Category: Personal Growth

What do you want to bequeath to your children?

I came from a family of complainers. I can still hear my grandmother complaining to my grandfather about all kinds of things. I can hear my aunts and their complaints. After all, we used to hide under the kitchen table, which had a cloth that reached to the floor and listen in on their private conversations. I, in turn, became a complainer. When I listen to my sisters and cousins, I hear the echoes of those long dead and their complaints. It’s a family tradition, of sorts.

I recently visited with a friend who spent a great deal of time putting herself down. After each remark, she would laugh as if it was a joke. But here’s what I know, we mean what we say even if we try to pass it off as a joke. What comes out of our mouths is an indicator of our inner belief.

I know a man who has difficulty walking. When he’s going anywhere, you can hear him say, “I always find the perfect parking spot.” It amazes me how often he does find the perfect spot. He expects good and often that’s exactly what he gets.

When we talk about preparing our kids for the real world we often think in terms of how well they manage their private space (bedroom), how able they are to stay clean and care for their belongings, if they stay on task and get homework done or other chores, and how well they make, save, and spend money.

It’s useful to think about our way of being and what we may be passing along to our children.

Do we manage our stories about ourselves and others? Do we look for the bright side in tough situations? Are we grateful even when we must forego or wait for something we want? Do we complain? Do we problem-solve well? What about our personal boundaries or our own self-management?

We don’t do this inventory so that we can beat ourselves up over our weaknesses. We do it because as we work on our weaknesses and improve our way of being, we pass along one of the most important things we can give our children. We show by example that they are 100% responsible for how their life looks and feels. We show them by example that they can change; they can improve and when they do everything else improves.

As parents, one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to our children is being someone they can learn from and be inspired by. We can bequeath them power over self.

Taking an inventory of our way of being is useful because it will help us improve ourselves. As we make changes, we teach our children that change is possible and necessary. We pass along life skills that make for a more pleasant and successful life.

Ask the important question – What do I want to bequeath to my children?

If you like this post and it would enlighten a friend pass it on using the social share buttons.

Why You Should STOP Comparing

As a parent or grandparent do you ever feel you don’t measure up? I think we all have those feelings. Here are four examples that will help you STOP playing the comparing game, which isn’t fun, and which no one ever wins.

Story One

Don and I have 14 grandchildren and one on the way. We love these kids. But Don and I grandparent differently. He does a lot of snuggling. He is round and soft, and the kids come and climb on his knee and lean against his ample chest. He chats quietly with them. They tell him fantastic tales and share their thoughts. He has a candy jar which he keeps on the dresser in the bedroom. He fills it with sundry candies and makes sure it doesn’t run out. He also has an air gun and has taught the kids how to shoot. They loved that activity.

I don’t cuddle although I do hug. If I sat down, I might cuddle but I’m never sitting. I’m bustling about all the time. The kids come to me when they need anything. They know that whatever they need I will have, batteries, food coloring, pencils and paper, cornstarch, a box of mac and cheese. I rarely disappoint. One day Mary said to me, “You are the best and most prepared grandma I ever had.”

I’m a bit stern but I still get hugs and kisses. Ben reminds me that he has a billion and I can have one any time I want. I can be counted on to take them to their friends and pick them up, to wash a football jersey or send regular letters with gum inside.

When we went to Seattle to see out newest grandchild Tessa jumped up and down and said, “I couldn’t wait for grandpa to get here because I want to snuggle.”  While we were there, I helped the kids pick blackberries and make tarts. We walked to the corner book cupboard, got books, and then I read to them. I held Gus a ton and changed diapers. I helped Tessa and Elliott and their friends make crafts.

I used to worry because Don snuggled, while I did stuff. I worried that I wasn’t as good a grandparent. Then I remembered my grandparents. They were so different, and I loved them all. I never compared what they brought into my life. I just loved them all and accepted what they gave.

Story Two

Don and I don’t do big presents. We decided a few decades ago as a family that we didn’t want to spend lots of money on gifts and so we don’t. When our grandkids have a birthday, they get a few dollars and a stick of gum. I am known as the gum grandma. There is a stick of gum in every card and letter.

