A "Black Swan Event" is when the unexpected occurs, causing a huge mindshift and change in how the world works. People never imagined that Black Swans existed, until the discovery of the first Black Swan... (as per book "The Black Swan", by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2007, that sold over 3 million copies)

Is a perception change the next Black Swan Event? Consider that by changing perception we might change the world. Look at everyday things from different angles. Find beauty in the unexpected...
Change our thinking, change our actions, change our world!

See that all people are part of God's puzzle and have something to give. Black swans do exist. The ugly duckling was actually a swan who needed to discover himself and where he fitted and be who he was meant to be. To the last, the lost and the least, you are beautiful as you are.
May all who visit this page feel God's touch and experience His blessing...

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

True love versus tolerance

Is she tame, someone asked recently when told we have a pet rat.

I looked at the woman for a brief moment as a few thoughts flickered through my mind. Then I nodded yes, but thought, how could I explain that the rat behaved as if she loved me when held but all she longed for was freedom. Our rat, Pepper, sat contentedly in my hands and ran up and down my arms, but if I put her down on the floor I knew she would run. The rat had escaped before. When cornered afterwards, she tried desperately to flee my clutches but soon settled down again into my arms. Sometimes I'd see her biting the bars of her cage still longing for freedom. Yes she was tame, but she would prefer to be free and away from me. She could never love me as the question implied.

On the other hand, I have seen many stories of stray dogs who have quickly turned scared and feral when chased by human after human they have approached to seek sanctuary. When trapped, such dogs try all they can to flee. Yet a few safe touches and love for people soon returns. Unlike the rat, most dogs never yearn for freedom and try their best to remain with their families. They hold true love for their human masters.

Such is the nature of the beast. One appears tame under certain conditions of captivity, the other is truly tame. Are you able to discern true love or merely tolerance?

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Shame and Guilt

I'm in the process of updating my book, Foundation Stone of Hope: Everyone Has Purpose. I am removing some of the "I believe" statements because these can stand alone and the book reads in an easier manner. Hopefully I'll be done in a few days and I'll publish a new version. In the meantime, here's a small extract of a slightly changed section - I hope it works better and that you agree with the changes:

Shame and Guilt

If you feel shame, it is a feeling you shouldn’t have to continue feeling, especially if you feel shame due to what someone else has done to you. Often, shame is the result of a secret that we hide and don’t want others to find out. The same applies to guilt, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you weren’t to blame for a problem. However, if your conscience reminds you of guilt, then you must right any wrong you may have done to another. This may be equated to the Christian terminology of being convicted of your sin, when the Holy Spirit brings a problem that needs attention to consciousness and this is an opportunity to make amends and then turn away from what you might have done, and not to repeat past mistakes, which is called repentance.
Shame is a feeling of being unworthy, of feeling condemned. You should never feel condemned and unworthy. In Christian terminology, this is when Satan has hold of you as only he will make you feel condemned as less worthy than you are. God wants you to step into His wonderful purpose for you, and He doesn’t want you to feel there is something wrong with you if you are following the right path.
There is a difference between feeling shame and feeling humility. Shame is a sense that there is something wrong with one, whilst humility is being humble and not having an over-inflated sense of self-worth. If you feel shame, work through this emotion, and don’t allow yourself to believe you are any less worthy than anyone else, for any reason.
Shame and guilt are often used in manipulation. Someone may try to get you to feel ashamed that you haven’t measured up to his or her standards or guilty that you haven’t accomplished as much as he has. Perhaps you could accomplish more. Resolve to try harder the next time. Know that you can turn situations around. If you feel shame because you have been sexually or physically abused or emotionally bullied, this is trauma that needs to be worked through and healed. We may carry shame for many years and may not even realise the impact events had on us as they are too deep within our consciousness. Shame could arise because, for example, people may discover family secrets. Believe in yourself as a person of worth, in spite of any past or in spite of your imperfections. You also don’t need to tell anyone about any of your past, if you don’t want to, unless this has a material bearing on your present. For example, if you have been abused, no-one needs to know because that is a personal detail of your life and is something that happened to you and is now over, but people might need to be informed if you were sentenced for a crime.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Why is it Difficult to Eradicate Bullying?

I read this article yesterday by Valerie Cade, of Bully Free at Work: 10 Reasons Why the HR Process Might not Work for You It's a great article, all ten points.

Bullying follows much the same pattern as domestic violence, including child abuse:

  • One cannot change what isn't acknowledged
Children will tell of their abuse, but often adults won't believe them or won't listen closely. A child will only try to tell someone a few times and then lose hope and may keep quiet thereafter for years. It is extremely important to listen to children who step forward and tell that something is amiss. The same may happen to adults who experience bullying. People may laugh their story off or tell them that they are imagining things.

  • Lack of a defined process to follow
Abuse and bullying happens in many places, but there isn't an allocated go-to person in organisations. Some children may tell their parents, who are the best people to fight for them, but others might pick random adults to tell. The same happens to adults who are bullied in their workplaces, they may go to HR, but often people they approach don't have a defined process to follow next.

  • Little authority over the people who may be bullies
As the article mentions,  80% of bullying occurs with a direct manager. If a boss is the abuser or bullier, e.g. the principal of a school, what can be done to stop the person? HR is often the place to report bullying, but HR may have little authority over key people in an organisation. At least with abuse, this can and should be reported to the police.

