Category Archives: honesty

Isolated or Insulated (living safe with people)

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“I feel safer keeping a space, a gentle breeze between me and people, a buffer I like to think of as God.” S. Kim Henson

When John accused me of isolating, he mixed up his words and instead said, “It concerns me how much you’re insulating yourself from others.”

“I know you don’t mean that as a good thing, but insulating to me sounds like a safe haven,” I said.

Ever since that evening, when I catch myself staying at home more often and staying away from people a little more, I say, “Here I go insulating again.”

And it’s okay. I’ve accepted and figured out ways to deal with being afraid of people, especially ones who know how I should live.

We all judge, but there are variations of judgment. Some are good judgments and some are bad. Some are accurate and some inaccurate. Some seem fairer and more reasonable than others.

Some friends judge in negative ways and know they shouldn’t. I’ve done it myself and way too many times. We know we don’t really know how others should live.

Some judge and know they’re right. These friends scare me.

When I detached from my family of origin, a friend confronted me in a restaurant about my decision. One of my mom’s friends confronted me from behind the register at a gift shop. I put my purchase back on the glass shelf and walked out. A local reader of my blog sent an email warning me I should visit my mom or I’d regret it. None of these townspeople knew much, if anything, about my family’s dysfunction, disorders, and secrets, yet they judged.

When I couldn’t be there for a friend who lost her son, I wrote a blog post about doing the best I could, which meant showing up at a distance. The post, Compassion, aroused a judgmental response that said I should have been there for her. I chose not to share it in the comment section.

I could write on and on about how afraid I’ve been of people this election year. Their fierceness behind knowing they are right scares me and stirs up feelings of being judged, feelings that my choice of a candidate couldn’t possibly be right if it’s not the same as their choice.

While writing this and thinking about how I’ve vacillated between isolating and insulating, I looked up the two words. They showed up as synonyms in a couple of online resources, but I have no idea why. They feel very different when I’m living them.

Here are definitions that resonated and made the most sense for this post.

Isolate – having minimal contact or little in common with others.
Synonyms: solitary, lonely, companionless, friendless; secluded, cloistered, segregated, unsociable, reclusive, hermitic, lonesome, cutoff

Insulate – protect by interposing material that prevents the loss of heat or the intrusion of sound.
Synonyms: wrap, sheathe, cover, coat, encase, enclose, envelop; heatproof, soundproof; pad, cushion

I’ve isolated so people wouldn’t find out how afraid I was of them and how afraid I’ve been of just about everything. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by putting up walls and a façade.

I was wrong because I lost myself.

By never letting anyone know me, I shut myself off from everyone including John and our two adult children. I remember our son’s bewildered face the evening at our mountain house when he questioned some of my choices, like no longer exercising and staying on Facebook for hours at a time. I admitted I was depressed. He had no idea and neither did our daughter.

John helped me distinguish between isolation and insulation, even if by accident.

blog empty roomI no longer want to isolate and keep people at a far off distance. It’s depressing to be solitary and secretive.

Insulation, on the other hand, has turned out to be the gift of learning to live among people and letting them know who I am. It’s the gift of blogging again.

 At the same time that I’m showing up, I also keep a space between us – a gentle breeze, a buffer I like to think of as God – so I can make my own judgments, as well as accepting others’ conclusions whether I agree with them or not.

It’d be helpful to hear ways you’ve taken care of yourself while living among and loving family, friends, and the not so friendly.

In this Together,
Kim

On the side: I’m learning from Summer Turner’s pilot program, Move Forward from INSIDE Your Comfort Zone, about how introversion has influenced my life, which in turn influenced this blog post. I’ll share more information and links when she launches her online course.

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Saved By Criticism (in writing and in relationships)

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“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” Norman Vincent Peale

Below is a link to one of the best blog posts I’ve read about the value of criticism. I believe it applies to healthier daily living and enriched relationships the same as it applies to improved writing. Dan Balow writes about family and friends who, though well meaning when they praise our writing, actually turn out to be misleading culprits who tell us our work is far better than it is.

This reminds me of a friend who asked my opinion about a book she planned to self publish. Since I’m in the business, I thought she wanted the truth, although I wasn’t comfortable telling her all I thought. It crossed my mind that maybe she only wanted a pat on the back, but I really wanted to help her improve the book. I gave a couple of ideas to see if she was okay with my feedback. Unfortunately, she wasn’t, even though my review was cautious. Her book didn’t sell like she hoped and our relationship never was the same – all a lesson to me about graciously accepting criticism.

When I began my writing career in 2007, I surprised my husband and myself by handling critiques and rejections better than either of us expected. I’m sensitive, so we wondered if a career full of this sort of thing was a good idea. I guess I recognized my writing wasn’t going to improve without some level of support and honesty. It probably helped that my first editor who I respect and like said more than once, “Writing is rewriting” and “There are two kinds of writers: ones who are still learning and bad ones.”

