Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most influential people in recent human history. His life’s work called attention to social injustices, and his passion for equality sparked a movement that continues improving humanity even to this day.
Some of the accolades honoring his invaluable contributions include a memorial library and statue in Washington, D.C., a Nobel Prize, a National Historical Park in Atlanta, streets, schools, and churches named after him, and of course a National holiday established in his name. No one can question that his actions have inspired followers and successors to do great things and his accomplishments influenced the United States to promote him as a shining example of someone we should admire and emulate.
Yet this same man, who fought for the freedom of all men, simultaneously fought against personal demons that drove him to regularly seek the company of prostitutes, even up until the night before he was assassinated. This according to his closest friend, Ralph Abernathy. Abernathy was with King the day he was shot and revealed King’s secret in his book, “And The Walls Came Tumbling Down.” Abernathy didn’t mention this about King to tarnish his legacy. He revealed it to teach people that great humans doing great things can simultaneously be battling serious flaws in their character that shouldn’t diminish or negate their valuable accomplishments. This is a timely lesson for all of us.
As highly accomplished men are daily falling from grace because of their transgressions, past or present, there is no better time to learn from King’s example. We should take a step back and realize that discarding a person’s life-work because of a character flaw, regardless of how distasteful or offensive, is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. These people desperately need psychological help and support and alienating them only succeeds in compounding their mental battle by adding rejection and loneliness to their struggles. King preached against this approach, hinting of his own struggles when he said:
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.”
Over the last two decades of working in the construction industry, I’ve learned to appreciate the work ethic of dedicated construction workers. In particular, I’ve been consistently impressed with the groups of Mexican workers I’ve encountered. And while I could learn a lot about hard work from these men, it wasn’t that characteristic that significantly inspired me to improve my marriage.
No, the inspiration came to me after working side-by-side with a group of Mexican carpenters during a 3-year construction project where I was the General Contractor. These guys would carpool every day to the job site, work tirelessly for 8 hours, then go home to their family and rest up to do it all again the next day. Each group of guys knew their responsibilities on the project and they would concentrate on their particular tasks until it got close to quitting time. Then they transformed into one cohesive group, helping each other clean up, gather tools and finish whatever each other needed so they could all leave at the same time. It was this end of day activity that impressed me.
If you’ve ever seen the play “Defending the Caveman”, Rob Becker tells of the naturally competitive nature of males that finds its way into our marriages. He says men see having to do unpleasant chores around the house as a competition. The chore is there for either person to do and neither person wants to. If the woman starts the chore, the man is comfortable watching her work, feeling somehow she lost the competition and now has to do the chore. Unknowingly this was my attitude toward household chores like cleaning the kitchen, loading the dishwasher, vacuuming, dusting, cooking or doing the laundry. The conscious (and lazy) part of me justified her doing these because they were her chores. And even when I brought my thinking into the new millennium, I still had no problem watching her do them alone if she started them. In the back of my mind, though, I felt uncomfortable relaxing while she worked and for some unknown reason thoughts of those impressive Mexican workers popped into my head. I felt I had something to learn from those guys but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then one day it hit me.
The reason those guys pitched in to help each other at the end of the day was because they shared a common goal of going home. And only by helping each other finish their work could they reach that common goal together. I finally realized my wife and I both shared a common goal of wanting to relax at the end of the day, but I was doing nothing to help with the household chores that were keeping her from reaching her goal as soon as me. Once I changed my attitude, I pitched in more and more to get all the chores completed so we could both relax at the same time.
Thanks to the example of those Mexican workers, I now see all the chores around the house as our chores and that I shouldn’t be resting if any of them are still undone.
Countless articles have been written encouraging people to look outside the box when seeking effective solutions for challenging problems. But don’t discount the value of answers you can find inside the box.
Inside the box you will typically find conventional wisdom, time tested answers and conservative approaches to problem-solving. I’ll give you two examples.
Several years ago I experienced a very low point in my life. Every day problems seemed to greet me at each turn and my usually positive outlook on life was up against the ropes. Every night consisted of tossing and turning while I mulled over each problem in my head, frantic to find answers. Until I took a page from my father’s playbook.
My father had 6 kids, several jobs and lots of worries. But one way he balanced all this chaos was to regularly practice a calming routine. For him, it was attending a church service every morning. There he found solace in the rituals of that event. An hour-long series of familiar, predictable steps. It was the perfect distraction without stress or surprises. When I tried this I only attended Sunday services, but it was enough to break my downward emotional spiral so I could think more clearly. My new mantra became “One day at a time”. And although some days I prayed for the help to just get me through half a day, eventually this weekly moment of predictability and my conservative bite-size approach to problem-solving helped restore my positive perspective, gain focus and turn things around.
Another example of looking inside the box is when I recently decided to find a way to lose some extra pounds. When it comes to weight loss advice, there are plenty of creative ideas like Atkins, Weight Watchers, Zumba, intermittent fasting, and much, much more. The problem with any of these is that I like my pan pizza, occasional drinks, and regimented exercise is not something I am willing to permanently incorporate into my lifestyle. So again I looked inside the box for guidance. There I found a great way to lose weight and still live my life – moderation. Using portion control, and common sense while eating the foods I like, has allowed me to easily get and maintain a 30 pound lighter body.
