Glenn Ostlund, author of Bathing with God and a professional life coach, provided some feedback on my previous post “Lazy Learning – An Introduction.” He tried to find me in the content and then posed some questions and made several insightful observations. So, this post is an exercise in self-reflection that may reveal some of my feelings.
Observation 1 – My Third Person
The first thing Glenn noticed was that my post was largely written in the third person.
I’d have to say that I largely write in this manner, it has been drilled into my mind.
I am a product engineer, essentially an engineering generalist. Engineers solve problems, that’s our job. Everything is a problem to an engineer … and I do mean everything. Even perfectly good things get analyzed and dysfunctional ones dissected. (We share that in common with medical examiners. But, engineers don’t work with squishy things.)
My work requires a lot of technical writing. In such cases, opinion is generally not useful. State the facts. State them clearly. Move on.
When working with technical people, I’ve found it useful to address the problem, not the person. “That hole is too large for adequate thread engagement,” is better than saying “Who’s the idiot that made that?”.
So, yes, I did approach the first Lazy Learning post as an analysis of a problem and not a direct exploration of my feelings.
I’ll try to break from the 3rd person perspective in this post.
Observation 2 – My Values
Glenn said that he was trying to “find Eugene” in the blog post; he wanted to find clues to my values. This made me ask myself: “What are my values?”
I can’t say that I have ever tried to list my values. In fact, I wasn’t quite sure what was meant by “values.”
Tangible things can be valuable from both financial and emotional perspectives. The emotional attachment to our possessions typically outweighs their financial value, which is evidenced by the many storage units that proliferate our suburbs. My bicycle is more important (personally valuable) to me than my car.
“Values” can also mean morals or beliefs. In my mind, “beliefs” carry an institutional religious burden, similar to doctrine or dogma. “Morals” define the boundaries of acceptable behavior and are largely defined by our culture. But again, I don’t think Glenn was trying to understand my WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) morals, which many of us share. Instead, I presume, Glenn wanted to know what motivates me and brings me happiness and satisfaction. When unmet, these values can also cause me angst.
So, here goes:
- I value curiosity and intelligence, in that order.
- I prize honesty above competence.
- I admire humility and the ability to listen to understand. These show love are respect for others. (I need help on this one.)
- I am deeply touched by kindness that people show to others (in spite of my challenge to be empathetic).
- I’ve learned to value diversity of experience and opinion; it stretches me.
- I strive (constantly) for austerity and simplicity. (A motto of mine: “Consume less, Joy more.”)
- I love nature and solitude, preferably experienced together. (I am fortunate to live in a place where this is a frequent opportunity.)
- I appreciate action and intentionality. In other words, I value initiative.
- I am excited by diverse groups of people that work toward a common goal.
With additional thought, I could come up with some more. And, I expect, they would be different after hearing yours.
Observation 3 – Am I angry?
Glenn asked if I am angry. He then shared a quote from Michael Singer’s book “Living From a Place of Surrender”:
“The mind is where the heart goes when it is feeling pain.”
With respect to President Nelson’s General Conference talk, I would have to classify my feelings as frustration, which is an expression of anger. Like the quote from Singer, I often deal with my anger or pain through analysis.
I try to understand my feelings. I want to know their source and become aware of them. I dissect the circumstances and emotions, separating them into manageable bits of information, absorbing the lessons and reducing the emotional energy.
Reflecting on the question more broadly, I ask: “Am I angry?” Do I have an angry temperament? More importantly, do I look for opportunities to become angry in order to empower my position or to exert influence over others through fear?
This last question would be an indication of abuse and coercion, which I reject. I seldom become outwardly angry toward others.
But, if the first Lazy Learner post comes across as “angry”, my score card definitely should be annotated with: “Needs improvement.”
Observation 4 – Am I Judgmental?
Another troubling observation made by Glenn: Am I being judgmental? Am I doing the same thing as Pres. Nelson? Am I moving away from judgment?
No one likes to be “judgmental.”
However, it is also a necessity of life. We have to make judgments of people all of the time. We have to know whether to trust those with whom we interact, whether exchanging paper for material goods or listening to someone’s story. This is a matter dealt with deeply in The Righteous Mind and Sapiens. Both authors demonstrate that …
Oops … I lapsed into my third-person “analytical mode.”
I will try to rephrase what Glenn may be speaking to in the specific case of my blog post.
Glenn’s questions implies that I may be or may have been in a place of bitterness and anger which might affect my perspective and cause me to judge others unfairly. If this is the case, then my essay would be nothing more than a lengthy blame game for my own feelings. Maybe in some subtle way it is.
The question, “Am I being judgmental?,” could be restated as: Am I imposing my values and expectations fairly in my analysis of Nelson’s sermons? Am I looking for errors in his message with the intent to label and marginalize Nelson?
I hope not. My intent was to represent a perspective that was faithful to my understanding and knowledge. I also wish to validate those that found the talk to be shaming or shallow.
Regardless of what I say, you are the judge because you stand in a different place. In a year or two, when I reread my post, I expect to see things differently. In fact, if I do not, I have failed to learn and grow.
I have not doubt that I can improve in my judgment of others, limiting my judgements the scope of the situation. A sentiment I once heard is applicable here. It is some thing like: “Generous assumptions cost you nothing, but mean everything to those you meet.”
I sometimes expect others to be where I am. Occasionally, I am shocked by statements made by others that reveal a dramatic difference in our positions. Similarly, I have no doubt that I say things that are shocking to my family and friends. Sometimes these differences can be hurtful because it causes a separation between me and those that I love.
The questions posed by Glenn gave me pause and have help me recognize that I may be internally blind.
I’ve love reading books about sociology and personality type. They have helped me understand human nature and my place in the world. But, Glenn’s questions reveal a hole in my studies; a need to do internal work, learning more about myself and building skills of objective self-reflection. In fact, other than dabbling with mindfulness, I am so ignorant on this subject I don’t even know where to start.