THE ANTIDOTE TO CYNICISM

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With the invention of social media, we have been given the opportunity (or burden) of seeing people’s internal lives become outward ones in a way we probably never would have dreamed as each expression, each post reveals something about the poster. Be it a video, an article, a picture—each one is unwittingly a snapshot of the interior of a person’s heart, life and inner landscape.

One thing that has become clearer than ever as I’ve observed this over the years is that it really is not possible to be a cynical person and a happy, peaceful or joyful person at the same time. They cancel each other out. Cynicism and joy are like oil and water: they don’t mix.

Loving people project outwardly a loving world. That doesn’t mean they don’t see the evil and darkness; they may see it more than anyone else. They just don’t believe that forever dwelling on it or pointing it out is the best way to extinguish it. Sitting in a dark room and talking about how dark the darkness is will never make it light. Only turning on a lamp or lighting a candle will do that.

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Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.” And he ought to have known. He was on his feet, on the street, being love in a way that few people have ever been. Ironically, that’s why he was killed. To draw a movement of that size around the force of non-violent love is scary to those who are in opposition to it. Jesus knew that too.

The cynic, on the other hand, has a problem for every solution, a sarcastic comment for every positive one, a suspicious thought for every good you have the audacity to point out.

It will suck the energy out of you to attempt to reason with a cynic.

Yes, we need to question things, speak out against injustice, expose evil, but it needs to be tempered with grace and loving intention, otherwise no one will listen no matter how loud someone yells. A bit of skepticism is necessary so that we don’t fall for every trick. For example, I don’t trust governments, any government (except maybe the former president of Uruguay, “Jose’ Mujica–the world’s most humble president“)…with good reason. But if we’re spiritually tuned in, we won’t fall for anything and everything. Well, hopefully.

The problem happens when cynicism and skepticism are chronic, as in non-stop. At that point, it’s more of an illness of bitterness and suspicion than just a tick.

So, I put forth a suggestion, an antidote: instead of railing against cynics for how cynical they are, I would bid us to pray for them instead. Or if you’re not prone to praying, send loving thoughts in their direction, no matter how difficult or impossible that may seem.

Think: how unhappy must a person be to constantly dwell on awful things? How powerless must one feel to feel powerful only when sharing their (often volatile) opinions? How unheard must one feel? How alone? How hopeless? How afraid? No matter what show of bravado is there, it’s a pretty good bet that each cynic is inwardly afraid of something that even they can’t name.

It is heart-breaking…and infuriating.

And that’s why they need our prayers. Because we, who arm ourselves with love and light, have been given more power than we allow ourselves to believe.

We have the power to speak words of hope, to speak words of beauty, to create, to do all those things St. Francis talked about in his prayer to be an instrument of peace.

I, for one, will continue to believe that love can drive out hate and darkness. And I will continue to believe it can even heal and free people’s bound-up hearts that are shackled in chains of fear and gloom. Will you join me?

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If you’d like to talk to me, please click here to make an appointment.

 

 

 

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My Story of Healing from Eating Disorders (Podcast)

This will be part 1 of my story because there has been healing in so many areas of my life that each would require a separate talk. So I’m sure there will be more parts that I share on this topic in the future. But for now, I wanted to post the story I shared at church here in Berlin recently and my hope, as always, is that something I said might give hope and encouragement to someone listening.

There were moments of technical difficulty during my sharing…and a bit of nervousness…and a bit of crying. Our stories can be messy, so it’s no surprise that the telling of them can be too.

Click here to hear it.

It tells a bit about how I went from this:

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To this:

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I hope that if you, or someone you know, struggles with an eating disorder, or any kind of self-destructive behavior, that hearing my story will help you to not give up and to keep praying, keep hoping and keep knowing that God loves you no matter what’s going on and that healing and good things are possible.

Your life matters and you are needed here on this planet.

Blessings & peace,

Monique

p.s. If you need coaching and/or spiritual guidance, please click here to schedule an appointment for an introductory call with me.

