The Reason For Tragedy And Heartbreak

No one likes to experience either one of these or watch our friends and loves ones have to experience them either.  Whether it’s a tragic accident, an unforeseen break-up, a suicide attempt, some form of hardship, the death of loved one or favorite celebrity, or any number of other situations, these experiences can be painful, devastating, and gut-wrenching.  We sometimes ask ourselves all kinds of questions including why it had to happen or what we (or whoever else) did to deserve whatever happened.  Some people really struggle with the answers to these and other questions.

To me, these things are there as reminders for us of so many things…

  • that life is precious and fragile and can be taken away at an instant
  • that nothing and no one should be taken for granted
  • that we are stronger and more resilient than we think we are
  • that we can face our fears and overcome them
  • that change is sometimes a good thing
  • that the people and relationships in our lives are more important than things
  • that we need to continually remind our loved ones how much they are loved
  • that others may seem fine on the outside but are struggling on the inside
  • that we need to be kind and understanding to one another and really listen
  • that we shouldn’t sweat the little things
  • that sometimes our words and actions are more hurtful than we realize
  • that we should accept and celebrate our differences
  • that together we are stronger, and so on.

Most of all, I think they are reminders that we need to continually take a step back and be grateful for what we have, even if it’s not much.  There is always something positive we can find to be thankful for, and there are always so many people going through situations that are far worse than our own. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Of course, this is all easier to think about when we are not the person going through the particular tragedy or heartbreak or while we are not in the midst of it ourselves. We may never get over the pain or disappointment of the given circumstances, but hopefully at some point we can at least get to a place where we have a more positive perspective of why these things happen and what they were trying to teach or remind us.  I don’t think enough people stop and consciously think about and appreciate all the positives in their life. Maybe if we did, we wouldn’t need so many reminders.

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Poking the Bear

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In my last post on being good role models and setting standards for our kids, I talked about how I now tend to lose my cool relatively easily, even though I often talk to the kids about not overreacting and trying to stay calm in a variety of circumstances.  I am doing my best to not do that, but I can’t seem to convince my family that I am not just randomly lashing out or lecturing anyone because that’s what I like to do.  I am reacting to something they are either doing or not doing, and most of the time, whatever it is has been an ongoing issue or something more than one person tends to do or not do.  Therefore, I have very little patience with whatever behavior and am easily frustrated.  That makes it very difficult to keep calm all the time.

What gets me is that everyone is always surprised at the fact that I am upset or frustrated yet again and that I am reacting accordingly.  I don’t want to feel those things or react in a negative way, but it is a cumulative thing that has been more and more difficult to control over time.   Continue reading

Being Selfish

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I read this quote and immediately thought that this sums up several of my previous posts.  I thought of ones titled “Compromise“, “Givers and Takers“, “Parenting Your Spouse and Constructive Criticism“, “Being A Good Listener“, “Equal Parenting“, “Undermining Your Spouse“, “It’s Not About the Laundry…”, “Loving Someone Unconditionally“, “Following Directions“, “Being A Minimalist“, “Control“, and more.

You really have to be willing to give in many ways and make compromises in any kind of relationship as well as put others’ needs above your own and be able to work together.  A selfish person is not usually good at any of those things.  There has to be give and take, but that doesn’t mean the selfish person doing all the taking and someone else doing all the giving.  Regardless of the type of relationship (romantic, friendships, family members), both people’s needs have to be met, and selfish people are not good at doing that.   Continue reading

Being Thoughtful

One of the things about another person that stands out for me is how thoughtful they are.  This can mean many things.  It can be how much they put others’ needs above their own, how frequently they do things like hold a door open or let someone go first, or the fact that they will drop everything and be there for someone else, if necessary, even if it means it will inconvenience them.  It could also be doing things for other people that they don’t have to but do anyway because they know it will make the other person feel good, such as calling or texting to ask how they or doing or surprising them with something like flowers or a small gift.  Anyone who is willing to give of his or her time, whether it’s to support a cause or to lend an ear, is a very thoughtful person in my book.

To me, how thoughtful someone is says a WHOLE lot about that person’s character in general. Continue reading

Being Open-Minded

I believe there are multiple parts to being open-minded.  The first is not being judgmental, which encompasses avoiding putting labels on people or putting them down because they are different.  The second would be giving people the benefit of the doubt and not being so quick to assume what their intensions might be or what they are going to say or do.  A third is to not be so set in your ways and how you view the world around you.

Unfortunately, I think we live in a society that breeds people being judgmental.  Many people are too quick to form opinions of people and situations without really getting to know the person or the facts pertaining to the situation.  We’re quick to not only form an opinion but also express it, and sometimes we are being overly critical.  We should be embracing people’s differences rather than making people feel they need to fit a certain mold.  There are plenty of people I know who could stand to be a little (or a lot) less critical of others when maybe that person made a poor choice that didn’t really harm anyone.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt is difficult for many people, especially if they are more of a pessimist and tend to look for negatives.  Assuming the worst in people is a hard mentality to break, particularly if you have had numerous negative experiences with others and have formed some very negative opinions of particular people, a particular group of people (the opposite sex, for example), people in general, or the world in general.  Even when that’s not the case though, it is sometimes difficult to not make a negative assumption of what someone is trying to say or do.  When you expect people to let you down or do the wrong thing, that is often what happens.  It is always better to listen and give people a chance.  This is something I am not always good at with a few particular people in my life who have disappointed me previously.  Being more optimistic and open-minded isn’t all there is to it in every circumstance, but it might help the relationship or situation from getting worse.

