Feeding Your FOOL versus Feeding Your CONSCIENCE


This post is in response to a post on another blog I read and follow–http://momastery.com/blog/2012/12/12/to-all-the-confounders/


I must learn to love the fool in me–the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of my human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my Fool.” – Theodore Isaac Rubin (born 1923); psychiatrist, author


The more I’ve thought about this quote, the more I’ve come to *loathe* it.  I mean, I really really dislike this quote.

First off, “love” is a very nebulous and seductive-sounding word.  Here, it appears to mean feed or indulge, not educate, better, guide, improve, help. Indulging foolishness seems fairly foolish.

Then there’s the part in there that reads “It alone.”  Think about it—it alone—as in ALONE, as in *only*, as in there’s no two ways about it, there’s no other explanation, there’s no other possible way or route; this is it; it’s this way or the highway.


People really ought to be careful with their words.  With their choice of words.  Especially a psychiatrist.

Think about it—is this really true?  Is it my inner fool who lacks self-control—the promise-making and then breaking, tantrum throwing, I want what I want and I want it now and I don’t care how much it costs and who I have to hurt in order to get it, part of me—the childishly irresponsible part of me—my “id” (in Freudian parlance)—is that the *only* thing (“it alone”) that will protect me from becoming a total killjoy and inwardly lifeless s.o.b. and control freak?

No. Not a chance.

Jesus said: “Do unto others as you would want done unto you”  (Matthew 7:12).  In other words, act in a way towards others that is consistent with how you would want and expect another or others to act towards you.

And actually, that addendum solves it.  Case closed.  If I add that to the mix of what Rubin said, then that will save me (“protect me”) against “that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of my human aliveness, humility, and dignity” *and* it will also save others—and myself—from much of my Fool, as well.

Because another variation of “doing unto others as I would want done unto myself” is reversing  it: “doing unto myself what I would want others to do unto me.”

I wouldn’t want others to treat me in an utterly controlling and tyrannical way, so why would I let myself (or part of myself) treat myself (or another part of myself) (and, yep, getting a bit confusing) that way?

If I truly love myself, then I don’t rip myself a new one and wag my finger at myself every time I do something foolish.  I don’t unleash a barrage of hateful self-talk . . .  “John, you no good, stupid idiot complete failure of a human being, you did it again. You did something foolish and it bit you in the butt, you complete loser.  You deserve to be unhappy and unloved and die alone and in the worst way imaginable.  You’re an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable—and all mangled up and tangled up in knots.



No, what I do is I correct myself in a kinder and more compassionate and supportive way. . . . “Uh oh, John, you messed up this time.  So let’s see what we can do to clean up this mess and make amends and repair the hurt we caused and learn from the experience.” Et cetera, et cetera.

That’s not my “Fool” saving myself from my inner and “utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant.”

It’s something else saving me from both of these extremes—and from thinking in terms of either-or and falling preying to (letting my mental life be overrun and invaded by) “legions of half-truths, prejudices, propaganda” (to echo Martin Luther King Jr).

And that something is called being truly educated, meaning learning *how* to think, and at that, how to think critically.  As King put it, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.  Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.” (It’s a short but very wise essay.  Well worth the minute or two it would take to read it, and the many more minutes to really think on it. http://www.drmartinlutherkingjr.com/thepurposeofeducation.htm)

Think about it: have you (anyone reading this) liked the effects of the behaviors of someone else’s “Fool”?  Wouldn’t you secretly prefer that they had at times a bit more self-control and had kept their inner-Fool in check so it didn’t walk into your life and soil it all up?

And how do you (anyone reading this) really feel when your Fool does something hurtful to others?  How do you really feel?  Good?  Proud?  Justified?  Making the world a better place?  (I’m just loving and honoring my inner-Fool y’all, sorry you got in her way and got hurt.  Sucks to be you.)

And looking at the state of the world today, does anyone really think that part of the solution to the world’s and society’s problems is that people in general act more foolish, make more promises without really thinking about them and then break those promises, act selfishly, thoughtlessly, self-indulgently?

How does “universalizing” Rubin’s words and advice make the world a truly better place? (“Universalizing” means seeing how things—i.e., in this case, a piece of advice, because that is in fact what Glennon is offering up—would play out on a larger scale, meaning if *everybody* employed it or acted in alignment with it.  This is a basic test of the moral-ness of an action or a piece of advice—what would the world be like—better or worse—if everyone did x or y, or if everyone lived a certain way.)

So is this really the key to making the world a better place?—telling people to lighten up, feed their fool, conning them into thinking that this is what changes the world for the better.  —It’s not.  Growing and developing our consciences is what really changes the world—think Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, the Dalai Lama, Thoreau, Gandhi, even Jesus.  These people were human beings of profound and revolutionary conscience.  And they educated those around them and even us to this day (those of us who still read them and reflect on their words, instead of stuffing our minds with most of what is being published today) on what Love and moral goodness really looked and acted like.

