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This last weekend KOMO News aired a jarring special report about the state of Seattle. KOMO’s Eric Johnson rightfully called our region’s many illegal encampments what they are– dens of addiction. He pointed out that homeless people in general do not live in their own lawless filth; addicts do.

There is nothing compassionate about allowing addicts and the mentally ill to wallow in dangerous and unsanitary conditions– or expecting the general public to tolerate it. Local leaders seem strangely disconnected from the harsh environmental and public health and safety problems that the Seattle area’s tolerance of addiction causes.

This sparked another train of thought on Seattle culture. It’s not just Seattle that’s dying, civility in Seattle is dying. There has been a radical change in local culture in the last couple of decades that has natives feeling like aliens in their own city. Perhaps this decline in civility is universal. Perhaps we, the human race, have become too comfortable, too self-absorbed, to the point that life has become all about us, a collective narcissism.

Hang around our region and you will hear talk of the Seattle freeze. Locals like to debate if it’s real, and no matter what they decide, I hear the same locals discussing bad driving, road rage, rude behavior, and social stigmas. It’s clear that as our population has changed with the influx of high tech workers and money, creating enclaves of people who only associate with like people, we have become more distant from our neighbors, more suspicious, more aloof. Call it what you will; this is not the Seattle of 20 or 30 years ago.

Allow me to give some examples. At Christmastime I was thrilled to have family here from out of town. We went to the Pike Place Market, a couple of us wearing festive holiday hats. We were openly jolly and took some great photos at the Gum Wall, pig statue, and other spots. At the same time we noticed that in the midst of all the holiday festivities most people were quiet, reserved, even morose. We noted that those we did connect with were inevitably from other states.

Jogging over to Westlake we happened upon a young man in a loud holiday hat and told him it was good to see someone else in the holiday spirit. 20 years ago, there would have been a spark of recognition, like “my people!” Instead, he was embarrassed that we spoke to him and said something rude. We were taken aback and at that point began to discuss this very topic.

You might have heard of North Dakota nice. I’ve been shocked at how open and friendly people are in that state. I’ve encountered similarly nice people in Montana. Upon arriving at one store in Grand Forks, a man exiting the store took three steps back and held the door open for me. I thought he was going to flirt but he kept going. I was stunned and asked a friend what that was about. That’s North Dakota nice– people have good manners there. I told her that rarely happens in Seattle; men barge in front of women and show almost no interest in chivalrous (or even just plain polite) acts.

In a North Dakota bar I talked to people I’d never met before, like a happily married farmer, for hours. We found some common ground and carried on like we’d known each other for years. Immediately upon contacting the owners of an ancestral property, I was invited over. Two hours later I was having lemonade with them in their kitchen. One has since passed on, but I still keep in touch with the other. These are not things that happen much in Seattle. You’re not invited to sit with a group of strangers or welcomed like family.

In the greater Seattle area many people react with great discomfort or coldness if you merely speak to them at the grocery store. They will often just ignore you as they paw through their phone. Instead of saying “excuse me,” they will walk right between you and the shelf, or grab something from directly in front of you. It’s like you’re not even there. Sometimes I’ll say, “oh excuse me, am I in your way?” just to call attention to the fact that they are literally right in my space. This also happens in the grocery line as the person behind you breathes down your neck and bumps into you.

The same is true of our driving habits. Many Seattle drivers have a horrific habit of following too closely. If you can’t see my rear tires, you are too close. That is a rule of thumb all drivers should follow. But as Dave Barry said, we all believe we are above average drivers. We all think we can continually creep up on the car in front of us in gridlock and never hit them. Yet many someones hit many other someones every day and the whole freeway gets backed up as a result.

Left lane campers are a tremendous problem around here too. The left lane, by law, is for passing. If someone wants to go faster than you, you need to move right and let them by. I wish the Washington State Patrol would make this their emphasis because one 50 mph slowpoke in the passing lane can slow down 405 from Lynnwood to Renton. These people generally refuse to move no matter what you do to get their attention. Most seem oblivious. Some might be self-appointed speed control patrol. Who knows. But you need to stay out of that lane if you’re holding up traffic no matter what your motivation.

In the past couple of years I’ve noticed an alarming number of people on our local freeways who drive far below the speed limit even when there are optimum traffic conditions. This often happens in the carpool lane. This almost never happens in the far right lane. They can literally slow down the freeway for miles. It’s very dangerous. Similarly, many drivers go far below the speed limit up hills or can’t maintain a consistent speed, then go 10 over down the hill when the speed limit has been the same the whole time.

Many mornings I find myself behind Stardrunks. These drivers operate at erratic speeds and/or weave back and forth. Suddenly, upon the appearance of a Starbucks, they’ll slam on the brakes, make a death-defying right turn, and only signal after they’ve begun the turn if they signal at all. Being behind people who haven’t had their triple grande mocha can literally be like being behind a drunk. They will also make sudden lane changes to make the quick turn into the Starbucks. If I were in another town I’d ask what’s in the water. In this case I marvel over the power of that joe.

Ah, turn signaling… a dying art. People in these parts seem to forget that there’s a little lever coming off the steering column that can be activated with a quick flick of the wrist. Law requires them to signal before changing lanes, turning into a side street or driving, and merging. Using the turn signal is important for their safety and others’. But thanks to an all-consuming laziness or apathy, using turn signals to announce your intentions is going the way of the dodo. They can’t be bothered. Or they’re too absorbed in some piece of technology inside the car to care what goes on outside the car.