The people I know who are quick to form opinions are sometimes the same people who are reluctant to change their opinions once they are formed, even after they have learned new information.  Perhaps they are stubborn and/or don’t like to admit they are wrong.  I think this is a contributing factor to being set in your ways.  Another part of it is understanding that we were all raised differently with different experiences, values (or lack of, in some cases), expectations of our roles and how people should treat each other, and so on.  Many people have a certain expectation of how their marriage will be, based on what their parents’ marriage was like.  If your spouse was raised in a very different environment, then there are bound to be obstacles to overcome, many of which may have to do with expectations of each other that are different.  If you are set in your ways and don’t realize that your parents’ viewpoints or the way you were raised aren’t the only way, then you may have difficulty making compromises or working as a team to navigate through life together.  If you are not open to trying new things or doing things differently than you have in the past, that can make things difficult as well.

The bottom line is that the more open-minded we can be about people, situations, expectations, ways of doing things, other people’s opinions, the other side of the story, the way people look, the way people think and feel, and so many other things, the better chance we have of getting along and making a positive impact to the world around us.

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Apologizing

Apologies seem to be difficult for a lot of people, but they are so very important.  For many people that I know, it seems like even admitting they are wrong about something is challenging.  (I have addressed this issue in a previous post titled “Owning Your Mistakes”.)  For them to go the extra step of actually apologizing is something not likely to happen.  Or if they do, it’s probably not sincere.  A sincere apology is definitely not asking someone, ”So are we good?”  It should definitely sound like you understand your part in whatever situation and how it negatively impacted the other person, even if it was something that you did or said that was perceived as being wrong.  Even if you don’t think you are wrong, it never hurts to apologize for giving the other person the impression you had ill intents.  (For more thoughts on the importance of sincerity and what I think a sincere apology SHOULD sound like, see my previous post titled “Sincerity“.)

An apology shows that not only are you willing to admit that you were wrong about something (if you were) but also that you have remorse for doing so and that you care enough about the other person to make things right.  Often without an apology, it doesn’t ever feel like an issue really got resolved or that it won’t happen again.

That’s the other piece of the puzzle – trying not to make the same mistake again.  If you are truly sorry, then you will make that effort because it doesn’t matter how many times you apologize, the words won’t mean anything if you don’t do things differently moving forward.  In other words, your actions always speak louder than your words.  If you don’t make any changes, it becomes clear to the other person that you really aren’t sorry and don’t care that you hurt their feelings, caused them stress and frustration or extra work, betrayed their trust, or whatever the case may be.  Of course, if you don’t actually understand these things, then you probably don’t see why an apology is necessary. So it’s all interrelated.  If you can see the big picture and understand how your actions impact others, you probably already understand the importance of apologizing, even if it’s just to say you’re sorry that you don’t see eye to eye on a particular situation at the moment. If you don’t, then you probably have a number of things to work on, including how and when to apologize.  If anything, it’s a good way to wrap up a disagreement on a more positive note.

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Jumping To Conclusions

How quickly many people tend to do this really bugs me sometimes, whether it’s in our everyday lives interacting with others around us or having to do with things we hear in the news or wherever else.

One recent example coming to mind from the news would be reading a headline about a local cop who supposedly fled the scene of a hit-and-run accident that took place in a parking garage.  The fact that the media is so quick to report stories with so little information and sometimes put their own spin on things is partly to blame, but with just the headline and basic information reported, it was natural to assume the officer purposely fled the scene for some reason.  His side of the story is that he hit a woman who he didn’t see because she had been walking out from behind a large pillar while he swerved to miss a car that suddenly turned in front of him, he got out and asked if she was OK and told her he was with the police and would help her after he parked his car, and then had to park a little ways away.  By the time he returned, she was gone.  That’s a completely different situation than what the headline eluded to.

That happens all the time where someone is painted out to have done something wrong before his or her side of the story is gathered.  We are so quick to jump on the bandwagon and condemn people with so little information, too.  And once those opinions are formed, we are reluctant to change them.  People should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but it seems to be human nature that we often assume the worst rather than consider other possibilities before we know the whole story.  It’s like we’re looking to see the worst in people. Why is that?

In relationships, so many people are quick to assume their significant other is cheating on them as soon as something seems out of the ordinary. Often times the person is wrong and it was something else like a surprise was being planned, the person was having health issues, they were stressing out about something, they were putting in extra hours at work, they were avoiding the person because they were afraid to bring up a particular topic, or any number of other possibilities.

My immediate family all seem to jump to conclusions frequently just in everyday conversations,  They often think they know what another person is going to say, that the other person is doing or saying something on purpose to bother them, that there is some hidden message or negative implication in what is being said, or that someone is accusing them of something rather than just gathering information.  I am guilty of these things too from time to time.  It’s so easy to think you know what’s coming or what’s intended and so hard to just listen without thinking about what you are going to say or read more into what is being said or done.

It is so very important to give people the benefit of the doubt, whether is in how we communicate or the conclusions we draw about the people we know and the people we don’t know. It’s something it seems most of us need to consciously think about a lot more than we currently do.

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If you have any thoughts to share on this topic, please feel free to click on “Leave a Comment” below the title to this post.  You can easily read any or all previous posts by clicking on the “Home” page tab and scrolling through the topics, or you can search by clicking on a category or tag word or by using the search box to the left.