This year’s conference offered courses on the persons and early writings that shaped the vision of the Church, on the issues of the first centuries, on the Eucharist, and finally on how the Church is living the vision now. The keynote speaker was His Eminence Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh, and the featured presenter was Alexi Krindatch, the Research Coordinator with the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. Held at Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA, from Oct. 31 - Nov. 3, 2013.
Kh. Janet Shadid: A couple quick announcements. First of all, and this is true, I apologize ahead of time: I have ADD, no, seriously, so my mouth is here and my mind is here. Sometimes because I’m thinking it, I think I’ve said it and I don’t, so if I don’t make sense, it’s not you; it’s me. Just raise your hand and say, “What?” Okay? The other thing is, I have a little bit of anxiety, because I’m glad you guys are here, but we’ve got clergy here and we’re being recorded, so I’m kind of nervous here. Please bear with me.
Thank you all for coming. This topic is: “How to Love One Another: How to Get Along with Difficult People.”
Who teaches us how to love?
Audience: God. Jesus.
Kh. Janet: God. Jesus. Okay, and Jesus taught us through his actions. And who do we need to love? Everybody, because who did Jesus love? People that hated him, people who crucified him. And how did he show he loved us? Through his crucifixion. What else? Even before his crucifixion.
Audience: Serving us. His teachings. Teaching us.
Kh. Janet: And he taught everybody.
What did he do when people didn’t want to listen to him? He loved them. What else did he do? He let them go, exactly. He didn’t say, “You have to listen to me. I’m Jesus, don’t you know?” He knew that, okay, I’m going to love you. I’m going to do what I can do for you, but if you don’t accept me, I’m going to take a walk, because if I focus all my attention on you, who loses out? Everybody else. Because I can’t change you. You can only change you. And if Christ [can’t even] change you… He could, but not “Here’s a spell; I’m going to make you love me.” But we all have free will, and because of that he moved on, and because he moved on, other people benefited.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that everyone who believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
What’s the difference between “love” and “like”? Do you really want me to stand here and talk for two hours straight, because I can do that.
Audience member: I think when you love somebody, it’s unconditional. I think it’s deep and abiding. When you like somebody, it’s a little bit less. It’s more surface. If we talked in dimensions, maybe liking is one- or two-dimensional, but loving is three- or four-dimensional, if that works.
Kh. Janet: Absolutely. Mother?
Mother: I would say liking is, and I don’t mean this badly, but it’s more judgmental.
Kh. Janet: Yeah.
Mother: And loving is unconditional.
Kh. Janet: Okay, that’s really good. My husband, my favorite sermon that my husband ever gave—not that he only ever gave one sermon that I liked, but this was my favorite. He gave a sermon, and he got up and he said, “You know, you have to love everybody, but you don’t have to like everybody.” He said, “I know there are some people in this church that don’t really like me,” and the old ladies are like [gasp]: “How could you tell?” Because we hide it so well—not. And he said, “There are some of the people in this church right now that I don’t particularly like,” and they went [gasp], because: You’re the preacher, you’re supposed to like everybody.
He said, “But I truly love each and every one of you.” If any of you know my husband, he is the most sincere man I’ve ever met. He makes Mother Teresa look like a wild woman, he can be so good—which is really hard to live with, let me tell you! He was sincere. He truly loved. We have to love everybody, but we don’t have to like everybody. Now when he sends me a card or something, he puts: “I love and like you,” because I’m thinking, “If you can love so-and-so, you’d better darn well love me, but do you like me?”
So we love everybody, but do we like people? And what kinds of people do we like?
Audience member: People like us?
Kh. Janet: People like us. Sometimes we don’t like people like us, though. Why?
Audience member: Because we see all our bad things.
Kh. Janet: Yeah. I grew up in Boston. I was a teacher, B.C. (Before Children), and I was teaching junior high. There was this girl, Erin—I forget her last name—and I really… She was a cute kid, but I didn’t like her because she was whiny and she complained a lot and she said, “Miss Abdalah, why don’t you like me?” You know why I didn’t like her? Because she was just like me at that age, whiney, a tattle-tale. I just wanted to shake her and say, “Don’t be like that.” But as a teacher, I felt really guilty, because I’m not supposed to show kids that I don’t like them; I need to show them how to change and how to be a better example.
What’s respect? It’s my favorite Aretha Franklin song. If you don’t start talking, I’m going to start singing it. Okay, here it goes… No. What’s respect? To treat people how?
Audience member: Fairly. Fairly, but… I’m trying to phrase it.
Kh. Janet: Mother.
Mother: To the monastic, it’s to melt in front of someone.
Kh. Janet: Okay: to melt in front of someone. When we treat somebody with respect, we treat them the way we’d want to be treated, not the way they treat us, because as human beings, we find it very easy to sin. It’s easy to sin. Am I right? So—what’s your first name?
Kh. Janet: If Perry yells at me, what is my initial reaction? Yell back. But is that the Christian thing to do? Is that respecting him? He yelled first, so I’m going to yell back. What is the respectful thing to do?
Perry: Just tell me I’m right, and then I’ll go away.
Kh. Janet: Exactly. And that’s what a “good wife” does. “Yes, honey. You’re right.” And Perry doesn’t have to like me, but he doesn’t have the right to verbally abuse me, so if I fight back, then I’m just going to be just as bad as he is, so the best thing to do is nothing. Just walk away. You have your opinion… We’re going to get into that more, but respect is the way we treat people the way we want to be treated, not the way they treat us, even though it’s really easy to fight back.
How many of us are really good at fighting? I am really good. You know what I used to say? “You start things, but I can finish them.” But then I grew up, and now I say, “I don’t start things, and I don’t have to finish them,” because when I finish them, who wins? The other person, because even though I can out-zing you—woo, I’m good—and I feel really good as soon as it comes out of my mouth, how do I feel five minutes later? Horrible, like garbage. Mother?
Mother: At one moment in my life, because I am a fighter and I was a fighter, and I had three sisters, and I always won—I said, “I am going to be like Chief Joseph: I will fight no more, forever.”
Kh. Janet: Ah, good. And who has power? You do, when you do that.
This is his commandment: that we should believe on the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another (I John 3:23).
So: difficult people. Who are difficult people—and don’t give me names! Give me titles. When I say “a difficult person,” who do you think of immediately?
Audience member: Employers.
Kh. Janet: And spelling doesn’t count. That’s one of the rules here, too. Employers. Employees, employers. Who else?
Audience: Children. Spouses. Parents. Neighbors or tenants. Everybody, probably.
Kh. Janet: Everybody?
Andrew: Everybody but me.
Kh. Janet: Everybody but you. What’s your first name? Everybody but Andrew. Do we all see Andrew’s halo? He just polished it this morning. What about in-laws?
Audience member: Myself? I can be difficult sometimes.
Kh. Janet: Yes, that’s excellent.
Audience member: Siblings, families in general.
Kh. Janet: Families, okay. What makes them difficult?
Audience member: When they don’t agree with us, when they don’t do what we’ve told them.
Kh. Janet: What else? Don’t agree. I can’t read my own writing.
Audience member: They’re mean.
Kh. Janet: Because they’re mean. What else?
Audience: Jealousy. I think that people kind of change the rules.
Kh. Janet: Okay, that’s a good point, like: they’re inconsistent, because that’s kind of hard to live with. You’re right.
Audience member: Or the rules don’t apply to them: must apply to everyone else, but I can do whatever I want.
Kh. Janet: Yeah, entitled. Okay?
Audience member: Hypocrites.
Kh. Janet: Hypocrites. Did somebody say something?
Audience member: Authoritative.
Kh. Janet: Okay. Why are they difficult?
Audience: They’re trying to protect themselves. They don’t trust them. They don’t know any better. It could ignite something in me, a quality that I see that for some reason makes me angry or belligerent. Something that sparks something in me, like the whining child.
