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necessary whispers

observe. connect. make new.

Month

August 2015

Bullies Who Use Words As Weapons.

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To my adult readers and the kids you love,

Bullies are fearful people. Fearful people use control as a means of maintaining their own status within a group of people. They learned early in their lives that when they were out of control bad things happened to them. This understanding is in no way meant to justify or empathize with the bully or with her actions. Instead, it can empower the victim.

For example, if Jane is bullying Sarah, Sarah may be empowered to withstand Jane’s torment if she takes the focus off of herself and directs it at Jane. Bullies are fueled when a victim receives and accepts the harmful words or hateful attitudes they communicate. So, if Jane sees a fearful reaction in Sarah, the uncertainty, tears and dwindling sense of confidence in her victim are like gasoline in a car: Jane is in the driver’s seat and she feels a sense of power and the freedom to run over Sarah.

Victims of bullying often believe the lies told to them by bullies. What if there was a way to teach our children—young and old—that it is possible to disarm a bully by focusing on the heart of the bully herself?

Anytime we can choose to focus on “the other” we see the world more clearly. Taking our eyes, ears and mind off ourselves distracts us from our own patterns of thought and awakens our ability to observe. This is a discipline. Focusing on others does not come naturally and it is not easy.

The victim of bullying can be empowered through her own choice to focus on the heart of the bully because it gives her control over the way she will or will not receive the words of the aggressor. Let us imagine that Jane tells several other young people that Sarah is a liar and a slut. Sarah knows Jane’s words are false so Sarah has a choice: Sarah can choose to focus on Jane and realize that Jane has a need to control her world. Sarah can choose the freedom that comes in not trying to justify or defend herself against Jane’s lies. She can focus on Jane by consciously deciding that Jane is working from a destructive motive and that Jane does not have the power to determine Sarah’s identity.

Sometimes, bullies win. Sometimes their words are written into the cement of others’ consciousness making them “truth” to unsuspecting hearers.   In these cases, the results can vary from no-big-deal to broken relationships and tarnished reputations at the direction of the bully’s mouth. Even so, they still do not hold the power to actually design the identity of their targets. A victim’s identity can only be bent by the fiery words of a bully if the victim herself agrees to step into the fire of acceptance.

Just as focusing on the other demands discipline, so does not believing lies told to you about yourself. It is easy to believe critical words and assessments of the way in which we are perceived by the world. Insecurity works like a positive charge and negative words are like, well, a negative charge. Because we all hold some measure of insecurity it is easy for bullies to brandish the power of the magnetic attraction from their tongues to our hearts. However, our insecurities do not have to be allowed to push and pull us. Instead, we have a choice: we can decide what opinions, messages and views we will accept on the magnetic boards of our hearts. It is easy to leave your magnetic board open to any and everything. It takes discipline to stand guard over your own heart and make decisions about what you will and will not allow to enter its gates.

When I was in middle school I was chubby, my clothes were “uncool,” I lived in an apartment when most of the kids in my district lived in houses and my single mom, my little sister and I were poor. There were plenty of targets at which the popular and insecure could take aim. And they did. Unfortunately, I never mentioned the taunts and destructive words to my mom. I was too embarrassed to tell her what they said and I didn’t want to make her feel badly about not being able to buy me all the cool kid accouterment. But I wish I had told my mom.

If I had told my mom, or even another adult I trusted, I would have had an ally. Rather than trying to tough it out and be strong, I could have allowed myself to be vulnerable and asked for help. I could have realized that I had choices, instead of feeling helpless.

If you are a victim of bullying, I would like to encourage you to choose two actions: one, ask a trusted adult to become your teammate. I guarantee you: ANY trustworthy adult will gladly stand with you and help strengthen your waning self-esteem. No one escaped childhood or young adulthood without being bullied in one form or another at some point. And two, take out a piece of paper, fold it in half and then unfold it again. On the left side, write down all the lies your bully has told you about yourself. On the right side, write the truth that extinguishes that lie.

For example, I was often told I was “stupid.” Well, I was bad at math and I didn’t care about science. So, some people may have thought I was stupid. But that was a lie. The truth is that I am intelligent and when I am interested in something, like Theatre or writing, my natural interests and gifts shine through my work. So, I would write, “I am stupid” on the left side of my page and on the right I would write, “I am not good at everything. But I am excellent at some things.”

