Your Best Life Now

Your Best Life Now

Suicide…an Unpardonable Sin?

posted by smcswain


Saint Augustine believed this in the fifth century and, as a consequence, this became the Church’s position regarding suicide for centuries. But Saint Augustine was wrong about this, just as he has been wrong about many other things, including “original sin.”

For most of my life, I have let the Church do much of my thinking for me. Which, if you do not know by now, I regard as the ultimate form of spiritual laziness. There’s lots of laziness many places. When, however, I set out to discover for myself what I really believed, I made many wonderful and liberating discoveries.

One of the most important discoveries, for example, is how frequently the Church has changed its theology over the centuries to accommodate new ideas and understandings. More times than you can count, in fact. If you are a student of Christian history, or any religious history, you know this to be true.  True among all religions, I might add. But, not too far behind this accommodation phenomenon is just how frequently, and sometimes violently, the Church has sought to suppress any idea it deemed heretical or contrary to its teachings.


It took the Catholic Church, for example, nearly four hundred years to finally admit that Galileo was right and the Vatican was wrong when it came to the question of whether the earth revolved around the sun or the sun around the earth. For centuries, the Church had insisted it was the latter.


Galileo, on the other hand, building on the work of Copernicus, said it was the former.

You know who won that debate.

We have come to accept – those of us who haven’t given up on the Church entirely – just how slow the Church is in admitting it’s own wrongs.

The Church was wrong about the Kingdom of God.
The Church was wrong about slavery.
The Church was wrong about women.
The Church was wrong, and many still are, about homosexuality.
The Church was wrong, and most still are, about same sex marriage.
The Church was wrong, and creationists still are, about evolution.
I could go on. But you get the point.


In time, the Church seems to come around and get on the right side of history. But not without first inflicting unimaginable damage on people in the process of adjusting its erroneous theology to accommodate the times.

Which brings me to the subject of suicide.

The Church and Suicide

The Church was wrong about it, too. But, typical to its contrary style, it took centuries of abuse before the Church slowly changed its theology to accommodate new understandings.

In the case of Galileo, not until 1992, did Pope John Paul II finally confess the Church had been wrong all along. Few, however, paid much attention to the Vatican’s confession of evil and sin against Galileo.


Given the Church’s sordid history of denial and wrongdoing, why would anyone care the Pope apologized?

Pope John Paul II

They didn’t. Which is why, although reported in the news, the Pope’s confession went largely unnoticed.

An apology nearly four hundred years in the making is rather meaningless, wouldn’t you say?

The history isn’t much better.

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune, for example, briefly surveys the Church’s poor record of understanding toward those who had completed suicide throughout the centuries. Here’s one of the points made…

“Those who took their lives lost their property, their burial rites and their place in heaven. They were posthumously excommunicated from the church, their corpses were often defiled, their memories erased, their families humiliated, shunned and disinherited.”


It’s the Christian way far too often, isn’t it?

The Church has been so wrong about so many things and for so long, I am sometimes amazed anyone pays any attention any more to anything it says.

A Call to Compassion

Which brings me to the recent suicide of Robin Williams.

Like you, the whole damn thing saddens me.

I thought of Robin as a friend and I’ve never met him. But he felt like my friend…like my childhood playmate. That guy or girl with whom you could be completely and totally your crazy childlike self.

I needed Robin. Our world needed Robin.

And, like you, I have cried for our world…for myself…for him…for his family. I will miss him.


And, yes, I’m hoping the Church gets this one right. That the Church will be on the right side of history this time and respond with compassion and understanding.

What is not needed is the pontification on suicide or whether, for example, those who complete suicide go to heaven.

Oh yes, fundamentalist Christians are already ranting about this and doing so in their typical arrogant way.  Who among them, or who among us, has the foggiest idea about heaven or eternity? I sure don’t. I’m pretty sure no one else does either.


Fundamentalists say, “We believe in heaven.” But the real truth is you and I only ever “believe” in the things we don’t know.  And, what we don’t know is frightening. Which explains why, among other things, suicide is frightening. We know so little about it.