  • The reputation of an organisation where a bully works is often protected against all accusations
Unfortunately in many cases, the people who know of abuse or bullying will protect the organisation and its reputation, instead of the target, because people tend to blame the entire organisation if something bad happens there, instead of the individuals concerned. A school Principal who hears of abuse will protect teachers at his school. HR will protect the organisation they work for against expensive litigation.

  • The bully is often believed instead of the victim
Abusers often abuse for years and are never suspected. Bullies may bully for years without getting caught. These people are often charismatic and well-liked individuals. A bully often comes across as charming and capable in meetings to discuss problems, and the target is often an emotional wreck from the bullying and is seen as a liability. Employers seem to feel that if they get rid of the target then the problem will go away, but the bully will soon choose a new target.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A High Level Comparison of Two Major Religions to Show that Different Religions Have Different Gods

I recently blogged about God and gods, in a blog post called Is God as Defined by Different Religions, One and the Same God?

The blog post surmises that the gods spoken of by different religions are quite different and cannot be the same and, to further illustrate this point, I thought I'd give a synopsis of two major religions, Christianity and Islam. The respective Holy Books of these religions speak very differently about each god. This isn't a criticism of any religion all, it is a brief attempt at putting a few facts forward about each religion, and it is up to each person to decide which god is the one he or she will choose to follow.

  • The Holy Book of Christianity is the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, written by about 40 different people, over a period of about 1,500 years, first starting many hundreds of years BC and then ending sometime after Jesus Christ's death, for example, by Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Isaiah, Matthew, John, Paul, and others. Often the books of the Bible are named after their authors, who were often prophets of God in the Old Testament, or disciples of Jesus in the New Testament. The Holy Book of Islam is the Quran, which originated when Prophet Muhammad was given divine revelations between December 609-632 AD and these revelations were written down by numerous scribes and then compiled into one book shortly after Muhammad's death.
  • The Bible and the Quran are very different books. The Bible is taken as the infallible Word of God by Christians and they say that God's Word cannot be wrong. Muslims say that the Bible contains many inaccuracies and that only the Quran is the infallible word of their God, Allah. The Quran does hold some of the same stories as the Bible, but many of the facts given are different, for example, the Bible says that Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, but the Quran says that Ishmael was the son who was going to be sacrificed.
  • The Bible says that Jesus is the Son of God, and that Jesus died on the cross. By this act Jesus became Saviour, a ransom for our sins, and Jesus is now the way and the truth and the life to the Father in Heaven, in other words, according to the Bible, a belief in Jesus according to the gospels points the way to truth and to God. From what I've read, however, the Quran says that Jesus, called Isa in the Quran, is a prophet of God, and that someone else died in Jesus' place on the cross, it only appeared that Jesus was the one who died and that only belief in Allah as per the beliefs given in the Quran is the way.
  • The Bible says that God (Jehovah / Yahweh / Our Father in Heaven) loves everyone, including people who aren't Christians, and Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbour as you love yourself, and a neighbour could be anyone, even someone of another religion, as shown in the story Jesus gave of the good Samaritan, and a Samaritan would have believed differently to Jesus' followers. Again, from what I have read, the Quran says that Allah loves his believers and hates unbelievers, which are very different commandments to what Jesus gave.

In conclusion, the Holy Books of these different religions are totally different and the underlying beliefs and commandments are totally different and therefore the gods must be different. The followers of each religion will of course believe they are right about the gods they respectively follow, which is okay, and ultimately, it is about respecting the beliefs of other people, but one doesn't need to agree with them.
I'd love to hear comments to see what people think. Do you agree, or not?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

How to Overcome Hatred Caused by Stereotyping

Negative stereotypes that divide people along group lines causes much misplaced hatred and, if we can overcome this type of group think, then perhaps we may obliterate most forms of discrimination, racism, and genocide.

One of the first steps in this process is the formation of "us and them" camps. People may be divided into groups due to many reasons. A major group will naturally be the citizens of individual countries, e.g. Americans, Australians, South Africans. Within countries and also across countries, people may see themselves falling into further groups, which may be due to ethnic lines and what people look like, cultural reasons, religious reasons, and more.

There is nothing wrong in having groups, and people are attracted to groups for various reasons, mainly to belong and feel part of the community. Often though, people who belong to certain groups are stereotyped, often on the basis of the behaviour of a few individuals of the group. If you begin to notice a stereotype forming, try instead to see only the individuals who are to blame for bad behaviour, and blame those people only. The stereotype isn't to blame for the actions of a few individuals, just as you personally aren't to blame if someone who looks like you or is part of your group does something wrong.

There is further danger when people of one group begin to feel they are superior to other groups based on these stereotypes, and especially when a power imbalance is in place. The group talk may state that people of a certain group, even all other people in general, are subhuman and worthless. This is a process called dehumanising. Yet, we all bleed the same, we all have feelings, we are all citizens of the world. Be aware when you begin to see a group valuing or devaluing one type of person over another type of person purely because of a group or a stereotype. It is normally illegal to do this according to the laws of most countries, because it may lead to hate speech. People are of equal value, irrespective of groups, especially as some groups can so easily be changed, e.g. when people move countries and adopt new citizenship.