Speaking of merging, I have personally asked the Washington State Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol to start PR campaigns that throw out Driver’s Ed 101 tidbits on social media. People here can’t merge. RCW has long said that when a lane is ending on a highway drivers need to signal and yield to those in the lane that is continuing. But there are various theories as to what we’re supposed to do, which ultimately results in traffic slowing or stopping as everyone hits their brakes while getting mad about who’s supposed to be merging where.

(There has been legislation introduced to make zipper merging the law– you alternate one car from each lane. If that changes, WSDOT and WSP need to go all out educating the public on the change.)

I mentioned speeding. I’m not a “do the speed limit or else” type. I am aghast at the reckless speeds I see every day– 55 in a 35, 40 in a school zone. Two days ago I saw a man slow down for a red light, then he decided his time was more important and he chose to go right through the intersection anyway. Not the first time I’ve seen this lately– it’s the third time. Stop signs seem to have become optional, particularly on the Eastside. Come to a full stop at a stop sign in Bellevue or Kirkland and you can be honked at. Instead, people choose to blow right through them or just slow down a little and keep rolling. It’s not a pause sign, it’s a STOP sign.

Don’t even get me going on roundabouts– it seems we have both extremes in operation at these delightful donuts. Some people are thoroughly confused by them and will just stop, sitting there stupidly until someone honks at them. Some gun it and blow through these without regard for others. I’ve seen folks drive right up and over the landscaping in the middle. This is another piece of Driver’s Ed 101 our state agencies could be explaining to the masses but all I get is silence.

Shopping and driving are where frequent encounters with rudeness and indifference occur. Another arena for sick and selfish behavior is in our homes. Despite civil or city noise rules, without regard for others’ health, kids, pets, sleep, jobs, guests, babies, or right to quiet enjoyment, people crank up their TVs and music to movie theater level at all hours and live like it’s Wrestlemania. I have been through hell with such people. I’ve been repeatedly threatened when I exercised my rights and pointed out that their chaos does not belong in my living space.

I’ve reached a point that I don’t believe human beings should be allowed to live in adjoining units unless soundproofing between units is mandated by state law. I know many people who’ve had to deal with disgustingly loud and uncivilized neighbors. The property managers or owners will rarely enforce the rules and the cops don’t like to be involved in civil matters. So law-abiding working folks, excellent tenants, are expected to just tolerate the madness no matter what damage it does to their lives.

Just tonight I had a neighbor’s guest block in my car. It could have been innocent yet I was sadly not surprised by the response. Instead of moving their cars, such guests will say they’ll just be a minute (soon 10 minutes) and then I’m stuck. In this case, I politely told the guest that I might need to leave later and asked her to move a bit. She snapped at me, saying I should have parked somewhere else if I needed to get out. That’s not the point; the point is that she’s blocking my spot. She did move and I put a road cone in front of my vehicle to protect my spot. As I told a friend, I would never dream of being that rude to someone in their own home.

(P.S. The road cone disappeared that night and has not been seen since. So now it’s okay to steal as well?)

Every day. This is every day in Seattle now. “I’m more important.” “My time is more important.” “What I want is more important.” That’s how we shop. That’s how we socialize. That’s how we drive and park and live. Every day idiotic daredevil driving endangers the lives of others and sometimes takes lives. Every day we move a little farther back from human civilization into some sort of relational Dark Ages. The really sick part is that we’re getting used to it, “oh, that’s just Seattle now.”

No. I don’t accept that. I don’t like that some people only associate with people who look like them, or have expensive hair or clothes like them, or believe what they believe. We used to celebrate what we have in common; now it seems like Progressives can’t be friends with conservatives and Methodists are avoiding the Mormons. We’re Americans, people, a diverse bunch with a common heritage, language, and culture who are supposed to be able to work together to preserve the republic regardless of our differences. Instead our brains are filled with a constant barrage of taking head rhetoric that wants us to look at each other funny and deprive others of their constitutional freedoms when their thoughts aren’t our thoughts.

Seattle is a paradox. Elected officials like to trumpet our alleged inclusiveness and diversity while openly ostracizing and ridiculing viewpoints that aren’t as narrow as their own. Those who disagree can be called haters, racists, bigots. There is no respect for viewpoints outside of the same myopic “tolerance” that is turning this city into a giant Superfund site. Is it any wonder that the larger culture reflects these deep chasms, this distrust, this gaslighting and crazymaking? It reminds me of high school, where the “cool kids”– generally the rich jocks– acted intellectually and morally superior to the rest of us when they were neither. If some did condescend to speak to the “others” it was usually because it was on a topic important to themselves. Or to put them down.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, may I suggest saying something kind to a complete stranger instead of shunning them? Or helping the woman struggling around the store on crutches? Maybe returning a cart for an old man or thanking the bagger and the cashier? What about finding out the name of the man selling Real Change even if you have no interest in the publication? Could we say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” use our turn signals, drive like there are other people on the road, and park within the lines? Is that so hard? We all learned this; somewhere along the way we’ve decided we’re too good for it. Or we’re too busy. Or manners are only for the peons.

Let’s break this freakish, frigid, nasty rudeness and oblivion that has a stranglehold on our city. Every time we decide we’re not going to practice basic manners or good driving we’re taking another brick out of the edifice of human civilization. This is how you lose a civilization. These little offenses become larger offenses. The larger offenses become the new normal. We become so exasperated with what’s normal that we too are sucked into the void of incivility. Zombies create other zombies. We’re better than that.

