Networking for Modern Times

Networking – whether virtual or face-to-face- can be awkward for those new to it or just plain shy. In fact, many consider networking an art form. Upon reading Effective Networking Techniques  by Rhonda Abrams (http://www.planningshop.com/networkingtechniques.asp) I was then inspired to adapt Ms. Abrams’ 12 tips for the online world. They are as follows:

  1. Know your show before you go. A famous line of music and theatre directors everywhere, it applies here too. It’s not only important to become familiar with the format and purpose of the networking event you are attending, but to become familiar with who will be attending the event too. By doing some homework in advance about the event and who will be attending, you can tailor your message to make the most of the event… for you and your target audience.
  2. You’re always ON so be sure to develop and practice your “elevator speech”. Whether you’re grocery shopping, having lunch with a business associate, or out socializing with the neighbors or with followers in cyberspace, opportunities always arise when you least expect it. With most having a limited attention span of no more than 30 seconds, it’s important to capture someone’s attention from the get go with a statement that is clear, concise, and relevant. Share results, not processes. Let people know how you or the products and services you provide make a difference. Most of all… be mindful that networking opportunities are evolving. Once limited to face-to-face events, technology and social networking are changing how we connect with one another. Yesterday’s elevator speech is today’s LinkedIn profile so make sure your statement is an effective one.
  3. Listen, ask questions, but never interrupt. Whether online or face-to-face, networking is all about building relationships. The best way to build relationships is to listen. People just love to talk about themselves. So when you meet someone of interest, give them your undivided attention. Ask them about who they are, what they do, what they are looking for, and how you can help them. They will feel so good about being with you that they will follow you anywhere. On the flip side, the quickest way to kill a relationship is to interrupt someone in mid-sentence. So when joining an existing discussion, quell your urge to interject with a related story or a point. Interrupting a discussion — whether online or face-to-face — is disrespectful. It not only sends a strong message that the “speaker’s” words carry less weight than yours, but it also demonstrates we are not actively following the conversation. So listen and wait your turn. Before you know it, you’ll be winning and influencing friends, boosting profits, and advancing your career too.
  4. Approach people who have a limited following. Networking can be intimidating. So whether you’re online or face-to-face, take the opportunity to “work the room” and introduce yourself to those who are alone. Most individuals like talking about themselves and will be thrilled that you “rescued” them from making the first move.
  5. Give people “breathing room”. Timing is everything. Whether you are face-to-face or in a discussion group online, share meaningful conversation. Save your “elevator speech” for when you are specifically asked about yourself or your business.
  6. Exchange business cards. Whether on card stock or in electronic form, be sure to exchange contact information, noting who they are, their goals, interests, and values, as well as how you can fulfill them.
  7. Market yourself … discreetly. The best way to market yourself is to be remembered for your actions; not your words. Share your knowledge or expertise. Hand out referrals if you hear a need you cannot fulfill, or complements a product or service you offer. Freely introduce your contacts to others and speak kindly of your competition. Then, be prepared to discreetly share a few brochures when asked. Whether on disk, online, or in your briefcase, purse, or car, be sure to have some brochures on hand just in case a potential customer wants more information.
  8. Dress for success – literally and figuratively. Did I mention, you are always ON? Regardless of where you are, dress neatly, cleanly, and appropriately as you never know who you may be meeting or the event you may be attending. Both are apt to occur on little or no notice. Figuratively speaking, conduct yourself in a way that would make your Mother proud. Whether online or face-to-face, if you are unsure about the accepted mode of dress and rules of conduct, do not assume. Check with the host/hostess in advance as both often vary.
  9. Show up early; stay late. When attending an online or face-to-face networking event, make it a point to show up early and stay late. Often, the best networking opportunities occur before and/or after the business portion of the event.
  10. Follow-up. If you experienced an especially meaningful conversation with someone — professionally or personally— specify how and when you’ll follow up with them then do so!
  11. Move on rather than cling on. Whether face-to-face or online, networking can be awkward, especially for those who are shy or new to it. For these reasons, we often gravitate towards people we know or stick to one person for the duration of an event. Quell the urge, move on, and work the room by introducing yourself if for no other reason than that both of you could be missing out on other opportunities.
  12. Circle back. At the end of a networking event, try to find and say goodbye to your most promising connections. Thank them and reiterate that you will touch base with them soon.

