Here are some helps to get us through our daily struggle with life. I'll be adding to this page, more pieces on Practical Philosophy as I have the time. There are about twenty one of them right now.

What Are You Afraid Of?
Personal Safety
Do Something Nice For Yourself
Don't Be an Invalid
Help Yourself To A Thank You
All We Have To Fear, Is Fear Itself
What Price Freedom?
Humble And Proud Of It
Meddling In Pride
Before Protection, Give Them Strength
Talking To Ourselves
Look Upon Thyself With Compassion
At The Speed Of Time
Bumper Stickers


What are you afraid of? That's one of the biggest button-pushing phrases I can think of. I know it really pushes a button for me, and for most other folks I see asked that question. Recently, a friend had had a small run-in with some boys at a summer camp. He had gotten angry, and was decrying the fact to me. He didn't like getting angry at the boys, but they were acting up in spite of his suggestions that their behavior wasn't very nice.

I said, "What are you afraid of?" His immediate reaction was one of defensiveness. Then we talked about anger and fear. He soon saw the reality of his anger, and was able to overcome the resulting distress.

One of the most illuminating concepts to come into my life is that all anger is based in fear. Not only anger, but any of the distressing emotions; frustration, embarrassment, even grief. Grief? Yes even the distressing part of grief is based in fear.

Well, how does that all work? We'll have to go kind of slow so we won't get lost.

I think the first thing we must investigate is not the anger or the fear, but what is the object of the fear; it's cause. Otherwise we'll get bogged down in specifics. Like, "Well, he hit me first!" One thing I've learned, is to stay far away from specifics.

When I tried to track down the causes of my fears, I expected to find many. But I didn't. I couldn't! No matter how many situations I tried to imagine, the fear that was present was always based in one thing. Invalidation.

OK, let me give you the point of this whole thing. It's something that we've all heard. We grew up with it. I wonder why we didn't learn it? Here it is. "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me." There, now we can all go home and live out lives without fear, anger or stress. Well, maybe we should read a little farther, huh?

It's all invalidation. What's invalidation? First let's define validation. My big dictionary says, "to ratify or confirm." My small one says, "supported by facts." I'll paraphrase all that by saying, "to acknowledge, through physical acts, the reality of something." In terms of a person, validation may be anything from saying the person's name, to saving their life.

Now let's take another look at invalidation. To invalidate someone, is to act in such a way as to lessen their real-ness to some degree. Putdown humor is a good example of invalidation. Not calling to say you'll be an hour late, is invalidating to the person who's waiting for you. Do you get the picture? Anything we do that puts another person in an inferior position to us, or anyone else, is invalidation.

We'll get back to invalidation in just a minute. We must now try to establish our basic worth. It's my strong conviction, that there is a basic value that is possessed by every human being on the planet. From the King to the criminal, we all have this basic human worth. It's not a very concrete thing that we can measure, but we know with absolute certainty that we have it.

A good example is the wino in the gutter. If someone comes up to him and puts some negative judgement on his circumstances, that wino is going to be aware that the jerk is putting him down. When someone talks down at us, we always feel it. Especially if we're laying in the gutter. We may be in no position to do or say anything about it at the time, but we have sure knowledge that the other person thinks we're no good. Certainly not as good as them. If we're strong enough, we get angry.

How about the last time some jerk cut you off on the road. Not only did the guy run up your tail end before pulling out to pass, but cut in so sharply that you had to brake. And to top it off, there wasn't even another car coming! Remember how mad you got? "What right has that @$#{}!E got to do that to me?" In other words, "I've got as much right to the road as he has!" Notice, it's your rights that are really at issue. That jerk is acting as if you didn't exist. Or if you do exist, your existence isn't worth enough to make it valid; by giving you a little more room. He's not confirming your worth. He's saying, "I'm worth more than you!"

Now, that kind of stuff makes me mad! I know he's no better than me. So do you. There's that inborn sense of basic worth. It's what the founding fathers were talking about when they drew up the Bill of Rights. That's what they were talking about when they used the term "unalienable rights." Those unalienable rights are directly tied to our basic human worth. And we've ALL got it. To the SAME degree.

And here's the startling fact that I learned about that basic human worth. Please notice that this is all in caps. YOU CAN'T CHANGE THE BASIC HUMAN WORTH! It's inviolate. The only thing that can change, is circumstances. Let's prove that last statement with a graphic little experiment.

I want you to hold out your hand. Use your favorite. Now I want you to concentrate real hard, and look at the hand. Try with all you sincere effort to will that hand, to change into a foot. I'll wait here while you try. I'm not kidding. Give it a little shot, just to get the feel of it.

Did you succeed? I hope you did, but I really think that your hand still looks as it did before you tried. Now, the reason I can say, "I hope you did,", is that I think that that's really possible. In fact, I expect to someday be in a position to be able to do just that. Hand to foot. At will! Or how about hand to mouth? What's the point?

The point is, that just as you can't change your physical makeup, you can't change your basic worth. Now, when you carry that outside yourself, you find that no one else can change your hand to a foot, either. And so with your human value. There isn't one thing anyone can do to increase or decrease your worth. Not even God. OK, there's a small loophole where God's concerned. But if He did change that part of you, you wouldn't be you. You'd be something else. So that doesn't count.

Oh sure, some one could kill you. That'd make you less. Less what? Less alive. Not less in value. That's what helped the Christians in the Roman Circus with the lions. They knew with surety, that they weren't less than their murderers, just because the fools were feeding them to the lions.

