October 18, 2013

What provokes you to write a column to girls……?

by Rod Smith
“What provokes you to write a column ‘to the girls I know and the billions I don’t’ as appeared in yesterday’s Mercury? Please tell me what prompts the exhortation.” (Heavily edited)

Hope provokes me. I write it in the belief that some young girl will read it and decide to take it to heart and see herself as beautiful, courageous, and strong, even if she doesn’t fit the stereotype propagated by glossy magazines.

I write with a particular girl in mind: the one who has been told “any man is better than no man,” the girl who’s been taught that it is her body and not her brain that will lead her to success. I write to the girl who thinks that life’s entire meaning pivots on marriage, childbearing, and obedience to a man.

Teaching children (as I do) I have noticed that at around 13 or 14 years of age, girls tend to second guess their opinions, raise their hands less and less, and begin to believe that it is really a boys’ world.

It’s these misconceptions I aim, with my very limited platform and power, to correct, and, if only one child, somewhere takes it to heart, sees herself and talented and powerful, even partially as a result of what I have written, then every column I have ever penned is worth the time and the effort – and if it comes to my attention, even I shall dance.

(When I’m excited I write long sentences).

October 18, 2013

To the girls I know, and the billions I don’t

by Rod Smith
Without exception every one of you is gifted, talented, uniquely curious.

You are to be treasured.

Believe your parents or care-givers or teachers when they express something similar.

It’s not just “adult talk.” It is not said just to get you motivated.

Talent, power, and bravery are divinely endowed. They are yours.

They are in your bones, your soul; in the very depths of your spirit and your being.

In the best of company your uniqueness, your talent, and the power within you will be encouraged, respected, and deeply valued.

But, some will try to exploit, ignore, or squelch you, and do so often in the “nicest” of ways, and even in the name of God.

Don’t cooperate. Not ever. Not for money, fame, recognition, or even to belong.

Stay out of control.

Arm yourself by chasing education (the only thing worth chasing), rejecting the foolish, pervasive belief that beauty is skin deep. Use your strong voice as early, quickly, and as loudly as possible. Stand up for yourself. Speak up. Express your views. Don’t hold back. Do it now so it becomes a way of life. Flee ALL who are more interested in your charm or your beauty than they are in your appreciating your brain and respecting your voice.

October 8, 2013

Times are tough……

by Rod Smith

“With regards to your article of 10/7/2013: Times are tough right now globally. We here in Durban have not been spared. Allowing someone into your home for a month is well within the spirit of Ubuntu.”

Allowing an adult woman and her mother into ones home for a month would indeed express the spirit of hospitality, generosity, and openness typically associated with the spirit of Ubuntu – if both the decision makers in the home were comfortable in seeking to offer such hospitality.

The husband’s spirit of Ubuntu surely loses its power and meaning, and is perhaps therefore not an expression of Ubuntu at all, when it is expressed at the cost of his wife’s well being.

Hospitality, like generosity, and charity, begins at home.

October 6, 2013

Should husband intervene between his wife and mother?

by Rod Smith

“What’s your opinion on this quotation by TV relationship expert: ‘If your wife has a problem with your mother, it is your job to intervene and try to fix it.'”

A husband could intervene and try to “fix” a problem between the two important women in his life but the results will be temporary and playing superman will get old. Intervening in others’ conflicts is the springboard to burnout.

And, he’ll be signing up to intervene in many more conflicts, which, except for the conflicts they mutually enjoy, will have nothing to do with him.

If a wife can’t negotiate with her mother-in-law she’s likely to fight with many.

Besides, trying to fix a relationship from the outside, encourages participants to think the issues stem from the outside.

Here’s an axiom: problems between two people are seldom about the “other” person. I’d suggest each woman deeply consider what it is about herself that conflict seems to be a worthwhile pursuit.

If a wife really wants to fix her relationship with her mother-in-law a good place to begin is with her own mother – go authentically deeper with mom, and she’d be amazed at how much else will begin to fall into place.

So, I think “TV relationship expert” is incorrect.

September 29, 2013

Sheeping it…..

by Rod Smith

ImageApart from thinking “outside of the box,” my challenge, to myself, my sons, and to my students of all ages, is to think alone.

Yes. Think alone.

Have thoughts, plans, aspirations, that are not determined or shaped by commercials, fads, friends, or even by immediate and extended family. 

Tough? O course.

Liberating? Yes.