That’s what truly changes the world for the better—a profound and very humane and wise conscience.

That’s what’s truly precious.  That’s what we ought to focus on and grow and nourish and feed with good music and art and friends and conversation and whatever it takes—our consciences, our über-ich, that still small voice within us, the voice of God within us, the Advocate, the Paraclete, our wise Inner Teacher and discerner of what is good for us and what is nonsense for us and the world.

It is not the tempest, nor the earthquake, nor the fire, but the still small voice of the Spirit that carries on the glorious work of saving souls.” – Robert Murray Mccheyne

Conscience is that still, small voice that is sometimes too loud for comfort.” – Bert Murray

The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small voice’ within.” – Gandhi

The human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the still small voice of conscience.” – Gandhi

Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves.  But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune.” – Carl Jung

And lastly—

What are conscience! I’ll tell ya! A conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to. That’s just the trouble with the world today.” – Jiminy Cricket, in “Pinocchio”

I agree much more with Jiminy Cricket and Gandhi and King than I do with Theodore Rubin (as well-meaning as he might have been with his advice, it still seems to me to be very misguided).

What about YOU?  Where do you stand?  —Or better put—when push comes to shove, who do you stand with, who do you aspire to stand with and become? —Your inner-Fool?  Your inner-“utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant”?  Or your still small voice?

Who and what are you feeding—and feeding what—today?


About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in Conscience, Gandhi, Glennon Melton, Martin Luther King Jr., Matthew 7:12, Momastery, Real Love, Self-Love, Spiritual Growth, Truth, Waking Up and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Feeding Your FOOL versus Feeding Your CONSCIENCE

  1. patricemj says:

    Reblogged this on The Heartbreak of Invention and commented:

    In many settings, I’ve found considering the importance of a conscience makes me appear a little foolish. Lately it seems each time I mention how I want to empower my clients (I’m a therapist) to take more responsibility for their lives, their actions, our cocky old-school consulting psychiatrist accuses me of secretly being a member of the Tea Party. He can’t seem to understand that helping people see their strengths is not the same thing as taking away their rights and/or entitlements. It’s so backwards to me; that he associates the cultivation of self-determination with a political party is odd, I think. How he expects people to feel good about themselves (have self-esteem) while they are systematically being taught to ignore the larger good is beyond me. Somehow we’ve turned compassion into a kind of pathology. It’s really very sad.

    I try not to get hung up on words, but it seems some do possess a more context-dependent, subjective meaning. What is foolish to one man might be a kind of wisdom to another. Often people who speak out against any sort of tyranny are labeled as fools. In this sense, the word “fool” is used by those in power to discredit the voice of dissent. This branding obstructs justice from being carried out. I’m sure all the great men you listed in your post were called fools…only now with their missions accomplished we overlook this fact.

    Changing one’s way of being in the world can also be seen as foolish. If you’ve been raised to put your own needs first, deciding to be guided by more than self-interest can initially feel foolish. Living in a culture that would rather lure its citizens into any number of addictions than to encourage them to think independently, I find many need to burrow through a mountain of foolish notions to arrive anywhere in the vicinity of that still small voice. –patrice

    • John says:

      Well-said, Patrice. I appreciate the very thoughtful commentary you wrote above (and thank you, as well, for the reblog). As I read your words, I found myself nodding in agreement, line after line. Developing a healthy and humane conscience (sense of right and wrong, good and bad) is something that tends to be overlooked or looked on as outdated, passé. It’s not. Having a sense of right and wrong that is well thought-out, subject to self-examination and self-scrutiny (as well as open to the challenge of others’ thinking and examination), and that has been internalized, is the way we become less dependent and more autonomous, better able to self-govern and direct ourselves, as well as manage our own emotions.

      Living more conscientiously is something that so many people would benefit from. It’s as important, if not even more so, than living more kindly and compassionately. In fact, when all of these things are done correctly–living more kindly, compassionately, conscientiously–they tend to feed and enhance and grow one another.

      Thanks for the reblog, Patrice. And warmest regards,


  2. Rachael says:


    Isn’t it enough to have your platform here? Do you really need to repost your entire speech as a comment as well as a trackback? The people who agree with you and the people who are open to hearing what you have to say will see it here. The trackbacks I think are fine; they allow like-minded individuals to find your piece of the web. But I personally feel like it’s becoming overkill the way you post your entire speech here and then again over there. Especially when it’s harsh. We don’t all see the world the same way. We don’t all experience life the same way. We don’t all feel the same way about ourselves or others. And we certainly don’t have the same philosophies about life, love, and higher power. But that’s part of what makes this world so beautiful. We don’t have to be the same. This isn’t 1984. She’s created a place where we can honor each other in our differences AND our similarities. Without condemnation. Without judgment. You’re hurting people, John. And you may claim to do it in the name of “Real True Love” but it doesn’t feel loving. It feels condescending. And judgmental. For as eloquent as you may be, it doesn’t hide the fact that you’re tearing someone else down in the process. “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am but a clanging cymbal.” Even those most well-written words ABOUT love still clang.