In search of new life?

Have you ever had two thoughts that at first glance seemed unrelated yet as the day progressed, they came together as one? Synchronicity as it is called happened to me today… Good Friday… and on LinkedIn no less. One individual with whom I have been following for some time on the social media site quoted Reverend Dr. Peola Hicks as saying, “Good Friday is a day of hope. It is a day where we look forward to a brighter tomorrow. Many things have happened to change the course of our lives, but it has not shaken our faith.” My response … ” I truly believe in this quote. Good Friday is a day in which we have an opportunity to turn over our heavy burdens to our Lord. When we do so, we have a chance to rise above those challenges and start life anew.”

Soon after I shared that one, a new, companion thought resonated within me as I read another post on the same site. It posed the question, “Why are so many Christian Marriages falling apart? What advice, scriptures, etc. would you give to fellow believers to keep their marriages together?”That question really resonated with me because, like many nowadays, my marriage failed many years ago after 17 years for a variety of reasons in spite of truly believing marriage was designed to be a sturdy, unbreakable ‘three stranded cord’ between man, woman and God. Further, I believed then as I do now that marriage is about giving not just receiving; it’s about compromise; and most of all… it is about being able to love and accept God, our spouse, and our selves unconditionally regardless of the obstacles placed before us. So if I believe all that, what exactly happened, you ask? Reality. Sinner or Saint, Christian or not, we are after all human. As humans, our bonds are challenged from time to time… and what better way is there to challenge our bond than with our own vulnerabilities? Our vulnerabilities come in many forms… from outside influences as well as from doubts, fears, and unrealistic expectations we bring to each of our relationships, including marriage, from day one. No matter how we try, those vulnerabilities get in the way, constantly gnawing at those “strands” over time.

It is our little doubts from time to time that start to add up and get in the way of feeling loved and accepted for who we truly are until we panic because we fear rejection. Little by little, it is our fear of rejection that breeds unrealistic expectations about our selves, distorting the actual bond we share with God and our life partner. Most of all… it is all those little unrealistic expectations that isolate us as we withhold our true thoughts and our feelings not only from our Creator, but from our life partner too. One by one, it is all those thoughts and feelings that eat away at us and the cord designed to bond us.

So what causes all of this to occur among us – including Christians? In a word… communication … or lack thereof. It is the lack of communication over time that prevents us from being open with and true to God, our life partner, and our selves, thereby weakening our once sturdy strands. While designed to bond us, our three-stranded cord is still no match for our free will. Just as we are free to tough it out, we are also free to walk away from it. Unfortunately, for many, myself included at one time, walking away when things get too tough is too easy of an option; far better than staying to face the depth of our challenges … many of which are of our own making. The truth is…should we stay to save our bond, we most likely discover it is those very challenges that test and strengthen that bond. Today is Good Friday. As with Jesus, God presents us with many difficult challenges during our lifetime. Over time, those challenges weigh very heavy on our shoulders. Proving to be our wooden cross, we bear it the best we can. Still.. we will no doubt stumble and fall many times, picking ourselves up each time as we try to move more forward.

What advice do I offer others who wish to keep their relationships alive? Communicate, communicate, communicate with all of your heart, mind, and spirit until you are raw and crying out to God and your life partner in pain. It is then I learned your bond with God and your life partner becomes most real. Most of all… have faith in the love that binds you. In rising above your challenges, you are given the most precious gift … a chance for a new life.

Have a good Friday and a very blessed Easter! ~ Theresa —)-@

Give a gift that keeps on giving…

Today’s Valentine’s Day… a day in which we demonstrate in ways big and small just how much we love our significant other. But why save this gift for one day a year when it can be shared every day of the year?

Since we met over 2 years ago, Justin has never ceased to amaze me. He seems to know innately what I think and feel, often before I can articulate what it is I am thinking and feeling. What’s more, he expresses his love for me in so many beautiful ways every day of the year. So much so that I feel as though Valentine’s Day is every day. He expresses his love for me in ways I understand and appreciate… it’s as though he “speaks” my language of love.