I encounter many people, especially teenagers, who appear somewhat terrified to allow an independent thought to cross their beautiful minds.

The joy of owning and enjoying their own thoughts, of exploring unique possibilities within their own heads – before external wet-blankets, naysayers, derail any semblance thinking alone – it appears, will not be theirs.

The fear, fear of standing out, of being different, even thinking differently, cripples.    

Speaker, writer Seth Godin used the term “sheepwalking” in his best seller entitled Tribes to describe mindless following.

We’ve extended his metaphor in my family and my classrooms and talk about:

“sheep-thinking” (the inability to have an original or contrary thought, or to be too afraid to express one if it reared its head),

“sheep-talking” (to sound just like everyone else sounds),

“sheep-feeling” (to feel what everyone else feels),

or simply, to catch it all, we might say we recognize that “sheeping” is happening.

June 15, 2013

The slow murder of a woman…..

by Rod Smith

“My husband is controlling, jealous, and an alcoholic. He has me so scared that I can’t even look another guy in the eye. I love my husband but I can’t stand living like this any more. He drinks 9-12 beers a night. His controlling is causing us to fight all the time. I always tell him that if he would relax our relationship would be happier. I hate to come home from work and walk around on eggshells. What can I do? I want out yet I know that he is a good man. He can be very loving when he wants to be but the next second he can change. I am so confused. I don’t know what to do. Can someone help me?” Continue reading

May 4, 2013

Things I want to say to younger people…….

by Rod Smith

 

Your parents are the most important people you will ever know. Get things right with them, and you’ll be poised for success.

 

By “right” I mean embark on the ongoing journey to develop your skills by loving, honoring, enjoying, and negotiating with them.

If you don’t, if you settle for on-going conflict, you will probably spend a lifetime engaged in conflicts large and small with others, especially with those whom you love.

Your parents are the springboards for everything.

Treat them well.

Of course I am well aware that not all parents are committed to their children or deserve the kind of respect and effort I am suggesting.

In very unusual circumstances, parents have been particularly evil. This is so unusual and I’d encourage young people from such families to communicate with me directly.

Yes. Your imperfect mother and father, with all their faults and failings, are the perfect training ground for you to learn and discover almost everything you need to know about how life works.

Get what you can, while you can – in faith, in humility, and with grace.

The rewards are timeless.

You’d be amazed at the power of politeness. By this I mean expressing genuine care and awareness of others.

Saying “please” and “thank you” and “may I help you” and “is there anything you’d like to tell me” is like dropping a drawbridge for goodness to pour in and out of your own life.

While it’s unwise to be polite simply for the return (that’s an advanced form of manipulation) genuine care and politeness will re-ignite something good in you that is tough to stop.

Asking people of all ages about their days, really taking an interest in others and in developing your manners will not only distinguish you from others who are your age, but it will give you a taste of the beauty of life that is quite astounding.

Listening, asking polite questions, following up with appropriate questions, learning the art of NOT making every conversation about you and your interests will open your heart to a world the self-centered cannot see.

Try it. Use your parents for target practice. Even if you fake it you might awaken some dormant goodness and kindness that’s been hiding beneath your possibly surly surface since you hit your teen years, and you might be more than overwhelmed at the results.

You are stronger, more resilient, flexible, and adaptable than you probably realize. At the same time you are more vulnerable, weaker than you could ever imagine.

This is one of life’s many and glaring contradictions.

The more you search for certainty, for something to be either black or white, right or wrong, the more you will alienate yourself from the beauty of not knowing, and the beauty of a world that is magnificently and mysteriously ambiguous.

In your strength, take full responsibility for yourself, your future, your education, your work ethic, and your day-to-day attitude. Live above blaming the “new South Africa” or the “old South Africa” for the way things are. The “new” you rests with you. Your full potential and your strength and beauty will be blemished if you blame others or build a life in reaction to anything or anyone.

In your weakness and vulnerability, embed yourself into a community of diverse people. Find a place within a group where you can learn from your elders. Find a group where you can be deeply known – and stick with it. Stick with it for years.

Your youthful invincibility and your human vulnerability are dueling realities within you. Enjoy both.

We are all “less human” when we want one without the other.

There is nothing in alcohol, a cigarette, or in anything you can smoke, inhale, snort, inject that you need, or will be of long-term benefit to you. Don’t begin behaviors legions are trying to overcome. If it makes slaves of millions and messes with your still-forming brain, why start it? This is the ultimate stupidity.

