Thursday, March 13, 2008

Another look at "Who Are You?"

In response to a comment from one of you, I am offering, for your consideration, this bit from a couple of years ago. The tender and painfully-caring remarks of my kind and loving Friend, yesterday, brought this meaning-filled moment immediately to mind. And, after "sleeping on it" and allowing my Muse an overnight consideration of the matter, I awoke convinced, that what I would have told my sweet Friend, yesterday, I simply must present, today ... for You. Here 'tis ...

“Who are you?” was the question thrust upon me by the challenging five year old kindergarten student as he set his back stiffly in its most erect pose. Pretty impressive stuff from a child toward a physically imposing adult male who was a total unknown to the child. Not to be channeled into his obviously well-rehearsed performance, I countered with “More to the point, (pretty cool, eh… using phraseology that was alien to the lad) … just who are you?!” Now we were engaged in the stand-off. Two duelers faced with the unspoken, but clearly understood standard that 'he who gives the answer first is the loser.’ But, here I genuinely wanted to know just who this fellow was. Not just his label … his name, but who he wanted me to know him to be.

We waited. Others at the service desk of the elementary school library ... waited. All eyes were now fixed on the young lad. He was, quite obviously, uneasy with this turn in a game that had historically garnered for him control of those upon whom he leveled his attack. Then, into the breach came a young man (an 'advanced’ age of eight years… but clearly an 'upper-classman’ in this arena) who turned to the boy (who for convenience, I will call Robert) and said “Hey man, the guy really wants to know who you are … you know … like what kind of a person are you?” I was shouting a silent inner cheer for this interceder who so beautifully cleared the air.

“I am bad” came the reply from Robert’s not-so-defiant lips. I was stunned … silence reigned at the library counter. All … students, and staff … were stilled with this declaration from a five-year-old boy … and I knew that this was a moment of pivotal significance. Not only for Robert; but also for the lad who had prompted him into this announcement; for the children who stood in silent recognition that this boy had made an honest, candid, and obviously painful statement of his inner perception of himself. I looked into Robert’s eyes ... really looked … focused into him. I gave him a moment to recognize the fact that, for me, right then, in that moment there existed no one in the world but Him.

Then I smiled a smile of appreciation and respect and said “Wow!, You are really smart! You are making a really good joke on someone! I am impressed! You must be … like a movie actor or something. Because I am a really smart man. And I know about how people are. And I am really good at spotting good people, and bad people (I then turned to the librarian and asked her to validate the truths that I had just stated, as to my credibility … for The Moment was at hand.) I can tell that you are really a very good guy … I know this… I can tell every time. So you must be making a super good joke on someone to make them think that a really good guy … is bad. I think that you must be a terrific actor.” And, My Dear Reader, I wish that I had at my disposal the ability to adequately portray the look of utter … Hope … that came across Robert’s face. Here this person of a mere five years was … soundly convinced that he, a human being, just the initial sprouting of an individual … was inherently, hopelessly, and forever bad. And some big old, imposing, white-bearded man was telling him that it was but a joke … a misunderstanding … a folly. I asked him if he would do me the honor of being my friend and we exchanged names and a bit more about ourselves.

I will not drone on about the comments from teachers and counselors who later shared notes with each other about this transformed young man. He had, obviously, made some adjustment in his game and had decided to only 'fool’ others into thinking him to be bad on selective occasions. And we enjoyed seeing each other and complimenting each others’ roles when I had the weekly opportunity to read to his class in the library. But the point in this is not this isolated happening.

The message, so clearly and eloquently communicated by Robert and his Moment, is this. We all … every single one of us … have an inner sense of who we are. Like Robert, we have been given this “script” by otherwise loving, caring, well-intentioned (yes, I do know that I am being generous here) Significant Others throughout the course of our lives. And … we buy it. We give these people our trust, our confidence, our faith in their 'superior’ powers of judgment, and we live out the roles that they hand us.

I ask that you put yourself in the person of Robert when I asked him “Who told you that you are bad? Was it someone here at school? Or was it at home? Who did you fool into believing this joke?” and ask yourself, Dear Friend, “Who am I listening to? What qualifies that person to fix a defining label on my spirit? Why am I succumbing to this influence? Wouldn’t I enjoy taking up a script of my own choosing and playing a new role that meets my inner desires?” I do not suggest that this is as easily accomplished in the well over-rehearsed and time-reinforced role of the more experienced adult. But I do offer the hope.