Furthermore, this explains why religious people spend their time writing about and/or reading books on heaven and eternity. It is because, contrary to what they want you to think, death still scares the hell out of them. Additionally, they are secretly worried sick that heaven might actually NOT exist.

It’s a kind of mental delusion. We dupe ourselves into “believing” things and mistakenly confuse our delusions for “faith.” A clever mental trick.


And, of course, it’s the same thing religious people do who want to debate the existence of God. The only reason people try to prove God exists is because they’re secretly afraid she doesn’t.

So, with Robin Williams, and others like him and their families, it is my sincere hope the Church will respond to this with compassion, understanding, and with openness.  We need many informed and humane conversations around the issue of suicide.

I hope the Church’s best minds – not those with “made up” minds…rigid know-it-all-minds…not “we’re right and everyone else is wrong” minds…but those with the best open minds to gather and grapple with suicide and help the world better understand it.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

What our culture needs is a compassionate, informed Church. A Church that explores this issue, as well as the other related issues and concerns like euthanasia, assisted suicide, etc., and mental health. Instead of the Church’s typical response to science and medicine…to be suspicious and hostile toward both…but this time join ranks and enter into intelligent conversation and exploration.

I want to know more about suicide myself and I want the same for you, the Church, and those outside the Church but within our human family. And, to those of you reading this who might have had thoughts of suicide, do not conclude from this that, because the Church has been wrong about so many things, it might not be any help to you now. There are many churches and church leaders and followers of Christ who get it. Seek one out. Or, at the least, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call this number 800-273-8255.

Isn’t this the opportunity to broaden our consciousness, inform our understanding, and deepen our compassion?

Whether you are a Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or Jew or Muslim or atheist or just another human being…

Isn’t this the humane thing to do?


Cheek Turning: Completely Impractical Words Jesus Spoke

posted by smcswain
If Someone Strikes You on the Right Cheek

Photo Used by Permission

Cheek Turning: “If someone strikes you,” counseled Jesus, “turn the other cheek!” Completely impractical words, wouldn’t you agree?

Who does this? You get sucker punched on one side of the face and you’re supposed to submissively turn the other cheek, too? Give me a break! Such nonsense could never possibly work. Just ask the Jews. Or, the Arabs. Right?


Maybe not. But maybe it does, too. But then, how would anyone know? Has it ever really been tried?

Oh, sure, there are those of us who mistakenly think to turn the other cheek means to run from conflict. Or, roll over and take abuse. Or, disappear to a remote corner and lick our wounds.

I’m not talking about this and neither is Jesus. I do know, however, what it’s like to do everything I can to please everybody…to fix everyone as well as every situation…and then, when I fail, which is almost always, I run at the first sign of disagreement in order to avoid a negative reaction or, worse, rejection.

Jesus is talking here instead about real cheek turning or a radical departure from the more common method for handling conflict between two people…between two religions…or between two peoples and nations.


Like the Jews and Arabs.
Like Christians and Muslims.
Like the Americans and…well…just about everybody else.

Jesus went on: “You have heard it said,’An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you, ‘Is that going to get you anywhere?’ Do not strike back at all!” (Matthew 5:38-42).

If Someone Strikes You on the Right Cheek…Do Not Strike Back at All!

This is Jesus’ strategy for resolving conflicts, ending violence, and the futility of seeking revenge. And, frankly, it’s about the dumbest thing he ever said. Isn’t it?

Of course! Everybody knows his strategy would never work. It didn’t work for  him. Which probably explains why nobody bothers to try it because the few who have, aka Jesus, the Buddha, etc., either end up being attacked, as in the latter, or dead, as in the former.


Saint Augustine of Hippo knew this, too. Which is why he used his skillful brain to craft a clever alternative – the “Just War” theory – that, for all practical purposes, has guided western history down to the present.

Good thing he did. Otherwise, the Church would have had no way of completely disregarding Jesus’ instruction.

But here’s the question I cannot escape: How do we know cheek turning is impractical? Have anyone tried it lately?

If Someone Strikes You on the Right Cheek, Kick Ass in Response

I do not know the answer to my own question but, my guess is, few have.  “Kick ass” is the cowardly but convenient way of responding to any conflict and the favorite method of most Americans.