So what exactly is my language of love? Or his for that matter? Shortly after we met, he told me about a book called “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman. With over 30 years of marriage counseling experience, Dr. Chapman has probably seen and heard it all. Working with couples young and old and at every stage of a relationship , he discovered many call it quits with poor communications being the root cause. Oddly enough many felt they were openly sharing their feelings with their partner. The reality? There was a lot of sharing going on, but not a lot of comprehending because they were not “speaking” the same language…

How can that be you ask? Over the years, Dr. Chapman noticed a pattern in all the individuals he had ever counseled. Each had a “love language” — a primary way of expressing and interpreting love. Further, for whatever reason, he discovered that people were often drawn to those who “spoke” a different love language than their own.

Of the countless ways we can show our love for one another, Dr. Chapman discovered five key love languages to be universal and comprehensive, with each of us having a primary love language in which we identify:

  1. Words of Affirmation. Actions don’t always speak louder than words. Unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important. So is hearing the reasons behind that love. Both send your  spirits skyward while insults leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
  2. Quality Time. If this is your love language, nothing says, “I love you,” like the full, undivided attention of your partner. Being there is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, cell phone off, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
  3. Receiving Gifts. Not to be confused with materialism, with this love language the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift, not just the gift itself. The “perfect” gift or gesture demonstrates that you are cared for and valued above the sacrifice made. A missed birthday or a  thoughtless gift would be disastrous as would be the absence of everyday gestures.
  4. Acts of Service. Can doing dishes really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of your love one is an “Act of Service” that speaks volumes. The words he or she loves to hear would be: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
  5. Physical Touch. This love language is not all about the bedroom. Rather, a person whose primary language is Physical Touch responds to the sense of touch. This includes hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face. All demonstrate excitement, concern, care, and yes… love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse are often unforgivable and/or destructive.

To find out your primary love language and that of your partner, check out the Five Love Languages Test. Knowing how your partner expresses and responds to love will not only open the lines of communications between you, but it will also deepen your relationship and provide greater intimacy. So give your Valentine a gift that keeps on giving every day of the year… give him or her a gift of love spoken in his or her language.

Does technology serve us?

Two events converged recently that made me stop and reflect on them before sharing with you. The first event occurred Friday night when Justin and I attended a Friday Night Soiree. If you have never been to one, they’re a great way to spend an evening with like-minded friends old and new, sharing a meal then viewing and discussing a thought-provoking movie. While there are several places around town that host them, we attended one at You Rock Academy in the Corn Hill District. Friday night’s movie was “Man from Earth”… a provocative movie about life, death, immortality and how our inherited beliefs affect our perceptions of the world around us and ultimately on how we choose to live our life. While Justin and I found the topic fascinating, it became too much for some. One couple even left right after the movie! Just as provocative for some, was the discussion that followed the one about the movie; namely, our obsession with technology. While many in the group were passionate in their views that technology was a wonderful means of communicating with the world, I was equally, if not more passionate in my view that our obsession with it is often unhealthy. Perhaps this passion comes from the fact that there was a time when I used technology to isolate myself from the world until I woke up one day to discover that the world was passing me by. That day came when I struggled to find work and had to rely on the kindness of others to help me through it. It was then I realized we could not go through life alone; that we needed to rely on a sense of community to help us through those challenges beyond our control to resolve on our own. This occurs at some point in our lives by design so we learn that there is so much life beyond the four walls we build around us. Often times, technology becomes so convenient that it takes the place of real human interactions. It can isolate us from our family and friends as well as from the very communities that sustain our life and our livelihood.

Evidently I am not the only one who feels disenchanted with our modern times. The second converging event occurred the following night as Justin and I were watching a new BBC series on PBS. “Reggie Perrin” is a British comedy about a middle-aged executive who is dissatisfied with modern day living. The episode that night opened with the title character commuting to work by train. Disenchanted with all his fellow commuters who were connected to technology rather to each other, I found myself cheering Reggie on as he fantasized about using a pair of trimming sheers to cut the cord of the portable device attached to a commuter. I cannot tell you the number of times I have wanted to do something along those lines just to get the attention of the masses. Perhaps this article serves as my set of trimming sheers.