You may say, "What about the soldier out there in the foxhole: he's afraid." Yes, in two ways that I see. He's afraid of dying, number one. And he's afraid of not going home. But aren't those two the same? Isn't the fear of dying, the fear of not living? That's not double-talk. You see, he won't be able to see another football game, go on that trip to Hawaii, talk to his mother, have a son. Go out there in the foxhole and ask that dogface if the enemy can do more than kill him, if they can make him worth any less than he is by shooting him. You'll find that his fear is being deprived of those things to which he feels entitled. If not a hundred percent, mostly. There is the part about facing the unknown. But that turns out to be one of many things talked about when one is asked why they don't want to die. One of the first answers to such a question is, "I've got more living to do. I'm not ready to die, yet." As I said above, the fear of dying is really the fear of not living.

Here's another example. You're stuck in a railroad track, and the train's coming. You hear the engine bearing down as you try to free your foot from the track. You hear the dreadful wail from the whistle. You look up, and see a mountain of iron just ten feet away. As the caboose passes, revealing the remains of your body, there's little doubt that you've been made less of. But only physically. The people at your funeral aren't talking about how the train took away your basic integrity. How you used to be such a kind, loving, good citizen. And how it's too bad that the locomotive turned you into such an uncaring, selfish rat. Gets ridiculous doesn't it?

Now, where are we? We find that all the things we've been afraid of, are things that we think can have an effect on our basic human value. AND, we find that nothing or no one, not even God, can really have any effect on that value. Isn't that interesting? We're afraid of being made less of, at the same time that we know we can't. No wonder people are so confused, and angry.

Like I said earlier. Sticks and stones can break my bones. Only now, we find that even those sticks and stones can't hurt me. What I want to know is, why the hell have I been wasting so much time worrying about by validity?

Nothing anyone thinks, says or does, means that I'm not a basically a person of value. No matter who laughs right in my face, they're not better than me. Of course, the hard side ot that is, that they aren't worse than me either. But that's another subject.

The place where this knowledge of my worth has helped me most is in my intimate relationships. It's allowed me to take criticism, and benefit by an outsider's view, without getting defensive and shutting off the communication. Have you ever noticed how it's our friends, who can be the most tactless when pointing out our shortcomings? It's not really that they want to put us down. They probably wouldn't even tell a lesser acquaintance. But being close gives them the feeling that they can "talk plain," and the words can get in the way of their concern for us. I our view, anyway.

If there's anything I've learned in my life, it's that words are about the least effective way to communicate. ( Except when my right brain talks backward. Speech Reversal is the Truth. Too bad we don't hear it.) I can never say things the way I feel them. Even when I'm trying to be loving, sometimes the words turn my true feelings into just the opposite. It makes me so mad. It's invalidating.

Time to re-cap. Remember way back to anger and fear? Well, if all anger, or any other distressing emotion, is based in fear, and that fear is of a perceived invalidation, and there's no such thing as invalidation, maybe we can relax a little, give people more of a break; instead of trying to cover our act so much. We can realize that even when a person is trying his best to put us down, it won't work. I love the idea of someone calling me a bunch of names and telling me how no good I am, and me calmly laughing in their face. That's got revenge beat by a smile.

And here's a neat concept for you to mull over. Not only is invalidation impossible, fear itself has no right to exist. Fear is all in the future. Fear is all based on things that haven't happened yet.

Poof! There goes anger, there goes fear. There goes invalidation. What a load off.



People need a certain percentage of safety to withstand the attack of their own excessive, selfish capacities. In other words, when the temptation to lower our standards comes, we can make it through if we feel secure enough in areas other than the temptation. Of course, if we're not willing to admit that we regularly do things we know aren't exactly Right, then, as Ram Dass says, "We're lost." Where can we find the strength or security that'll help us stay on track?

In our daily lives we cannot always (sometimes not at all) find that safe place in another person. Too many of my friends don't seem to measure up in a crisis like I hoped they would. I don't feel I can trust these folks to be on my side one hundred percent. To tell me "It's all right." To show me that temporarily, they'll give me a safe place to hide 'till I get over the major crisis, and can start working on the things that are causing my distress.

Some who have no real friend may turn to God, et al. And no doubt this approach can supply us with strength and answers to our problems. Mostly, however, "turning to God" has to wait until we reach the deeper levels of despair.

Why not head off these crises, by applying little bits of safety on a daily basis, and keep current with my true level of security? When trouble hits, I'll be able to put my feelings in perspective with the total picture of my life. And not let distressing feelings take over and keep me from thinking clearly. Depression is tricky stuff.

As simple as it seems, just focusing on the reality that I am supplying, and with security, my ongoing needs for food and shelter, gives me enough of a lift to allow me the realization that, on the whole, I'm making it. Even if you have some dissatisfaction with your job, a job it is. It's supplying your needs, and you're accomplishing that work--on a day to day basis.

Another area to look for our own safety is satisfaction. Whenever I've fulfilled a goal, there's an accompanying feeling of satisfaction. Thinking of that feeling helps me "buck up" when I need to. And the strength to see that project through, is included when I key in on the satisfaction. But I have to be careful not to get trapped into focusing on the details that didn't turn out just right. I have to keep in mind the overall picture.

For instance, don't dwell or give to much weight to the fact that you're somewhat lax in maintaining your small fruit orchard. Direct your attention, instead, to the reality that you now have a producing orchard where there used to be a bare patch of ground. Quite an accomplishment.

A word must be said here about Pride. The times when I'm trying to focus on my good points, is exactly the loophole Pride uses to subvert, into a self-congratulation contest, my goal of looking for my own "safe places." By remembering that I'm to look at only the objective fact of the accomplishment of the project, not it's comparative quality, I can shut Pride out.