The Church, too.

Which explains why I always find it interesting when there are discussions among Christians or articles about “the Christian perspective on war.”  Isn’t the Christian perspective on war “turn the other cheek?” Granted, there are probably many “church” perspectives on war. But I find it odd that there could be more than one Christian perspective when clearly Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek.”

“Look,” you say, “I’m a believer in Jesus but, when it comes to some of the things he taught, let’s be honest, sometimes his way just doesn’t work. It’s completely impractical and simply cannot be taken seriously.”


Really? Are we not just seeking to dismiss and, therefore, disregard Jesus’ way?

Hasn’t the “Just War Theory” succeeded in just giving “believers” a way to disbelieve Jesus’ teaching, but still regard themselves as believers? After all, idealism does not work in a world full of Hitlers, Hirohitos, Hamas or Husseins.


If Someone Strikes You on the Right Cheek, Turn the Other Also?

I admit I’m a bit conflicted here. Call me simplistic. Label me an idealist. Dismiss me outright, if that makes it a little easier for you. But, for the life of me, I cannot understand how we Christians  can claim to be “saving” the world when some of the things the Savior said himself, saints do not believe and so easily disregard.

What am I missing here?


Is Jesus the Only Way to God?

posted by smcswain
Is Jesus the Only Way to God?

Is Jesus the Only Way to God?

Another Cardiac Unit Insight…

Is Jesus the only way to God?

I am often asked, “What did Jesus really mean when, in John 14:6, he is purported to have said, “I am the way…no one comes to the Father but by me?”

I was raised to believe that Jesus was saying, “I am the ONLY way to know God…if you do not believe in ME, you have condemned yourself to eternal separation from God.”


Is that really what Jesus meant?

I think not.

I thought about this during my brief hospital stay. A heart attack, even a mild one, has a way of bringing you face to face with your own mortality.

There are two reasons I know this is not what Jesus meant.

1. One, it would be completely out of the character and teachings of Jesus to exclude anyone from God who did not get his or her “beliefs” just right, even “belief” in Jesus. Such dogmatism was precisely the thing that irked him the most by the exclusivist religion of his day that was always drawing boundaries around those who were “in” and those who were “out.”


2. Second, clearly Jesus was a teacher of spiritual things – virtually everything we know about him…from him…comes to us as a teaching…a path to follow…a lifestyle to adopt…and, therefore, his words here simply mean, to borrow Thich Nhat Hanh’s brilliant analysis – and this from a Buddhist monk, not a “Christian” theologian:

“When Jesus said, ‘I am the way,’ He meant that to have a true relationship with God, you must practice His way. In the Acts of the Apostles, the early Christians always spoke of their faith as ‘the Way.'”

“The Way is not an asphalt road”…

     (as in a paved, rigid system of beliefs).

“But we must distinguish between the ‘I’ spoken by Jesus and the ‘I’ that people usually think of. The ‘I’ in His statement is LIFE itself, His life, which is the way. If you do not really look at His life, you cannot see the way. If you only satisfy yourself with praising a name, even the NAME of Jesus, it is not practicing the life of Jesus…The way is Jesus Himself and not just some idea of Him…Many who have neither the way nor the life try to impose on others what they believe to be the way. But these are only words that have no connection with real life or a real way” (Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh).


I’d rather walk the way of Jesus; not just recite words about Jesus.

Isn’ that what it really means to be Christian?

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, counsel to non-profits, faith-based organizations and congregations, and a spiritual teacher. His books and blogs inspire spiritual seekers all over the world. He is a devoted follower of Christ but an interfaith activist as well. He is frequently heard to say, in the words of Mother Teresa, “I love all religions; but I’m in love with my own.” Read more from Dr. McSwain on his blog Your Best Life Now.


The 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War: Remember, We Must…

posted by smcswain

This may surprise you, but what we commonly call the Vietnam War, or the Second Indo-China War, was technically the “Vietnam Conflict.” The US Congress never officially declared war against Vietnam. They viewed our participation in the conflict as a means of protecting South Vietnam from Communist takeover.

