Sticking To Our Guns

The phrase “stick to your guns” originated as a command given to sailors who manned guns on military boats, meaning they were to stay by their posts rather than seek cover, even when the boat was under attack.  Today it means to hold onto your convictions and stand up for your beliefs, even when others disagree or the evidence points to the contrary.  Unfortunately, it seems like too many people are choosing to stick to their guns these days, whether it is over issues of national importance or in their personal lives.

It’s one thing to be stubborn and insist on having things go your way frequently, but it’s another for a person to insist that he or she is right or has all the answers and correct viewpoints all the time too.  Some people just need to be right all the time, which makes them very difficult to work with and be around.

Unfortunately, I have plenty of experience with people like this, and there’s not a whole lot anyone can do to get them to consider that anyone else might know more about something than they do or be better at something than they are.  And forget trying to get them to see a different perspective.  Once they’ve made up their mind about something, it seems they only see and hear things through a filter that supports what they originally decided was the correct viewpoint or interpretation of a situation.  That makes it even more difficult to get them to see things differently, because they have built up a mound of incorrect evidence in their own minds.  Plus, the more anyone tries to convince them that they are wrong or maybe partially wrong, the more they dig in their heels and insist they are right.

Ironically, when it comes to an issue of national importance, gun control is a perfect example of people “sticking to their guns.”  I’ve seen plenty of statistics comparing the fifty states regarding gun violence vs how strict their gun laws are, which show that states with stricter laws have less gun violence.  I’ve also seen similar statistics about other countries such as Japan and Australia where they have much stricter gun laws than the United States and hardly any incidences of gun violence. I’m a numbers person, so that’s what helps form my opinion on various matters.  What I have NOT seen is statistics backing up the notion that more guns = less gun violence or more guns = a safer society.

I am also thinking about how the laws have changed over the years pertaining to what we are allowed to bring on an airplane. Each time there is an incident involving a box cutter, knife, bomb, or anything else, the rules and regulations get stricter and stricter. Even a dog getting put in an overhead bin gets a new law passed within a few days.  No one balks at these laws and we all follow the new procedures, even though it makes packing for and boarding an airplane take longer.  That’s because we know that planes are now extremely safe, and there is no need to fear getting killed or injured on an airplane or having it hijacked.  People are not insisting that we all be allowed to board the plane with a knife, gun, and box cutter, just in case anyone else on the plane pulls one out so that we can defend ourselves.  And no one is insisting that stewardesses be armed with these weapons, just in case, either. Furthermore, no one is thinking that because they are not allowed to bring guns or any of these these items on a plane, that they are not allowed to possess them at all, ever.  Their second amendment rights are not being infringed upon.  But, when it comes to common sense gun laws outside of a plane, somehow the same reasoning goes out the window.  Then it makes much more sense to many people that any limitation on gun sales is somehow infringing on their right to bear arms, and that more people carrying guns, particularly teachers, makes much more sense.  I don’t get it, and the statistics don’t seem to back those ideas up, but the more anyone tries to convince someone who thinks along these lines, the more they “stick to their guns.”

It seems like there are so many issues today where people dig in their heels, regardless of what the numbers indicate or the majority of people agree with.  The need to be right overshadows the need for facts or considering other positions or viewpoints.  This only leads to us being more divided and less united than ever as a country.

I think the same can be said for our personal lives too.  There is too much conflict because there are too many people not willing to listen to others because they are already experts on everything and have a difficult time admitting that maybe they aren’t.  Or maybe it’s just people in my personal life, but I don’t think so.   If you are one who tends to do more talking than listening and who needs to be right or have all the answers, perhaps it would be worth making the effort to be a better listener and consider that other people sometimes have a good idea or a valid perspective too.  Being open-minded is a good quality in my book.

Incorrect Assumptions

I realized recently that the people in my life who think I spend a lot of time correcting them or others are the same people who frequently make incorrect assumptions about plenty of things.  Sometimes the incorrect assumptions are made about details pertaining to logistics, situations, or decisions being made.  Other times they are about my intentions, what I am thinking, what I am trying to say, how I will react to things, and so on.  Very few things bother me more than being completely misunderstood, having my intentions incorrectly being perceived as negative when they are not, and being accused of things I am not doing.

It’s very frustrating trying to have a conversation with someone who constantly interrupts me in order to respond defensively because they THINK they know what I am going to say and that it will be something negative, especially when I am not ever given the chance to say what I had intended.  Perhaps they think I am trying to tell them they won’t be able to do something they want to do, or sometimes they are assuming there is some hidden negative implication like I am trying to tell them they shouldn’t be doing something.  Often it is perceived that I am trying to criticize someone or control a particular situation when that is not my intent at all.  Not even close.  It is equally as frustrating to have a conversation with someone who responds to most of what I say with assumptions that are very incorrect, rather than ask questions and listen to all of what is being said before jumping in with the assumptions.  That means I spend a chunk of my end of the conversation correcting the misinformation they created and believe to be true.

