It is that most special time of the day--quiet time. All my family is sleeping (or playing so quietly I can't hear), so I am going to write down just a few more of the gazillion thoughts I've had about The Bonds That Make Us Free. Then I will unfold all the corners, return it to the library, buy my own copy and read a chapter every few months. Really, as I was telling Kami, there is too much in this book for one read in a short amount of time. I did it, but I feel that by the end I was in overload mode and I wasn't getting as much out of it. Not the author's fault--just an awful lot to chew on.
Pgs 44-45: "I could spend my life assembling, feeding, and protecting the egotistical, ravenous, and addictive fiction I called my self--or I could refuse it every sort of nurture and let it die an unregretted death. I knew that unless I somehow could leave off my project of promoting and protecting myself and instead open myself to life, I would be doomed to a lifetime of self-involvement. I could see that self-absorption is poison to the spirit. . . . Like concern for others, self-concern is a way of relating to people."
Pg. 49: "Everything depends on what we are becoming, and what we are becoming depends upon how true we are to the deep, gentle, and irrepressible invitation to do right by our fellow beings and before God."
I tried that for a day. I mean I put all my energies into really trying it. Focusing ENTIRELY on the needs of my children. I jumped up when I would rather have stayed sitting, and I was kind even when I disciplined. The feeling in my home that day was magic. I really can't describe it. I didn't feel frantic, like I was trying to force too much into too little time. Then the next day I lost my temper with a small girl who pooed her pants and the sweet feeling vanished. Kami and I have talked extensively about tempers and yelling and doing what your own parents did--and we disagree about something. She doesn't think you should set the goal to stop losing your temper with your kids. She thinks it is unrealistic.
I think that it is realistic. That it is MANDATORY. That becoming better people is the whole reason we are here and if I don't trust Heavenly Father enough to help me control my temper than I don't really trust him. (Not that Kami doesn't have a valid point about my being really, really hard on myself sometimes.)
That beautiful day gave me a sense of what my house should be like if it is truly a temple house. Once I was reading about the Jaredites and how by the end they were too angry with each other to care that they were all dying. They ruined themselves knowingly. The Spirit whispered to me, "Your anger can ruin your family."
I think about that a lot. It doesn't make it easier to not yell or get mad, but it helps me see the consequences. This book helped me see what action steps I could take to get better at seeing my children as people and showing them respect.
Pg. 108: ". . . when our hearts are open and sensitive, a prompting to treat someone considerately comes as a gentle invitation to do something we have nothing against doing and indeed welcome doing. . . . When our hearts are right, the obligation we feel to treat others generously comes to us as an opportunity."
This is a long quote but I want Kammers to read it--so we can chat about it later. Pg. 117: "But a perfectionist's conscience cannot be satisfied. Meeting its demands does not put it to rest. This is simply because, fundamentally, perfectionists are interested not in being conscientious but in proving their conscientiousness, and this requires demanding more and more of themselves, unendingly.
This, incidentally, helps us understand what's wrong with one frequently heard excuse. People sometimes say, when they think about self-betrayal, 'If I did everything that seemed right to do, I'd be so frenzied and weary I wouldn't have time for anything else. I can't put that kind of pressure on myself!' However, when we are not betraying ourselves we do not require more of ourselves than we can do. We may wish we could do two needed things at once, but we don't have any reason to beat ourselves up because we can't. We do that only if we're self-betrayers of the perfectionistic kind, having to prove we're doing all we can because our hearts are not at peace about ourselves."
Pg. 120: "When we are caught up in self-betrayal, 'admitting' we are unworthy is just one more strategy in our repertoire. It gives us just as good a justification for acting irresponsibly as the strategy of condemning others. It is a powerful maneuver because claiming to be a victim of our make-up or nature is even harder to refute than claiming to be a victim of others."
Pg. 167: "Occupying the position of another person for even a few moments means admitting that he or she might not be guilty as charged, and with that admission, our previously inflexible accusation crumbles. It always works out this way--the truth dispels the lie."