One more example: I was often called fat. Well, I was chubby when I was in middle school. It’s true. However, I would write down, “I am fat” on the left side of the page and on the right side I would write, “The shape of my body does not equal my identity. I am beautiful in God’s sight and to my family. My friends who love me don’t even care about the shape of my body. They love my humor, kindness and the way that I listen to them when they need me.”

There is so much freedom in replacing lies with truth!

Let us all make the choice to see others with as much kindness and gentleness as we can, even when they are being mean to us. Another person’s ugliness toward us does not dictate who we are but it does reveal the weaknesses in him/her.

Focus on the heart of the other. Don’t believe the lies told to you about yourself. Humble yourself and ask a trusted adult for help.

Love,

Jill

Jill Szoo Wilson

The Difference Between Guilt and Shame.

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Guilt tells you when you have done something bad.

Shame tells you that you are something bad.

Guilt is healthy because it can inspire you to action: repentance, new perspectives and change. Shame is unhealthy because it sucks all the helium out of your soul and tells you that you are shriveled like a used balloon. Shame is still, stale and stagnant.

Whereas guilt empowers a person to see the truth of her actions and consequences, shame blinds a person to her true identity and presses against the sides of her heart like an unseen vice.

We all make mistakes. That is part of being alive here on this earth. We live our lives moving forward—without the benefit of omniscience—and we learn our lives looking back. Imagine, please, a busy street corner in your town where everyone is walking backwards down the street. They are looking in the direction from whence they have come and yet they are still moving forward in space and time. Does it make sense not to face into the direction in which you are headed? I have heard people say that if you are looking back into your past you cannot move forward. That is nonsense! You are always moving forward but if you don’t watch where you are going you will end up traveling somewhere you do not want to be.

If you feel guilty about something, you have choices. You can choose to confess the action, words or thoughts about which you feel guilty. You can confess them to God and/or to those your actions affected. Be aware, however, that there is also such a thing as false guilt. “False guilt,” as Psychologist June Hunt has said, “arises when you blame yourself even though you’ve committed no wrong or when you continue to blame yourself after you have confessed and turned from your sin.”

If you feel shame you have choices, too.   Shame is like looking into a mirror and seeing only weaknesses, false accusations, embarrassing choices and the belittling titles given to you by others. Shame is a false identity. In order to relinquish shame you do not need a new mirror; you need a new identity. A new identity does not come through self-affirmations and strengthening the wall of protection you might be tempted to build. Instead, softness and humility will lead you to this new understanding of yourself. Ask God how He sees you. Ask Him to lift your head and show you who He created you to be. When you find your identity in Christ no man can take it from you, no mirror can skew the image and no one can ever again convince you that you are bad.

 

The Willow Weeping.  By, Jill Szoo.

Why should the weeping willow hang her head

As though to hide from clouds and sunburned skies?

Her tuck’d face inside a shrouded bed

Collapsing imperceptibly, disguised.

Like arms with hands with fingers widely sprawled

A waterfall shoots up and trickles down.

From root to heart to mind, deep sighs are drawled

To float on feathered green, adagio drown.

Then moils in well-traveled wind, anew,

Receding close to whisper her a clue.

Afresh from heights it sloughs, it whistles through-

One single current parting weathered hues:

“Lift up your face from hiding, wholly see

Horizons lush with blooming verity.”

Jill Szoo Wilson

Releasing Upward: A Reflection on Deliverance and Healing.

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The ocean fascinates me. Not only the beach, which promises sand-filled relaxation and a boastful tan, but the ocean itself. It has a face that reflects the sky and we can trust this face to hold our boats, our rafts and our surfboards steady. The face of the ocean radiates beauty as it speaks to us of freedom, vastness and opportunity.

Inside the ocean, just below the surface, there is a completely different world. One surface away—a distance less than I can calculate—there is a world of secrets. Above the surface there is air, while below no air exists.   Above there is a sky whose end cannot be known. Below there are shadows and dripping reflections of light revealing a daily life we cannot comprehend.

In this way, the ocean is like the soul of man. We have a face that reflects the sky, as well as our experiences, relationships and self-awareness. Just behind the face—a distance less than I can calculate—there is a depth of mystery. Every person holds within themselves an entire world of riddles, subtleties and treasure: buried treasures that gleam in the light reflecting through the windows of the soul, as well as other riches that have been buried below the currents of darkness and doubt.

