What is Authenticity? (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

 

Woman Shaking Hands (Retrieved on June 9, 2014 from http://thefutureofink.com/affiliate-sales-digital-content/)

Woman Shaking Hands (Retrieved on June 9, 2014 from http://thefutureofink.com/affiliate-sales-digital-content/)

Authenticity. Just what is authenticity? And, what is it not to be authentic? To be authentic, to me, means many things. A person who is authentic is real, honest, genuine, and appropriate. Someone who is authentic is one who is able to have respect and appreciation for another person, but not necessarily always agree with or go along with the other person, especially if that other person’s words and actions are inappropriate, unprofessional, wrong, immoral, or illegal.

For instance, a friend who is a true friend can say something to another person that might be potentially hurtful, but may be something that needs to be said. A true friend is one who can say something to another that is honest, and that the other person may not like to hear, but also that is something that needs to be brought to the other’s attention in order for growth, development, and progress to occur within that other person. A person who is able to risk losing a friendship or personal interaction by behaving in these ways is one who is authentic.

There are also those who are not authentic. Inauthentic people are those who are unable to say what they truly think or feel. People who are not authentic say and behave in ways that they want, being oblivious of the manner in which they may speak or act toward others in ways that are harmful and hurtful.

When I think of people who are not authentic, I think of those who commit some type of wrong against another, and ultimately, against themselves. These are people who may be unfaithful to their spouse; sexually harass others; overlook, minimize, or deny serious issues occurring within relationships with others, such as different types of abuses; commit crimes against others; and deny that they have had any part in causing another person to think, feel, or act in a certain way.

People who use verbal, physical, and/or sexual harm toward others, therefore, are those who are inauthentic. People who use their power, influence, money, and status in ways that harm others, deny services to others, or marginalize others are those who are also inauthentic. People who are the puppets of others, doing harm toward others just because they are “doing what they are told” and/or “following orders” are those who are inauthentic, as well. They are unable to see how their words and actions are inauthentic and harmful toward others.

There are many more examples of people in my life who have been inauthentic rather than authentic. Perhaps this is because they are more prominent in my mind as a result of the hurt and harm they have caused. At any rate, some people who have been authentic in my life have been a school principal who became my supervisor in a school where I was substitute teaching many years ago. He was authentic.

Another person who is authentic is a lady who was an administrative assistant in a Catholic school at which I worked several years ago. She is authentic. My son is also a person who is authentic. Perhaps it is because I have taught him to be authentic and that it is okay to be truthful about something, even when his conduct could have been better, that he is real. I am proud that my son is authentic, real, and honest.  I have found that those who are truly authentic seem to be people who are confident and sure of themselves, without having to put on a mask and hide who they really are.

An example of a person who is not authentic is a former professor/mentor who wrote recommendations to accompany my applications to law school many years ago. Believing that he and I had established a strong and good rapport, I asked him to provide recommendations for me, only later discovering that they were worthy of lining a trash can. He was and still is inauthentic, as I also had a recent experience in interacting with him in which he proved to me that he has remained inauthentic.

Other examples of people being inauthentic are those who portray themselves as trusted members of the community, and then betray that trust and confidence. These can be people such as a church priest who threaten others with the Mafia, simply because they are unable to take responsibility for their own wrongs. They prefer to dishonor themselves and cause harm to others because they are in denial and are unable to hold themselves accountable for their own unethical or immoral conduct. The same can be said of the wealthy and powerful church Santa Claus who sexually harasses those of the opposite sex, beginning when they are young girls, believing there is nothing wrong with his behavior, and in fact, blaming the girl for his own misconduct.

The same can be said of those whose misconduct reaches a criminal nature, particularly in relation to sexual abuse or sexual assault. And, what makes it worse is when a group, church, or community supports the person who is inauthentic because they are unable to be insightful about and believe that others can conduct themselves in the inauthentic manner that was described, which simply leads to even more inauthenticity with even more people. Additional people who are inauthentic are those who stand by and doing nothing to stop another person from being inauthentic toward another person in a harmful way. Simply not wanting to get involved is a cowardly excuse to me.

In my experience, it has often been those who have positions of authority, and/or power due to wealth, influence, or status in a group, church, workplace, or community who are inauthentic. A person who is inauthentic can also be a parent or a spouse, simply because they are not real and are unable to consider or believe the truth of another’s story. Perhaps no one was there for them in their time of need, so they are unable to place themselves in the same position when a loved one is in a position of need.

It is important for people to be real and authentic. Often, people who are inauthentic believe they are always correct, believe they can do no wrong, and are unable to even listen to or consider that they may have had some part in a situation in which their inauthenticity caused another person to be harmed in some way. It takes two. And, sometimes, it may be an entire group that is inauthentic versus one person who is authentic. When people are unable to recognize that they are inauthentic, such inauthenticity only continues and potentially worsens.

What is needed for people to recognize is that in order to be authentic, one must be able to admit wrongdoing; take responsibility for his or her actions; not believe that he or she is always correct about everything; and make efforts to improve his or her conduct. Only in those ways will people become more authentic, being responsible and accountable for their words and actions, and making efforts to improve, no longer harming others, whether intentionally or not.

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Gun Law Expansion Causes Georgia to Regress, not Progress (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Last evening, upon watching the national evening news, I was shocked to learn that Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal signed a new bill, called the Safe Carry Protection Act, into law, going into effect as of July 1, 2014.  Georgia House Bill 60 will allow permitted gun bearers to keep and carry guns into many churches, schools zones, portions of airports, government buildings, and bars.  Representative Doug Holt of Georgia’s 112th district introduced the legislation.  It has been stated that the gun lobby initiated and secured the enactment of this law, with many critics being strongly against it.  I am also one of those critics who is strongly against it.

An attorney in Georgia once told me that it is better not to keep or bear arms.  Why?  Because doing so creates the potential of using them, and of injuring others and/or taking their lives.  While I believe it is certainly important for people to have the ability to protect themselves, there is no need to expand gun rights in the United States.  Business owners, school officials, and church leaders should not be forced to be responsible to make decisions regarding whether or not people are able to carry guns onto their property and into their buildings.  It should be a no-brainer that people should not be allowed to carry guns into these venues, unless they are highly trained, and are paid as security personnel or police to maintain the safety of the venue.

What is also important to keep in mind is that just because a person carries a gun, does not mean that he or she is trained in using firearms, nor has the self-control necessary to make decisions that are in the best interests of everyone should a situation become heated or violent.  Further, anyone could walk into a venue, carrying a gun, and not have a legitimate permit.  It seems to me that the “Safe Carry Protection Act” only creates the potential for environments that are less safe and less protected.  Owning, having, carrying, and maintaining guns only creates the higher potential for using them, and therefore, for seriously injuring or killing people.  More guns means more potential for violence, period.