 

 

Being Turned into Gentleness

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I’ve been reading Streams in the Desert for over 20 years and still, the readings are as fresh each time as if it was the first time. I’ve met others through the years that have attested to a similar experience.

Here’s the reading from today. I’m sure some will identify.

“So few are willing to undergo the suffering out of which thorough gentleness comes. We must die before we are turned into gentleness, and crucifixion involves suffering; it is a real breaking and crushing of self, which wrings the heart and conquers the mind.

There is a good deal of mere mental and logical sanctification nowadays, which is only a religious fiction…and such an one goes forth with a gay, flippant, theological prattle about the deep things of God.

But the natural heartstrings have not been snapped, and the Adamic flint has not been ground to powder, and the bosom has not throbbed with the lonely, surging sighs of Gethsemane; and not having the real death marks of Calvary, there cannot be that soft, sweet, gentle, floating, victorious, overflowing, triumphant life that flows like a spring morning from an empty tomb.”                       —G. D. W.

 

If you desire to deepen your spiritual and/or creative life, please feel free to schedule a 30 minute discovery coaching call by clicking here.

Blessings,

Monique

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A BEAUTIFUL QUOTE BY FLAUBERT

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Hi friends…

Today I just wanted to share with you a beautiful passage I re-read today when I pulled my copy of Gustave Flaubert’s novella A Simple Heart off the shelf for no particular reason, except to see how many pages his novella has. I was struck again by the beauty of these words. I hope it will bless you too…

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“…Then she wept at the story of the Passion. Why had they crucified Him when He loved the children, fed the multitudes, healed the blind, and had willed, in His meekness, to be born among the poor, on the dungheap of a stable? The sowings, harvests, wine-presses, all the familiar things the Gospel speaks of, were a part of her life. They had been made holy by God’s passing; and she loved the lambs more tenderly for her love of the Lamb, and the doves because of the Holy Ghost.

She found it hard to imagine Him in person for He was not merely a bird, but a flame as well, and a breath at other times. It may be His light she thought, which flits at night about the edge of the marshes, His breathing which drives on the clouds, His voice which gives harmony to the bells; and she would sit rapt in adoration, enjoying the cool walls and quiet of the church.”

…Gustave Flaubert

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** Image credits: all artwork by Christian Schloe

 

 

 

ON BEING BRANDED

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This past weekend I went to an interview and Q&A that was part of a book release for a new book called Brandpsycho: Four Essays on De:Branding. It’s written by a man who is a Jungian psychoanalyst in training and is part of a project he co-founded in Switzerland called the Zurich Lab. I started devouring the book waiting for the talk to begin and I’m now fully engrossed. It’s a small, but deep book. 94 pages.

The author spent many years of his life working as a brand director which possibly led to this new part of his journey in analyzing the very world he formerly inhabited. The questions the book poses and the ideas it presents relate to the culture of branding that has developed in the last couple hundred years, but especially during the last 30-40 years of the internet age. This is a topic I’m really interested in because more and more we hear this word “branding” as if it’s so much par for the course in marketing. It’s become an accepted term in business and entrepreneurship. And it makes me uneasy.

My concern is that, like I said to the author, “I find the word ‘branding’ disturbing because, correct me if I’m wrong, it’s related to how cows and animals have been ‘branded’ for hundreds of years by having their fur and skin singed with a scorching hot torch to burn a name or brand into them. That way they could be quickly and easily identified as to who they belonged to and where they were going.”

“Yes, yes,” he said. “Branding comes from the Norse term for burning.”

It dawned on me: like the German word “brand” which means fire.

How apropos that people are, like cattle, allowing themselves every day to be branded by their stuff. But perhaps not just by their stuff, but with their ideas, their images, and the very longings that they claim to have.

The author mentions Starbucks and Apple and addresses the power and control they, and other big names like them, have over people and yet how there is room to take the very narratives that have been used to manipulate society and turn them to help people tune in to their spirits and to who they actually are underneath all the façade.

