Friday, July 15, 2016

Quit Sugar Coating.

Criticism is a tricky topic. The word itself is critical. Necessary for growth, change, life but not necessarily always wanted or enjoyable. Our perception and behavioral responses can close out helpful social cues and communication. Shut the door, slam the windows, draw the blinds and hide or point at someone else: the "They" that is cast as Villain in your life.
Emotions help us respond to the world and express ourselves. They are a two edged knife capable of energizing and empowering us with passion or paralyzing us with excuses and closing us away from the very feedback we need to grow and change. They daunt us, stress us, drive us, free us, and limit us. They are by nature, contradictory. When faced with a straightforward appraisal of areas we choose to interact with ourselves and others in an unhealthy way, sometimes they keep us from choosing to listen. They like things sugar coated, where one can suck the positive granules away from the constructive feedback and spit out the bitter truth that could have helped us grow. Thanks emotions, real helpful.
A man walked around the outside wall of a city every day. The wall was twelve feet tall. The stone it was hewn from was flat, smooth. There were no hand or footholds for climbing. There was a door, but to open the door one had to listen to the Sage guarding the door. The Sage could see your flaws. The Sage neutrally identified them, as if reading a grocery list. Many grew somber on hearing the recitation, some turning and leaving before the Sage was done with tears streaming down their cheeks like newly formed waterfalls. Others shouted, argued, or tried bribery and misdirection. The Sage was unmoved. Some attacked the Sage, only to find, the wounds they inflicted were to themselves. Some demanded they were perfect and tried brushing past the Sage, only to find themselves further from the city with ever step forward they took.
The man avoided the Sage after he walked away from him the first time they met. He despised the Sage for so casually listing his flaws. He excused his flaws and justified them more with each step he took. The man walked around the city so many times he made a dirt path around the wall. He could define the city. He knew the wall better than he knew the world. Sometimes he talked with people coming and going from the city. They told him to face himself, it would get easier and he would enjoy the sights within the city. The offered him suggestions, he always held steadfast to his excuses and path rather than try new ones.
Years past. One night, the man was cold. The wall was cold. The night was cold. He walked to stay warm. He could see his breath in the moonlight. He saw through the gate behind the Sage the orange flicker of a fire.
He turned, sighed and faced the Sage again. The Sage looked at him, exhaustion in the lines of his face. The man approached again, shoulders low and ego dragging behind him on the ground. The Sage listed his flaws. The man listened. Some were not so bad as he had chosen to see them as being, while others saddened and embarrassed him as they were worse. They talked for several hours in the cold, crisp night.
Finally, the man understood. Burdens released by choice, he stepped into the incredible City. There is a path worn down around the wall. When you walk it, you will run into others there who are stuck as well, circling and circling. Often, the encouragement they offer each other is sugar coated. Easy to digest but of little value for true progress to be made.
The hardest truths to face are the ones within ourselves that impact how we choose to perceive ourselves and shape how we choose to interact with the world. These truths offer us the most daunting but healing changes, sometimes approaching them is like jumping off a cliff; other times it is as terrifying as a walk down a dark city alley. The key seems to be holding onto the truth that in the end, awareness and positive change improve health, decrease depression and anxiety, and we are not alone. The people who care and support us are always just a thought away. Trust yourself, accept yourself, and problem solve. Painting the problem pretty doesn't resolve it, but I suppose it can make it funny if you really want to waste that much time avoiding the actual issue.