A Helping of Happy

helping

We are happiest when we do for others.

It’s crazy because it goes against all intuition and our base desires. It took me longer to figure out than I care to admit but the more we can bless another, or the more people whose lives we can improve, the happier we are.

From time to time people contact me when their friend, or a friend of a friend, knows someone who gets injured and ends up paralyzed. They want to help by connecting the injured person (or their family) with a person who has learned a lot after being “in a chair” for 30+ years. And, I suppose, they find me to have a positive attitude that may be “catchy.”

I’m always happy to help because I’ve been blessed in many ways through my faith and through many great people so I feel compelled to “pay it forward.” But I also understand that it makes me happy to help because we’re wired to feel that way.

Recently, I was introduced to two young men paralyzed in accidents. They both happen to be from the Denver area. I’ve shared a bit of experience and it makes me happy to see that I’ve had at least some positive impact. I’ve offered to help more, but most people are hesitant to accept help because they think they are “interrupting” or a “burden.”

I don’t take any credit but I’m especially glad to hear that one of the young men is back at college, living in his fraternity (with help from the brothers) and he’s “so active and socially exposed,” and the other young man sees that “although the mechanics of life are certainly more inconvenient, the mind still works and affords you endless possibilities.”

These young dudes don’t sound like victims to me. That makes my heart smile.

That’s the kind of mindset Not A Victim is trying to promote. These guys can inspire people by demonstrating that no adversity is too great to overcome.

What stories of overcoming can you share? Please let everyone know in the comments.

Sexism?

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Treating women as inferior is ugly. It’s even worse when women are treated as property.

Since I was old enough to be aware of societal issues, I’ve always thought treating women poorly was a result of insecurity in men. Even as a boy, I saw treating women as lesser was caused by fear or anxiety.

When men prohibit women from being educated, holding office, or voting, there is no rational explanation other than they are afraid (I could add a joke about driving but better not [grin]). When men create and enforce customs or rules that require women to cover themselves in public, or avoid public places unless accompanied by their husbands, one cannot avoid the conclusion that those men are lacking in confidence. And men who require the even more deplorable act of female genital mutilation (FGM) are obviously afraid of losing or not controlling their women.

For those not absolutely clear, FGM is the cutting off of the external parts of the female genitalia resulting in loss of sexual pleasure. And it’s still pervasive! Just in 2016 alone, it has already happened to an estimated 200 million women, in 27 countries in Africa, as well as in Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Yemen, with a rate of 80–98 percent within the 15–49 age group in Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, and elsewhere in Asia, and the Middle East.  These girls and women are real victims. I’ve heard the explanations that it’s not the men pushing this barbaric practice, but you can be sure no woman in her right mind would cut off her clitoris without duress, brainwashing, and/or force. And you can try to convince me until you’re blue in the face that it was the women’s idea to cover their heads, faces, and bodies, but I’ll still tell you to go sell crazy someplace else.

On the other hand, we see groups pushing angry narratives that say interacting with women any differently than with men is sexist or derogatory. Again since I was a boy, I’ve always seen the attempt to treat the sexes the same as an exercise in futility. We do not have to be the same to be equal. We are not the same – people who cannot embrace the differences between the sexes are missing out on one of God’s great gifts.

It has to get tiresome to be constantly hit on by insecure men who think they are entitled to certain treatment, but some advocates are instilling anger (and fear) by promoting the idea that even such things as complimenting women on their shoes or using feminine pronouns are “sexist micro-aggressions.” And it’s reached the absurd point where people are upset or “offended” by a male celebrity saying that he would like to see a beautiful actress’ nude scenes. Yes, media outlets called it “pervy” when Matt LeBlanc (Joey from Friends) joked that he needed to catch up on watching Game of Thrones since he’d heard Emilia Clarke started getting naked on the show, and social media went crazy, admonishing him as “creepy.”