I don’t hate technology … really. In fact it’s been my livelihood for over 30 years. Over the last few years though, it has lost some of its appeal. The sheer convenience of it all makes those already prone to being anti-social another means by which to be antisocial. So many of us are already isolated from our real communities as a result of our jobs, families, daily commutes, and more; this isolation is amplified further as we spend all of our free time building a virtual community one from the comfort of their easy chair and a laptop. Whether at work, school, or at home, many of us IM, text, and e-mail the people we are in contact with rather than calling by phone or conversing face-to-face. While family members may be as physically close to us as the next room, much of our socialization nowadays occurs online with “friends” from the other side. While we have never met them, they get more quality time than our neighbors who live just beyond our front door! This self-imposed isolation reduces the level of intimacy we share with our loved ones and puts our communities and our nation at risk in the event of an emergency.

I know… I know… you are probably thinking I am a bit whacked by now. But consider this. What would happen if you woke up one day to discover that all of this technology no longer worked? When I posed this very question at the Friday’s Soiree, the response was unanimous… “I would rather die as I wouldn’t be able to function without it.” How sad I thought as this is not a fantasy, rather a real possibility. Just a few years ago, there was a heat wave. With so many people using electricity, a regional electrical grid blew out causing a blackout of the entire northeast US for a day. With our dependence on technology even greater now than a few years ago, what would happen if such an event occurred today and lasted weeks or months rather than days? How would the virtual communities we created with our imaginations and our laptops help us then? Thankfully, when the blackout occurred a few years back, we were able to rely on our neighbors and the services available within our communities to sustain us in our hour of need until electricity and the technology that uses it were restored. It was during this “downtime” that our communities came to our rescue. If we do not get out of our easy chairs now and serve our communities in their time of need, a time will come when they will no longer be there to serve us.

So… this leaves me asking…does technology really serve us? Or do we serve it?

Can Marriage Jeopardize Your Future?

After embracing singlehood for many years, I am now “over the moon” about sharing my life with the most incredible man. Justin is everything I ever hoped for in a mate and more. Together we share a level of intimacy most cannot imagine. What’s more, as our relationship has evolved, we have redefined and expanded the meaning of family. While not yet legally married, we feel more married than either of us felt with our former mates. Asked from time to time, “why not marry?” the answer is always the same, “what incentive do we have to do so?” While we love each other very much and do wish to marry, reality has a way of taking a bite out of personal preference as we find ourselves deferring our wedding plans until age 60 by circumstance rather than choice. To marry sooner would actually jeopardize our future. This reality is particularly difficult as we truly believe in marriage, feel more married in every possible way except on paper, and from time to time face the scrutiny and disapproval of friends, family, and the spiritual community at large for this decision. As difficult as this decision is for us to make, we are not alone. In fact, according to Bowling Green State University Demographer Susan Brown, a 2006 study indicates that 1.8 million Americans aged 50 and above live in heterosexual “unmarried-partner households.” This is a 50% increase from 2000 figures. More recent US Census data results are more staggering, indicating that between 2000 and 2008, the number of cohabiting persons aged 50 and older almost doubled, from 1.2 million to 2.2 million!

How is this possible, you ask? The answer is quite simple. It’s not practical financially or personally to do so. What’s more, current government policies fail us morally and socially by discouraging marriage and encouraging cohabitation! First off… the financial reasons, which include tax penalties, loss of military and pension benefits, loss of alimony, fear of incurring liability for partner’s medical expenses, credit rating protection, separation of current debt, increase in health insurance costs, and asset protection. Then there’s the personal reasons such as lack of concern over what others think, love and friendship over romance, concerns over children’s inheritance, and anti-marriage attitude carried over from a previous relationship. The final “nail in the coffin” is found in the government policies including social security benefits, Medicaid, and health care reform that all favor cohabitation over marriage. For example, did you know that widows who stayed home while their husbands worked must remain unmarried to keep their deceased husbands’ Social Security checks? This is also true in the case of divorce. If your former spouse earned more than your current partner, then you may lose significant Social Security benefits if you remarry before the age of 60 (50 if disabled). The incentives to cohabit rather than marry should love blossom again are huge. Then there’s the infamous “Medicaid divorce.” In this scenario, a loving couple divorce to make an ill spouse poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. This allows the other spouse to preserve what’s left of the family’s assets. Finally, there’s our recent health care reform. Thanks to this so-called “reform, unmarried couples actually receive “cohabitation bonuses.” Case in point… if two 60-year-olds earn $30,000 per year, cohabitating couples are entitled to $10,425 in health care subsidies, while the same couple would not be entitled to them if married.