Links to related articles:
International Organisation, Genocide Watch, has devised 10 steps on the road to genocide.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Is God as Defined by Different Religions, One and the Same God?

I once attended a citizenship ceremony where many people attested their new citizenship before God, and I realised there that each person might be referring to different god(s).

As an example, many religions say that God whom they follow created the world, but there are at least two conclusions that could be drawn from this:

1.) One God created the world, therefore all gods spoken of by the different religions must be one and the same, just worshipped via different doctrine, or
2.) One God created the world, but each religion worships a different god and each claims that their god was the one who did so

The Bible tells us that there are different gods: "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15 KJV)

Only the Christian and the Jewish religions claim that the Old Testament of the Bible is God's Word; the Christian religion has added the New Testament to the Bible, which speaks of Christ's coming. No other religion, none whatsoever, says that the Bible is God's infallible, enduring Word. There are other religions that speak about events of the Bible and say their religion is based on the Bible, but none of these include the Bible as complete truth as part of their doctrine.

To a Christian and a Jewish person, only God as spoken of in the Bible is God (bearing in mind the New Testament inclusion). If other religions speak about the Bible, but don't actually accept the Bible as God's true Word, can the gods be the same God?

We should respect other people's beliefs, but honour our own, so essentially, if you do believe in God, you need to believe that your God is the true God, but at the same time, allow others to believe in their god(s) too. God will be the judge in the afterlife, so we only need to be true to our beliefs.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Dropping Emotional Baggage

Many people carry emotional wounds from past experiences. This may be due to a once-off event, or ongoing trauma. I also have experiences that I used to carry around with me and wherever I went, these happenings were somewhere in the background of my mind, an integral part of me. The experiences affected who I now am - etched into history, never to be forgotten - but the hold they had over me has lost its power. Only recently did I say to myself, yes, those events happened to me, but they are past and they don't define me.

Think of it this way perhaps: As a child you attended school and learnt much and now, as an adult, you look back on your school years and remember past teachers and friends, but you know it's all past. Assuming you had a good school life, you probably don't pay much mind to how each teacher affected your ongoing development and you are able to separate your childhood from where you are now. This in effect is leaving the past behind. Some people though lived through trauma, be this in a childhood family home, or in a classroom, or elsewhere, and the trauma marks their identity with an indelible, subconscious cloud of secrecy and shame. Traumatic events that happened to a person need to be separated out and they mustn't form part of the person's identity.

Leaving emotional wounds behind is a process that may take a long time and I leaned on God who helped me to do this - I don't know how I would have otherwise. People and the world may hurt us, even people we thought we could trust with our lives, and the only one we can trust implicitly is God.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The One Who Speaks First, Seems to be the One Who is Most Believed

Someone once said to me, I've heard that you <insert assertion>. I felt a twinge of guilt as the accusation hit home, but then I mulled the incident over, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that she was wrong, though it carried a vague thread of truth - I'd never done what she accused me of doing, or, I should say, what she said she'd heard about me. If I'd denied the assertion, would she have believed me or believed the other person? I suspect she would have believed what she'd heard about me, even without proof. And why was she so willing to believe someone else's assertion, without checking with me first?

I told someone else that I'd been accused of <insert assertion> and I thought she would feel compassion that I'd been being accused unjustly, but, instead, she looked at me, shocked, and I realised that she hadn't asked me if the assertion was true or not, she'd automatically assumed that it was.

This has application in law as well as in cases of bullying: If someone steps forward and makes an accusation about someone else, generally the accusation is seen as true. If someone is the first person to step forward to speak about a situation, generally that viewpoint is believed, because he or she was first to speak. Perhaps people should verify the authenticity of the accuser as well as the accused in all criminal cases, though of course, making an untrue accusation carries a huge risk of being found out and it's therefore bound to only happen infrequently.

The words we speak about others are powerful. Gossip is damaging. We may say we won't be influenced by gossip, but is that true? If I hear that someone is a backstabber, especially before I've met the person, will I be friendly towards such a person, or will I avoid getting close to the person? Of course I will most likely avoid the person. What do you think the person's reaction towards me will be should this happen? The person is likely to begin to act coldly towards me, because he or she will sense my reticence, and so gossip may become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Question what you are told about others. Maybe what you have heard isn't at all true.

Link to related blog post:

The Gossip Trap

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Giving to Charity

There are countless causes in the world today and there's bound to be at least one charity to support each. Charities save lives and help people: feeding famine starved people, getting homeless people off the streets, saving animals. I trust that the organisations I donate to will use my money wisely and send aid to where it's needed most.