Pg. 170: "Jenny changed when she gave up trying to push her influence upon Erin and instead let herself be influenced by Erin. It happened when she stopped trying to change her daughter so as to make her own life story turn out the way she had in mind, with herself as heroine at the center of it. Instead, she let the unfolding story of her life be determined by her daughter's needs. She let Erin's need direct her responses."
Pg. 176: "When they no longer have to worry about defending themselves, they have the 'space' to decide how they will respond to our new response to them."
I think this is a really interesting idea because I lived with a sister for several years that forced me, by her behavior, to constantly defend myself when she was around. We weren't allowed to be alone together, we fought constantly, etc. Once that became the pattern of our behavior it was very difficult to break the cycle. (We did--but we are still on our "best behavior" around each other because we know how quickly we degenerate into our past selves around each other.) Building a new, better, more open and friendly relationship took a lot of time and a lot of overlooking things and, most importantly, it required that sister to reach out to me and convince me that she didn't want to hurt me anymore. I hadn't, before this book, thought about how I might have been hurting her, but I have always been grateful that she didn't give up on our having a relationship. The reason this is pertinent is that she gave me a "new" person to respond to so I could respond differently than I had previously.
I'm still not sure how to implement this exactly. Once you've been hurt, trusting is so difficult. But, according to this book, you have to be the one to trust first. To be vulnerable first. Hard.
Of everything in the book, I think this next part stuck out to me the most. Pg: 179: "Before the change [of heart] we communicate the message, 'You deserve whatever treatment you are getting from me. Justice is going to be done, and that means you must suffer.'" I give that message to my kids all the time, and I have that feeling all the time--you did something wrong and bugged me and I had to stop the important thing I was doing and come and discipline you and so you are going to pay. Or . . . what you did was clearly done just to give me more work (usually how I feel when I find poo on the carpet--which I do, regularly) and I don't deserve more work because I am already working harder than I would like, so you are going to suffer.
I hate writing that--but it's real. That is really how I feel toward my kids--the people I love most in the world. And my kids are babies! They are just little people who don't do anything vindictive or thought-out.
I keep trying to change my thought pattern to: my kids are more important than any other work I might be doing. It is hard, though, to really and truly stop yourself in the heat of the moment and think correct and honest thoughts.
Pg 180: "This sacrifice of retribution I am calling love clears a space in which others can let down their guard and be emotionally truthful with themselves. . . . When we criticize people, their consciences console them. When we love them, their consciences indict them."
I want to do that with my kids--let their actions do more of the teaching so they have to be mad at themselves instead of mad at me.
Pg. 182: "But what amazes me is how often people do respond well--how often reconciliation follows a showing forth of love. Hard indeed are those who will not be touched by someone else's sacrifice of retribution."
If I want my children to remember the LESSON behind the discipline instead of the ANGER/FEAR of the discipline, I have to sacrifice the retribution and focus on the showing forth of love after the sharpness.
Pg. 188: "It is simply futile to try to change another if we do so in a critical spirit, even a mild one. Generally speaking, we influence others most profoundly when we do not seek to change them at all, but simply go about straightforwardly doing the right and loving thing."
Okay--this is obviously a spouse quote. But how do was appropriately discuss concerns (make ourselves vulnerable) if we can't seek to change him/her at all. If there is a problem we are hoping for change. I can't imagine that NEVER talking about problems will always solve the problem eventually. Maybe sometimes, but not always. Or maybe I don't have enough faith in the power of love.
Pg. 191: "'Every force,' says the Tao te Ching, 'calls forth a counter-force. . . .But love is a power unmitigated. It allows others their freedom." That is an important quote for a controlling/domineering person like myself. I don't want to force my children to rebel just to feel empowered.
Pg. 262: "The same principles govern here as before. If we respond as we feel prompted, we remain free of any reason to justify or excuse ourselves and to blame others. And if we catch ourselves already in self-betrayal--criticizing boasting, becoming angry, lying, indulging in self-accusation or self-pity or any other negative thoughts or feelings--we have a bona fide opportunity to decide whether we will continue to do so or turn ourselves about. We can do what we did before--we can ask, 'Might I be in the wrong?' or 'What is the right thing to do?' or 'What is the other person struggling with?' and then let the truth guide our actions. Doing this sincerely is what it takes to stay on course, and it lies within our power."