As absurd as all this sounds, there are little if any incentives for couples young or old to marry anymore. And we haven’t even talked about today’s divorce rates!. What incentive do you have to marry when you are actually rewarded financially in a big way to defer, or actually forgo your wedding plans altogether?  Once again, as baby boomers, we are testing our social institutions along with current social policies as we age. Hopefully, common sense will eventually prevail, with the necessary adjustments being made to social policies so couples like Justin and myself who truly believe in and want to marry can do so without being penalized.

Remember … touch a life today “The Little Way” by following the lead and need of others. Also, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish my community, knew…”, then be sure to visit White Light Communications at http://www.tothewhitelight.com.

~ Theresa

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Yearning for Eden?

So how did our yearning for Eden come to be? Since the time of Adam and Eve, we have yearned to live in perfect harmony with nature and to be in communion with God as through His Son, He promised us both. Along with this promise, He warned Adam and Eve that human nature was not capable of handling the knowledge of good and evil. Unfortunately, the ancient serpent convinced them otherwise with a lie. From then on, Adam and Eve, along with the rest of us, have been barred from entering the Garden of Eden. Since then, we have longed to return to Eden.

Throughout history, this yearning has manifested itself in many ways. In fact, American literature is full of essays, stories, and poetry with the theme of returning to Eden. Thoreau has his “Walden Pond” – a detailed account of living for two years in a shack of his own construction on land near Concord, Massachusetts. While written long ago, the essay has not lost any of its power with his appeal for all of us to “simplify simplify simplify.” If anything, that appeal has only grown over time. Then there’s John Milton who immersed himself in the perfect world of Eden in “Paradise Lost” – a rich garden everyone sought, including Satan, who hoped to destroy it and in his quest to do so received directions from none other than a helpful angel who had no concept of evil. Finally, who can forget “East of Eden” – John Steinbeck’s novel that revolves around the theme of good and evil.

One doesn’t have to look very far or very long ago to realize the art world is full of masterpieces depicting the search for paradise too. Currently on exhibition at Boston University School of Visual Arts is a collection of photographs entitled In Search of Eden: A Work in Progress by the collective TRIIIBE. A collaborative effort among founders Alicia, Kelly, Sara Casilio, and Cary Wolinsky along with many artists, this series of photographs revisits the biblical creation story, the notion of temptation, and the eternal quest for Eden. Continuously evolving, this exhibit plays with cultural ideas of identity and values.

Then there is you and me. We too have a desire to return to our original state of being with this desire manifesting itself in our life choices. For this reason it is a formidable source of motivation for us whether positive or negative. In our desire to be empowered, we seek Eden in our work.  In craving oneness, intimacy, and perfect love, we seek Eden in our relationships with those we feel a connection.  In seeking peace of mind and enlightenment, we seek Eden by embracing beliefs and following a spiritual path. In seeking beauty, we seek Eden when we pursue creative activities.  In seeking to numb the pain of life’s stresses, we find ourselves  succumbing to an addiction or a bad habit, when we are actually seeking Eden’s joy. Throughout our life and in everything we do good or bad, our life choices reflect a deep, largely unconscious desire to return to the “Garden of Eden” to reclaim the joy and ecstasy we lost so long ago.