That brings me around to my critique group that meets an hour and a half from where I live. I haven’t always appreciated the long commute, but I have valued the distance. When I first attended, I was grateful I only knew the members as fellow writers since we didn’t live in the same town. That way, our feedback to each other wasn’t influenced by friendship. We are now friends, but since we started on the “write” foot, foremost in our relationship with each other is still the honesty (and, yes, criticism) we share during our meetings.

I’m not suggesting we stand by and be criticized by anyone who has an opinion. However, if I trust that you care about me and I trust that you know what you’re talking about, I’ll listen and then try to put your suggestions into print and practice. Like Winston Churchill said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Heaven help those who have no one to tell him or her the truth or those who won’t listen to anyone who tries. I’m fortunate to be encircled by people who care enough to criticize me and I’m grateful I can hear them. For me, speaking the critical truth takes more courage than hearing it, but I want to care enough to share that responsibility as well.

At least in part (I repeat, in part), criticism is what critique groups are about, criticism is what friendships are about, and criticism is what marriage and parenting are about.

Do you have people you trust to tell you what you need to hear? Do you listen? Are you honest with others?

Click here to read Bad Reviews by Dan Balow (from The Steve Laube Agency Blog).

Stalling (a post about honesty)

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“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” William Shakespeare

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.”
William Shakespeare (Artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts)

Stalling. I’ve done a lot of it lately.

I put off posting on my blog because I was afraid of what you might think. Afraid I’d be misunderstood and judged. And the worst, afraid I’d be told I shouldn’t feel the way I already do.

After thinking through all that, I wasn’t up for sharing about our daughter’s ultrasound, the one that showed the sex of our grandbaby.  We’re having a granddaughter, by the way.

A month after hearing the news and I couldn’t be happier about Claire. Originally, though, I couldn’t have been more scared.

Oh, Claire’s just fine. My fear is about matters of the heart, you know. Isn’t it always?

I wrote Claire’s blog post the week we got home from seeing the ultrasound. I rewrote it the next day, the next week, and the week after that. Finally, I put it away.

When I tried writing something else, nothing fit in the place of Claire. When you read it, you’ll probably wonder why it was hard to share, but this is the kind of relationship I have with my blog posts.

The problem is, my honesty scares me.

I argue for a little less transparency, although I’m not sure why I bother. I’ve threatened to abandon my blog altogether even after reading confirmation from other writers. In her post “Me Too” by Heather Kopp, she writes about readers relating more to what’s wrong in our lives than to what’s right. She says it helps others when we’re willing to tell the hard stories.

So I figure, let Heather be honest and I’ll write fluff. The problem is (yeah, there’s another one), it’s not working. Fluff and I never did get along, probably because of what my husband says, “You’re too honest for your own good” – whatever that means.

Okay, so maybe I know what he means. I also know he’s trying to help, but I’m grasping more each day that …

Honesty is for my own good, and it’s the legacy I want to leave my children and grandchildren.

Do you stall when it comes to telling the truth about your life? It’s all about fear, isn’t it?

Write wHere I’m supposed to be – Writing about why I’m not posting seemed the best idea for now. At least I’m showing up. I believe God’s okay with it too since he sent two guest bloggers for April.

On the side: Beth Pensinger’s blog post appeared last week. Beth Vogt’s post will go live this Wednesday – you won’t want to miss it. And, yes, Claire’s way-too-personal (for me) blog post about matters of the heart will be posted before the end of April.

Click here for more artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts.

We Know, No Matter What Anyone Tells Us (a post about being honest)

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“I’m fat, aren’t I?” she said.

Instead of gently responding that maybe exercise and an eating plan may help, I spent hours telling her what I thought she wanted to hear, that she wasn’t overweight at all.

When a mutual friend reproached another about being terribly negative, the accused friend turned to me and began explaining how she had given up the habit of pessimism years ago. Then she asked if I thought our friend was right. Even though my friend’s negativity seemed glaringly obvious, I said, “No, of course not. You’re not negative.”

“If you truly want honesty, don’t ask questions you don’t really want the answers to.” Proverb quote
(Artwork by Cindy DeLuz)

I suspect my people pleasing answers were not helpful, but I didn’t have it in me to be honest with either friend, even though they asked.

These days I lean toward answering with compassion, but also with at least some forthrightness.

However, it makes me wonder why we even ask these sorts of questions.

Like after our second child was born and I asked my husband two weeks later if I looked like I lost all my weight. He lovingly said, “No, not quite.”