Kh. Janet: Absolutely.
Kh. Janet: Sometimes people are just mean. They’re unhappy, they’ve been abused, they’re in a horrible job or a horrible family situation, or they have a lot of baggage. These are all explanations, but they’re not excuses, because if there’s one thing I tell my clients… They come in, and I’ve had parents come in and say, “Yeah, I beat the crap out of my kid because that’s how I was raised,” and I’d be like, “That’s really sad that you were abused. I’m not minimizing that, but that does not give you the right to abuse anybody else. That is no excuse. What it is is the explanation, meaning: you need to work really hard to break that cycle, because nobody deserves to be abused.” But the only person who can help a person is that person, and we’re going to get into that a little bit later.
What do difficult people think about themselves? So what do these people think about themselves? Mother.
Mother: For one thing, they justify everything they do.
Kh. Janet: Yeah, because they do things because they think they’re right. They really [do]. It’s amazing how you look at somebody, and you’re thinking, “Really? Did you just say that? Or am I on Candid Camera? Am I being conned, here?” But they really believe what they think or do.
I was at a church, and this grandfather had his granddaughter. She had been beaten as a child, shaken baby syndrome, and just beaten by her biological father. So she’s in a big stroller, and he brings her to church, even to matins, every single Sunday. She makes a lot of noise during church, but he wants to come to church. A couple of the ladies in the church said, “I wish you wouldn’t bring her into church. I can’t pray when he’s there.” I thought, “Really? That is the epitome of love, and you’re saying, ‘I wish he wouldn’t bring that child to church’?” And it wasn’t just one person who said this, but they truly believed that, and I thought, “How sad is that!” But that’s their belief system.
What else do they think about themselves?
Audience member: Sometimes that they’re a victim, everyone’s out to get them.
Kh. Janet: Yeah, so therefore they justify what they do. Okay. What do difficult people think about people who don’t like them?
Mother: They think they don’t love them.
Kh. Janet: Which they don’t… Well, they don’t like them. Because if I’m a difficult person, and you don’t like me…
Mother: But I may still love you.
Kh. Janet: But I don’t care about you loving me. I want you to like me. And why don’t you like me? Why don’t you like me?
Mother: Actually, my answer would be: “I do. I just don’t like what you’re doing.”
Kh. Janet: What do I think about you not liking me? What do I think about Mother not liking me? What’s the difficult person thinking?
Audience member: “I don’t care.”
Kh. Janet: And why don’t I care? I really do care, but I’m going to say I don’t care, because it’s going to protect me, and I need to protect myself. What else?
Audience member: Self-centeredness.
Kh. Janet: Self-centeredness, but you know why Mother doesn’t like me?
Audience: It’s her fault.
Kh. Janet: Yeah. She’s got that habit on and everything, but I bet she’s got some of her old issues, because it couldn’t be me, because I’m such a good person, and I truly believe what I think.
So it’s easier to blame other people. Now, what’s the problem with that?
Audience member: Takes no responsibility for ourselves.
Kh. Janet: Takes no responsibility for ourselves. Now, as people, sometimes we are difficult people. Well, not you, Andrew, but the rest of the world. When we’re difficult, how do we know we’re difficult?
Audience member: People become frustrated and angry and become hostile…
Kh. Janet: Towards us. What’s the key word in her sentence?
Audience: Hostile. Become.
Kh. Janet: People, because if enough people are telling us the same thing—hmm, maybe the world is right and I’m wrong. (Not you, Andrew.) That’s hard to hear, because how many of us like to hear how bad we are and when we mess up?
Audience member: No, not me!
Kh. Janet: No, but some of us are open to constructive criticism and some of us aren’t. But if we want people to approach us, we need to be approachable.
Audience member: I was going to say, for instance, that’s what I tell my husband if he says something, how he says something or how he interprets what I say, and he’ll respond back, but it’s how we respond, so my response back to him would… I tell him, because I used to teach preschoolers, “I really don’t like how you said that. It bothers me.” But his response back to me is, “Well, I’m tired of you telling me how to talk, how to do this, how to do that.” I said, “Then how am I supposed to convey to you how I am feeling, that this is wrong, and I don’t want you to do it again?” You see what I’m saying? He does not like it because he feels I am telling him how to speak, when in all actuality I am not. I am telling him that your actions are wrong. I’m not telling you what to do...
Kh. Janet: If enough people say, “Yeah, you don’t treat your wife with respect or your tone…” If enough people say it, then maybe he needs to hear it, then a lot of times we don’t like to hear it.
Audience member: No, he doesn’t, and I’m trying to get him to see, so there isn’t an argument, that this is what bothers me.
Kh. Janet: So that’s when we say if we want people to approach us, we need to be approachable. My youngest son’s my voice of reason; I call him my voice of reason. I would always ask him, “Hey, Steve, was I too tough in Sunday school? Was I having a bad day? Was I too mean?” Of course, I wanted him to say, “Oh, no, you were wonderful. It’s the kids that were giving you a hard time,” but if he would say, “Yeah, you were, like, really rough on Andrew. I don’t know what the deal is. I think you owe him an apology.” And if I say, “What do you mean!? Didn’t you see how Andrew was? He just sat there like he knew everything. He said he was better than everybody. Are you kidding me? I’m not going to go apologize to him!” Then the next time I go: “Steve, was I rough or what?” he’s not going to tell me.
But how can I fix something I don’t acknowledge? And it’s hard to hear when we mess up, but, again, not only do we have to be approachable, but we also have to consider the source, because how many of us have people tell us things that we don’t want [to hear], people that we don’t really respect. Meaning: who are the people who give you the most parenting advice?
Audience: Godparents. People who don’t have kids.
Kh. Janet: People who don’t have kids or people whose kids are…
Audience member: Grown up.
Kh. Janet: Or wild. Seriously. Being the priest’s wife, you’re [in] a fishbowl. I get that everything… You live in a fishbowl, and that’s okay. I don’t want you think that being a priest’s wife is horrible; it’s what you make it. You’ve got to learn to deal with it. I remember this woman came up to me. I was pregnant out to here with my second child. “I just think it’s so unfair to Christopher that you’re having this one so soon.” Really? I’m like: What do you want me to do? Give it up for adoption? I was hormonal, ready to cry, whatever, and this other parishioner said, “Don’t listen to her. I had my kids close, and it’s really hard at the beginning, but it’s worth it. It’s tough at the beginning, but it’s really worth it. It’s going to get easier. As they grow up, they’re going to be best friends.”
So who do I listen to? Miss Negative or Miss Positive? Plus, who did I go to for parenting advice? We have this couple—I don’t know if any of you knew them—Eddy and Brenda Joseph; they were from our church, and they came to camp a lot, helped out. Do you remember them? Brenda and Eddy Joseph? I just love them. Anyways, I just thought they were the best parents ever, and I would always go to her for parenting advice, because I respected her as a parent. She would never tell me anything, which aggravated me, but the people that you don’t want advice from and you don’t even ask just feel like they ought to tell you.
We have to decide what we can do and what we can’t, and take it with a grain of salt. Consider the source.
Audience: My thing is, I always feel like you hear both sides, in that case, but you also listen to your heart. You listen inside of yourself.
Kh. Janet: Yeah, well, good point. I’m going to respectfully disagree with you on that. She said, “Listen to your heart.” My grandmother, who didn’t go past the sixth grade—but I learned more from her than any PhD or MD, and I don’t care if you have the alphabet after your name; I’m sorry if I offend anybody—but she said in her broken English with her finger in my face—did your grandmother talk to you with her finger in your face? No? They do that—she said, “Honey, you always listen to your head, not your heart.” And she didn’t say not to have a heart, because she had a heart bigger than the size of Texas, but your head is the practical side; your heart’s the emotional side. Your head is saying, “You know what, the lady telling you it’s unfair to have this kid so soon is not worth your time,” and your heart’s saying, “But oh my gosh, maybe it’s unfair to Christopher and what should I do?” Then your head is saying, “Don’t listen to that. No way.” When we think with our heads, we’re pretty intelligent people, because our head is practical. If we need help, get help from the right people.