What was our involvement in the war that began fifty years ago?

According to America’s Wars Report, issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (May, 2010,) 8.7 million service members were involved. To put that number into perspective, that’s over half the number of all US service members who were involved in World War II. About 5.4 million lives were lost to the Vietnam War.


It may seem small in comparison, but that is over twenty times the number killed in the American Revolution. Over 153,000 Americans were wounded in the Vietnam War.

At the height of hostilities in January, 1968, US forces heavily bombed the borders of Cambodia and Laos. The Communists launched the Tet Offensive, but failed to gain control over South Vietnam. The American public grew weary of government policies and suggestions that we were winning the war.

Even though the Paris Peace Accord in 1973 called for a cease to hostilities, and was agreed to by all parties, the war dragged on until April, 1975. Our involvement in the war ended on August 15, 1973. By 1976, both North and South Vietnam were reunited.

As of May, 2010, in the above cited report, 7,391,000 veterans were still alive. That number is three times more than the number involved in Desert Storm.


What do the numbers mean?

The numbers give you a snapshot of our involvement, but scale the numbers down to just one, where you can understand it personally.

Every number represents a loved one… each with a unique personality, with extraordinary talents and aspirations, each one with a life ahead of them.

How could they have known that their American Dream would turn so horribly into a hellish nightmare? Many were too young to understand. They did not have to wait long to find out.

Many of them were sent home in body bags. Even more came back with limbs amputated by landmines, suffered shrapnel blasts and bullet wounds. Many became blind. Others were deafened from the continual strafing, screeching, and thudding of aerial bombardment, machine gun fire, and explosions. Many are confined to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives. Many came home unappreciated, rejected, and spiritually devastated. Even today, many of the survivors of that war will not speak of the atrocities they witnessed or the hell that they suffered.


The horrors of war, the memory of loss, the chronic pain; it’s just all too agonizing to remember.  But remember we must, even if it is too difficult for those who actually endured the horrors of that war.

Remember Our Service Members…

America owes a debt of deep gratitude and appreciation for the service members who fight for the freedoms we far too often take for granted. Let us not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to our own. Let’s remember every last one of them. If you have opportunity, visit the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington in person. If not, visit The Wall USA, a non-profit established by veterans of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment to honor those who died in the Vietnam War.


It is here you’ll find the poignant words: “If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go. Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.” (Major Michael Davis O’Donnell 1 January 1970 Dak To, Vietnam Listed as KIA February 7, 1978)

As we remember the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, let us…

Resolve to end all war, respect and accept all persons, and pray daily for peace.

To remember does not mean to simply recall or bring to mind. It holds even greater significance. When you RE- anything, you are doing it again. Redo. Reapply. Reassure. Whether or not we are a service member, we are all an individual members of a greater organism called humanity.

When we join together and stand united as one, in strength and purpose, this is how we RE-member.

And, rightly honor the memory of our soldiers.


10 Steps to Inner Peace and Success…

posted by smcswain

Be Love to Others

Perhaps this is what inner peace looks like to you. Photo Used by Permission

Perhaps this is what inner peace looks like to you. Photo Used by Permission

We are born for love. Not just to be in love and to be loved, but to BE love. You see, love isn’t just something you do. It is a constant state of BEING. It is a place of abiding from within the deepest part of ourselves.


As human beings, our highest calling is to be in alignment with all that love is… to be profoundly tender, to be deeply affectionate; to be more understanding. When we offer compassion, empathy, and kindness, as a natural outflow of who we are, we open the doors to fostering friendships, promoting peace and reconciling relationships.

Remember also that we are born for connection. As the late John O’Donohue said in Eternal Echoes, “it is the nature of your soul to belong.” The greatest happiness comes from remembering this ancient truth: that we come from Love and that we are, in fact, love.

Create Quality Memories Now

In the busyness of life, we tend to not pay attention to what really matters. The thrust of our energy is spent on achieving, of earning rewards, on getting ahead. But, the question is… what investments are we making in our own future happiness?


Every day, we are given 86,400 seconds. With each, we are trading our lives for something… but for what? Is the trade worth it? How much of our time is invested in creating quality memories right now that we will enjoy looking back on for the rest of our lives?