But I've realised that some charities may not be helping the community as much as they are seen to do, because of the following:
  • Some non-profit organisations have large structures to support. They may own offices and employ a number of people. Money donated goes towards paying for the infrastructure of the charity first, before it gets given to the cause. This is necessary so that charities are able to provide advocacy and counselling and other services, but sometimes it means that the organisation could make a huge difference, but provides assistance selectively, due to budget constraints. As an example, this cancer charity is being investigated for allegedly only donating 1% of funds received to its cause: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/adelaide-based-national-cancer-research-foundation-under-investigation/story-fni6uo1m-1227164700449?sv=63692d8eca5960852e85bd6e72f8b54f
  • People who work at charities may forget the reason they work there. For example, workers may complain about the starving, homeless person who hangs about at the door during lunch time when the office is closed and the workers are on their lunch break, yet the homeless person is the very reason the workers have a job.
  • Large organisations may have the resources to help, but may use the resources sparingly and randomly. For example, I have heard of homeless people being placed into motels and given the food they need by a charity, but a homeless person I asked the organisation to help was given pamphlets only - I realised I could help the person more than the organisation was prepared to.
  • I've seen homeless people being used in fundraising campaigns to fight homelessness. One particular person has been homeless most of his life, yet has been in contact with a charity for years. He said, at least the charity is there to listen to him or he would have no-one. Why hasn't he been helped? He may prefer being homeless, but it sounded as if he wanted to turn his life around.
  • Choose carefully which charity to give towards - do you see visible results in the community? A large charity may provide more influence and resources than a lone spokesperson charity, but the smaller one may give more money directly to where it's needed.

Ultimately, make sure that any charity you support is doing the job it was created to do.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Reactions May Vary Widely Due to Outward Expressions of Anger or Anguish

Why do some people receive empathy for emotional anguish, whilst other people are ostracised? Recently I heard a psychologist say in a radio interview that it may be because some people show anger, which turns people away, whereas other people openly express sadness and pain and people have an innate drive to help those in obvious distress. Think of two dogs, both enormous. One dog bristles menacingly towards you when you reach out your outstretched hand, her snout drawn back as she growls softly. The only thing stopping her from biting you is a thick chain drawn taut. The other dog shivers as you approach her. She seems to wilt as you reach out and she yelps when you touch her. Your heart bleeds for this dog and you wish you could undo the abuse she must have suffered to so obviously lack trust. You stay as far as you can away from the first dog. You don't know that both dogs are pets who were mistreated in the same abusive background.

It is quite understandable that one would stay widely away from the first dog for fear of being bitten. This dog may be put down as a dangerous dog, yet perhaps she might become a family pet given enough time and love, but her behaviour may mean she is never given this chance. The second dog is obviously not a threat and is likely to find someone who is willing to devote energy to help her to recover. She may always remain reticent, but her obvious trauma ensures she will be treated with understanding and placed in a gentle home where her nature will be catered to. The exterior we show is what people see and they may react accordingly.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Iron Sharpens Iron (Proverbs 27:17) - hindsight, patterns, and being shaped by others

In writing and looking back, I've noticed a series of patterns in my life. It's akin to being in that oft spoken of forest, where one rushes into and then past towering tree trunks and where feet sink into hidden mud and then one is on solid ground across from heavy streams and only once one has climbed the mountain side can one see the path taken. In the midst of living, the patterns hid themselves, and only became obvious with distance and in retrospection. Part of the journey is bumping into people who may shape one along the way. The person who seems irritating to you now, may be someone who, over time, will help you to develop patience. Someone who seems unlovable when you first meet, may help you to change your world view. Perhaps the person who seems to run away from you without warning, is someone who will develop your ability to allow people to leave you, whereas before you have always clung on. Or maybe the person who seems to cling to you, is someone who will help you develop more healthy boundaries. God knows whom we need in our lives, and sometimes the people who seem to frustrate us the most, are the ones who will develop our characters most. What patterns may you see, if you step away from your circumstances and look back?

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Your Past Doesn't Matter

I have heard quite a few church sermons recently that say a bad past doesn't matter if one changes for the good, for example, God used Moses even though Moses committed murder, and He did the same with Paul; Paul murdered Christians before his conversion, yet Paul went on to become one of the biggest evangelists for Christianity.The Bible tells of the bad pasts of many people, as historical fact, though this doesn't condone the behaviour, yet people move on from their pasts and many transform their lives. There are many successful people in the world today who openly tell of traumatic pasts, and some use this as the basis of their ministry.

Does this mean you should openly expose a past you may always have felt ashamed or guilty of? It is important to work through your past so that you overcome emotional trauma, for example, by working with a counsellor or talking to a close friend or by journalling, but no, you don't need to tell anyone about anything that may have happened to you. I read a story once of someone who went to therapy for years, but yet steered clear of discussing certain details of her past, yet she made progress and healed and often a positive relationship is the key to healing, not the details discussed. You may choose to disclose your past to people around you, but it isn't something you have to do, especially something that happened years ago, be it childhood abuse, a sexual assault, recovery from drugs or alcohol abuse, or anything else you may have done or experienced. That said, you probably will need to tell employers about acts that will have a material impact on your employment. But in general, people around you don't need to know, unless you feel telling is part of your journey and telling may be an integral part of your journey, due to the silence involved in many crimes of trauma.

What may happen if you begin to disclose your past to others? It largely depends whom you tell and who finds out. If you know people whom you trust and who trust you in turn, then they may be very supportive. But you may find that many people don't understand and may begin to hold your past against you and label you according to stereotypes, even if what happened to you was none of your fault. It is your decision whether you tell and whom you tell.

What if someone finds out about your past and holds it against you in any way? It hurts, especially when trusted people treat you differently due to facts you can't control. It may hurt even more if people spread rumours and malign you based on suspicion and stereotypes. You cannot control the opinions of other people, but you can decide what you think of yourself, and your past doesn't have to be part of your identity. Bad things may have happened to you, but you can separate those parts out and throw them away. And Jesus told us to turn the other cheek when others hurt us. There have been occasions when I discovered by accident that someone I trusted gossiped about me, but I took it as a lesson learnt and I was grateful, because I now knew what the person really felt about me, so I could untangle myself from unmerited emotional ties.