How do we change difficult people? This is a trick question, right?
Audience: We don’t. The way that we interact with them?
Kh. Janet: No, you said we don’t. You said the way we interact with them. What did you say?
Audience member: We change ourselves and bless them.
Kh. Janet: Okay. I firmly believe we can’t help anybody that doesn’t want to be helped, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try. The only way we can have an effect—if possible—is to be the example and to not let them drag us down, because it’s real easy to get caught up in the chaos, because, as good people, what do we want to do? What do we want to do?
Audience member: Make amends.
Kh. Janet: We want to make everybody happy. I can help you. I can help you; I want to change you, because I’m so good, and I can help you. But you know what? There are mean people in the world, and some people are just happy being unhappy, and that’s their choice. What did Christ do? He’d try, and when he couldn’t, he moved on. When people didn’t accept him, he moved on—for people who did want him, who did accept him.
Watch, stand fast in faith, be brave, be strong. Let all things be done in love (I Corinthians 16:13-14).
A new commandment I give to you: that you love each other as I have loved you (John 13:34).
Pray for difficult people. My grandmother also said, “If you pray for somebody, you can’t hate them.” There are people who don’t like us. Hard to believe that somebody wouldn’t like me, I know. That really freaks you guys out, right? But that’s their right.
I had a client once, and I said to her, “Okay, so what do you want out of therapy.” She said, “I want everybody to like me.” I said, “It’s not going to happen, because nobody’s liked by everybody.” Well, she did not like that, and she did not come back. But she had a very unrealistic expectation, and I wasn’t going to lie to her.
If we pray for difficult people, what are we doing?
Audience member: Loving them.
Kh. Janet: We’re loving them, right. What else?
Audience member: I always feel like, if I’m angry or upset with them and just view them very negatively, that once I start praying for them, it takes the wind out of my sails, being on that ship. Sometimes it also changes the way I see them, so that now they’re not this monster any more.
Kh. Janet: Right. Maybe there are reasons why they are the way they are. Maybe they were orphaned at two or whatever. Again, those are explanations and not excuses. Plus, when we pray for people—and a lot of people think, “Oh, prayer doesn’t work,” all these: “I need scientific proof—they’ve done studies where they have three groups of people that were basically the same. Group A was prayed for and knew they were being prayed for, Group B was prayed for and didn’t know they were being prayed for, and Group C was not being prayed for at all. Which group did the best?
Audience member: The ones that didn’t know they were being prayed for.
Kh. Janet: A and B both. Both. C, Group C, did not do as well. Power of prayer, all those non-believers: who cares about the non-believers? But it’s true. Prayer can help.
Try to understand from where they come, because if we try to put ourselves in their shoes, then it’s a lot easier to understand. Again, we don’t have to like who they are or what they’re doing, but we can understand.
Empathy versus sympathy: what’s the difference?
Audience member: Putting yourself in their place
Kh. Janet: Exactly. Sympathy is kind of like when we make excuses. What happens when we make excuses for people? We really cripple them; we enable them. We’re making it okay. “Well, you know, your parents are divorced, so, yeah, you can hit your mother.” We have a little boy in the hospital, seven years old; he put his mother in the hospital twice. That’s how violent he was. But, of course, she didn’t fight back and she didn’t do anything about it. She made excuses. “Well, his father left. His father was abusive.” When people aren’t accountable, we’re enabling them; we’re crippling them, and we’re doing more of a disservice.
Why do people enable people? Quick fix. Easier. “I love them. I don’t want my child to be unhappy. I don’t want them to hate me.”
Audience member: Less work, too.
Kh. Janet: It is. It’s so much easier, but it’s so much harder in the long run.
Audience member: What is it you just said when people are not accountable?
Kh. Janet: What did I say?
Audience: When people aren’t accountable, we’re enabling them.
Kh. Janet: Yes, because when people are accountable, they’re going to learn more, too. How many of you have kids? And do your kids wake up every Sunday morning and say, “Oh, I want to go to church!”? Right? Okay. Yeah, right. But how many of you make your kids go to church? Okay. Because why?
Audience member: Because we’re supposed to go to church on Sunday.
Kh. Janet: Because that’s what our family does. I remember, being a PK: our kids have to be the perfect example. Well, no. And we would tell our kids, “You’re not going to church because you’re the priest’s kid. You’re going to church because you’re our kid. Whether your dad’s the priest or not, Sunday morning: not an option.
I can’t tell you—a lot of parents come up and tell me, “I wish my kids were a lot like yours,” and I’ve even had my kids tell these parents what to do: You have to make your kids go to church on Sundays, you have to make it fun, keep them out of the—what’s the word I’m looking for: the garbage of the parish… what am I looking for, Father?—church politics, and make it a pleasant experience for them. But guess what? Why don’t parents do that? “I don’t want my kid to yell at me on Sunday mornings, and it’s the only day they have hockey… and then we can have a nice breakfast…” Usually it’s the parent that doesn’t want to go to church. So then, if, in 20 years, when the kid doesn’t go to church, hmm, are we surprised? If we want to be [parents], you have got to make your kids go to church. We have to be parents. We have to make our kids do things they don’t want to do. Yes?
Audience member: I’ve heard, too, “Oh, it’s so hard for them. They’re little. They don’t sit still.” Okay, you’re right; they don’t sit still. So you go up into the hall, let them burn off a little bit of steam, go back in. If you have to keep going in and out…
Kh. Janet: At least you’re there.
Audience member: One woman came and said to me that she doesn’t feel spiritual when she’s in church with her kids. I almost passed out. Get over it.
Kh. Janet: I had a friend, and I loved her. Her husband was a priest. Night services are the worst for little kids, because… it’s just horrible. I remember she went to church and she left after half an hour. I said, “I felt bad because you have to leave.” She said, “Oh, no. I’m so happy. It’s a half-hour we wouldn’t have had. I’m glad we got to stay for a half-hour.” Then she went home. That’s really good, instead of: “Oh, everyone’s talking about me, because my kids are…” What were you going to say?
Audience member: I was going to say that one time one of our dear friends, since passed away, when she was a teenager, she didn’t want to go to church because she was so sick, so her mother says, “Okay, you don’t have to go to church.” So when her friend came that afternoon on Sunday to go to a movie, and she didn’t allow the girlfriend to talk to her. She said, “Oh, Rosie, she too sick to go.” After that, she said, “I never wanted to miss church because I wanted to do other stuff after.” She did a reverse on her.
Kh. Janet: Absolutely. If you’re too sick to go to church, you’re to sick to go to the movies. Absolutely. But so many people don’t do that. They don’t want to follow through: because it’s easier.
Audience member: And they won’t learn how to behave in church if they don’t go to church.
Kh. Janet: Exactly, and oftentimes it’s the parent who doesn’t want to go, but when do they want the church? “Oh, I’m getting married. Oh, I’m going to die.” Then we want the church. And that’s their choice. Bishop Thomas—I love what he said—he said there are people like that, and you say, “We’ll bury you.”
Explaining behaviors versus excusing them. We talked a little bit about that. There are explanations about why people do things, but there’s no excuse. People need to be accountable, and we need to not excuse them. It’s not okay for you to yell at me and just come back like—you remember those punching clowns we used to have when we were a kid? We’re not punching clowns that keep coming back. You abuse me, I’m leaving.