So what is it about Eden we really seek? It’s not for its real estate. Rather, what we really yearn for is a feeling of “home” within the beautiful paradise God promised us. In the truest sense, this “home” never really left us and is within our reach. It’s just that in using our gift of free will, we have made many life choices… one of which being to leave “home.” Tempted and caught up in the unknown, we lose sight of where we were. Losing our way, we then struggle to find our way back home again. Just like the father who embraces his prodigal son upon returning home, God too is waiting for us. At the entrance of the Garden of Eden, He is waiting to embrace us upon our return. It is only then we realize this that we not only come home to God’s warm embrace, but  we also once again experience the pure joy and total ecstasy that is Eden.

Remember … touch a life today “The Little Way” by following the lead and need of others. Also, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish my community, knew…”, then be sure to visit White Light Communications at http://www.tothewhitelight.com.

~ Theresa

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Do You Believe in Second Chances?

The other night, Justin and I were talking about “second chances” and how blessed we are that our Lord gives us many of them  and not just two as the phrase would infer. As he spoke, it made me think about the series of heartbreaks I experienced over the years and how truly blessed I am now that I finally found love after three “second chances”.  Blessed not only because our Lord gave me three “second chances”, but blessed because he threw in a bonus — an opportunity to redefine and expand the meaning of family.  Like many, the first time out at love I was young and foolish. Not realizing I already had it, I gave it up for a “second chance”. I soon regretted that “second chance” as it eventually ended in divorce. When I finally opened my heart up to  the possibility of love again many years later, I was older, but still a bit foolish when it came to my second “second chance” with love.  Still young-at-heart and naive in many ways, I had feelings for my third love that I now know he never felt for me. The relationship eventually ran its course , ending with bad feelings on both sides. It wasn’t until I made a conscious decision to change myself  and my life rather than expecting the world to change for me that love finally came to me. Interestingly enough it finally came when I no longer pursued it. Since then I have truly appreciated its many forms.

Whether you’re an athlete (Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Roger Clemens, or Alex Rodriguez), a politician (Elliot Spitzer, Gary Hart, or Richard Nixon), an ex con, drug addict, a single parent, or an “average Joe or Josephine” who said or did something they later regretted , we often hear the mantra, ‘everybody deserves a second chance.’ Is this really true? Should we always give another a second chance? Are there any circumstances where someone does not deserve a second chance? For example, when they said or did something deemed “unforgivable” for the umpteenth time. Or, should we always err on the side of forgiveness?

“Second chances” are not only about forgiveness and reconciliation; they are also about treating others in a way we too wish to be treated. For example, if you lost your savings and had to file for bankruptcy, wouldn’t you want a “second chance” to gain financial stability? If you lost your job at no fault of your own for the third time, wouldn’t you want a local employer to have enough faith in you to hire you? After going through a divorce, or a series of betrayals or abusive relationships, wouldn’t you want yet another chance to know lasting love? “Second chances” are about offering hope to those who only know of despair; unconditional love to those who only know anger, hatred, or indifference; trust to those who only know of betrayal; and abundance to those only knowing poverty. In real terms, it means providing programs that help ex-cons, drug addicts, and single parents who want to change their life in a positive direction find work and be able to stay on course. It means donating food and clothing the homeless and lower income individuals who find themselves without the necessary resources to sustain themselves; providing rehabilitation centers and transitional housing for those who need a chance to heal; and offering after-school programs to our at-risk youth who are in need of positive role models to turn their lives around.

Does everyone deserve a “second chance”? Absolutely. A third, fourth, and a million second chances too.  As Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18:21-22, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” To that Jesus replied, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”  In doing so though it doesn’t mean you have to be stupid or naive about it. For example, if your son embezzles money from your business, a “second chance” may mean forgiveness and reconciliation so as to maintain a loving relationship with him. You do have to be smart enough about it though as to not hire him to do the books for your business. Or if a former love cheated on you, a “second chance” may mean to take a step back, learn from the mistakes you made in the relationship, and work through the issues so you have a chance to remain friends after the split. It doesn’t mean, however, you should renew a romance with him anytime soon.

What a “second chance” is really about is giving others what we want others to give us…. as many opportunites as it takes to learn and grow from our mistakes; a safe place to make whatever changes are needed to move our life in a positive direction; and most of all a chance to reclaim what we may have once had, to reach our full potential, and to become… the person God meant us to be.  So don’t save “second chances” for the holiday season. Rather, offer them up to all the lives you touch every day of the year.