So what would help humanity stop giving in to making purchases they don’t need or eating food that makes them sick only to line the pockets of billion dollar corporations? What would help people to stop being subliminally coerced by their appetites and wants and desires, most of which have been put on them from outside, and help them realign with what they would desire if they hadn’t been programmed with what to desire?

Well, from my point of view, the place to start is always the same. It has to do with a word I was happy to come across in the first pages of Brandpsycho. The word is imago. As in Imago Dei. Image of God.

What if, instead of people identifying themselves with a pair of jeans, or a handbag, or the latest iPhone gadget, or their bank account, or advertising’s images of happiness and love, they identified themselves with the image of God within them? How would it direct humanity’s purchases, needs, wants, desires, cravings? I think it would not only lessen them, but it would redirect humanity to an entirely contrary way of thinking about life. After all, Jesus was not on the up and up.

People can give all the arguments they want against why they don’t believe in God, Jesus, religion or whatever word they have for what they think it’s about. But in the end, doesn’t it really come down to the aversion to the primary example of dying to self that Jesus lived out? I mean, you can pontificate all day long as to the scientific reasons for why you don’t believe or how suffering proves there’s no God or how the church wounded you, but can we be honest here? It’s just too hard. What’s hard? Believing? Well, that too. But the daily believing. The daily dying to self. The daily command to love your enemy. The daily admonition to forgive an offense. The daily self-denial in holding your tongue when you’d like to tell someone off. The daily observations of people’s cognitive dissonance while you are called to love them anyway. The daily keeping a good attitude and sloshing on when you’re tired as hell. The daily commitment to stay true to something you cannot prove to anyone, but that you know is true. That’s the stuff that wears you down. Unless you’re being powered from something outside of yourself that has taken up residence within you.

G.K. Chesterton was onto something with these 2 statements:

  • “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
  • “Dear Sir, Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton.”

But we don’t want to admit there’s anything wrong with us. We’d rather spend hours going on about the evils of society or government or the annoying person we have to deal with than go within and go, “Hmmm, something ain’t right in here.” It’s not a comfortable place to be, especially not when you have to sort through shame and all the baggage since childhood that aren’t really your issues to begin with, but were somehow made your issues due to someone else’s unhealed issues. Regardless of why, the work needs to be done, so it’s best to get started with it sooner rather than later.

As uncomfortable as all that may be, it’s also not comfortable to live your whole life latching onto false images and icons when really, they’re nothing but idols. And idols aren’t there to be worshipped. They are there to be destroyed. Like Gandalf said in The Lord of the Rings, “There is only one Lord and he does not share power.”

Whenever humans try to put on some other image, I imagine it to be like putting on a cheap party store costume to cover up the fact that you were originally “branded” with the image of God. And when you put on your costume or the mask of your idols, instead of becoming more of yourself, you are actually becoming less of who you are. If Christ would allow himself to be seen in utter nakedness, vulnerability and humility, stripped of everything but love in order to reveal to us not only the face of God, but the face of the ideal human, then why would we think we can pile on layers of idols that bear images which try to rob from us our true identity?

The image of God is branded into the soul of every human being. But it isn’t there to coerce and manipulate you. The crazy part is that you actually get to choose what to do with it. That’s a huge responsibility and a massive call. And because it’s so massive, it might seem easier to cover it up, to try and ignore it, to find other things to focus on instead. But it will never stop whispering to you. It will whisper beneath your pain and struggles as much as in your joys and victories. It will be with you every breath of every day. And every day your life will tell, as much by your purchases as by your actions, whether you are choosing to reveal that image or whether you are choosing to cover up and hide that image.

One of Jesus’ most famous rhetorical questions is “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world yet lose his own soul?” Each day, every one of us gets to decide how we will answer that question.