Consider that happiness is an ocean floor. It is that settled peace found deep within you. Nothing beyond that depth perturbs you as it is too far removed from the circumstances and external events at the surface. Think of this depth within you as the place where you store all your happiest memories, your finest moments.

Elevate Your Thoughts

Imagine an elevator inside your brain. It goes up, down, and sideways. Your subconscious is the operator, but you can consciously override it. Your thoughts enter the elevator and instruct the operator where to go. The mood of the occupants regulates the motor. Extremes in temperature, such as being hot under the collar or giving someone the cold shoulder, cause the motor to malfunction. The elevator comes to a screeching halt!


How does the elevator go sideways? When you allow other people to push your buttons, to make decisions for you, or when you’ve lost sight of which way is up or down. It also goes sideways by adopting a holistic approach, where both hemispheres of the brain work in harmony to bring you inner peace.

If the words are debasing, mean-spirited, or negative… the elevator leads down. If our thoughts are inspiring, motivating, or encouraging… the elevator goes up.

Forget Kissing the Frog: Be the Frog!

Remember the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the reluctant princess who kissed the ugly frog? The frog then transformed into a handsome prince. In popular culture, this story is often referenced to remind people, “You’ll have to kiss a lot of ugly frogs before finding your handsome prince.” In other words, you’ll make many mistakes before making the right choice.


What about the “ugly frog,” however? Do you ever feel you are neither the lovely princess nor the handsome prince? More like the unacceptable frog instead?

Most people have a hard time accepting themselves. They are quick to regard others as a prince or princess but quicker still at disregarding themselves. Inner peace and success requires that we respect others and revere ourselves as well. Jesus put it like this: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” When you have done the latter, the former will take care of itself.

Keep a Healthy Perspective

Do you tend to look at things only as black and white? Do you choose to see the world through rose colored glasses? Did you know that the way you see life determines your health?


Thanks to the many years of pioneering work by Dr. Bruce H. Lipton, we now have scientific proof that our perceptions and beliefs control our biology, and our overall health. For example, he cites that 95% of cancers in our body are a direct result of our thinking. Does this surprise you? It may, but it shouldn’t.

Here’s why: Thoughts based in love lead to co-creation, procreation, and recreation. They support creativity, growth, and flourishing. Thoughts based in fear find us reacting to life rather than responding it. They cause adopt protective behavior, and release toxins into the bloodstream. The healthiest perspective we can adopt is to operate from our highest self; that is Love.

Know Your Why!

Thoreau once said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” What was he getting at? His point is that we have so much more potential within us than we ever realize. If we live out our days without a sense of purpose, without being intentional as to its direction, without ever considering our place in the grand scheme of things, we are merely existing; not truly living.


That’s no way to BE, and it certainly is no way to be happy either. If we get bogged down in the hustle and bustle of the workaday world, we lose sight of our own inner beauty. Tapping into our potential and the unique gifts God has given us, we discover our WHY, our reason for being, our main purpose for being here. When you know your why, you know your way!

Nurture a Sense of Humor

“Laughter,” said the late Grady Nutt, “is the hand of God on the shoulder of a troubled world.” If this is true, make it your practice to be one of God’s gloves. In other words, let humor and laughter fill your life. Few things will release stress faster than a good laugh.

To bring more laughter into your life, try surrounding yourself with people whose outlook and attitudes are positive. Negative people will drag you down. Optimistic people, on the other hand, generate an energy that positively impacts the atmosphere around them. By spending more time with people like this, you discover their spirit reproduces itself in you.


Second, balance your information intake. In other words, in our world where the news everywhere is almost always negative, make certain you balance this digestion of information with reading that enriches and uplifts you. Otherwise, instead of inner peace you’ll have indigestion.

Rid Yourself of Toxic Thoughts, Chemicals, and Habits

Speaking of the mind, there is another step necessary for you to take in order to move closer to a life of inner peace. Rid yourself of all toxicity, whether toxic thoughts, chemicals, habits, and foods.