Learn how not to be like them. When I first got into social work, I had no clue. I thought I was going to save the world, and I remember one of my supervisors saying, “You’re going to learn more from the bad therapists than the good ones.” I was all: “Who would do this for the wrong reasons? Why a bad therapist?” Oh, yeah. So we can learn a lot from people about how not to be. It’s kind of like the parent who screams at the kid, “Quit yelling!” and then they wonder why their kids yell. That’s the kind of parent you don’t want to be. That’s what you’re learning. Or you run into WalMart at ten o’clock at night, and these people have their babies and they’re screaming. They’re screaming because those kids need to be in bed. That’s how not to be.
Have a support system. Have people that you respect, that you can go to, just even to vent to. And let people know what you need. I have a friend, and I’ll tell her, “Listen, I just need to vent” or “I want a solution.” I remember once I was complaining about my weight, and—no offense to men, because you guys are wonderful, but you’re so darn practical—and my son Christopher said, “Well, just don’t eat when you’re not hungry.” “Oh, really. I never thought of that. Thank you. Let me write that one down. Like, really?”
Just because you are so self-determined, and obviously you’ve never had PMS but: “Just don’t eat when you’re not hungry.” Like, we know, but sometimes we just need to vent, but we need to let people know, because men are more practical and women are more emotional, so men talk for a solution. You’re not going to talk unless you want a solution, and women talk because we want to vent. So if I go to a man, and I’m talking, he’s thinking, “Okay, she must want a solution, so I’ll give her a solution.” No! I want to vent.
So that’s why it’s good for us to have a best friend, or to say, “Listen, Harry, I know you’re going to want to give me a solution, but I don’t want one, because I know how to lose weight. I know I need to eat right and exercise more. I know all that. I just want you to say, ‘Yeah, that stinks’ or ‘Yeah, that’s tough’ or ‘Hey, I’ll go for a walk with you; let’s do this together.’ ”
We need to let people know what we need and have the right support of people, because if we have negative people, what are we going to do? Become negative. Have you ever noticed, when you’re around negative people, they just suck you dry. There’s this woman in my church, and I just love her with all my heart. She’s got a big, big heart. [Whisper:] So negative. Even if I’m up here, five minutes with her, whew. You say, “Oh, it’s a beautiful day!” “Yeah, but it rained yesterday” or “It’s going to rain next week” or “Winter’s coming.” Like, really? Focus on the positive.
Be willing to change ourselves, because we all have things we can change. And have people that love us enough to say, “Hey, listen, I think you were too tough on so-and-so.” Stephen will always tell me, “You’re overreacting.” I hate when he tells me that, because it’s true, but he’ll say it. “You are so sensitive. That’s not how Uncle John meant that” or “That’s not how Uncle Ernie meant that.” And we need to be willing ourselves.
Also, we need to have a sense of humor, because if we don’t see the funny side in it, if we don’t laugh, we’re going to cry—not that crying’s bad, but we’ve got to find the humor in things.
How do we feel about ourselves when we can’t change or help difficult people?
Audience member: I feel worse than useless.
Kh. Janet: So you feel useless.
Audience member: Burned out.
Kh. Janet: Burned out.
Audience member: I feel angry.
Kh. Janet: Angry? Why?
Audience member: I want them to change. Because I want them to change, and they’re not.
Kh. Janet: So do you feel like you’ve failed?
Audience member: Probably.
Audience: Kind of like you’re stuck in the cycle with them. Impotent.
Kh. Janet: The problem is: here’s the person, and we’re trying to change them. All the focus is on the person. We need to take the focus off the person and put it on ourselves, because: who’s the only person that can change that person? That person. And since I can’t change that person—I can only change myself—I’ve got to focus on that. Why don’t I want to focus on myself?
Audience member: It’s hard.
Kh. Janet: It is hard. Why is it so hard?
Audience: You have to admit there’s something wrong with you. And do something about it.
Kh. Janet: Have to admit… and do something. “Do” is my favorite word, because it’s so little, but it’s so powerful. “Do”: it’s tough. Mother.
Mother: We don’t see ourselves.
Kh. Janet: We don’t. It’s easier for me to sit here and tell all of you how to change your lives and be better people than for me to say, “Really?” and practice what I preach. We all are intelligent people, thank God. We know what to do. It’s just doing it. So we need to take the focus off the other people, because if we try to change another person, we are going to fail every time. The expectation is “I’m going to change that person.” That’s unrealistic. What’s a realistic goal? To be the best person I can be. So if I’m trying to change another person and I’m going to fail every time—and this is reality—I fail every time, and I feel bad. And I’m not saying, “Don’t ever hope for more,” but I’m saying, “Be realistic instead of idealistic.” [That] is idealistic; this is realistic.
Try to make realistic goals: “I’m going to be the best person I can be, and hopefully so-and-so will see that or we can have a relationship. Maybe not like BFFs, but some kind of civil relationship.” If I can’t befriend Perry because he just hates me, maybe we can just be civil to each other. That’s a realistic expectation, not: Perry’s going to be my best friend, and we’re going to be best buds, and Perry’s going to turn into me and we’re just going to be perfect people. That’s unrealistic.
Audience member: How… I don’t want to personalize this, but I do need the guidance. In my classroom, I have a child who was abused, was adopted, and is super difficult. I think God’s given him to me so I could learn something. How do I apply this? How do I take the focus off? Do I take the focus off him, trying to guide him? I mean, you’ve got children and you try to guide them…
Kh. Janet: You make him accountable.
Audience member: Yes, but in terms of… I know to guide him, but is it a matter of me changing how I react to him?
Kh. Janet: Yeah. How do you react to him now?
Audience member: Well, on a good day…
Kh. Janet: Is this Sunday school?
Audience member: No, this is five days a week. This is kindergarten.
Kh. Janet: And do you have any help?
Audience member: No.
Kh. Janet: Can you get help? Can you get a parent in there?
Audience member: I don’t know. We could, possibly.
Kh. Janet: That’s a good point, because a lot of times when we’re burned out or something, or you’ve got all these other kids. You can’t spend all this time on this one kid. Just like at camp, when we have a kid, a difficult kid, we always say, “Get help,” whether it’s a staff person or somebody who doesn’t have a cabin. I remember Christopher’s first year as a C-I-T. There was a difficult kid, no, a special-needs kid in the cabin, and he was assigned to that kid. He had to chase him all over. If you get burned out, you say, “Hey, I can’t do it. Can you take over?” But don’t be afraid to get help. And a lot of times, people want to help.
Audience member: I guess it’s a matter of finding somebody who would know what to do.
Kh. Janet: Or you could teach them what to do. Even if they help with the other kids and you can focus more [on him]. And sometimes just another pair of hands or somebody else reiterating what you’re saying, because if a kid hears it from multiple people… Yes?
Audience member: I was going to add, it comes with a level of acceptance, too. Other people, just accepting the kid, the other person, for who they are, because if you’re always trying to change that other person, you’re not accepting them.
Kh. Janet: And focus on their positives. Kids need attention like they need air. What’s the easiest way to get attention? Be bad. Even if it’s something simple, like, “Whoa, you put your shoes on right away” or “That’s really good.”
When I subbed, and I always got there early, and I had extra stuff in case the teacher didn’t have enough stuff for me to do with the kids, so I had my stuff set up and I’m in my classroom, and the teacher from next door comes in and says, “I’m Miss So-and-so, and Johnny is going to give you a really hard time. You just send him right to my room, and I have his desk all ready.” I was livid. A, I’m a professional. Don’t insult my intelligence, but B, do not label that kid. Actually, I’m kind of glad she did that, because what did I do to Johnny? “Hey, Johnny, can you help me… pass out the papers. Hey, what’s next. Hey, hey.”
