its grip.  Share your story!