Toxic thoughts are angers, resentments, and even regrets. Let go of thoughts drenched in hostility or inner peace will be more elusive than a butterfly. Holding a grudge or nurturing a resentment, observed Nelson Mandela, “is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”


Certainly, there are habits that hinder our experience of inner peace. Drinking too much alcohol, failing to balance work and play, activity and non-activity, and relying too heavily on medications instead of the body’s nature capacity to heal.

Even the foods we eat, or fail to eat, contribute to one’s inner state of peace. Practice listening to your inner voice; it will tell you what is toxic.

Stay Connected to Your Power Source!

Since the advent of computers, laptops, and cell phones, etc., power strips have become a household necessity. Power strips provide multiple places to plug-in to a power source and recharge your devices.

Similarly, everyone needs to be connected to a spiritual power source. Some people call the source of this spiritual power “God.” What is more important than the title, however, is whether you actually get in touch with this Divine source.


Prayer and meditation are two viable methods of connecting to the spiritual power source. While most westerners are familiar with prayer, meditation may not be as familiar. What is meditation? It is the practice of progressively slowing the mind and bringing of one’s inner world into a state of peace and solitude. To tame the mind, however, takes practice.

If you master the mind and slow down its almost incessant activity, your daily reward will be inner peace.

When You Have a Choice, Always Choose Kind

The first of these ten steps to inner peace was “Be Love to Others.” This last step takes that first step one step further.

Start each new day with the resolve to do one thing for someone else they would not likely do for themselves. It could be as simple as a smile and a hello to the clerk while standing at the counter of your favorite coffee café. Has it ever occurred to you how infrequently people smile either at themselves or to each other during the course of a day. Your pleasant smile and warm hello are gifts they might otherwise seldom receive.


If you find yourself in a disagreement with someone, resolve to always be kind. “Never repay evil for evil,” counseled Saint Paul, the spiritual teacher credited for much of the New Testament. Instead, “be kind in any and all circumstances.” Inner peace is your reward.

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, counsel to non-profits, faith-based organizations and congregations, and a spiritual teacher. His books and blogs inspire spiritual seekers all over the world. He is a devoted follower of Christ but an interfaith activist as well. He is frequently heard to say, in the words of Mother Teresa, “I love all religions; but I’m in love with my own.” Read more from Dr. McSwain on his blog Your Best Life Now.


God and the Power Pivot

posted by smcswain

God and the Power Pivot.

The Power Pivot

God and the Power Pivot: The Pivot may provide the power; but the power is not the Pivot.

Maybe you’ve seen this new gadget marketed by Quirky as the Power Pivot. It has become wildly popular. This one is now in our home and it is providing power to multiple products all from its resting place under Pam’s side of the bed.


Pam has become quite the techy one in our family. She has more electronic devices than some people have credit cards. To keep all of them charged simultaneously, however, she has discovered the traditional straight power strip just does not work.

The Power Pivot, however, does. Instead of the single strip that limits the number of devices you can connect at one time, the Power Pivot is flexible, allowing for several devices to be connected all at once.

Given how I’m wired, I could not help but see the spiritual parallels.

God and the Power Pivot…

We all search for a power source, do we not? It is the nature of the human experience. The famous passage from The Confessions of Augustine goes like this: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”


Throughout all of human history, one can find a kind of restlessness in search of a Divine connection.

God and the Power Pivot have many names.

What the Power Pivot does is no different than what the traditional Power Strip does. They both provide a connecting point to the source of power. They just have different names and shapes.

It’s the same with God, isn’t it? Zeus to Greeks; Brahman to Hindus; Allah to Muslims; Yahweh to Jews; and, Jesus to Christians. And, these are but a drop in the proverbial bucket of Divine names.

The mistake almost all people have made throughout history, and still make today, is to confuse the power strip for the power source, the pivot for the person. Whenever this occurs, and it does so in almost every religion, followers wind up arguing for the strip instead of worshiping the source. Protecting their religion becomes more important than connecting to its Source. Doesn’t this explain much of the violence in the news? Much of the widespread departure from organized religion as well? People are tired of this confusion. People are weary of the war waged almost universally between people of varying religions.