So what did I do at the end of the day? Dear Miss So-and-so, your class was wonderful. You’re lucky to have such a wonderful class. They were a pleasure—especially Johnny. He was just wonderful. Because what you have to do… And it’s hard, and that’s why, if we’re tired… because it’s difficult kids… Difficult people are difficult. We have to find a support. We have to vent. We have to get it out. And that doesn’t make us weak. That’s not selfish. Taking care of ourselves isn’t selfish; it’s survival. Sometimes you just might need a break. Don’t be afraid to ask. Yes?
Audience: Sometimes I think it’s particularly difficult with really little kids, because you do feel more responsible, and it’s harder to see that, maybe they can’t control themselves. They can’t, or whatever. But I do think it could be just… I work with kids; I’m a social worker as well. I just remember one specific child that was just really trying. I just thought, “God, I can do this and not explode. Just help me not explode.”
Kh. Janet: And pat yourself on the back when you don’t explode.
Audience: But what was so crazy was that by the end of the year he was like: “You’re the only teacher that hasn’t yelled at me in my whole…” He thought we were best friends.
Kh. Janet: Sometimes it helps to understand. When I taught up in Boston, I taught in a school where there were a lot of Portuguese. I love Portuguese people; I’m not saying anything bad about them. But the parents are very disciplined. I had this mother come up to me and say, “You have my permission to hit my son.” I’m not going to hit your son! I love your son! But that’s how she dealt with him, so that helped me understand. I can see that, and I put him in the front of my class, and after that I just loved him even more, because I’m like: what kind of heck—am I good, Father?—are you living, day in and day out? You leave here, this might be your only positive interaction, and I want to make your life good with me, because who knows what they’re going home to. And that explains it; it doesn’t excuse him being a bad kid or whatever.
The other thing: this is my equation for life. I used to teach math, and I love math because it’s either right or it’s wrong, it’s not if you suck up to the teacher you get a good grade, because I hate suck-ups because in seventh grade Susan Coffey sucked up to Sister Alfreda and she got good grades and I didn’t, but that’s my own issue. Can we talk about my issues next?
What’s a positive number plus a positive number?
Kh. Janet: What’s a negative number plus a negative number?
Kh. Janet: What’s a positive number plus a negative number? Sometimes it’s positive; sometimes it’s negative. It depends on what’s bigger. Nobody’s life is all positive, not even Brittany Spears. You know why? Even though she’s got a lot of money, she’s also got cellulite. Yeah, I saw a picture… You’re laughing! Yeah, but you look at those magazines, too. We’re all in the check-out line. We don’t want people to know we look at those, but we do. We don’t buy them, but we look at them. I’ve even let people go in front of me. “Yeah, go ahead.” You’ve done it, too! So there’s this picture of Brittany Spears and her thigh. A, I don’t care about Brittany Spears and her thigh, but. So her life’s not all positive; her life’s not all negative.
Stupid question, but do we want a positive or a negative result?
Kh. Janet: Okay. If we want a positive result, what do we have to have more of?
Kh. Janet: Who is it up to?
Audience: Me. Us.
Kh. Janet: Us. And that’s why we need to focus on the positive people. We need to be positive people. Plus, one thing—because I know as a parent we want to be the best parent; we want our kids to be perfect, and sometimes the more we try something, the more we don’t get it. So if I really want to make a good impression, I just really want to make a good impression, because I think if I don’t make a good impression on you then you’re going to go tell Carole that I stink and she’ll never have me again. She won’t even let me come to these institutes, let alone… So: Do you need anything? Do you want candy? Because there’s candy back there. Do you want anything? More coffee? What am I trying to do? I’m trying to make a really good impression. What am I doing?
Audience: Being annoying.
Kh. Janet: Being annoying. Making a very bad impression. So we’ve got to chill, got to take a step back. We’ve got to just relax and be ourselves. And we’ve got to be approachable, but we can be the example. Like, for your kid: you just love him. You point out the positive. “Hey, you did a really good job.” Even if you expect it. “You got in line really well.” I mean, don’t do a cartwheel, like, don’t go buy him a Gameboy because he did something. You just tell him. You praise a child, because, like I said, kids—and adults—need attention like they need air. If you want somebody to do something well, point it out instead of saying, “You should just know!” But I don’t know. Or it’s nice to hear.
Audience member 2: I was going to say in her case, I’m not sure. What grade is he in, if I can ask?
Audience member 1: Kindergarten.
Audience member 2: You could group them, like: two, and have chores. That boy, and another boy and another girl with him. You could be the person to shut the door, and you could be the person who hands the snacks or the napkins out, or help me with the clean-up. Give them a job and accentuate what their qualities [are] and what they have. How can it be more… Don’t just single that person out. That’s why I said group them with another student. And then rotate your jobs. You could even have job-type things in your classroom where you rotate them.
Audience member 1: We do.
Audience member 2: But then you could accentuate what he can do, and just constantly reinforce and praise, right? Praise.
Kh. Janet: And point out what other kids do well. We were in WalMart once. My kids were little, and this kid was throwing a huge temper tantrum, and I told my kids, “I am so proud of you. I’m the proudest mommy in this store right now, because you’re not throwing a temper tantrum.” You know what Christopher said? He goes: “You’re just saying that because you’re saying that’s what I look like when I act like that.” I said, “Yeah, and that’s what I look like when I act like that, but right now, you’re not, and I’m the proudest mommy in this store.” So you can also do that.
We are created in the image and likeness of God. Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
What are important qualities in a person?
Audience member: Generosity.
Kh. Janet: What do you think is the most important quality in any person?
Audience: Love? Kind.
Kh. Janet: Kind. I think honesty is. We can do a huge list: honesty, trust, loyalty, love. What’s the opposite of hypocrisy? Genuineness. Authenticity. How many of these qualities do we possess? We don’t have any? There’s a priest right here who can help…
What qualities in a person do we disrespect?
Audience members: Untrusting.
Kh. Janet: Dishonesty. What else? Hypocrisy.
Audience member: Greediness.
Kh. Janet: And how many of these qualities do we possess? But as long as we strive to work not to. If want people to approach us, we need to be approachable. We already talked about that.
Always have God in our hearts, because if God’s in our heart… You know the WWJD: What Would Jesus Do? It’s so simple: What would Jesus do? If we have God in our hearts, we’re going to make the right choice.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).
Life isn’t fair. We have to accept that. Focus on what we can control. Focus on the positive, because, like I said, positive… Anything you feed grows. You feed a child, he grows. You feed a plant, it grows. You feed positivity, it grows. You feed negativity, it grows. So we can’t change people, but we can change how we react to them. We have to realize we can only rationalize with rational people. The problem is we try to rationalize with irrational people. We try to get them to see what we’re thinking.
I love my Aunt Molly up in Boston. I love her with all my heart. Not that she’s irrational, but she’ll call me and she’ll say, “Do you remember Mary?” No. “She lived in West Roxbury. She was married to…” No. “She…” No. No. And then she’ll say, “She…” And I’ll say, “Oh, I remember Mary.” And she’ll say, “No, you don’t.” “Can you just get to the story? Okay, I don’t remember Mary; get to the story.”
But when we try to rationalize with irrational people… What do I mean by an irrational person?
Audience: Very emotional? Defensive.
Kh. Janet: Or they just don’t see it. They see it their way. And I’m not talking politics, but let’s say you like Obama and I don’t. I’m not talking politics. But am I going to convince Perry that Obama’s wonderful or is he going to convince me that he’s horrible? No. You think your way, I’m thinking my way, and what do we have to do? Agree to disagree. And when we agree to disagree, what do we need to do? What is something that people don’t do? Compromise? Well, sometimes there’s no compromise. You’ve got to let it go! “What do you mean you like Obama? I’m never going to talk to you again.” It’s like: Let it go, because you have every right to your opinion; I have every right to mine. Let it go. But we don’t let it go, and we let it fester. Yes?
Audience: Sometimes I think there’s cognitive dissonance. It’s just not possible for them, because it will completely upset their entire construct, and they cannot accept it.
