“A Spiritual Inquiry: What is Suffering?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Suffering.  Just what is ‘suffering’ anyway?  What is the meaning of suffering, and why do people suffer?  Why do we experience suffering?  Dictionaries and encyclopedias generally define suffering as relating to pain, distress, and/or emotional pain; anxiety, stress, or aversion to something subjective; and a negative emotion or feeling, etc. 

The New World Encyclopedia defines suffering “as a negative basic feeling or emotion that involves a subjective character of unpleasantness, aversion, harm, or threat of harm.”  I would like to take this definitions and understanding of suffering a bit further, expanding on it to include many types of suffering, including emotional, psychological, physical, physiological, social, moral, and spiritual suffering.

There are so many different types of suffering, and I’m sure that most of us have experienced many – if not all – of them.  During Lent this year in 2012, I especially and personally contemplated the meaning of suffering.  This is a topic about which I have thought in the past, though I found deeper meaning in contemplating it during this past Lenten season.  I thought about Jesus, and all the suffering, pain, anguish, and turmoil he experienced prior to dying as our Savior.  I know that it was God’s will for this to occur, though I wondered why – as I have wondered why throughout my life – this was necessary to occur. 

One man – one holy, Godly man – is able to save us from our own sinfulness through the power of his suffering, death, and resurrection.  Was there no other way to achieve that?  Why was it necessary that Jesus experience such horrific and indescribable suffering in order to save us?  Why, often, does society – even now – turn against those who are good, honest, moral, and ethical.  Why, sometimes, is it that those who are self-serving, corrupt, unjust, unethical, and immoral make gains in their lives over those who are the opposite of them? 

These are not only religious questions, but also philosophical and humanistic questions worth contemplating.  Why is there suffering in the world?  Why does it occur?  Is it something that is necessary to occur as a result of our own humanity?

When I think about suffering, I think about things that I have experienced in my own life – or even that which family members have experienced – and then, when I hear about another’s suffering, what I have experienced sometimes seems to pale in comparison to theirs.  An adult daughter of a friend and colleague is struggling to heal against breast cancer.  This spring, a young girl in my child’s school was recently diagnosed with bone cancer, while another was diagnosed with diabetes.  The daughter of a close friend has been struggling against breast cancer.  Still others whom we know deal with great physical or emotional pain each day. 

Others suffer with physical pain, including a dog that was reported to have killed a family’s two-month-old baby in April 2012.  Still others also grapple with suffering that they may not be able to alleviate, of loved ones killed and who we are unable to revive and bring back.  An example of this that is still all too fresh in our minds is the suffering and death inflicted upon so many at the movie theater tragedy in Aurora, Colorado (http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-201_162-10013055-2.html?tag=page;next).  And, there are countless other examples of suffering, pain, and death that go on and on, such as the fighting in Syria and Northern Ireland, and even in some of our own neighborhoods, such as those in Chicago.

So much suffering.  Why is there suffering?  Why is it a “normal” condition of human life to have and experience suffering?  Is it expected?  Is it necessary?  Is it an unavoidable condition of human life and of all life on earth?  When people worry, are nervous, or are anxious, they experience some degree of suffering.  When people are hungry, homeless, or in need, they are suffering.  When anyone experiences any type of abuse – emotional, physical, sexual, even spiritual – they are suffering.  How can we understand, alleviate, and/or overcome pain and suffering?

If someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic situation, such as a tragic death of a family member, loss of their home due to a natural disaster, or was involved in a terrible vehicle accident, they have experienced suffering.  There are also those who self-impose suffering onto themselves, inflicting injury on themselves, drinking, doing drugs, being promiscuous, or doing illegal actions – they are suffering.  Therefore, there exist the questions about why people hurt themselves. 

Personally, I feel sorrow and sympathy for those who are suffering, as well as for those who have some type of need within themselves to create or cause suffering on or toward others.  People who are bullies, those who are abusive, those who commit crimes, those who are hateful, those who have no conscience or sense of any wrong-doing when they take life-altering actions against others – I feel sorry for them and I pray for them.  Indeed, I sometimes also feel anger, spite, judgment, and a lack of understanding for their actions, though I also pray for them. 