The past is past. It may have shaped you, but it doesn't need to define you. You are more than your past. Your past doesn't matter. Once you are able to be who you are, without thought of your past as a millstone you carry, you may truly be.

Monday, 22 September 2014

A Traumatic Past and Ongoing Bad Behaviour

A traumatic past may have a profound effect on someone's psyche, especially if trauma occurs during childhood. Children who have experienced abuse may hit out at people or may have trouble regulating their emotions and these patterns may solidify as time goes on, yet when the child reaches adulthood, he or she is expected to follow accepted social norms of behaviour; the time to help a child can therefore never come too soon. I know of a person who assaulted someone soon after her alleged abuser was acquitted in court; her behaviour may seem understandable knowing that she expected her perpetrator to face justice, but venting frustration through physical means is a wholly unacceptable outcome to injustice, and she now finds herself in jail. I used to feel that a traumatic past history excused much behaviour, but I've come to realise that, while it may explain behaviour, it cannot be used to justify ongoing bad behaviour, especially where this impacts other people.

Perhaps a few more examples would be useful: I know someone who blackmailed her abuser to get money from him, yet blackmail is an act of wielding power over another and could also be seen as a form of abuse and is a criminal act. The same person threatens people physically to get her way and others are afraid that she may become violent and hurt other people, though she never has. These are examples of behaviour that cannot be excused. She also flees soon after reaching safety, a pattern directly attributable to the trauma she experienced, and the act of fleeing means she often becomes homeless. She needs to change this behaviour to resolve her homelessness, but the behaviour is so much a part of her that she probably doesn't see it. She needs to recognise that the pattern exists and realise that it's self-limiting and want to change it. Unlike the first examples I gave, she doesn't personally gain from the behaviour, besides relieving her angst, and she may need an enormous amount of therapy to obtain insight and change. Another way to put this is that a therapist would wholly understand her behaviour and where it originates from, and the therapist would partner with her to make the changes she needs, but society won't absolve her from the behaviour, no matter her past.

A similar example to ongoing limiting patterns of behaviour is if a target reacts angrily when bullied. Bullying may sometimes be subtle, for example, a comment made by someone who knows that the words will push the victim's hot buttons, but as soon as the victim reacts vehemently to bullying, the bully has succeeded in bringing the victim down. A mentor once said to me that an adverse reaction by a victim merely gives the bully ammunition to use against the target, and the best thing for the victim to do is to remain calm, because eventually the bully will be caught out.

What are your thoughts on this topic? I am still formulating my thoughts on this matter and I would love to hear your comments.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Showing Love to a Person Who Has Complex Behavioural Problems

What does it mean to love someone? I don't mean, to love a spouse or a child or a friend; I mean to have love for people we sometimes find hard to love. I am sure we all have examples of people whom we find it difficult to love: a person we know who may be regularly homeless, a friend who always needs a shoulder to cry on, a family member who has a problem with addiction. Perhaps this is because we fear being overwhelmed with requests, whether this be for money or time. Sometimes it may be because the person's behaviour seems out of the norm, and we fear the person's next action.

I feel that love means unconditional acceptance; that one is willing to acknowledge and respect another person. I used to think love was equated with money and giving of things; that if I gave material objects, I thought I was showing love, but I have changed my views. As examples, there is no point giving money when the first thing the person purchases is drugs or alcohol; there is no point paying for a place for someone to stay if the person keeps moving by choice week after week, year after year. In such cases, the behaviour keeps the person in bondage and the person needs to make a decision to change before other people will be able to help.

Love may be shown in a variety of ways, but I believe the best way to show love is to accept and acknowledge another person. Sometimes all another person wants is for someone to listen; to be heard; to be understood. I feel that love means treating another person with dignity. Love means acknowledging a person's existence. Love means compassion for the well-being of fellow human beings. In love you can be who you are and I can be who I am, and we can still respect one another. Loving someone doesn't mean one becomes overwhelmingly enmeshed in another person's problems and needs. One should set boundaries of acceptable behaviour, so that one can be available to someone else, but not controlled or overwhelmed. Everyone should have a safe roof and adequate food to eat and there are organisations that one can point a person to for help, if one can't meet another person's material and psychological needs, but one can still make oneself available to listen.

I hope these thoughts have helped someone and I'd like to hear thoughts in response.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Abusers and Bullies Lack Empathy For Their Targets

I once heard a Year One teacher accuse a child in her class of  making mistakes on purpose, however, I would be astonished if a six or seven year old child would ever deliberately cause mischief such as this, because a child at this level hasn't learnt the intricacies of such social dynamics. What would it profit a child to act stupid? The teacher didn't understand that the child was struggling to understand and needed help.

I have heard of paedophiles who say in their defense that the child agreed with their requests for sexual favours. The abuser seems to feel that the child understood what was being requested, as if the abusive adult is thus absolved from guilt because the child was a willing partner. Yet a child doesn't understand norms of behaviour as a grown woman does, and a child may agree because the child doesn't even know what he or she is agreeing to, or may not want to offend an adult, or may agree because the child has previously learnt to agree. Some grown woman may even have difficulty turning down persistent requests for sexual favours from an ardent follower, so how much more difficult would this be for a child to ward off?