To young Timothy, Saint Paul warned, “Do not hold to a form of godliness, but miss the power source behind it” (2 Timothy 3:5).

Whenever you feel threatened and defensive about your religion, haven’t you made this error already?

Haven’t you confused the pivot for the Person? Or, holding to “form of godliness, but missing the God behind it?”

The Buddha said, “The finger that points to the moon is not the moon.”

Or, as we might put it here: The pivot that provides the power is not the power.


5 Easy Rules to Deal with Difficult People

posted by smcswain

Difficult People

Dealing with Difficult People

Picture Used by Permission
Bill Butler @WilliamButler.caDifficult People: Insights to Remember in Dealing with Them

At one time or another, we have all had dealings with difficult people. Do you remember the last time you did? Do you recall the last time someone intentionally spoke words to malign your character, question your motives, or to just upset you? It would seem that some go out of their way to make life difficult for others. How did you deal with it? What was the outcome? What can you do next time it happens? It’s a fact of life that we encounter difficult people with a negative attitude, who are toxic thinkers, who oppose what we think, sometimes for no other reason than to just be objectionable. Perhaps they simply don’t like us. Not everyone will, and that’s okay. Some people look for opportunities to trip us up, or will find almost any excuse to start an argument. But we certainly don’t have to go along with it.


5 Easy Rules to Deal with Difficult People

Remember that when you deal with difficult people, what is at stake here is your good name, your character, your higher self. You also need to consider your mental, emotional and spiritual health. How you handle any of this is also a factor to consider in your happiness. With this in mind, consider the following:

1. Keep Your Cool.

What is in your power to control at all times is your frame of mind. Your inner calm and contentment is more important than losing your temper. Remember that you have better things to do with your time and energy than to be embroiled in a heated argument. Even as draining as an argument is, you can recover your energy. But you will never get back the time you spend in an argument with difficult people.


2. Think Before You React.

Before you react, before you formulate a response, think about these things: Difficult people will only bother you to the degree you allow them. As someone has said, “Nobody can ever upset you without your permission.” If you react to someone who has learned to push your buttons, you can trigger an avalanche of emotions and witness the landslide of your own character. Remember, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) You don’t want to get buried under the weight of this unnecessary burden. Not reacting to difficult people sends a clear signal to calm down. Be patient and polite. By doing so, you set observable boundaries.


3. Don’t Take It Personally.

At all times, we are either presenting or perceiving. Usually, someone’s outward expression or reaction is really a reflection of some inner conflict within them. They mistakenly project it, however, onto someone else. You see, the trouble is within difficult people, so there is no need to take it personally. It is of greater help to understand, from the standpoint of compassionate awareness. Remember, too, you don’t know what is going on in the other person’s life. They may be dealing with hardships you know nothing about. These things could be causing a stress reaction in them and they may not even be aware of it. Be as understanding and sensitive to their feelings as you can. When the other person sees that you care, it is very possible they will change their attitude toward you. But, even if they don’t, you have maintained your higher self.


4. Look Within.

Is it possible that you have offended the other person, even unintentionally? Their feelings may be causing them to react negatively to you. If you find this to be true, waste no time in offering a sincere apology. Resolving a matter in a timely matter removes the buildup of animosity and bitter feelings. If this is not the case, know that you are in the clear. Have you said something that may have been taken out of context? If the other person is willing to listen, this may be the perfect opportunity to clear the air.

5. Finally, Dial It Down.

If you allow your ego the satisfaction of reacting, you will likely escalate the conflict and, as a consequence, rob yourself of your inner joy. Remember: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) There is no sense in adding fuel to the fire, is there? Instead, use every opportunity to de-escalate. If you cannot leave, you can redirect the conversation. At all times, take the high road. Be true to who you are. And, remember one more thing. You may have difficult people in your life at this time, but there is a pretty good chance you have been the difficult person in someone else’s life. Be humble. Be true to yourself. And, above all, be Christ-like at all times.


Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, counsel to non-profits, faith-based organizations and congregations, and a spiritual teacher. His books and blogs inspire spiritual seekers all over the world. He is a devoted follower of Christ but an interfaith activist as well. He is frequently heard to say, in the words of Mother Teresa, “I love all religions; but I’m in love with my own.”