For these people I just described, I believe they are those who need the most prayers.  They may be those for whom society and the world let down, didn’t help, and turned away from, forcing them to fend for themselves, to survive in whatever ways possible, even if those ways were criminal.  I feel sorry for them, and I may find it in my heart to be forgiving, but I believe it is important not to forget and not to allow oneself to be open to being hurt and/or injured by them in some way again. 

Through all of this, we still come back to the age-old questions of what is suffering and why do people suffer?  How can we alleviate and/or eliminate pain and suffering?  These are questions that I am unable to answer, and continue to contemplate.  Perhaps you can share your own insights.

References

New World Encyclopedia.  April 21, 2012.  http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Suffering.

“The Aurora Shooting Victims.”  CBS News.  September 15, 2012.  http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-201_162-10013055-2.html?tag=page;next.

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“What do People Want to Hear?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Pink Flower in Garden, August 2012

Throughout my life and through my life experiences, I have generally found that people only want to hear “good” things.  That is, it seems that people only want to hear what is good, pleasant, positive, or uplifting to them in some way.  Those who have had much life experience, whether they are younger or older, can share that not all life experiences are good, though it is still important to be able to share about them with others. 

People generally seem to love the “feel good” communications, messages, and information that they receive and/or share.  I admit and agree that I enjoy such information just as much as any other.  However, in order for people to remain “real,” we must understand that in order to continue growing, developing, and improving ourselves, we must also recognize, realize, and deal with experiences, issues, or concerns that are hurtful, painful, and potentially negative.

Because there may be a tendency for people to avoid or shut out information that they do not want to hear, there may also be a tendency to “blame” or “revictimize” the individual who has experienced a painful situation.  It sometimes seems that the person who has been hurtful to another has not at all been hurt by the situation that he or she caused, but actually feels good about it and such situation may have served to boost their own ego.  Psychological research has reflected this in the case of bullies who interact negatively with their targets.  The bullies feel good and get an ego boost, while the targets feel badly and are hurt by it.  Similar research has reflected this phenomena in sexual predators.

So, what do people want to hear?  I think the answer is that people generally want to hear about good and wonderful things, and may not have the training necessary to be equipped to cope with things they don’t want to hear.  As a result of some of my own life experiences and those of others that have been painful, in sharing about them, I have found that there are a very few who are successfully able to hear, listen to, and cope with the knowledge of and information about them.   

This, therefore, creates a very small number of people with whom one can relate about deep and serious issues.  Sometimes, then, it is necessary to seek professionals with whom to communicate with such issues when others do not understand them or may make them worse.  When people do not present an understanding about the issues, they may also unnecessarily misjudge the person who is simply the messenger, the one who is simply providing the information.  Then, they may inaccurately associate the messenger with the issue that was presented and about which they do not want to hear.

Red Flower in Garden, August 2012

There is alot of information out there.  Some of it is good, and some, not so good.  Within it all, however, I believe there is some good that can be made out of it or that can come from it.  Yes, people generally feel good about positive, pleasant, and happy situations.  However, we can also come together in genuinely caring community and loving fellowship when we recognize and deal effectively, positively, and successfully with issues that have a negative or painful impact.  Since we are all different and unique, but also similar, each individual may have his or her own views on what constitutes successfully and positively coping with something.

When we mobilize to help survivors of natural disasters, that is a reflection of something good coming from a painful situation.  When we listen to others and guide them in ways of helping themselves rather than denying them or shutting them out, those are ways of bringing something positive to a situation or experience.  When we use our gifts and talents to help others who are in need, who are impoverished, who are in pain, and who are suffering in some way, we are showing the genuine care and love to others that God intended us to use.  These are the good things that people want to hear that can come from situations and/or experiences that have potentially been hurtful or painful.

When people blame, punish, misjudge, or revictimize others because of hearing what they don’t want to hear, they are not using their natural gifts and talents to help, assist, and support others in finding a better way to help themselves.  It is in these situations when people potentially try to “fix” a situation without adequate care or understanding that the situation may potentially be made worse. 