A child has a mind very different from an adult and cannot be seen as a miniature adult, who knows intricate social dynamics. Yet many abusers seem to treat children as if they were adults, and children are often treated as far older than their years by many abusers.

Similar principles may apply to those who bully other adults too, because such bullies may lack compassion for their victims, or may assume a malevolent intention from another person when none was ever intended. Someone once told me that instead of being angry with someone who was bullying me, that I should have compassion for the bully instead. I never understood what he meant at the time, but I am beginning to understand that perhaps many bullies are the way they are because they have been hurt and somehow there is a breakdown in how they see the world.

I wonder, is it possible to reform many abusers, especially of children, and teach them what it means to see the world as a child does? If you are a parent, please try to teach your children the value of boundaries, to respect others' wishes, and to have empathy for others so that abuse will become less and less.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Many Accuse Victims of Being at Fault

I've noticed that people seem to have a tendency to blame victims for their situation. Is this because it's easier for us to come to terms with deviant behaviour when we think a victim deserved what happened, as if we can't fathom that bad things sometimes happen? I may have read that theory somewhere before.

I read an article today about a 14 year old child who was raped, but the judge said she wasn't such a victim because she was promiscuous. Her attacker agreed in a confession that he raped her and he even said he couldn't believe what he had done and that he was sorry. He was sentenced to 5 years probation, which included only 45 days in jail, and the victim wondered why she even came forward and laid a rape charge--very sad. One thing in the rapist's favour is that he seems sorry for what he did, but still, I can't fathom that the victim was blamed in this case, because the confession clearly says that she said no many times and asked him to stop and her past should have no bearing on the case.

I have read of cases of child sexual abuse where a similar thing was said. Offenders will say the child came on to them or that the child agreed to the abuse. A child is a child and an adult should always know better than the child. If a child comes onto an adult, the adult should say no. When people say the child agreed to the abuse, the request was given by the adult first. How can it ever be okay for an adult to ask a 10 year old, or any child, if he or she wants to try out a sexual behaviour? A 10 year old child usually doesn't know anything about what the adult means the first time this happens, and will often say yes if the child hasn't been taught to be careful of such a situation and to say no. Later on the child will continue to say yes, even when the child realises the behaviour is wrong, because the norm has been set up and the child may now feel complicit in the cycle of shame and guilt and also is trapped in a learnt cycle.

As in the above cases, I have seen where victims are blamed for bullying that happens. Bullies are often very personable people and other people may like them, and sometimes victims aren't always seen as that nice. Bullies may bully their victims on the quiet and the victim may then react badly towards the bully in public, reinforcing the perception that the bully is in fact the victim, but things aren't always what they seem. A good piece of advice I was given was to always ensure I behaved calmly and well towards a bully in public, otherwise people would believe the bad things the bully said about me in private. Unfortunately people don't normally want to get involved when they hear about bullying, and they will sometimes blame the victim, and may even ask the victim to leave an organisation thinking this will keep the peace, but the bully will probably just find a new target later.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Breaking Patterns of Behaviour

I've been mulling over patterns of behaviour and how these originate and also how to break them. Even harder than breaking a pattern of behaviour, I feel, is recognising the pattern in the first instance. When something is so much a part of us, it's difficult to isolate. We see our actions as natural, something we do, and often aren't aware there is anything amiss. It is hard to see ourselves as other people see us, especially if there is lack of feedback.

An example might be someone who gets into trouble, or who is avoided, because of misplaced humour and making hurtful fun of others. There are some people where this is their normal style of communication and such a person will consider joking as natural as breathing, but for someone else who isn't used to joking as a means of expression, hearing this on an ongoing basis will seem uncomfortable. A person who finds fun in every situation may not even realise this isn't the norm for everyone. And if the person does realise that the humour is causing a problem for other people, the person may still fall back on the humour, even knowing this might land him or her in trouble. Sometimes people like to push other people's buttons. But yet, the humour may cause a real problem for such a person during everyday interactions, especially towards strangers, and it would be best to drop the pattern, but, it is exceedingly difficult to break a habit. Even when one knows the habit should be changed, actually doing so may take every ounce of self control.

Often we first need to understand why we need to change before we actually change our patterns of behaviour. This realisation may take a long time in coming. Sometimes it's only when our selves are threatened that we find the incentive to change. The person who jokes may only stop wisecracks if, for example, the person is told he or she may be fired from a job if the behaviour continues. Hopefully the person will experience a personal insight into the harm done by constantly poking fun at others and will drop the behaviour before this is necessary.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Jesus Asked His Followers to Help Others

The Sheep and the Goats

"But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?' "The King will answer them, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

Then he will say also to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn't give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn't take me in; naked, and you didn't clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn't visit me.' "Then they will also answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn't help you?' "Then he will answer them, saying, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you didn't do it to one of the least of these, you didn't do it to me.' These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

(Matthew 25: 31-46 WEB)

