February 8, 2015

Generosity of Spirit

Filed under: Random Thoughts — Ann @ 11:23 am
You gotta have heart

You gotta have heart

This morning I read a New York Times story about a sister who, with the best of intentions, sent anonymous Valentine’s Day flowers to her two sisters. The gesture backfired hideously, resulting in the sender being called “cruel,” and causing a rift in the relationship that lasted far too long.

I thought to myself, “Another case where a bit of applied Generosity of Spirit could have prevented a great deal of heartache.”

Cultivating and demonstrating generosity of spirit is to remember to “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” (attributed variously to Plato, Philo of Alexandria, John Watson, and Ian McClaren).

It’s bestowing the gift of the benefit of the doubt.

It’s never assuming we know someone’s motivations, and especially never assuming that those motivations are ill-intended.

Generosity of spirit is remembering that others don’t think like we think and have different ways of expressing themselves, and that different doesn’t mean wrong.

It’s understanding that sometimes people’s attempts at humor misfire. It’s understanding that what we hear as a cutting remark may just be an accidentally thoughtless statement.

When we get really good at it, exhibiting a generosity of spirit becomes a kneejerk reaction: we assume that the guy who cuts us off in traffic is in a hurry because he just found out that his kid is sick and he’s rushing to pick her up. A store clerk is unsmiling and unfriendly, and we assume that she has something important on her mind, perhaps a worry about a loved one, or maybe she doesn’t feel well. Sound crazy? Is creating gracious defenses for the behaviors of strangers any crazier than automatically attributing negative motivations to them?

Of course, a small percentage of people do have ill intentions, or are too often careless with their words and behaviors. To encourage loving-kindness in our attribution style isn’t to suggest that we become a doormat for the muddy feet of those who don’t even try to consider our feelings.

But most of the time, people aren’t out to cause us intentional infliction of emotional distress. They’re just being people, and sometimes we humans are clumsy in our attempts to navigate life with others. We end up stepping on toes. But those with sore digits too often jump at the chance to be offended. Instead, try jumping at the chance to be gracious and forgiving.

Try, “I know you meant well, and it’s really fine.” Bonus points if you add, “I’ve done the same thing myself — accidentally hurt people’s feelings when I didn’t mean to.” Because you know you have. We all have. And we all need a little more understanding, compassion, and forgiveness.

February 3, 2015

“I’m using e-cigs to quit smoking” – true that?

Filed under: Rants! — Tags: , , , , — Ann @ 6:59 am
Temporary fix?

Temporary fix?

This morning I read three articles in local newspapers about e-cigarettes. Smokers quoted in all three articles stated that they were using the “candy-flavored lung polluters” — as the Sacramento Bee recently characterized them — to quit smoking.

As a person who smoked tobacco cigarettes for over 20 years before quitting cold turkey, I know a few things about stopping smoking. So, to those of you who claim to be using e-cigs to give up smoking forever, I encourage you to take an honest look at yourselves and answer these two questions:

1) Are you tracking your consumption and gradually smoking fewer and fewer e-cigs? If the answer is “no,” then you’re not in the process of quitting.

2) Do you have a quit date established that falls within a reasonable period of time? If you are truly using e-cigs to quit smoking, then not only are you smoking fewer on a weekly basis, but you should have a goal of being completely smoke-free that is no more than six months down the road.

The fact is, many addicts are merely substituting one nasty, expensive habit for another, with no intention of kicking it for good. (They’re fooling themselves. Addicts are very good at this.)

The fact is, as I wrote in my previous rant against electronic delivery systems (“E-cigs, smoking, addiction, and nicotine. The facts,” June 22, 2014), only one-fifth of people who use e-cigarettes as a stop-smoking aid succeed in quitting long-term (according to the journal Addiction).

The fact is, vaping has surpassed cigarette smoking for teens as their oral fixation of choice. (I threw that in because, frankly, it scares me how popular it is with the kids.)

The fact is, according to state Director of Public Health Ron Chapman, e-cigarette aerosol contains 10 chemicals that are found on California’s Proposition 65 list of those known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, including benzene and formaldehyde. (Yummy!)

But you’re a smoker — you close your ears to statistics and you close your eyes to the sight of a lung-damaged ex-smoker wearing an oxygen tank 24/7. And you’re an addict — you don’t want to give up your friend, your rituals, your comfort, your little zingy high.

Believe me, no one gets that better than I do. But be honest with yourself. Are you using e-cigarettes to quit smoking, or are you just using them?

Because if you’re quitting, I trust that your quit date is written in red on your pretty new 2015 calendar. And that it’s sometime before Labor Day weekend.

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