Consider the flight of a bubble, which begins on the ocean floor. It is attached to the darkness until it is fully formed and heads upward toward the sun.

The journey a bubble takes reminds me of the way in which the soul releases pain, worry, doubt, fear and anger: rising from the darkness to find the light.   We must not avoid the difficulties that exist in our lives–past or present–or the subsequent remnants that live within our minds, wills and emotions. Instead, we can acknowledge their existence, seek healing and release them upward.

Releasing Upward, by Jill Szoo Wilson

A flipped below which to the surface pops

Reflects the sky, though leagues beneath it pull–

Revealing gems with diamond-studded tops,

A sea of light whose source is hanging full.

The impetus of each new bubble’s flight,

From roots immersed in darkened basement sand,

Is rounded air, which lifts them toward the light,

Encircled safe as is a glove’d hand.

What secrets doth the swelling ocean belch?

Expelle’d burdens freeing anchors deep

From sucking roots whose tentacles do squelch

A million treasures sown now free to reap.

Where curious moonbeams highlight only skin

‘Tis shadow’s chore to loose the soul within.

Jill Szoo Wilson

Creative Writing: Depression.

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A few years ago I dipped into a season of anxiety and depression.  I felt like I was walking around in darkness with only small specks of light and short drafts of breeze to guide my footsteps.  I have wanted to write about this struggle because I know many others would be able to relate.

Soon, I am going to attempt to explain my story in further detail with the prayer that it might offer hope to others.

Still, Small Light.  By, Jill Szoo Wilson

A windy black across the sky rolls on

Above each fire stabilized in star

And quiet dipping under, keeping dawn

Inside a closet locked with chain and bar.

Too high to stall the tides from rising up

Too deep to catch a falling soul below

Each several current bitten and corrupt

By frosted night designed to light forego.

Through silent eyes she watches not to see,

But holding to an instinct whispering near

Whose guidance reaches in like fitted key—

She senses how to dodge parading fear.

Hold not to drifts whose flow bumps into night

But jump into the gusts hard speeding into light.

–Jill Szoo Wilson

Living In The Moment.

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We often hear this phrase touted in our culture: live in the moment! To some, living in the moment connotes adventure, risk-taking and passionate endeavors. To others, living in the moment means peace, quiet and serenity. Both of these connotations have one thing in common: discipline. It takes discipline to live in the moment.

Living in the moment means being awake to the present. Not pining over the past or setting your mind in future events. It means being open to considering the options that life presents you at any given point. In order to truly be awake to each moment, you have to be present and available. Often we are neither present nor available to that which is in right in front of us.

For example, I can tell when I am not practicing the discipline of living in the moment because my mind becomes frenetic. If I allow myself a season of constant busyness of the mind, fretting, looking backward and forward at the same time, my frenzied thought life begins to manifest itself in my words and actions. During these times I have a difficult time prioritizing my day. I will begin one project and then quickly move on to another before the first is complete: even a project as simple as showering and getting dressed. The rhythm of my thought life becomes the rhythm of my physical life. I rush around trying to maintain my routine of getting ready for the day but interrupting my own momentum with side projects—folding clothes, starting breakfast, writing an email—until I realize that my hair is still wet and I need to get back to the business of getting ready. My movement becomes like the electricity you see in those clear round globes at the science museum. It begins at one point but flies out in all directions in excited and sporadic motion.

This kind of movement begins in the mind. A peaceful mind produces peaceful actions, even in the midst of activity and busy daily tasks. A mind that moves quickly between last week and next month and then back to last year can produce clipped, impatient, absent action.   In order to live in the moment, we must be able to discipline our minds to stay in the current moment, at the current time.

Another way in which living in the moment is dependent upon discipline is that we must have the clarity of direction that comes with making strong decisions about who we are and what our boundaries are in life. The word boundary sounds a little stifling. It can create a mental image of walls built in the middle of life’s possibilities that are meant to hem in, close off and isolate. However, quite the opposite is true. Our boundaries are guideposts that we set up in order to peacefully live within the construct of our own morality and free will. If we set up boundaries for ourselves today, we can live spontaneously tomorrow.

Let me take, as an example, a cultural boundary on which we can all agree: traffic laws. As a citizen of the United States I know that I can drive on the right side of the road, I cannot drive on the sidewalk, I can choose to follow the posted speed limits and I cannot swerve into oncoming traffic. As long as I understand those boundaries, I am free to roam about the country. The boundaries that have been established in the past give me freedom in the present: the freedom to travel and the freedom to road trip! It is my responsibility to follow the constructs our society has established and when I decide to follow these rules I can stop focusing on them and, instead, focus on the beauty of the scenery flying by my window, and/or the music streaming through my speakers.