If you’d like to work through questions like the ones posed here or would like to talk to me as your coach, you can always schedule a free discovery call with me by following this link to my calendar: https://www.timetrade.com/book/581CL

Blessings,

Monique

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“FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT”–NOT THE BEST LIFE STRATEGY

Reaching by Darrell Raw

I’ve read, seen and heard this term “fake it till you make it” quite a bit the past few years. It’s supposed to mean that if you’re struggling with something, finding something hard, or just plain having a hard time and not doing well, you can pretend you’re doing better than you are and eventually you’ll really be doing better than you are. I think there is a tiny bit of truth to this if it’s meant in the same sense that C.S. Lewis wrote about when he said:

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”

Perhaps he’s right that “pretending” your way into a virtue will eventually cause this virtue to become your true character over time, the way that a child putting on an adult’s shoes eventually “fits” into them. You can eventually “fit” into a virtue by practicing it. I prefer the term practicing over pretending as it sounds more like forward movement than putting on masks in order to hide ourselves.

Also, Tony Robbins often talks about how our physiology affects our psychology. In other words, if you’re feeling depressed and are sitting or standing slumped over, the first thing to do is pull your shoulders back and breathe. In other words your body informs your mind how to feel. There is also a lot of truth to this.

But overall, as a lifelong strategy, “Fake it till you make it” isn’t going to fly. At least not if what you are actually wanting is to be real and to be loved for who you are and not who you pretend to be.

It seems that what we all want is not only to be real, to be authentic, but to be real and authentic…and be loved. The part where it gets scary is when being authentic might cause rejection, disapproval or outright alienation. If you were raised with people who did a lot of hiding from themselves and their emotions, or if expressing your true feelings was met with abuse, rejection or invalidation, it’s easy to see why people find it easier to fake it.

Personally, it seems like more work to not be real than to be real. But I can see why people fall into this trap because maybe for the time being, it seems the better alternative. But as anyone wrestling through this can tell you, it’s not the better alternative. It ends up becoming a bigger and bigger hole to dig yourself out of.

My own frustration with being real is more related to the kind of responses I sometimes come up against which make me see why so many people find it easier to not bother with authenticity. Things like telling someone how I’m feeling when it’s not a happy-smiley day for me and then being either preached at, lectured or invalidated in some other way.

Henri Nouwen said it so marvelously:

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

So what are some solutions to the dilemma of wanting to be real, but also wanting to avoid being hurt, and more importantly, to be heard and be loved for who we are? Perhaps there isn’t any big solution, but two things that come to mind are risk and discernment.

Risk is part of being human and is part of any human interaction. We need to risk being hurt in order to have authentic relationship, friendship and community.  The important thing though is to make sure to bring discernment along with us when taking risks in sharing with others. Discernment about when to tell, who to tell and how much to tell.

Discernment is much like gut instinct, but even finer tuned. It helps you locate the line between your own fear and the need to take a risk and step out, whether that’s stepping out in connecting with people or stepping out in a new direction in life. It’s a divine gift and like all gifts, it can be cultivated and strengthened so that it becomes easier to tune into. The more you do, the better choices you will make in who you share your concerns, burdens and heaviness with. As you probably know, sharing with the wrong people can be worse than not sharing at all.

So tune your ear and heart to God’s guidance and choose wisely. Then take the risk and share your heart honestly and openly. The right people will be okay with hearing your junk. And who knows, it may even free them up to share theirs. That doesn’t mean we need to wallow forever in a “junk sharing” pity party, but it does mean that there should be at least one or two people in your life with whom you feel like the Emily Dickinson quote below. God knows how thankful I am for those people in my life.

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As always, let me know if I can be of help. Wishing you all the grace and strength you need.

If you need further help living more authentically, you can schedule a free 30-minute exploratory coaching call with me by clicking here and booking yourself an appointment. I would love to talk with you!

Monique

THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN YOUR FAMILY REJECTS YOU

by Nuriko Kun

Sometimes the people that we would most expect to love and accept us—those we’re connected to by blood or family line—can be the very people who cause us the most pain and suffering. We see pictures and hear stories on social media and the news of blissfully happy families and are faced with the realization that it may not be like that for us in our own families.