    • John says:

      Hello Rachel,

      Thank you for the comment. I usually start out my responses by thanking the person for reading *and* for commenting.

      But I don’t know if you actually read this post or not. So thanking you for reading it seems premature.

      But I do thank you for commenting.

      However, if you’ve commented, and if you think what I’ve written is clangy and judgmental and condescending, then you must have read something I wrote, or at least part of it, or at least tried to read part of it. Or maybe you read everyone else’s comments over at Momastery and decided to join / jump in / pile on with your $0.02.

      First off, just using those words — condemnation, judgmental, clangy, harsh — doesn’t actual make your point or prove that those words are accurate and or warranted. In what ways in particular is what I have written harsh, condescending, judgmental, clangy. Show me more clearly the error of my ways. Show me how I could have written it in a less clangy and condescending tone.

      And I’m being completely serious. Because it will show me that you’ve actually read and understood what I was saying / writing (reflective listening), and it will also help me better to see and understand your point.

      And if you don’t agree with what I’ve written, Rachel, then show or explain to me why. And show me how and where I’m “hurting people.” Or are you just trying to tear me down and hurt me by saying / writing that?

      And if part of what makes the world so beautiful is its diversity, then why do you seem so eager to try and run me out of Dodge? Am I not part of the world? Am I not human? If you cut me do I not also bleed? Do I have to be other than I am in order to fit into your little corner of the world where apparently you honor people’s differences and similarities? Or is it that you honor the similarities and differences of everyone else in the world aside from me or aside from someone like me who dares think critically. Because fortunately or unfortunately, that is actually what I am doing — thinking critically. And that seems to be what is not permissible to you over there at momastery.

      But maybe you can be the one to reach me, Rachel. Maybe you can be the one to teach me how to think critically and say what I actually think and feel and see, and to do so in a kinder and less clangy way. And I am being completely serious about this (I have the sense that I need to reassure you that I am indeed actually very open to learning and seeing other points of view than my own).

      Kindest regards and carpe diem and namaste, Rachel; and Namaste most of all,


      Ps. And, Rachel, you wrote, “you may claim to do it in the name of “Real True Love” but it doesn’t feel loving.” This is perhaps the biggest fallacy about love–that it’s a feeling. And it’s also a very common source of confusion, this idea that if something feels like this or that, then it must be this or that. feelings are not always accurate. They mislead us sometimes, give us very quick partial glimpses of reality. They do not capture all of reality. Our feelings — the accuracy of our feelings — is / are limited by the lens we use, the broadness or maturity of our perception and our thinking. There’s more to life and more to accurately assessing a situation than just how it feels. At least in my opinion and my experience. And apparently at least a few other people’s opinion and experience as well.

      Nevertheless, I will ask you again, how in your estimation should a person like me honor the world’s similarities and diversity and yet still speak his mind? How should I do so in a non-clangy way that actually “feels” loving to another? Show me a still more excellent way, Rachel. The platform is all yours. . . .

      Ps # 2. I gave your comment a thumbs up. Good on you for commenting, Rachel 🙂

      Ps. #3. Rachel, what do you make of what Patrice is saying in the comment above yours. Do you think she has a valid point?

      • Rachael says:

        My comment is not solely directed at this particular post, in fact it was more toward the second (and more recent) entry. Nonetheless, to answer some of your questions:

        1. I don’t want to show you the “error of your ways” because I don’t necessarily think you’re wrong. Honestly, the only thing that really bothers me is the need to duplicate your message on your own website as well as in the comments. I am all in favor of free speech, and I love that the internet gives each of us a place to voice our thoughts and philosophies and wisdom. I think it’s great that you offer a different perspective, for those that are looking for it. But duplicating the entire post in the comments, knowing, anticipating, that the majority of the readers don’t see the world, or Glennon’s message, in the same way you do, and knowing that your opinion so often feels like an attack on them – I just don’t get it. I’ve read a lot of what you’ve written. You’re very well-spoken, and I agree with a lot of your foundational principles. But this – the double posting, it seems desperate, or selfish, or obsessive, or all of the above.

        2. The parts of your writing that struck me as judgmental and condescending were the personal attacks on Glennon. Isn’t it possible to make your point, even in response to her posts, without tearing her down? Calling her and her work “foolish,” accusing her of using her gift for “ill” when she has made it abundantly clear her intentions with that space and what she believes is her calling; even the backhanded compliment about her writing while going on to describe all the bad things she’s done with it. And then, telling her (and every one of the thousands of parents who resonated with her message) “you’re doing it wrong,” that hurts people. Good people who do the best they can every day, while acknowledging that they’re still infallible human beings.