Kh. Janet: Right, and that’s their choice, and we can’t change them, and that’s okay. We have to realize: Okay, I’m going to keep moving.
How many Orthodox does it take to change a lightbulb? Change?
How many people does it take to change a relationship? One. Exactly. Meaning: if we’re not getting along, I can’t change you, but it takes me. I can change this relationship, and I can remove myself from it. I need to adjust my expectations. I need to change my attitude. Do we want to be right? Do we need to be right? I don’t start things, but I sure can finish them… Or: I don’t need to finish them.
Audience member: Sometimes that means it’s a failure; it’s not going to work.
Kh. Janet: And not everything works. And is that a failure?
Audience member: Well, it can feel like it.
Kh. Janet: It can feel like it, but my philosophy is you can’t change the past, just the present and the future, but if you learn from the past, it’s not a mistake; it’s a learning process. So what have I learned in the past to make the present and the future better? Because if I learn that telling Perry that Obama’s the best president we’ve ever had isn’t going to work, then I’m not going to try to force my views on him. I’m going to learn to agree to disagree and continue to have a friendship.
Pride. What’s pride? We have to be fair to ourselves. Why are we so unfair to ourselves? Why do we expect more of ourselves than we do from anybody else? Why do we think we can do things other people can’t do? If I’m having a problem, what would I tell somebody that was in my shoes? Would I say, “You are such a failure. I can’t believe you couldn’t help that person. I can’t believe you couldn’t convince Perry to believe what you believe.” No, I’d say, “You tried. Move on.” But with me, that’s not good enough, because I want to change everybody.
And that’s another thing with parents. How many of you have kids? You know what I try to do with my kids? And I learned this too late in life, but I should have done this when they were younger. I used to try to pretend they were somebody else’s kids. Why?
Audience member: You’re easier on someone else’s kids.
Kh. Janet: Why? If my kid did something and your kid did the exact same thing, who would I be nicer to?
Audience member: The other kid.
Kh. Janet: Does that mean I love your kid more than I love my own?
Audience member: No, but you’re just more objective.
Kh. Janet: And I expect more out of my own kid, which is unreasonable. So my kid spills something, your kid spills something. “Okay, honey, let’s clean it up.” “Oh, you spilled something; I can’t believe it. Oh my gosh!”
The other thing I try to do, and I tell parents to do is: pretend somebody else is in the room. What’s your name, Father?
Fr. Peter: Peter.
Kh. Janet: If Fr. Peter were in the room right now, how would I react to my husband? Would I be like: “Auugh!” or would I be like: “Hey, honey”? How would I react? Because I wouldn’t want Fr. Peter to see that. I want him to be seeing this wonderful priest’s wife and good woman, but they don’t make priests’ wives like they used to. You’ve got to admit that, right? Yes, Mother.
Mother: I think that the issue with parents and children is that parents can sometimes say, “That’s a reflection of me,” and this is bad.
Kh. Janet: And no parent would say that to another parent. “Okay, your kid does drugs because you didn’t parent them right.”
Audience member: Or like my husband says, “If that was me when I was a kid, my parent wouldn’t permit me to do this,” so they’re trying to parent the way they had been parented themselves. I tried telling my husband, “It’s a different time for different people. You are you. You’re not your mother or your father. You are you. You need to parent the way you feel is right. You can’t just emulate how you were parented.” He’s using his parents as that role model. “My parents wouldn’t permit this, this, and this.” I say, “Yeah, I get that, but it was different when we were kids, too. Your lifestyle was different. How you were brought up was different.”
Kh. Janet: And kids are faced with so much now.
Audience member: Today’s society is all different.
Kh. Janet: At such a young age. We’ve got kids coming into the hospital at eleven years old, pregnant. How sad is that? I didn’t know what sex was at eleven. I really didn’t. But they’re faced with drugs… Look how they’re being… That’s another story.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God and Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).
A couple years ago, the clergy wives had a meeting here and we did a Jeopardy! game, and I was in charge of the final questions. One of the topics was: What should a priest’s wife do. No, it was: What should you do when…? They complained the priest’s sermon was too long, your kids are too noisy in church… I’m trying to think. The choir was off… So the answer to every one in that category was: Smile, nod, and say nothing—because if somebody is trying to be negative towards us, comes up to you and says, “Your husband’s sermon is too long.” “There he is. Go tell him.” What are they trying to do to us?
Audience member: Divide you.
Kh. Janet: Divide you. What else?
Audience member: Upset you.
Kh. Janet: Upset you. Why are you telling me? “Because I want you to tell him. I’m just telling you because I don’t have the guts to go tell him myself.”
Audience member: They think if you tell your husband, you’d be more understanding through the wife as opposed to me as just a by-stander.
Kh. Janet: They’re trying to use me, and nobody can use me unless you let them. Have you ever noticed the people who say, “People are saying… but I can’t tell you who.” And you know who the person is? It’s that person. I had somebody tell me, “People are saying… but I won’t tell you who,” and I said, “You know what? I feel bad. You shouldn’t let people use you like that. Why don’t you tell that person to come to me themselves?” She didn’t like that answer. But nobody can use us unless we let them.
“Do” is a powerful and tiny word. People who complain the most do the least. Have you ever noticed that nobody wants to run a food sale, but if you offer to do it, guess what? Don’t you do it this way? Shouldn’t you do that?
Some people tell us how wonderful they are. We all know people… “I am so good. I do this and this.” Those are the people who do the least. Why? We need to see people’s actions. We need to show our actions, because the people who talk the most do the least. The reason you’re telling me how wonderful you are is because I don’t see it.
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (I John 3:18).
Anything we feed grows. We already talked about that. Positive versus negative. Hatred only hurts us.
Whoever hates his brother is a murderer. As you know, no murderer has eternal life (I John 3:15).
How do we feel when we hate?
Audience: Mean. Small. Ugly. I like that analogy of drinking sour apple cider.
Kh. Janet: Yeah. I don’t like me. I don’t like me when I’m angry. And nobody can make us angry unless we let them. I can tell this story because the woman has died, but when we first got to Johnstown there was a woman who hated us, hated us, hated us. I was doing coffee hour with my friend, and this woman came and totally ignored me and went to my friend and said, “Hey, Chris, how are you doing? How’s your family?” I’m like: She walked right by me! She didn’t even look at me! She did not even acknowledge me. I was so angry. I went home; I was mad. I took it out on my husband, took it out on my kids, hated myself for taking it out on my husband and my kids. My husband said, Mr. Practical, “Why do you let her bother you?” “Well, because… Do you know what she did!?” “Yeah, I deal with it every day.”
So the next time my friend and I are doing coffee hour and she walks right by me, blah-blah-blah to my friend, I said, “Excuse me! How are you? You look really nice. How are the kids?” It killed her to have to talk to me, because I was nice to her. Had I said, “Hey, listen, woman, why aren’t you paying attention to me? Are you a snob, or what do you think? You think you’re better than me?” She would have been: “Do you know what that priest-wife did?” She’s not going to say, “Do you know what that priest-wife did?” after she ignored me, because she doesn’t see that she’s being rude; it would have all been on me. So we can’t change people. We can only change how we react to them.
Our parish family. What’s a family?
Audience member: You don’t choose them.
Kh. Janet: You don’t choose them. You’ve got to love them, but do we like them? But it’s a group of people that live together and love each other—not necessarily like. And what’s a church? It’s a parish family. And what kind of people does the church attract sometimes?
Audience member: The crazies?
Kh. Janet: Good and bad. Why?
Audience: Because it’s a hospital. Often, it’s the only place they’re accepted.
Kh. Janet: Exactly. “My great-great-great grandfather started this church and no one’s keeping me out of this church and nobody’s going to tell me how to change things and we never did that before and we’re not going to do it now.” And what’s that called when people push their weight around? They bully.