The scars of rejection and/or boundary trampling run deep and can affect our lives and our view of ourselves in massive unpleasant ways if we don’t deal with them. Studies have shown that whether it’s physical abuse or emotional abuse (such as lack of respect for personal boundaries, the silent treatment, constant criticism, unwillingness to let children become separate individual selves, etc.), the negative effects on a child’s brain are similar. And the word “child” means up to the age of eighteen. Whether you have been physically abused, emotionally abused, or both, you need to know that it’s not your fault. Being mistreated by the people who are supposed to love you and care for you does tremendous damage to a young person’s (or any person’s) psyche.

If you’re relating to any of this, please remember a few things:

Your worth does not depend on another person’s ability (or inability) to love you properly. Your worth comes from the fact that you were made by a loving Creator who sees great beauty in you. You are precious simply because you exist…because of who you are, not because of what you do or don’t do.

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You do not have to earn anyone’s love. It can feel that way when you’ve been programmed to think that you have to jump through hoops to win people’s approval and love, but it’s not true. In fact, we could go so far as to say it’s a lie. Don’t waste your time and energy running after anyone. They may come around one day, but don’t sit and wait for it.

Try not to take it personally. That’s easier said than done, but your family members are likely broken people who don’t know how to love because someone in their lives behaved similarly toward them. The good news is: the cycle can end with you.

Even Jesus was rejected by his family. They questioned who he was and were offended at his claims and his authority to talk as he did. Some of them believed in him, but some didn’t see who he was at all. They felt threatened by him and even ridiculed him. So, in a way, if you’ve had that happen to you, you’re in good company.

Those who try to manipulate you do not have your best interests in mind. Don’t be fooled. Tune in to your intuition. People who truly care about you do not make you feel uneasy. Don’t allow yourself to be guilted into doing and saying things you don’t want to do and say for fear of meeting with someone’s disapproval. You shouldn’t need to win their approval to begin with.

There are people who love you and care about you. Sometimes we forget this because we are busy wanting our family of origin to love us. But if we change our focus and look around, we’re sure to find people who know how to love us and don’t play games with our emotions to meet their own unmet needs. Move towards those who emotionally support you, not those who drain you and cause you to lose focus.

The Wounded Squirrel by John Anster Fitzgerald

Sometimes family isn’t made up of people in your family of origin. A lot of times we feel safer, closer and more accepted by people who have no relation to us whatsoever. When you’ve had a rejecting encounter with your blood family, it’s important to get around those who treat you with dignity as soon as possible.

Consider talking with a counselor or therapist. It’s important to face the pain and work through stuff so we don’t stay stuck in patterns of thinking and behavior that may be left over from unhealed family wounds. It can be important not just for us, but for all the other relationships we will have. We don’t want our unhealed hurts to come out at people who never did us any harm. Chances are that those who don’t treat you right have never seen a counselor or therapist and have therefore never done their own inner work. The fruits of this are obvious. You can break that pattern.

No family is perfect. In all those photos you see on social media where everyone looks so happy, keep in mind, that’s just a snapshot. Everyone has their issues whether you hear about them or not.

You’re not alone. Look around and remember that oftentimes those in our lives who do know how to care for us are God with skin on. Underneath all our pain, there is a loving presence in the universe. You may not see it as God, but behind all the darkness, there is a force of love that calls to us and accepts us as we are. That loving presence will sustain you when all other sources of love are unavailable or gone. It is this presence that runs beneath every current of your life and accepts, rather than rejects, you. This is the presence that ever and always will call you “Beloved.”

If you need some help working through some of these things, you can schedule a free 30-minute exploratory coaching call with me by clicking here to book yourself an appointment. I would love to talk with you!

 

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** Picture credits:
Nuriko Kun (top)
The Wounded Squirrel by John Aster Fitzgerald
Crown by Shabby Scraps