Sometimes, when people hear what they don’t want to hear, and react negatively to it, an opportunity for growth, development, and knowledge for something more positive may be lost.  This also reflects that people hear what they want to hear, even though they may not understand the true message.  It also reflects that people may react negatively to a situation simply because it is something that they don’t want to hear.

Pink Flower in Garden, August 2012

Life is full of things that we want to hear and that we don’t want to hear.  How we cope with and communicate with others about such information can make all the difference in either helping or hurting another.  We must first take a close look at ourselves and analyze how we process and cope with information – that which we may view as positive, negative, or neutral.  And, we must realize that life and all of what we experience in it are learning experiences.  We can make it good or bad. 

We can take painful experiences, and work to make similar, future situations better for others.  We can take happy experiences and work to share the joy in them with others.  We can decide only to be open to and “hear” the good about situations and experiences.  We can filter out what we don’t want to hear.  Or, we can “hear” what we don’t want to hear and work to make future, similar experiences better for ourselves and others.  What do you want to hear?

“Money Talks: The Decisions of Wealthy School Benefactors may not be in Everyone’s Best Interests” By Michele Babcock-Nice

Money Talks: The Decisions of Wealthy School Benefactors may not be in Everyone’s Best Interests

By: Michele Babcock-Nice

April 10, 2012

There has always been the age-old issue of money being the decision-maker when it comes to wealth, power, influence, and issues. More than one person and friend has advised me that one person cannot change the system, that one person cannot change others’ corrupt and/or unethical practices.

As a person who visualizes a situation and wants to improve it or make it better in some way, I have realized as I have gotten older that – unless I am also extremely wealthy and had money that could talk – my voice is often just a lone whisper in the wilderness. However, I do have a voice, and I enjoy expressing myself in the desire to be heard.

So, while I may not be able to open others’ eyes to unethical, immoral, and/or incorrect practices, I can remain a role model and leader for positive change, for speaking out about the truth that others don’t see – or refuse to see, and for my gift of natural insight into myself and others. It is important for us, as such role models, to express our views and perspectives so that others may be offered alternate snapshots of the world around us.

Also I have gotten older, I have also realized that in sometimes being unable to influence and/or convince others of a better, or more moral, ethical, or correct way, one may be forced to walk away from a situation. I may be wrong, but I believe that sometimes, there is no helping a situation. There may be too many people who share the same beliefs, and those beliefs may be the majority view, whether or not the majority upholds moral, just, fair, and ethical standards.

In education, particularly in schools in which wealthy benefactors have enormous power and influence, those benefactors may or may not have the best interests of the school and/or students in mind. In fact, if such benefactors are leaders of a large and powerful family and/or extended family – such as those comprising of 100s or even 1,000s of members – it is those benefactors whose influence and power will be most felt, whether good or not.

This is why it is of advantage to students, parents, educators, community members, and others to consider every side of a viewpoint or situation. Just because money talks does not necessarily mean that it is a good thing. It may only be a good thing for those wealthy benefactors of a school of which their children and/or relatives attend. They may view things on a completely different level than the common, average, ordinary person since their wealth, status, power, and influence may be so far-reaching. This, then, is not necessarily good for the common person because his or her needs and issues may not be adequately recognized, addressed, or attended to.

In particular, in deciding on a school at which to send your children, and/or choosing a school at which to work in any capacity, one must do as much research as possible and consider all sides of any issue. Of course, there are going to be good and bad things to consider about anyplace, though one must pay particular attention to those issues that have caused conflict and/or that are controversial, as well as the manner in which they were handled. If serious or controversial issues are silenced, and/or if honest, competent employees are falsely disgraced or bullied, our eyes must be opened to the truth that others try to prevent us from seeing and understanding.

As someone who tries to think positively about everything and see the best in others, it is sometimes a rude and painful awakening to realize that not everyone has the best interests of others in mind. Particularly in the situation of those who are extremely wealthy and whose money talks, people must be aware that such individuals may have their own agenda and may be acting in their own self-interests, which may not be the best for everyone. Whether in the area of education or any other profession, it is important to be knowledgeable and aware of these situations.

Author’s Note: Also posted on Twitter and LinkedIn under “People Against Retaliation and Bullying,” April 10, 2012.

