My favourite blog title is “So Long Sociopath.”
I was really upset that I hadn’t thought of it first.
It is brilliant.
So long to my sociopath. Don’t bother looking me up in the future.
A friend would often use the phrase.
“Feeding the wrong dog.”
I had instinctively understood the expression but had had no idea of its origins. My research has indicated it is often attributed to Cherokee Indians.
A grandfather explains that there are two wolves at war within all of us. The little boy asks, which one wins.
The grandfather explains simply,
The one you feed.
We all have our moments when we realise we have been conned. We had loved experiencing Beijing and being transported by cycle rickshaws. Our first rickshaw peddler had been an elderly gentleman, who had profoundly worried us. We had feared he might have a heart attack at any moment. He had bravely struggled up hills, often turning red and breathless. We had gladly handed over the money when we had reached our destination. We should probably have given him more as we had been so concerned for his wellbeing. Our next ride had been a profoundly different experience. We had agreed a destination and a fare, but then as we had gone to pay, he had announced that the fare had been per person, so we were in fact being expected to pay twice as much.
All travellers have had these kinds of experiences. We learn to bargain and to go with the flow. We know the rules are different and we eventually realise that not all our experiences will be positive but that in the end this is what it is all about. We leave our comfort zones behind because we seek knowledge, challenge, excitement etc.
It may be becoming increasingly important for us to recognise that the playbook might suddenly be radically different. We might need to start taking this into account. This does not mean changing who we are. However it might mean bearing in mind that others may not be who they initially appear to be and that we might be signing up for a ride which is considerably more expensive than we had originally anticipated.
I used to love gardening. Planting a seed, then waiting patiently for the first green shoots to appear. I marvelled at where they had come from. I had planted one tiny seed and suddenly there was this beautiful plant in front of me, as if out of nowhere. The thing I disliked most was thinning out the seeds. I mean who was I to decide which ones should and which ones should not be allowed to mature?
For a while I experimented with potting up every single seed I had grown. I had really rooted for the weak and straggly ones in particular. I had lavished attention on them and willed them to thrive, yet they almost never did. Just occasionally however, I had managed to grow so many plants,that I had been able to give dozens away.
This is a land where many things seem to thrive on neglect. I had soon learned that while it was important to lavish attention on plants for a couple of weeks, after that too much attention could be counter-productive. Plants had to be encouraged to develop deep roots in order to overcome the harsh conditions which could occcur in Summer. Too much TLC and the roots are not forced to sink deep into the earth to seek resources and when the heat of Summer arrives, they do not survive.
Harsh treatment can force us to develop deep roots. Less hardy plants might flourish for a while, but a few weeks of drought and they are gone, whilst the little plant which has been forced to struggle can suddenly come into its own.
I have grown pumpkins from seed. However they have never reached this size!
The number one battle on this planet may just be the battle for attention. Our natural inclination seems to be to ignore people who are doing the right thing, until they too start doing the wrong thing. I include myself in this. It can be really challenging to remain focussed on the wise, well-adjusted people of this world and away from the attention-seeking behaviour of toxic individuals. In popular culture I am reminded how mentioning Beetlejuice and of course Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter caused them to appear.
Of course ignoring such individuals may for a while makes matters worse, as they increasingly clamour for attention, but I have eventually learned giving my attention to positive behaviour, has usually been a more effective strategy in the long run, than focussing too much of my attention on unhelpful attitudes and actions. Whilst I was busy looking one way, problems would often arise from a direction, to which I had previously been paying very little heed.
Writing this blog has thrown me just such a dilemma. Honouring my desire to share and to process my own negative experiences, whilst realising toxic people relish any kind of attention. There seems to be a need for balance. A need to keep an eye on things, yet to not focus unduly on people who deliberately and consistently sow seeds of chaos and division. My encounters with toxic individuals have shown me that they seem to have an uncanny ability to keep all eyes on them. Nobody else is allowed to enjoy a birthday, receive an award or even sadly deal with hardship or tragedy, without them somehow managing to refocus all the attention back onto them.
It can be a battle but I often wonder about Jesus teaching us to turn the other cheek. Perhaps in some ways he was just indicating we should be turning our face away from people whose behaviour is actively destructive and look instead towards God and those who are acting according to his will. For me this has not meant automatically focussing on a particular hero or preacher. It seems to require us to be more discerning about the people to whom we give our attention and to closely examine their fruit on an ongoing basis.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
A person might be uttering all the appropriate key words and phrases to which we instinctively respond, but what is their fruit?