Would You Want to Marry into a Family of Atheists? Hell No!

posted by smcswain
Would You Want to Marry into a Family of Atheists? Hell No!

Would You Want to Marry into a Family of Atheists? Hell No!

I’ve been in a writing mode for the last few days. I’m preparing for a keynote in a few weeks at a banquet for several hundred aviators at Aviation Association’s annual gathering, this year at Belterra Casino and Resort. And, of course, I’ve been writing a book on happiness, too.


Yesterday, however, my writing was temporarily interrupted by a call from one of the producers of HuffPost Live – it’s their live television/internet version of the news. It seems the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life had recently released a report that a “huge number of Americans do not want atheist in-laws.” They were going to have a live discussion on the subject and they wanted me and a couple of other “experts” – as they called us – I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing when she said that. I’ve never been an “expert” at anything, except perhaps at “nothing.” Anyway, I agreed and enjoyed the conversation. If you’d like to listen to the archived version, go here: “Why Most Americans Don’t Want Atheists In-Laws.”


I actually read the Pew report, too. If you’ve read it, you know there is really nothing new or earth-shattering in it. In fact, it’s the kind of thing we’ve come to expect from fundamentalist versions of any faith but, in this case, Christianity. Nearly two-thirds of “conservative” Christians would be upset to have “atheist” in-laws.

Would I be upset to have “atheist” in-laws?

Not at all. No more so, in fact, than I am about having very conservative Christian in-laws. Which, of course, I do. What I would find disconcerting, however, is whether my son or daughter or my future in-laws were narrow-minded or, worse, closed-minded, whether atheists or theists.

In Buddhism, there is something known as “wrong view,” which basically means we view reality – any reality – through distorted, narrow lens. This is an affliction that affects everyone.  And, the spiritual goal is, to cultivate “right view.”  Which does not mean, cultivate your view of things as “the right view” and everyone else’s view of things as “the wrong view.”


This is the core error in fundamentalism, whether radical Christian fundamentalism or radical atheism.

The middle way is the better way.  Respecting all persons for their own faith journey, or lack of it, is the healthiest position.

It is, in fact, the only position wherein peace may prevail.

Between Christians and atheists.

Between Israel and Palestine.

Between Sunnis and Shi’ites.

Between Republicans and Democrats.

Between couples of the same faith, opposite faiths or no faith.

Between couples of the opposite sex or the same sex.

The middle way is the only way.

If you enjoy the things I write, visit my blog where you’ll find much more. Go to

Previous Posts

Money and Our Weird Relationship to It
I read a story today shared by one of my Facebook friends whom I'll simply refer to as Joe. It is a powerful, illustrative story shared by the Lutheran Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton about money and our weird relationship to it. [caption ...

posted 8:39:49am Jul. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Hell? Are You Going There?
"Hell? Are You Going There?" "Heaven or Hell...Which?" "Are You Saved? Only the Saved Go to Heaven!" "Have You Heard of the 4 Spiritual Laws?" Those were the cliches' I often heard...heck, I even used them...when, at one time in my young ...

posted 12:13:17pm Jun. 25, 2015 | read full post »

The Stuff I Was Raised to Believe and What I Believe Today - Part One
Like many of you reading this, I was raised to believe many religious things. Much of that stuff, however, I no longer believe today. [caption id="attachment_5527" align="alignright" width="200"] The Stuff I Was Raised to Believe...And, What ...

posted 8:31:10am Jun. 20, 2015 | read full post »

Spiritual Life, Health, and Vitality
The illusion of spiritual health and disease may actually run in both directions. There are those, for example, who regard the Church in almost any of ...

posted 1:31:53pm Jun. 06, 2015 | read full post »

Interfaith Spirituality: Interview with Author Tom Ziemann
His name is Tom Ziemann (pronounced “Zee – Man”). I’m not exactly sure when we met. I do know, however, how we met. It was on Facebook. When? Maybe a couple of years ago, but that’s about all I can say. Interfaith Spirituality When ...

posted 8:24:02pm May. 26, 2015 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.