One last and very common daily occurance, where we can discern our own safety or strength, is connected to the relief we feel when we reach a safe place. Although we don't usually connect relief with saying "thank you," it's right in there. This lack of recognition is probably due to the great familiarity of saying thank you. When we imagine the rare occurances that garner thanks, like a river rescue, the aspect of relief stands out more clearly.

Let's say someone pulls you out of the river. You're hard pressed to find adequate thanks, but you're relief at not drowning is a very tangible thing. Your rescuer may be holding you; comforting, warming, enclosing. That's' safety for sure. Relief in the fast lane.

The above example is reinforcing of the fact, that the most meaningful feelings of safety or security come mainly from outside ourselves. We still have those inside places, but validation from others, is of a higher order than that which we give ourselves. It follows, that by actively giving someone a safe place to be, you are proceeding in the construction of your own safe place.

First, you foster like behavior in your "protected" one; the one to whom you say, "It's all right." And second, you experience the strength of a "Protector;" which gives you yet another place to go when your security sags.

Of course, providing a safe place for others involves great quantities of acceptance. When someone holds me and says, "It's all right,: even though they mean, "It's all right--for now," they are showing acceptance of the whole me; in spite of my shortcomings. It's like when a person finds out what I'm really like, and hangs out with me anyway.

How does that relate to finding a safe place, when you must do it alone? We must work on accepting all that we do, judging objectively the good and bad. We must keep in mind the very small percentage of our lives that makes up the things that fall short of our standards. Why keep berating yourself over ten percent of you total life experience, while you ignore the ninety percent? The good stuff. Even the things we erroneously consider as "neutral;" like providing food for one's self.

"It's the love you give, that makes you lovable."

Whenever you do something out of love, you promote thanks, in some form, from the other person. AND ! ! Anytime someone says, "Thank you," they are showing you acceptance--a small place in their lives where you are safe. After all, it's the little daily refuges, that help form the greater umbrella of security we need in a crisis. Keeping the awareness of all the places where we behave acceptably, feel relief or satisfaction, or are given thanks, can help us regain our Personal Security.


I've been telling you that you're a nice person, but coming at you from a printed page I guess you didn't take it too seriously. Well, just to clear up any muddled waters, I believe you're a nice person. I know you care about things (an expression of Love). I know that you have done things for others with no thought of reward. I know that you've always believed in certain things not being Right, and have said so; an expression of courage.

Now you must agree that anyone who exhibits fine qualities such as love, charity, conscience and courage must, at the very least, deserve to be called nice. And let's not get into how often or little that niceness shows. All that's important at this moment is you being consciously aware that you do possess those qualities. We'll build from that positive foundation. But I digress.

What I'd like you to try is going to sound too simple. Don't sell short 'till you understand to whole process. Refer to the title of this piece. That's what I'd like you to try. Look at the title again. Do something nice for yourself. I maintain that a majority of people don't understand what that means.

Usually, the first thing we think of is our most popular belief. So when I ask you to think of doing something nice for yourself, the first thing you think of doing is probably the one you would naturally pick. Those Favors normally take two forms: one, you buy yourself something, or two, you give yourself permission to slack off on some job or promise; perhaps promise may be too concrete a word. You may say, "I've been pretty good lately. I thing I'll reward myself with a piece of pie." Or, "I'll take myself out to dinner or a show." That's not doing something nice for yourself.

Don't misunderstand. Those things can be very beneficial. Often these "reward decisions" are made on the spur of the moment. Quick rewards reinforce desired behavior and have a definite place in our lives. These money and permission rewards are still just that. Rewards. You may think I'm splitting hairs.

Switch places pretending you're the receiver, and try to focus on the service part of the giver's action. When someone buys your ticket to a show, the money comes out of their pocket. It's not "your money anyway". Besides which, the service connected to that money has already been given to the employer. I know that's not a good example, but I'm trying to show that spending money has the quality of non service to it. You know how "flat" it feels to receive money for Christmas. It's no different when you take yourself out to dinner. The cook at the restaurant pays no attention to (and probably doesn't even care) who you are. You're one more unknown diner. He's not doing something nice for you and neither are you.

The service side of those rewards is missing when we do that stuff for ourselves. Isn't it wonderful! Not only can we reward ourselves, we can also do nice things for ourselves. Sounds like nonsense, doesn't it? All right, then it's time to nail down what is meant by "doing something nice for yourself".

Service, as you've guessed, is the key. When you do that nice thing, you have to do it as though you were doing it for someone else. Remember, I said it's not as simple as it looks. You will carefully determine some need to be fulfilled, possibly deciding between two or three as to which one is most important. This decision making also contains the bonus of your conscious affirmation that you are worth enough to receive service. We don't do things for people we hate. At least not because we think them worth it. But that's bribery.

After the need and the action have been decided upon you will figure out the exact way you like that Favor done best. This means getting inside yourself and finally examining what you like. Hey, we've got another way to find out about ourselves. Isn't that great!? Next time we may get lucky and be able to zero-in on some of the murky stuff that's in there too. But that's another subject.

Bonus number three comes with the chance to totally submit to someone's wishes. And when that someone happens to be you, Pride no longer is involved. It's certainly easier to serve yourself that others. You know that there's no threat to your integrity. With those restraints out of the way, you'll be able to experience the High of real Service. There's also a bonus number three "A", doing something nice for other people.

When you understand that serving someone doesn't mean you have to give up any part of yourself, and when you get the feel of how to do it, you'll be more open to helping others. Now for the most important part of doing something nice for yourself--when you've finished all the lead-up action and are now able to become the receiver. As your Nice Thing happens, you are totally aware of every little thought and care that went into the Favor. It's amazing! In one action, you give and get something very special. Let me give you an example before your brain starts to spin.