And in that hope, I remain, as always, Your loving Friend and willing Servant.


Crystal Jigsaw said...

I feel this is quite significant to something that has recently happened to me. Without going into too many details, I was ostracised by a number of people for something I wrote about. I was made to feel in the wrong, disgusted and told that I had betrayed several of my friends. This, as you can imagine, devastated me. It only happened last month and is still very fresh in my mind. Since, some of those people have "forgiven" me though some still exclude me from their life. It hurts. And what did I do to encourage such behaviour, I hear you ask. I was trying to protect my daughter. I am a loving mother and will do anything for my little girl. Unfortunately, it brought shame upon me.

Yet, I am not a bad person. I am a good person. I know this because I feel at peace with myself. I know this because I know how to love and how to express it. When the devastating event first occured, I felt bad. I did not like myself anymore. But now I have realised that all the good in me far outweighs the small amount of bad that touched the surface.

Thank you for this thought provoking post.
Crystal xx

Classic Charm said...

Oh how I wish you could be my neighbor so that my children would have the priviledge of you. And how I WISH that there is someone just like you who has such a profound influence on their spirit. In a son has had such a priviledge. When signing him up for baseball, he would not get out of the truck, demanding that he did not wish to play this year...that he was old enough to make this decision. I told him that I would not sign him up, that I would just sign his brother up to play on the team (I was lying of course, as I knew this was only "temporary", but I played along). Once inside one of the coaches approached me, and asked where my other boy was, as I only had my older boy with me. I told him he's in the car, angry that I am here to sign him up. WHAT? exclaimed the coach, where is your car? I pointed and described the color. This coach went out there, pulled my son out of the car and brought him into the building...proclaiming quite loudly once inside that the Little League could not possibly play this year without this great hitter, how would they be able to win? My son had the biggest smile on his face. Does this man know what his act of reaching out did for my son, for me to watch it? There are no words...there are no words...He also offered to my boys that whenever they needed extra practice to look for him, I'll pitch to you just come and get me...knowing that the park was full of thousands of yearning to be better player kids...he made my boys feels for that moment that they were the most important kids in the world....for that I am immensly grateful. I wrote a letter to the Board acknowledging that this man was a true example of what a coach should be. I later heard from other parents that word got out of my letter, and he was so pleased. He deserved the acknowledgement, and I knew I wanted to take the time to write that letter!

John-Michael said...

You, Dear Crystal, have felt the power and influence that others can have on your consciousness of your Self. You are acutely aware of how fragile we can be to the devastating forces of unkind spirits and attitudes. And all because we as a family of Beings lose sight of ... become deaf to ... the critical importance that a CHOICE to simply BE NICE makes, when all (in the popular consensus) are calling for doing whatever they deem "right."

If we can not demonstrate a kind and loving spirit that is demonstrated in NICE (I know!! when was the last time you heard ANYONE use that antiquated word?!) behavior toward each other ... then our actions and words used in doing that "right" thing (in our eyes) is simply WRONG. We can not do the "right" thing in a wrong spirit. That wrong SPIRIT makes even the most politically, religiously, or socially "right" BEHAVIOR ... wrong!

So, here we are. Right back to that Love thing. It always returns to that doesn't it? That imperative to "let's get our hearts in a loving mode" ... and all of the details, the circumstantial stuff, takes care of itself truth. LOVE! It is really not that hard!

John-Michael said...

Thank you, Rose, for your lovely example of WILLINGNESS wedded to AVAILABILITY and OPPORTUNITY to produce a sweet and memorable result. I am so pleased that your family could be so positively impacted by the caring and involved life of this man. Makes me smile!

Cicero Sings said...

I love how you dealt with that situation! It truly is easier to dwell on that negative input into our lives and focus on that .. to our detriment ... rather than be thankful for our attributes.

John-Michael said...

It is my hope that more and more of us will be attentive to the needs of those around us for Someone to step up and point those attributes out to those needing that vision.

Amy Y said...

