On the Question of Trust, Sharks, Users and Takers

SharkWeekFeature1So often I am reminded of a conversation I had with a long-term mentor of mine almost two years ago.  “How do you discern who you can trust?” he asked.  How indeed, I thought silently to myself.

My answer then, as it remains, was that it was less important to know where others are coming from than to live and lead from a place of solid centeredness and confidence in our own values.  Still, as I continue to learn and grow, I am increasingly aware that there are those who cannot be trusted in our interactions, no matter how worthy our own intentions, motivations and actions.  Regardless of why, there are those who routinely undermine others – without regard for consequence, without provocation, and often without warning.  Sharks, users, takers, and players.  The world is filled with them, just as it is filled with those who work to lead and live from a spirit of humility, service and love.

Admittedly, I used to plague myself with trying to understand why some people behave badly, as if understanding alone would change the outcome or somehow justify their behavior. (I would also spend a great deal of energy complaining or feeling victimized by the person’s behavior, too.) But let’s get real.  Whatever the ‘whys’; whatever wrongs may have been done to them in the past by others that now lead them to act in a similar fashion; whatever their sense of entitlement or justification; bad behavior is still bad behavior, and questionable character rarely changes.

So I’ve quit asking and I’ve quit wondering.  Not only have I found that exercise to be completely futile, I’ve also learned that when we spin our wheels trying to understand, change and/or fight against those who have wronged us or others, we rob ourselves of precious time and energy that can be applied toward more productive ends – towards building trust and relationship with those who uplift, encourage and support instead of those who break down; and towards those paths and projects that align with our values and serve our life dreams.

It’s not a running away from problems or difficult people we’d rather not deal with, so much as it is a matter of re-prioritizing where, how and with whom we want to spend our energy.  It’s a matter of re-wiring our thinking, too.  We can feel victimized by others’ behaviors, or we can do something about it.  We can give our power over to them or we can empower ourselves.  While we may not be able to change others, we can surely change our response to them and how we choose to move forward – moving from a mindset of fear-based survival to a place of loving self-respect.

I’m curious…Have you ever allowed others’ behaviors to sabotage your own journey?  If so, how did you disentangle yourself from the situation?  What boundaries, tricks & tools do you employ when faced with those who routinely undermine, betray and breakdown?  Have you ever been caught of guard by their behavior?  Whether as leaders or followers, how do you navigate those inevitable times when the spirit of collaboration and team are undermined by the self-serving interests of others?  

How Do You Judge Thee?

Inspirational-QuoteAccording to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, judgement is defined as:  a proposition stating something believed or asserted; a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion; or the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing.  Capitalize the word and it takes on the power of Divine authority.

Yes.  We judge others, just as we ‘exercise’ judgement when making choices for our own lives.

Spoken or unspoken, we discern, assess, and form opinions of others and situations, anchored to our own belief systems and experiences, often without regard for the belief systems and experiences of those we project our judgements onto.

Sometimes these ‘opinions’ are positive or perhaps even void of judgement altogether, though often enough they are not.  Consider for a moment: how many times do you associate the word ‘judgement’ with a positive sentiment?  When we ‘compliment’ another, it’s positive; when we ‘judge’, it conjures up a different feeling altogether – both for the judge and those being judged.

Judgement – whether of ourselves or others – is usually birthed from a place of fear, not love; from a place of reaction, not responsiveness; or perhaps even from a place of deep lacking within ourselves.

Whether cloaked in the disguise of well-meaning albeit unsolicited advice, idle gossip, venting, or outright confrontation, it is often easier to judge, criticize, and blame others because they do not share our ideals, values and/or interests than it is to look at our own selves and shortcomings.  Instead of respectful disagreement or simple acceptance, we judge as if we own the Truth, and yet how could we possibly assume to know what it is to walk in the shoes of others?  How could we possibly know what stories they have lived or tell themselves that shape the choices they make every day?

When we judge our own selves without mercy, holding ourselves up to impossible ideals of perfection, we not only hurt and devalue ourselves, but often project our pain on to others, too.

Perhaps there is a better way.

Perhaps there is a way to build bridges instead of walls, for judgement always isolates us from others.  Add a pinch of understanding, a heady dose of compassion and a dollop of love, and you’ve created a recipe for peace and acceptance, paving the way to authentic forgiveness, too.  Ensure there are solid boundaries in place for good measure, and our respect for our selves and others grows immeasurably.

I’m curious…

Do you struggle with judgement, and if so, what form does it take?  When you feel unfairly judged by others, how do you respond?  What role do boundaries play when we feel judged or criticized by others?  How do you differentiate between constructive criticism or coaching and judgement?  What role does compassion, understanding, love and forgiveness play in finding peace with those we both judge and are judged by?

(Photo courtesy of fabquote.co)