What It's About

TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Out of the Bowels of Loneliness

Sitting at home or far away,
Distances don’t matter,
For this loneliness to stay.
On terms that scatter,
My thinking’s indifferent—come what may,
Oh, what goes on up there; the chatter!
As I look over my prospects, my life,
Present concerns remind of those gone,
And the truth cuts like a knife.
Déjà vu is reminiscing over a life so long,
Yet now it’s half over and my history’s rife,
And hopes fail for the strength to be strong!
But as I wonder aloud just now,
A space for breath appears,
So I can allow my loneliness to endow.
When I do somehow I can despatch my fears,
With that strength I so wanted, I bow,
It’s for accepting and wiping away the tears!
I pine, often, for those loneliest times of my life thus far.
Strange, isn’t it, that we seek after our core sadness as the vitality of connection with the Spirit is sought, having once had it grip our lives like a tarantula? We all (in our feeling spaces) like our sad, sombre music or films. It connects us to the Spirit within calling us to the truth of our lack, and to our irreconcilable darkness, within our psyches in this world.
Yet, back there, it was not at all glamorous! We contemplated many a pitch black achievement. Strange rumblings stirred. It was dangerous territory.
In the bowels of our loneliness we cannot escape. We hate every reminder of that which we don’t have or no longer have. We feel betwixt, betrayed, panicked, numb. Redoubling our anxiety is the fleeting guilt of us feeling sorry for ourselves.
But our feelings of loneliness, of course, are perfectly justified.
God is with us despite the spiritual void we endure. And could God despoil our season of social madness by inflicting upon us any sense of judgmental guilt? No, that’s of human making, not of the divine.
There is a richness in the loneliness that takes us ever close to God.
We don’t see it at the time. But when things get better, we know we’ve lost something. Harrowing depths have gone, yet so too has the intimacy with our self-strength—that which reaches after God.
The bowels of loneliness teach us about ourselves. In such a social dearth we find, ironically, God is ever proximal. And as we recover, our intimacy with God dissipates. God favours the lonely with his merciful Presence.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Coping with Passive Aggressiveness

“Do not answer fools according to their folly,
or you will be a fool yourself.
Answer fools according to their folly,
or they will be wise in their own eyes.”
~Proverbs 26:4-5 (NRSV)
Where do we start with passive aggressiveness? It is all around us—in our homes, our workplaces, our shopping centres, and, intermingled with overt aggressiveness, on the roads, too.
Whenever someone is nice to our face yet we know their real intent is to backdoor or confound us, we know passive aggressiveness. And of the more overt forms, this resistance becomes noticeable, especially in the case of certain types of bullying. Although passive aggressive behaviour is sometimes difficult to pinpoint, it can be almost impossible to combat.
Now, we can be sure that passive aggressive behaviour is the behaviour of the proverbial fool—abovementioned. This person has no real interest in love or the common good.
This gives us both important insight and a warning.
Employing The Insight Of The Sage
Because God’s power is for those who work for good—who go into the threshold of love, despite aggressiveness—there is a way of dealing with the confounding behaviour of those that are skilled in passive aggressive responses in life.
But we can only tap into God’s power when we are appropriately wily, like a sage.
Only the wise—those employing well considered thought—can deal with the fool. Only the wise can remain calm enough, overall, in the presentation of folly. Maybe it’s only the wise that can work with that folly. And wisdom is the much needed response, because passive aggressiveness is everywhere in this life.
This initiates us to the warning, stated straight in Proverbs 26:4-5.
Entering A World Where No One Wins
The fool has it in their heart that if they cannot win, nobody will win.
Everything, for them, appears as a competition. The person who chooses passive aggressive responses in life sees life competitively—or it least selfishly—and not as a journey for safety and mutual enjoyment.
This is where we are warned. We cannot change them. We are better off to accept what we cannot change. We may bring them gently to account where we are able to, but it would be foolishness to lose excessive energy focusing on that which we cannot change or control.
With people who are passive aggressive we cannot play their game, yet we only get on by playing their game. It appears as an infuriating trap. But there is a way when we take each situation on its merits.
Sometimes we employ a gentle truth to bring reason to the situation, but most of the time we need to be prepared to accept the presence of many lies, and, importantly, not get frustrated or too overwhelmed. God will reward our patience with wisdom, for we are showing wisdom by not falling into a trap. And when we do fall into the trap, we learn, and by doing so we grow in wisdom.
Coping with passive aggressive behaviour requires as much wisdom as we can draw from God. Dealing with foolishness in a way that doesn’t entrap us as fools requires a surrendered level of discernment. Wisdom is the only way to deal with folly.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Shadow In Our Transference