Remember … touch a life today “The Little Way” by following the lead and need of others. Also, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish my community, knew…”, then be sure to visit White Light Communications at http://www.tothewhitelight.com.

~ Theresa

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Is Revenge Ever Good?

My partner and I were having a discussion the other night about revenge, which then spilled over to our breakfast conversation the following morning about whether revenge was ever good. Not the war variety mind you where a group of individuals save a country from a dictatorship, but the personal variety where one individual feels as though they have to “get even” with another for their misdeeds. The discussion left me feeling as though I had unfinished business to resolve, if only “on paper”, as the topic seems to come up time and time again. It came up again when my partner viewed a revenge movie called “Repo Man” with his son as part of the father-son bonding experience. He summed up the viewing by saying that he survived the gore and gross parts and actually liked the story line… that is until it took an unexpected turn in the wrong direction with the “bad guy” ultimately “winning”. After that, he was sorely disappointed. That made me think: Is revenge ever good? Are there really any clear winners where revenge is concerned? Most of all… what happens when we’re exposed to a steady diet of it?

Is revenge ever good?

This can be tough to answer as in some respects the movie’s results mirror real life. By that I mean, we often go into a negative situation thinking we can handle it. Things remain fine as long as we find ourselves on the winning side. Yet, if we find our self on the wrong side of revenge, or discover the “win” is a shallow victory at best, then revenge doesn’t quite have the same feeling attached to it. While movies and TV have a way of clearly defining “good” and “evil”, these roles are less defined in real life. In fact, “good” and “evil” are often relative based on one’s vantage point and can quickly take on a new meaning when you start to see things from a different point of view. Case in point: prior to my current relationship, I had a seven-year relationship with a man who over time became many things to me. During our time together, “Mark” was a compassionate friend, a handyman, a lover, and a spiritual mentor. From all appearances, our relationship was a mutually satisfying one for a long time… that is until he moved on to someone new half his age. No longer feeling for me what I felt for him, our relationship eventually changed. Understandably, I not only felt hurt and angry about the change, but I also felt betrayed when he could not be honest with his current love about the level of intimacy we once shared. Soon my anger turned to revenge, with clearly defined roles: I was good to his evil. Back then, I justified everything I said and did; some of which I would never do or say under “normal” circumstances. I questioned his motives and integrity; did a background check on him to “clarify” known discrepancies; and discredited him in front of his love interest every chance I got.  I justified it all by thinking he deserved all things bad. Like all revenge… the goal was to hurt him a thousand fold more than he hurt me. But was it really worth it?

Are there any clear winners?

The answer is no. While many never “get it”, I eventually did. Revenge requires a great deal of time and effort, with an enormous amount of energy expended on the negative rather than on doing something positive. Before you know it, it becomes a way of life, affecting everything you say and do and every life you touch. Imprisoned by anger, darkness starts to consume your entire life and your world falls apart. If that is not enough…while your adversary may have experienced some pain along the way, it never matches the anguish you feel. So if you’re looking for a victory, it will be a very shallow one at best.

So what happens when we’re exposed to a steady diet of revenge?

It varies from individual to individual. In my case, revenge was a constant reminder of a significant relationship lost. The pain lingered within my heart and soul for months, much like an open wound that refuses to heal. The sheer mention of his name brought tears to my eyes. As much as he hurt me, I had lost and could not reclaim what I once cherished… a deep connection with a man who loved and accepted me at a time when I really needed someone like him in my life.

So is there an alternative to revenge?

Yes. About 6 months after my relationship with “Mark” ended, the Lord presented me with an opportunity to redeem myself in the form of a jury summons. As an alternate juror, I had an opportunity to see my relationship with “Mark” play out in a courtroom setting, with the defendant and plaintiff playing young versions of “Mark” and myself. I saw and heard all the evidence and relived all the drama; this time as an objective observer. As I experienced it all, it felt like déjà vu; this time from a different vantage point, a new heart, and fresh pair of eyes. By the trial’s end, I found myself emotionally drained and totally invested in the situation and its outcome. Imagine my surprise when I learned as an alternate juror I was excused from duty just as the jury was to deliberate. What’s more, imagine how I felt when I learned I would never know the outcome as the case would be sealed due to the plaintiff’s age. Angry at first, I soon realized it was a blessing in disguise. No longer in control of the situation, justice would be served, not by me, but rather by a higher authority and without my knowledge or involvement. In that moment I finally let go of “Mark” along with all the mixed feelings of love and hate I had for him. And in the very same moment, my heart learned there was a positive alternative to revenge known as “forgiveness”; not for “Mark”, but for myself so I could move forward with my life and start the healing process.