My daughter Marie’s children have grandparents that send big gifts. I worried that the grands would feel we were chintzy because of our choices concerning gift giving. I asked her about it, and she responded with vigor. “Oh mom, they LOVE getting your gifts. They love the gum. They love you and dad.”

Story Three

The four grandchildren I live with have a woman who we all consider grandma. She isn’t related by blood, but they adore her, and she adores them. She takes them to the planetarium, the zoo, the fair, and other wonderful places. On their birthdays the birthday child gets to spend the night at her home. It’s the highlight of their year.

I LOVE Cindy for her good heart, her friendship and because she loves my daughter’s family so much. But I have had to settle myself because what we each bring to the grandparent pool is so different. Our grands sleep on our living room floor many weekends. They love it but it isn’t the highlight of their year. It’s part of their daily life. We help our grands get to their friends’ homes, get homework done, supply them with stuff they need, we are there. I worried that it couldn’t compare to the planetarium and the zoo. However, when we are gone for a week or two they miss us and can’t wait for us to get back.

Story Four

This last June when my youngest daughter’s son turned four, I wanted to get him a book. He LOVES being read to and it fits my gift-giving budget. I found a board book about dinosaurs, currently his favorite animal. Even though it was a bit young for him each page made the sound of the dinosaur. I knew he would like it and he did.

His other grandparents bought him three rockets that shot high into the sky. His grandpa is a pilot. Man, how do you compare a board book to three rockets? Well, you don’t, and Elliott didn’t. He loved the book. He loved the rockets.

What’s the Point!

We need to stop comparing ourselves to others whether parenting or grandparenting. We need to stop measuring our efforts against someone else’s. Children are amazing. They take what is offered and they hold it dear. They love their parents just as they are. They love their grandparents just as they are.
Each adult in a child’s life brings something different. It’s a blessed child that has many loving adults in their life. Kids embrace them all and accept what they give.

Do your best. Bring what you can. Keep adding to your skills and it will be enough.

Enjoy the stories? Please share them with someone who needs to hear. : ) 

Do You Undermine Your Growth and Success

Recently, I taught a class on consistency. I have taught this topic many times and have written about it often. I gave the class some tips on how to work toward being more consistent. However, this year I added a new tip that I have learned the hard way over the last couple of years. It applies to more than just remaining consistent. It applies to every change we want to make or promise we want to keep.

It’s a challenge to commit to something new or to make a change. But when we resent and blame others it saps the energy needed for follow-through. When we’re mired in resentment and blame it undermines our personal growth and success.

A Real-Life Example

I get up early and my husband sleeps in. He’s retired and doesn’t need to get up early, so he doesn’t.

I, on the other hand, have decided through experimentation that when I get up earlier my life feels better. I accomplish more, which matters to me. So, I made a commitment to get up at 5am. I sometimes felt resentful that Don slept in. I felt resentful that he could stay up later.

Often when I woke up, I wanted to sleep longer, and I had to force myself out of bed. I would look at my husband and feel resentment that I had to toe the line, do this hard thing and he didn’t. How unfair. When I let myself tell that story it became very hard to get out of bed and stay out.

If I did go back to bed, when I got up, I would feel terrible because I hadn’t kept my promise to myself. So, I would blame Don. After all, if he wasn’t in bed I would have gotten up. It was his fault. “Why can’t he get up early too and then it would be easier for me.”

This type of thing happens at work, with our kids, in relationships, all the time. It can derail our desire to eat well, keep up with our home management chores, connect with our children, lose weight, exercise, and the list goes on. When we let blame and resentment color our personal commitments, whatever they are, we will have a harder time keeping them.

Here’s the deal. It’s my commitment to get up early because of the things I want in my life. Don never made this commitment. No one makes me go to bed early. No one makes me get up. I can change my promise to myself at any time. It’s all up to me. That’s the true story!

There are many ways to maintain control over resentment and blame. Here are three.

