To Kill A Pacifist

“Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
– Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

I’m typically a pacifist.  Don’t get me wrong; I love a good argument. I like to debate about things I care about.  That’s when I can feel like I’m really communicating.  I don’t need to win, I just like to show up to the conversation and that is winning.  That’s why when someone is mad at me I don’t handle it well.  Sometimes, they don’t even have to be actually mad, I can just perceive someone is mad, and it will make me physically sick.  There is a big exception to this.  A person that hurts others just for the sake of hurting them is something that makes me feel like there is a special afterlife for those people.

There are people out there that can make a sport out of making you feel bad for something they did.  Maybe you didn’t even have control over this thing they are angry about.  Maybe they are trying to reconcile their own failures. For whatever reason, they decide to make sure those around them are as miserable as possible.  They do this without a thought for others, and they do it in a myriad of ways.  These same people also enjoy punishing those around them to make up for their own problems.  This is, in a word, unacceptable .

There are also people that get out of bed every morning and dress themselves in guilt and other people’s failures the way most will pull on a sweatshirt.  They walk around on eggshells.  They hope things will be better than they were the day before.  They just want peace.  They just want to be happy for a few minutes.  The one thing they would change about themselves is their level empathy, and they try to be as helpful as possible hoping that one particular gesture might make the day bearable for everyone.  This is also unacceptable.

Toxic people tend to go around aiming at mockingbirds.  They don’t care if they go through other people’s lives leaving scars.  The sin they commit is indifference.  They are indifferent to feelings, emotions, love, and respect.  They use the people in their lives that see the human inside the facade of pain, and they don’t acknowledge that the pain they create has its origins with their behavior. Causing pain is sometimes its own consequence.  Those that cause pain to others without regard to who they are will bear the pain when that person is no longer around. Because sometimes mockingbirds don’t die.  Sometimes they rise from the ashes a phoenix, a new creation ready for a new day.

 

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Weakness Can Make You Strong

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

Who can you be weak with?  Who can you call up and tell when you are scared or lonely? Do you have a person you can just say anything to and know that you won’t be judged, and they might even agree with you about things that most of the world at large would decide you were both crazy for thinking? I’ve only had a few friends in my life that I could admit my weaknesses to, and even with those people it can at times be hard to show how weak I really am.

 Being weak requires trust.  You can’t be weak around someone that might share how weak you are with others, or might think less of you for admitting the weakness.  Being weak also means you remove your defenses.  My heart goes out into the world every day guarded by fences, barbed wire, and even a few junkyard dogs these days.  Letting people in is risky business, and risk taking with me is always limited to calculated risks.  If the reward is greater than the risk, then it is a sure thing, but finding those opportunities is rare.  I have a few great friends.  I have a person that I can say anything to, and know it will be received as I meant it.  I’d rather have a friend like that than any “thing” in the world.

Priorities, obligations, and commitments are heavy.  I carry them around.  I drag them from place to place, pretending they are somehow making me a better person, and I know this is decidedly not true.  I’m left sometimes feeling like I’m holding up the world (even though it is just my little tiny world) and being Atlas can grow tiring.  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just stopped holding it up.  I just need a few minutes to rest.  I get tired of being strong, and I feel like I just need to be weak, but this can be problematic, because who wants to admit they are feeling weak? Weak is the opposite of strong.  If I asked a crowded room for a show of hands of who was weak, I will bet no one would even raise a finger.  The reason is simple.  Humans don’t like to admit our weaknesses.  It makes us seem less than, or lacking somehow.  Does that mean we aren’t weak?  Hardly.  Sometimes we just need a safe place to go and be weak.  Vulnerability isn’t  something we set out to achieve.

Being weak is a blessing. Showing a friend a deeper level of myself that others do not get to see helps me be more human.  Having those that love me for who I really am, and not just who I am showing the rest of the world is a gift beyond measure.  It’s okay to be weak sometimes, and those that get to hold me in my weak times with words, hugs, or even love from a distance make me strong enough to pick that tiny little world of mine back up and hold it, even when I thought it was impossible.

Sacrifice or Surrender: A Dilemma

On the surface the words sacrifice and surrender are similar.  Something is being given, and it is being received by someone or something.  However, the differences are titanic.   When you look up sacrifice in the dictionary there are several definitions.  The kind of sacrifice most of us feel good about is the one that reads  “to give up something of value for the sake of other considerations.” When you think of the word sacrifice it has a positive vibe.  It brings up warm feelings of caring and love.  On the other hand, when you consider the word surrender, it seems to bring forth feelings quite the opposite from sacrifice.  It gives off an air of being uncaring and unfeeling.  The synonyms for sacrifice are listed as “to offer up, yield, to suffer, and surrender.”  When looking up the word surrender, the listed synonyms are “succumbing to, yielding, to abandon, and sacrifice.” How can two words that can be used as synonyms be that different?

But there’s a more cannibalistic definition of sacrifice that can be detrimental to any relationship, and that definition reads “an act of slaughtering a person or animal as an offering.”  Of course this is not to be taken literally, but this definition made me stop and consider that not all sacrifices are equal.  This interpretation makes me think of relationships where giving of yourself requires a lot more than just what you are eating for dinner or what is going to be playing on the television that night.  Are there times when we are making a choice to forgo what we need for someone else to get what they want?  Can we sacrifice more than we actually should and still walk away unscathed?  We might not actually see our need as a need, but in fact, relationships have needs just like people have needs.  They aren’t all as simple as food, water, and shelter, and we might not fall over if we don’t get it, but it certainly does take a toll on us emotionally if we don’t get what we need.  When sacrifice eats away at who we are at our core, then it truly takes on another definition of sacrifice entirely, and this one isn’t one most would boast about.