So when you are looking for answers to your most puzzling questions, don’t ignore the answers that have worked for countless generations just because they reside inside the box.
People were shocked when a man with an assault rifle shot some politicians practicing for a charity baseball game even though many of those who were shocked encouraged him to do it.
You’ve heard these people encouraging him on talk shows, Facebook, Twitter, at award ceremonies, Dixie Chick concerts or you may have even done it yourself. Every time a person speaks negatively about a person or group, their negativity encourages the contamination of impressionable minds. Much like the risk of contaminating swimmers when a single person poops in a public pool.
Negativity towards politicians has been rampant in the past decade or more, spreading contamination to an ever growing number of minds. Over time these promoters of negativity have succeeded in creating demons for their weak minded followers to rally against. Much like George Orwell did with his two minutes of hate against Big Brother in his novel 1984 and Adolf Hitler did with the Jews.
As the threat of these demons purports to grow, someone from the followers always rises up. A hero in his own mind. Someone who believes he can slay the demons and save the world. He takes up arms and gives his own life for the good of all mankind.
When that happens for a moment everyone pauses, and the encouragers are silent. But soon the rally cries begin to swell again. Encouraging the next unlikely hero in our midst.
Dear Facebook Friends,
You guys are my Facebook friends because I like to know what’s happening in your life with your careers, hobbies, family, partners, pets and children. I even like the creative / funny memes, photos or videos you post from time to time.
Unfortunately, during election years you turn my Facebook page into a platform that looks much like my TV – overflowing with political opinions. Some of you are ultra right wing, some are ultra left. The common thread is our friendship which I know will resurface once your ranting dies down. This is why I don’t delete my account during these times.
You guys are really smart people which is why I’ve friended you in the first place and also why I’m taking the time to tell you these things. You can consider this my rant.
FIRST – You’re preaching to the choir. When you post an opinion, it does nothing but reinforce the thinking of people who already think your way. No one I know looks at a slanted post and says “Oh, I didn’t know this. I’M CHANGING HOW I THINK!” It just doesn’t happen. So if you want to get things off your chest, rally your troops, look for like-minded people to give you a thumbs up or get the opposition to dig in their heels even more, then go for it. Just don’t kid yourself into thinking your posts are changing anyone’s way of thinking. Actions do that, posts don’t.
SECOND – Thoughts create reality. Have you ever been having a nice day until you learn the news that someone you like died? In a moment things turn around and your day sucks. Although it’s sad they died, their death didn’t make your life suck. It was you changing your thoughts that changed your reality from pleasant to sucky. The same is true for the rest of your life. If you want your life to be pleasant, even Pollyanaish, it can happen in an instant. Just ask Power Ball winners. If you really want your life to be less negative, it’s completely within your power. Just turn off the input that’s feeding your mind with negativity – TV news, political talk radio and even Facebook. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly your thoughts and life will improve when you choose not to participate in negative thinking. And for those scientifically minded friends of mine who can’t change their thinking until a scientist tells them it’s okay to do so, go pick up the book Biology of Belief.
THIRD – Check your facts, please. You friends have above average intelligence or you wouldn’t be on my friends list. If you can’t let go of your strong opinions and you must post items that you think can change the course of people’s thinking, can you at least take an extra moment before posting to use Snopes.com? You’ll look much smarter and be much smarter by doing so. Anytime I read something on the Internet that sounds outrageous, the first thing I do is check Snopes. On October 12th, one of my friends posted a video where Native Americans were flipping off Christopher Columbus. The reality is Columbus never set foot on US soil. The post made everyone look foolish. During this election season, I’ve also read posts about Clinton hiring protesters in Texas and Trump supporters making racist chant at his rally. Come on people. Take the extra minute to fact check.
Well, that’s the end of my rant. If you’ve read this far, thanks for being my friend. You’ll hear from me again when all this dies down and I can once again LIKE your posts of kitchen projects, shelter dogs, holiday memes and your feet with a tropical beach in the background.
It was a hot summer day on the streets of Lima, Peru. A mother and her three children parked themselves on a sidewalk with two boxes of penny candy. Like many young families around the city, they planned to spend this day as they did most days, waiting in the sun for the generosity of strangers to help empty those boxes.
I was taking pictures of the city this day and had nothing but credit cards in my wallet. I apologized for not having money for them and asked if I could take their picture. When I did bright smiles lit up their faces. I thanked them and apologized again as I walked away.
I was sorry I didn’t have cash because if they were like most poor families who take to the streets, they might sell enough for round-trip bus fare so they can come back tomorrow and try again. If they were really lucky they’d sell it all and make enough to buy food and more candy.
These people, like much of the population in that city, were scraping through life just to get the bare essentials.
Yet They Were Quick To Smile?