        Your most recent post had an air of haughtiness to it – the impression I came away with was, “Glennon, you’re a hypocrite… see what you wrote before, and see what you wrote now? I bet you’re eating your words.” That was the undertone I heard. Particularly the line “sounds like carpe diem to me.” The sarcasm lining that sentence was palpable. But you know what. It doesn’t sound like carpe diem to me. Not the carpe diem she was eschewing in her original post. It sounds like creating kairos moments.

        3. I’m not trying to hurt you or “run you out of Dodge.” You have as much a right as anyone to speak your mind and share your beliefs. But the thing is, it feels like you don’t respect the community that Glennon started with her website. She heard a calling, a calling to transparency and honesty and laying herself bare for the world to see, in hopes that her brokenness and her struggles would be tools that God uses to reach and heal other people and bring peace and community. I don’t believe she, or anyone who loves that community, is against critical thinking. But that is not the purpose. Momastery isn’t an academic institution. It’s a place where people come, not to be told what to do, but to be invited in and welcomed as they are and loved in spite of what they are so that they can being to know themselves and learn to love themselves enough to heal and grow. People in this community are not apathetic, John. Most of us are damaged, addicted, lost, trapped, and all manner of other brokenness. Some people aren’t in a place where they can think critically about anything except how to make it through the next hour. And that’s okay. One hour at a time is okay if that’s all you can do.

        You have a platform here where people, like Patrice (whose well-spoken comment was insightful and spot-on), appreciate what you say and are able to dialogue with you in the “critical thinking” manner that you desire. I just don’t understand your desire to turn the comments section of Glennon’s blog into a mirror of this site. Particularly when you know, from experience, that it doesn’t work. It’s kind of like going to a library and using the entire section of couches and chairs to set up booths for blood pressure screenings. Yes, blood pressure screenings are important, but they’re not what people go to the library for. And your big display is interrupting the quiet reading environment that they were looking for when they came to the library. I understand that you care about people’s blood pressure. And yes, their lives would be improved by having lower blood pressure. But wouldn’t it be more respectful to simply put fliers next to the exit for them to take (i.e. trackbacks) if they’re interested, rather than intruding on the environment with something, albeit well-intentioned, that doesn’t fit with the purpose of the space?

        4. I’m not going to be the one to “teach [you] to think critically” because that’s something you’re already successful at. The “less clangy” way would simply be to avoid the personal attacks on Glennon. There has to be a more respectful, less antagonist way of making your arguments. And I understand that love isn’t a feeling. In fact, a lot of my philosophies about life are remarkably similar to yours. But one thing that I hold on to, that perhaps is less in alignment, is my conviction that feelings, though they may be false, are nonetheless valid. Which is why I mentioned that your words don’t “feel loving.” Because the reaction they cause is valid. And I don’t think it’s your intended reaction, or even a beneficial reaction, because I don’t think it furthers your purpose. It’s just people in the library upset that that there’s not a comfy chair for them to curl up and read a book.

        5. I would hardly be qualified to “show you a more excellent way.” And if you felt that was my intention, I apologize. Likewise if you were hurt by my statements. You are a deep, articulate, profound thinker and writer. And I would encourage you to continue publishing your work on your website, because there are clearly people who hear you and heed you and respond to the messages you put forth. But in my humble opinion, reposting your entire essay in the comments section, particularly when it contains belittling statements about the people who are going to read it, doesn’t accomplish anything beneficial.

        I hope this satisfies your inquiry into my motivation behind posting here.

        • John says:

          Hello Rachel,

          Thank you for writing back, and thank you for the time and thought you put into your comments.

          First of all, before I go into your comments, I would ask / even challenge you to go back and read my “*Do* Carpe Diem” post and to try and do so from a more neutral or objective position. That may or may not be possible for you. And that’s not a character attack. Looking at things from a more neutral / less -egocentric / more objective point of view is not something that everyone can do or wants to do. When it’s a question of not wanting to, then it’s a question of character. When it’s a question of not being able to because one hasn’t yet learned how to or tried often enough to, then it’s not a question of character. So as I said, this is not a character attack, Rachel; it’s just a question and a request: Are you willing and able to go back and read my “*Do* Carpe Diem post” and see if you can read it in a way where I’m not attacking a person but attacking her ideas and maybe even her ideals and life philosophy. And do you even think this is possible — to disagree with a person and attack or critique or critically analyze and refute their ideas and ideals, and not actually be attacking the person. Or are we isomorphic with our ideas and ideals — we are what we think, and so if you attack my thinking, you are attacking me? Fair question, I think.