We might never become North Dakota nice or have Montana manners. We might never address our elders as Mr. and Mrs. or sir and ma’am. We can practice human decency and choose to maintain a conscious awareness of how our actions affect others. I know some of you will point out the influx of other cultures and the number of out-of-staters (ah hem, Californians) who have moved here. Formerly outside influences can change a local culture, for better or worse. I’m highly concerned about the lack of value people from outside of Washington place on our local environment, especially our wildlife and trees. But if locals hold the line and maintain some semblance of normal, we can not only preserve what’s good about Seattle but help make those manners, objectiveness, and kindness normal for our new neighbors as well.

Seattle is dying, Eric Johnson. I agree. But not just physically. Our civility is dying. There is a cultural rot. A spiritual stench. A loss of human empathy and emotion. An acceptance of narcissism as the new normal. I am superior to you. I need to get somewhere faster than you, therefore I am justified in risking your family members’ lives in traffic. I already know what’s best so there’s no point in listening to you. I have no regard for your feelings, your personal space, your pain. You, by the very nature of your political and religious beliefs, are inferior to me and I want nothing to do with you. You don’t look like me, you don’t drive a car like mine, you clearly are not on my level.

No. No no no. Let’s stop this. It is a cancer. It is a blight. Choose to say one kind word today to someone in public and we can all start rolling back this red tide. Ignore the divisive power-hungry politicians. Tune in, be aware, be objective, be different. Let’s coin a new phrase– Seattle Civil. We might not all be comfortable with outgoing and gregarious greetings or stepping out of our social comfort zones. But we CAN– WE MOST CERTAINLY CAN— be civil to our neighbors. They are not ghosts, they are not “lessers.” They are every bit as real and human and vulnerable as we are. Speak to them as if they matter. They do. As much as you do.

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.

Vince Lombardi

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©2019 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.


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If you have survived abuse, you’ll likely remember many times that your abuser tried to make you feel unstable, unworthy, crazy, and weak. While nowadays this is commonly referred to as crazymaking, it is also called gaslighting.

The term gaslighting comes from the 1940 British movie of the same name. While the abuser in the movie had a material motive for his behavior, most use gaslighting as a means of maintaining power and control in general.

The movie Gaslight is the American version of Gaslighting that came out in 1944. Viewers have historically been split as to which is the better movie, but both are worth a few hours of your time.

Knowing the tactics abusive people use is critical to helping their targets to safety. As I’ve long said, initiative, intelligence, and insight is threatening to the immoral and insecure. Let’s continue to shine a light on the behaviors of sadistic and narcissistic people and know their head games even better than they do.

Gaslighting (1944) can be watched here.

Gaslight can be seen on YouTube, below, and also rented on YouTube if that link is ever removed.

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©2019 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Shattered_Mirror_2_by_wolfrain319

If a woman is looked upon as an object, without feelings, life, soul, or thoughts, then it is easy to ingest images of her that defy her humanity. She is not a woman — a living creature with human attributes. She is merely a body, a vacant, empty, vessel intended to contain the needs of others — preferably men — and her body, which is the most desired aspect of her existence, perfect, lithe, smooth and hair-free, is open for interpretation and domination.

-Marina DelVecchio, The New Agenda

In an era in which human beings claim to be ever more enlightened and concerned with justice, the manner in which violence against women is depicted on television, on the internet, and in movies has never been more graphic. In fact, our society has become so desensitized to this that it’s generally considered a normal part of our entertainment. We’re so accustomed to seeing women belittled, berated, beaten, raped, and murdered that we might feel nothing but a vague ambivalence as we watch our favorite shows, be they true crime, fantasy, sitcoms, reality, or comedy.

In 2014 a group from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology published a study, Contribution of Media to the Normalization and Perpetuation of Domestic Violence, in the Austin Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. They pointed out that domestic violence (DV) is “becoming more prevalent in social media as well as academic literature. Based on the astonishing prevalence rates of DV there are good reasons to consider this issue an epidemic.” The researchers go on to say that, “DV continues to be normalized through its comedic portrayal via news outlets, magazines, advertisements, and television shows.”

This study highlighted various contributing factors to the prevalence of DV in the media, including video games, cultural and family values, religious tradition, advertisements, and the news. In particular, they discussed how DV is portrayed through humor, and how this too desensitizes us to the seriousness of what is, truly, an epidemic. They offer statistics to illustrate just how vibrantly alive and well this violence is. Additionally, they make a fantastic point that all of this desensitization and joking leads to DV being underreported—and therefore victims are underserved.

Domestic violence can be portrayed as exciting, romantic, and sexy, with couples “needing” to fight so they can have passionate make-up sessions. Some TV channels targeted at particular cultures often portray teary-eyed, emotional women playing second fiddle to demanding macho men. This dynamic can also be seen in America’s long-running soap operas, with high drama ping-ponging between characters and constant tension and betrayal. As Lucy Lopez of the Sonoma State Star pointed out last year, the movie Suicide Squad (per the original comic) shows prison psychiatrist Harley Quinn being brutally tortured into becoming the Joker’s abused girlfriend.

