Life of Meaning

On Expecting Less from Others

October 29, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

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The world in which we live and work is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.” Earl Nightingale

I think it was in 1985 that Pam and I completed our one session of premarital counseling. Yes, one session and yet we both remember a single line of advice offered by our therapist: “One powerful key to a successful marriage is “the ability to withhold judgment.”

Withholding Judgment

However, I think that is one of those “says easy” but “does hard” statements. It makes perfect sense until you realize that you have been seriously judging people your entire life. We are “expectation-oriented” creatures. We secretly (and most often unknowingly) hold expectations of every person we know or meet. And when they inevitably fail to meet our expectations, we quite naturally make some judgment of that person.

In essence, we want life to go the way WE desire. And that just does not work because everybody feels the same, only with differing expectations.

Expect Less from Others

For years Pam and I only paid partial attention to the advice given us in premarital counseling. At times, each of us held nearly impossible expectations of the other. So, we did the common marital thing: we argued, sometimes frequently because we were habitually judging each other’s behaviors and opinions.

But after more than thirty years of marriage Pam and I have finally implemented the sage’s advice. We have learned to live largely in the lands of “acceptance” and “withholding judgment.”

Evaluate Your Expectations

To do so requires that I regularly review whatever expectations I may have of my wife. I have found the most effective method is to harbor very few expectations at all. The only expectations that matter are how we treat each other. Therefore kindness, understanding, open-mindedness, and respect comes to mind.

In other words… be nice! And then watch the results.

When We Withhold Judgment

We Can Expect Little and Accept Much

Photo courtesy of Maria Vonotna at istockphoto

Influence or Control: Which is More Productive?

October 9, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” Ken Blanchard

It was scientist/theologian Ilia Delio who first introduced me to what she calls the Newtonian Paradigm and how this has been the model for organizational structure as well as deep personal growth for several centuries.

The Newtonian Paradigm

According to Delio, Newton proposed, quite successfully, a model of “control” in which matters like predictability, certainty, and hierarchy set the stage for human development, both personally and collectively.

And it has worked well for a long time. Predictability and hierarchy are commonly accepted processes for attaining our desired result. But the problem is… in the 21st Century we have seen a rapid demise in all three elements (predictability, certainty, and hierarchy). All three have proven to be questionable because of the rapid rate of invention, new technology, and spiritual and political uncertainties.
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Silence and the Art of Knowing Yourself

October 1, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Intentional silence serves as a necessary and valuable counterweight to a society filled with thoughtless and excessive words.” Peter Scazzero

It seems like recently I have written a lot about personal reflection and intentionality. I guess that’s because it is on my mind, like every day!
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The Gift of Friendship in Marriage

September 17, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Friendship in marriage is the spark that lights an everlasting flame.” Fawn Weaver

It was my birthday yesterday. We have a tradition in our family where every year on Birthdays and Christmas, we write letters. In closing this year’s birthday letter to me, my wife wrote, “For my husband and best friend.”
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When Opinions are Mostly Just Unwanted Noise

September 10, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” Steve Jobs

As a child of the 1960s I attended too many rock concerts. The shows were unforgettable. But five decades later I am paying the price. As it turns out the noise was deafening.
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On Being Human

September 3, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

What makes us human is not our mind but our heart, not our ability to think but our ability to love.” Henri Nouwen

In much of my reading for the past few years from the late medieval Christian mystics, love remains the predominant human attribute. But then, after reading the quote above from Henri Nouwen, my mind wandered elsewhere. In addition to love, I wondered, what is it that makes us fully human?

Being Human is Common to All

Perhaps one of the first ideas that comes to mind is “commonality.” Until we realize that the human condition, with frailties included, is clearly common. Yes, each of us is blessed with some measure of love, kindness, compassion, empathy, patience and all the other lovely attributes that might take up the remainder of this post.

But what I am thinking about today is more about our common pitfalls: selfishness, anger, revenge, greed, and unfortunately a good bit of passive meanness. We are afraid of not being accepted, not being loved, not being appreciated, or not being treated as we feel we deserve.

Being Human is Displaying Opposite Traits

When I begin to ponder these fearful aspects of the human condition, I am forced to return to the blessings of what it means to be human. Because of our frailties, love, kindness, compassion, and patience become even more essential. If not for these blessings, how else could we manage life in a world where everyone is only concerned with “what’s in it for them?”

I guess that is why our beloved Henri Nouwen will write, “What makes us human is our hearts and our ability to love.” As humans, in a world composed of self-centered broken people, we will occupy both sides of the good-bad equation.

Being Human is a Choice

I am speaking for myself here and I reckon for you as well. So what does this all mean? It means, yet once again, we have a choice. The first step is to recognize that all our actions toward people and toward the world require some intentionality and some personal reflection. Intentionality and reflection give us time to choose… What does it mean for ME to be human?

Yes. Common to humans is the ability to make conscious choices about what kind of human we want to be? Whether to bow to negative impulses or elect to rise above them to the higher level of… Yes, Love.