Unfortunately, too many people listen to others with whatever filter they have formulated in their head based on their perception of the person or situation, and they hear only what they want to hear and see what they want to see that backs up their opinion or preconceived notion, which just adds to that incorrect perspective.  It’s very hard to undo that, especially if that person is not open-minded and objects to hearing anything that will negate their viewpoint.

Ironically, I don’t like having to correct people, but the perception is that I do because it becomes necessary when people are making such incorrect assumptions so frequently.  So it has become one more incorrect assumption that all I want to do is correct people.  When it comes to my intentions that are being questioned though, I am going to correct someone every time.

I’ve come to REALLY appreciate the people in my life who respect me enough to listen when I talk and take what I am saying or asking at face value without adding their own interpretation of what I might be implying, when in fact, I am often not implying anything at all.  Some people just like to find negatives where there aren’t any, and I don’t enjoy being around those people very much.  I’d rather surround myself with people who actually bother to hear what I have to say without putting words in my mouth or thoughts in my head that they will then hold against me … forever.  That leads to a lot less stress, drama, negativity, misunderstandings, misinformation, and necessary corrections.  Life is a whole lot easier when we give people the benefit of the doubt and are willing to hear each other out.

Timing Is Everything

If only I had a quarter for every time this thought has popped into my head over the years, especially recently. Sometimes it’s because of good timing, and sometimes not.

There are occasionally those days where things start going wrong, and they just keep piling up.  I have a near miss car accident, something around the house stops working right or breaks, my sink backs up, the kids are argumentative or throw at me some last minute plans that I have to accommodate, and so on.  I find myself asking why it all has to happen in one day.  I’m already frustrated from the first couple of events, so I don’t always react too well to the rest.  Each thing on separate days would be a little easier to swallow.  But then I find myself thinking at the end of the day that I’m glad it all happened in one day so that I can put it all behind me and move on, hopefully having a completely different kind of day the next day.  Sometimes I am lucky enough to have that happen.

Then there are the times where I am thankful for good timing.  Something good happens when I least expect it, and I find myself thinking, “Wow, just what I needed! Perfect timing!”  I might come upon some information at the right time to put it to good use, or I’ll have a conversation with one friend that coincidentally helps me with a particular situation.  Maybe a friend or relative will check in with me to see how I am doing, and it will be on a day when everything is going wrong.  The best example is meeting new people and feeling like they came into my life right at the right time. Sometimes I don’t always realize right away how good the timing is, but I get it eventually. The relationship I am in now is a perfect example of that.

Unfortunately, there were several years where it was pretty doom and gloom for me with more significant things going wrong all at the same time.  My kids were a major challenge, my marriage was falling apart, I was having various health issues, and so on. Those things were more long term and harder to put behind me and hope for a better tomorrow, especially dealing with all them at the same time.  Some of the time I could stay positive, but often it all got to me.  What helped was focusing on the things I could be grateful for, especially those little things that happened every so often that seemed to be good timing, like a friend checking in on me or my mom offering to help with something or just listen without offering any advice.  I think that’s why I tend to check in on my friends and family members pretty regularly because I know what a difference that has made in my life.

Life definitely has its ups and downs, and timing is sometimes not good at all for certain things.  Just when we think things can’t get any worse, it does.  We need those times to appreciate the better times, so it’s often a matter of perspective how we choose to look at situations and react to them.  We can’t always see that though while in the midst of the storm, whether it is a hurricane or passing shower.  But hopefully after it has passed, we can find the rainbow and appreciate the sunshine.  There’s never a bad time for those!

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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Patterns of Behavior

A person’s true colors are apparent by the patterns of behavior they establish.  These can be patterns of positive or negative behaviors.  Unfortunately, we sometimes focus more on the patterns of negative behaviors that people establish for themselves.  How many people do you know that when you think of them, you think about how they are always complaining about something or how they are always late everywhere they go. Or maybe they tend to interrupt others a lot or are deceitful or dishonest.  Perhaps they put their own needs first the majority of the time or they are quick to judge others.  The list goes on and on.

You might know other people who bring to mind positive patterns of behavior like being a good listener, always helping others out, always having a positive attitude, and always giving others the benefit of the doubt.  Or perhaps they are silly and fun a good part of the time.  There are plenty of other qualities I could list here.  People with these attributes usually have numerous friends and family members who look forward to spending time with them, and it is easy to overlook certain things about them that are not so positive such as being a little forgetful or not so great at replying to emails. If they occasionally exhibit a behavior that is unbecoming or they make a poor decision, it is easy to forgive them because it only happens once in a while and probably has a reasonable explanation.

