Friday, December 6, 2013

Evaluation and Force Fields

Watch: Disney's "Incredibles" Need for Force Field
All of my children have come home from school at some time or another down in the dumps about something someone has said or done to them.  But I have also heard them at times talking to their friends about the faults and weaknesses of someone else.

Matthew, my third son, was being picked on in middle school.  The other kid was saying derogatory things to him on a daily basis.  It was affecting his self-esteem.  I told him I was going to talk to the dean about it but he protested vehemently saying that would just make it worse.  So after deliberating with my Cause, I determined to teach Matthew about boundaries.

At that time he loved Calvin and Hobbes so I used Calvin’s snow fort to communicate the concept.  When Calvin gets in a snowball fight he needs a boundary to protect him from the snowballs.  Likewise, we also need to develop boundaries in our hearts and minds when it comes to the things people say to us.  

I told him he always needs to remember that whenever Calvin offensively throws snowballs at Hobbes he exposes himself to the snowballs thrown at him.

Then I mixed in a Star Trek analogy about force fields.  We all have force fields around us.  They can be strong or they can be weak.  They weaken when we shoot (throw snowballs) at other people.  The more we do that the more holes we get in our own force field.  That's just physics.  But if we try not to retaliate against those who say mean things to us, the shield strengthens over time and their bullets bounce right off or at least don’t penetrate so deeply.

Laws of Physics
I also taught him that everyone has weaknesses.  Some people’s are overt and other people’s are covert.  And those who openly evaluate others with criticism are demonstrating one of the most serious overt weaknesses there is.  They describe more about THEMselves than they do OURselves.  The laws of physics also apply to them.

The way we evaluate directly impacts how we value ourselves which is our force field.  Even if we’re unconsciously evaluating in imbalance our force field weakens. 

Here’s how it works.  When we view another person, our selves, or a past event we see both strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, the good and the bad, the accomplishments and the mistakes. 

When we take too much responsibility for how little responsibility we attribute to other Causes, we are skewed to one side of the balance.   

We may have the tendency to do this when we’re evaluating successful results.  We believe it was all our own doing.  But if we take all the credit when things go right, we will certainly feel an overwhelming responsibility on our shoulders when things go wrong.  Conscious or not, we will have to endure the extreme heat of our own faulty and not so faulty self-accusation.  And when other people start to attack with their own snowballs while our shields are down like this, the pain and thus our reactive response is intense.

We can also take too little responsibility for how much responsibility we attribute to other Causes.  This skews us to the other side of the balance.  We may have the tendency to do this when we’re evaluating failures, mistakes, or weaknesses.  We evaluate the result and say, “It’s not my fault.  It’s Joe Shmo’s over there.”  But if we give all the responsibility away to others when things go wrong, we will certainly be unable to take even the appropriate amount of credit when things go right.  Meaning we will have zero confidence which is a weak force field.

The key to building a strong force field through our evaluation process is repentance and forgiveness when things go wrong and sacrifice and gratitude when things go right. 

When we make mistakes and then realize it, we say we’re sorry, make restitution where possible, and commit to figuring out how we can do better from here on out.  It’s okay to make mistakes…or it should be!  When others cause us sorrow through the mistakes they make, we forgive.  

Listen:  "Losing" 10th Avenue North
I know forgiveness IS NOT EASY.  And sometimes we just have zero motivation to even try.  But here’s the motivation:  When we make a mistake ourselves, sometimes there’s nothing we can do to make amends.  No way to reconcile.  And we end up feeling such a powerful and lasting feeling of guilt for hurting someone we deeply love. 

For example, when I have discovered something about myself that I needed to change which most likely affected my kids derogatorily since they were just little ones, I can’t seem to forgive myself.  I feel such an overwhelming sorrow for my weakness and mistakes because I know it has contributed to their sorrow.  But the one thing I can do now (besides continuing to work with my Cause to change myself for the better) is to pay it forward.  Forgive those who cause me sorrow in my past, present, and future.  And I do that with the same energy of spirit that I would give if I could roll back the hands of time and undo every deep sorrow I have brought upon my kids’ heads.

When things go wrong and we evaluate with repentance and forgiveness, our force fields stay strong. 

When things go right we give gratitude to all those who were part of the team to make it happen.  No reason to take all the credit.  That level of solo-Joy doesn’t compare to what can be experienced when a group of people work together to accomplish a common goal and then end in success.  No reason to hold back our thanks, our admiration, our gratitude.  Share it, multiply it. 

And last but not least is acknowledging that we were part of that effort.  If we say we had nothing to do with the successful results that were achieved, then when we go into the next goal achievement process, we will have little motivation to do our part.  If we think it didn’t matter in the end, we will also believe our part won’t matter in the beginning or in the middle.

It’s okay to acknowledge our strengths.  That is not prideful. There is a difference between pride and confidence.  Confidence is using those strengths to sacrifice for other people and the group that we belong to as a whole so that we can all accomplish our goals.

Listen:  "Overnight" Amy Grant (feat. Sarah Chapman)
Over the years I have taught this recipe for building a strong force field to Matthew and the rest of my kids.  Their absorbing what this means and how to implement it into their daily life has not happened overnight.  But now as a sophomore in high school, Matthew’s boundaries are pretty solid.  Some things that people say to him where he is extra sensitive still hurt and he is still learning how to forgive but he has come a long way.  I seriously take joy in that boy!  In all my kids I see consistent incremental growth in force field strength. 

Watch:  "The Incredibles"  Family Force Fields