“A Spiritual Inquiry: How and Why Should we Forgive?” By: Michele Babcock-Nice

“A Spiritual Inquiry:

How and Why Should we Forgive?”

By: Michele Babcock-Nice

March 20, 2012

Michele Babcock-Nice

Michele Babcock-Nice

Forgiveness.  What is forgiveness?  And, how and why should we forgive?  Who should we forgive?  Forgiveness – the act of forgiving – is a spirituality issue that I have contemplated and grappled with in my own life.  It is something that I have experienced, myself, through others, and by observing others.  Why is it important for us to forgive ourselves and each other?  These are topics of personal relevance, as well as relevance for the greater population.

Forgiveness is not only something that must be taught, it must be learned.  People must model forgiveness with each other and encourage it among one another in order for it to have full and far-reaching positive effects.  Jesus taught and commanded that people forgive each other, so that both we and our sins will be forgiven by God. 

Colossians 3:13 states, “Forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (The Holy Bible, 1979).  Mark 11:26 states, “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (The Holy Bible, 1979).  Matthew 6: 14-15 also shares, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” The Holy Bible, 1979).  The Bible and Jesus’ teachings, therefore, instruct us that we are to forgive each other. 

One of my favorite Bible passages that is very humbling to me is Matthew 18: 21-22, which states, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (The Holy Bible, 1979).   

This passage reminds us that we are not perfect, that none of us are perfect, and that, to me, is very humbling.  When I think of the mistakes that I make and sins that I commit, whether unintentionally or not, it never fails to humble me when I hear and contemplate these verses.  Jesus wants us to forgive each other seventy times seven times, that’s nearly 500 times!  One must understand the general idea, however, is not to just forgive each other once, twice, or even a few times, but repeatedly, without end.  That also reminds me of how fallible and human we truly are, and that we are actually in need of forgiveness, by each other and of ourselves.

Luke 6: 36-37 further teaches us to be kind, merciful, and forgiving, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.  Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” (The Holy Bible, 1979).  Luke 6 actually teaches us many things about each other in addition to this, such as being good to the poor and giving to one another. 

Luke 6 provides us with an opportunity to reflect on who we are as people – to reflect on our characters and true natures.  Are we people who truly have goodness in our hearts?  Are our thoughts, words, and actions motivated by and intended to help and support each other and ourselves?  Do we honestly hope to be caring, compassionate, understanding, merciful, and forgiving toward each other? 

The Bible and Jesus’ teachings, therefore, instruct and direct us to forgive each other.  Not only are we to forgive each other a few or several times, but countless times, for we are fallible, we are human, we are children of God who are progressing through our learning stages of life.  When we ask others to forgive us, we are humbling ourselves to their mercy. 

When we ask God to forgive us, He is forgiving and provides us with free will, but also with the understanding that we should not do the same wrong over again; we must correct ourselves.  If one is Catholic and goes to reconciliation, he or she shares those transgressions that he or she has committed with a priest, who, through God’s power and mercy, forgives us.  Again, however, we are called not to commit the same wrongs or sins in the future.

Just the other day, my young son was upset with me.  He brought a library book home from school that I did not approve of.  It was a comic-style book that was geared toward older children, though I am aware that the particular theme of the book was not something that I agreed with, nor was it entirely emotionally or mentally healthy for him.  I allowed him to read it one day, with the express understanding that he could read it during that one day, but not following that day.  I was aware that he was tired, and had not slept well the previous night, though he was very attracted to reading this book.  It was my intention to return the book to the school library on the next school day, which I did. 

So, my son became upset with me when he tried to look at and read this comic-style book on a day when I had not allowed it.  I spoke with him about it, again explaining my reasons behind it.  He is aware of my views on such books, though, as a youngster who is, at times, testing his limits, he can be persistent about his wants and desires.  So, when I refused to allow him to read the book on the next day, he was mad and upset about it.  Understandably, he wants to fit in and be like the other boys, but he knows that he is my child and that the other boys are not – their parents can have them do as they wish. 