“The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others.”
~Carl Gustav Jung
Much of our interaction with others involves the projection of our individual and mutual psyches within the realm that exists between us. What ‘stuff’ we have we bring to the relationship; the good and the not-so-good. This depends on the situation and the person we deal with.
Of course, one of the biggest determinants of all is our mood.
As we add one concern upon another, and depths of concern we can’t even explain, an unbridled anxiety emerges and manifests through an outburst we hardly reckon as ours. For some reason what precipitated the angry response seemed so innocuous, but as we look around we can’t help but see the wreckage of a hurt relationship before us. We wonder how we will put it back together again.
When To Be Especially Cautious
Our shadow, as Jung calls it, is ever present and typically dormant. And given the right circumstances (or the wrong circumstances as this case may be) our problematic material comes welling to the surface.
Just very recently I recall dealing with some family issues beyond my control—it seemed like some real dynamism was at play—and a simple interaction that should have been dealt with calmly ended up awry. Suddenly, without much thought, my actions had hurt someone. Given the circumstances, and the presence of my shadow, all the ingredients for me to hurt someone came to be real.
When we are worried, and rightfully so, and situations present where we are not thinking straight, we are most susceptible to the uncontrolled manifestation of our shadow—the unique permeation of our sinful nature. This is when we are most likely to hurt people.
In our hurt we will hurt, unless we can acknowledge the fact that we are emotionally compromised.
We can just as easily see those things of our shadow (what we do not like about ourselves) in others. And those things are most likely the things that will upset us; whilst we never realise what upset us was the projection of ourselves that we saw on or in that person.
Understanding Representations Of The Shadow
Of course, one of the best tasks of life—from truth’s perspective—is to mine knowledge of our biological and experiential flaws. Like, we have an opportunity to dig deeply into the furrows of our innermost weaknesses that may be dredged up from our pasts.
Therapy of the psychoanalytic (i.e. Jungian) type is of great advantage, but just being curious, and becoming historians of our lives—and the lives of our parents and grandparents—may give us critical knowledge.
As we come to understand the representations of our shadow we become less likely to sting people out of a projective response.
Much conflict, bitterness, and resentment occurs because of what we, personally, have seen in another that reminds us of our unbearable faults. Much of this is avoidable if we are honest with ourselves. Much of this can be understood when we look deeply into ourselves.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When Time Equals Love