In his speech at Ellijay, Georgia yesterday, Governor Deal quoted Thomas Jefferson as well as the United States Constitution on many occasions.  He basically affirmed Jefferson’s values and beliefs related to Americans having the right to keep and bear arms, in order to protect themselves from the tyranny of the government.  Is our government tyrannical?  I thought we lived in a republic that practiced democratic values.  Must people be handed the right to keep and bear arms everywhere?  Indeed, critics of the new law have dubbed it the “guns everywhere” law.  Allowing a greater number of people to legally carry guns into so many venues creates the potential for a lawless state.  In Georgia, the right to keep and bear arms has appeared to become the foremost of its citizens inalienable rights, and wrongly so.  My legislators have not correctly supported or promoted my beliefs and values regarding these measures.

Have the people so quickly forgotten the many tragedies that have occurred throughout our nation as a result of the use of guns to injure and kill others?  Those tragedies, on a national scale, that quickly come to mind include those at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  Columbine experienced the killings of 15 individuals, including the shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.  In Newtown, Adam Lanza killed 28 people, including himself, on a tragic day when our nation lost so many innocent children and dedicated educators.

Another incident that comes to mind is when I was a teacher in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and a young teenaged boy hijacked a car, placing the vehicle’s owner at gunpoint, then driving the car to the school at which I worked, and entering the school that was in session for the day.  The school went on lockdown, and police with dogs searched the school for the boy.  It was believed that he was armed when he entered the school (although he was not armed at that time), and when he attempted to flee the school, police had their guns drawn on him as he attempted escape through a side exit.  It is because of incidents such as these that better security is needed at our nation’s schools, for example, rather than allowing seemingly anyone to carry guns almost where ever they please.

In short, if more people are allowed to legally carry guns into more buildings and venues in Georgia, including government buildings, schools, and churches, then I will definitely feel more uncomfortable, less safe, and less protected.  Further, allowing guns to be carried into bars only creates the potential for more harm to occur.  We already know that mixing alcohol with weapons has the potential to cause violence, such violence that is unnecessary.  Indeed, many people will likely feel much less safe and protected in the very locations and venues in which such protections are virtually guaranteed, such as particular government buildings for example.

Expanding gun laws and rights in Georgia – or anywhere in the United States, for that matter – is a step backward, not forward.  We no longer live in the 1700s, where it was “every man for himself.”  Our government is not tyrannical, and we do not need to protect ourselves from it with guns.  In fact, it is our government on which we rely for protections against those who do not abide by reasonable laws.  The Safe Carry Protection Act is not a reasonable law.  This law has proceeded to throw the baby out with the bath water, and takes Georgia one step further into creating a lawless state in which it will, again, be every person for themself.   Repeal this law before it is too late, causing more lives to be needlessly lost because of it.

References:

Columbine High School massacre (2014).  Wikipedia.  Retrieved on April 24, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre

Copeland, L., & Richards, D. (April 23, 2014). Ga. governor signs ‘guns everywhere’ into law.  USA Today.  Retrieved on April 24, 2014 from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/23/georgia-gun-law/8046315/

Georgia House of Representatives (2014).  Doug Holt.  Atlanta, GA: Georgia House of Representatives.  Retrieved on April 24, 2014 from http://www.house.ga.gov/Representatives/en-US/member.aspx?Member=128

Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (2014).  Wikipedia.  Retrieved on April 24, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Hook_Elementary_School_shooting

Sayers, D.M., & McLaughlin, E.C. (April 23, 2014). Georgia law allows guns in some schools, bars, churches. Atlanta, Georgia: CNN.com.  Retrieved on April 24, 2014 from  http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/23/us/georgia-governor-signs-gun-bill/index.html

“On Being a Reluctant Catholic” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Female Praying Hands with Rosary (Retrieved from http://rachelhelie.com/?p=404 , December 23, 2013)

Female Praying Hands with Rosary (Retrieved from http://rachelhelie.com/?p=404 , December 23, 2013)

For the past few years, especially, I have been and would consider myself a reluctant Roman Catholic.  There are many reasons for this, as I will reflect upon herein; and these are thoughts and feelings that I have personally encountered and coped with in the past, as well.  While I do have my own internal, personal struggles with being Roman Catholic, I have always returned to the same realization after much introspection and contemplation – to remain Roman Catholic.  I am sure that the internal struggles that I feel about being Roman Catholic will not just go away, and in fact, they seem to increase with time.  However, for now, I continue to remain Roman Catholic, whether more or less involved as I have been in the past.  My religion and spirituality are a strong part of who I am as a person, and are not things about myself that I take lightly.  And so, serious understanding, thought, awareness, introspection, and consideration are concerns that I bring to my own table in contemplating what being Roman Catholic means for me.

I was born, baptized, and raised Roman Catholic in the Greater Buffalo Area of New York State.  My mother is of purely Polish descent, and was born and raised Roman Catholic.  When my parents married, my dad converted from being a nonpracticing Quaker to Roman Catholicism.  My mother, especially, and my dad, often, attended weekly mass on a regular basis even before I was born.  Therefore, it was a sure thing that I would become Roman Catholic, being indoctrinated in the ways of Roman Catholicism.  It was an expectation that, as the offspring of my parents, I would be Roman Catholic.  My mother made sure that my brother and I received religious education.  We attended public school, and so, took religious education classes every Sunday before going to mass since religion is not taught in public schools.  We both attended religion classes at my hometown church and school from our ages of 5-16.

Even at a young age, the thing that struck me the most about Roman Catholicism was that there were few female role models in my church, and even fewer who were visible, appreciated, or recognized in any way.  Certainly, in the parochial school in my hometown, there were nuns who were principals and teachers, however I did not attend Catholic school and did not regularly experience women’s leadership involvement in my religion.  I attended religious education classes for one hour each Sunday, and went to mass for one hour each Sunday.  Therefore, it was the men in the leadership positions of the church whom I always saw, and who were always prominent in speaking, performing mass, and being at the forefront of the faith.

As a young girl, these experiences caused me to feel that the male leaders of the church were out-of-touch with children.  Of course, they spoke about God, Jesus, His family, and His followers, and how we should love Jesus, however their words always seemed so far away.  They seemed to preach about what they did not practice.  Jesus showed the example of being caring and compassionate for children, but I did not observe any of them being that way.  They did not know how to interact with children, how to appreciate children, how to respect children, how to relate with or reach children.  They were – and, often, still are – out-of-touch.  There was alot more spiritual need that I had as a child that went unrecognized, unnurtured, ignored.  As a result, I felt invisible and unappreciated by the male leadership of the church when I was a child.  They did not know, understand, or care about me.  They preached what they did not practice.  How is a young girl supposed to gain respect for those who are so distinctly separate from her?