At a time when you're not feeling quite healthy, you decide that you need something to eat. A couple of scrambled eggs, some toast and tea would do very nicely. You just wish someone else was fixing. Deciding that preparing the small meal would be Doing Something Nice for Yourself, you overcome your lack of ambition and start cooking.

You take into account the exact spices and their amounts, the right amount of butter, not oil, to use, even the proper size pan. You are very careful in adjusting the heat, and stand right there to watch the eggs so they don't get drier that you like. You warm the plate in the oven. You're careful to butter the toast as soon as it comes up, before it gets cold. The tea may even be some combination of two or three that you have on the shelf; just as a touch of cheerful novelty.

Without getting into other things like carefully serving the mini meal, I think you can see how many details have been thought about. When was the last time you sat down to a meal prepared by someone else and gave any thought to how much the cook considered your wants or needs in just those ways?

That's the point. When you consider the thought behind the preparation of the meal, the food becomes an act of love and caring. The next time someone close to you makes you a meal or knits you a pair of socks, you can open a channel of affection be simply being mindful of the thought and planning that went into the act. Then you and the giver can sit and tell each other how nice you both are. That's a poor joke, but think about the kernel of truth behind it.

Here's the process as a whole: one, truly assess your need, two, faithfully, without cutting corners, do what will satisfy the need, three, keep in mind the care that went into the Favor as you become the receiver.

Doing something nice for yourself may not be as easy to do as a simple reward, but it sure is the thing that feels the best, and it leads to good things in your outside life.


Have you ever been validated? Almost sounds dirty, huh? One of the greatest needs we have is for validation. You've heard it called be many other names, but what it boils down to is other people's recognition that we exist. Have you ever noticed how your ears perk up when you think someone is going to tell you what you're like? When you think of validation in those terms, it's something we've heard all our lives in one form of another.

Here we go on one of those too simple ideas. Right you are, it sounds to simple to bother. Most fundamental truths sound that way. However, the fact that ALL our relationships are based on validation, makes it important for us to look at. In fact, love can't exist without validation. Love and validation look alike, but need to be kept in separate corners of the same box.

On the lowest level of a relationship, validation need be no more than speaking to the other person. On a rung above simple communication is service. We've dealt with "service to others" in different essays on this page. All that means is doing something for someone. Then comes the special type of service that's characterized by recognizable sacrifice; when someone could say, "Gee, you must like her a lot to do that." The last general level of validation is living your life for someone--like devoting all your time and energy to the welfare of another such as a bedridden parent. And I guess you realized that giving your life for someone (dying) is the ultimate validation, but let's not try yet to climb that high on the ladder. My nose bleeds easily.

Obviously, what we're trying to do here is look at a way to get on better with our friends and relatives. Let's take a small look at validation in marriage. Look past the statement, "It's the wife's job to wash the clothes," at what that job means. Laurie only washes Tim's clothes because he's alive and there. She tells the world that Tim is part of her life when they see that stack of tee shirts in her basket. If Tim had died two years earlier, Laurie wouldn't be doing his wash. Her washing validates Tim's existence.

On a more tragic note, child abuse can also be validation. That "trouble maker" at school probably isn't getting the validation he needs at home. He gets the people at school to reinforce the fact that he's alive. And of course we've all heard about the kid who would rather get kicked than ignored. Children put up with abuse for more reasons than simple fear of the parent.

It's easy to imagine two well-behaved students sitting next each other. One kid gets a lot of love at home, the other gets a lot of verbal and physical abuse. They both get a lot of attention/validation. The fact that the abused child turns into a bully on the playground comes from the missing element in his validation. Worth. He gets plenty of feedback that he exists, but that his existence doesn't mean anything. He's a well known zero.

Well, if successful relationships depend on validation, how can we validate our friends? The best forms of validation are immediate and spontaneous. Sure, sending birthday, Valentine's Day, and Christmas cards or presents is recognition of your friend's existence, but those kinds of recognition have the quality of something expected. It's those unexpected favors that we remember and touch us the most. Isn't a surprise birthday party always more exciting than one you knew about?

Certainly, the way we act with our friends on a daily basis can't be planned like a birthday. Then we have to look at the more common ways we can express our validation/attention/love for those we'd like to call our friends. We also have to look at those simple little ways that we lessen our friend's real-ness.

Keeping you word. Nothing causes more tension in a friendship than not doing what you say you will. If Frank asks you to lend him twenty dollars, you gladly fish out your wallet. When he says he'll get it back to you on the first, you drop the matter from your mind, fully expecting him to repay you at that time. In fact, your trust carries you all the way to the fifteenth of the month before you realize that he hasn't paid you yet.

Sure, you'll readily forgive him when he tells you he's sorry and will have the money to you by next Tuesday. His forgetting to keep you in mind is still a fact. You know he knew he was late when the first came around, and you know he has your phone number. Your conscious or unconscious conclusion/feeling must be that Frank didn't really care enough to even call you. After all, you didn't make him wait three weeks before you gave him the money.

If you want to argue that he may have had a good reason for not paying you on time, you better not waste your time reading the rest of this piece. You're probably the type of "friend" who owes a bunch of money, and I'm making you uncomfortable.

Respecting you friend's rights. Let's not get too complicated just now. You and your friend Sheila go for a cup of coffee and some talk. Like most of us, you both feel strongly about your opinions. If Sheila won't let you get a word in edgewise, she's putting aside your right to say your piece. You let her talk, she should do the same for you. More frustrating are the times when she'll ask you to explain your view and then keeps interrupting to discount some beginning point in your whole train of thought. In that case, you never seem to be able to finish any single point because of all the side roads down which her rudeness leads.

