Select Page

Sizing People Down vs. Seeing People Deeper



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.

Confessions of Mack the Knife


Guest post by J. M. Hawkins

Dear Soul,

I’ve gotten really good at sizing people up.

Dear Life,

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.

The Highest of the Arts



I’ve been thinking about Monday’s post. It ended with these words:

Today, I’ll let go of the thoughts that have me trapped…Today, I’ll let go, and see the sky. Today, as the moments fly, I’ll fly with them!

That reminds me of the old Russian story of the two friends who were hiking in the dark and got separated. One calls out, “I’ve caught a bear!” His friend says, “Well, bring him here!” The first says, “He won’t come.” The friend says, “Okay, you come here.” He says, “He won’t let me.”

We all experience fears, regrets, resentments, hurts, etc. But sometimes, when we try to let go of these thoughts—they won’t let go of us! (As someone said, our problems won’t kill us—but the way we think about them might.)

That’s when it’s time to fight back; it’s time to do something to break the cycle.

That’s what Henry David Thoreau did. He looked around and saw that most people were living lives of “quiet desperation.” They were trapped, imprisoned by what Blake calls “the mind-forged manacles.” The bear wouldn’t let them go!

Thoreau didn’t want to live like that, so he did something. He built a one-room cabin on the shore of Walden Pond and lived there for a couple of years, working things out.

What did he think about? What did he work on? He said,

I went to the woods to learn to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what is not life, living is so dear.”

I love that. How important it is to just find a little quiet now and then, to clear away all the clutter and just be deliberate. Just to try to let life teach us. Just try to cut through all the noise and fragmentation and boil it down to the few things that truly matter—the things that make life “dear.”

Thoreau is saying, we can’t take for granted that we know how to be alive and how to live. There is an art to living and being alive, an art we can deliberately practice. And he thought that was important enough that he took some time off to work on it.

He also wrote: “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.”

I hear him saying: “Stand up for your life! Don’t let anything hold you down! You are the only you there’s ever been and today is the day you’ve been waiting for. Fight for aliveness today! You do not have to live what is not life. It’s not required.”

But how do I do that Henry? Where do I start? Do I have to move into a one-room cabin for a couple of years?

He says, just start with today: “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of the arts.

Think about that. Is he right? Is that correct?

To draw on your humor, your courage, your innate wisdom, your compassion, your aliveness—to use these to affect the quality of this ordinary day—is that actually a higher art than music or painting or novels?

Well, what do you think?

There’s one way to find out.

“Today, I’ll fly!”



Guest post by J. M. Hawkins

Dear Soul,

I feel uptight. I’m afraid to let go, to try anything new.

Dear Life,

Just hang on and you’ll get trapped in a hang-up—which is no way to live. Let go and you’ll make an incredible discovery.

Which reminds me of a story…

The Mountain Climber and the Rope

The mountain climber hung onto the rope for dear life. The only problem was, he had reached the top of the mountain years ago, but he had never taken his eyes off the rope; he had never looked at the majestic view. The rope had become his security. The thing he’d hung onto had become his hang-up. He was trapped.

Then one day, he remembered these words: “He called them to the edge of the cliff. He pushed them off. They flew!” He smiled, lifted his eyes…and let go of the rope. He stood straight and looked around, and his spirits soared. He had learned that it’s never too late to quit just hanging around, never too late to simply let go of the thing that is hanging you up and holding you back.

“They flew!” he thought. “The moments are flying by…and I’ll fly with them.”

Today, I’ll simply let go of the thoughts that have me trapped, the fear that steals my energy, the hurt I’m hung up on, the resentment that keeps me stuck. I’ll realize that I have the power to let go of the things that are holding me back and holding me down.

 Today, I’ll let go, and see the sky. Today, as the moments fly, I’ll fly with them!

 *The Dear Soul/Dear Life dialogs by J.M. Hawkins are adapted and used by permission. 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.

Small Stuff vs Big Stuff


Monday’s post, “Don’t Sweat It!” reminded me of Richard Carlson’s little book, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff…And It’s All Small Stuff.”

But isn’t it strange how the “small stuff” can sometimes get to us in a big way?

I was driving home, tired. We have a garage that fronts onto a main street in the city and as I pulled up, I saw a big pickup parked in front of our garage, directly under the “No Parking” sign, so that I couldn’t enter. The owner of the pickup was right there, so I pulled over, jumped out and let him have it! And it felt really good—for about a minute.