Similarly, Dr. Wind Goodfriend’s 2011 Psychology Today blog post outlines how the Twilight series sets fans up for abusive relationships. It glorifies the awkward girl with low-esteem being enticed and isolated by a forbidden man. If you’ve ever read Sandra L. Brown’s Women Who Love Psychopaths or How to Spot a Dangerous Man, you’ll easily recognize how the Edward-Bella dynamic could be very dangerous in real live even if it does make for an intriguing story.

More recently, the HBO series Game of Thrones has made sexual violence even more mainstream, showcasing marital rape, incest, the gang rape of a minor, and other brutal sexual assaults. While the show’s creator points out that rape is just as much a part of history as war, even longtime fans of the show began to question the value of actually depicting and watching such acts. Over and over, women on this show have been viciously assaulted, causing some to label the series medieval rape porn.

As of mid-2015, Michelle Jaworski of The Daily Dot said that there were 50 rape acts and 29 rape victims in Game of Thrones to date. The books the show is based on contained 215 rapes and 117 rape victims. The recent Twin Peaks revival revisits the story of a teen raped by her father for years and then brutally murdered by him. Supposedly she was “too strong” for the evils that wanted to consume her, escaping them through death—as if that were her only out. Themes of incest, sex with minors, and other women’s murders are woven into the Twin Peaks mythology, which also contains likable, entertaining characters and storylines. Despite its selling points, it always seems like someone’s sick sexual fantasies are lurking underneath.

Back in 1985, five years before Twin Peaks debuted, The Center for Media Literacy and UCLA’s Neil Malamuth discussed the rise of sexual violence. They found that sexual violence had negative effects on a significant number of people, potentially increasing the likelihood of attacks and warping children’s sexuality. Thirty-two years later, we still debate whether ingesting violence via the media has any effect on our real world behavior as we deal with a whole new level of crime and terrorism including school shootings. Domestic violence in all forms is thriving. Presentations of it on the screen just get deeper, darker, and more disturbed.

When a program or movie portrays a story of an abused or assaulted woman getting revenge or seeking justice, we seem to accept vivid portrayals of her victimization as just part of the story. True crime shows often include these portrayals. Some call this crime porn; we don’t intend to watch pornography, but the depiction of the crime in the show might as well be. We also laugh along with countless sitcoms and adult cartoons that show dysfunctional relationships in which men and women often nitpick, threaten, and insult each other. Arguably most of our country believes this negativity is to be expected in a relationship.

PreventConnect has an amazing list, Movies, documentaries, and video clips related to Violence Against Women, that includes fictional movies on the topic and many educational shorts designed to prevent it. A quick look at this collection shows how glaring the problem of violence directed at women, including domestic violence, still is. I challenge you to watch at least one of these shorts every day for a week without altering your regular viewing schedule. The gruesome reality of how saturated our programming is with harming women will begin to stand out—even to those of us who already believe we have an acute awareness of the issue.

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Originally written for a newsletter before the Weinstein scandal broke, but all the more relevant now.

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©2017 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

 

 

 

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angel-and-moon

What can we know? What are we all? Poor silly half-brained things peering out at the infinite, with the aspirations of angels and the instincts of beasts. –Arthur Conan Doyle

Standing in the accelerating sleet last night, the pinks and blues and purples burst above us like the Space Needle was imploding in the most beautiful way.

2017… a new year, a new start, a chance to make things right. That’s what the New Year is for, correct? A giant reset button that lifts our spirits and refreshes our souls?

As I made my way through the mass of revelers and vehicles that leached out into the streets from every corner and crevice as if the city was a giant washcloth being wrung out, reality set back in. New year, same problems, even new problems.

Most of the world has more serious issues– I need to keep mine in perspective. But that doesn’t make them any less real, and one thing I don’t like about having problems is that it impedes my ability to help other people solve theirs.

This night is always a good night to forget about our challenges for a while and just feel alive. I needed that; I did that. As I went on to my next activity, though, I thought about how many of our efforts to feel alive please the body for a few hours but aren’t good for the soul.

We are masters at temporarily numbing our pain without digging down to the root cause of why we continually engage in self-destructive behaviors. Eventually these flimsy fixes we fashion to avoid processing the larger issues will fail. It might take decades, you might get away with avoiding your demons most of your life, but they will catch up to you.

Why? Why do we persist in doing things that devalue ourselves and seemingly ignore the fact that in the end we have to answer for our choices? This is not judgmental; I include myself in this analysis. And I was reminded as I pondered this that we don’t know who we are. Or we don’t care.

We are born. We learn pain. We try to find love. We find flawed human beings who are selfish and hurtful. Some even take pleasure in harming others. The enemy of our souls exploits our weaknesses and tries to convince us we have no need for God. Our bleeding hearts scar over, our walls go up, we keep a good face on but inside we withdraw farther and farther into the desolate labyrinth of prison cells that our life experiences have built for us.

This was never God’s plan for us. It’s still not His plan for us. I write this as someone who feels like I’ve had every reason in recent years to walk away from Him. The losses have been repeated and immense, the physical toll brutal and embarrassing. I understand as well as any why people feel betrayed by God and ask why He can allow such terrible things to happen, especially when you’re trying to be true to His ways.

In the beginning we walked with God in the garden. Then we met a deceiver who convinced us we could be our own gods. And our race has largely been stuck there ever since– doing our own thing, hurting and killing each other, destroying our souls. As C.S. Lewis astutely noted, all of human history, all the crazy things we’ve done, is an attempt to find something other than God to make us happy.

