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We used to have a term for men at the office who always found a way to touch us “innocently” while making a point at a meeting or in the break room. The word was “handsy.” It sounds almost quaint, doesn’t it? But to have to put ten extra minutes of energy into making sure there was a table or a pile of books between you and the “handsy” guy really shouldn’t be a way of life for anyone.

When I first saw this video of conservative Pennsylvania lawmaker, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, barking at his male colleague to stop touching him, I dismissed him summarily. “What a homophobe. Horrible person,” I thought. “Unhinged.” And then I got to the end of the clip. The liberal colleague, Rep. Matt Bradford, even after this man’s outburst (calling him gay in a pejorative way) still almost touches Metcalfe again. You can see it’s a reflexive action. He’s a handsy man. He doesn’t know it. He means no harm. But really, this is an example of unwanted touching.

We can’t talk to each other because we won’t listen to each other.

“I speak with my hands,” Bradford said. “I’ve tried to calm him down.”

“If someone touches another person, and they say, ‘stop touching me,’ and they don’t stop, that’s serious business,” said Metcalfe.

It’s possible to minimize a valid issue because the person involved is kind of a tool.

This story in the “offbeat news” section of the headlines relates to the #MeToo movement, if only in a peripheral way. It’s not about a potential lawsuit or a viral video such as this one that follows you for the rest of your life. It’s about personal space. Doing what’s right. As a rule, it would be wise to keep our hands to ourselves.

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Thinking about the state of my own little world, I thought, it would be great if I could live life on my own terms.

Of course, it occurred to me: these are my own terms.

I wanted to have a peaceful home, and I do.

I wanted to be part of a spiritual community, and I am – via this blog and other online resources.

I wanted to be free to do what I want to do, and I am, within the limitations of my health.

But I probably need to update my terms, as you have to do with a lot of online sites.  I thought it was a good idea to update my own terms of service.

So what I want going forward is to have additional resources to do more of the things I like to do in life. So what I want is to connect with people who see life as I do and are interested in the same things as I am. The next step would be to come up with ways to accomplish these goals.

When I think of the fact that most of the world doesn’t have hot and cold running water or indoor plumbing, it’s easier to spot the blessings in life. When you take all these good things for granted, you’ll forget they’re such good things after a while.

More than half of the world’s population has no indoor toilet facilities.

Can you imagine having to go out to the fields every day when you have to answer nature’s call? Oh that’s a pun. Blessing! An organic pun. Another pun! Another blessing!

That’s not to minimize serious issues; inside every issue is something positive. Why not take a moment to update your own terms of service?

Since the beginning of this humble blog, there has been one post that is always the most popular in Google searches. It was written by our SueBE a few years ago, yet every single week, it’s a topic that new visitors seek out. It’s called, “Which Word is Right in the Lord’s Prayer – Trespasses or Debts?”

So I thought it might be time for us to re-visit the subject. It also relates to the wave of men accused of sexual impropriety in the news lately. Most of the offenders seem to be using a template to (sort of) admit wrongdoings, and it goes something like this:

Offender Template

𐄂 It was ___ years ago

𐄂 I don’t remember it

𐄂 But if it did happen, it was probably:

  • All in good fun
  • Crossed signals
  • Semi-consensual
  • Inadvertent

Caveat:

✅Some of the accuser’s facts are not accurate

Part of the problem with these statements is the fact that the offender never really owns up to the offense. It negates the apology, if you want to call it that. In fact, not one of the men in these situations has said, I was completely wrong. I’m so ashamed. I hope you can somehow find it in your heart to forgive me.

And that’s the thing that always gives me pause when I reach this line in the Lord’s prayer, “…And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

What if the person who wronged us hasn’t asked our forgiveness?

What if they don’t think they did anything wrong?

Or worse, what if they don’t care that they’ve caused pain?

So that’s been on my mind as we deal with these unsettling revelations in the news.

Can you forgive if the offender doesn’t even acknowledge the offense?

What do you think?

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

Well, I took a catnap yesterday, and had a dream in which a voice was slowly repeating three letters.

“C…H…U…”

CHU. Huh. Doesn’t ring a bell. So I looked up “Chu” to see if it means anything in another language.

In Japanese, it’s the sound of a kiss.

In French, it’s the past participle of “choir.”

In Vietnamese, it means “all right.”

All of these translations lead in to my post for today, about the way we engage with each other.