I am aware that people become addicts for complex reasons. Nonetheless, the formula is simple: if you stay away from addictive activities they won’t take hold of you, whip you around for the rest of your sad, painful life.

If you don’t start, you won’t have to stop. You won’t have to go to rehabilitation and sit for hours in little groups nodding your head, listening to others ramble and ache for sobriety.

Addictions are wild dogs. They travel in packs. They fight among themselves. They are vicious, conniving. Yet, oddly loyal – not to you, but to each other. Crudely, they gang up against you and will not let go until you are devastated, broke, or dead. Yes. Dead.

You will hardly ever find a person who is addicted to only one substance or one addictive activity. They travel in packs. Beware of the Wild Dogs.

 

Love is not possessive, not even momentarily. Don’t fall for the lines of anyone who “loves” you and wants to control you. It’s usually nonsense like, “I can’t live without you and I am jealous because I love you so much.”

While it may seem insignificant, always keep the power of what you wear to yourself. Except for your parents, don’t give it to anyone. This is much more than about the choice of shirt or blouse. It demonstrates that you have boundaries. If you hold onto this power you will be able to “hold onto yourself” when you face other important power plays you will face.

Asserting your boundaries will quite naturally fend off less healthy people – people who measure their importance, and often measure love, by how much sway and influence they have over others. They will be disinclined to mess with you once they know you make all decisions regarding your life, how you dress, and how you behave.

 

Controlling people do so because they can. They will keep a healthy distance from those who will not play their games – which is, of course, exactly what you want.

April 29, 2013

Letters to the young (2 of 5)

by Rod Smith
You’d be amazed at the power of politeness. By this I mean expressing genuine care and awareness of others.

Saying “please” and “thank you” and “may I help you” and “is there anything you’d like to tell me” is like dropping a drawbridge for goodness to pour in and out of your own life.

While it’s unwise to be polite simply for the return (that’s an advanced form of manipulation) genuine care and politeness will re-ignite something good in you that is tough to stop.

Asking people of all ages about their days, really taking an interest in others and in developing your manners will not only distinguish you from others who are your age, but it will give you a taste of the beauty of life that is quite astounding.

Listening, asking polite questions, following up with appropriate questions, learning the art of NOT making every conversation about you and your interests will open your heart to a world the self-centered cannot see.

Try it. Use your parents for target practice. Even if you fake it you might awaken some dormant goodness and kindness that’s been hiding beneath your possibly surly surface since you hit your teen years, and you might be more than overwhelmed at the results.

1

April 28, 2013

Letters to the young…..

by Rod Smith

Your parents are the most important people you will ever know.

Get things right with them, and you’ll be poised for success.

By “right” I mean embark on the ongoing journey to develop your skills by loving, honoring, enjoying, and negotiating with them.

If you don’t, if you settle for on-going conflict, you will probably spend a lifetime engaged in conflicts large and small with others, especially with those whom you love.

Your parents are the springboards for everything.

Treat them well.

Of course I am well aware that not all parents are committed to their children or deserve the kind of respect and effort I am suggesting.

In very unusual circumstances, parents have been particularly evil. This is so unusual and I’d encourage young people from such families to communicate with me directly.

Yes. Your imperfect mother and father, with all their faults and failings, are the perfect training ground for you to learn and discover almost everything you need to know about how life works.

Get what you can, while you can – in faith, in humility, and with grace.

The rewards are timeless.

April 24, 2013

I take a counter view…….

by Rod Smith

A man responds to the column of April 22, 2013 about being a stepfather…..

“You are correct. You will never replace you step children’s father. The children did not ask for the divorce or for you to be in their lives. Their mother will never put you ahead of her children, nor should she.”

I hear often that a mother will never place the new husband (in fact even the children’s father) before the children.

This is often touted as “good mothering.” While no counselor would suggest a parent ought to neglect children, there is a distinct difference between being a parent and a partner. It is a very healthy parent who exercises the difference.

There are conditions under which it is a healthy for parents to allow their primary commitment as a spouse to take priority over their commitments as a parent. Yes, you read correctly!

Just as it is a travesty to neglect a child, it is also a travesty to neglect a spouse, especially in the name of “putting the children first.”

I’ve seen parents hide behind “putting the children first” as a means to avoid the bravery required to be a full and functioning partner.

Sometimes it’s good for children to be in second, even third, or fourth place!

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