          So are you able and willing to go back and read my “*Do* Carpe Diem” post and see if the questions I ask are fair ones. Maybe that way I’m asking the questions is a bit provocative, tough-minded, blunt, direct, no-nonsense, to the point — or even harsh, mean-spirited, judgmental, asshole-ish, et cetera (the terms a person chooses may say more about them than me or my tone) — but do I have a point.

          For example, when I wrote:

          [H]er gift, her voice, her platform (because that’s what she has now), can also be used self-indulgently—in the sense of indulging and reinforcing what’s (arguably) worst in herself and her readers.

          And I would argue that she has unwittingly done the latter more often than she thinks she has, or more often that she has ever been willing to pause to consider that she possibly has.

          And the most obvious instance of this isn’t her recent “Celebrate Your Inner Fool” post (“To All the Fools I’ve Loved Before”).

          Rather, it’s the post that got her the audience (and the platform) that she now has—the post that got her her book deal, the post that went viral, the post that led to 50,000 new “Monkees.”

          And the post is “Don’t Carpe Diem.”

          Remember that post?

          “My favorite part of each day is when the kids are put to sleep (to bed) and Craig and I sink into the couch to watch some quality TV, like Celebrity Wife Swap, and congratulate each other on a job well done. Or a job done, at least.”

          I wonder what the favorite part of Glennon’s day is now, or was last Friday, or yesterday, or will be today?

          Was I just being an asshole rubbing her (Glennon’s) nose in her own “shit,” like when you potty train a dog and you’re supposed to take the poochy back to where it made a mistake and put its nose in its fecal matter and correct it by saying “bad doggie.” Is that akin to how you are reading what I wrote there?

          Or was I asking, perhaps in a very pointed way, a very fair question?

          I know what I was doing — or at least trying to do. But our intentions and how we are perceived by others can often be worlds apart. Such is life. We all bring our own particular life experiences and projections and transferences to every situation / interaction. And it takes a lot of conscious effort and self-awareness to try to look at things clearly, cleanly, and undistortedly — in a way that isn’t so filled with our own projections and transferences.

          Read again what I excerpted, Rachel. Please.

          What do you really see me asking in that excerpt? Remember, you don’t know me; you haven’t read 50 or 75 of my posts and been nodding your head for much of the last year in agreement with much of what I have said / written. You’re not in my living room watching me interact with my wife and step-children; you’re not observing me at work or at the grocery or how I interact with waiters and waitresses and strangers. So you don’t really know me or what I stand for or how well or how poorly I am living up to my own standards and ideals. I don’t even know if you know yet what I actually stand for — the so-called mountain I’m willing to die on.

          And you don’t know Glennon in that way either iin the sense of really knowing her in real life and seeing how she treats her husband, children, friends, et cetera, how she carries herself, et cetera. Your investedness in her is different. And that’s up to you to figure out how and why — in what ways are you invested in her and why are you invested (or so invested, if that is the case) in her and her point of view and what you think she stands for (and why are those ideals so important? And what are those ideals?)

          . . . . . .

          Okay, onto responding to the comment you wrote above. And, again, I thank you, Rachel, for the time and thought you put into writing what you wrote. I do appreciate it.

          1. I don’t want to show you the “error of your ways” because I don’t necessarily think you’re wrong. Honestly, the only thing that really bothers me is the need to duplicate your message on your own website as well as in the comments. I am all in favor of free speech, and I love that the internet gives each of us a place to voice our thoughts and philosophies and wisdom. I think it’s great that you offer a different perspective, for those that are looking for it. But duplicating the entire post in the comments, knowing, anticipating, that the majority of the readers don’t see the world, or Glennon’s message, in the same way you do, and knowing that your opinion so often feels like an attack on them – I just don’t get it. I’ve read a lot of what you’ve written. You’re very well-spoken, and I agree with a lot of your foundational principles. But this – the double posting, it seems desperate, or selfish, or obsessive, or all of the above.

          What I get from this section is that you actually agree with much / most of what I wrote and with many / most of the points I made in my two most recent posts here (“*DO* Carpe Diem” and “Feeding Your FOOL versus Feeding Your CONSCIENCE”). But you don’t like my approach / style / methodology.

          You wrote —

          [T]he double posting . . . seems desperate, or selfish, or obsessive, or all of the above.

          Are there any other explanations or ways of looking at this that you can think of. Could my reasons for doing what I’m doing be other than desperate and or selfish and or obsessive and or all of the above? Are there any possible and likely alternate explanations? What do you really see as the underlying reason for my posts. Why would someone go into a place where his or her point of view is so different from the majority’s and the conventional wisdom of that place, and speak up or out against it? Why? Why would someone do such a thing? Why have people in the past done such things? Or has anyone in the past ever done such a thing? Do people with a message or a different and perhaps more inclusive and or wise point of view just sit and stay comfy in one place? Are they supposed to just go out back and dig a hole and bury their point of view? Are they to go only where their point of view is welcomed and will get props and cheers and high fives? Are they to hide their light or their point of view under a bushel basket and share it only where it will be welcomed and validated? Honestly think about it and think about what you are suggesting and why you are suggesting it.