No one is perfect, but it is much more difficult to overlook negative behaviors and poor decisions for people who exhibit patterns of negative behaviors on a regular basis. It becomes easier and easier to keep lumping everything together and form an overall negative impression of that person, to question the person’s intentions, to not give them the benefit of the doubt, to start looking for negative behaviors where there aren’t any, and to want to distance yourself from them.  Not only is this true in relationships on general, but it appears to be very evident in this election on both sides.  The hatred for both candidates is palpable, and neither one of them does themselves any favors by some of the choices they have made or the way in which they behave on a regular basis.

I find it interesting that people who tend to behave negatively themselves tend to look for and point out negative behaviors in others, are quick to deflect the attention off of themselves by drawing attention to the negativity of others, and will even accuse others of doing the very things they themselves do on a regular basis.  It’s like they don’t see the connection between the two, or perhaps they are unwilling to see or acknowledge that they do the same things, so there are double standards. They are usually quick to play the victim too.

We all have a choice every day as to how we go about our lives. We can have a positive influence on those around us and try to establish positive patterns of behavior such as being respectful, trustworthy, honest, helpful, giving, open-minded, and make decisions based on values and integrity.  Or we can behave in a way that establishes negative patterns of behavior and negatively impact those around us, which makes it very difficult for anyone else to give us the benefit of the doubt or a chance to redeem ourselves.  Which will you choose?

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Taking Suggestions

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Not everyone is good at taking suggestions from others for a variety of reasons.  Some people I know who are like this either think they have all the answers, they want to figure out all of their problems on their own, or they don’t like admitting they were wrong about something or did anything wrong.  If they do listen to others, they may not really hear what is being said.  It becomes difficult to be around people who are like this except for in small doses because, in a nutshell, they are self-centered and are not inclusive.

It is challenging to talk to people who only want to hear what they themselves have to say and who don’t want to consider other people’s ideas or feelings.  I end up feeling like nothing I say will ever have any validity in their eyes.  I react in one of two ways, depending on who it is and how often I have to interact with them.  I either feel compelled to keep trying to get my point across, whether I have to be blunt or very tactful, or I completely give up because it is pointless.

If you don’t want to include others’ during meetings for your organization because you don’t ever ask for their input in the form of ideas, opinions, or their vote, then don’t be surprised if they stop coming because they wanted to be involved but didn’t feel like they could be.  I have seen this plenty of times with various organizations of which I have been a part.  Those organizations that go overboard to make people feel welcome and included thrive because people are willing to put forth the effort to make things happen.  The ones where those at the top want to make all the decisions and tell everyone else how things should be lose people left and right, and the same few people end up doing more than they should.  Yet, they wonder why more people don’t just flock right in.  Word of mouth travels quickly, and people can easily be rubbed the wrong way if they perceive you are more interested in yourself or your agenda than theirs or the whole of the group.

If you are expecting others to always be there for you but are not willing to be there for others, then you need to change your ways.  If you can’t ever own up to any mistakes that you might have made or admit that you are at least sometimes part of the problem, then you can’t expect things to improve.  If you are not open to constructive criticism or making any changes, especially when you have asked for feedback, then you really can’t wonder why things never change.  Furthermore, if you have been given feedback about how your actions or attitude has negatively impacted a situation or other people and you not only continue to keep doing the same thing but your behavior becomes even worse as a result, you may be pushing someone away because you refuse to listen.  Stubbornness often doesn’t pay, and no one has all the answers or great ideas.

I think all of this boils down to how much of a “me” person you are and whether you are more of a giver or taker.  If you are thinking about yourself most of the time and how you can have your needs met, then you will most likely have these behaviors.  If you instead think about how you can meet the needs of others and understand by meeting their needs you may get your own needs met in return, then you are likely to get better results.  Really listening to the feedback people are giving you, whether you asked for it or not, is key.

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Nurturing The Good

mind is a garden

It is all too easy to let negative thoughts take over our minds.  They really are like weeds.  They are there, whether we want them to be or not, and they just keep showing up no matter how hard we try to get rid of them.  Like weeds, negative thoughts also have a tendency to easily take over and crowd out all the good.

On the other hand, positive thoughts and memories are more like plants or flowers because we want to appreciate their beauty and relevance to our lives.  But if the plants or flowers do not get the nutrients, sun, and water that they need, then they will not grow.  So there is effort that is necessary to make that happen.  All the positive things in our lives are the same way.  We need to nurture them in whatever way is appropriate. Continue reading