Three Tips To Manage Blame and Resentment

• Stop and examine your story. What are you telling yourself? Is it true? If not, what is true. In this case, Don hasn’t made the commitment, I have. Whether I do it or not isn’t about Don, it’s about me.
• Release blame and resentment. These two emotions sap the energy required to stay the course. If you feel them know that there is something in your story that needs to be examined. Do an honest evaluation. Then let them go.
• Revaluate your commitment. Does it need to be adjusted so it feels manageable? In this case, mine did need an adjustment. I opened my window of ‘get up time’ from 5 am to between 5 am and 6 am. It felt less restrictive. I also gave myself a day off. On Sunday I let myself sleep in until 8 if I want to. I often don’t but I know that I can.
• Don’t quit. Whether you keep your promise to yourself, your personal commitment is all about you. So, when you feel like quitting, don’t. Keep going. If you fall off the wagon get back on as soon as you can. Manage your story. This is about you and what you want in your life.

Your shares are appreciated. Thank you!

What We Need Will Show Up

My family took a drive to the mountains to see the fall colors. It was a perfect day. We stopped for a picnic in a small-town park. We parked on the South end where there was a pavilion of tables. On the east side of the park, we could see a playground. The north side of the park housed an event building. On the west was a closed concession stand. But there was no restroom.

We needed a restroom, so I suggested that Don get in the car and find a gas station for us to use. Here’s what we didn’t know. If you walked north, across the park, next to the concession building was a stone restroom. It was obscured by the concession stand and a large tree.

Life’s like this. Parenting is like this. We can find ourselves in great need of something that doesn’t seem available to us. We might lack skills, resources, or information, which makes it challenging to grow, change, be better, have peace, etc. Often, like the bathroom, we may know what’s missing but don’t know where to find it.

In my experience, if we’re looking for answers to problems in life or our family, we can find them. It may take time. We may not be ready yet. We may have to search. Let me give you an example.

Given time, answers come

I suffered from severe postpartum depression. This was at a time when this malady didn’t have a well-known name. My physician couldn’t understand what I was explaining to him. The resources I needed didn’t seem to exist. My lack of knowledge about what was happening to me and what could be done about it caused pain to me and my family.

Between my sixth and seventh pregnancy, I happened upon a two-paragraph article in our small-town paper that used the term ‘postpartum depression’ and briefly described the symptoms. It was as if a light had suddenly gone on in a dark room. I knew that I wasn’t out of my mind or a b—-.

My physician still had very little information and the internet didn’t exist, but just knowing how I felt had a name was life-changing. It altered how I managed my last pregnancy. As time went on, I learned more and more. What I learned has been helpful to all four of my daughters who also suffer postpartum depression. I’ve been able to help other mothers. The information has been valuable even though it came late in the game.

This can seem unfair and daunting. But if we don’t give up the resources we need will show up. And when they show up, we’re ready for them. We learn new ways of being, new skills. Then things get better. We get better and do better. We become a resource for others.

Looking Forward is When Growth Comes

It’s futile to look back on the place or time where we lacked information or resources. It’s helpful to focus on the fact that we eventually found what we needed and that we implemented it.

One of the most important things we can do is be kind to ourselves as we learn and grow. The second is to keep growing. If something’s not working in your life or family, then search for what you need. Read. Get a mentor. Take a class. Attend a workshop and what you need will show up! When it does, it can change everything.

Your shares are appreciated. Thank you!

How To Know What is Most Needful

Does anyone care about your struggle?

I believe in a power outside of myself which can and does help me manage some very difficult days. Regardless of your specific spiritual practices, if you believe that you’re guided and aided, then this article will be useful to you. I’ll be using the term Christ and Lord, but you can substitute whatever works for you.

In every moment, of every day, Christ knows what is most needful. He waits for any opening into our hearts and thoughts so that we too can know what is most needful. Often, we shut Him out by being too busy, overwhelmed, and overloaded with stuff to manage and do. But Christ never leaves us. He is beside us, waiting patiently for us to hear Him.

Christ loves us infinitely. He wants to guide us as we move through our days. He wants to help us with the laundry, our frustration with our child, our disappointment with a spouse, our endless to-do list, what to make for dinner, who to hug and when, being on the right road and getting to our destination safely, and a hundred other things.

Does this surprise you. Many believe that Christ is aloof, unaware, uncaring or even angry at the mess we often find ourselves in. Many believe that unless we have it all together God cannot help us. I know this is untrue!

Will we be helped if we’re in a mess?

We don’t have to wait to invite God into our home until we can kneel in prayer, until we have time to study the scriptures, until our home is clean and orderly, or our hearts are unburdened. You may be struggling to pray. You may talk to God all day but never make it to your knees. You may not be getting to your scriptures/core book daily. Possibly you aren’t managing your home well. Maybe your heart is a mess. You might even be angry at God.