While “Mark” is not yet ready to renew contact, I am hopeful he will be one day soon. When we do meet up again, I will be ready as  I am thankful not only for what we once shared, but for what I learned as a result of our relationship’s end. From both, I learned about the possibility of new beginnings when both are ready to heal. What’s more, I will be able to share the following 7 tenets to Healing Relationships with him:

1.     Forgive the person whether or not you ever speak to them again and before you ever invite them into the process. This gives you greater success in mending the relationship as forgiveness frees you from the anger that only gets in the way of fixing relationships.

2.     Apologize with an unconditional apology, even if only written as an unsent letter. It doesn’t matter whether you are right or wrong, or whether they hurt you, or you hurt them if you truly love this person and want them back in your life.

3.     Listen, really listen to what the other person has to say without getting mad, cutting them off, or reminding them of what they did wrong.

4.     Do not have any expectations of receiving an apology, as you may never get one. If the need for an apology is greater than your desire to have them back into your life, then the rift may never be resolved.

5.     Share your feelings, explaining why you were hurt and/or angry only after completely listening to what your loved one has to say. Do so without making accusation such as “You did this or that”. Use feeling phrases such as “When you did this, it made me feel…”

6.     Leave the door open as your loved one may not be ready to forgive. Rather than getting angry, tell them that you love them very much and want them back in your life.

7.     Wait no matter how long it takes. Then do just that. Once some time has passed, try to contact them again. Finally, do not rush things, rather take whatever time is needed to make things right again.

Remember … touch a life today “The Little Way” by following the lead and need of others. Also, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish my community, knew…”, then be sure to visit White Light Communications at http://www.tothewhitelight.com.

~ Theresa

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How much do you know about religion?

I was listening to one of my favorite radio stations this morning, K-Love while having breakfast and learned something interesting worth passing along to you. According to a recent nationwide U.S. Religious Knowledge survey conducted by the Pew Research from May 19 through June 6, 2010, Atheists and Agnostics are among the highest-scoring groups on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions! With  Americans on average correctly answering 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions, Atheists and Agnostics answered on average 20.9 correct answers compared to Christians and Catholics who lag behind with 17.6 and 16, respectively. How can that be?

At first glance, it would appear paradoxical for Atheists and Agnostics to score so well on this survey given their  low level of commitment to any particular religion. Upon closer examination, however, the best predictor of religious knowledge is educational attainment, and according to the survey, Atheists and Agnostics are not only highly educated, but they know more about world religions beyond Christianity than those of other faiths! So it makes sense. They apparently studied  many religions of the world before deciding on their religious views. Fascinating!

Having studied and currently embrace beliefs of many religions of the world, this survey left me curious about how I would do on the quiz. The results? 13 out of 15, or 80%. Hmmm…. not bad. It’s obvious though that I still need to learn more. How about you? How do you think you would do?

For more information, click here for survey results, or to take the quiz to see how well you do, click here.

Remember … touch a life today “The Little Way” by following the lead and need of others. Also, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish my community, knew…”, then be sure to visit White Light Communications at http://www.tothewhitelight.com.

~ Theresa

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A Woman of Wisdom…

On October 1 in honor of St. Therese, I wish to share the following video with you. A woman of wisdom for all ages… a Proverbs 31 Woman as illustrated in the simple life of St. Therese…

You are my inspiration. Continue to shower your love and your roses upon me.
~ Theresa

Remember … touch a life today “The Little Way” by following the lead and need of others. Also, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish my community, knew…”, then be sure to visit White Light Communications at http://www.tothewhitelight.com.

~ Theresa

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