An unwanted kiss is not a kiss at all. It’s an assault. In reaction to all of the men in the news accused of impropriety, there has been a choir of voices calling for change. Jane Fonda said the answer to dealing with toxic men in power is to put women in charge. Maybe, but I’ve got to say, I’ve worked for women managers who were toxic as well.

I think the answer may be to regard each interaction as a micro-loan of energy.

Of course, this is already a concept, and it’s called “karma.” But if we think of it as exchanging a gift with every interaction, it’s easier to develop it as a habit.

What if you realized that every time you were disrespectful to someone, karma would come back instantly, only – here’s the twist – not to you, but to a loved one? In a way, it happens that way already, if you think of the whole of humanity as your extended family.

Most people want to do the right thing. They want everyone to be “all right.” I truly believe that. Maybe in this moment of revelation and demand for action, we can rise above our need for a pound of flesh and get back to the golden rule.

Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

Fell in with the wrong crowd.

(But in truth, they were the wrong crowd.)

Comments were taken out of context.

(But in truth, the comments as reported were quoted verbatim.)

It was all in good fun.

(But in truth, as a person in power, that’s your unilateral decision.)

So many actors and producers have been accused of sexual impropriety that it’s spawned a hashtag: “#MeToo.” The repugnant details have been bad enough to process, but there seems to be a new allegation every day.

Dustin Hoffman was accused of harassing a young woman on a movie set, and he apologized, but also said, inexplicably, “It is not reflective of who I am.”

But in truth.. what you do and say? That’s who you are.

Hoffman’s director on that movie spoke in his defense, only making things worse. Speaking of the allegation that the actor had grabbed the woman’s backside, the director said, “It may have happened, but again in a funny way.”

Donna Karan claims her victim-blaming, woman-shaming comments were – wait for it – taken out of context. In truth, she was quoted accurately. She even smile-sneered every time she made the same outrageous point. “How do we display ourselves?” Smile. “Are we asking for it?” Smile. Meantime, I wonder what she would say if asked the same question. In this interview, she’s wearing heavy eye make-up. Her shoulders are exposed in a revealing gown. Let’s put the same question to her. What are you asking for?

No woman dresses with the intention of going out into the world to be attacked. It just doesn’t happen that way. There’s no such thing as “she asked for it.”

Let’s start here: I believe you. Sometimes in movies – and in real life – the bad guys win. But in truth, this can be a real moment of solidarity. If we stand together, it could be the start of taking back our power.

Tell me about a complicated man.

Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy, and where he went, and who he met, the pain he suffered in the storms at sea, and how he worked to save his life and bring his men back home.

He failed to keep them safe; poor fools, they ate the Sun God’s cattle, and the god kept them from home.

Now goddess, child of Zeus, tell the old story for our modern times.

Find the beginning.

These opening lines of Emily Wilson’s translation of “The Odyssey” struck me like a lightning bolt.

Some critics believe that her choice of words may affect the classic’s meaning.

“I want to make them see that all translations are interpretations,” she said.

The same can be said of the Bible. People curate specific texts and tailor them to pet peeves. Maybe they want women to “stay in their place,” so they quote Ephesians 5:22. They cherry-pick passages to berate gays, immigrants, trans people. You know. Anybody they don’t want in the neighborhood.

I was amazed to read an article about priests trying to deter annoying parishioners from becoming part of their church.

Sometimes we’re not even aware that we treat people who are different from us, well, differently.

It doesn’t take much to create a compassionate community. Just an open door. A kind manner. A heart for humanity.

It’s trusting that God knows what he’s doing. In a nutshell, it’s a timeless story with a happy ending. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get lost in translation.

Credit: Lucky Jackson@mrluckyjackson via Twitter

Writer Anne Lamott re-tweeted this post from Twitter user, Lucky Jackson, and when I saw it, I realized something.

The phrase “thoughts and prayers” is analogous to “everybody knew.”

A lot of the people in Hollywood who were aware that men in power were abusive have come out with this sanctimonious sound bite: “everybody knew,” as if to say, Yeah, all of you other people. You should have done something about this! Shame on you!

And then there’s “thoughts and prayers.” Normally, I don’t have a problem with people using this phrase, but it’s starting to get under my skin.

It could be that those who were killed today in Texas were in a church already. They were already awash in prayers. Then someone with an axe to grind came in with a gun and ended their lives.

Now, if he’d only had an actual axe with which to take out his frustrations, more likely than not, he would have only been able to harm a few people before being stopped.

