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Tuesday, 28 November 2017

On Lies.

During 2014, in the Life Group that I was in (for those not from that church - like a Bible study group, but you're doing life together, not just reading and praying [not to diminish the importance of reading and praying!]) did a series on identity. As part of that, we completed a bit of an exercise. We were given a piece of paper that had a brain on one side, and a heart on the other. I'll leave the heart for another post, because there will be enough to cover in this one.

On the brain side, we put all the ideas/thoughts that we believed about ourselves. Good, bad, anything. Even if we knew they weren't true, or weren't right - if we believed them somewhere, they went down. I had quite a few, and mostly negative. Not all, thankfully (mostly because of Impart, which was also that year), but quite a few. Each of the negative ones are listed below.

I am unseen, unnoticed, unneeded.
I am unloved, unwanted, uncared for.
I am alone.
I’m not really a man.
I am childish, and don’t understand.
My secrets make me unloveable.
I should be locked away, so I can’t hurt anyone by myself.
I am dirty.
I will never be free of my addictions and temptations; I will never be able to have a wife     and children without these affecting and scaring me.
No one would want to be in a relationship with me.
I will always hurt more than I help.
I am empty.
I am broken.
I only do things to be noticed and recognised.
What I say, what I write, what I make, doesn't matter.
These are lies. Plain and simple. Lies that I have believed, that have been whispered to me over the years, by the deceiver and accuser. Sometimes through people around me; sometimes through circumstances, and how I interpret them. And, in time, I came to believe them. Reinforced them.

Strangely enough, that rather hurt me, and hindered me. Stunted my growth. I wonder why? (Sarcasm, in case you can't tell.)

Three years on, and I'm doing much better than I used to, certainly pre-2014. And, looking at this list, there are some here that don't affect me nearly as much as they used to. But some certainly still claw at me. Some still linger, and I still feel their tug. If you haven't guessed, "No one would want to be in a relationship with me," shows up fairly often.

Slowly, I am working towards the truth, and affirming that in my life. But it takes time, practice, and patience. Another thing I still need to work on a bit more.

We all have lies that we believe. You will have a list just like this. It might be longer, it might be shorter. Chances are, if I thought about it again now, I might have a couple more to add to this one. It changes over time. But you can only fight the lies if you acknowledge their existence. You can't fight a war you don't realise you're in.

So wake up. Name your lies. Then work to shake them. Then work to replace them. With the truth. And that, my friends, is where the second post will come in. But first, for me, sleep.

Monday, 13 November 2017

On Noses And Grindstones.

I've noticed a pattern with many people of late that I think is rather....unhealthy, to say the least, and a little scary. But not altogether surprising, perhaps.

It's fairly prevalent with bigger charities and not-for-profits in general, I think, but certainly not exclusive to there, or always found there. It's also a lot more general than that.

Put simply, it's people being overworked. They don't have enough time in what they're given to do the work they need to do; so they stay longer hours, and work more, when they may not get paid for it. And it's a perpetual cycle, always playing catch-up, never getting through what needs to be done. There's always more.

And many companies will look at someone like this and go, "Fantastic! They're going through this work so quickly! Let's give them more work." Without really worrying about the potential dangers and difficulties that could arise from this. Yet this is almost the norm.

We could try and say that it's the people that are the problem, or that it's the companies that are the problem; but I think it's actually a little bigger than that. I think it's our philosophy that's the problem. Our philosophy of work.

I've talked before about how we tend to focus on work as the most important thing. And this tends to prevail, even if we say that family is more important, or friends are more important, or church is more important - sorry, they need to fit around work. Work comes first. There's an old saying that goes, "Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least." Yet this is what we constantly do. And because of it, often, other things will begin to wear down.

The story of the family that felt distant from their father because he was over-committed to his work is an old one. But we don't feel any need to change it, it seems; though we do have more gender equality at least, it could be the mother or the father now. Or even both, quite often. And yet this is seen as okay. As normal. Necessary. How else could it be? Shouldn't we all be doing 9-5, five days a week? (Though some cultures/people would look at that and laugh at how little that is.)

Well, put simply, no. I don't think so. If you don't have a family to go back to and spend time with, then maybe that's a bit different, but really - it seems strange to me for people to spend most of their time at work, making money, so they can then get home exhausted, flop down and do it all again tomorrow. Where has the joy in life gone? People shouldn't be having to choose between rest, work, and family. Work should be constructed so that the people working there are healthy, not drained. People need rest, space, time. But the world of today seems to move too fast to understand that.

I think that work should look a lot more like job-sharing - where you do it for two days a week, someone else does it three days a week, or something like that. Maybe you do mornings, they do afternoons. But, of course, the price of living is built around people working ridiculous hours. That's the problem. Particularly if couples want to raise children - it's typically not financially viable if they're not both working, often full-time.

I don't really have an answer for this one. I'm hoping that a combination of job automation and some sort of universal basic income will help. But it's hard to say. And it's harder to say when that might happen. But hopefully, in our lifetimes. I don't want to bring children up in a world hell-bent on working them to death.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Relationship Tips....from a single guy?

This one may be semi-tongue-in-cheek, but we'll see how we go. Stories may be edited/generalised somewhat to obscure identities. A bunch of these will probably be more for guys than for girls. Hopefully you can still get something out of this, girls! Probably a laugh or two...