This is exactly why I try to stress to my 6 yr old when he comes home from school saying "so and so is so bad!" that there are no "bad kids". Just kids that do bad things! It becomes a label that they can not overcome... So awful!

John-Michael said...

Where my son's mental limitations kept him free of my probing treatment of life's elements, his sister (with her high IQ and energetic mind) was not so excused. She lamented my "and what in her life do you think makes her act in a way that encourages you to think that about her?" kind of responses to her emotional (a TOTAL drama queen) condemnations of others.

And, to her credit, she always reflected and came up with answers that showed an awareness of the conflicts and challenges being endured by the "Jerk" in question. And would, with my silent brow raised (in a questioning "And ...?" mode) she would delve more deeply and suggest ways that she could improve the lot of the "Jerk" in question ... enabling said person to have some chance of redemption.

I was, admittedly a pain in the 'attitude' ... but respect and compassion were always acknowledged as required values. I miss that!

Keep the faith!!, Amy, I'm confident that your encouragements are made more gently and sweetly than mine ever were. I love you.

CrazyCath said...

This made me cry when that little boy said he was bad. That is so sad. And you handled it so well. I bet he has readjusted and turned it around through that affirmation that he is worth something.
I am very moved yet again by your post. Crystal's comment pushes a button as I too have felt that ostracising from a community that meant my life. It was devastating. For my children too.
We do wear the labels others give us. You make us all think why we do that and accept it unquestionably. That 5 year old boy reminded me of one of my boys at one time who thought at different times he might be "evil". That was heartbreaking. Dealt with now, but heartbreaking at the time.
You spread about the love and "who you are" selflessly again. Thank you.

~**Dawn**~ said...

I wish that I could actually verbalize what this post made me feel, but I seem to be at a loss for words. So, simply...

::applauds silently::

John-Michael said...

Hi CD (Cath-Daughter) [big smile], I spoke with the School Librarian (now retired) just last week and 'Robert' came up in our conversation. We are going to check on his progress. (I'll update you)

A real "eye-opener" for me was my discovery (at the beginning of my self-discovery quest) of "Scripts People Live By" which was placed on my desk by a Psychologist who had a practice down the hall from my agency. "This explains all that you want to know about human behavior" he declared. The book is a "standard" in the "behavior modification" school of therapy. It presents the idea of "scripts" that we are all presented with as "who we are" by those influencing ou lives ... and how we can take responsibility for "re-scripting" ourselves. I had this concept in my repertoire of thoughts when I encountered 'Robert.'

Thank you, My Darlin, for your thoughtful input and reflections.

I love You.

Crystal said...

"We give these people our trust, our confidence, our faith in their 'superior’ powers of judgment, and we live out the roles that they hand us."

Brilliant post John-Michael. I guess to me, we all look to others for guidance. Maybe we learn to adapt that way of thinking to the "who we are" question as well.

You are so helpful. I honestly can cry at this moment just thinking of the affect these words have for my life. (In a happy, loving way, mind you) I just wish everyone in the world could be so honest and forthcoming as you have been in such a positive way. Thank you for just being you;o)

John-Michael said...

Your tender caring words, Crystal, brought to mind something that I have never heard anyone mention ... the vulnerability of our children to our imageries placed in them. It seems that we perceive the children more as 'contestants' in a game of parent/child, and our 'winning' that 'game' becomes the goal. 'Robert' illustrates how unable, the children are, to 'compete' with those upon whom they depend.

I love you, Crystal. Thank you for opening my mind to even fresher insight.

Crystal said...

Sometimes, I think, people think with their child's mind even as adults. There are people out there that have no interest in becoming "more" than what they were while growing up. It's almost like mentally, they get stuck in the past and everything that pertains to it, such as the emotion of how they felt while going through what ever experience that made a profound impact on how they turned out to be. Some can't quite "let go" and so they stagnate mentally while time passes, others change while they do not.

One person was my ex husband one is now my best friend and both people just can't let go of the negativity and , so to speak, what was done to them in the past. I do believe that once you are able to go out in the world, on your own, you and only you, have the power within you to change anything dealing with the past. But first, you have to willingly let it go and to forgive. If you want to do right and be happy you can, EVEN IF, you've never had in your life before. Break a negative cycle, EVEN IF, you never knew how to before. Love in a healthy way, EVEN IF, you have never known it.