In my son being angry and upset with me, I recognized his desire to get something that he wanted.  I reminded him that he did read the comic book on the one day, but could not do so the next day.  I then asked him to forgive me.  And…he did.  I told him that I love him and that I want the best for him, and then, I gave him some time to himself.  Soon thereafter, he came around, and found something else to stimulate his interest.

I believe that this is a manner in which God and Jesus want us to behave.  It is important to have strong morals, ethics, beliefs, values, and principles.  This is something that I am trying to instill into my son.  By sticking to my views, beliefs, and principles – and by asking my son for his understanding and forgiveness – he more readily showed his appreciation and respect for me and my values. 

This example may be something minor in most of our lives, though it is something that is important to be taught, learned, and modeled.  In this way, I am teaching forgiveness to my son, even in regard to my expectation about his acceptance of my values and principles for his upbringing.  These are also good reasons for asking for and receiving forgiveness.

An area of forgiveness that is not often addressed or recognized is of forgiving oneself.  This is extremely important – we must forgive ourselves.  Who, among us, teaches how valuable it is to forgive ourselves?  I am aware of a recent Lenten Retreat at my church in which the religious speaker, a priest, spoke of forgiving ourselves as the theme for the event.  And, how and why must we forgive ourselves?  This is a significant question to which there can be many answers.

When was the last time you ever thought about forgiving yourself?  Why, you ask, should you forgive yourself?  This is an issue of much contemplation, prayer, and reflection for me because I know that I am not perfect – I am human, I am fallible.  Yet, I can also be very hard and tough on myself, not giving myself credit where it is due, blaming myself, depriving myself, sacrificing things from myself, being down on myself.  I always try to have a positive attitude and outlook on everything, but I also recognize that I have very high standards and expectations of not only others, but also of myself.

Therefore, I must forgive myself.  I must forgive myself for being human, for being fallible, for making mistakes, for being too hard on myself, for not being good enough or kind enough to myself.  In forgiving myself, I am more readily able to forgive others.  I am also more easily able to view others as human, as fallible, just like I am.  For me, it is also a much healthier perspective.  If I forgive myself, I feel better and happier, not only about myself, but everything. 

When I forgive myself, my outlook is improved, things are not as worrisome or stressful as they were, and I take it easier on myself, allowing myself to enjoy life, my family, and others more.  I don’t need to make things so hard for myself, nor to be as hard on myself.  So, I must and do forgive myself for all of these things.  I am better able to be forgiving, loving, nurturing, kind, and compassionate to others in doing so.

Lastly, and something also not often commented on or recognized is that in forgiving each other and ourselves, that does not continue to open the door to being vulnerable to being hurt by others or ourselves.  We must express our views, standards, and expectations to others, and insist that those are met, so that we are not vulnerable to being wronged by them again. 

If we are wronged by those whom we forgive, then we are called to forgive them, though I believe we must continue to insist upon the manner in which we desire to be treated by them.  If they do not improve in their words or actions, then we must forgive them, but we must also help ourselves, perhaps by seeking to further understand them and/or distancing ourselves from them. 

And, we must open our eyes and recognize ways in which we are not helpful to and loving of ourselves.  We must forgive ourselves for those actions, but also work on improving our actions toward ourselves.  We must create a mindset that is loving, helpful, and healthy to and for ourselves.  Therefore, forgiving ourselves, and working to improve the manner in which we view and treat ourselves are also important aspects of forgiveness that are valuable and significant.

One issue with which I have been working on forgiving myself is my divorce and the choice that I made in a spouse.  I, ultimately, desired to reconcile and remain in my marriage, though it was extremely difficult and challenging; it was my former spouse who ended our marriage.  I remained faithful to my spouse and dedicated to my family in the midst of challenges which were unbearable at the time. 

It was during those times – as well as times past and present – that I leaned on God, Jesus, and my faith for survival – for the survival of my soul and spirit.  It is in my faith that I continually take comfort, though I also recognize that I work, daily, to forgive myself for my decisions that have harmed myself and my family.  I recognize that one cannot force a person to believe and behave in the manner in which the other desires, though I also believe, however, in the importance and healthfulness of forgiving myself and my former spouse, not only for the good of myself, but also for that of my son and family.