That kind of behavior comes from not truly wanting to hear your side; Sheila is so hung up in her own ideas that she can't open her mind to yours. In plain words, she doesn't think your opinion is worth as much as hers. Remember, Sheila's disagreement is not the issue. You may be way wrong in your thinking, but your right to be heard doesn't depend on the accuracy of your statements. Next time you find yourself in a discussion that's going around in circles, you'll find that one of the discussers (maybe you) is probably dis-cuss(t)ing.

I didn't want to get into the area of marriage or romantic relationships, but I think many of you have already pegged the circular conversation above as the type we run into with our spouses (spice?) or "steadies." I think most of us can related to the "lovers quarrel" that ends up by both people saying, "I give up. I just can't get through to you! I'm going out for a while."

There's no magic way to validate your friends. It's a lot of hard work. We're concerned with our own lives so much of the time that it's difficult to step outside ourselves and truly think of what our friends need. Just to say, "I've got to think of others more," is, although correct, much too vague to give us even a starting point. At least there are two ways that can be put into use today.

When you say you'll do something, do it. Almost as important, if you can't do it, you are obliged to tell your friend on or before the date you set; every hour past the deadline lessens your friend's validity. Keep your word--on time.

Be a good listener. One rule to remember about interrupting: if it's important enough, it'll get said. Shut up and let her talk. Very often when Sheila's opinions are off base, she'll catch her own errors if she's allowed enough rope.

Mainly, by understanding the validation process, you can eliminate some of your frustration and hurt feelings by nipping those non-friendships in the bud. You can stand up for yourself with righteous indignation and point out how your friend is not maintaining the balance of validation between you two.

Don't be an invalid.


We hear a lot about self help these days. Counsellors are lurking behind every admission of weakness. The power of Positive Thinking is quickly blanketing the country. EST and other "You Can Make It" Self-Illumination groups are ever present under one name or another.

My only argument with all that stuff has to do with the selfishness of the presentation. There seems to be a great lack of recognition, respect, or regard for others on your road to the top. That leads to the proverbial "Lonely Millionaire" who won't let anyone get close to him, but complains of not having any friends. People soon fade out of your life after their kindnesses are repeatedly ignored or treated lightly.

Let me switch gears for a minute and approach the rich man's problem from a different direction. One of the things that we rarely note is the way the millionaire felt inside. We only see him grudgingly grunt gratuitously when receiving some genuine favor. Does that mean that the poor man feels no real thanks? God forbid! I feel sorry for the man. His insecurities and false opinions about people have cut him off from all the love you or I could show him.

In his feeling of smallness, our millionaire can easily think that any gesture has some angle behind it, and that he'd better protect himself and not give the favor too much appreciation. Acknowledging anything outside of Self worth creates a chink of vulnerability that an outsider can "pin" on him later. It's such a shame! No love passes in either direction. No wonder Mr. $ has acid stomach.

Does that millionaire's problem strike any bells in your mind? Haven't we all caught ourselves thinking that we could have been nicer when accepting So-and-So's gift or favor? In fact, one of the standard statements that people make when they start to look at themselves is, "I've got to work on accepting love from other people." And that's as far as it usually gets.

Imagine the dilemma of the person who sits down to figure out just how to go about accepting other's love on a daily basis. Try, right now, to have that conversation with yourself. It's not that you can't come up with any answers. The problem is that the answers are very vague or impractical. Very soon we tire of such abstract thinking and come away confused and roadblocked. Our good intentions become nothing more than some anecdote that we share with others.

The ideal we're reaching for is the loving, cheerful, unashamed acceptance of other's favors or sacrifices. Heavy, huh? And yet, we have a wonderfully solid base from which to start. A foundation that can handle tiny favors or acts of lifesaving heroism. How's that for an unambiguous starting place? What is that place? Thank You. No, I didn't think you'd done something for me, that's where you start. Thank You.

Thank You can always be said with sincerity, no matter what the size of the favor, from passing the salt to successful CPR. That's a pretty easy way to begin accepting love. Thank You. If you really want to try to open up more, Thank You will help you today. Every day, without exception, things happen to you that you can easily Thank someone for. An interesting study is to think of the ways that you could say Thank You to your dog or cat.

The other nice thing about Thank You is it's common use. It's real easy to say. And it's real easy to hear. To a person who just pulled you out of the lake, a sincere Thank You means much more than some long winded monologue about how careless you were in not wearing a life jacket. Your rescuer would be nicely satisfied with that simple eye to eye Thank You.

Big Bonus! ! Because of it's universal quality, Thank You can be used effectively in place of words that have commitment in them. If a fellow photographer likes your work, you can not like his work and still accept his compliment. In other words, you don't have to say, "I like your work, too." Recognize your colleague's niceness, not his work. The same goes if someone says they love you. Thank You doesn't imply going steady or marriage.

Best Bonus! ! ! When you really mean it, Thank You opens a channel outwards as well as in. When you say, "I love you, too," and don't meant, you're holding back, not letting out. Thank You not only lets you receive love, it lets you send love that you couldn't give before. Life seems to be that way. Back Door. You kick a little love/hate/greed/charity out the front door, and a whole bunch come flooding in the back.

Today's a good day to start saying Thank You. One of the beauties of Thank You is that you can practice up when you're alone. Why you can even thank your Geraniums for being so colorful. Plants like to be talked to. And if talking out loud is still too high on the ladder to start, you can think you Thanks and your flowers will still like it. They pick up thoughts, too. Thank You is just a wonderful phrase.

Thank You for reading this article.


"All we have fear is fear itself." Old saw? Right, but here's a new tune.

