Dion's random ramblings

Thursday, November 08, 2007

How do you cope with your guilt? I'll be honest... I struggle.

Guilt is a powerful emotion. It is powerful enough to dissipate the energy of even the most energetic of persons. I am never quite sure how to deal with guilt - I guess that some of it relates to the context of the guilt (i.e., whether it is something about which I should rightly feel guilty, or whether it is guilt that is wrongly imposed upon me by another person, situation, or group).

But, let me give you three examples of my struggle with guilt...

Yesterday I was driving home from a meeting in Benoni. Just as I was about to enter the highway I saw a lady selling mielies (corn) on the side of the road. I am not particularly partial to corn - but I don't think that is her problem. I noticed that her clothes were threadbare and that she was quite thin. She had a tiny little baby on her lap. My heart instantly went out to her and her child. Here's a woman trying to eek out an existence selling corn on the side of the road. I had R20 in my pocket (about US$3). The moment I saw her I felt a desire to stop and give her the R20. But, I didn't. How sad is that... Do you know why I didn't do it? Pride - my pride to tell you the truth. I felt that I may embarrass her by stopping and giving her the money and then driving off. In fact if the truth be told I felt that I may embarrass myself by stopping, giving her the money and then driving off. And so I drove past onto the onramp of the freeway. About halfway onto the freeway I wished I had stopped... Then it started. Guilt.

I still feel guilty, guilty enough to make me write about it and ask your advice. You see, R20 is not a lot of money to me. I can do without it. I am fairly certain she can not. I haven't stopped thinking about it since. I lay in bed last night and asked God to forgive me. But, I still feel guilty! What do I do?

The second example has to do with my rather difficult personality. I am forthright, decisive, goal orientated, and able to see things that others cannot. This helps me to lead. However, the weakness of my personality is that it can be so functional that relationships suffer. Today I had a few appointments to meet, correspondence to catch up on, my 3 services to prepare for Sunday, phone calls to make, reports to write, minutes to edit... You get the idea. One of our students - an outstanding student - came to see me at the office. The student needed time more than anything. This student did not need guidance, or help with an assignment, or a decision to be made about vocational choices. This student needed time. I was so pressed by 'appointments' and a ringing phone that I didn't give the time that was needed to this person. The moment the student left my office I knew that I had missed the mark, I had dropped the ball, I had not done what was needed in that moment. And then, it started.

I feel guilty. People are much more important than tasks. I know it, I know it! If I had the moment over I would do it differently. But, what do I do with my guilt?

A third example has to do with a well-meaning person whose generosity overwhelms me. This person started putting money aside in an account some years ago to help me and my family. They have blessed Megan and I again and again at some of the times of our greatest need. There were times in our ministry where we didn't have either money or food, and somehow this person would just know, and phone, and we would be cared for. Over the last two years the money this person has been putting aside has grown to a considerable sum of money - tens of thousands of rands. Today he phoned to ask me where he can deposit this sizable amount. I had to tell him the truth, which is that Megan, Courtney, Liam and I are so blessed that we currently have no pressing unmet needs. We eat well, we have enough clothes, we have a lovely home provided by the Church. Both Megan and I have salaries. We have covered Liam's medical debts. We are blessed - I asked if we could put the money towards helping some of my students with their fees. I could tell right away that my response was not what he wanted to hear. He had sacrificed because he loves God, and he had heard the message I so often preach that he must love those who love God, but I wasn't allowing him to do that...

I know, rationally, that I had make a tough choice - of course I cannot take the money, but I feel guilty nonetheless. What do I do about my guilt?

I'm not sure what one does with guilt.

I pray about mine.

I write about it.

I try to apologize, and make choices that will help me to grow where I can, avoid repeating avoidable mistakes, and grow robust enough to face those situations where a tough choice will have to be made that has no easy outcome.

Guilt is a powerful emotion. I struggle with it.

This useful article by Rich Vincent helped me some time ago. I just spent a few minutes browsing it again last night. There's some good stuff out there.

PS. I like the way Rich refers to himself not as the 'Web Master' of his site, but as the 'Web Servant'. Good one!