I cried and cried, although probably not because of what he said. I just wanted him to buy me some time before I faced the mirror.

I cried because I already knew. 

What question do you keep asking even though the answer is obvious?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – If we have to ask, we probably already know the answer. It’s best to give up trying to finagle a way out, and get on with changing what needs changing.

On the side: For more inspiration and artwork, check out Cindy DeLuz’s blog.

Pause For a Moment of Kindness

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"The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause." Mark Twain (Photo from iStock)

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Mark Twain (Photo from iStock)

“I would shoot for 100% honesty, then moderate it with silence” was a comment from a male reader on the post Looking for the Liars. 

The definition of honesty is fairness and straightforwardness of conduct. Instead of the lie I told the pastor when he asked, “Did you sign the visitor’s book?”, a fair and straightforward response would have been, “Not today. Maybe next time.”

I can do that.

However, “moderate it with silence” makes me cringe, even more than the lie.

When I give a straightforward response, an explanation seems necessary especially if an uncomfortable quiet comes over the conversation. After all,  my original statement created the silence, so obviously I’m responsible for filling it.

In my defense, and in the defense of every female friend I’ve heard make way too many excuses, psychotherapist Dr. Barton Goldsmith’s article in Psychology Today cites women talk at 250 words per minute. Men talk at 125. Goldsmith said Gary Smalley, author of “Making Love Last Forever,” reports women speaking 25,000 words in a day compared to a man only speaking 12,000.

“Moderate it with silence” … yeah, easy for him to say.

All the excuses, justification, reasoning and explanations are easy for us women to say.

But then, I looked up moderate. It means “lessen the intensity of, make less severe or harsh, and tone down.”

I can speak the truth gently and make the impact less intense when, once it’s said, I’m quiet. In fact, most of what I say would be less harsh if my word count was toned down.

“What you defend, you make true,” said a friend, and I think the truth of her statement shows itself in conversations. An acquaintance asked if I’d like to join her for lunch. I preferred to run errands because I wouldn’t have time again until the weekend. I listed several reasons why I couldn’t go. When she finally got in a word, she said, “It’s fine if you don’t want to go.”

No, that’s not what I said. Or was it? My run-on excuses would have sounded kinder if I had shortened it to, “I have a busy afternoon so I’ll have to pass.”

Holding tight to the period is the hard part.

I want to give at least one excuse so the uncomfortable silence seems gentler. Gentleness’ synonym is quietness. I’ll have to chew on that for a while … probably a good thing since I’m not supposed to talk with my mouth full.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I am willing to practice being kind by way of truth and quiet.

Looking for the Liars, a post about honesty and kindness

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"Don't go justifying your mouth with God's words." S. Kim Henson

“Don’t go justifying your mouth with God’s words.”
S. Kim Henson

“We’re members of the Presbyterian church in Conway, but we’re visiting around. We thought it may be time to move our memberships to the beach.”

“You signed one of the visitor’s book, right?” the pastor asked.

“Sure did,” I said.

My husband and I walked silently to our car. When we were out of earshot, I said, “Are you upset?

“Why would I be upset?”

“Well, let’s see – I just sat in church for an hour, prayed, sang hymns, prayed some more, listened to a sermon, walked outside, shook the pastor’s hand and thanked him for a great sermon,” I said.

“Then I lied to him.”

“So, what should you have said? Nope, we didn’t sign it and don’t want to.”

“Should we go back and put our names in the book? You know, in case he looks,” I said.

“No, I don’t want to be bothered until we decide where we want to attend,” he said.

My husband put an end to our debate.

At first, all I could think about was the verse, “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.”

But then I grew defensive.

When a friend told another friend the event she invited us to was long and boring, was that necessary?

And when an acquaintance told one of our book club members that others thought her kids were bratty, was that really for the sake of truthfulness?

And the church member who refused to give tickets for a choir event to another member, telling her it was because her husband was a bartender – was that sincerity or condemnation?

I know God didn’t say, “When you’re following along in the Bible, use your common sense.” My goodness, we’d have a free-for-all in interpreting every verse our own way. But then, if we’re honest, don’t we do that anyway?

And if we’re going to play by our own rules, it seems a better idea to at least play nice.

Laying in bed tonight, just before I realized I wasn’t going to sleep until I wrote this post, my husband laughed out loud. When I asked what was so funny, he said, “He’s probably still there, looking through the visitor’s books. Still looking for the liars.”

In the dilemma of being truthful without crossing the line to unkindness, what are your thoughts?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – My husband often tells me, “You’re too honest for your own good. People don’t want to hear it.” He’s right. Especially since I’ve figured out maybe, just maybe, it’s kinder not to try to straighten everyone out. Today I want to be kind enough for other’s good and honest enough for my own good.