When I was five or six, I had my weekly religion class with Sister Mary.  Sister Mary was a very young nun who always dressed in her habit, and who was a role model for me.  She was kind and caring to children, especially to me.  I was one who wanted to stay after class and help Sister Mary clean the chalk boards.  I had alot of questions for Sister Mary who probably thought I was more of a chatterbox.  She seemed to look for reasons for me not to remain after class to talk with her, however I ignored and overlooked her hints, and asked more questions.  Always, she was very kind, compassionate, and understanding.  To me, she always had the right answers, could relate with me, and placed me at ease and at peace.  The next fall, it broke my heart to learn that Sister Mary had been relocated.  I never saw her again.  Sister Mary was like an angel to me – and worse, an angel who had been ripped away from me.  I cried over the loss of my relationship with Sister Mary.  I needed a female role model to look up to, and to whom to ask all of my curious questions, and she was gone.

I never got that feeling back about anyone in a leadership position in the church even coming close to understanding me, as a person, until I took my Confirmation classes with the deacon of my hometown church.  Deacon Louis was extremely knowledgeable, and also very upbeat and enthusiastic about Roman Catholicism and people’s individual spirituality.  I told Deacon Louis that I was interested to learn more about the Rosary, and that I wanted to pray the Rosary but did not know how.  Deacon Louis provided me with a beautifully-pictured and colored pamphlet about how to pray the Rosary.  Wow!  For once, someone who actually listened to me – amazing!  As time progressed, I learned that Deacon Louis was very understanding and respectful about individuals’ faith and spiritual development.  Again, I privately spoke with Deacon Louis and let him know that I was contemplating a few saints to be my patron saint at Confirmation.  He made photocopies of a few pages of a book for me that he had about the saints that I had identified to him.  Based on that information that he provided to me, I chose my patron saint, St. Joan of Arc.  I had a great respect for Deacon Louis.  He was a man who was married and who had three daughters; he understood me and my need for faith and spiritual fulfillment in my religion.

Throughout my life, I have always tried to reach out to priests in the churches that I have attended and/or those in which I have been a member.  In most cases, I have not had good experiences in that the men seem unable to relate with or understand my experiences as a woman.  Most priests are extremely uncomfortable in speaking with me, as a woman, about women’s issues and traumatic life experiences, for examples.  Even less so, most are unable to understand and relate with me about relationship, marital, divorce, children’s, and even career and financial issues.  They often seem to feel threatened by or unable to cope with such topics.  One expects to go to a priest for support and guidance, and when it is not received, it may lead to one questioning his or her faith.  It makes me wonder if they are simply like most men who, when faced with a problem, want to “fix” it; or if they are truly unable to relate with or understand the issues that women, children, and families face.  Certainly, fixing problems is good, however there are often times when women simply want to talk out and vent their concerns, seeking emotional support; most priests seem to be unable to understand and provide that.  For these reasons, I have learned that it is often better not to approach priests with such issues because they are typically unable to understand about and relate to them with me, at least on a personal level.

In my mid to late 20’s, I seriously contemplated becoming a nun in the Roman Catholic Church.  As a person with a strong religious faith and who was single with no committed intimate partner in sight, I thought that religious life might be suitable for me.  I sought to understand whether or not I had “received a call” from God to become a religious.  I was a member of two Roman Catholic Singles groups in Western New York State, and had opportunities for interactions with many religious, both women and men.  In this capacity, I also learned more about religious life and took several opportunities to go on religious retreats with my peers.  I participated in one weekend retreat at a convent in Cheektowaga, New York.  I also personally interviewed with a nun at the convent in Athol Springs, New York.

While both of these experiences increased my faith and spirituality, they did not convince me to pursue religious life.  In fact, they did the opposite.  At the first convent that I went to, I saw women who appeared to do much praying and sitting.  Most of the women were older or elderly, and many did not have the medical assistance they needed.  It seemed that the convent was more like one big dormitory building for women of the same faith who prayed alot.  I did not see their good works, but only saw them living amongst each other in lives that caused them to be excluded from society at large.  I similarly observed and felt this at the second convent where I interviewed.  The elderly woman who interviewed me did so in her small bedroom.  She appeared to have no family, no nothing.  To me, she appeared to have lived an empty and solitary life, and was very much unappreciated.

After more thought, I realized that I did not want any of what I observed at the convents.  I felt sorry for these women, and angry at the Roman Catholic Church for requiring them to make such huge sacrifices in their lives.  I was also upset that the Church required priests to be single.  I did not believe that was fair, or took basic human nature into serious consideration.  It seemed to me that the Church wanted fewer people for which to pay simply by requiring that religious did not have families.  Conversely, I desired the opportunity to be married and have a family.  I also realized, after more thought, that I was pursuing religious life for some of the wrong reasons.  I had experienced a traumatic experience at college as an undergraduate, and pursuing religious life was a way of escaping from it.  I realized that, and decided to deal with it – and did.

As a woman in the Roman Catholic Church, I also realized all of the limitations on and misjudgments about women that it practices.  The Roman Catholic Church is often extremely rigid and insensitive toward people and understanding the basic needs of people.  Certainly, there are many wonderful things that the Catholic Church does in helping and supporting people throughout the world.  I have also received assistance and support from the Roman Catholic Church, but this has only begun being received after having been a member of the faithful for 41 years.  Most people cannot wait 41 or more years before some of their basic needs are met; they would be dead, otherwise.

The Roman Catholic Church is also extremely patriarchal.  Women are excluded from high-ranking positions in the church.  Women are not allowed to be priests or deacons, bishops or cardinals, or popes.  Even if a Roman Catholic woman becomes a priest, she is often not recognized or supported by her followers.  Women – often but for the Virgin Mary – are viewed in a negative light in Roman Catholicism.  After all, followers are typically taught that it was Eve who led to Adam’s downfall, and the resulting exit from Paradise.  There are different versions of this story that place equal responsibility on both Adam and Eve for being removed from Paradise, though those are the stories that one does not hear and that are not taught in the faith.  Whether consciously or unconsciously women are, therefore, blamed and condemned by the Roman Catholic Church.

Additionally, the Roman Catholic Church is also sexist.  In viewing Jesus’ mother, Mary, as a virgin and placing her virginity on a pedestal, the Roman Catholic Church has elevated a woman to a position in the natural world that is unrealistic for all other women.  Certainly, virginity and chastity are important for women, however they are also ideals that are not realistic.  Often, for example, the Roman Catholic Church does not hold the same ideals for men, and this leads to a sexist double standard.  Such standards are biased and unfair.  Further, the many prayers and recitations in the Roman Catholic Church are sexist because they are not gender neutral, therefore excluding and purposely ignoring the need for increased rights, equality, and freedoms of women within the Church.