But with a semi-automatic weapon? Wholesale slaughter.

What’s irking me is the fact that these politicians are using this platitude as their entire response to the issue. As if there’s no other recourse.

So I say, yes, let’s keep the victims in our thoughts and prayers, but, simultaneously, put our heads together to come up with a way to end this insanity. There must be a way to restore the soul of this nation.

Photo by Marc-Antoine Dépelteau on Unsplash

The headline said that the Pope was going to Latin America to “Build Brides.” Thought it meant he was going there to recruit nuns. Interesting. Wonder how they do that. Not to be sacrilegious, but do they have a holy headhunter there, and interviews? Maybe there’s a signing bonus. Sipped my coffee. Paused a moment.

Huh?

I read it again.

“Build Bridges.”

Oh.

That makes more sense.

I’d read it wrong and built an erroneous narrative.

And I thought… do I do that with people too?

Read them wrong, that is. As we all do, I make assumptions based on next to nothing.

I’ll form an opinion based on:

  • Someone I used to know who looked like that
  • The way they pronounce “often” – I prefer silent “T”
  • They’re wearing a choker and I hate stuff tight around my neck
  • Their apparent age in relation to my age

There’s a reason some in our age group emphasize and stretch out the word this way: Millennnnniiiiiallllls… It comes from ambivalence about aging.

The hardest life lesson to learn is that you don’t get higher on the happiness scale by popping someone else’s balloon.

Put-downs don’t lift you up. In fact, they make you appear smaller than you really are.

Come to think of it, we could use a bridge here and there. Between Millennials and older folks. Between people of different religions and political persuasions. Between people with good intentions and those throwing stones because they feel they’re not being heard.

What do you say we build a bridge and meet in the middle?

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

It was love at first sight when I read this poem by Mary Oliver, and I’ve been sending it love-notes in my mind all day. She writes of her desire to be “upright and good,” and thinks, “to what purpose?”

The next passage is just glorious:

“Hope of heaven? Not that. But to enter

the other kingdom: grace, and imagination.”

It’s hard not to relate it to what’s going on in the world right now. Grace and imagination. Conversations online have been coarse and mean-spirited. Authority figures have been pointing fingers and throwing stones.

We’re falling into the trap of thinking that we need to fight fire with fire.

That we cannot let it stand when someone says something we know to be untrue.

Neither side is listening. Both are engaging in alternating monologues. No one will be persuaded with this kind of rhetoric.

Imagination.

That word is so powerful, isn’t it?

What can we build, just using our day-dreaming power? What if? Why not?

Grace.

That’s the word that truly holds the world together.

Just for today, imagine you’re sending that tweet out to someone you find reprehensible and you really unleash and unload. What if…by chance… it ends up in God’s inbox? There’s no witness protection program that can get you out of that jackpot!

Imagine the grace that would explode if we reached out to an enemy the way God held his hand out to us when we were at our lowest point. If we all turned the other cheek at the same time, we’d see the humanity – and the divinity – in each other, perhaps for the first time. That’s where the other kingdom resides.

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Mark 8:36 NIV

There have been a lot of scoundrels in the news lately. I’ve seen a lot of people say this: “It’s a sickness.” But that’s not true.

People who use power to demean are not addicts. They live in fear and hate themselves. The world is very big, so they put on the trappings of power so they don’t appear so small.

While it is certainly a pathology, it’s not a condition that can’t be controlled.

When a young (at the time) actor inappropriately touched a VJ on MTV as a way of saying “hello,” what he was really doing was trying to gain leverage. He seemed to be unsure of himself and felt a pressure to be larger-than-life, so he did something to discombobulate her.

Emma Thompson described the scandal surrounding a predatory Hollywood producer as a manifestation of “extreme masculinity,” but I would suggest that the opposite is true.

I think such men don’t feel strong and powerful at all. They more likely feel utterly bereft. On paper, they’ve got everything that should lead to fulfillment, confidence, and peace. But somehow, they still feel as insignificant as they did before they achieved “success.”

I don’t know if there’s a “rehab” for this kind of situation. Some would say the answer is church. Getting right with God. That would be true, of course, but it wouldn’t be genuine for such an individual to find faith if it’s forced.

Going forward, maybe it’ll be easier for victims and bystanders to speak at the moment of impact. To say, This isn’t right. Cut it out. Speaking truth to power isn’t easy, but if we all stood up together, it could make a world of difference.

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