In Australia, if children have a dad, they spend on average just 6 minutes per day in his presence. This is not quality time, just the quantity of time. So, reading books, playing and doing homework together may receive very little or next-to-no attention. This is not lost on mothers. They know, as society does, that father-figures can have an instrumental role in the development of young people. Perhaps it is even sadder that many mothers are also forced to compete in a rat-race world, simply to feed hungry mouths, pay the bills, and keep a roof over the family’s heads.
It can be a rather depressing reality; trying to balance the vital family time—the key investments for the future of our children’s lives—with paying for these ‘privileges’.
The irony is quality time should not be a privilege. It should be a human right. For, how is a young human being to develop appropriately where there is insufficient love through the investment of quality time? But this is the world we live in.
The simple thesis of this article is time equals love.
This is a harsh reality for every single one of us in the charge of bringing up children. And perhaps the growing trend of grandparents taking a more active role is one that ought to be welcomed, more and more. For, if the parent(s) are busy working for the family, and, there is a loving extended family structure available to care for the children, the children’s needs are catered for. They have loved ones willing and able to input the time required for their development needs.
Time – The Key Commitment For Love
Time has always been an incredibly valuable commodity. But, even more so, today it is ever more poignant when we consider the financial pressures, the busyness of life, and many crowding realities, including the constant barrage of new technologies. We cannot regulate life as much as we used to be able to.
Now, one thing that hasn’t changed is the cost of, and choice for, the time spent.
We, as always, have the choice regarding our time. We pay a cost for the things we don’t do, and it is hoped that the costs are minuscule if we are doing the important things. And our values (our real values) will dictate where our time goes.
Time, then, is a key indicator of what we love. What we pour our time into is that which we love. If we love our work, we work long hours and our commitment is unstinting; our purpose is derived from our work and from our work we have meaning for life. If we love our families, certain sacrifices are made to protect those vital hours required in the nurture of our families. And more than that, we ensure we are psychologically present within our family space.
Life gives us very many options, but our choice must be wise. We cannot have it both ways. Of course, we know this. And if we, like most people, have come to a point of needing to decide what must give, hopefully it is our most important relationships that will become the benefactors of the changes only we can institute.
This is where commitment breaks away from our wishes.
We can wish as much as we like, but unless we are prepared to truly make the changes we need to make, nothing will change.
Our families and our children deserve our time. The fact is time equals love. And despite the pressures that confound us, our love helps us to ensure we find the time.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Redemptive Power of Sorry

“I’m Sorry.”
Such important words,
Words for life,
When only words,
Can redeem the strife.
There are many ways to say sorry. Doing wrong is not the end of it. Saying sorry can be an important redemptive beginning. It can open a pathway from the relational quagmire out into relational space. There is a way back to trust through respect.
But the redemptive power of sorry is limited regarding other people’s acceptance of what constitutes sorry. Sorry becomes personally meaningful—we believe the apology, or our distrust is heightened. Being sorry can heal, but just the same it can hurt if it makes things worse or it isn’t accepted.
So, whilst being sorry is a way back into the relationship, it can also mean rejection. Many times we are found ill-prepared for such rejection.
Complications Of Sorry
It’s a skill in any relationship to understand the needs for apology. Doubly then, we must translate these ideas for redemption into action. Not everyone who knows they need to be sorry can translate their emotion into the right sort of restitution. And what works for one person, so far as restitution is concerned, doesn’t work for another.
Apologising can be a rather fickle art. But nothing beats genuineness. When we are genuinely sorry we find ways back into most people’s hearts.
What can be a sad reality for so many people is, whilst they understand that they did wrong, they have limited ways of coming back. Sometimes the other party won’t let them back. Sometimes no correspondence will be entered into. Or the imagination or motivation to compel the apology may be vacant. We cannot fake sorry.
But, sorry ought to always be the way back, through redemption, to the equalisation of the relationship. Sorry frees up love.
The skill is brought to life in the ability to discern the moment’s need and particularly the person’s style who we are apologising to.
Sorry – A Dialect Of Love
How can sorry be better communicated than via the heartiest discernment of love?
When we are motivated by love in our quest to apologise—and to make better an undesirable situation however we can—we hardly have a self-conscious moment. Our apologetic words and deeds are uninhibited.
When we give of ourselves, without thought for self-protection, with the central interest being for the relationship, the other person can unconsciously know of our love. Our good intent is somehow felt.
With love and genuineness our apologies restore peace. Damaged relationships can be helped when we resist protecting ourselves and give of ourselves in humble grace. Humble admissions of mistakes and a desire to make amends are wondrous for relational healing.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why We Hurt Those We Love Most