Waiting to invite the Lord into your life until you get your mess cleaned up is like waiting to go to the ER when you’ve stopped the bleeding. Christ doesn’t love some future version of you. He loves you in your mess. Christ is here to help you with your mess. I know this is true! Seven decades of working on my mess have proven it to be true!

How to know what is most needful!

If you’re in a mess and overwhelmed, if you’re struggling to pray and study the scriptures/your core book, if you’re struggling with your relationship with Christ/Deity, there are things you can do to invite Him into your life anyway.

First – Be Aware – Know that even in your mess you’re loved. Hold on to the belief that if you’re doing your best, as poor as that may be, Christ wants to help you manage your day. When you’re aware of his love and presence you’ll hear Christ speaking to you.

  • Tighten the lid
  • Don’t delete that yet
  • You need gas
  • Jack needs a hug
  • Don’t say that
  • The roast is burning
  • Your mom is sad

The more that you hold Christ’s love and concern for you in your mind the more often you’ll hear the still small voice.

Satan/The Negative will spend most of the day pointing out your flaws so that you’ll feel less and less worthy. This can take you to the place where you begin to doubt your value to Christ, that He is with you, and you begin to block Him out. Resist! Stay aware of Christ’s infinite love and deep concern for everything in your day.

Second – Respond immediately – When you have a small thought and it’s good, do it. Tighten that lid. Don’t delete your file. Stop and buy gas. Hug that child. Don’t make that remark. Check the roast. Tell your mom you love her. When you respond immediately, you’re inviting the Lord to be with you. You welcome him into your life.

Third – Simplify – When we simplify our lives, we manage them better. We can spend more time mentally, emotionally, and physically where it matters and less in activities, that in the long run, are not going to matter. We open time to think. When we simplify our lives, we tune into Christ.

Anyone can clean a closet but how do you bring the Lord into it? When we remain aware that Christ loves us and cares, when we respond immediately, then we can know when to clean the closet, which closet to clean and when to just let it go.

I want you to visualize something. Close your eyes. Now imagine you have threads of energy attached to your shoulders and these threads connect to every item you have in your possession. Every item—every dish, cup, and pan; pictures in the photo album, DVDs, the hammer; every nail, sock, book, magazine, sweater, car, guitar pick, toy, book, and even your computer files. It’s one energy thread per item. Now, what if you also attached a thread to every item on your calendar – every shopping trip, doctor’s appointment, soccer practice, piano lesson, event or activity, church, service, and each thing on our never-ending to-do list. This is a heavy load to drag around. No wonder you go to bed weary and wake up tired! It’s challenging to find space in life for the Lord when you’re overwhelmed and weary.

As we simplify and get rid of excess stuff, and trim down our calendars, we create mental, physical, and emotional space in our lives for the Lord. That’s because there’s less that must be managed, cleaned, picked up and taken care of.

As we make space for the Lord, we’ll be wiser, we’ll do what is most needful more often, and we’ll feel more successful in our efforts.

Inviting the Lord into our lives each day is the most needful thing.

Your shares are appreciated by me and others who need to hear this. Thank you!

Lifting The Burden of Work and Family

Judgment is NOT Helpful!

I have an older client whose wife has become unable to do many of the household tasks that she used to do. I was at his home one day, a few days after their family had gathered to celebrate the end of summer. There were about 27, many of them children. They had water fights and silly string fights. This made for a lot of towel use. As he came up the stairs, he let out a tired breath and said, “How do women do it. The laundry alone is overwhelming.” I asked him what their laundry room had looked like when they were raising their family. He replied that there was always a heap of dirty clothes on the floor and another of clean laundry. I then asked him, “What did you think about that back then?” He didn’t hesitate to answer but blurted out, “Why can’t she get this cleaned up!”
He looked a bit sheepish and told me that he realized now, years later, that he should have been kinder in his appraisal of the job his wife was doing. He could see that his judgment was harsh, and his help was too little.

Here’s the thing about my friend who was washing the family towels. He went to work every day. He had to juggle the needs of the boss, his teammates and his own. He had deadlines to meet. He dealt with situations and expectations over which he had no control. Then there was the commute. He may have felt that his days were far more challenging than his wife’s.