IF, by some luck, that person found a life line, another person that tried like hell to be kind, show unconditional love, guide in a healthy way, encourage happiness and positivity, I do believe that the past patterns of ones not so easy life could change for the better. Unless, the person doesn't want to, for whatever reason.

I had to walk away from the husband. I found out the hard way that I couldn't walk his journey with him because I wasn't the life line that he needed. After getting over the initial shock of "how come I wasn't the one to make things better" I accepted and realized that even though I know I CAN help someone, he had his own lesson of life to learn and I wasn't the one that could give him what he needed to help him. As in the situation with the best friend, well, i'm fighting those emotions as we speak. When one can not live WITH OUT the negative, even if they are a good person in many ways, when do you tell yourself that you've done what you can. You've given but feel that the only thing you recieve hurts who you want to become? Does that make sense to you?

The mind and emotions of a person can be a most wondorous thing but can also be, to put it plainly, very complicated me thinks;) LOL! Sometimes I think I need to quit "thinking" as much as I do. Thank you for your words of kindness:)

John-Michael said...

Lady Dawn ... I humbly bow in quiet recognition of "silent applause" from a kind-intentioned Soul.

Your Servant

John-Michael said...

Crystal, Very Dear One ... I give, to You, a gift. A precious Understanding that was given to me long ago when I struggled with seemingly insoluble dilemma similar to what you speak of.


You are witnessing (and please trust me), you will CONTINUE to witness, this proverb lived out REPEATEDLY and constantly in countless loves all around you for as long as Life gives you the gift of breath.

Offer the insight ... make available the vision ... then know the wisdom of respecting the individual's absolute RIGHT to choose the avoidance of fear. This is painful to witness (especially in the lives of those whom we love.) But altering the absolute truth in it is something that the right of Free Will does not allow.


Crystal said...

Thank you. All I can do is be a friend to her. I know I can't "change" anyone but myself, is I so desire. But it sure is hard to witness someone you care for repeatedly hurt when they don't have to. I know it has become an unhealthy relationship but like others, it hurts to let go. So in a sense, I am no better. It's hard when you see the "potential" in someone but then again, am I seeing what I want to see for that person or what I know that person can actually become. There's a little control variable there too. Always wanting control in our own lives, we try to control the lives of others as well. Learning when to back away or not "push" is something i'm trying to change. Boy, it sure is hard! I spend 100 percent of my time being a mother to my kids I tend to forget that others don't need that "motherly" attention too.

John-Michael said...

As is readily evident, Crystal, I am not one to live my life "disassociated" from the lives of those whom I share this "life thing" with. And, if you will accept the benefit of my decades of accumulated experiential "scar tissue", I will leave another "survival gem" at your feet.

EVERYBODY has the God-given RIGHT ... to be WRONG.

And I can hear the laughter and see the nodding heads of those who have known me for even the shortest time ... for I have brought this truth to them so very many times ... because it is so very critical to a happy life free of the burdens of everyone else's personal, intimate, and private BAGGAGE. It does not belong to you ... and if they choose to lumber along under its weight ... "EVERYBODY has the God-given RIGHT ... to be WRONG."

Crystal said...

Yes, I certainly believe that and will try HARD to remember it! Believe me, i'm wrong at LEAST once a day! I so enjoy talking with you, you give me a different perspective. I look forward to many more conversations!

CrazyCath said...

Amen to that John-Dad-Michael!

You have just inspired another post! Dang I been busy today! Not got off this computer all day.

Thought of leaving it till another day, but I don't believe in putting things off. It might be needed now. That's what I admire about our responses - you think about what you are going to say and post right away when you have thought. Not leaving it a few days. Some one might need it sooner. Glad you're like that.
Off to post again now.
Love you!
PS Good good day. Can't you tell?

John-Michael said...

I, as well, Crystal. You have me anticipating progress reports on your freeing of those chords of control. And the happiness that you will then have more of yourself available for.


Misty Dawn said...