The reason is because they understood an important truth about life that many privileged humans, distracted by their frills, have long forgotten. Happiness is a choice. It isn’t a result of anything external. It originates from within and is freely available anytime to anyone who wants it.
Now if these street people, who could easily have choosen to be miserable, chose not to, what is distracting you from seeing the blessings in your life and keeping you from chosing happiness?
Election campaigns for federal government employees (i.e. President, Senator, Congressman, et. al.) are laced with misconceptions, confusion, rumors, misinformation, innuendos and lots of emotions – if done correctly.
Campaign designers want all of these seedy characteristics to be part of the election because they know you have subliminal psychologies that play into your voting decision and they are hired specifically to play on all of them.
If you don’t want to be played by them, and wish to think independently when you vote for a candidate, here are 5 things you must consider before you vote.
Things To Consider Before Voting
1. Talk Radio Exists To Inflame You
Talk Radio, like every other form of entertainment is in business to stay in business. The more listeners they can attract, the more advertisers buy commercial time on their shows and the more money those shows make – keeping them on the air. This is why the successful, long-running radio programs have outrageous personalities like Howard Stern, Mancow and other ‘shock jocks’. The more shocking they are, the more listeners they will attract and most importantly to them, the more advertising dollars they will win.
Political talk radio isn’t any different. Whether they are conservative or liberal, they exaggerate, slant and split-hairs when delivering the truth and their listeners love it. This is because people listen to what they like. And what they like are stations that feed their beliefs, and make those beliefs stronger. Once people are hooked on listening, their beliefs get spun into a frenzied state that movitivates them to listen even more. It becomes almost an addiction.
If you don’t want to get sucked into this madness, simply avoid those stations.
2. Our Forefathers Feared Dictatorships
Thanks to the U.S. Constitution, our government is set up to avoid a dictatorship. That is why it established a government with power shared between 3 separate branches – Executive, Legislative and Judicial. This is called a System of Checks and Balances. In short, it means no person can single-handedly run the show. (As a side note: this is also why it’s foolish to blame an elected official as being totally responsible for an unpopular government decision.)
So when you hear politicians promise, “When I’m elected I’m going to ______”. They are trying to play to your ignorance. Making you think they have so much influence and power that their decisions will be put into action regardless of what the other government branches want.
The truth is, that won’t happen.
3. Pick a Specialist
How the government runs behind the scenes is so different than how the public, or first time politicians, think it’s run. That is why you’ll hear first term candidates talk about how they are going to change this or that. Then after a single term in office, their re-election verbage becomes “I’m going to fight to change this or that.” This is because they’ve learned that senior politicians have tremendously more influence on what’s gets done in government than junior politicians do. Career politicians have already sold their souls, making deals they may not have wanted in order to get things they did want. And after decades of this kind of wheeling and dealing, they’ve learned how to navigate the system to their advantage.
Electing a candidate who is not well-versed in our political system and who is entering office with the idea they are going to change things considerably, will find out quickly that the old politicians know how to play politics better then they do. And regardless of how well-intentioned they are, if they don’t go along with the desires of the old guard, they will see how the system allows roadblock after roadblock to prevent them from accomplishing anything.
Career politicians know how to successfully utilize the system to get things done much better than ‘outsiders’.
4. Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
Did you ever wonder why the three topics you shouldn’t talk about in general social circles are money, religion and politics? The obvious answer is that these are emotionally charged subjects but the deeper reason is this: subconsciously we are afraid a wrong decision with any of these three can cost us our life. If we lose all our money, we will become homeless, starve to death. If we don’t get on the right side of God, we face eternal damnation after this life. And if we pick the wrong ideology to run our government, the nuclear button will get pushed and obliterate the whole world!
Political campaigners know how to play on your fear of picking the wrong leader. But buying into their fear-based thinking distorts your view and tricks you into believing those identifying the fears have the solution to address them.
Reality is the internal workings of the government are controlled by people who believe first and foremost in self-preservation. Think about it. Do you have to take vacation days off to hunt ISIS, influence the global value of the dollar, or make sweeping changes to slow down global warming? No? That’s because there are whole groups in our government who do nothing except think about these things 24/7 so that we don’t have to worry about them. And believe it or not, they do their jobs very well.
Keep your thoughts positive and spend your time thinking about things like putting food on your table, paying your mortgage and playing with your kids.
5. Saints and Sinners
One of the popular ways that campaigns try to control your view of a person is by demonizing that person. They play on your doubts by feeding you select bits of information, some are rumors, some are old news, some are downright fabrications.
It may surprise you to know that some of the most admired people you know have made poor decisions, costly mistakes and spend their days secretly fighting their own demons. Yet they also accomplish great things, have useful ideas and are talented and resourceful enough to make positive changes in their world and ours.
So when you go out to vote this season, take a close look at your motivation for choosing the candidates. Don’t buy into radical entertainers’ opinions, fear-based beliefs or the foolishness that a single candidate can make sweeping changes. Select a candidate who, like it or not, has successfully worked within the political system because there is no way they will get around having to do this. And ask yourself if the negative traits of the candidates will truly affect their ability to make decisions that benefit all Americans.