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Relationship advice - how to have a 'productive' argument!

This is quite a sensible post. I often say to couples that I preparing for marriage:

1. Don't be afraid of healthy conflict! Think about it, why do people 'fight'? It is usually because they love one another and something is stopping them from loving one another freely! So, they need to find a way to overcome that.

2. People who have no conflict whatsoever are either not honest with themselves, or their partner, or they are lying... We all disagree with our loved one's from time to time. Why? Because they're different from us! That's what attracted us to them in the first place!

So, here's some good advice for having a constructive (not a hurtful and destructive) disagreement. I hope it helps you, I sure pray that I'll remember these points next time Megie and I disagree! Maybe I'll print them out and laminate them to stick them on the fridge... Nope, she may just throw them at me! Ha ha!

Differences of opinion are normal and healthy in adult relationships and learning to compromise is a skill required in many areas of life. You might want to print out this page and pin it to your notice board to remind you both whenever a disagreement arises.

Before trying this exercise it's worth having a look at the Guidelines for exercises.

1. Stick to the issue in hand - don't bring up previous misdemeanors or other things you've been meaning to say.

2. Don't argue over trivia - for example, arguing whether it was Monday or Tuesday that you forgot the milk. The issue is you forgot, not which day it was.

3. Start sentences with "I" - for example, "I felt annoyed when you..." rather than "You annoyed me when..." And "I would like to go out more often," not "We should go out more often."

4. Don't use absolutes - never say "never", "always", "should" or "shouldn't". They're irritating and often inaccurate. For example, "You never wash up" will almost certainly get a response of "What about when...?"

5. Let your opinions stand on their own merits - don't be tempted to bring in other people's opinions.

6. Try to stay sitting down, relax your muscles and don't forget to breathe - it's much easier to stay calm if you're not pacing around the room.

7. Don't start throwing abuse around - calling your partner lazy, fat or paranoid isn't going to convince them to see your point of view.

8. Be aware of your feelings and tell your partner these as well - saying "I'm scared you don't love me anymore" is likely to get a better response than "You don't act like you love me."

9. Try not to block the conversation - don't interrupt, launch into a monologue or expect them to be a mind-reader.

10. Agree to a code word for time out - if one or both of you feels you're getting overheated it's best to take some time away from each other to calm down before going back to the disagreement.

Remember, who wins the argument is irrelevant if your relationship loses something. Always try to confront the issue - not each other.

Let me know if you have any other marriage tips!

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Do you need a better way to manage your time? Here's one way to cut those meetings short!

If, like me, you have 10 things on the go at any one time, then you may feel that there are times when you would love to be able to manage your time more effectively! Well, here's a sure fire way to keep those LONG meetings as SHORT as possible! Simply print a few of these tokens and have your assistant, secretary (or significant others) hand it to people as they arrive!

Seriously though, if you're in search of good productivity and lifestyle management advice, then I would suggest you take a look at one of my favourite websites www.43folders.com. I have been visiting this site for years and found some incredibly helpful information there...

Here are a few of my favourites (they are also in the top 9 at 43folders):

1. First steps to 'getting things done'. This is GREAT for the procrastinators among you!

2. How to improve the quality and delivery of your presentations, so that you're not just USING powerpoint, but rather getting your POINT across with POWER!

3. How to write sensible e-mail messages (that people will actually read and respond to! Not just scan and turf).

4. And, for those who know me (I always have two or three lists going, sometimes I have lists that tell me what lists to consult in what order....). Here's how to build smarter to do lists.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

10 mistakes a new dad (and maybe even a new mom) shouldn't make

Wes, Barry, this one is for us guys! It's amazing how many of these mistakes I still make (even second time around!) Take a quick read through the list (or at least the first line of each paragraph). This is good advice!