Abrasions to the psyche occur in the everyday rub of life. Our hearts become hurt, especially when we have no protection-of-God in place. And if we have no safe release regarding recourse to those who inflict hurt on us or cause us to become frustrated, we tend to transfer our hurts onto those we love. This is because we can, and because they are more representations of ourselves than we realise. Why else would we expose ourselves so honestly?
Those we love most are most susceptible for receiving our negative emotions because they may be least likely to reject us or attack us back in a dangerous way. With our family and loved ones we are afforded a special allowance of grace. Even when we overstep the mark we generally have a way back.
We hurt those we love the most, and too regularly, if we have no other outlet for processing our hurts, tensions and frustrations. What burns within must eventually purge.
Times When We Are Not Afforded Psychological Release
In many of our workplaces, for instance, we work for people, or with people, that incite within us reactions we simply can’t bear. This causes significant stress, and, as a result, anxiety. And even if we don’t consciously feel anxious, there is the rumbling of unconscious anxiety that plays itself out in many negative ways.
When we are not afforded psychological release the transfer of our anger is an obvious threat.
I used to wonder why I sometimes would be angry with family members upon arriving home from work. The stresses of working, the work, and the people involved in the work, all came together, and no matter how much I was looking forward to seeing my family, I sometimes treated them poorly, and I didn’t know why. And because I was taking my frustrations out on those I loved I became increasingly angry with myself. A negative cesspool of events had emerged.
The truth is when we have no avenue (or we see we have no avenue) for responding appropriately and effectively with workplace or other external stresses, we turn the stresses in and onto ourselves, and then we, as a result, transfer them onto the ones we love. We can add complex extended family relationships into this mix.
Whatever is external and out of reach, that which causes us frustration, threatens as a cause for hurting the ones we least want to hurt.
The Better Way
The better way than anger, which is transferred onto others from our inner emotions that we cannot bear, is honesty—a risk of vulnerability requiring courage.
When we can allow our authentic hurt and frustrated feelings to emerge, just for a moment, we not only open the pathway to God’s healing through our honesty, we don’t hurt our loved ones, and we even build intimacy. Just for being honest.
A better way than transferring our unprocessed anger is just being honest in our weakness. Everyone has weaknesses they cannot bear. Honesty is the only way.
Compassion For The Angry Love One
Not including abuse, we can afford to extend to our loved ones a little scope for grace, especially when we understand they may feel trapped without a process to deal with difficult situations.
This grace should extend to ourselves, because, of course, we will also grapple with stress and anxiety issues because of our dysfunctional relationships. All of us have them.
A compassionate ear and a kind heart are what frustrated people need. We can understand their anger prevailing upon us, because we may be the only ones these emotions can be expressed to. When we are compassionate we may be able to usher the angry one towards the better way of honesty.
Hurting our loved ones because we are angry about other things seems such a waste.
There is a better way. When we can share the source of our angry feelings with our loved ones, just being honest and taking care not to burn them with our anger, healing and intimacy are forged.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Transference of Anger to the Inner Self

Some relationships require so much effort, yet other relationships go smoothly. We can never really do much about these dynamics. But if we don’t recognise the potential impact of high-maintenance relationships on our inner selves we may shelve the anger that certain relationships evoke. In shelving such anger, we can be sure it will spew over the edges at some of the least appropriate times.
The issues of transference in anger revolve around emotional energy. Where we deny the build-up of anger, and don’t give it safe vent, we expose ourselves to something we can no longer control.
But there is hope. Always with anger, or any emotional response, we can learn better ways of expression.
Learning From Our Anger
One of the good things about our presenting anger, of course, is it is a cue for our learning. When we lose control we have the opportunity to ask why we lost control.
Getting curious is a boon to our hope. We can learn how to respond better in future situations.
And when we honestly explore the rationale of our anger, we can begin to see where our relationships hinder us within. Where we are not allowed the scope of honest rapport, where there is a lack of trust or respect between two people, and we hide or put on our reactions, the anger that isn’t expressed builds up.
If we can learn about the circumstances in which we nurture our anger, especially where we don’t deal with it, we can build our awareness. When we try to help too much, or cannot help enough, or we try to be too nice, our extravagance of emotion comes boomeranging back. It is classic unconscious self-harm, usually because of a lack of interpersonal courage.
When we know we are most susceptible, because we are relating with people in awkward situations, we can prepare for ourselves a planned adjournment to deal with our building anger.
We deliberately offer ourselves grace. We ensure there is personal acknowledgement of the pressures we are dealing with. Then anger has a release.
We are vessels for both love and anger. When people frustrate us, yet we cannot tell them, anger builds up within us, creating anxiety and potential for the anger to spill over in uncontrolled ways. We are best to find safer expressions for our emotions.
Anger encroaches when we struggle to be honest with ourselves and others.
Being genuinely honest regarding our emotions within our relationships gives us power over uncontrolled anger. We are wise to prepare ourselves for the build-up of anger in troubling relationships. We are wise to find a safe release.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Avoiding the Conflict of Words

“Better shun the bait than struggle in the snare.”
~John Dryden
Were there ever things regretted as much as words? The apostle James warned us about the corrosiveness of words in his Epistle. The grandest warning of all is that we cannot tame the tongue. We are ever destined to say the wrong thing, to upset people, to lose control of our irretrievable words.
So, avoiding the conflict of words, however that may be achieved, is of lasting relevance. If we are able to do that, we avoid regret and we damage fewer relationships. The benefits are obvious.
Yet the way there is not so obvious.
Understanding The Complexities In Relationships
We generally have no idea how complex our relational world is. Even as we relate with ourselves there are complexities we have no idea about. I mean, why do we feel the way we often feel? If we can no easier understand ourselves, what chance do we have of understanding others, comprehensively?
This is no reason, though, for giving up before we have started.
We should remain aware of the giant complexities before us. As we understand the complex interrelationships between people, and between people with themselves, we begin to contemplate the many dark motives and confused intentions that exist and the communication errors that occur.
Whether people bait us or not, we are often taken as baited. We can take things too seriously, or miss the intention, or take things not seriously enough, among the many miscommunications that entrap us.
Of course, others are in the same boat. How others respond to us is easily perplexing and hurtful. They may feel baited for something we have said or done.
One thing is for sure, relationships are complex, and they always will be.
A Necessary Prudence – The Respect Of Grace
As we keep this knowledge of the relational complexities at the forefront of our minds, we are cautioned toward a necessary prudence so we shun the things we could take as baits. We are better to take less offence than our instincts will advise.
When we are armed with prudence we begin to encourage the broader perspective. Our outlook is widened. And from such a standpoint the respect of grace in advance can be issued.
Grace, which has its traction in tolerance, is always the best as we meet situations that involved baiting. The typical response to baiting, of course, is baiting in return. That is what we avoid.
The idea is we stop the baiting in its tracks. Instead of arrogance and ignorance, we meet such disdain with what can be seen as an unreasonable tolerance.
That is Grace: undeserved favour. And God will give us plenty of opportunity to practice issuing this undeserved favour. Of these opportunities, we are to be thankful.
Words make us out as sick fools when we take the bait. It’s better by far to delay our instinctive response. When we actively check what we are about to say we hurt people less.
Words carry disease. Better to inoculate our words before they are sent viral.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, June 18, 2012

When Life’s Not Working

“When life’s not working, when our relationships aren’t the way we wish they could be, we feel empty inside.”
 ~Dr. Tim Clinton
It is a sad fact in all our lives, that, from time to time, even for entire seasons on end, the hope that compels us forward is continually frustrated and unrealised.
And notwithstanding our faith, with copious reminders that we are not to complain, we still find these irrevocable feelings welling up from within to a point we can no longer deny them. Even the most ardent preacher or leader has times of emptiness. Yes, even Christ felt empty.
Admitting Our Weakness – Admitting Our Emptiness
Whilst much of the world believes in stoicism, the ability to push on through, as if to fire the furnace of resilient flexibility, the Christian mandate is much more effective.
Using a very Pauline method—the theology of the apostle Paul—we can draw on the understanding that God is for us, not against us, in every circumstance of life. Even in our emptiness, when there are so many reminders of broken, unsteady, faltering, and untrusting relationships, with each one reminding us somehow of our own frailties, God’s power is there to be drawn upon.
But we only draw on Divine power in our weakness by admitting our weakness; by admitting our emptiness. There is no sin in feeling empty. Indeed, if only we would be emptied of ourselves more often there would be more room for God to fill us.
What Do We Do About Life When It Isn’t Working?
These ironies that we notice just as easily work for us. We are blessed just as much in our emptiness as at any time. When life isn’t working as we’d like it to, we are called higher to a sharp cognisance of God. Where the world cannot satisfy, God can.
Upon a fresh reading of Romans chapter 8, especially in our dearth, as we dig deeply into our raw and honest emotion, God speaks hope back through into our lives.
Perhaps we are only more discernibly reachable as we approach our rock bottom, when there is no strength left for dishonesty and worldly distraction.
When life’s not working and we present before God as needy, God transforms our neediness into power for hope for yet another day. One day at a time our hope moves for us, almost too silently and too gradually to see. One day at a time our dispositions change. And one day at a time we problem solve and do what we can to remove the barriers to a satisfying life.
When life isn’t working, and we feel empty inside, coming ever closer in our need is our Lord who resurrects us, afresh. The more we need God the more we are helped.
When we feel empty there is more room for God to fill us.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Righting the Wrongs in Sexual Harassment