For the purpose of further making the connection between boundaries and living in the moment I will share a personal example. One of my personal boundaries is that I will not speak in anger. Lest you think that sounds awfully pious and perfect of me, please note that the boundary has been put into place for a reason: I am apt to speak in anger and when I have done so in the past it has always resulted in destruction. I have learned that my tongue can be used as an instrument of crushing carnage so my boundary is to shut up when I can feel I am about to unleash the beast, if you will. This is an emotional boundary, meaning I have learned that I have to take responsibility for my negative emotion of anger. If I feel anger rising up in me, I make the choice (usually) to hold my tongue. If my anger rises in a face-to-face conversation I will often say, “This is making me angry. I respect you and our relationship so I am going to stop talking for now, calm down and then we can continue this conversation. I need to stop now.” If my anger flares up as a result of something I read online I simply have to turn off my device and do something productive like take a walk, pray or choose to consider the good qualities of the person who just made me angry.

So, what does this boundary have to do with living in the moment? If I know I will not speak in anger I am free to have a conversation with anyone about anything, even if we disagree on the topic, and from this freedom I am open to listening, learning and entering into the sometimes tense territory of diverging opinions. It is important for me to remain open-minded and to be a good listener. So, for me, setting the boundary of not speaking in anger allows me to engage in difficult conversations without the fear of losing relationship with the other person.

Living in the moment means being available, present and, as we say in the acting profession, “taking the first thing.”

Taking the first thing refers to a concept taught by famed acting teacher, Sanford Meisner. This concept introduces the basics of the Repeat Exercise, which is the foundation of the Meisner Technique.

The Repeat Exercise works like this: Two actors A and B sit opposite each other. Actor A turns away from B and when instructed turns to face B saying “the first thing” they notice about that actor. Actor B listens and instantly repeats what she hears, actor A listens and instantly repeats back, B then listens and repeats and so on . . .

Throughout the process this develops into improvisations encouraging open, honest and instinctive interaction between two characters.

It is important at this stage that the actor does not come up with an opinion about that other person, like commenting on what her partner may be thinking or feeling, but sticks to physical observations. For example: “green shirt,” “brown hair,” “hands on lap,” or “you have a big nose.”

The reason for this is to encourage the actors to develop their ability to listen to the other person using their eyes as well as their ears. They also are encouraged to stay out of their head (not to over-analyze their observations) and not to censor their responses.

Working instinctively like this allows the actors to experience various emotions. For example, the actors may experience boredom from doing four minutes of the repeat, they may find something their partner said amusing so feel the urge to laugh, frustration or anger because of what has been said and sometimes fear of the exercise itself.

During my tenure in graduate school this exercise taught me to live in the moment. To bring all of my senses into one place at one time without judging how my senses are reacting to any given stimulus.

In my own life this training has been invaluable: not only in the rehearsal hall or on stage but also in every day life. When I know I am all in one place at one time, listening, observing and paying attention, my work and relationships are strengthened. Even today, I was on my way to drop off some important paperwork at the university campus in the town where I live. My objective was to get to the office quickly and then to return home. Along the way, however, I met a former student of mine. When we saw one another I could tell instantly that she wanted to stop and talk with me. Seeing that—the look on her face, the posture of her stance and hearing the excited tone in her voice—I knew that my presence was important to her in that moment so I stopped my own objective and stood with her. This might seem like a simple example but if you consider this moment to be a microcosm of our everyday lives you might find some more subtle details in the story: if I was not living in the moment, remaining open and available to the stimulus and people around me, I could have easily seen the student, not taken note of any of the physical or vocal cues through which she was communicating the desire to talk, and I could have walked right past her. I could have been living in the future where I wanted to drop off that paperwork and missed the opportunity to hear the stories she wanted to share from her summer vacation. What a lovely moment of connection I would have missed!

So, living in the moment does not only connote big adventures, huge risks and thoughtless endeavors. Living for the next thrill can lead to a fairly vapid and careless life.

Consider, instead, that living in the moment is a discipline of the mind that connects you to the rest of the world in a way that is meaningful, honest and whole.

–Jill Szoo Wilson

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