Do you know what gives me hope in those moments I feel like I’ve taken yet another shotgun blast to the chest and my internal organs are hanging out in shreds? I am His child. He has a solution for every sickness, a plan for every problem, a miracle for every mountain. Tonight might be the darkest night of your life but He’s awake and working. He has unlimited resources. And He’s going to make a way.

Some who believe in Him will tell you to be a good little doormat and to just be glad it’s not worse. Don’t listen to them. He has no intention of keeping us stuck in the same mud until we drown. He might allow us to make our own bad choices again and again until we hit rock bottom and wake up, but you are a child of light, not of mediocrity. You are a victor, not a victim. You are a purposeful creation of the force that not only made this universe but exists beyond it.

You might say, “you don’t know what I’ve done.” That goes both ways. You don’t know what I’ve done either. But I know He offers forgiveness and has had a plan for your life since before you were born. If you ask for His help and make an effort to live His way, He’ll start showing you the path you’re supposed to be on. Chances are He’s already given you some clues, but you feel too afraid, unworthy, or used up to go for it.

Our modern culture has no use for God except in times of tragedy. It’s become so very normal to believe that drinking, drugs, sex, sports, fashion, money will solve our problems. They mask our problems. They are Band-Aids. One more shallow relationship, one more beer, one more pair of designer shoes– no. Those just prolong the inevitable. You will still wake up one morning with the realization that your life could have had a deeper meaning. You might be 30, you might be 90, but it will come.

If you know who you are– His child– your life has that deeper meaning. You were not designed to function on your own and fuel your part-body, part-soul amphibious self with the things of this world. You were made to run on God, Love Himself. The more you realize this, the less you need the Band-Aids. It can be so hard to believe this when parts of your life have been like a horror story. I get it. Yet every time I choose Him instead of the Band-Aid, I am making it more possible to overcome my problems. This is because I’m surrendering my way to His, and He knows better than I do.

This is my challenge to all of us in 2017. Will we choose to believe that He has great plans for our lives and the best is yet to come as sons and daughters of the Most High? Or will we keep doing the same things over and over hoping that this time the outcome will be different (it won’t)?

New year, same problems as yesterday. Life didn’t magically start over during the fireworks. But you are most powerful when everything looks hopeless and lost and you choose to believe anyway. When life gets out its baseball bat again and beats you senseless, get upFight back. When temptation comes, remind yourself that you’re better than that. When people who don’t know your whole story judge you, remember that they don’t know but God does.

You are His child. He wants the very best for you. Remember who you are and what He has promised, and you will be happier, healthier, and more able to love and be loved.

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©2017 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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angel-1

We often feel that we get what we deserve. The basic law, “the wages of sin is death” is operating. We think that if we are not loved, it must be because we did not earn it. The truth is, we can’t earn love. It is just something that someone decides to feel toward us. We can earn approval, but not love. We don’t deserve it, we don’t not deserve it. Deserving and love are unrelated. –Henry Cloud

It starts when we’re children and we’re cut and bruised until we scar. We’re bullied at school. A parent takes their dissatisfaction with their own life out on us. Someone violates our trust. Some shallow person breaks our heart. So we grow up with a warped self-image, eventually, at least to some degree, succumbing to the abuse so that we believe no one could ever truly love us the way we want to be loved.

We feel unworthy. We’re vulnerable. We associate with people who injure us, but we’re so used to it we make excuses for the abuse and largely overlook it. When we inventory the internal hurts and wrongs along with our own bad or desperate choices, we decide to lower our expectations. We think that no one could ever love us if they truly knew us or if they knew what has been done to us. We settle.

Life goes on. We wash, rinse, repeat. We might be attracted to those who seem exciting and daring only to find that their lows are dangerously low and their highs are exhausting. We might try to turn off our emotions and just go have our fun only to realize that it rots our souls. Perhaps we finally escape. But in that solitude and freedom, those original feelings of rejection and unworthiness have a peculiar way of festering unless we truly begin to understand who our Creator made us to be.

When you’re alone, do the words that abusive people said to you come back? You’re not good enough. You’re too this. You’re too that. No wonder that happened to you. Who could ever love you? And you wonder… if someone ever really knew you, could they truly respect you? Could they understand? Could they overlook past transgressions or see beyond how you were wronged? What if they found out about that time? What if they disapproved of that decision?

Maybe you’re not willing to try again. Perhaps you just want to keep someone at arm’s length and stay at the fringes of a relationship. That’s up to you. You will know when you’re ready to try again and no one should deprive you of your free will. Good things can take time too. But the strong caution I want to issue tonight is this: do not let your past, even what happened yesterday, define your future. To do so could be to miss out on life and even your divine purpose.

As the author of the Boundaries books alludes to above, you should not reject love on the basis that you don’t “deserve” it. Love is a gift. You could try your entire earthly existence to rack up enough brownie points to “deserve” to be loved the way God intends you to be and not succeed. When the real deal comes knocking, open yourself to the possibility that the way you originally envisioned love is still possible. Don’t start counting all the reasons they shouldn’t love you; acknowledge that someone sees you as your Creator intended you.

You’ll know the real deal when it happens. It’s exactly that–real. Not phony, but raw, honest, and deeply desiring to get to know your whole person, strengths and weaknesses alike. There is a mutual give and take as the relationship develops, with truths and fears and hopes and dreams being woven into the developing tapestry. It’s work, yet it yields great rewards and deep intimacy. It can be terrifying to let another person into that part of yourself you’ve had locked off for so long. But once you crack the door, you’ll find that parts of yourself you thought were long dead start to come alive.