It’s amazing to me that people can take the normal human response of finding beauty in another and turn it into victimization (she chose to be naked on screen). When men find women attractive (even clumsily), it’s not necessarily “objectifying” them – and vice versa. In this day and age when lots of people are looking for reasons to be offended, let’s try to offer a little rational thought by not jumping to conclusions, by not confusing attraction with the real victimization of treating women as property.

And by not being insecure.

Trigger Warnings

crying-college-manHave you heard the latest?

College students all across the country are demanding “Trigger Warnings” and calling for certain words to be banned and subjects to be avoided because they may trigger emotional trauma. Yes, you read that correctly. Many students believe they are entitled to prevent hearing or reading things they don’t like.

Some students at Columbia say teaching Greek Mythology needs a “trigger warning” or caution about material that could be distressing to readers because the text “contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom.” And students at Harvard Law School have asked criminal-law teachers to warn their classes that the rape-law unit might “trigger” traumatic memories, and have even suggested that rape law should not be taught because of its potential to cause distress. One millennial student asked a Harvard law professor not to use the word “violate” in class – as in “Does this conduct violate the law?” – because the word was triggering.

While it may be tempting to laugh off this hypersensitivity as the folly of idealistic kids, these are supposed to be some of the brightest of the next generation who will be influencing and making public policy and law in coming years. The real world does not have “trigger warnings” and is full of all kinds of things people don’t want to hear or be reminded of. So what makes this generation feel that they can stifle unpleasantry or that they should receive warnings so they can avoid hearing things they may find distressing? The crazy narrative that “every opinion is valid” has to have had some effect on these kids, likely reinforcing their ephebic beliefs that they should not have to hear anything they don’t like. When combined with the oft-repeated victim narratives from advertisers, politicians, and advocates, it’s not surprising that the generation that did not learn how to deal with the disappointment of not winning a trophy believes they are justified in avoiding all distasteful ideas. Plus the heightened emphasis in recent years on not “offending” anyone has got to contribute to making many sensibilities more delicate.

These are the sad outcomes of the victim mentality that has quietly reached pandemic proportions. I know that Not A Victim is like a faint, insignificant voice in the wilderness, but this stuff is of real import. Recognizing the sources of its proliferation and the negative effects of victim mentality is the first step in reducing its spread and its destructive influence on lives that could otherwise be happy an free of misery. Please consider sharing any posts that resonate with you or may provide any helpful perspective for others.

Thank you.

It’s a Race!

There is a race in our society to see who can be most “sensitive.”

A few days ago a Kansas State University pre-med student Snapchatted this photo and social media came unglued.

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One guy even posted “…I’m supposed to walk into my classes feeling completely comfortable with people on our campus who think like this?”

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Then the “Campus Climate Response Team” (this is a thing now?) sprang into action. They “met to address this recent social media posting” and concluded “This racially offensive photo with a derogatory message has upset the K-State family.”

It has been reported that the student was expelled for the “racist” post, with some reporting “Kansas State student is kicked out of school after sending Snapchat wearing black clay mask with caption ‘Feels good to finally be a n****r’” (note the letter ‘r’ at the end). But there’s no reliable report from the University, and the Student Conduct Code states no grounds for discipline of racially-motivated jokes (even dumb ones).

So let’s unpack what’s going on here, but let’s do it responsibly, without emotional knee-jerk reactions. The student made a bad decision. Whites in blackface conjure up days when blacks were considered by many whites to be members of an inferior race. That was a racist belief under the actual definition of racism. So it’s understandable that some don’t want to be reminded of that ignorance with vestiges of a time when racist beliefs were widely acceptable. The student’s snapchat was unfunny, and she should have known some would bristle, especially when people these days are eager to be offended, but was it “racist” and was it harmful?

The “political correctness” police say ‘nigga’ is more acceptable than ‘nigger,’ and that “nigga” is one of the most popular slang words used today, “among African American groups predominately and hip hop musicians.” They add that “[t]he term has become so popular that it is now a part of culture and many other groups, considerably; non-African American people are now using the word as well.” I don’t call people either, “nigga” or “nigger,” but I think it’s silly when people can’t utter or even write the words (unless they are black).