Monday, 21 April 2014

Land Invasions Since the Time of Moses

The blog article that I wrote yesterday called Are You a Victim of Shame and Guilt? led me to the topic of invasion. Throughout history people have been invading and colonising different parts of the world. This is also recorded in the Bible when, thousands of years ago, Jewish people moved into the Promised Land and God said not to make treaties with anyone who lived there and not to intermarry because it would cause problems for them (Deuteronomy 7:2). Romans invaded large scale areas starting 200 years before Christ was born and this continued for hundreds of years afterwards and Saxons and other nations invaded England starting in the 400s, when the Roman Empire disintegrated. Genghis Khan united Mongol tribes in the 1100s and then began large scale invasions and massacres of China and Asia. Muslim conquests occurred in India between the 1200s and 1600s and Wikipedia says even earlier invasions occurred during the 8th century in Afghanistan and Pakistan. African tribes moved down from Northern Africa and colonised Southern Africa as early as 2000 years ago and Shaka Zulu is an example of a more recent military ruler who arose and united his people and ousted many other African tribes. Then British and Dutch settlers moved to South Africa and elsewhere between 400 and 200 years ago and this gave rise to colonialism. Isn't it fascinating how cycles repeat, sometimes under the disguise of new terms? The pattern I see is that groups of people may repeat cycles of hurt when given the opportunity, yet feel aggrieved when they are unseated in turn, though may also do the same if a future opportunity presents.

I lived much of my life feeling guilty because I was white and a colonialist, but firstly, I never asked to be born where I did, and secondly, I was never responsible for colonialism myself, because this happened hundreds of years before. This was truly a breakthrough for me when I realised I was allowing myself to be shamed into feeling guilty by what people around me said about me purely because of what I looked like, based only on a stereotype.

Are boundaries settled around the world or will another invasion occur sometime? Large scale movement of people still happens under the banner of legal and illegal migration and movement of asylum seekers, but in these cases it is normally an assimilation of people into an existing nation, instead of a separate invasion. Hopefully we can work out how to live together. Perhaps the more that people feel part of their nation, the more we become at one with one another.

Jesus said, "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." (Matthew 7:5 KJV)

Jesus  also said,  "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5: 38-39 KJV)

Are You a Victim of Shame and Guilt?

Shame and guilt are powerful emotions that may cripple. They may also be used as weapons that enslave.

Consider the following examples:
  • A child is abused and harbours guilt at compliance with the abuser's demands and also feels immense shame at what happened. As an adult, the person is still in the grip of these emotions.
  • A child grew up alongside a more accomplished sibling and can't shake off a deep feeling of inferiority, and perhaps guilt that he or she could have tried harder.
  • A person is accused of a crime because of a stereotype, for example, you invaded our country, yet the person wasn't even born when the invasion occurred. The invasion happened and was wrong, but an individual born years later cannot be held accountable for the crime, for to do so would be to make an individual liable based purely on ethnicity. As an example, white South Africans are often blamed as a group for historical invasion, and people the world over echo the sentiment that they must go home, yet individuals alive today are descendants only of Dutch and British migrants, and Britain and other countries were in turn invaded by Romans and Saxons and other people, starting hundreds of years ago. History cannot be changed, we can only change the present and the future.

What labels do you wear that aren't your fault, yet you may carry? Identify these oppressive emotions and shrug them off. They don't belong to you.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Leadership / Life Skills: Conflict Management: The Relationship and The Issue

I've previously briefly mentioned how conflict management may be handled in diverse ways depending on one's culture and you can read the blog post here: Do You Know People You Run From? Is Change Possible? A Few Thoughts.... Conflict management skills are vital to ongoing relationships.

When I attended a training course on conflict management, I learnt there are two key aspects to conflict: the relationship and the issue. If conflict arises with a stranger whom you may never see again, it is much easier to say exactly what you feel for you know you may never see the person again. Or you may hope you never do. For example, if you buy an item of clothing and need to return it, you may become quite abrasive if a store person refuses to return your money. Your goal is to obtain what you paid for the item, and the relationship may be negligible because you see this as a once-off transaction. You may react in a hard and fast way if you experience resistance and you may demand your money back or you will take the matter further. Of course, mutual respect should always be a part of any relationship transaction, even if you don't have an ongoing relationship with someone. However, if conflict arises in your marriage, you are invested in the relationship and need to tread more carefully. The issue may take second place in preference to ensuring your relationship remains intact, depending how much the issue means to you. But sometimes the issue is of such great importance that this takes precedence. There are some hard conversations that need to take place, for example, if you feel your spouse is abusive, you may decide to push the issue even if it means a relationship breakdown.

I believe it is best to get conflict into the open, especially if you will have an ongoing relationship with someone, or it may fester. Sometimes one may be unaware there is unresolved conflict with another person, and if you suspect something seems to be bothering someone else, then ask, but if they say everything's okay, then leave it at that. You can only work on what you know about and you have asked so your conscience is clear.

To aid in conflict management, I see assertiveness as going hand in hand. Assertiveness is a healthy means of communicating and you can read a blog post I wrote on assertiveness here: Leadership / Life Skills: Assertiveness

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Half-Brother? No, He's Your Brother

I've been wondering about the terms half-brother and half-sister I've often heard used. I've used these terms myself too with my own family. Why do we do this? In the Bible, Joseph refers to his eleven other brothers, though only Benjamin was a full brother with the same mother as Joseph. All of these twelve brothers had the same father.