Forgiveness, therefore, is and should be a huge part of our lives.  How often do you forgive others and yourself?  What are the ways in which you forgive?  Do you willingly accept forgiveness when it is offered to you?  Do you seek to keep a healthy perspective in mind, body, and spirit by recognizing and forgiving yourself and others? 

Also, when you forgive, do you help yourself by expressing expectations of those who have wronged you so that they understand and respect you more, thereby reducing your own vulnerability to them?  And, are there times when you may not have done anything wrong, but are still able to ask forgiveness so that it will help improve the situation or assist another in feeling better about themselves – it takes a person of strong character to do that, even if he or she is further blamed or wronged.

Forgiveness is an act on which we must place greater value.  Forgiveness is freeing and healthy for our minds, bodies, souls, and spirits.  Forgiveness is something that we should practice each day, in asking God to forgive us, in requesting others to forgive us, and in forgiving and being more loving to ourselves.  We must remember that we are all human; all of us are fallible.  Therefore, we must continually forgive, as Jesus taught and instructed us, so that we may, in turn, be forgiven.

References

Fairchild, M. “What does the Bible say about Forgiveness?”  March 20, 2012.  http://christianity.about.com/od/whatdoesthebiblesay/a/bibleforgivenes.htm

The Holy Bible (1979).  Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

“Understanding Today’s Children and Youth: Are you Really in Tune with Today’s Kids?” By: Michele Babcock-Nice

Understanding Today’s Children and Youth:

Are you Really in Tune with Today’s Kids?

By: Michele Babcock-Nice

Our children and students experience so many issues, worries, stresses, expectations, peer pressures, and unfairness in our schools when adults who are entrusted with teaching, supervising, and/or parenting them are not “in touch” or “in tune” with them.  As adults, we must have the proper insights into situations and practice the appropriate actions related to children and students. This means that we must listen to them, be there for them, and be respectful of them and their feelings.

When adults do not listen to children or students, and when they are not properly “in-tune” with them, not viewing all sides of a story or situation, not thoroughly investigating a situation and the reasons for it’s occurrence, not believing children – unless there is good reason not to – that they lose respect for adults, including teachers, administrators, parents, and others in the community.

When this occurs, children and students may believe that they are “on their own” when it comes to having to deal with certain issues, such as bullying and retaliation, including that done toward the child or student by other students, teachers, administrators, parents, and/or others in the community. The child or student may wonder who is there to support him or her. He or she may think it is not worth sharing their issue or concern with adults if the adults don’t believe them, don’t support them, blame them, don’t listen to them, and instead, punish them.

These are the issues that children and students deal with everyday, at home, in school, and elsewhere. When the damage is done to a child by an adult lying against a child just to save his or her own reputation, it incorrectly and unjustly brands the child as dishonest, disrespectful, or a troublemaker. I don’t think that most children seek to cause trouble or be troublemakers. In my perspective, most children want to do whatever they can to please others. If they don’t, they may be grappling with some personal issues.

Therefore, adults don’t need to do more damage to a child by disbelieving the truth, then reprimanding, ignoring, bullying, or otherwise punishing them. Adults must seek to investigate and uncover the whole story – the entire situation, and to understand the reasons for it’s occurrence. Then, it is up to the adults to see that those situations don’t happen again, and that positive steps are taken to assist the child or student in knowing they can be trusting enough of an adult to share the situation with him or her.

There are so many who do damage to children and students, and don’t even realize it. The slightest insult, reprimand, punishment, lack of fairness, and disbelief by a teacher, administrator, parent, or other person can do so much to harm children and students – I have seen it and experienced it, myself, and with my own child. It is those who have the insights into these matters who are then left to try our best to “undo” the damage done by others to children and students.

Sometimes, trying to undo the damage comes in the form of providing incentives and rewards for children and students, in an attempt to repair the unfair punishment(s) the child or student experienced at the hands of others. Other times, undoing the damage may involve therapy or professional support. It is sad when adults don’t realize or care about the damage they’ve done, are dishonest about it, and continue their same behaviors because they have been believed rather than the child or student.