But let’s just say, for discussion purposes, that the student’s post was “racist.” We’ll pretend that donning blackface and typing, “Feels good to finally be a nigga” means she hates all blacks or thinks blacks are inherently inferior to whites. Should she be expelled for her beliefs or for offending people by expressing them? How, exactly, is someone harmed by ignorant ideas or the expression of them? Isn’t college a place to experience people who think differently? Is pretending that real racism doesn’t exist so precious as to be “hurtful” when reminded there are some unenlightened people in the world who are haters or who think some races are inherently inferior or superior? Doesn’t freedom come with the price of hearing things we don’t necessarily want to hear?

People rushed to the defense of Colin Kaepernick when he boycotted the National Anthem on racial grounds, saying he should not be punished for exercising his First Amendment right to Free Speech. First of all, lots of people misunderstand Freedom of Speech as protected by our Constitution. It prevents the government from inhibiting freedom of expression, it does not say that people can’t be held accountable for what they express by private entities or by individual persons. Freedom of Speech was meant to prevent those in power from stifling criticism or the free exchange of ideas (i.e., making people behave as the ruling-class wants them to). So Kaepernick and the student were engaging in expression, but neither invoke constitutional issues (however, KSU being a state institution, there is more of an argument that an expulsion would be government violating the student’s rights). So why isn’t social media blowing up with posts saying the student has a right to express her ignorance?

Racist beliefs and racist expressions are stupid, but how are they harmful without action? People are fond of saying, “Racism still exists.” I’m sure it’s intended either to show they are victims of racism or sensitive to the fact that others are. But because racism will always exist, it’s about as helpful as saying, “Severe weather still exists.” Sure it does, and it sucks, but so what? No reasonable person believes racism (or severe weather) doesn’t exist. But talking about flooding, hurricanes, or tornadoes does not ruin houses or kill people. So even those who’ve suffered devastating loss as a result of severe weather cannot reasonably expect people to avoid talking about severe weather or using the word “tornado” (or “tornada”).

The Holocaust was one of many horrible chapters in human history, but we don’t stop talking about religion or Jews. And even when people use negative stereotypes about Jews (usually relating to money), no reasonable persons assume it means they hate Jews or find them inferior. And no one thinks it’s harmful to Jews or upsetting to a college “family.” So why do people think like that when people talk about blacks? Do they think blacks can’t handle it as well as other races? Do they secretly think blacks are inferior and they want to protect them, or at least appear sensitive to their plight because they are less thick-skinned?

It’s in vogue these days to be offended by anything even remotely a stereotype of blacks or offended by race-based joking or pointing out black cultural differences. The reason seems to be that people know blacks are treated differently, so they sympathize. But isn’t applying a different standard to blacks further treating them differently? At least 11 black celebrities wear whiteface and no one thinks it’s “hurtful.” Why do people think they have to treat black people with kid gloves? Treating blacks differently, is “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Hypersensitivity does no one any favors. Let’s treat everyone the same.

 

Inventing Victims

People who are unhappy (and, at the risk of being redundant, people who are self-professed “social justice warriors”) often find or invent ways to be victims.

It’s sad, but they look for ways to be offended and “oppressed,” even making up things like “body privilege” and claiming that a college embracing healthy lifestyles fosters “a culture of body shaming even for male students,” by its “numerous healthy eating habits, gym programs, and outdoor activities.” That may sound like something from The Onion, but it’s from an actual editorial in The Feminist Wire.