          A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William Shedd

          That’s what vulnerability is all about — taking your ship out of port / safe harbor; visiting your point of view and seeing how it interacts with others’ points of view.

          That’s the only way that any of get closer to the truth. Have you read John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty”? M. Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled”–the section on “Openness to Challenge” and why this is inescapably essential for mental health. People who are closed off to challenges of their point of view are mentally unhealthy human beings. The two go hand in hand, or hand in glove.

          There’s no neutrality in this, Rachel. If momastery is a place of support and validation and safeness only, then it’s also going to be a place ripe with and that fosters delusion and cowardice and avoidance and mental unhealth, because there will be no system of checks and balances there.

          Concern for salving each other’s feelings and supporting and validation one another without real thought as to what it is that’s actually being validated, supported, encouraged, et cetera, is a recipe for delusion.

          . . . .

          From section 2 of what you wrote, Rachel —

          Calling her and her work “foolish,” accusing her of using her gift for “ill” when she has made it abundantly clear her intentions with that space and what she believes is her calling; even the backhanded compliment about her writing while going on to describe all the bad things she’s done with it. And then, telling her (and every one of the thousands of parents who resonated with her message) “you’re doing it wrong,” that hurts people. Good people who do the best they can every day, while acknowledging that they’re still infallible human beings.”

          First off, I didn’t call her “foolish” or call her a fool — at least not according to my recollection (and I did just reread my entire “*Do* Carpe Diem” post). So if I did call Glennon a name somewhere, please show me where I did do that. Otherwise, please kindly retract that part of your statement. It may seem like a little thing, but it isn’t, and especially not in this case where it’s clear that a lot of people are very heated emotionally over this.

          And as an aside, Rachel, do you have a problem with all the name-calling that I’m receiving over there on Momastery? Are you upset by it? Or do you view it as justified and deserved? And what about the false allegation that Glennon and or her Sis leveled at me and have yet to retract? What does your conscience say about that? And what about the further fact that they keep deleting my rebuttal of their comment and neither of them [G or Sis] appear to have the conscience or the courage or the integrity to do the right thing — retract their false allegation, and sincerely apologize in writing and publicly on that thread to me and to Jen for making it. That’s who you’re standing up for, Rachel. And, honestly, what she’s doing is very predictable when someone focuses on “love” at the expense of truth or without concern for the truth. Love and Truth go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. Love is a virtue, and you can’t really have one of the virtues without having all of the other virtues as well. C. S. Lewis wrote about this beautifully in his book “The Problem of Pain,” and apparently Plato wrote about this as well.

          Again, this is your friend. This is how she loves her fellowman–she falsely accuses him of something and then ducks and runs and doesn’t have the courage or integrity to stop herself and call herself out on her own bad bnehavior. This is the way your friend, Glennon, loves her apparent enemies.

          And Glennon isn’t my enemy; I do not dislike her in the least. In fact I enjoy much of what she writes. She is very talented as a writer and sometimes she is very good and on point with her message. But at other times I may not agree with what she wrote–and in fact I may even disagree very strongly with what she wrote–but my disagreement is always civil, and it is always very articulate and well-thought out and fairly well-written. And I am always open to discussing it and debating it. And that speaks to who I am, who I aspire to, and what I stand for, and how I am determined to treat others–with respect, and not just as creatures of emotions, bristling with prejudice and bias, but also as persons capable of thinking critically and honestly and reasonably. (Am I crediting humankind with too much, Rachel?)

          OK, back to your comment . . .

          I don’t buy the whole “intentions” thing (“she has made it abundantly clear her intentions with that space and what she believes is her calling”). The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Intentions matter, but that alone doesn’t give us carte blanche; it doesn’t let us off the hook from having to make sure that we’re doing actually is helpful and salutary. (And right now, in light of her inability to own up to her mistake [falsely accusing me as posting as more than one person], she’s falling far short of living up to her own ideals for that place [Momastery].) And having good intentions, even the best of intentions, doesn’t let us off the hook from second guessing ourselves, doubting ourselves, re-examining even our motivations and intentions and goals / aims. So whether she has the best of intentions or not, whether she’s found her calling and is following it, doesn’t really matter; what matters is the actuality of what she is creating and doing — the effects of it, what she’s actually building. And that includes trying to discern and ferret out eh unintended consequences of what she’s doing — or of what she’s advising. That’s much of what I took issue with in regards to her “Don’t Carpe Diem” post. I get the frustrations of being a parent and trying to corral your children and not have them run wild in Target or Chunky Cheese. I get it. I’ve been there and done that.

