Wednesday, November 23, 2011

That we are bloated with two "S" words

I've been trying to avoid the humble soy bean as I've recently read about its subtle, detrimental effects on health if you consume too much. I thought, That'll be easy because I don't feed the family much soy. Sure, I drink soy milk sometimes, as a change from dairy, but I can easily change to rice milk. I wish everything would be such a cinch.

Wow, was I wrong! Although I'd already been in the habit of scanning ingredients on supermarket shelves as my oldest son has a peanut allergy, I was still amazed by the staggering truth. There are not many commercially prepared foods, from sweets to sauces to savouries, which don't contain soy. Most often I see, "soy lecithin" listed as an emulsifier. Sure, it's often low on the list, but when you think of the packaged and convenience foods families use over time, that's a lot of soy. We put soy-containing treats in our children's lunch boxes, we pour jars of prepared sauces over casseroles, we dish desserts such as ice-cream and packaged custard up for dessert.

My kids would be first to declare, "We hate soy and wouldn't touch it if you paid us." But they're thinking only of heavy doses like soy milk, soy ice-cream and tofu. Little do they know that they're consuming it without knowing on a steady basis.

I couldn't help thinking how similar it is to another three-letter-long word beginning with S. I know the concept of sin has been a stumbling block for many lovely people when they consider the Christian message. They reject what they consider to be the 'guilt-trip' hoisted upon them from the very outset.

"Hey, we aren't sinners! We have enough negativity to cope with without Christians wanting to drag us down and make us feel bad about ourselves. Give us a nice, kind philosophy which builds us up and highlights our magnificence. Sinners are the types of people we see on the News; the murderers, the tax frauds, the paedophiles. We feel affronted by the very notion that you're comparing us to them. We are decent people who are doing the best we can. We are NOT sinners!"

Yet none of us have to search hard to discover hidden ingredients in our make-up. If we could have all our thoughts and attitudes broadcast for the world to see, I'd be first to cringe and plead, "Turn it off!" I wouldn't want it all to be shown; the mean, snide little thoughts, the petty jealousy, the lies of convenience, the simmering resentment and secret pride. We may call these things 'small' and 'normal' but day after day, week after week, it adds up to a steady diet of something we don't realise we're consuming, just like soy lecithin.

God is not paying us out by calling us sinners.* It is just a fact. I often feel very sad thinking that my Christianity may come across to others as an outdated, mind-control sort of doctrine used by people who want to lord it over me with guilt-trips. Sometimes the way people represent Christianity makes it seem this way, but I'm convinced that anybody who cares to delve deeply into it with an open mind will find it's just the opposite; affirming and liberating beyond anything else they've known. I believe nothing honours the human spirit more than Christianity, which claims that we are created in God's own image and therefore worthy of the most enormous respect and awe. It's just the potentially harmful traces of 'soy', sorry 'sin' in us that are bad for our overall health. But something great has been done about that.

If thoughts are like food we consume, as I believe they are, we have somebody who can help us purify what we take in and get rid of unnecessary extras. And we only have to look to him with trust and believe that he has done it. I see Jesus as the most reliable healer and dietician. OK, I may have stretched this analogy really far, but I still think it's quite an apt one.

*John 3: 17, God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world but that the world may be saved through Him.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

To be my Friend, not my Critic

I'm around myself for 24/7 and others, including my kids, are only around for a part of that time. In other words, they can get away from me on occasions but I can't escape from myself. For this reason, I made a conscious decision that I might as well be a friend to myself rather than a judge or a critic.

You see, too often in the past I've been the sort of 'friend' nobody would want to hang around. I've kept doing the critic routine on myself. Constructive, loving feedback is one thing, but critics are the sort of people who make snide remarks and keep telling us how we've fallen short. We don't enjoy their company because this goes on non-stop. "You didn't handle that very well, did you?... You stuck your foot in it... You have to work harder... You fell short again." They simply make us feel miserable and judged. We are always relieved to get away from that type of person but the problem is, we can't get away from ourselves.

When we think about it, we admit we probably want to be friends with ourselves. We believe the criticism is something we do for our own best interest, to help us improve. So often, people who find themselves frequently miserable and depressed contact psychologists and life coaches, pouring out lots of time and money looking for help outside themselves. All that may be necessary is to simply ask, "Am I my friend or my critic?" I've noticed so often that seemingly difficult and long-standing problems may be best solved by deceptively simple changes in thinking.

A few months ago, I started speaking to myself gently and kindly. "You got through a day selling books plus a rental inspection all in one week, and took Emma to her Art lesson. That's pretty good going." Recently, I made a faux pas and possibly upset somebody by making the wrong assumption; something I would have normally beat myself up over. I remembered that I'm now doing kind self-talk. "It really wasn't your fault because nobody told you any different and you were acting the best way you thought you should." Amazingly, it did make me feel much better and allowed me to quickly put the incident behind me instead of dwelling on it. Wow, kind self-talk promotes closure.

It works when you receive negative feedback from others too. Instead of getting all upset and giving them power over me, I prefer to tell myself, "Well, he/she obviously has a shallow idea of who you are." I love it when people make friendly gestures to me and assure me that I'm doing OK in their opinion. Well, my own word is as good and meaningful as anyone else's. When we practise kind self-talk and being our own friend, we can have days crammed with valuable positive feedback like this.

I find I've got to carefully keep it up though, or it's easy to fall back into old habits without realizing. Last Saturday, I showed up an event where many SA authors were showcasing our wares. I told myself that my seven books presented a really great display, but then later, I wanted to go over to speak to couple of 'high-profile' authors but as they were deep in conversation with others, I chickened out. I didn't want to take the risk of being snubbed or summarily dismissed.

Disgusted with my chicken-heartedness, I started thinking, "I'm never going to change. I'm just a wuss who isn't going anywhere. I'm supposed to be doing positive self-talk. Well, that's a laugh, isn't it?"

Hey, hang on, stop! I'm my friend, not my critic. Time for kind self-talk. "Being a bit nervous is OK. A bit of reticence is nothing to get critical about. Your seven books look very appealing and you know how confident you are that their pages contain some great stories. Do you realise what you're doing? You're getting critical for being critical of yourself, and you also have the sense of humour to see how funny that is."

I'd recommend reaching out to be your own friend to anybody. If you haven't tried it before, I think there is a lot of truth in a saying I once read, that the person who approval you've been trying to earn most is your own.
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