Being Human is Merely

Whatever I Choose It to Be

Photo courtesy of SPmemory at istockphoto

 

Curbing Your “Isolated Thoughts of Judgment”

August 27, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

It is a good discipline to wonder in each situation if people wouldn’t be better served by our silence than by our words.” Henri Nouwen (Lifted fr Wm Britton, Wisdom from the Margins)

A few nights ago, as I was sitting in my usual seat in our family room, I became acutely aware that I nearly said something mildly critical to my wife about some very unimportant thing she was doing. However, for some reason it occurred to me, “Why?” “Why not just keep this to yourself” After all, it is only a wandering sense of judgmentalism that will do neither one of us any good.”

Thinking Twice About Being Critical

It was then I thought: Yes, both my wife and I would be much better off if I simply kept silent. Why does she need to know my critical and judgmental thinking? Will it improve our marriage? No. Will it make her a better person? No. Finally, will silence preserve a sense of a happy home? Hell yes!!!

It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer that wrote, “… isolated thoughts of judgment can be curbed and smothered by never allowing them to be uttered.” I really identify with this idea of “isolated thoughts of judgment.” I can, by nature, be judgmental, cynical, and overly critical. But then, these are uncomfortably common traits of the human species.

Our “Judgmentalism Filter”

After 73 years I am finally learning the value of keeping my thoughts to myself. The cool thing is, it is not that difficult to do if… I can maintain some degree of self and social awareness. The brain can provide us with a brand new “judgmentalism filter.” Every time I think I am being critical and judgmental, it is good to run those thoughts through my filter.

When I do that, everyone is better off. When I don’t use my filter, I will inevitably be defensive or arrogant.

Choose Wisely

As usual, it all comes down to “choice.” Sometimes it is very helpful to choose to verbalize criticism. It is necessary. However, it is much less frequently necessary than we think!

Just like my mom always said…

If You Can’t Say Something Nice

Don’t Say Anything at All

Photo courtesy of HbrH at istockphoto

Keeping the Vitality of the Inner Child

August 21, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

The [Inner] Child represents the most natural, vulnerable, and spontaneous part of our personality, keeper of our creative vitality and our most unalloyed capacity for pleasure…” Eric Byrne, Author of The Games People Play and Sex in Human Loving

Who knows how many decades we have criticized the limiting influence of the Wounded Inner Child as the culprit of many of our pathologies and aberrant behaviors? And, all this writing of the influence of our wounded inner child dialogue has indeed been helpful in determining our core emotional issues.

The Joyful Inner Child

However, the is another side to the inner child. A side that brings about spontaneity and creativity and a hungering search for intimacy in relationships. Unfortunately, this “other side” rarely makes the headlines. It seems we are, after all, more interested in a search for ways that we can remove obstacles while often neglecting the natural power of our own historical personalities.
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Intentionally Patient and Self-Reflective

August 14, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

I am always wary of decisions made hastily. I am always wary of the first decision, that is, the first thing that comes to my mind if I have to make a decision. This is usually the wrong thing. I have to wait and assess, looking deep into myself, taking the necessary time.” Pope Francis  (lifted from Wm Britton, Wisdom from the Margins)

I think it’s kind of like responding to a nasty email. My initial response is often not my best response.

I have discovered two character qualities that help me when making important decisions: patience and self-reflection. Wait… and ponder.

Waiting as an Intention

Unfortunately, patience and self-reflection are not typically our first response. They are learned behaviors that come with time, experience, and eventually wisdom. One thing has helped me be more patient and reflective, and that is, I have become more intentional about waiting and pondering.

As Pope Francis said, “I have to wait and assess, looking deep into myself, taking the necessary time.” It seems that waiting and reflecting require a conscious choice. Before I even attempt to respond I need to choose to “take time to look deep into myself.”

The Ineffectiveness of Rushing a Decision

We seem to live as if we are taking some kind of “emergency pill” to help us keep up with issues and questions. I have a natural discomfort when someone tells me, “I need an answer right now.” It’s like the process of buying a car. Yikes!

Thoughtful responses to questions and problems require… thought! And thought requires time: sometimes to research and sometimes just to consider options. One thing for sure: It is essential to get off the emotional roller coaster. As long as my emotions are running the control center, I will respond neither kindly nor effectively. And, emotions are most commonly the problem, like when we are offended, embarrassed, or wrongfully accused (or even correctly accused). Our emotions take over and nothing but ugly emerges.

Ultimate Decisions Can Wait

Truthfully, genuine emergencies are very rare. Very few decisions are hampered by waiting a day to think it over. In fact, it is in the process of waiting that one may discover new information and one certainly has greater clarity on how to proceed.

So…

Be Intentional:

Wait and Reflect

Photo courtesy of denisgo at istockphoto

Accessing Your Share of Divinity

August 7, 2022 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

It was for this the world was made: That there should be beings capable of receiving God, entering into closest fellowship with him, sharing all that he is and has.” Ruth Burrows, OCD

This post is just a very brief highlight of my thoughts on God for the last three years.

English Carmelite nun, Ruth Burrows, shares a description (above) of the Christian faith that is quite different from that which is preached from most pulpits today. She takes the idea of “relationship over religion” quite seriously. In fact, she goes so far as to state the world was created for one purpose: relationship with God in love. And yet, our religion seems to be more concerned with “correct” behaviors and beliefs, while almost totally ignoring deep and intimate love.
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