          And as glib as this may sound, a little SuperNanny (or even “The Dog Whisperer“) would go a long way with the most of the commenters at Momastery, and even with Glennon herself. Children are not undisciplined and running wild by accident. But no parent, especially no single mom, wants to hear that a good part of the reason why her children are out of control and running rough shod all over her and all over Target is because she’s not actually parenting her children in a very attentive and disciplined (and loving, as in tough-love) way. But no parent wants to hear this. Dare to suggest this, and what a person will get is predictable: insolence, anger, “who do you think you are?” “You’re not a stay at home dad?” “They’re not your children” “You just a dumb old damn self-righteous man.” et cetera, et cetera. It really is that sad and that predictable. Almost everyone has an inferiority complex. What most people most fear is feeling less than, inadequate, inferior, ashamed, guilty, as if they’re doing it wrong.

          Well, guess what — NEWS FLASH — you (not you, but a global “you”) are! Almost everyone is. So deal with it. Get over it! And quit letting fear of failure and fear of feeling inadequate and or inferior and fear of others judging you run your life. It’s the stupidest silliest way to live. But it’s the way most people live.

          Everyone starts out as beginners in life and as beginners in everything they do. They start out clumsy, making mistakes, not knowing. But everyone tries to hide this and not talk about it and pretend that it isn’t so. And so you get misguided essays/posts like Glennon’s “Don’t Carpe Diem.” Instead of her freely admitting, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing; I actually don’t know how to raise my kids in the best or near best way possible. I’m afraid that I may be failing them as a parent. And I feel ashamed and embarrassed and guilty for admitting this. Instead of this, we get that wretched pile of steaming dung “Don’t Carpe Diem” (& more in a moment about why I dislike that essay so darn *intensely*). Look, I get it, kids–at least some of them–are high maintenance–they require a lot of guidance, correcting, attention, interaction, play, teaching, instructing, engagement. They don’t know how to clean up after themselves, keep things neat, throw a football, take care of their stuff, not destroy things, not run wild through the aisles of Target, not be such fussy eaters, not get up 38 times at the dinner table, not have the wiggles, not be fidgety. I get it, ok; I get it. Parenting is hard stuff, or can be, with some, many, most children.

          So . . . what to do about this? Throw our hands up in the air? Keep doing what we’re doing and fight the good fight — but remain fairly ignorant and parent largely by trial and error and based on our feelings — lash out when we’re stressed and reached out limit for the day or the moment; be tender when we feel tender or when we have a fleeting Kairos moment? Or take a few parenting classes, read different approaches to parenting, take it up like we would any new endeavor — learn about it, become a good student, be a beginner, recognize that we’re a beginner, get the frickin’ chip off one’s shoulder, and above all, be a good student–try to be an A or a B student. You don’t have to be an A+ overachieving student when it comes to learning how to be a parent (or a wife, or a human being), but for God’s sake, don’t go around trying to demean and diminish and discredit those who are trying to be A or A+ students (that would be an example of jealousy and envy — and one’s inferiority complex — getting the better of a person, which it seems to have gotten the better of many of the people over at momastery who have responded to my comment). And if you can’t be an A or an A+ student, then don’t throw your hands up, go all or nothing, and mail it in and do C work, when if you (global you, not you specifically Rachel) really applied yourself and dealt with your insecurities and inferiority complex and fear of feeling inadequate and having to look “perfect,” you could at least do B or B+ or even A- work.

          They can do better. I can do better. You can do better. Glennon can do better. We all can do better.

          Why is that such a toxic idea??

          [T]elling her [Glennon] (and every one of the thousands of parents who resonated with her message) ‘you’re doing it wrong,’ that hurts people. Good people who do the best they can every day, while acknowledging that they’re still infallible human beings.”

          No, Rachel, it doesn’t hurt people as in damaging them or crippling them, which is what you’re implying. It stings them. The truth often stings. And maybe because it stings it also does hurt. So I’ll grant you that. The truth hurt. So effin’ what!? Deal with it. Stop–or at least considering stopping–pandering to people’s weaknesses, Rachel, and making excuses for them. Quit teaching them (role modeling for them) how to be victims.

          Almost everyone sucks at parenting at first. It’s like being lost in a forest. If you had good and loving and wise parents who loved you and instilled good character traits in you and helped instruct and form your conscience, then you get a big head-start in being a parent in the immunity challenge of finding your way out of the woods. Parenting will be much less exhausting and baffling for such a person. But most people didn’t have parents like that. Most people were raised by trial and error parenting. So . . . . face the facts: most people are fairly inept at parenting, they parent unconsciously and using many of the techniques and methods that were used on them and that their grandparents used on their parents, et cetera (it’s a multi-generational problem), recognize how big of a part your (not yours specifically Rachel, but again a general global yours) inferiority complex and fear of feeling less than and inadequate and ashamed prevents you from actually seeking advice and help and trying to become a genuinely decent parent, and take classes, read books, seek out mentors, study, get tutoring — do what you would do if you really needed to ace a class and you couldn’t cheat or buy your way through the class. And, arguably, this — parenting, motherhood, fatherhood, being a wife, being a husband, being a good human being and neighbor and citizen are our most important callings as human beings. And for God’s sake, lay off the rationalization — get rid of such excuse-making and self-justification as this — “Good people who do the best they can every day, while acknowledging that they’re still infallible human beings” — it prevents and discourages (rather than encourages) learning. Everyone starts out in parenting as in Love as beginners, novices, barely able to hit a tennis ball over the net and keep it in play.

          And so what are some of the things you would you likely do if you wanted to become a better tennis player? Take some lessons–find a good instructor with good form and a good understanding of the game as well as a good idea of how to teach, and take some lessons. Practice. Especially practice what you learned in your lessons. Videotape yourself practicing so that you could see more accurately and objectively what you’re actually doing (how many parents would like to see themselves on an average day parenting and interacting with their children, or even their partner/spouse? Much less on one of their bad days. Talk about a reality check! Talk about the truth likely hurting! [So why again, Rachel, are you complaining or faulting me for “hurting” others?? Sometimes the truth hurts. And we all want to believe that there’s a kind and gentle way to make our point or express our point of view, our truth, but there’s not. And it’s hideously self-deceptive to think that there always is a nice and kind way of saying everything. Having said that, it’s also equally self-deceptive not to consider that there might be an equally effective and kinder way of saying something. But that also means that there might also be a harsher and more effective way of expressing it as well. Interesting, isn’t it?]). Also go to youtube or get the tennis Channel and watch the pros — one’s betters — play; study them, their form, technique, strategy, footwork, et cetera. And take all of this up like a long apprenticeship, as Rilke says.

          So in terms of parenting, or even being a better husband or wife, the principles are similar: read, study, learn, find a mentor, practice, observe yourself, videotape yourself interacting with your spouse and or children), put in the time.

          Remember, it takes 10,000 hours and you too can be a master of whatever you’ve spent those 10,000 hours on. Spend it making excuses and thinking like a victim, and you;ll become an expert victim and an expert at helping others blame those around them and take less and less responsibility for the quality and conditions of their own lives.

          We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” – Carlos Casteneda

          10,000 hours, Rachel.

          Or after 10,000 hours of good effort and practice and study and learning, you can be a much more effective parent, a much better partner and spouse, a much more loving human being.

          In fact, a person can probably start seeing the benefits and improvement in much less than 10,000 hours.

          . . . . .

          Rachel, I think much or what I’ve written above also covers the vast majority of what you wrote and asked and challenged me on in sections 3, 4, and 5, of your post.

          If it doesn’t, then just point me to it and I will happily address it.

          And as an aside, you may want to read my response to Shannon in the post above (the “*Do* Carpe Diem” post) so you can get a bit more of a peak behind Glennon’s curtain and the person you are siding with.

          . . . . . . .

          And, lastly, as I wrote (and I’m paraphrasing here) in my last response over at momastery (a response which more or may not be there; it may have been deleted, and if so, it would have been deleted for no just or good reason) —

          This is what real vulnerability is all about: not needing to feel safe and have your opinion validated, but being able to speak your mind freely and honestly and to some point, and then dealing with other people’s ire and pettiness over having done so.

          Real vulnerability isn’t actually what’s being practiced over at momastery. Real vulnerability means allowing dissenters, means being open to challenge and contrary opinions and points of view. It means opening oneself up to opposition and not having to feel safe first, or even expecting to feel safe. Because that’s precisely what makes it *vulnerability.* If you have to feel safe and protected and validated and affirmed first, or if you need these things in order to continue, then you’re not really being vulnerable. You’re “vulnerability” is a sham. When you’re vulnerable you expect criticism, you expect criticism, you expect dissenters, you expect some opposition; *and* you deal with those things legitimately. You don’t run and hide from them or try to eradicate them. That’s not vulnerability. If you do so, that’s not being vulnerable; it’s trying to be invulnerable.

          The truth is still the truth even if you’re a minority of one.

          “Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth, for being correct, for being you. Never apologize for being correct, or for being years ahead of your time. If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind. Speak your mind. Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.” – Gandhi

          . . . . .

          Kindest regards, Rachel. I hope this finds you well. And I do truly appreciate the time and thought you put into your comment, and I do appreciate you extending yourself and writing back to me so that we might have this dialogue and better get to know and explore each other’s point of view. Again, kindest regards, Rachel,


  3. Pingback: Happy Festivus, Momastery! | What Is Real True Love?

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