Do I get my way too often?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Who wouldn’t try to persuade their youngster to study for what they see as a promising career? Who wouldn’t pull out all the stops to influence investors to support their business? Who wouldn’t want to make their spouse feel the same way about having more children or a house move? It is surely normal for me to want the best for someone as I see it? Or is this sometimes as case of me wanting to get my way. Have things as I see fit?

I have to ask myself if my attempts at influencing others amounts to trying to make them think, act, or feel the way I do? get my wayAll this made me wonder just how I might assess the way I manage other people in my life. Do I try to get my way with others too often?

Do I try to get my way by force?

‘Hang on,’ I hear myself say. ‘I don’t force anyone to do anything. That would be selfish.’  Okay so before the kids left home, I seldom shouted at my teenage daughter to keep her  bedroom tidy. I seldom ordered anyone in the family to do their chores. In fact even now I  rarely if ever voice explosive anger, never mind any verbal abuse or any threat of violence to get my way. But perhaps I don’t even realise if I use less obvious methods of manipulation?

Do I try to get my way by nagging?

You may have heard of the young woman who thinks she will be able to change her man after they are married. Make him tidier, stop smoking or whatever. But he may be of a different mind. And when she fails to alter his bad habits, she may end up just nagging him which can cause irritation but no change of ways. Telling someone what to do or what to think doesn’t usually work because people like to decide things for themselves.

Do I try to get my way by telling?

Offering a point of view for their consideration and rational arguments to support it can be quite another matter. For this is respecting their personal choice. A father who insists on telling his daughter what to believe about politics, religion and so on, will appear as someone who thinks he knows best.

He may feel certain he is right. However, these days, less and less people will tolerate being told what to think. They really do prefer to make up their own minds. By claiming absolute answers to life’s issues, perhaps without realizing it, the father is arrogantly trying to impose his views. He would be advised to more humbly offer his beliefs for consideration and they even may be welcomed as his gift.

Do I try to get my way by being deaf?

Many parents have learned not to speak dogmatically about matters that are dear to their hearts. But some still don’t want to hear anything that might distract from their agenda. And so they sometimes fall foul of the mistake of turning a deaf ear to their teenager’s point of view.

This shows when they refuse to pay attention to anything that opposes them, saying things like “I don’t want to hear it”.  Or they may show a fierce look or glance, unpleasant tone of voice, or make rhetorical comments, or use subtle sarcasm. The trouble is how we come over to others is not always apparent to us, and we can get into unfortunate habits in how we communicate.

Do I try to get my way by being less than honest?

Making up excuses is something I have done at some time or other to cover up my  embarrassment or mistakes. Perhaps you have taken this a step further and been engaged spinning a yarn to the media on behalf of your company or to your friends regarding your achievements. It is not only ‘spin doctors’ who twist the truth to suit their own ends. The trouble is when dishonesty becomes a habitual method of trying to get our own way.

Like when we refuse to admit something obvious, or use weasel words to give vague, irrelevant, rambling, responses to evade revealing our real intentions. For we hope that only by changing the subject and keeping quiet about what we are up to, instead of giving a straight answer, can we hope to change someone’s mind or actions.

Am I on an ego trip?

Ray and Star Silverman in their book Rise Above It have given a Swedenborgian perspective on trying to get our own way. Whether we do this coercively or subtly, it is said to be a sign that we want to possess what belongs to another person for our own sake; having charge of what they think and believe.

Any apparent success in controlling someone feeds the ego trip that our ideas are more valid than the other person’s, and the illusion that what we want is more important than what he or she wants. A few people want to possess someone’s aspirations, values and even their deepest desires.

When you notice yourself starting to manipulate other people, perhaps for genuinely held reasons, you might however want instead to hold back. I find it helps me to remember the importance of giving respect to other people who need to find out things for themselves, be free to choose what they want, and take responsibility for their own lives.