Why does the Church attract bullies?
Audience member: Because we try to love them.
Kh. Janet: We try to love them, and we love everybody, and we can’t say, “You’re kicked out of the Church.” Can you imagine if I bullied my boss at work? “There’s the door, don’t let it…” Yeah. So I’m going to do that at the church, but I’m not bullying anybody. I’m just trying to save the church, because you people are wasting the church’s money. I’m just trying to save the church. Ay-ay! Plus, you know what that priest should do? Liturgy on Sunday. That’s it. You don’t need to know about anything else. We’ve got it all taken care of.
So how do we keep ourselves spiritually healthy?
Audience: Prayer. Participate in the services of the church. Reading Gospel. Step back, leave the room for a while. Doing service for others.
Kh. Janet: Stay focused on the positive people. Laugh a little bit. You know what I used to always do? Because up in Boston, it’s a huge church, and I loved being with the kids and the teens, because there’s no drama with them. I mean, a little drama, but the adults would drive me crazy. I remember at a parish meeting once, and this guy whips out Robert’s Rules of Order. I’d never heard of Robert’s Rules of Order, and I’m like: really? I remember this lady—she was my cousin, this big—and these two guys almost got into a fist-fight, and she’s trying to break them up. Really? Just give me the kids and I don’t want to be bothered. I think kids should rule the world. Why are kids so awesome?
Audience member: They’re honest.
Kh. Janet: They’re honest! Who do you ask if you want honesty? You ask a kid. “How does this look?” You’re not going to ask [your husband]. “Oh, no, that looks fine.” You’re going to ask a kid, because they will tell you the honest truth.
Audience member: Even your own kid.
Kh. Janet: Yeah.
How do we keep ourselves emotionally healthy?
Audience member: Talking things over with someone who is reasonable.
Kh. Janet: Yeah. How late do we go till?
Audience member: About ten to three.
Kh. Janet: Okay. There are two exercises I want to do.
Selfish versus survival, we already talked about that. When we take care of ourselves, it’s not selfish. We’ve been taught: take care of everybody else, but we need to take care of ourselves so we can survive, because if we take care of ourselves, then we’re going to be better for other people.
We cannot be liked by everybody. It’s just not going to happen. 20% of the people will love us no matter what. 20% of people will hate us no matter what; that’s just the way it is, and some people are just happy being unhappy. Now, the 60% are undecided. We need to focus on them, because if we focus on the 20% that dislike us, what’s going to happen?
Audience member: We make ourselves crazy.
Kh. Janet: That’s true. I didn’t think of that. We’re going to make ourselves crazy, but who suffers?
Audience member: We do.
Kh. Janet: I didn’t think of that. You guys are over-thinking things. But the 60% and the [first] 20%, because those 60% and the [first] 20% are looking at how we’re dealing with the other people. How many of us look at how other people are dealing with people and: do I respect that or not? “Yeah, I’m really impressed that you stood up for yourself in an assertive way.” What’s the difference between aggressive, passive, and assertive? Aggressive: we’re verbally, physically, emotionally, sexually hurtful to someone else. Passive: we hold everything in, we want everyone to like us, we do whatever you want; we’re passive. We get hurt. Is it ever okay to hurt somebody else? No. Is it ever okay to hurt ourselves? No, but we think it is. So we need to be assertive, and when we’re assertive, we stand up for ourselves without hurting anybody.
If Andrew asks me, “Can I have all the leftover candy?” and I say, “You little hog. I can’t believe you want all the candy. You are so selfish. No.” Is that passive, aggressive, or assertive?
Kh. Janet: If he says, “Can I have all the candy?” and I say, “I wanted to take some to my kids and… [sniff].” “Okay, you can have it.” Is that passive or aggressive? That’s passive.
Now, if I say, “I wanted to take some to all the kids at church, but I’ll split it with you. Is that okay?” I’m not saying, “You stupid idiot.”
So we need to stand up for ourselves in an assertive way, but not be afraid of it, as long as we don’t hurt other people.
The ladder exercise. This is something I do with my clients. This really works with teens, I think. What is this?
Audience: A ladder.
Kh. Janet: Some people say, “Railroad track.” I did not major in art. This is us, climbing the ladder. What does it mean to climb the ladder? Make our lives better. And who are these people?
Audience member: Friends and family.
Kh. Janet: Hopefully not. These are the people who want to drag us down. They can stay here until the day they die. It’s up to them. They don’t want to climb the ladder; it takes too much time and energy. And they don’t want us to climb the ladder, because if we climb the ladder, we’re making them look bad. Plus, the more people down here, the more normal they feel.
Who are these people?
Audience member: The angels who rescue us.
Kh. Janet: Kind of. They’re people who have already climbed the ladder and worked really hard, and they want us to climb the ladder because they’re good people. Good people want good things. Now, they can’t help us unless we let them, right? They can’t pull us by the hair and say, “Get up here.” But what they can do is say, “Here’s my hand. Reach out. Let me help you.” If we focus on these people, where are we going to go?
Kh. Janet: Whose fault? Ours, because we let them help us. And if we focus on these people down here, where are we going to go? Down. Whose fault?
Kh. Janet: What does this remind you of?
Audience: Ladder of ascent.
Kh. Janet: So what is the point of this? We all have Christ in us. God is always there for us. Are we there for him? There’s no such thing as not being able to climb the ladder. God is always there. Are we there for him?
We may never know what kind of effect we have on somebody, even if it’s a “hello.” I remember once the first time I let my kids go to Pizza Hut for lunch by themselves. I was really nervous, but one of the girls from church was there, a teenager, and when they came home I said, “How was Pizza Hut? How was Pizza Hut?” He said, “Mandy said hello to us.” Really? That meant the world to him. I said to the girl, Amanda, “You know, it really meant a lot to the kids that you said hello to them,” and she’s like, “Yeah?” Yeah. That little thing was huge to them. So had I not told her, she would never know. We don’t know the kind of effect we can have. Sometimes it’s a negative thing, like: she wouldn’t even say hello to me. We don’t realize. So that’s why we always have to be aware of things and be open to what other people have to say.
Now this exercise… This is a bullying exercise. Has anyone here ever been a bully in their younger days? For real? Have you been a bully?
Mother: With my sisters, yeah.
Kh. Janet: You bullied your sisters? Okay. Please come up here. Read that.
Mother: I am the student who is being bullied. “Oh, no. Here they come again. What are they going to say now? I wish I could just disappear. This is just too hard for me. Man, do I hate school.”
Kh. Janet: So you are being bullied. You’re the kid that everyone bullies. Who wants to be a bully? Okay, who will be a bully? This is worse than Sunday school—already I don’t like her. Mother, stand right here, please. Nice and loud.
Audience member 3: I want to bully. Start the bullying and take a leadership role. I can usually get my friends to go along with whatever I say. I think so-and-so is so stupid. I was making fun of his or her clothes. I said something like, “Hey, you loser, where’d you get those ‘cool’ clothes? the loser store?”
Kh. Janet: I need another bully. Thank you. You’re my new favorite.
Audience member 4: I like the bullying and taking part in it. I usually don’t start it but will if my friends encourage me. Well, she isn’t very cool. I agree with her. After things got started, I probably say, “Yeah, what’s your problem, geek?”
Kh. Janet: Now I need a supporter or a passive bully. Rodney, you’re my new favorite, too. If you want to be my favorite, you have to volunteer. I’m bullying you to volunteer.
Audience member 5: I support the bullying. I usually laugh and point it out to others, but I don’t join in. “Oh really? I like (names of people supporting the bullying). They’re so cool.” I don’t usually say anything when they pick on people, but I’m laughing and letting others know what’s going on so they can get a laugh, too.
Kh. Janet: There are all these bullies here. Now we have a passive supporter. Nice and loud, please.
Audience member 6: I like the bullying, but don’t show outward signs of support. Well, I think it’s funny, too. I try to seem innocent enough. I really don’t want to get into trouble. I let the guys know later what happened. “Yeah, it’s kind of goofy. Just look at her.”
Kh. Janet: Disengaged onlooker. (Just because I love your accent.) I love your accent. Do it now! That’s how to get along with difficult people—just bully them. And then they’ll be grateful they’re not like you.
Audience member 7: I don’t get involved in the bullying, and I try to remove myself. I don’t help the bullied student. Hey, this is none of my business. I try not to even notice. When I do, I pretend not to see. The less attention I get from those people, the better.
Kh. Janet: Possible defender.
Kh. Janet: As we all forget.
Audience member 8: I don’t like the bullying, and think I should help the bullied student, but I don’t do anything. This is making me sick. Those kids have no right to do those things. That poor kid did nothing to deserve that, but I really can’t say anything. I don’t want to be the next person to be bullied. Besides, what could I do anyway?
Kh. Janet: Father?
Father: I don’t like the bullying, and try to help the bullied student. I can’t take it any more. I just have to do something, but what should I do? Hmm. Maybe talk to him or her later and say I’m sorry it happened. I might even go over there right now.
Kh. Janet: Go over there right now.
Father: How are you, Sister. I’m with you here. We have the same clothes on; don’t worry.
Kh. Janet: What is the point of this exercise, whether it’s a school or work or the parish? Who gets bullied the most in the parish?
Audience: The priest.
Kh. Janet: The priest, because no matter what he does, it’s wrong. Somebody’s going to find fault with it. Or it’s the choir director. Or it’s the church school director. Or, or, or. And like we said before: who complains the most? People who do the least. And those are the people we need to not focus on, not put our attention on.
So out of all these people out here, where are we? And what did Father do? He didn’t say, “You dumb idiots, you’re bullies. You’re bad people. You’re all going to need confession.” He consoled her, because he can’t change these people. He could only go to the person who was being bullied and say, “I support you,” and he’s not afraid to say, “I support you,” because that’s where the power is. Not here. That would be a waste of time and a waste of energy. Then the more people see the defenders, what are they going to say?
That’s right. Hey, if he can do it… Who’s the possible defender. Maybe Father’s going to give you the guts to go up. If he can do it, maybe I should go over there, too. Maybe it’s not so bad. But I think the problem we have is: we’re afraid so we do nothing, or, if they’re picking on Mother, then they’re leaving me alone. That’s okay, because I don’t want to get into it, because, like, it’s not my problem. Yeah, it is my problem, and I don’t have to deal with these people, but I can certainly be a supporter.
I remember we got a new priest up in Boston. He came and we’d never had confession before, because that’s just… We weren’t raised with confession. We just didn’t do it. The new priest came, tried to do confession. Well, that new priest tried to change everything too much too soon, right? Okay. And he said, “I know most of you people love me and you support me, but you’re not verbal. It’s the few people that don’t like me that are the most vocal, and that’s what people hear.”
We have to empower ourselves, let Christ empower us, let God empower us, and do the right thing, not the easy thing, whether it’s parenting or being a parishioner or whatever. We need to do the right thing and not be afraid. The more we’re around defenders, possible defenders, the more powerful we’re going to be, and we have to learn to not be afraid, and realize that little things can go far. We may never know. You may never know how going over to that person affected her life, because maybe she was ready to commit suicide, maybe she was ready to hit the bottle, maybe she was ready to go take it out on her own kids. Who knows?
Audience member: Like with some kids at school, with specific kids, what buttons to press with that student, they know what reaction they’re going to get, so that student that they pick on is going to react right off the button, right off the handle. And those kids that do the picking and the bullying, they get away with it scot-free, so the kid who’s reacting to the kids who are picking on him, they’re the ones that get into trouble, because they know that that kid feeds right into their trap. They feed right into it, and they know that they can gang up on this person, because you don’t like this team or something, and we’re all at this team, and they know that they can say just the one word—and sometimes it’s just the one word—and they’re going to get immediate reaction, immediate response. Then that kid is going to defend [himself], because that’s [his] initial reaction to doing that, to stand up for [himself]. And then [he gets] in trouble because “I’m not going to stand for this. I think they’re bullying. They’re getting my goat.”
Kh. Janet: I always tell kids… You never tell a kid, “Don’t feel that way,” but I’ll say, “Yeah, what the bullies do hurt you, but don’t let them see it hurt you, because if they see it, they’re going to latch onto you like a leach and keep doing it. You’re their victim. But go home where it’s safe or go some place where it’s safe, and talk about it. Don’t ever let the bullies see you upset, but you have to get it out, because if we hold it in…” A lot of us say, “Don’t think about it and it goes away.” Problems don’t evaporate like water. They grow, and then they explode, so we need to get it out the right way. And the best way is to use our defenders, to use our supports, and these people are always as powerful as we let them.
And it’s hard. And we’ve got to walk out to see who is being bullied, who can I help, who can help me and let people know what we need. Thank you. Bully. Bully. Shame on you. Confession at 11:00. Thank you.
Audience member: I think part of the problem also is I know the school system can’t always address those, but it’s got to be a two-fold way that what’s reinforced at home is reinforced at school and vice-versa, both ways; it’s a two-way street there. That’s why you hear lately with all these kids committing suicide because they’re bullied. Nothing is being taught in the school. It’s becoming a…
Kh. Janet: Well, it’s not taught at home, either
Audience member: No, it’s not. That’s why I say it’s a two-way street.
Kh. Janet: How many of you are teachers? How long have you been teaching?
Audience: Officially two years, with children.
Kh. Janet: Times have changed, parents have changed. I remember when I was a kid, if I got in trouble at school, I got it worse at home. When I taught—and that was a while ago—I had a kid who would get high with his father, and he’d say, “I don’t care what you do to me, because my mother will stick up for me,” and you know what? She would. Why? Because she felt guilty because the dad would get high with her son, and she made excuses, so we couldn’t do anything to the kid. Now it’s even worse: parents threaten to sue, they threaten harm… Society’s changing, and we can only do our best. We need to be the people we can be and do the best we can.
This last handout I have for you, these are stories you’ve all had before, but I’m just going to go through them and tell you why I have this for you. You’ve all heard the story “Starfish Story.” This is one of my favorite stories because: what is the theme of this story? You’ve all read this story before?
Kh. Janet: Oh, really? Okay, I’m going to do it real quick, because we have five minutes.
A young man was walking down a deserted beach just before dawn. In the distance he saw a frail old man. As he approached the man, he saw him picking up stranded starfish and throwing them back into the sea. The young man gazed in wonder as the old man, again and again, threw the small starfish from the sand into the water. He asked him, “Why do you spend so much energy doing what seems to be a waste of time?” The old man explained that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun. “But there must be thousands of beaches and millions of starfish!” exclaimed the young man. “How can your effort make a difference?” The old man looked down at the small starfish in his hand, and as he threw it to safety in the sea, he said, “It makes a difference to that one.”
So no matter what we do, no matter how small—you never know.
The next story is “Footprints.” Everyone’s heard that. What’s the point of that? God is with us always. We have to make sure we’re with him. And just because he doesn’t answer us like we think, he still knows better than we do. Then the “Classroom.” You’ve all heard of this one? So we’re never alone. Then the last one’s my favorite. I use this in group a lot, because we think we have it rough—and I’m not minimizing how rough we have it, but it could be worse.
We have a parishioner who’s a dental hygenist, and she was cleaning a gynecologist’s mouth. I know, this sounds like a dirty joke. It’s not; it’s true. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. The guy said, “How can you stand cleaning people’s mouths every day?” She goes, “Better than what you look at every day.”
So life is what you make it. Does anybody have any questions or comments? I thank you for your time and your participation. Thank you.