Pg, 289: "The difference between the ideas of this book and the causal theory is of the utmost consequence. If we are victims of our history, we can do nothing to correct our problems. The past has already wrought its damage and cannot be called back. We may be able to work around and compensate somewhat for the searing events in our past, but we can never eradicate them. On the other hand, if we are not victims but instead producers of our emotional problems, and if it is right now that we are producing them, then we can eliminate the problems at their source. By the means we have discussed in this book, we can stop producing them."
Pg. 294: "Forgiveness concerns our wrongdoing, not theirs. And our wrongdoing includes our failure to treat them as we ought, our finding them at fault for this failure, and our refusal to forgive them for this supposed fault.
Second, our act of forgiving consists of repenting of this wrongdoing of ours, or in other words, ceasing to accuse those we have been accusing.
Third, when we cease to accuse them, we cease to feel there's anything on their part that needs to be forgiven! We no longer find them offensive. We see that from their point of view they are struggling against perceived offenses and threats just as we have been. Thus forgiveness involves opening ourselves to the truth, letting our former offenders become real to us, and no longer believing there is anything for us to forgive. As they undergo a transformation in our forgiving eyes, we undergo a transformation ourselves.
This must be so. As long as we see others as needing our forgiveness, we will continue regarding ourselves as their victim and will remain accusing still. We live free of the bondage of accusing, afflicted feelings only by ceasing to find and take offense."
That was a long quote but I wanted to write it down to make sure I had it somewhere I could read and reread it. I don't really understand this concept completely, but it rings of truth to me. Forgive and forget is impossible if we still feel victimized. I know--I'm still struggling with something my hubby said to me two years ago. According to this author, I'm not really struggling with what hubby said but my reaction--my taking offense. The letting go of the offense, the clearly seeing where hubby was coming from--that is hard. I haven't managed it yet, but I want to.
Pg. 306: "Jeff's is the second kind of case, not the first. He didn't consider serving Robin a deflection from his life's purpose because she WAS its purpose. He let her needs dictate his days. He made serving her his work, not a disruption of his work. That's why, too, he never felt noble or heroic during those early years of marriage, and also why, when others felt sorry for him, he never felt sorry for himself."
That is how I want to be about my children.
Pg. 307: "Love is the expression of the one who loves, not of the one who is loved. (Kierkegaard)"
Pg. 317: "When we're stuck in self-betrayal, we dedicate ourselves to finding or producing evidence to prove that we're acceptable and worthwhile. Whatever our particular outward style, from self-disparaging or fawning to arrogant or angry, we live as if we were defendants in a trial. The jury is composed of all the people whose opinions we think are important; they're the ones we've got to convince. Unsettled by our insecurities, we await their judgment.
But the jury members never come back with a final verdict. . . . Why? Because from their individual points of view, they are the ones on trial. They are as concerned to have us validate their self-image as we are to have them validate ours. . . . Therefore what they want from us is not evidence that will establish our acceptability but evidence that will establish theirs. They can't give us their final stamp of approval because they never feel completely approved of themselves."
This reminds me of a sister once who said from her whole childhood/adolescent experience the sum total of her feelings was of never being quite good enough. I don't ever want my children to feel that way. I want my children's sum total feelings to be that they were/are loved. I also don't want our family life to consist of children working for approval without finding it. We all work for approval from those we love, so I can't create an environment where that doesn't exist. However, the more they find approval at home, the less they will have to seek it elsewhere.
Pg. 319: "Fable--The quality of life--the success we hope for--depends largely upon attaining what people have commonly called the good life. By this we mean competing for, obtaining, and securely holding on to certain externals--for example, pleasure, status, or possessions--which we regard as valuable, satisfying, and reflective of our worth.
Fact: The quality of life depends upon the choices we make, moment by moment, to do exactly what we sense is right toward all living things, including God."