Even though we each may have a specific superior talent for something or a more important social responsibility, nevertheless everyone has a significant role to play in the universal human family. Someone controlling their attitudes can rob them of their unique contribution.

In striving to overcome the love of power, I like to think I have discovered the power of love.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems


Posted on30th March 2012CategoriesEthics, Interpersonal EthicsTags,, , , , ,, , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , ,, , ,  Leave a comment

What’s so bad about a bit of self-pride?

Self-prideA bit of self-pride seems part of the positive trait of self-esteem.

Possible danger of self-pride

Yet we speak of pride before a fall. The story of Icarus is about a young man’s attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus ignored instructions not to fly too close to the sun, and the melting wax caused him to fall into the sea where he drowned. In flying too high he is often seen as possessing overconfident arrogance. The proverb ‘Pride goes before a fall’ seems apt, implying suffering for those too cocky for their own good.

On the other hand, sounding superior and important are favoured traits in today’s tough competitive economic climate.  Even if you are not in business, you need to market your work skills in order to keep your own job or get another one.

“At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.” (Muhammad Ali)

And it is said that it can become counter-productive to be modest because you may not be taken seriously.

So is it really true that you will be like Icarus and suffer in some way as a result of being full of yourself and your ability? What’s so bad about a bit of self-pride?

Noticing the sacred in others rather than self-pride in oneself

In his book Essential Spirituality, Roger Walsh writes about noticing the sacred in other people.

He tells a story about an old woman sitting by the roadside outside her town who was approached by a traveller who asked “What kinds of people live in this town?”

“What were the people like in your home town?” queried the old woman.

“Oh, they were terrible!” fumed the traveller. “Liars, cheats, incompetents, you couldn’t trust any of them. I was glad to leave.”

“You’ll find the people in this town just the same.” Responded the old woman.

Not long afterwards, she was approached by a second traveller who also questioned her about the people in the town.

“”What were the people like in your home town?” she asked.

“Oh, they were wonderful!” exclaimed the traveller. “Fine, honest, hard-working, it was a privilege to be with them. I was so sorry to leave.”

“You’ll find the people in this town just the same. “responded the old woman.

So, how you see others and what you say about them reveals more about yourself than about them. You don’t want to seem to be a know-it-all full of self-pride who fails to notice the value in others. Few people want to appear big-headed about their own abilities at the cost of the abilities of others. Moreover, seeing what is valuable about others helps you be honest with yourself about your own limitations even when this is uncomfortable.

Seeing the sacred in life itself

Spiritually-minded people acknowledge a source of deeper energy and wisdom beyond their own mind. They ask how can one not feel humbled by the wonders of the universe, or when seeing the power of altruistic love manifest in the most extreme circumstances. We are so often exposed to the scientific view, of an evolution without purpose and a universe as a meaningless machine, that no transcendent sacred force — whatever we want to call it — is allowed to exist.

But then we are pulled up short by tantalizing glimpses, of a mysterious quality within nature — perhaps triggered by a beautiful sunset, the wisdom of birds and animals, or the vastness of space — glimpses that offer a truly awe-inspiring experience of something beyond oneself.   At such moments the mundane world is transfigured.

Such experiences, can lead to acknowledging a higher good and truth that exists beyond your own ability, and which is the source of inspiration for human effort. In this way of thinking, the focus is not on the strengths of humanity but on the strengths of the Divine presence within the human soul and accepting one’s dependence on this presence for finding tolerance, patience, and other virtue. Not, as do some Christians, in sanctimoniously promoting themselves as Godly and thus betraying a self-pride in being better than others. Instead, by genuinely bowing down to an origin of all that is good, the individual does not feel empty but full.

“Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.” (Blaise Pascal)

Neither need one indulge in self-abasement as do some believers but rather celebrate one’s ability to be uplifted and share the spiritual power available: not in denying the inner strength in oneself but rather in recognising that it is received from a higher Divine source. A bit of self-pride might not be an appropriate attitude for those with this kind of true humility.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems