Practicing relational vulnerability (Part 1)

January 30, 2008 at 1:14 am | Posted in Vulnerability | 1 Comment
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Vulnerability is not a dirty word

There’s a word in our English dictionary that may have a bad rep for some of us. Vulnerability. The negative connotation is understandable since many of us may interpret being vulnerable in the same way the American College Dictionary defines it, as the state of being susceptible to wounding or physical hurt.

Who wants to be thought of as someone who’s easily hurt or wounded, someone who’s defenseless against attack?

I’d like to set forth an alternative, more positive meaning for vulnerability (with a nod of gratitude to my friends at Leadership Catalyst). Manifesting vulnerability also means allowing someone who’s earned our trust to protect our weaknesses, or those areas of limited capacity or immature character that can cause us to harm ourselves or others.

For example, one of my weaknesses can be the tendency not to deal directly with relational conflict; I’ve done a lot of personal work in this area. Fortunately, I have a couple close friends who know me inside and out, with whom I can be vulnerable. I’ve given them permission to let me know when they feel I’m acting or speaking from a place of non-truth or avoidance. I need their protection and encouragement to stay real and honest.

This week, consider this question. Who do you trust enough to be vulnerable with, to let him or her protect your weaknesses?

Watch for my next post — knowing who we can be vulnerable with.

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Community-building one smile at a time

January 22, 2008 at 6:24 pm | Posted in Community-building | 1 Comment
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When you’re waiting with a crowd til your plane boards or sitting alongside others in the park during your lunch hour . . . do you tend to make eye contact with those around you, or do you avoid it?

There are all kinds of reasons why you might be inclined not to meet the gaze of a total stranger, including:

* inseparable bonding with your laptop, ipod, or cell phone,

* discomfort with your appearance,

* cultural inappropriateness,

* belief that if you lock eyes with someone, they might “come on” to you or they’ll think you’re hitting on them,

* shyness,

* fear that someone will actually engage you in conversation and you don’t want to take time to talk.

If I’m not careful, I can sometimes fall into this last category.

Let’s imagine, though, that you have absolutely nothing to fear or distrust in simply making eye contact with another person and smiling. Wouldn’t it be a revolutionary step toward community-building if each of us could take a few seconds to be more intentional about connecting with one another . . . with friendly eyes and a sincere smile?

It may sound corny but, perhaps, it’s just because it’s so true — sharing a smile with someone can really lift your own spirits and greatly encourage the other person as well. As Dan Allender writes in The Healing Path, your smile can often lead to conversation and discovery of life stories that have “the potential to change our lives.”

Why not give it a try this week? Deliberately make eye contact with someone you don’t know . . . and smile. Then let me know what happens.

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The liberating approach to life and love

January 17, 2008 at 9:44 pm | Posted in Differentiation | 3 Comments
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I’m not yet 100 pages into psychologist David Schnarch’s 1997 book, Passionate Marriage, but his philosophy about keeping love and intimacy alive in committed relationships is revolutionary. Whether you’re married or not, this text is packed with illuminating truth.

Take relational differentiation, for example. Schnarch defines differentiation as “the ability to maintain your sense of self when your partner is away or when you are not in a primary love relationship . . . the ability to balance individuality and togetherness.” If you’re well differentiated, you feel confident and able to speak and act freely when you’re with your significant other, when you’re separated from him/her, and when you have no significant other.

Regarding the development and expression of differentiation, Schnarch highlights two key elements to consider:

1. Most of us begin our adult lives at approximately the same level of differentiation as our parents.

2. We tend to select lovers and marriage partners who are near the same level of differentiation as we are.

Depending on your family of origin and the current state of your love life, those can be pretty sobering thoughts, right?

The good news is that we can become more differentiated over time through intentional and relationally-based effort. In fact, greater personal differentiation is one of the benefits of engaging with the Authentic Life process. It’s not an easy path but it’s the most liberating approach to life and love that I know.

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Take the first step toward your dream

January 1, 2008 at 11:14 pm | Posted in Life Calling | Leave a comment
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Whew! The holiday season — as lovely as it was in many ways — really zapped my blogging time! Hello again . . . and thank you for embracing with me this journey toward authentic life.

Many of us have seen and heard the phrases, “Pursue your dream” and “Follow your bliss” throughout our lives. They’ve been plastered on the sides of buses, stenciled on coffee mugs, included in the titles of best-selling books, and amplified from TV commercials. But how many people do you know who are actually living their dreams?

Derek Turner is one man who’s doing this very thing.

A tall, red-haired lover of world cultures and photography who wants to change the world, Derek graduated from college several years ago and since then has worked and traveled extensively. Toward mid-2007, when he was about 30, Derek began thinking about getting a “real” job with a salary and benefits. You know — Stability. But also he dreamed of more adventuring, this time around the globe in a sailboat even though he knew nothing about sailing.

In an effort to make the wisest choice between stability and passion, Derek asked a number of friends for their input on his decision. All of them encouraged him to pursue his sailing dream. I bet a few of them were pea-green with envy over his freedom to entertain such a vision.

Today Derek is a deck hand on the Nicole Marie, a 33-foot sailboat owned and captained by his friend, Dan Patterson. These two voyagers are currently making their way toward the southern tip of South America, stopping intermittently at ports along the way and spending time with local residents. You can track their progress on Derek’s blog, The World by Sea.


Now here’s where Derek’s passion to change the world becomes evident. He’s formed a non-profit entity, Lampstand, which exists to collect financial contributions so that he and Dan can buy food, clothes, medical care, and other resources for the impoverished people they meet during their port visits.

Dreams and life callings come in all shapes and sizes; they can last for a few months or ’til the day you die. The point is, no dream is too “crazy” or “impractical” to pursue. Dreams are not just for other people, like Derek, to turn into reality. They’re for you too, regardless of how many reponsibilities you may have.

Think about doing just one thing today or this week that will give you a little more room for an old dream to re-emerge or a new vision to be born. To get the creative juices flowing, kick around some ideas with a friend, do some reading or research on a particular topic, try a free workshop.

Go ahead. Take the first, simple step toward your dream.

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