Top Ten Things a New Dad Shouldn't Do

1. When taking off your baby boy's diaper, don't hold your mouth open and lean over him, making funny faces. This is serious! It's true that when baby boys feel the cool air upon their little bits of manhood, they let loose powerful streams of pee, which doesn't taste good. You should also consider throwing a wipe or cloth on your baby son's bits the moment the diaper comes off. Or else, up shoots the pee into the air, and for a moment, you and your son might watch with surprised awe at just how high the stream gets; but then it comes down again and lands right on your son's face. Sure, this is incredibly funny, but only for a moment. You now have an inconsolable baby on your hands.

2. Don't work on the novel or screenplay three days after your baby is born. Yes, there is something inside you that tells you that you need to make $1 million right now, or else your growing family is doomed - and that novel or screenplay is just the ticket. This is just your caveman survival instinct kicking in. It will go away after a while. And there is plenty of time to work on your novel or screenplay - like, when you're finally getting sleep and your brain is working again.

3. Don't come home from your first day of work after the birth of your child and say, "Boy, what a day!" Come home from work and refuse to talk about your day until you hear all about the baby's day and your wife's day, even if it?s the most boring thing you could imagine. That's the point! Don't you understand that your wife is going stir crazy? She had to spend all day with a baby that wouldn't let her put it down! And even if your wife has gone back to work, your day pales in comparison, pal. Ask her how her day was. Your day doesn't matter. Don't you understand that your wife had to spend all day away from the baby?

4. When you and your wife go out to dinner, leaving your baby with the sitter for the first time, please don't expect to enjoy yourselves.

5. Don't be intimidated by that older woman in the mall, the one who has long since seen her babies grow into adults. She'll come up to you with a smile on her face as you stroll proudly with your baby. And she'll get you to put your guard down when she says, "What a beautiful baby!" And just as you are about to thank her, she will say, "Why is this beautiful baby in a cold mall without proper clothing? This baby will catch its death! You should be ashamed of yourself!" Listen: there is nothing wrong with how you are dressing your baby. There is, however, something wrong with this woman. She's in an organization called Kooky Old Bats. They spend their afternoons roaming malls, looking for unsuspecting fathers to harass.

6. Don't leave your dog alone with access to a garbage bag full of dirty diapers. It's just not pretty what dogs will do to dirty diapers.

7. Don't listen to your mother or mother-in-law. Both of them are on the same team - a sub-organization of Kooky Old Bats - and that team recently had a meeting and decided that, as capable as you are as a human being, you have no idea what you are doing when it comes to caring for a baby. You're a man, after all. You need serious help. You need someone to take the baby from you as soon as you start holding it. You need someone to tell you what the baby needs to eat, or how to boil rubber nipples, or how to use a microwave. You need someone standing over your shoulder, clucking away as you change your baby boy's diaper and he ends up peeing on his own face. But it's not you; it's them. They have nothing else to do with themselves. Just turn off your ears and be happy you are not married to them. Sooner or later, your wife will force them to leave the house.

8. When your wife wakes you in the middle of the night and asks either A) "Can you see why the baby is crying?" or B) "Do you want to have sex?" ? DO NOT answer, "But I have to work in the morning."

9. You might find yourself at a park with your wife and your newborn. It's a nice day; your wife, nipples bandaged painfully beneath her blouse, has decided to bottle-feed your baby today. A warm breeze is blowing. Then, a sour-looking woman or a righteous-looking man walks up to where you sit on the park bench and says, "You know, you really should be breast-feeding. It's much healthier for the baby." These people are called Breast Nazis. If you are attacked by them, by all means, don't be afraid to say, "Actually, we?re the baby's uncle and aunt. Do you still think she should breast-feed the baby?" Whether or not you agree with the breast-feeding issue, watching their reaction is just plain fun.

10. Don't be under the impression that you must be SuperDad. First of all, no matter what you do, the baby is going to like her mother best. There is no competition. Second of all, SuperDads are worthless when the baby is young, because anything you can do that is "super" is lost on the child; she can hardly hold up her head to see you. And as the kid grows, and there you are pulling the SuperDad act, she will get completely annoyed with you and end up moving far, far away. All you need to do is be around as much as you can. Hold the baby when you want to; feed the baby when you're ordered to; smile at the baby when you're moved to. It's really that simple.

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