The Roman Catholic Church is also sexist in regard to its views regarding abortion.  I am a Roman Catholic for whom the choice for life is extremely important, however I also understand that it is important to provide choice, as well.  As a person who has only had one pregnancy, and who has never had any abortions or miscarriages, I believe in the value or life, though I also support the importance of choice.  It must be understood that there are situations and experiences that girls and women have that may be traumatic, out of their control, and/or life-threatening.  The are other situations in which females simply decide against continuing their pregnancy.  Women and girls must have opportunities for choice in whether or not to give birth to children.  It is wrong when the Roman Catholic Church preaches about life, but then, does not provide support or assistance to girls or women who are in need of it.  And, what about the male who has caused a pregnancy to occur?  Typically, the Roman Catholic Church does not hold males accountable to a role of responsibility when women and/or girls whom they impregnate obtain abortions.  Again, the responsibility is usually all upon the female, and the male is absolved of responsibility.  The female, again, is often blamed, stigmatized, and lacks support she needs in the very place that should provide it.

In marriages in which there is difficulty, abuse, or domestic violence, Roman Catholic priests are not consistent in their views regarding what steps should be taken to either maintain or dissolve the marriage.  Such views contribute to confusion and increased sexism in the Roman Catholic Church.  Some priests maintain the view that the wife and children must be subservient to the male, whom they view as the head of the household and the absolute, all-powerful leader of the family.  Such a view is harmfully patriarchal, and in fact, can contribute to a worsening of the situation in which the victims continue to be victimized, blamed, and unsupported.  Men should not necessarily be believed or obeyed at all costs, or it could cost one her life.  (Then, of course, people will ask why she did not just leave the marriage.)   On the other hand, there are priests who encourage marital counseling for a couple who is in trouble, however none of those with whom I have ever interacted are qualified to provide it.  First, they are not licensed counselors, nor do they have experience in marriage, or in having a wife and family of their own.  Then, there are those priests who say that if counseling does not help and if the situation is so bad, then divorce is the best option.  Wait, I thought marriage was supposed to be forever.  Sometimes, however, no matter how much a woman may try to improve and maintain her marriage, divorce is the only viable alternative that remains, whether it is initiated by her spouse or herself.

There is also the issue of homosexuals in the Roman Catholic Church.  I am an individual who is and who always has been heterosexual, though I recognize that there is a need in the Roman Catholic Church to provide support and equality to all peoples, including those who are homosexual.  I am also one who believes that marriage should be – notice that I said “should be” – between a man and woman, though I recognize this as one of my values because this is what I was taught.  I also take care not to impose my values about this issue onto others.  Therefore, I maintain the view that marriage should be between two partners who love and are fully committed to each other, for the benefit of themselves and their families, if they have them.  Therefore, I believe that the Roman Catholic Church should not exclude or condemn individuals who are homosexual, nor create guilt in them or cause them to feel sinful simply because of their sexual orientation.

Further, there are many experiences that I have had in the Roman Catholic Church – a church that promotes Jesus and Christianity – that have been extremely unchristian.  Within individual Roman Catholic churches, schools, groups, and/or organizations affiliated with it, there have been a great number of situations I have had in which people who contend to be Catholic and Christian behave in decidedly unchristian ways, in ways of which Jesus would not approve.  There are many Roman Catholics who are basically hypocrites because they preach about and say they believe what they actually do not practice.

As an example of such hypocrisy, a number of Roman Catholic men throughout my life (both as a child and as a woman) have been sexually harassing (or worse) of me, and have outright wanted to have an affair with me, even though they are married and/or we were both married to other spouses at those times.  I am a person who has never – I repeat, never – had an affair with any man.  Even in a difficult (to say the least) marriage in which there were temptations to be unfaithful, I remained faithful to my then-spouse.  I have also turned down every man who has wanted to have an affair with me.  I understand that he is seeking something temporary and for his own gratification, and does not understand the seriousness or implications that having an affair would create on himself, his wife, and his children.  The Roman Catholic Church and society must teach men to be faithful to their wives and families, even when times are tough.  When times are tough, it is taking the easy way out to throw in the towel regarding one’s marriage and commitment.  More instruction and better role models are needed for Roman Catholic men (and all men) in regard to maintaining and developing healthy marriages, at least from my perspective.

Another major issue in the Roman Catholic Church is abuse and sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and/or harassment by priests toward female and male congregants, particularly those who are younger and/or who are in positions of vulnerability.  In churches and dioceses throughout the United States, in Ireland, and elsewhere, there have been numerous instances of sexual abuse by priests.  While I have not personally experienced sexual abuse by any priests in the Roman Catholic Church, I do know of those who have and those who have perpetrated abuse that was unrecognized by the greater congregation and not at all addressed, corrected, or resolved by higher level diocesan church leaders.  Such abuses have ripe ground to occur in such a closed, structured, hierarchical organization of men who all too often have ignored, overlooked, and not considered the seriousness of the situations.  Instead, and all too often again, abusive priests are ushered along to different parishes where they continue and/or escalate their abuses, and/or continue them unrecognized.  Certainly, there are many good priests, and those who perpetrate abuses give a bad name to those who do not.  And, the Roman Catholic Church has implemented serious steps at preventing future abuses, as one good thing that has come from these situations, however they do continue to occur.  Such abuses by priests have caused many followers to leave the faith, and to lose hope in the very people who are supposed to be Christ-like.  I personally know of several people who have left Roman Catholicism because of these issues – such issues that should never occur.

Because of all of these experiences that I have had as a Roman Catholic, and more, I have become a reluctant Roman Catholic.  In the past couple of years, I have actively sought out and have considered other faiths.  All of the faiths that I have considered are still within Christianity, though they have been either less Catholic or more Protestant than Roman Catholicism.  In these faiths, however, I have found many issues that are similar to those I have encountered in the Roman Catholic Church.  Certainly, in some faiths, women have higher positions of power and might actually be the highest leader of their faith, however I observe that being practiced to the most minimal extent in the area where I live around Atlanta, an area that is mostly Baptist and thus, also highly patriarchal based on related religious and cultural views.  Also, in other faiths, the Virgin Mary is not held in nearly the same regard as she is in Roman Catholicism.  While Roman Catholics may place her on a pedestal and view her unrealistically in regard to virginal expectations of women in society, she is completely absent in some other faiths, leaving me with a feeling that I could become a member of such a faith, but that is the only thing holding me back – that faith’s exclusion of Mary as the Mother of Jesus.

So, I always return to the same crossroads – do I remain Roman Catholic or do I convert to another faith?  While there are many things in Roman Catholicism with which I disagree and do not support, I always reach the same answer – to remain Roman Catholic.  The most important part of my decision always includes that I am a faithful follower and believer in Jesus.  I might not agree with many of the practices of Roman Catholicism, however I do believe in the teachings of Jesus.  I have always come to the conclusion that I can pray for myself, and my friends and enemies.  I can pray that the eyes of those who have sight but who are blind can be opened.  I can work to do more to bring awareness about the importance and value of women and children in the Church, rather than support the male leadership’s exclusion of them.