How many times have you been afraid? Can't count? Neither can I. Why do we have to live in a world where a thing like fear exists at all? Didn't God realize that we wouldn't like it? Of course, I speak for myself. You may enjoy it: the excitement, the adrenalin pumping. I hate it! It's distracting, distressing, and distasteful.

Hasn't anyone ever invented some kind of special magic to get rid of fear? Merlin? Or maybe he even lived in constant fear: when a great Wizard messes up, he messes up greatly. We can only imagine the results of a spell or potion gone wrong at his hand.

Maybe if we understood fear a little better we'd have more success dealing with it. Personally, I think we haven't the Proverbial Chance of eliminating fear from our lives; but every little bit helps. Here's an example for starters.

You're sitting in your car waiting for the light to change. Heedless of your mother's many warnings, you've forgotten to lock all the doors. Suddenly the passenger door opens and a scruffy looking man jumps into the seat next to you. Two things happen. One, you're startled out of your socks, and two, "here comes Fear." Why?

Before answering, let's look at what happens next. The man smiles the way you've seen bad guys smile in a thousand movies. That triumphant half-sneer that says, "Gotcha!" More Fear. Even though that's enough to make the point, let's go on to something universally clear. The man now pulls an ugly little pistol out of his pocket and points it directly up at the bridge of your nose. Now, even the most stout hearted among us is bound to be afraid. I'd be petrified.

Again, why? Frankly, I see no reason. No factual reason, that is. Surprised? Well, let's look at those facts. One, your car door was opened. Did that hurt? No. Two, a man got in and sat in the seat beside you. No harm there; violation of rights perhaps, but no harm. Three, that man smiled. How did that hurt. Four, the man pointed a gun at you. Feel any pain? I didn't.

Those are all the facts, and no harm to be found. Now, don't you feel silly? You'd probably laugh. Not me, boy, as Ricky Nelson used to say. I'd be feverishly trying to find a way out of that mess. But why? No harm's been done.

Because Fear, like most distressing emotions I can think of, exists based on something the hasn't happened yet. We're fearful because: the mere presence of the stranger may lead to harm, that smile said, "Gotcha," and "Ooo, what I'm gonna do," and that pistol can kill you if and when he pulls the trigger. All the harm is in the future.

So what? How can this knowledge help me tomorrow, or later today at the dentist's; when he revs up his noisome little drill? Perhaps by remembering that when Fear shows it's nasty face, we are thinking about, and possible making up, things we have no sure way of predicting, and that with just a little common sense or planning could be avoided altogether. Who knows, this time you might not have any cavities.

Fear is all in the future.

Let it stay there. Why worry about all the things that might go wrong? Maybe the gun is a cigarette lighter, and the man is your cousin wearing makeup and smiling at the joke he just played on you.


"Give me liberty, of give me death!" Did Patrick Henry mean freedom as well when he said "liberty?" I don't think so. The first definition of liberty in my dictionary says "freedom," I still don't think Patrick was talking about freedom. Especially in the personal sense. Freedom to do as one pleases is not freedom, but is liberty granted by others. You're only free to smoke in someone's house when they give you the liberty.

Let's take a closer look at what is meant by freedom. Freedom is: being free--that's the first definition on the list. Freedom is a state of mind, not action. It comes with the sure knowledge that your actions are ideally Right, Good and not Harmful. In that state of mind you are always completely at ease in everything you do. You have zero self-consciousness about looking just so or being afraid of stepping on anyone's toes. We all suffer those little stabs every day. Hour by hour.

Freedom starts from within. Liberty begins without. Without what? Without thinking about your Insides. Freedom comes with the understanding of the people around us, but your self-discovery is the key to that understanding. It's very hard to drag out your inner self and give it a good look. There's too much pain involved.

Here's a big gob of pain we've all swallowed. The times when you were outraged by some breach of common rights, especially when those rights were yours. What did you do? You vented your outrage with all your friends, but didn't have the courage to tell the person responsible. You were afraid of the consequences. Maybe the "crime" was done down at work, and you could lose your job for making waves.

The most admirable quality the free person displays so easily and freely is courage. How many times have you dinged yourself for being a coward? I'm sorry if that hurt.

If you will do some hard research into your own inner workings, you can ferret out all kinds of little Monsters hiding in the crannies of your behavior. You may find a cute little Bugger named Amusing Dishonesty. He's the Pixie that lets you feel OK about keeping the nickle extra that the checker gave you in your change at the store. Amusing Dishonesty provides a few small chuckles when you tell your friends, too. Oh, and don't' forget, "they'll never miss it."

Let me be blunt so you'll get stirred up. That's Theft. YOU are a Thief. No better than any bank robber, car thief, or some junkie that steals your TV set. And don't give me, "the size of the theft." On the bottom line is says, "Theft is Theft." I want you to know I still think you are a good person, he said, smiling once more. No Big Deal! OK, now that you know you steal things, you realize you're just like EVERYONE else. There is hardly a person you know who can't tell a story about something they kept or took just within the last few months. Of course, they all have a good excuse why is was all right to do so.

If we're all capable of theft, then no one of us can be clean enough to be offended by a thief. The better you understand your own capacity for theft, the less anger and frustration you will feel. We're getting freer by the minute.

Can you see where that leads us in our quest? After a bunch of self study, you have this big pile of things that everyone (you, too) does. But now you understand, and pretty soon nothing is left to bother you. You hardly do any of those negative things any more and have the peace of mind--freedom--that comes with doing Right. You don't even get very sore when someone else gets out of line. You're not having arguments that end in fights. You see those little 'trips' that other people are playing, and are able to avoid the pain of being dumped on. You can now be Tolerant, Tactful, and Tenderly InTractable. The InTractable part is where you immovably maintain your Right position, but with understanding, respect, even compassion.