The real deal treats you with respect, doesn’t try to control your life, and builds you up instead of tearing you down. It acknowledges that there will be ups and downs, yet deals with them in an inside voice. It stands with you regardless of what life throws at you and stays with you through both tragedies and victories. The real deal wants to do life together as a team and together grow into the people God intends for you to be, realizing that you can accomplish more together than apart.

But, you say, but you don’t know my past. You don’t know what was done to me. You don’t know how I’ve suffered. You don’t know the choices I’ve made. You’re correct. I don’t. But I know that your Heavenly Father, Love Himself, paid for all of that one hellish day in 33 A.D. outside Jerusalem. Everything our race had ever done wrong, everything we would do, was carried on those bleeding shoulders. He gave us a blank slate.

Once we say, “yeah, I believe You are who you say You are, and I’m sorry for the wrongs I have committed” He gives us a fresh start. Why, then, do we keep crucifying ourselves for times gone by when it’s done, finished, over? That is a complex question and we each have our own reasons for playing the tapes of our past over and over in our hearts and heads, often unresolved trauma. We might need professional help working through that. There’s no shame in that and I recommend it.

In order to truly escape our abusers and demons though, we need to cut loose from the identities they assigned to us– the ones that say we’re ugly, stupid, unworthy, ridiculous, damaged, and all the other concepts they projected onto us when their real issues were with themselves. Think about it. Healthy people don’t take such delight in putting others down and trying to manipulate everything they do. Unhealthy people often torment others by blaming them for what’s wrong with themselves.

When you think of yourself as undeserving of love, you are choosing to live by those false identities, those forced masks that bullies made you wear. In a sense, you are even choosing to identify with your abusers. I’m not saying you don’t have issues to work on. Maybe you have some things to clean up before you can reciprocate and be an equal partner in the real deal. I am challenging anyone struggling with the idea of being loved to not allow voices from the past to dictate their future. You are a beloved, purposeful creation of God, unique and specially gifted to fulfill a purpose. You are a child of the King.

There will always be negative voices in life trying to tear you down. Shut them up. Shut them out. Look up. Keep your eyes on the One who made you, who knew every one of your days before you came into being. The enemy of our souls wants to keep us groveling in subservience to our former masters: fear, anger, loneliness, unkind words, hate, violence, jealousy, exploitation, betrayal, heartbreak. When we stay chained to those evils we fail to grow into true relationship with God and others. We feel unworthy. We stay vulnerable. We get hurt again. We lower our expectations. We settle…

Enough is enough. It’s time to say goodbye to the masks, chains, and voices. When they say hello, quote scripture to them because it is in the Manufacturer’s Handbook that we find our true identities: I am more than a conqueror. I am a light-bearer, not one who hides in the darkness. I was created to do good works. He said I will do even greater miracles than He did. I no longer have a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. I am a victor, not a victim. I am empowered by the One who spoke the universe into being and designed to love deeply, fully, selflessly, passionately, with reckless abandon. I am not going to allow my yesterdays to dictate the way I love.

It takes practice. But the more you realize that you are who God says you are, the more able you are to give and receive genuine love. You are free to flex the muscles of your true self, the one you used to have to hide to keep the peace or survive. No more hiding. No more kowtowing, placating, or dumbing yourself down to try to please someone. As author John Eldredge said, let people feel the weight of who you are and let them deal with it.

You get one try here on earth, one chance to determine your station in eternity. Don’t waste it being who other people say you are; be the you that you’ve always known you are. The you that wanted to be an astronaut when you were four years old. The you that felt weak in the knees when she walked by your locker in middle school. The you that could see him kneeling in the drizzle under a golf umbrella as realize what he’s about to do. The you who heads up a team of relentless do-gooders making a difference in the world. Don’t you think these sensations and dreams were put there for a reason?

Deep down, you know that you are called to greatness. Even deeper, somewhere in the infinite depths of your heart, you know that you still desire that forever love, that fusion with an equally flawed human being who just has that undefinable, intangible something… Yes… it’s still there. Despite all your efforts to board up the windows and barricade the doors, there is still a spark, a kernel of hope, a seed waiting for the flood.

It’s your choice. It’s always your choice. No one can take that from you. There are benefits to being single and there are benefits to being part of a team. But that spark, that kernel, that seed was planted for a reason. And when the rains come, will you push it even farther down or will you slowly open up your arms and give it a chance to flourish? Will you acknowledge that this is not about what’s been done to you or what you deserve but that someone loves you for who you are? That it is a gift, not a contest?

My friends, do not let dark forces and selfish, insecure humans rob you of love the way God meant for it to be experienced. Do not live your life in slavery to the past. The debt has been paid.

Tonight, as you sit in your chair and for the millionth time run through all the reasons that you keep your heart in a box on the shelf, consider the possibility that all of those reasons are now irrelevant. You are free. Real love will enhance that freedom and respect and protect you. It will help you become the you God has intended for you to be all along.

Then it hits you. You breathe in sharply. Could it be…? 

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Other than heaven, the only place where one’s heart is completely safe from the dangers of love is hell. –C.S. Lewis

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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We Are Safe

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What do you plan to do about it?

Here’s one option. Ask your church or faith-based community organization to take the pledge to become a Safe Faith Community. The team behind Document the Abuse has unveiled this new initiative at the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month to encourage faith-based organizations to be a safe place for domestic violence victims.