I recognize that I am one who is not content to simply accept the rigid, patriarchal, and sexist nature of the Roman Catholic Church, but who is one who strives to bring increased equality and support to marginalized groups, including women and children.  While Blessed Teresa and Pope Francis, for examples, are excellent role models within the Roman Catholic Church, and have brought much compassion and support to people around the world, I, personally, continue to experience much rigidity, patriarchy, sexism, and inequality in my faith.  I doubt that the Roman Catholic Church will ever provide full equality, understanding, or acceptance in the Church for women, and while I am intolerant of that, I do accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  Thus, I continue to remain a reluctant Roman Catholic, and will likely revisit this issue at many points throughout the remainder of my life.  I place my faith in God that He will continue to guide me on the path that is right for me.

“When Sexually Offending ‘Pillars of the Community’ go Undetected” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Pillar Ruins, Retrieved from wallygrom/Flickr, August 16, 2013

Pillar Ruins, Retrieved from wallygrom/Flickr, August 16, 2013

When men who sexually harass, assault, traumatize, or otherwise violate others, especially when they are wealthy, powerful, and/or influential ‘Pillars of the Community’ – and they go undetected and are not held accountable or responsible for their actions – everyone, including themselves, is diminished and victimized.  Recently, we have heard and read about the sexually offensive actions of San Diego’s mayor; nearly 20 women have now come forward with accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct by this man.  Neither is he the first whose actions have violated and offended so many women, nor will he be the last.

Many other men from all walks of life may go undetected for years or even decades with their sexually offensive and/or harmful actions, especially if they are wealthy, powerful, and/or influential.  Often, these men – when faced with the harsh truth of their words and/or actions – blame, punish, revictimize, and do whatever possible to destroy the survivors of their misconduct.  For them, it is a vicious cycle from which they cannot escape because they may often be unwilling and/or unable to honestly admit to themselves that they are wrong, that their words and actions are harmful to their victims, and that they require assistance to overcome their misconduct.  In fact, they may not even see any wrongdoing in their actions, nor perceive their victims as victims; thus, the cycle continues, especially when these men are undetected and are not accountable, nor responsible for their actions.

In 2007, a female parochial school student at St. Joseph’s School in Gowanda, New York described to her teacher and her fellow classmates about how the parish priest, at the time, had sexually harassed her when he was alone with her in the parish rectory.  At the time of the incident, the student was 12-years-old.  This occurred during a time when a party was being held in recognition of the altar servers who gave of their time and service to the church and school at parish masses.  The student reported that she had not told her family about the incident, and therefore, the teacher took responsibility and informed her parents about it.  Sadly, the parents did nothing about it. 

The teacher, being concerned about the girl’s safety, suggested that she no longer be an altar server.  The girl, however, wanted to continue being an altar server – and did so for her remaining year at the school – while the girl’s teacher and certain of the girl’s fellow students made great efforts to be sure that there were no other instances of the priest being alone with her.  That the priest (who is now retired) was in his 60’s at the time, and the student was only 12, suggests that this church leader may be a pedophile. 

When confronted through communications by the teacher that he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing rather than a pious church leader, the parish priest retaliated against her.  He privately stated to her, threatening that she “should be afraid” of “the Mafia.”  Far from fearing the Mafia for having done no wrong, this woman continues to believe that it is the priest who should be afraid – not of the Mafia – but of the judgment of God.

During the years 1976-2006, a former female member of St. Joseph’s Church – the church that is associated with the aforementioned school – experienced repeated sexual harassment, as well as two instances of pedophilia by one of the wealthy, powerful, and influential benefactors of these institutions.  The early instances occurred when the girl was 5 and 7-years-old, with one being at one of the man’s businesses and the other occurring while the man was dressed as Santa Claus.  The man sexually harassed this female, treating her like his sexual plaything, from his ages of approximately 35-65 years old.  In later years, the man typically sexually harassed the woman in church and/or on church property, including making sexually explicit actions and gestures toward her in church during masses.  The man has also been known to have sexually harassed other women and girls in his immediate community.

In 2007, the father of the man immediately aforementioned behaved in a manner of sexual misconduct toward the woman by committing a sexual battery against her, privately, while in church after a mass.  The woman remained in the presence of this offender and confronted him, though he simply walked away.  As a man whom this woman considered a friend – someone whom she had known only as a friend throughout her life, and who had provided emotional and spiritual support to her in the past, as well as having dated one of his grandsons – the woman expected an apology at the very least, but got nothing of the sort. 

To have lowered themselves to committing pedophilia, offensive sexual actions, and/or harmful sexual misconduct – and taking no responsibility to correct it, nor to be accountable for it – reflects how men who are wealthy, powerful, and/or influential ‘Pillars of the Community’ may go undetected in their sexual misconduct.  These men may be priests, business owners, award winners in their communities, and highly-regarded by most people.  That these men have not taken any steps to correct or seek forgiveness for their misconduct from their victims causes them to avoid identifying and realizing that they have a problem, and therefore, they continue the vicious cycle with other unsuspecting people.  They do not know or care in the least that they have lost the respect and trust of those whom they have victimized; they appear oblivious to the harm they have caused.  Rather than honestly admit and recognize that they have a problem, they do everything possible to cover it up, as well as blame, punish, retaliate, and destroy their victims. 

I feel sorry for men who have such a need for power, control, and dominance over girls and women that they behave in ways that sexually harass, assault, violate, traumatize, harm, and/or intimidate their victims.  That there are many men out there who are viewed by others with admiration and respect, though they secretly and/or discretely perform actions of sexual misconduct, reflects how easy it is for them to go undetected.  In situations where the men performing the sexual misconduct are wealthy, powerful, and/or influential ‘Pillars of the Community’ is worse because they have access to so many venues and opportunities to commit their sexual offenses.

Women and girls, in particular, are at great risk for sexual exploitation by the wealthy and powerful.  I have often heard the phrase, “From whom much is given, much is expected,” however in some cases regarding the wealthy and powerful, their sexual misconduct goes undetected and may continue for years and/or decades.  That many men violate the God-given rights of women and girls (and boys) by committing sexually offensive acts against them shows their lack of respect, appreciation, understanding, insight, and compassion toward them.  Many men, especially those who are among the wealthy and/or powerful, can do better to keep their sexual impulses controlled and in check so that they do not rise to the level of harassment, misconduct, assault, or trauma toward others.  By not doing so, they truly have no concept regarding the level of emotional pain, distress, trauma, and/or mistrust they have caused, and continue to cause years into the future.