Without going into my life story, because that does not have a place here - let me just say that I now have tears streaming down my face. NO, not bad tears. You reached me with this. You are SO right. I am 32 years old and still struggle to realize that I am NOT what I resorted myself to believing I was for so many years. I know in my heart that those things were terribly wrong, but the beliefs and emotions you develop as a child and young adult tend to define you, and those are not easily overcome... even when they are the opposite of the truth.

Well, for some reason I feel that I didn't express my feelings here as well as I hoped. However, I'm noticing that I tend to ramble in your comment section, so I will just hope that you understand the gist of what I am saying.

John-Michael said...

Ahhh Darling Cath-Daughter, How my Spirit soars at the sound of your voice (yep ... hear it right through your words!! Sweet!) And, you are, of course, exactly right. I am driven by an old commitment to never leave any opportunity, person, or idea with a possibility of a "wish-I'da" in hand. when my heart says "Enough!" and decides to stop its ticking, I will have no concern that I "wish-I'da" said some thing that might have made someone's life fuller or richer. I leave nothing wanting for a possible thought of "wish-I'da" followed through on that message from my spirit telling me to do some specific thing about some particular situation. Nope, none of that ... I eliminate all potential "wish-I'da"s from my mind and heart as soon as I am aware of their potential presence.

And my Darling Cath-Daughter, if I did not tell you, yet again, how much I love you ... I surely would "wish-I'da" told you after the moment passed. So, Cath "I love you, My life's blessed gift."

Rob Hopcott said...

What a coincidence to read your words


So true!

I recently has an online conversation with someone who suffers great mental pain.

I shared with him my successful journey away from agoraphobia through self administered CBT ie. by exposing myself progressively more to the open spaces I had come to fear through a combination of home based excessive work habits and (probably) the recent death of my mother.

However, I was left with the feeling that, although it had been right to share, there was little I could do because in some strange way the pain had been lived with for so long it now defined the person.

I felt fortunate that I had been able to visualise a better life for myself and was also able to find the strength to make it happen and sad that not everyone is able, for insurmountable personal reasons, to make a similar journey.

John-Michael said...

Misty ... Misty ... Misty (see how much space I just gave to whispering your name? we have NO limit on expressing the message of our heart here ... see ?) And, I understand that this is not a table around which we might be comfortable spreading all of our assortment of unmatched dinnerware. That is what I provided two invitation spots on the side bar for ... where I invite your Email for our shared appreciation of some of those mismatched, but individually precious pieces of our lives. The address is and I welcome you to share a moment ANYTIME. Otay?

AS to the point of your comment ... You are "right on!"

I do lovingly care for You (and THAT I place, with confident gratitude, on our public table.)

CrazyCath said...

Thank you John-Dad-Michael and you are my blessed gift. I cannot imagine how you hear my voice but I guess it is how I hear yours. You sound like my dad, but not in his regional accent. I hear a soft, gentle deep voice. A dad's voice.

Anyway, the help I see you offering to others as you did to me this last few weeks made me rush up to my filing cabinet and take out something I have used with clients in therapy. We are great us "therapists" (I'm psych nurse) at fixing others and not ourselves. I learn so much from you who has no such baggage as to what is "evidence based" etc.

So, if others who need it want to have a look then they can pop over to my site and have a look.

Alternatively they can just make do with your very powerful and insightful wisdom. That's probably the best they'll ever get.

Love n hugs across the miles! C

John-Michael said...

Rob Hopcott ... You are a BEAUTIFUL MAN!!! You, my newly found and now-greatly loved Friend have filled my cranky old heart to its cracked and chipped brim and overflowed as well. I couldn't, with every thesaurus and lexicon at hand, find words adequate to express my admiration of and great gratitude for your courageous story. You are the example of Who we have the option of Being.

FAN-DAMN-TASTIC!! Thank you, my Dear Friend and gift from heaven.


John-Michael said...


And that is the "Daddy of a new-born" joy that you give my heart, My Darling Cath. I want to bring everyone into our little "room" of 'loving Life', and show "us" off. You make a Dad's heart proud.

CrazyCath said...

Oh that is praise indeed! It brings tears (of joy) to my eyes and my heart and inspired me to inform my poor husband of every word I have written and received here tonight!

I am overwhelmed, and I do not deserve such high praise. I learn from a great teacher, my John-Dad-Michael.

John-Michael said...

Cath, I fear that we risk sending some of my border-line diabetic Readers into insulin shock with our love-fest celebration. Ain't it just GRAND!! [grin]

(I simply MUST meet this stalwart man who manages to weather the tempestuous storms of your emotions ... Quite a man, indeed! You are blessed!)

John-Michael said...

Well, All, I'm off to brush my tooth and curl my strand, and to my beckoning pillow for 7 hours before the 3AM alarm for work.

Cheery-Bye! ... And ... I love You!

CrazyCath said...

Ah but, he is happy to let me express it here! And I weather his. Although his probably aren't as obvious as mine. (smirk)

This is quite refreshing to be able to be free. Not that I want to put anyone over the top with their diabetes! (grin)

You've had me laughing out loud tonight (not that some of the subject matter is funny - Crystal; Rob; et al). It has been due to that "feel good" factor you give me and the kindred spirit feeling of being able to freely express and give without fear.

It's catching too! I have a "spirit sister" whom I saw for proper quality time for the first time in months yesterday (we see eaachother often but it isn't one on one quality). It inspired her to tell me how much she loved it and missed it, which has also made my heart soar. {picture little heart with wings}

You have been a busy man tonight dad, and if you gave these folks half the help you gave me, then they will do ok. I note the time you posted and that is the time you START writing - you are as bad as me. So get your shut eye. I will tonight. I am at peace tonight. Thanks to you all. And mostly, my man, who gives me the freedom for me to be "who I am".

You're right. I am blessed. With him. With you. With everyone around me. Thanks.

CrazyCath said...

You read my mine. Just typed faster than me. G'night! (smile)

quilly said...

This post tells me that we share a like philosophy. I deliberately choose to work with the students no one else wants in their room. As these children slowly blossom into, friendly, responsible, truly likable young people, I am often considered a miracle worker -- but I see that you know what I know -- it isn't a miracle at all. It is simple respect. I pick up their dignity and their pride, hand it back to them, and help them polish it up.

Right now -- this year out of time -- I am working in preK, but next year I am back to 5th grade where I belong.

Jenera said...

What a great way to help that kid out, really, you have most likely changed his life forever, even if in only a small way.

I for a long time allowed other people to dictate who I was, how I did things, how I handled things, and I was not happy.

I have recently (over the last year or so) decided to take them all on. I have made my own decisions, my own choices, and lived my life in a way that is healthy TO ME. As a result, I've had my fair share of issues. I have had my fair share of attacks. But this time, I felt good in the end. I have eliminated those that only caused hate and discontent in my life. And I'm loving every minute of it.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such wonderful comments! I appreciate the support more than I can say.

John-Michael said...

Ah, Quilly, so many wounded souls all about us! But to see them at the, beginning of their life-adventure, already the 'walking wounded' is a heart-rending tragedy.

Your "It is simple respect. I pick up their dignity and their pride, hand it back to them, and help them polish it up" is, perhaps, the MOST beautifully stated summary, of this enormous need in our world, that I have ever seen. I know that the beauty in your statement is born of much devotion to the meeting that need. I do SO admire, respect, and applaud YOU.


John-Michael said...

Dear Sweet Jenera ... You are so very blessed to have realized your life's dynamic so early in your life-experience. (about 20 years ahead of when this old dinosaur did [grin]).

I suppose that the "Good News" is that there are people who are ready to provide guidance and structure, to the lives of others, when there is a need for their support. Unfortunately, the "Bad News" is that those who are adept at supporting ... (have you noticed how diplomatically I am avoiding the word 'CONTROLLING' .. am I not being a REALLY generous and kind guy?!? [TeeHee]) ... are, far too often, unwilling to respect the right of those for whom they have been providing said 'support', to grow, develop, mature, and take responsibility for their own lives.

It would seem that this has been your unhappy experience. TAKE HEART, my Dear Friend! For you have simply encountered (and had the victory over) the 'norm.' Yours is (sadly) the most common circumstance.

I delight in your courage and wisdom in your handling of your challenges to your freedom and joy in living.


Rob Hopcott said...

John-Michael, you are too kind ...


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