And then, as I walked away, it felt horrible. I thought, “Where did that come from?” It was a hot day, so I went into the house and got some ice cream bars. Then I walked back and found the guy with his work crew next door. He saw me coming and bristled, but I said, “That was stupid, you didn’t need that, and I don’t want to be like that!” He was gracious, we had a more human moment, and I gave the ice cream bars to his workers.

That experience reminded me: (a) I’m only human, (b) life comes straight at us, sometimes without warning, and (c) it’s important to stay alert to what is Small Stuff and what is Big Stuff. And the truth is, there is a whole lot of Small Stuff and only a few things that qualify as Big Stuff.

A famous writer was walking in New York City with a friend. They stopped in a newsstand and, for some reason, the clerk was very rude to the writer. The writer responded courteously, even though the clerk continued to be quite rude.

As they left, the writer’s friend said, “Why did you keep responding like that when the man was so rude to you?” The writer answered, “Because I didn’t want him to control who I am.”

So, Not Sweating the Small Stuff is not only about preserving our own peace of mind—though it is that. It’s also about the kind of persons we most want to be in the world.

And who you and I most want to be—ah, that is not “small stuff.” That’s Big Stuff.

10 Reasons to Embrace “The Way of the Cookie”


I’ve been thinking about Monday’s post: The Way of the Cookie vs. The Way of the Crumbles.

What a simple but powerful idea: When we love “partially” we end up fragmented and frustrated; but when we love with our whole self, this helps us become whole human beings.

I admit, this is challenging. There are always things that seem to get in the way of loving with our whole self. So to help us with this, here are:

10 Reasons to Embrace Loving With Your Whole Self

(In no particular order.)

  • Genuine Love is More Than a Warm Feeling. Love is what you do, how you live, what you cherish and value, what you care about and are devoted to, what you fight for—even when the feelings are not there.


  • It’s Easier To Handle All The Little Things in a Relationship When You’ve Got a Handle On The One Big Thing. The determination to love with your whole self puts all those little problems and annoyances and frustrations in perspective.

  • Expectations are Expectorations. To withhold love because you “expect” something from the other person is like spitting in the wind: it’s going to come back on you.

  • Taking People for Granted Turns Our Souls to Granite. It leads to hard-heartedness. But accepting the challenge to “Take no one for granted” opens our eyes and awakens our souls.

  • The Way of the Cookie Can Brighten an Ordinary Day. Loving with your whole self makes even humdrum days feel more special. (Sort of like having a cookie!)

  • That Ornery Person in Your Life May Be the One Who Needs Your Care and Kindness the Most. Is it easy? No. But if we’re serious about making the world a better place, it’s a great place to start.

  • You Can Love Your Work And The People You Love. These are not in competition. We can care deeply about both—and, to be whole, we must. Work is the prose of our lives, love is the poetry, the music.

  • Loving Freely and Joyfully is About Living Life in the Overflow. It takes you beyond the glass-is-half-empty or the glass-is-half-full to a glass that overflows with gladness and generosity.

  • Giving Your Whole Self to Love Lets You Live For Something Larger Than Yourself, Larger Than Life, and Even Larger Than Death—and something that money can’t buy.

  • Loving With Your Whole Self Makes Things Better. As James Taylor sings: “Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel. You know that, things are going to be much better if you only will.”

The Way of the Cookie vs. The Way of the Crumbles


Guest post by J. M. Hawkins

Dear Soul,

Does love have to take everything out of you? I give so much of myself that sometimes there’s nothing left for me.

Dear Life,

Love adds life—how did you manage to turn it into subtraction? You say you are giving a lot, but if you’re giving less than your whole self, you’ll find that it just isn’t enough for anyone—including yourself.

Let me introduce you to a principle called: The Way of the Cookie vs. The Way of the Crumbles.

Once there was a cookie who often sacrificed itself for family and friends. It would break off a part of itself and say, “Here you go.” And, day-by-day, the cookie became less and less. In search of counsel, the cookie rolled onto the floor and got swept up by a broom and swished under the door of a wise teacher. The teacher reached down and picked up the tattered cookie and held it up to those she was teaching. “That’s the way the cookie crumbles,” she said. “This is the result of partial loving.” Then, thinking of the poor cookie, she said to her students, “Tomorrow, when someone needs you, give them your entire self—because every time you give all you’ve got in love, you become a whole new cookie. But, when you just break off a little at a time, you’ll soon find that all you (and the ones you love) are left with…are the crumbles.”

Today, I’ll give all of myself and do it freely—not as if it’s a big “you’re killing me” sacrifice. Today, I’ll give because it makes me feel whole and keeps me happy with the people I love and care about.

 *The Dear Soul/Dear Life dialogs by J.M. Hawkins are adapted and used by permission. 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.