For years I’ve said that the church should be the first place domestic violence victims should go for help, yet it is often the last place they’ll go because of the legalism, judgment, and condemnation they might face. Many churches don’t know how to connect victims with resources in their communities either. In addition, those in the ministry who don’t understand the dynamics of domestic violence can provide misinformed and even dangerous counsel.

Too often victims are told that if they would just improve their own behavior or be more attractive their abuser wouldn’t be so inclined to hurt them, be that physically, financially, sexually, or psychologically. Abuse takes many forms. I call this the “just put a bow in your hair, act like nothing’s wrong, and make a nice casserole” syndrome. Victims are frequently guilted into staying in unhealthy and unsafe situations with the Bible erroneously used as justification for why they should endure. Power and control is at the root of this evil. The victim is not causing it and they cannot make their abuser change.

The church’s first concern should be whether the victims are safe, not how to reconcile the relationship, not to treat the victim as an equally guilty party who needs marriage counseling, not telling them God will punish them if they get a divorce in order to keep themselves or their children safe. Churches can become havens for abusers and predators when more concern is given to the possibility that they might make things right with God than to the immediate and even life-threatening matters their victims are facing. Churches too have pathological personalities like narcissists and sociopaths who might have no interest in improving their behavior but have obsessive interests in controlling or stalking their victims.

Statistically, domestic violence is just as prevalent in the church as it is in the rest of the world. It’s probably the single biggest issue facing church families, but the least talked about. It’s high time for churches to start showing domestic violence victims the grace of God more generously and to speak out with one voice against this atrocity. It’s all around us. If we believe in a higher moral authority, why then are we not more interested in living according to that law rather than our own selfish and immature desires that cause others pain? What point is there in believing in Him if our behavior is no different than those without that hope?

Purple Ribbon DV

The Safe Faith Community Project is asking faith leaders to make these promises:

1. Learn to recognize the signs of domestic violence.

2. Stand with victims of domestic violence as they desire and seek healing and wholeness.

3. Never coerce or require a victim of domestic violence to reconcile with their abuser.

4. Share at least one sermon each October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) about the epidemic of domestic violence and how the church can respond.

5. Connect with a domestic violence shelter in our city/town.

6. Show that our faith community is a designated safe place by prominently placing Safe Faith Community decal on your site or social media.

7. Offer the Evidentiary Affidavit of Abuse (training optional for staff or selected individuals), found at documenttheabuse.com or at the Apple Store, and a copy of the book, “Time’s Up,” to each victim of domestic violence we encounter.

This is going to challenge churches to get out of their comfort zone and walk the walk! I already sense that some will have a problem with #3. I’ve known people and churches who treat divorce as if it’s the unforgivable sin, so counsel victims to remain with dangerous and unstable people. I was so weighed down by such legalism (man-made rules on top of God’s) that I nearly waited too long to get out of a marriage rife with death threats. Some believers try to convince victims that they’ll go to hell if they marry again.

Really? God’s grace does not extend to victims of abuse? It is His will that they spend the rest of their lives in submission to godless individuals who do the enemy’s work instead of His? That’s like having a curse put on you that supposedly not even God Himself can lift. It’s like being in a macabre fairy tale where someone is changed into a beast or put into a deep sleep, but the prince or rescuer never comes.

Note a tool mentioned in this pledge called the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit, or EAA. It is a way of documenting abuse so that the victim can speak for themselves in court if they are missing, incapacitated, or dead. By gathering certain documents and photos and using templates in the Time’s Up book, the victim can videotape their testimony and have it notarized and stored in the cloud where their abuser can’t get to it. This is intended to get around the hearsay rule in court—this is unaltered testimony coming straight from the victim. See Document the Abuse for more information.

Join the movement. Share this website with your church leadership and dare them to step out in faith on behalf of those affected by domestic violence. This is not a partisan or a denominational issue; domestic violence affects people of all faiths and creeds.

This will become a nationwide, if not worldwide, movement. Faith communities need to focus on eliminating domestic violence rather than enabling it. This is a great first step. Will you pass it on?

Safefaithcommunity.com. See also the Document the Abuse Facebook page.

From http://beckerimpact.blogspot.com/2012/10/joining-million-voices.html*************************************************************************************

Change starts when someone sees the next step. –William Drayton

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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This week I was struck by the power of Death Cab for Cutie’s video for Black Sun. 

We Northwesterners have been enveloped by the sounds of Death Cab for nearly two decades now, and while I don’t agree with some of their politics or lyrics, certain songs reach down deep. They also have a way of translating our local precipitation into wispy, whispering ruminations.

Black Sun has been said to be a commentary on the pain and ugliness of divorce. To me the video reads as one person knocking themselves out to try and please another who hardly notices. And it reminded me of a friend’s recent commentary on the challenges of trying to find the right person. After a few wash, rinse, repeat cycles, to borrow words from another friend, the act of trying again can become more trial and task than a voyage of discovery.

While going about the usual mundane tasks this week a light bulb went on somewhere in the front left compartment of my mind, just beyond the grocery list and reminder to fix some squeaky hinges. I already know this, but this time it stood out like neon lights on stilts against an inky central Washington sky: with the right person, you will be more of yourself, not less. You will not have to compromise who you are.

