Monday’s post was about Fighting Sadness With Joy—that there are ways to find joy even in embracing the sadness and setbacks of life.
But just to be clear: this does NOT mean that we should charge into a room where someone has just lost a loved one and try to cheer them up with a chirpy little attitude or empty words.
Instead, I like the line that says we are to weep with those who weep…and rejoice with those who rejoice. The word “compassion” literally means “to suffer with.” I admire those who know how to “be with,” who bring a calm, quiet, genuine human presence to painful situations. They don’t try to solve, they just share.
But in our own everyday lives—with all of the slings and arrows and garden variety setbacks we experience—we may sometimes forget what a healing resource joy can be.
I often share the story of Coleman Barks, the expert on the poet Rumi. He took his granddaughter, Briney, to a soccer game, things got a little lopsided, and Briney’s team lost 10-0. Afterwards, Coleman and Briney got back into his car, a convertible with the top down.
About that time, the girls who had won came marching up the sidewalk chanting, “We won! We won! We won!” Little Briney stood up on the seat of the convertible and started yelling, “We lost! We lost! Ten to zero! Big time! We lost!” Well, that stopped the winners in their tracks! They didn’t know what to do.
Coleman commented, “That day, we learned that the losers don’t just get the last laugh. They get to laugh all the way home!”
Walter Reuther said, “He who is not big enough to lose is not big enough to win.”
Now, I like to win. But this reminds me that life is about something larger than winning—that the joy of living is big enough to embrace the whole range of human experiences.
Today, I feel sadder than the bladder of a dehydrated camel carrying the ghost of Ponce de Leon across an endless desert in search of the lost fountain of his lost youth.
That’s pretty sad—almost as sad as waking up feeling like a dead rooster with his last crow still stuck in his throat. See, we did it again—we made each other laugh! We fought sadness with joy.
Once upon a time, there was a wooden puppet who thought he had a brain tumor, but actually it was a termite. Every day there was less and less of the puppet until finally, all that was left was the puppet’s wooden, hinged smiling mouth. A little girl found the hinged mouth and moved the teeth together to make the puppet’s mouth laugh. When she did this the termite, which had wedged itself between the puppet’s teeth to make its last stand, was cut in two.
The little girl grew up and became a famous doctor, and she often told her patients this story of the puppet and the termite, and how a good laugh can kill what’s killing you. And she always kept the puppet’s wooden smile on her desk to remind herself that no matter what gets taken away from her, like the puppet’s smile, her smile will be the last to go.
Today, I’ll “bust out laughing or bust.” And day by day, I’ll let laughter find me. More and more, I’ll use my sadness to climb out of sadness. I’ll use it as a ladder to laughter.
*The Dear Soul/Dear Life dialogs are a product of Heartbeat, a non-profit educational organization. They were written by J. M. Hawkins and used in discussion groups across North America in response to the Life That Loves to Happen seminars with Landon Saunders.
This past Monday’s post talked about the human tendency to judge others, label them, pigeon-hole them, or size them up which is really sizing them down.
Doesn’t it feel like we’re in a Judging/Labeling Pandemic today? And there’s not even a vaccine in sight! That’s unfortunate because, as someone has said, all labels are libels.
Still, it’s hard not to be infected and affected. I sometimes catch myself sizing somebody up or down almost before I realize I’m doing it!
But I’ve also noticed that this Judging/Labeling infection has three serious side effects.
First, when you label someone (in your mind), you don’t really see them. You just see the label, the fault, the appearance. You don’t see the mysterious, one-of-a-kind person.
Second, if I can just label the person and write them off, then I don’t have to deal with them. I certainly don’t have to care about them. I can just feel superior.
Third, labeling someone (in your mind) affects the way you are with them—no matter how much you “act nice”. And the way you are with them will reinforce the label or stereotype.
So maybe the “vaccine” for Sizing People Down is to See People Deeper. We need to think of seeing a person as a powerful creative act.
A teacher had a student who was always acting out, causing trouble. Other teachers had labeled him the “trouble maker”. But this teacher saw something else.
She didn’t want to get locked in to always treating him as “the troublemaker.” So she decided to practice seeing this boy, and letting him know she was seeing him.
One day he had a book about dinosaurs and she said, “Oh, I see you like dinosaurs.” He got excited, describing the book.
Another day, after she watched him playing kickball on the playground, she later told him, “I saw you kick the daylights out of that ball!” He grinned.
Day after day, she looked for opportunities to simply let the boy know that he was being seen—without judgment.
Then one day, when the boy was with the teacher, looking over his homework, he suddenly looked up and said, “I like myself better when I’m with you.”
Does that solve all the problems? No. But it’s a great place to start.
Guest post by J. M. Hawkins
I’ve gotten really good at sizing people up.
Don’t you mean sizing people down? Down to a label, a function, so you can park them in a petty pigeonhole of your mind?
Let me tell you a story. It’s called: Confessions of Mack the Knife.
To decide means “to cut,” and I was so incisive, so decisive, that they called me “The Knife.” I could size you up and cut you down to size before you could blink your eyes. I could sort you out—classify you and pin you in place like a bug in an insect collection.
Then one day, I held my newborn son in my arms, and I thought about the pain a guy like me could give a little guy like that if I prejudged him. So right then and there I made by best decision about people—not to decide, not to judge.
Every time I look at my kid, I know I did the right thing. I’m not deciding about this kid—Will he be a success? Is he smart? I treat my son as a never-ending mystery. I expect myself to be constantly surprised and never disappointed. And I’m learning to do that with others, too.
Today I’ll come down off the bench. I’ll resign my “judgeship,” and I’ll feel better about myself. Because cutting people down to make myself feel bigger never really worked anyway.
*The Dear Soul/Dear Life dialogs by J.M. Hawkins are adapted and used by permission and they are excerpted from his collection, Word From Soul City and were used in discussion groups across America in response to the Life That Loves to Happen seminars with Landon Saunders.
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Welcome to The Living Conversation
“I did not wish to live what was not life; living is so dear. I wanted to live deep.”
— Henry David Thoreau
Someone has said that the greatest source of stress is not the petty annoyances, frustrations and problems.
The greatest source of stress is the living we don’t do—that underlying feeling that we’re somehow missing out, or not living the way we could be.
And the greatest source of joy? The living we do well.
The Living Conversation is about mining that joy for all it’s worth! It’s based on the belief that every person counts and it’s never too late to have a life that loves to happen, no matter what happens.
This blog is based on the groundbreaking work of Landon Saunders and the Heartbeat educational organization over the past 50 years. (See the About page for details.)
Our brief posts come out two or three times a week and there’s never any charge or obligation. This is a public service.
So I invite you to sign up. Read. Ponder. Share. And most of all, enjoy!