Surrendering seems cowardly as a general rule.  If we surrender, we are giving up essentially.  We are walking away, crying uncle,  or throwing in the towel. It is ingrained in us at an early age that we should never give up.  What a powerful message in a little phrase!  It is implied that if we give up, we have lost.  If we give up, we are weak.  If we give up, we are selfish.  To those that have been sacrificing in the more cannibalistic sense of the word sacrifice, never giving up is exhausting.

Surrendering isn’t something we can be proud of doing.  It’s something you admit to, not declare.  Why is this?  Why is it that we can’t be proud of knowing our own limits of sacrifice, and instead choose to surrender?  What if someone is going to hurt either way?  If you are an extremely empathic person, you hurt because the person is hurting you, and you also hurt when you hurt them.  You are never going to win either way, but try as you might, persuading yourself to just give up isn’t the easy thing to do.  Waving the white flag on a relationship can leave you wondering what you did wrong, and how you even wound up in the place to wave the flag in the first place.  It can leave you breathless, tortured, and fresh out of tears.  Surrender is not the easy way out, but people tend to treat it as though surrender is easier than sacrifice.

How many chances are enough when your very soul feels weighted and exhausted? Could it be okay to just put down the tools you were working with and quietly step away?  What is the worst that can happen?  Disappointment in yourself or from other people can’t actually kill you, can it?  And, at what point are people quite positive that you tried everything you could before making big changes?  Do people ever think the best of us?  What would I think of the decisions I am making if I wasn’t me? Can sacrificing yourself ever be noble, and can anything good come from it? Is it better to sacrifice when your very self is at stake, or is it acceptable to surrender with the best intentions? I guess the only thing left to do is find out.  I’m hoping I find that ending up where you started can feel just like going home.

Broken Cellphones (and people.)

On my way out the door this morning, tragedy struck at precisely 6:37 a.m. in my garage.  My cell phone decided to leave the warmth of my hands, and to fly violently toward the concrete and land in a way that can only be described as sickening.  In true INFJ fashion I started wondering immediately what it all meant.  What connection did I feel to my broken cellphone? After all, it is not just a cellphone.  It is my calendar.  It is my connection. It is my contact to the outside world when face to face is not an option.  It is my friend.  What does it all MEAN? (Yes, I see that look on your face.  And yes, I did in fact have all of those thoughts at 6:37, and if not then, definitely by 6:40.  I can’t help it if I’m a morning person.)

The way it broke was spectacular. It was the glass, the surface, the outer layer that the damage happened to, and it didn’t just shatter immediately.  There was a big ugly smashed place where it looked awful, and for about half a second I thought the worst had past, but I watched as a spider web of more and more cracks spiraled all the way around the glass and covered the entire front screen.

Humans are like that.  We are optimistic when we get hurt.  “Just a flesh wound,” we think, when in reality, it couldn’t be further from the truth.  Ground zero is just where it starts, the real damage is done once that initial crack is there. Soon, the outer shell of our humanness cracks so much that it seems just about hopeless.  Before long, our brokenness changes the way we see everything.  It becomes a filter through which we see the world.

The next thought that crossed my mind was whether the phone still would make calls and texts.  What happens once something is broken?  Is it still usable?  As it turns out, yes, sometimes things can look beyond repair at the moment, but still function, even if not at 100%.  At times when I used my phone today, I felt shards of glass fall out of the phone.  Sometimes they stuck to my finger.  Other times, they dropped to the floor making me hope I don’t find those the hard way.  With almost every use, I was wishing my phone was in one piece again.  Then something odd happened.  I got used to the brokenness, and started feeling as though if forced to, this broken shattered phone could become my new normal and I could use it this way indefinitely.  Each and every time I had convinced myself of this, I would attempt to do something on the phone and my fingertip would be sliced.

Isn’t that just like humans?  When forced into a reality that is downright terrible, we will try to make the best of it.  We can entertain ideas that we will be able to make things work.  We make excuses for people, and we maintain relationships that are broken beyond repair because we tell ourselves it is just the surface.  It is just that outer layer that is broken.  Deep down, everything is fine, functional, and we can deal.  But, just like my phone, those relationships will cut us; they will surprise us with the wounds they create.  We can know it is broken, and still be shocked that we got hurt once again, and we feel foolish for being so shocked by it.  Humans are quite different, because usually a cracked exterior is just a sign there is a deeper problem on the inside.  Humans, unlike cell phones, crack from the inside out.

At the end of the day,  I took my phone to the mall and had it repaired.  I have a cellphone that looks like new, and a sore finger from the shards of glass poking me all day.  Tomorrow, I’ll hold my phone a little tighter, and protect better than I did today.  In a few days I will have probably forgotten the inconvenience of having this happen entirely.  With broken people, it’s not that simple. We can’t just take shattered people to the mall and get a new outer shell for them to wear.  With humans, the choices are not as simple as choosing to replace the glass, buying a different phone, or getting an upgrade, but wouldn’t it be nice?