From a legal point of view it seems to me that halves have just as much rights as full, which can seen in migration when they have as much right to migrate by virtue of family line. They are brothers and sisters in the eyes of the law.

I suppose people like to categorise differences explicitly. Some people may even use different parentage as an excuse to say, that person isn't really my brother or sister, but they are.

I realise I use this terminology in my fiction book and I need to change it now. I use the term step-brother, when this person is actually my protagonist's brother by virtue of adoption, and I must change all references to half-brother, to merely say brother.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Only You Can Say Who You Are: Which Culture Do You Identify As?

Many groups and people are trying to save tribal rights of Bushmen in the Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana, which I wholly support. Recently I discovered that some of the people asking to be allowed to live in the Kalahari Game Reserve seem at a glance to be culturally and even ethnically different from people I think of as Bushmen, because these people, who I thought were pastoralists, own livestock and ride horses and look very different to Bushmen. Bushmen are traditionally known as a people of very short stature, with an almost yellow skin that is very wrinkled, mongoloid eyes, and very curly black hair that is sparse. But I was told it doesn't matter if these people are originally Bushmen or not, they identify as Bushmen.

What a person looks like seems to be giving way in favour of culture, probably because, in this changed global world, people can belong to the same country and therefore the same culture irrespective of looks. In Australia, where I now live, it is disconcerting for me to hear some people use the term African only for certain darker coloured people, even if they are Australian citizens. Yet I assume that all people who come to Australia will embrace Australia's culture, even if this is done at the level of the next generation, or why else come to Australia. There is a song sung here at citizenship ceremonies called, "We Are One, But We Are Many", and personal culture differences are allowed, but there is one overriding Australian culture too that people embrace. African isn't a term used much in South Africa because there are so many different types of South Africans, though some people claim it. I am South African, but I am white. I am a citizen of Africa and therefore I am an African. I am an Australian too.

In Australia many documents and forms ask whether or not one identifies with particular groups of people. To adopt these cultures, the decision must be driven from the heart of a person who wants to embrace a wholly new culture and way of life. From what I have gleaned, it seems that people who have never traditionally been hunter/gatherer Bushmen are doing just this: they identify as Bushmen and in so doing they live with the Bushmen and obtain rights to use the land that's earmarked for the Bushmen, as well as rights to hunt for wild game. Essentially they have decided to embrace the Bushmen's culture. I found this a fascinating insight. Some other cultures have a slightly different protocol: to become Jewish, for example, one undergoes a strict conversion process in synagogue, though still, the conversion decision comes from the heart of the person who wants to identify as Jewish and to truly belong to the new community.

It seems to me, the decision to adopt a new culture, regardless of previous background, rests largely with an individual. Is my assumption correct? I would love to hear other people's thoughts.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Some People Sink and Some People Swim: Same Circumstances, Different Outcomes

Have you ever wondered, how do some people seem to have everything together, in spite of all they have been through? This is a topic on my heart, and can be seen as the main theme of my unpublished fiction book, about two sisters who both experience trauma, yet who follow widely divergent paths in their onward journeys through life. I've described is as: when you are thrown into a swirling sea, you either sink or you swim.

When trouble is experienced on an ongoing basis, for example as in the case of trauma, there are often general behavioural coping strategies survivors can be expected to take. But of course, these are expected patterns only, not definitive patterns. So, the same situation can affect two people quite differently and one person may experience a psychic collapse while another may be able to overcome the trauma and function quite well. One therefore cannot say one must expect a certain outcome after certain situations. If one person can successfully overcome a troubled past, so can another. And just because most people who have experienced a particular type of troubled life have difficulty functioning, doesn't mean you must too if you have experienced the same dynamics.

Joyce Meyer has openly spoken about her traumatic childhood, yet she is now very successful and uses her past pain in many of her sermons to show people she has overcome with God's help. Oprah Winfrey is another celebrity who has overcome a difficult life. If some people can shrug off a troubled past, so can you, if you have experienced past pain. I believe the real key to doing this is to think and write about your journey, and also to tell your story to people you trust well. Sometimes past pain is as a vast non-verbal vagueness, difficult to even quantify, let alone talk about, but when it's spoken of, the story becomes clearer, even understandable in time, and one may then be able to step back from the pain and see it for what it was. The past may have affected you, but doesn't have to affect your future.

Link to related blog article: Your Past Doesn't Define You

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Problem With Some Memories

A few studies done in the 1990s (Wikipedia article on memory implantation) demonstrate that it is possible to manufacture memories. People were shown fake photos of themselves as children riding in a hot air balloon or being lost in a mall, and they remembered the experience...
...but these were faked photos and the experiences never happened.

That said, I attended a workshop recently where a few people spoke of recovered memories. I do believe that flashbacks may be real and that memory may be suppressed and recovered, especially traumatic memories. At the same time, I am cognisant of how easy it is to falsify memories.

For your own safety, be aware if you are on the receiving end of well meaning, but misdirected, suggestive questioning about your past. And from the other point of view, in dealing with anyone, be they child or adult, make sure they are the ones doing the recovering of memories, and avoid helping them along, for example, "could this have happened to you...?" Don't show children photos to jog memories along, or suggest something with the use of aids, because you might be implanting memories instead of recovering memories.