I would like to recognize and send my appreciation to all those who stand up for women, girls, children, and the rights of women and children, especially toward survivors of sexual traumas and abuse.  In my own personal circle of friends, two of these women are Merrie and Frances.  Both women risked their own well-being and reputations, as I also have, to stand up against sexual harassment, sexual offenses, gender discrimination, and hostility toward women in our communities; we also experienced retaliation for our efforts, and still do. 

The ultimate in love and friendship occurs when people risk and sacrifice themselves for the good of others, much as Jesus did.  While strong women who stand up to protect those who experience sexual trama and offenses toward them are not often rewarded for their efforts, we have been rewarded by knowing that we have done the right thing in God’s eyes.  Our true rewards await in Heaven; the truth has already set us free.

“Cub Scout Privacy Issue Transforms into Personal Vendettas Against Concerned Mom” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Cub Scout Pinewood Derby Car and Trophies, January 2013

Cub Scout Pinewood Derby Car and Trophies, January 2013

On January 19, 2013, a local Cub Scout pack associated with a Roman Catholic Church in my area with which we were affiliated held it’s annual Pinewood Derby.  At the Pinewood Derby happened to be an older man who was photographing every child – scouts and their siblings – whom I had not before seen.  This man had a large professional-style camera, and was aggressively photographing the children, sometimes getting into their faces to do so.  As a former scout leader – who is also still certified, by the way – and as a concerned mom, red flags were raised in my mind about this man who appeared to be a professional photographer, whom I did not know, and who was quite aggressively photographing the children.

Toward the end of the Pinewood Derby when the children were receiving their awards for speed and design, I spoke to the photographer – who, by that point, I decided was a professional photographer – and confronted him about why he was taking so many photos after he tapped me on my shoulder while I was taking photos and told me to move out of his way.  He took photos of my child and every other child, with no advance notice from pack leadership, nor with any opportunity not to provide consent, nor to opt-out of this situation. 

When the photographer would not answer my question, I became more concerned, and asked if someone hired him.  He replied that, indeed, another scout mother (whom I later discovered was a friend of his) hired him to take the photos.  I verbally stated to him that he did not have my permission to use any photos of my son, and he acknowledged that.  He then began to argue with me that he didn’t want to talk with me because he was taking photos.  This created an unpleasant and uncomfortable situation for me as I am interested in the privacy and protection of my son – and that of other children – and that a safe environment be provided and maintained.

Not knowing this man, nor what he was going to do with the photos that he took of every child, I e-mailed four particular leaders within the pack leadership committee whom I knew had the most experience in the pack.  Also, I did not e-mail other leaders because I did not know their names, nor their e-mail addresses.  I e-mailed the four particular folks, expressing my concerns for privacy and safety of my son, and that of other children regarding this individual, whom I discovered was, indeed, a professional photographer.  I requested the name and contact information of the professional photographer so that I could send him my nonconsent in writing regarding the photos that he took of my child without my permission. 

One of the den leaders whom I had e-mailed put up an unnecessary argument with me in response to my concern, and did not at all take the situation seriously.  This den head happened to be the leader of my child’s den, and he used this situation as a personal attack at me, throwing in his own personal vendettas toward me that were unrelated to the issue at hand.  He also used these issues as his reasons to eject my family from the den, which has caused my son to be extremely hurt and betrayed.  Mind you, the man in question is an individual who asked me to serve as a den leader with him, and I did so for a period of one year, always maintaining professionalism and ethics in my interactions with him and everyone in the den and pack.  That he brought his own personal issues against me into the matter were unprofessional and unethical, including that he never informed me about such issues before the current issue at hand.

The pack leadership committee chairwoman then responded to me, also not taking my privacy and safety concerns seriously.  I asked her, in writing, on three occasions throughout a period of one week (seven days) to provide me with the name and contact information of the photographer.  She did not even know the man’s name or contact information!  No references were requested of this man; and no attempt to inform parents beforehand, nor provide any opt-out condition was offered!  It took the pack leadership committee chairwoman all of those seven days to respond to me with the name of the photographer’s business. 

The same pack leadership committee chairwoman also explained to me by e-mail that only a few (four) of the leaders in the pack leadership committee had approved the professional photographer taking photos at the Pinewood Derby, and that it was a change that came about the night before the Derby when a scout mom said her camera was broken and she asked a friend to take the photos.  Supposedly, as was explained to me by e-mail, the professional photos were to be used to create a CD collage for an outgoing leader.  However, without anything in writing to parents in advance, there was no guarantee that this photographer from off the street could use those photos for anything that he desired – as well as the scout mom whom he stated to me had hired him.

In order to inform the charter organization representative in these issues in an effort to gain a positive resolution in my son’s best interests to the matters, I also communicated with and contacted the parish clergy of the church that charters the pack.  I also took the opportunity to address the bullying which my son and other children have experienced within the pack and den – to the point of one child being physically hurt by another and whose family left the pack last year.  When I had informed the den leader about it – as well as when I informed the chairwoman – nothing was done to stop or correct it.  So, this is yet another issue that is not taken seriously by pack leadership. 

When I received no responses from either of the charter organization representatives (priests), I contacted the district council representative, both by e-mail and by phone.  I spoke with him for about 20 minutes by phone, and he was supportive of me that I was a concerned enough parent to raise the issues of privacy and safety – not only for my child, but for all of the children – to the pack leadership.  I stated to him, however, that the pack leadership did not see it that way.  Unfortunately, he also declined from being officially involved in the matter unless no resolution could be obtained with the pack leadership and church leadership that charters the pack.  Therefore, I contacted the church office in an effort to arrange a meeting between interested parties to obtain a positive resolution to these matters. 

On discovering that the head pastor was out of the country for two weeks, he had recently returned to the area, and two days following my phone request to arrange a meeting, he e-mailed everyone, providing his availability for a meeting, and stating that all other e-mail communications about the matter should cease, otherwise he would not be involved.  He further stated that it did not matter to him whether or not the Boy Scouts of America, Supreme Court, or some other international tribunal was involved in the matters.  I took that to say that he really did not desire to be involved, and that is also what I experienced at the meeting that was held.

In the midst of these matters, I also consulted and communicated with a great many people in scouting who are familiar with these types of issues, questions, and concerns.  From a couple of them, I received little to no support, however several others were very supportive, agreeing that I had a legitimate concern – as I also believed – for the privacy and safety of my child and the other children – and that particular policies regarding such a matter were not followed.  From one experienced and knowledgeable former scout employee, I obtained information providing that a unit photographer should have accompanied the professional photographer at the event; and that the entire leadership committee should have been involved in the decision about the professional photographer.

That same former scout employee contact also informed me that neither the pack, nor the chartered organization have the authority to create contracts because they are not considered legal entities.  My question would also wonder why a scout mom could hire an outside professional photographer to come in and take photos of every scout and their siblings at a scouting event, without the parents’ advance notice and permission.  Another experienced scout executive further stated to me that while he believed that the photography was acceptable, parents should have been provided with an official Boy Scout form, stating whether or not they desired to have any type of photos taken of their child.  That was not done in regard to me and my family, nor to my knowledge with any other scout family in the pack.