You see, we're all human. We all are made the same basic way. We have the same needs, emotions and talents. The only difference between us and others is the unique little stamp that we put on all our 'trips.' For example, every magician has his own style of making the lady disappear. Never the less, for most magicians, she does vanish. Our style of setting somebody up for a loan may not be someone else's style, but we are still able to recognize a "touch" coming if we've looked into our own behavior. Now we can smile and affectionately kid that person out of the loan. You've see good-natured people ease themselves out of sticky situation like that.

I wish you luck in finding your own freedom. Remember, it's going to be tough.

Start by assuming (or pretending, if that's easier) that you have all the faults you see in others: You're a thief, a liar, a cheat, selfish, arrogant, etc. Under each category put the kinds of things, no matter how small, you do or have done. Next, for example, try to study each little way you tell those white lies, and why. Notice how we try to make Lying into UnLying by using the term "white?" When is a Lie not a Lie? I'm sorry if you're frowning, but I told you, it's hard. But I know how good it can be on the other side of some of those painful Wrongs. I'm sure you do, too. Hang on to that knowledge.

Maybe it's time we all got down to the business of finding and knowing just who and what we really are and admitting it. I don't think we'll make much progress if we continue at the pace we now keep. Most of us have to be backed into a pretty deep corner before we'll admit our shortcomings. Then sometimes our shame at covering up for so long won't even let us feel the relief of doing something right.

Patrick Henry wanted Liberty. Ironic, isn't it? The only liberty Patrick Henry had left in his situation, was the liberty to choose to die for his liberty to choose to die. Give me Freedom any day.


I want to save you time and energy. If you're one on those people that think being proud is all right, stop now and go on to any article that won't get under your skin.

The whole thrust of The Backwoods Philosopher is to present information of a universal nature that may possibly be of help to you in your daily life. The intent is to relieve some hurts we find under every rock in our existence. No matter how big or small those stones are, in one sense they all hide one or another form of Pride.

Pride is insidious. The main problem with using prideful terms is that they become commonplace and we actually start behaving like we are better than other people. We're definitely not. What we are is, the same--except for the amount of Pride we each have. All our stress can be traced back to one basic personality trait. Pride. But that's a whole series of articles.

The first thing we have to do is nail down the difference between Pride, and pleasure or satisfaction. There's no denying that when our kids do something neat like getting better than usual grades we are very pleased. We often express the pleasure as "being proud." Also, many of us express our satisfaction with our work as "being proud" of the job we do or did. Those pleasures and satisfactions are just that, not Pride.

If we say it differently, we find what Pride really means. First, my 1700 page Webster's New World dictionary says: 1. an overhigh opinion of oneself; exaggerated self-esteem; conceit. By that definition we must now say, "I am able to produce children that get good grades," or "I can do this kind of job better than anyone." Don't' you agree this is not what you really meant to say? What we really mean is, "I'm so happy. Tommy got his first two A's ever," or "It makes me feel so good to be able to do such a finished job on these cabinets."

Pride is a very complicated field of study. It has so many sneaky ways of surfacing in our lives that we hardly ever notice it's presence. Here's the beginning of a long list of the ways Pride shows up every day. Telling yourself of an already recognized accomplishment, telling yourself, "good job", verbalizing in the second person how good you are, thinking you're doing a better job than others (even when you are), congratulating yourself for very small accomplishments, using "helping" as an excuse to do it your way (which you think is better), meddling in the favors other people do for you, judgement of any kind, but especially positive self-judgement.

Well, I guess by now you're ready to call me a lunatic. All those of you who are either laughing or scowling in disagreement are showing your Pride.

It's not my intention to address all the examples listed above. We can look at one or two this time and get back to the rest when we feel strong enough.

Remember, Pride is sneaky, so it follows that the worst kind of Pride is the sneakiest. When is that? When we're alone. You see, when you exhibit your Pride to others, lots of times they'll give you negative feedback. When you're alone, there's no one to tell you you're acting like a jerk.

One of my favorite examples of Pride is when you compete with inanimate objects by way of "talking" yourself through some action. Those are the times when you're really telling yourself how much better you are than that log you're splitting or the floor you're sweeping.

Let's say you have the job of sweeping a warehouse floor. It's big, and will take you a while. You start out whistling or humming a tune while you sweep. After a while you playfully fall into a game of "Get the Dirt." To an onlooker you sound like this: "OK, I see you there. Take that!" "Ah hah! Thought you'd get away, huh?"

I see that question on you face. You're thinking that there's nothing wrong with playing that little game. Indeed, it's one of the few ways to take the boredom out of repetitious jobs. How can a little amusement hurt? Look again. You are unconsciously instilling in yourself the belief that you're Better. It doesn't make any difference if it's a log, dirt, or another person. The basic idea of your Better-ness is the trap.

You may want to argue that Pride isn't involved, but if you look close you'll see that you're telling the dirt that it's no match for you and your broom. Also faulty is the thinking that you're just talking your way through the job. Truly talking yourself through this job would sound like, "Step, push, step, push, step, push."

If you're on the lookout for Pride, you'll find it hiding in almost every competitive situation. True, it's possible to compete and not exhibit Pride. It's just very, very hard to focus on "how you play the game" rather than being better than the other players. Better players are not necessarily better people. They're just more skillful at that game than some others. The Braggart is never as good as he/she says, and always has an excuse when out performed by others. True ability needs no boast.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that you have to pick over every little word you say and tiptoe around on razor blades. But, by understanding the pitfalls of Pride, we can let ourselves and others see us in a more real light. Bragging has an air of the unreal, and no one likes a liar.