Life is a challenge. Being part of a family is a challenge. But there are a few things we can do to lift our own burden, as well as the burdens of those we live with.

Tips to Lifting Burdens

• Decide to think the best of others. Give people the benefit of the doubt. In most cases, we’re all doing the best we can. When we decide to think the best
of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively. We will be more willing to lend a helping hand.
• Regardless of how or what another person is doing view them as a person. Treat them as you would want to be treated if you were in their place.
• Suspend judgment. Ask questions. Actively listen. Get clarity before you judge.
• Choose kindness over frustration. We’re all learning. When we choose kindness, we increase our ability to problem-solve.

Running a family can be daunting. Supporting a family can be daunting. There are so many moving parts to family life. If we learn to reserve judgment and respond with kindness, we will have far better outcomes and our family relationships will feel stronger and safer.

We love it when you share the message!

What does an algae-filled pool have to do with successful parenting?

This summer my grandchildren spent hours with their friends in the pool in our back yard. Sadly, the weather cooled and so the pool was drained for the winter. Due to the placement of the drains three inches of water remained in the pool. Time passed.

One morning as I went into my office, I investigated the pool. There were three inches of green, algae-filled water. I thought, “Man, this is going to be a project to clean.”

I returned to the office and completed my morning routine. Then I sat down at my computer to begin writing. Into my mind came a clear thought – “You need to clean the pool.” WHAT! I had a full day of writing. But it was a clear, good thought so I got up and left the office. As I stood on the patio, I wondered how I was going to remove gallons of water from the pool bottom.

I decided to sweep a 5-gallon bucket through the water, lift it and pour it over the side. This worked. However, that was a lot of stooping, sweeping, rising and tossing. I persevered. After an hour and a half, I had to stop for an appointment. I thought, “I’m done for the day.”

When I finished my appointment, I headed for the office but again had the thought that I needed to clean the pool. I rolled up my pants, got my crocks and resumed the work. Eventually, my daughter who was on a break came out and said, “Mom, you don’t have to do this. It’s not your job.” I assured her that I knew I was supposed to clean the pool. She suggested that I use the shop vac. What a great idea!

The shop vac sucked up the water well, but it was far too heavy for me to hoist and dump over the side. Even only a quarter full it was too heavy. I returned to bailing with the 5-gallon bucket.

I could see that I was making progress, but it was labor-intensive and taking a long time. If any fathers are reading, please don’t stop because this scenario is so stupid. I know it! : )

Eventually, I decided that I could use the shop vac, suck up the water, and then bail water from the vac and throw it over the side. Each load of water in the shop vac was three buckets to dump. I know it doesn’t seem like much of an improvement, but it was. It felt easier even if it wasn’t faster.

When my daughter had another break, she came out to help. By then I was almost done. Jodie sucked up water while I swept the algae and sand to the center of the pool. Then she and I together would hoist the vac and dump it. We did about 5 dumps. She returned to her work and I did the final sweep and vacuumed up the residue that was left.

It was done and it looked fabulous. When I began the job, it was intimidating. After all, I’m 69, it was a lot of work and took a lot of time. I didn’t know if I could do it. But I was determined. I did what I could with what I had and as I went along my resources and support improved and I was able to finish the job.

I know that a couple of men could have done it in half the time. If I had had better tools the whole job would have been faster and easier. But I only had what I had. I could do it or not.

The Point of the Story

It’s a perfect example of parenting, my parenting. When I began, I had a pool of green scummy water to deal with that came from my growing up. I had a wonderful family, but like all families there was stuff. And my stuff had lain dormant for a long time. It was as nasty as that pool water.

Parenting for me was laborious because I lacked skills, had few resources and very little support. Don and I married and moved far away from family and friends. As the years passed, I tried different things. I learned new skills, found resources. Things got better.

Sometimes, I would look at how we were coming along, and it felt like looking at that pool job. It was hard. It was long. Frankly, I didn’t know if I could hold out to the end. But Don and I did. We actively parented for 39 years.

How Did It Turn Out?

As some of you know we had kids struggle with drugs, alcohol, dropping out of school and identity issues. It was tough. Our kids are all over thirty now and many are in their late forties. They’re smart, loyal, loving, kind, generous people. They can be trusted to do what is right.