It must also be noted that one day prior to the meeting, the chairwoman e-mailed parents and informed them that a photographer was present at the Derby, and that photos could be obtained from her of their child(ren).  That would not have occurred had I not expressed my concerns about privacy and safety for the children, and encouraged her to inform everyone.

Armed with all of this helpful information, I attended the meeting between the priest who was the chartered organization representative, the pack leadership committee chairwoman, and the den leader.  The parish priest absolutely grilled me about why I had a concern about privacy and safety of my child and the other children regarding the professional photographer.  Of course, I explained that I was not informed in advance, nor provided an opportunity to opt-out.  I further explained that when I see someone in the pack whom I have never before seen, and he is photographing my child and every other child, I have a legitimate concern. 

The words and conduct of the priest were entirely unethical and unprofessional, and he basically supported the lack of seriousness, ethics, and professionalism about this matter in the manner that it was handled by pack leadership.  At one point, the priest even laughed about the situation of informing us to take the issue to the Supreme Court or higher authority, and also told me that I should have “gone along” with the photography situation.

None of the other three individuals at the particular meeting took my concerns seriously, nor treated me with any respect whatsoever.  The behavior exhibited by all three was bullyish toward me and my family, and reflective of their own intolerance and lack of insight in the matter.  By far, the most offensive person toward me was the priest!  He negatively escalated the situation beyond repair, which I believe was his actual intention.  The anger, hatred, and misogyny that he directed at me was absolutely incredible!  He stated to me that my concerns were inappropriate and over the top, having caused people to become fearful of me; I said that I had a legitimate concern, and did not agree with his characterization of me or my concerns. 

When I stated that my family has been involved with that church parish for the past 12 years, having been faithful and contributing much, he had absolutely no appreciation for anything me or my family had done.  Last year, we  left membership of that parish and joined another parish affiliated with my child’s school; and the priest was quite adamant to point that out and throw it in my face.  I also stated, however, that we were still members of the parish when we joined the pack.  The priest even had some piece of paper that he slid over the table to me, reflecting that we left the parish, and I slid it back at him. 

So, I stated to the priest, therefore, that he also had his own personal issue with me because my family left that parish.  He then went on to inquire as to whether or not he and I had issues between each other in the past, and I replied that there were at least two.  I stated that regarding those two issues (that were of extremely high importance in relation to marriage and family healthcare issues), that he referred me to someone else or did not respond.  He, of course, did not recall the issues, and to me, it was apparent that he did not even believe they were important enough to remember.  There were also two occasions when I approached the parish in my financial need, and was turned away both times, being informed that the parish had no money to give, even though about $100,000 was provided to families in need during one particular year through the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul affiliation.

I also brought up the fact that, in the pack in which we were members prior to coming to our present pack, there were no types of issues of this nature at all – no privacy and safety issues, and no personal issues from pack leadership directed against us.  Last Spring, however, my son and me experienced a situation of a highly obscene and offensive nature from a scout mother in the pack – the same mother, by the way, who supposedly “hired” the professional photographer to take photos of all of the children at the Pinewood Derby.  I went through the appropriate channel of the pack leadership chairwoman regarding that issue, and stated that we were extremely offended, however that I did not desire the issue to be such that it created a negative situation for her or for us. 

Wouldn’t you know that, at the meeting to discuss my concerns about privacy and safety, that particular issue arose by the chairwoman and den leader, saying that it was blown out of proportion!  My son and me were the victims in this matter of this scout mom who behaved in an outlandishly obscene and offensive manner toward us!  How sad, now, that they are protecting and supporting her – the offender of the situation – rather than us as those who experienced it.  In psychology, that is called victim-blaming.  

All of this was yet another reflection to me that neither the pack leadership, nor the church leadership share the appropriate and needed values that should be present within the pack and the church.  Understand me clearly, now, that these are the leaders of both of these organizations.  When I hoped for understanding and consideration, me and my family received nothing but insults, offenses, and lack of professionalism, ethics, and values on all fronts.  That both the den leader and the priest called me a liar when I presented my simple and legitimate concerns about children’s privacy and safety, and that the issue was used as personal vendettas and attacks on me and my family by pack and church leadership, was highly offensive and a complete affront to me, as someone who is always looking out for the best interests of my son and the children. 

To further the affronts, the den leader has unreasonably and irrationally threatened legal action toward me over this issue – the simple issue of desiring privacy and safety of children.  Is this what the Boy Scouts of America stands for and supports – threats and defamation of character that have absolutely no basis?  This situation is truly incredible, and has become unnecessarily unreasonable and traumatic for me and my family.

Therefore, I could see that, ultimately, the best positive resolution for me and my family related to these issues was to leave the pack.  Also, when I asked all present at the meeting for a promise that such a privacy/safety issue would not occur again in the future, no one responded, and therefore, I received no guarantee that this same type of thing would not occur again.  We had been members of the pack for about two years, always being faithfully involved and supportive, contributing much to the fundraisers as well as in officially volunteering for the pack, and in my son gaining much enjoyment, achievement, and socialization with other kids.  Currently, scouting has been his only extra-curricular activity, and as an only child, is something that, overall, he has truly enjoyed over most other types of activities. 

Additionally, at least I was able to locate the photographer’s name and business address, online, based on the business name that the pack chairwoman provided to me; and I both e-mailed and mailed my nonconsent for his use of his photos of my son taken at the Derby without my advance notice or permission.  I should not have had to go through all of what I did simply to ensure the safety and privacy of my son.  This situation would have never occurred had pack leadership informed parents in advance and provided the opportunity to opt-out.

Hopefully, we will find another pack in which we can experience peace, fairness, a safe environment, common sense, and courtesy.  If there is an absence of locating such a group, I will be hesitant to remain involved with scouting at all if my legitimate concerns are going to be turned around against me and my family as personal attacks, making our experience unnecessarily painful and detrimental.  I do not wish to be persecuted simply because my ethics, morals, values, standards, and expectations are higher than average.  We came to scouting for enjoyable experiences – mostly which we have had – however, I am not willing to subject my son and family to being hurt by folks who do not stand up for the right thing for children.  And, I’m not going to “go along” with what is wrong, and against my values and principles.  Those who go along with what is wrong and do not stand for what is right are not leaders to me, and such people blindly take an organization or institution astray due to their own dysfunctional conduct.

By the way, I informed the district council representative yesterday, briefly, by e-mail of what transpired in the meeting.  He personally responded to me by e-mail, stating that Boy Scouts of America is thankful for families such as mine, and is appreciative of my handling of the privacy and safety concern at hand.  He also wished us well, and offered his assistance in helping us locate and become involved with another pack that is basically more in line with our own values.