How many of us have been in relationships in which we had to tone down who we are, what we love, and what we stand for in order to please another? That’s not what a relationship, particularly a marriage, is supposed to be. Marriage should be the one place in which you can be completely naked with another human being without shame, utterly yourself with your whole soul on display. On this sacred ground darkness and light can both be exposed in the safety of the shelter formed by the continual intertwining of two imperfect human beings.

That’s not what the world tells us. It’s not what most relationships in our spheres of influence teach us. Our race, the human race, has come to accept far less than what we were originally designed for. Go back to the garden. Did the first man look at the first woman and say, “you’ll do?” No. He would have been captivated by how different from himself she was and yet how wonderfully she complemented his own character and interests. He would have seen her as a marvelous gift, an enigma begging to be explored, an alien entity whose personality invited him into all its tantalizing twists and turns. I’m sure she was at least as entranced by him.“Who is he?” she thought as her heart stood still in a timeless and ethereal moment.

But here, in this time, the human race has become largely self-absorbed. We go out into the world asking what other people can do for us rather than what we can do for them. Many suffer from the delusion that an initial sexual attraction is spark enough to sustain a potentially lifetime-long relationship. There has to be a multidimensional framework to hold that up. We’ve lost track of what constitutes successful relationships– common values, common goals, mutual interests, a commitment to becoming more like our Creator, Love Himself.

So we go on the prowl and find that it’s so easy to join the other contenders are splashing around in the shallow end of the dating pool. “No expectations!” they say. “Let’s just have fun and see what happens!” But there’s a tug at your heart as you wade around in the moral morass. You find yourself longer for something more. Something richer. Something deeper. It’s passionate. It’s primal. It’s like an unseen, magnetic force is drawing you to the deep end to experience something better than you’ve ever had planned. The garden is calling.

Unfortunately, there are those who will follow you to the deep end without having the actual fortitude to sustain a relationship at that level. Eventually they will panic and scramble back to the shallow end or drown. This can also happen when you’re a deep person hanging out in the shallow end. If both of you aren’t made of the same stuff, one or both ends of your union will start to sink. And sometimes it takes both people down. You find yourself alone, disillusioned, screaming at the universe, asking why you’ve been abandoned when you tried so hard and gave so much. Often the other person walks on like you weren’t even there in the first place.

So you try. And try again. And it seems like you keep finding the same people, or the same problems, or the same conditions. The quest for that one person can become an exercise in pain, an unnecessary drudgery, even torture. Like the man in this video, you might be practically killing yourself just to get one glance from the object of your affections. So you pull back. You start stuffing your hopes and dreams down into some forlorn hole in your metaphorical right pant leg. You start trying to be someone you’re not to get attention and please others. You begin to lose yourself. Internally it’s like you see yourself standing at 50,000 feet and are watching your soul tear lose from your body only to plunge down below the clouds.

The right person won’t make you feel this way. The right person isn’t going to walk past like you’re a ghost despite your best efforts. You shouldn’t have to tone down your personality, shave off parts of your intellect, and pretend to like things you detest to get the kind of relationship you want. The right man or woman will look upon you, warts and all, and love who you are and what you stand for. Being with them will encourage your strengths and build your uniqueness rather than tear that down. Your differences will complement one another and you will not lose the freedom to pursue your hopes and dreams. This is someone who will help you get there. This is someone with whom you will accomplish far more than you ever could have on your own. You will be more of who God intended you to be, not less. 

Do you hear what I’m saying? If you’re an intelligent person, and your potential mate is threatened by that, should they be your potential mate? If you’re a fun-loving person who could care less what other people think of your flamboyant interests and adventures, why join forces with someone who belittles some of your friends or activities? If you feel that you should raise children a certain way and want them to have particular ethics, why risk their futures by connecting with someone who’s not standing on the same moral ground? Yes, you’re going to have some hobbies she doesn’t, and relationships are work. You’re never going to agree on everything. There will be times you have to agree to disagree. But don’t compromise on the foundation.

As the singles among us go out there and try and try again, my advice to them is to know who you are and what you want, and walk away if you have to compromise your core characteristics or values. But be open to surprises. Sometimes the right person defies the picture you had in your head and turns out to be something even better. Sometimes a friend becomes something more. Sometimes the best answers are hiding in plain sight. Most of all, remember who your Creator made you to be and know that those passions and missions buried in the deepest part of your soul are from Him. That’s no accident, and He’s likely put someone else on the same trajectory who burns with a similar fire.

Whatever your approach to the dating game, you probably already know that there are hordes of self-absorbed people out there who will gladly treat you as a commodity no matter how good you are to them. To much of this world, you’re disposable. They’ll use you, beat you up, put your heart through a blender, and drive off in a cloud of dust without a second thought. But the more you come to realize that you were created as a unique individual with a specific purpose, the more you will gravitate towards like souls. The truer you are to yourself, the more courageously you’ll move out into the deep end of the human pool. You will learn to swim and not sink.

When you go out into the masses armed with the truth about who you are, the more likely it is that someday soon you’ll feel an electrifying glimmer of recognition– is it him? Could that be her? And if, in the course of the exploratory exercise of friendship, you discover that the real you is growing and thriving, and being continually invited out into the open, perhaps you have finally found that rare treasure the Creator has been preparing for you for years. During all that time you felt dejected and alone, He was at work causing your paths to meet and preparing that ancient memory to stir.

And the man or woman who drives away in the black car after smashing your heart to pieces will become little more than an afterthought fading into a distant past life.

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And I say also this. I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor the water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes. –C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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