1. Poetry....DO!
This is a fairly old one, and may seem somewhat cliché, but it works. A while back, a went to a good friend's birthday party, and I wanted to do something special for them. So I wrote a poem, and had it printed out all nicely and such, and presented it to them on the night. Later on, I asked if I could read it to them - and they rather liked it, if I do say so myself. So I made a little note in the back of my head - that when I was actually pursuing someone, I should try reading poetry to them. Reading it aloud is very important, because it's about how it sounds more than how it looks. Poetry is meant to be read aloud and heard, not looked at! As for whether this will work for girls pursuing guys....depends on the guy. It would work on me, but I'm not your typical guy. Know your audience! Always important.

2. Pester....DON'T!
Hopefully, someone will be able to learn from my mistakes, even if I don't seem to. While part of me likes to call it persistence, or patience, or perseverance....if they're giving clear signs that they're not interested, it's pestering. And it's not okay. I think I may have saved myself a bit of time and heartache (and a few other people, as well) if I was able to learn earlier on that "no" actually meant "no", and not "not right now". And as much as I'll like to cite examples of people pursuing their girl despite them being rather standoffish at first, and eventually winning them over - there's a difference between that and someone quite clearly saying no, and drawing a line. Respect is important, guys. Women like men that respect women. Should be a no-brainer, but sometimes it isn't.
I'll also note here - women, unfortunately, will often be pestered by quite a few different people. You see this even more online. You don't really get much of the reverse (unless you happen to be Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hiddleston). Be refreshingly different.

3. Paying....DO!
This is where we get into the semantics of what you call a date. I've said in the past that I've never been on a date - and I think I'd still say that now, but I'm stretching the definition a little bit thinner than I have before. I define it as two people who are in a romantic relationship, spending intentional time together to further that relationship. Anything less than that is a "catch-up".
There have been a couple of "catch-ups", though, that have gotten fairly close to being a "date". On both occasions, I offered to pay (we were at a café each time), and it was taken well. This may well change from person to person; at times, the girl may offer to pay. I think it's a display of generosity, which most people will appreciate. If not, then respect that; but it's good to offer.

4. Playing....DON'T!
As in, toying with someone. Don't string people along. If you're not interested, don't make them think that you are. If you are interested, don't try and make them think you're not! Mind games don't help anybody. They're mean, and can be quite hurtful.
I have to be quite careful, sometimes. When I'm around a girl that's my age, I can be a lot more...flirty, than I would generally consider myself to be. I'm good at fooling myself into thinking I'm just being friendly; and a moment later, I realise I've gone a bit far. It's particularly awkward when I've been fairly invested in pursuing someone else. There's been a couple of times that I've had to apologise for that. Which isn't great.

Sorry, couldn't think of a P for this one.
With my.......not so great history with relationships, you might have thought I'd put this the opposite way around. But no. Most of the bad stuff has been because I've kept at it after the initial "no", not because of making the initial leap itself. And while it can be gut-wrenching, uncertain, done badly or clumsily, often with terrible timing; I also know how it feels not to make that leap at all. And to wonder what might have happened if I did. And still wondering, sometimes, eight or nine years down the track. Some of those leaps - while being absolute trainwrecks - are memories that I hold quite dearly. Because they are moments when I'm actually being courageous, honest, and open. And I want to be more like that; rather than fearful, or shy, or cautious. And that's still a work in progress.

I can't think of any more neat points to put down. But I'll add a couple of quicker ones.

Don't go in with expectations. They aren't helpful. They tend to blind more than anything else, particularly when you expect people to be amazing. Everyone is broken, including you. Dating someone won't change that.

Don't have a long list of what you do and don't want in a partner, but do have an idea of what you can't wiggle much in. For example, it was only after I fell head over heels for someone that wasn't a Christian that I realised that was something I needed to figure out if I was okay with or not. And it wasn't - I wanted to be in a relationship with someone and with God together, not apart. I also rather like being vegetarian, but I'm not going to make that a requirement. Know what can stretch and what can't. And chances are, God will challenge you a little bit in that. Or love will, if you're a non-Christian reading this.

Understand each other. Can't emphasise how important this is. There are so many break-ups that happen because some undiscovered part of someone is suddenly revealed, that was really there all along if people actually bothered to look. But it's also about loving each other better. Use tools like the Five Love Languages, the Enneagram, all of it.

Forgive each other. You will make mistakes. They will make mistakes. These are indisputable facts that you can't change. What can change is how you react to them when they happen. Be gracious, be forgiving. Doesn't mean that you say that wrong is right - that's not what forgiveness is. Rather, it's choosing not to make a bad thing worse, and creating a burden out of it that you carry around. Because they're not fun.

Make each other laugh. Regularly, and often. :)

Be a little spontaneous. Good surprises are rather romantic. The old "unexpected gift, unexpected time....". Points if you know the movie!

Have little traditions. That are just yours.

Flowers. They're cliché for a reason. I rather love them as well. In case anyone is interested. Purple, preferably.

Secrets aren't helpful. Particularly if we're talking about a longer-term relationship - secrets will eventually come to light. It's much better if you do so yourself in a way that you can talk about it properly, and prepare for it. Rather than it exploding in your face, or something similar. It's also rather freeing.

Remember the little things. People like it when you remember things about them. It makes them feel rather special. Particularly if it's something they've only mentioned in passing, or if it's something that they wouldn't think that you would think of as important. Reverse psychology is fun, right?

That's probably all I've got for now. I'd add hugs in as a must, but I know there are some that aren't as partial as I am. But the number one important thing - listening. With the intent to understand, not with the intent to reply. Get that right, and you just might get somewhere. Let me know, will you? I'll probably still be here.