Four possible responses to accusations of sexual harassment:
“I’m sorry, [but, how could you take it that way?]”
“I’m sorry, but it’s not my fault you see yourself as the victim.”
“Gee, I’m really sorry. I don’t know what I could have been thinking.”
“I’m truly sorry. Please allow me to make amends.”
Sexual harassment: “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”[1]
The first two are obviously unrepentant—covertly, in the first instance, and overtly in the second. In the third instance real remorse is apparent. In the fourth, restitution is offered and restoration is sought. Only this fourth example uses a method that can right the wrongs in sexual harassment. Only this fourth example operates out of the Biblical perspective to advocate a pervasive justice that can work for all concerned.
Offenders and victims are both involved,
In a struggle for a relationship,
Where nastiness has devolved.
Surely we can see,
The need to right this wrong,
So parties can agree,
And everyone can move on.
Not everyone can move on, however, until both the full weight of justice and an adequate portion of mercy have been felt.
The Biblical model for righting the wrongs in sexual harassment requires that the victim feels justly treated, overall, and the offender feels mercifully treated, overall. Of course, such perfect outcomes don’t always transpire. But the Biblical model inspires us to search for Shalom (the just peace that translates into abundant wellbeing) for all parties.
Two Foci: Restitution And Restoration
One of the lamentable gaps in the Western system of law is the lack of requirement for personal and direct restitution to be made from offenders to victims.
How can a victim nurture the agency of forgiveness toward the offender if the offender is never required to make amends? When the offender is required to make right the wrong, as far as that can be established, a transaction of forgiveness often ensues. We don’t have to go far to find where systems of government grappled with this issue of justice that makes amends: go to the Old Testament Mosaic Law.
People are often critical of the Old Testament Law brought forth by Moses, but a key tenet of the Mosaic Law is of restitution toward restoration of relationships. Forgiveness is not just a New Testament idea. It is enshrined as God’s wisdom as it is woven into the very fabric of the entire Bible.
When restitution is offered and received in good faith, which we can know is the Biblical requirement, restoration of the offender can begin to take place.
It is always the Biblical mandate to restore the sinner—where they wish to be restored; this is implicit in the modality of making restitution. This can be a hard thing to swallow for victims, but where restitution has been offered and received in good faith, restoration of the offender is the next logical step.
A Necessary Social Justice
Whenever we think of sexual harassment there is always justice that must be served.
But justice in a social environment means something comprehensively holistic. Justice needs to be sweeping and pervasive; peace is the conclusion we strive for—a just peace.
A just peace is one that is fashioned for all parties. Where one party remains aggrieved, even a little, justice—in its most beautiful and fullest sense—has not been served.
Righting the wrongs in sexual harassment is about this holistic justice, such that everyone can truly move on. Relational health, both interpersonal and communal, is always the key.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

[1] J.K. & J.O. Balswick, Authentic Human Sexuality: An Integrated Christian Approach (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), p. 224. This entire article is predicated from the chapter, Sexual Harassment.