I read a wonderful book, That We May Be One, by Tom Christopherson. His family had their share of trials, but his parents determined their success by how connected and bonded the family was. I have chosen to do the same.

My children talk to each other often. They gather at our family reunion regularly. This week one of my children found themselves in an unexpected financial bind. The word went out to the family and in less than 24 hours it was resolved with all of us pulling together.

It doesn’t matter what the water in the bottom of your pool looks like. It doesn’t matter how inefficient your tools and resources. If you will do what you know is right consistently, better tools and resources will come. You’ll get better. If you’re determined to parent as well as you can, to connect your family, to increase your skills and access the resources you need, then you’ll be successful. When you stay the course, no matter what you lack, what you need will show up. Simple things, done consistently over time, make all the difference.

If you relate to this article please share it with others. They will thank you for it. 🙂

 

It’s Not Education or a Degree That Thrills Me

Sometimes Bad Things Happen to Good People

Recently, my 45-year-old son graduated from college with a bachelor’s in philosophy. It wasn’t easy because he has a past that could have made it impossible.

When Seth was a small boy, he had some experiences which hurt his heart and soul. Sometimes, no matter how carefully we try to guard our children bad things can happen. This set him on a troubled road. He used drugs, dropped out of high school, went to jail, and was sentenced to the D.O.C. (Department of Corrections) and a work-release program. He stole some cigarettes from a closed gas station and received a felony that would make life hard.

The future looked poor. However, he was a good person, as most of us are. When his son was born, he decided to make a change. It wasn’t easy because of the past. People weren’t sure they could trust him and so they didn’t want to risk giving him a chance. He just kept looking and eventually, he found a man and a company that employed him. He worked in an underground mine running a huge haul truck and eventually became an underground miner.

However, after just a couple of years, his body wouldn’t take the shaking and jolting of the machine any longer and he was back on the hunt. He was hired at a scrap mental company sorting metal.

Setting the Goal and Sticking With It

Seth had a goal to make something of his life so he could be an example for his son and he became one of the BEST scrap mental sorters they had. Eventually, he was promoted and found himself running the front office involving the 20-ton scale and the selling and buying of scrap metals. Then during the market collapse of 2007, Seth was laid off.

He eventually found a job as a machinist and was promoted after a couple of years to the position of Quality Management Systems Specialist creating a Quality Management System training program and taught it to the employees at his plant and others in the state. This was the job that changed the direction of his life. He began to believe that he was smart enough and capable of returning to school.

While Seth was working at the mine, he developed a love for rocks and minerals. He studied them and began collecting them. He also learned to pan gold and joined an online club of like-minded people. Eventually, this love of rocks and minerals got him thinking about college. He determined to become a geologist. But he was pushing 40 and he had a felony on his record. He bravely decided to go for it.

At the University of MT, Seth did what he had done at the scrap metal job and as a machinist. He moved up. He impressed his professors and counselors and they asked him to mentor ‘at risk’ college students. His efforts were so effective that he was often able to keep all his mentees in college. He taught some classes. He was making a difference as he pursued his own goals.

All these opportunities moved him from seeking a degree as a geologist to getting a degree in philosophy. What a major jump!

We didn’t put Seth through school. He worked his way through! It wasn’t easy. I can remember times when he called me in tears seeking encouragement. He thought about quitting. After all, he was going to be 45 by the time he was done. It seemed indomitable at times!

This spring Seth accomplished his goal and graduated with a degree in Philosophy.

Anyone Can Build a Meaningful Life!

There is a purpose in my sharing Seth’s journey with you other than a mother’s bragging rights. It’s not the education or the degree that thrills me. It’s that he was kind to himself, trusted himself, set a goal and then accomplished it.

The reason that I find that so magnificently thrilling is that when we can set a goal and stick with it, no matter how hard, then we can always take care of ourselves and others. We can always make, not just a living, but a life. Way to go Seth!!

P.S. Currently Seth is pursuing setting up a program to coach troubled youth. He understands that you can’t just take kids out of bad situations. You must help them be kind to themselves, trust themselves, set a goal and then accomplish it. You must change how they think.