“Prayers and Support Needed for St. Rose of Lima Parish, Newtown, Connecticut” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Newtown, Connecticut (Reference: http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ ).

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Newtown, Connecticut (Reference: http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ ).

Prayers and support are still very much needed for parishioners and employees of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as for the survivors and residents there for coping with grief and healing.  Postings on Facebook, CatholicVote.org, Change.org, WordPress, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other organizations speak to the continued need for prayers, support, and good works for the people of Newtown, Connecticut. 

My own regional Women’s Catholic Bible Study group at St. John Neumann Parish in Lilburn, Georgia is also involved in spreading this message, as well as in providing encouragement, prayers, and support for – in particular – the religious employees of St. Rose of Lima Parish.  Please continue to spread the word and share supportive, encouraging words and works of healing for the people of this parish and of Newtown. 

The church’s address is:

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church

47 Church Hill Road

Newtown, Connecticut 06470

Priests at the Church include: Msgr. Bob Weiss, Fr. Luke Suarez, and Fr. Ignacio Ortigas. 

There are also many religious sisters, deacons, education employees, office staff members, and others who are doing their best to emotionally and spiritually support others while also coping with their own grief; and it is my understanding that they really need all of the support that they can get to heal and cope. 

Additionally, the church website that shares prayers of supporters to the parish can be found at the following link: http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ .

Please do whatever you can to help, encourage, and support the people of Newtown, Connecticut, and St. Rose of Lima Parish there.  The Church website also has a link where one may make monetary donations for the Sandy Hook families.

References

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.  December 28, 2012.  http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ .

(Note: Please know that I do not support or endorse any of the advertisements that may appear in conjunction with my blog posts.  They are placed there by WordPress, and I have no control over them.  I appreciate your understanding.)

“People in Authority who don’t Listen aren’t Leaders” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

People in positions of authority who don’t listen to or consider others aren’t leaders.  It’s as simple as that.  It seems that there are so many more people in our world who don’t listen to or consider others than there are those who do.  What is extremely discouraging, disappointing, and disturbing is when an individual of common, everyday status approaches and/or comunicates with someone in authority about a serious issue or concern that can be changed or improved, and that person does not listen, does not care, and/or does not even consider what the other person has to say.  We, therefore, must be very thankful for those people who do listen – whether or not they are in positions of authority and whether or not they are in a position to change a situation for the better.  Those people seem to be getting fewer and fewer these days.

In my own experience and throughout my life, I have met, encountered, interacted with, and/or communicated with many people in positions of authority who, by their refusal to listen to, consider, and/or understand certain issues and concerns, are not true leaders.  Leaders are those people who take charge and lead all others in a positive direction of beneficial development. 

Sometimes, however, people in authority and in positions of leadership are unwilling and/or unable to listen to and consider the needs, issues, and concerns of others.  Therefore, in my definition, they are not true leaders because they are unable to be open to truly hearing, considering, analyzing, and understanding issues that may bring about positive change that may and can be good and beneficial for everyone.  People in positions of authority who are closed to others and who shut others out, by this definition, are not leaders.

It seems that there are sometimes too many people in our lives who are unwilling or unable to hear what we have to say.  Perhaps our information is too uncomfortable for them to hear, or they are threatened by it in some way, or they are unable to cope with it.  That is unfortunate for everyone because they are missing out on an opportunity to do something good for others.  They, therefore, don’t even realize that they have missed a chance to improve something, to help another, and to potentially assist many others.  They believe that they know the only right and correct way; they have closed themselves off from others, and believe they are protecting themselves from others. 

In my life and experience, I have met, interacted with, and communicated with several people who, through their own discomforts, feelings of being threatened in some way, inability to cope, and/or simple refusal to listen caused them to shut me out, turning away from me.  These people have included certain authority figures in higher education, churches, schools, businesses, family and friends, and even former intimate partners.  When people are unable or unwilling to listen to information they don’t want to hear and/or with which they are unable to cope, they may shut you out, turn you away, deny you, discredit you, and/or even demonize you, simply for being direct, honest, truthful, and assertive.

It is, therefore, extremely important to be thankful and grateful for those who ethically and morally consider and listen to others, particularly when their information has, not only the potential to influence and assist that person in a positive way, but the potential to benefit many others, as well.  There are some individuals out there who can and do listen.  There are some folks who take positive and beneficial actions to help and protect others when they are informed about it.  There are certain people – within the same and other groups that I mentioned above – who do act to help and benefit others, who seriously consider and analyze others’ actions and information, and who do not demonize and condemn the individuals who are providing truthful and honest information, even though it may be information that they don’t want to hear.

It is these people for whom we must be grateful.  For these people, we must recognize and be aware of their personal and internal gifts and talents of truly being leaders.  True leaders are strong in the face of persecution, even though others may have condemned and demonized them simply for stating or doing something with which others disagree or with which they are unable to cope.  We must recognize, therefore, that the majority may not always be right or correct, ethical or moral, honest or truthful.  What we must recognize is that even one or a few people can be correct over the majority, that perhaps even one or a few people who stand up for what is right even in the face of abuse, injustice, and persecution may have only the best interests of everyone in mind, not just that for themselves. 

If you are a leader of a group, organization, business, or institution, how do you behave and what do you say to others in order to include, consider, and hear the concerns and issues of others?  How do you examine, analyze, and research the information that has been given to you?  Do you simply believe what others have to say about another person, simply because they may be in a potentially powerful position of authority over the other person?  People in positions of authority are not always right and correct. 

I identify Pope Benedict XVI as a good example of a person in authority who does not always do what is right and correct, in hiding and covering up the abuses of clergy throughout the world.  I identify college or university presidents who do not listen to students who have concerns or issues about crimes committed against them by other students, or other college officials who will not consider other serious issues brought to their attention. 

I identify school principals who bully teachers and students because they do not wish to draw attention to particular issues.  I identify clergy who shut others out simply because they are unwilling or unable to cope with what others have to say.  I identify governmental and political figures who won’t consider a different and perhaps better or more fair way of doing things in consideration of others.  I even identify family members or relatives who are unable to hear or consider truthful and honest information, particularly when such information may potentially be to their benefit. 

It is, therefore, very important to cultivate and maintain relationships with others who do consider, hear, listen to, and understand you.  When you are completely honest and truthful with yourself, others who are also honest and truthful will recognize and appreciate your truth.  It’s like the old sayings go, “Birds of a feather flock together,” and “they are like peas in a pod.”  People who are similar understand, appreciate, and respect each other.  People who stand up for what is right and correct find, understand, and appreciate each other, as well. 

Thank you to all those who are able to hear, understand, listen to, and consider the truth, and what is right and good, even if it’s something that you don’t want to hear.  For those of you who are unable to do so, I pray for you that your eyes, ears, and mind will be open to what others have to say.