We all have the tendency to slip into the most convenient way of saying things. It's a lot easier to say, "I'm proud of my work" than to twist your tongue around a long sentence about the efficiency, practicality and craftsmanship of a kitchen cabinet. Still, better cabinets don't make better people.

One very human and insightful author gives this key to uncovering our own Pride: "The more we have it ourselves, that more we dislike it in others." In other words, the more you hate a Braggart, the more Pride you are carrying. But not me boy, I'm humble, and Proud of it.

We'll return to Pride again. In the meantime, listen to yourself in those competitive situations. And remember that you spell Pride, I.


Do you find that you don't seem to have any real friends? Even the folks you spend a good deal of time with aren't very close to you? Also, the people that you might want to get close to have a way of keeping their distance, or being unavailable most of the time. Don't look for an answer in what others are doing. Look at yourself first. See how you act toward them.

Do you have these thoughts? "I like her all right, I just wish she had a little more common sense so I wouldn't have to keep showing her what to do all the time." "The main thing that wears me out is always helping others and not getting anything back. I'm just not appreciated." Maybe you're Pride is what is really trying to do all the 'help.' If no one's asking, don't be telling.

Prideful people meddle; it's one of the clearer ways that Pride shows itself. In this article we'll be dealing with two very common ways to turn your friends off? As an outsider, when someone does something for themselves, or as an object, when someone does something for you.

Meddling as an Outsider

Think back. Doesn't it get you when someone tries to tell you a "better" way of doing something that you've been doing, for a specific reason, for a long time? How about that Prideful friend of yours who insisted on turning the toilet paper roll around so that the end hung off the top instead of the bottom? You decided a long time ago that you didn't want the torn edge to show the way it does when the end hangs over the top. Your friend John likes to be able to see the roll end, rather than have it hide down behind the roll.

Things like preference, opinion and intent are places where Pride can cause the most harm. You prefer the roll end under. John prefers it over. When John, as the outsider to your action, knows your preference and still tries to change your likes to his, he is showing an extreme amount of Pride. Either way of arranging the roll end is acceptable What makes John think that his way is so much better than yours that he can go against your wishes?

Here we have a clear example of double-barreled Pride. John comes off looking very foolish for insisting his method of hanging toilet paper is better than yours, and you are placed in a position of inferiority. John not only pumps himself up, but brings you down in the process.

As we've said before, the main element of any relationship beside trust, is validation. The more you let the other person know that you think they're OK, the closer the relationship. That definitely includes not trying to impose your methods, thoughts or opinions on your friend. The key word here is "impose."

Those of you who want to argue the point about wanting to save someone time or energy, warding off some potential danger, or requests for help are not keeping your minds open to the concept of imposing your will/way on another. If you don't want to hear the main point of this article, you must have an overblown opinion of your understanding of others. Sounds like Pride, doesn't it?

Meddling as the Object

As we've stated in previous articles, any time someone goes out of his way for you it's an act of love--even passing the salt to a stranger is an action based in human affection. It's bad enough to lessen someone's general worth, but to try and dictate how they should go about doing you a favor is intolerable. In other words, how dare you tell me how to love you.

For example, let's say Arnie missed his flight to San Francisco and had to go to Tijuana instead and try to make a connection over in San Diego. Arriving at Tijauna, he's told that there is one daily flight to San Diego, except Tuesdays. Naturally, this is Tuesday. Inquiring if the reservations clerk knows the cost of a taxi, Arnie thinks he'd be content to pay the twenty dollars it may cost to get across the border. As luck would have it, the clerk comes back with the news that a friend is just now going right by the airport and will drop Arnie there if he pays the gas.

Here's where it gets complicated. That's because this is the crack where Arnold's Pride can squeeze through. Arnie know that it's only twenty miles to the San Diego airport. His brain does a quick calculation about the amount of gas it will take and the cost of gas per gallon. Happily he finds that five dollars will more than cover the cost of the short ride. That's what Arnie offers his benefactor saying, "Five bucks should more than cover the gas, don't you think?" He's put the driver in a difficult position.

Even though he knows he said "pay the gas" and that five dollars will cover the cost, the driver also knows that his favor is worth something too. Who does Generous Arn think he is to step in and take control when just a few minutes ago he would have gladly paid a real taxi twenty dollars for less service. It's clearly more of a service/favor to offer a ride to someone than to simply do your job of driving a cab. The cabby doesn't go out of his way fo help you. He treats you like all his other fares.

And it doesn't do much good for Arnie to repent later at the gas station and offer his "friend" an additional five dollars. Sure, it helps him more with his gas money, but the harm has already been done. He's already had those thoughts about Arnie's being selfish, a cheapskate, and ungrateful. Think how much more freely the love-energy would have flowed between the two if our sport had offered him that twenty he was willing to pay the cabby. At the very least Arnie should have let the driver set the price for the ride. Had a little faith. Recognized that all favors come from love, and that he wouldn't be asked for fifty dollars for gas--probably not even twenty.

When someone tries to do something for you, accept that favor cheerfully, lovingly, and unashamed. What makes acceptance of favors so hard for the Prideful person is the quality of surrender always present. In accepting someone's gift, you are accepting (surrendering to) someone else's thoughts or judgements about you. It sounds crazy when you say it a little differently. Prideful people won't let others be nice to them.

If someone wants to do you a favor, butt out! It's really none of your business. If someone has a way of doing something, especially when they're not in trouble, leave them alone. One of the most irritating/alienating things you can do in any relationship is to show the other person that you think that their way isn't as good as yours. Remember, Pride is an overblown opinion of one's self.

Do you meddle in the favors your friends try to do for you? Are you always trying to tell or show your friends a way better than theirs? Do you know what to do to stop that Prideful behavior?


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