The author finds Colorado College to be victimizing and says that by “promoting a healthy lifestyle, the college’s culture is promoting body dissatisfaction, as well as making it difficult to navigate public spaces for the men on campus.” (Yes, she really, says that)

These kinds of things are what push thinking like a victim into the mainstream. While giving this author a platform, the editors ironically assert that “The Feminist Wire welcomes only the highest quality original, unpublished essays by emerging writers.” And although the readers of Not A Victim likely understand that the author’s position is teeming with victimism, it’s amazing that this kind of comparing, fairness obsessing, blaming, and wallowing in woundedness gets passed off as legitimate. It is essentially saying that people should be “satisfied” with however their bodies turn out, without taking care of them.

This kind of uncritical thinking goes back to the strange but surprisingly pervasive “every-opinion-is-valid” narrative and the hesitancy to point out flawed opinions due to so-called “political correctness.” Narratives like “body shaming” are popular victim mantras these days, but sadly are harmful to those who buy into them. Instead of seeing normal socialization cues as motivators for self-improvement (exercising, eating healthy, etc.), the victim narratives make people feel resistant to change because they feel the cues are “unfair” or “hurtful.” It may seem compassionate, but it’s harmful to vilify self-improvement motivators.

We hear about victims and the victim mentality quite often, but for some reason – especially when victimism is portrayed as being compassionate – people often miss the tell-tale signs and harmful effects.

Not A Victim is attempting to help change that. It’s a big job and it will take time, but it’s worth it because living with the victim mentality is unhealthy and miserable.

 

What Do You Think?

Today’s post is a little different.

Not A Victim is my experiment to hopefully reduce the prevalence and spread of victim mentality by helping people see how many ways we are inundated with victim messages and how often we might unwittingly promote or enable the victim mentality. One of the things that prevents people from making choices that help avoid the victim mentality is a lack of perspective. As I continue the experiment here, I acknowledge that my own perspective may be preventing me from seeing clearly what others want or need from a website like this.

So I’m asking for feedback and even criticism. What have been your favorite posts and what have you “hated?” What topics or approaches are most helpful and what are the least? What would you like to see that is glaringly missing here? What do you like best about Not A Victim and what sucks? What kind of benefit would make you want to share a post from Not A Victim?

Please comment below or send me private feedback. All input is appreciated.

Thanks so much.

Being Right

We all want to be right.

It’s a normal human motivator. If we’re not living consistent with our beliefs it causes internal conflict – sometimes elevating to a clinical status.

We choose news sources that confirm our worldviews, and we congregate with people who do the same. Look at a map showing how people vote – blue or red – and notice how we segregate ourselves by our beliefs.

We believe, without investigating, things we see on the Internet that support our narratives.

We go a long way to maintain our worldview. Even so far as to deny obvious facts. Sometimes we assume that those who have differing views are either idiots or evil (or both).

And when it becomes harder and harder to maintain the worldview we’ve chosen, it’s easy to adopt the victim mentality, rather than admit to ourselves or others that we were wrong and change our worldview.

It helps to know that we all make mistakes. But that requires admitting that we are human and can be wrong.

Hope

Hope is an important human experience.

Without hope for something better, we struggle to find motivation. Without hope we see our lives on a dead-end path, and we can easily become discouraged and desperate.

We were, and are, right to eliminate cronyism in government and to abolish institutional impediments to equal treatment under the law. They are not only wrong but also artificial supports of the elites in power. I can imagine very few things more frustrating than a system rigged against someone. It dampens the spirit of hope.

But consider for a moment those victim mentality enablers who seek to improve their own reputations, positions, or wallets by promoting narratives that attack results, not obstacles or impediments. It’s a flawed leap in logic to presume that unequal results must still be caused by some institutional or legal impediment.

Imagine the effect of concepts like “wealth inequality,” “unequal playing field,” “social injustice,” “white privilege,” or “affirmative action.” They are dripping with victimism through comparing up, obsessions with “unfairness” and by blaming rather than solving.

No wonder there is so much more crime in neighborhoods where populations buy into the propaganda that wealth should be based on “fairness” rather than productivity, or that success should be the same for everyone regardless of their assimilation into the market and their value added there.