If you know someone who needs to be reminded that they can make a life,
please share this article. : )

The Luckiest Person On The Planet

During the years that my family lived in ID. my dad was an over the road salesman. He bought a Cadillac and I hated that car. Every time we drove to my grandparents’ home in Afton, WY., with all the kids packed in the back seat, I would ruminate on my dad’s selfishness in buying such a stupid car for such a large family. Why didn’t we have a station wagon?

And here was another thing. He ate cold hot dogs in his hotel room. I loved cold hot dogs. In our money-strapped home, a hot dog was a fabulous treat. I knew he ate them because on occasion he had leftovers and brought them home. I thought he was the luckiest person on the planet.

After my dad passed away, while remembering these old memories, I had a moment of clarity. It came because I was older and wiser.

My dad was an over the road salesman because he only had a high school degree. Fortunately, he was a gifted salesman. He could sell you your shoes even if they were worn out. He needed to be good at it because it was commission work and he had a family of eleven to feed, clothe, and house.

To do well and keep his commissions high he drove an expensive car and wore very nice suits, both items we could ill afford. But they made my dad look successful and helped him be successful. He probably wished we had a station wagon too. It would have cut down on the back seat arguing and chaos.

And the hot dogs. He ate cold hot dogs with buttered bread and milk in his room to save the money that eating out would have cost. They weren’t a treat for him but a major sacrifice. He did this for years!

When I was a young mother my husband sold dental supplies. He would leave early Monday morning and return home Friday evening. He traveled the western half of the state of Montana. When he came home on Friday, he would ensconce himself on the couch with all the kids and watch television. On Saturday he would play ball, do errands with the kids, and hang out. How irritated I felt that he would leave me all week to manage everything while he slept in hotels, ate out, and had lots of quiet. I felt a better use of his time at home would have been to take me on a date or help me with the chores. After all, I had been home alone with six kids all week! I thought he was the luckiest person on the planet.

Years later, in a weak moment, for he is a man of few words, he confessed how desperately lonely he was on those long drives. How he longed to be with his family. How dreamed about home-cooked dinners filled with the chatter and arguing of children and spilled milk. He confessed that he hated being in sales. He told me of the close calls he had on snow-covered roads and his dread that someday he might not make it home. He felt I was the luckiest person on the planet surrounded by our children, in the warmth of a safe home, on a blustery winter night.

We each know our own story. We know what’s happening in our lives. We’re aware of our loneliness, our overwhelm, our shortcomings. But it’s harder to see the reality of another person’s life. We may look at their situation compared to our own and envy them. We may feel what we bear is unfair compared to what they bear. We may be resentful and judgmental. But our families will run better if we extend compassion, if we suspend judgment. This isn’t easy but it is doable.

In 1 Corinthians, in the Christian Bible, the Apostle Paul compared our imperfect knowledge of others as viewing them through a polished metal mirror of the period he lived in. He termed it ‘seeing through a glass darkly.’ I’ve always loved that image. When I’m in a place of resentment and blame, I remind myself that I’m probably seeing through a glass darkly. Then I take a second look at the story I’m telling myself to see if I can clear the lens and get a more truthful picture.

Five Tips to Clear Your Lens

1. Suspend judgment. You can only see the outward behavior. You don’t know the heart or motives of another person. When we judge we’re using our experience? They are behaving from theirs. Ask questions. Actively listen. Get clarity before you judge.
2. Take responsibility and stop blaming. You have control over what you think, which gives you control over how you feel. When we choose to tell ourselves stories that blame others, we decide to become victims. Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening. Check your story. Be honest with yourself.
3. Decide to think the best of others. Give people the benefit of the doubt. In most cases, we’re all doing the best we can. When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively.
4. View them as a person. Regardless of what another person is doing view them as a person. Treat them as you would want to be treated if you were in error.
5. Forgive. Even if the other person is in the wrong, even if they do have a better deal than you, when you hold on to resentment and blame it only hurts you. When you extend forgiveness to others and yourself you increase your ability to be happy.

Families are filled with opportunities to judge harshly, blame, and feel resentment. As we practice clearing the lens that we see our family members and our circumstances through we will have more personal peace and family harmony.

The luckiest person on the planet is the one who sees through a clear lens.

If you relate to this article please share it with others. I’ll thank you for it. 🙂