The world does not work that way, so of course people who are told that they are victims of someone else’s actions, rather than their own actions or attitudes, begin to blame and then adopt that victim mentality on their way to desperation.

And we all know that desperate people do desperate things.

Our prisons and our cemeteries are full of desperate people whose hope was taken by enablers of the victim mentality.

 

If you found this resonates or someone you know may find it helpful, please click below and share. Thanks!

More Messy

I’ve written before about life getting messy.

Yesterday was a day of deep and profound sadness; a turning-point brought on by someone I love very much. They are not themselves, but refuse to get help and it’s hurting everyone who loves them.

It rips my heart out but I am not mad. They are confused.

And I have a choice; I get to choose if I let things  beyond my control put a cloud over my perspective and disposition (all pain comes from a lack of control).

But rather than feel like a victim and reach for explanations that may never come, or fix what I cannot heal, I make the conscious decision to focus instead on the positive in my life.

Instead of dwelling on what appears to be the painful loss of what was a steadfast constant, or on the obvious and traumatic pain the situation is causing others I love, I choose instead to be grateful for the many blessing in my life, past, present and future.

I have a great life with a wonderful career and even more potential; I have fantastic friends and family; I live in an exceptional nation with plenty of food, water, shelter, and clothing; and within the past eleven months I have achieved the greatest level of happiness I’ve ever had … even before I became paralyzed.

There is plenty to be sad about, but there is even more to be happy about.

I choose to live in the happy.

 

 

Exceptional

America is exceptional.

She is not perfect and her citizens are not better people than citizens of other nations. But American Exceptionalism is real.

It’s not bragging because I had nothing to do with creating it; it’s expressing gratitude by acknowledging the exceptionally blessed circumstances in which we live.

People from all around the globe are clamoring to get into the USA, while very few are seeking to get out (though they may still whine about it and are free to leave, which is not the case in many other nations). It’s always surprising to me when people argue that it’s wrong on humanitarian grounds to deny people from other countries entrance into America, but also argue that we should be more like those countries from which people trying to escape.

Our Founders devised a system whereby people have the freedom to elect their own representatives in controlling their own governance – a radical departure from the tyranny of royal monarchies, believed to be chosen by God to rule the people. Our system also provides freedom of enterprise that takes a potential negative (human greed and self-interest) and turns it into a positive (unsurpassed innovation, efficiency, and bounty through competition for resources that people freely choose to spend on the goods and services they truly want).

The American system has produced the greatest nation in history, not the American people’s inherent superiority or relative greatness. Nevertheless, people obsessed with fairness or unfairness (as they see it), are fixated on the unequal results produced by natural human differences within that exceptional system. So they demonstrate by blocking traffic or looting and they protest by burning the flag  or not standing during the National Anthem. But what they’re actually protesting is our freedom! They offer no solutions, just complaints; they do not suggest a better form of government than our system, they just disrespect it. What they’re really complaining about is human nature and the fact that we’re all born with different attributes and abilities so we end up with different results.

The Founders realized the imperfections of the human condition and designed a system to maximize freedom and opportunity despite the imperfect nature of human beings.

It doesn’t mean that government intervenes to make an imperfect world perfect, or to make everyone the same by giving people born with fewer skills or talents more ability. It means that our system capitalizes on the inherent differences in human beings to manifest in the greatest good for the greatest number.

When people can’t handle the fact that we will never all be the same, they want government to fix that “unfair” condition. Because that can never be accomplished, they feel they are “victims” and they demonstrate or protest by throwing little (or big) tantrums without offering any way to improve the system.

This is classic victimism – comparing the present situation with perceived perfection; obsessing over unfairness; blaming the American system; and taking comfort in woundedness by appearing to be “sympathetic” or “brave” when all they’re really doing is complaining that the world is not fair.

But it is entirely possible to live in a grossly unfair world and be exceedingly grateful for the freedom afforded by an exceptional system because it offers the most fairness. In fact, it’s not only possible, it’s recommended.