There are those children or students who may actually seek to damage the reputation of another, however, with the insightful adult discovering and investigating the whole story, such damage can be avoided and eliminated.

As adults, we must do our best to be mentally and emotionally “in touch” and “in tune” with our children and students as much as possible in positive ways. When was the last time you really listened to and/or believed your child or student lately?

Book Review of “Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer” (Dr. Mic Hunter); Review and Personal Reflections by: Michele Babcock-Nice

Book Review of:

Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer (Dr. Mic Hunter)

Book Review and Personal Reflections by: Michele Babcock-Nice

In his new book, Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer, Dr. Mic Hunter reveals to readers an inspirational spiritual awakening in his guidance for utilizing the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous in daily prayers for building strength of character, spiritual development, and resistance to vices present in our lives.  Dr. Hunter’s nearly thirty-five years of working with those who have addictions provides both professional and personal meaning, significance, and experience to the writings he offers in his book. 

Dr. Hunter’s insights and expansion on the Twelve Steps as prayers offer everyone – not only those who may be struggling and/or recovering from addictions – to mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically benefit from being both “in touch” and honest with themselves, others, and God.  Though I have personally not been afflicted with addictions to alcohol or drugs, I recognize that I am fallible due to my mere existence and humanity; and therefore, Dr. Hunter’s writing has personal and spiritual meaning for me in a manner that guides and leads me into a closer and more intimate relationship with God, myself, and others.

Dr. Hunter first begins his book by listing Alcoholics’ Anonymous’ Twelve Steps, as well as an adapted version of the Steps.  The Steps provide the basis and foundation for his book, leading the reader to focus on one’s own needs, desires, defects, and spirituality.  Dr. Hunter’s book is directly meant for those who are truly commited to making positive change in their lives, and can be utilized for a wide variety of reasons.

Throughout the next several chapters and versions of prayers in his book, Dr. Hunter writes insightfully and provides the reader much guidance and examples in using models and examples of prayers, as well as in developing and shaping them for one’s own personal use.  Dr. Hunter continually calls the reader to contemplate and recognize certain overall beliefs that we may hold about ourselves, as well as the fact that practicing and performing rituals – such as attending church, for example – may become insignificant, ineffective, or boring without the addition to them of things that have personal meaning – such as prayers that directly reflect our own personal ideas, requests, or needs. 

This is definitely as aspect of religion to which I can relate, particularly since I regularly attend church and participate in the same rituals week after week, month after month, and year after year.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with those rituals and I maintain a respect and appreciation for them, however, after forty years, they have, indeed, lost their impact on me to a great extent. 

In any absence of the opportunities to more personally and intimately participate in my church worship celebrations, the religious rituals designed to give thanks to the Creator have become empty and hollow.  As a result, I have personally recognized my robotic, obligatory, and expected responses and actions to them.  These feelings and actions, have therefore caused me to seek increased participation in my church services and activities, in which I regularly read, serve Eucharist, sing, or participate in other ways, such as in the instruction of children.

Praying Holy Child Figurine

Importantly, Dr. Hunters calls the reader to engage in prayers that will assist him or her in becoming a better person and in being victorious over his or her addictions.  Dr. Hunter also correctly observes that, while people do pray, they may not often take the time to listen to and perform the will for them of the Creator.  I was also importantly reminded of that while reading Dr. Hunter’s book. 

In developing one’s prayers, Dr. Hunter recommends his method of asking and answering several questions that he developed.  The questions include:”Is the focus on my behavior?; Is it simple?; Is it something I can do now or soon?; Does it align with my principles?; Would I be comfortable telling others?; [and] Do I have a sense of peace when I think about it?” (p.33).Dr. Hunter then goes into more detail about his questions by assisting the reader with formulating answers to the questions, as well as developing them into prayers. 

Within the Twelve Steps is information intended for people to personally apply to themselves regarding recognizing the existence of the Higher Power; asking for God to remove their faults; being honest about themselves, their character, and their flaws; being open to the care and guidance of others; asking forgiveness for those whom they may have harmed in some way; continually taking a personal inventory of our character and actions; improving our spiritual connection with God; and reaching a spiritual awakening through the practice of the Steps.  

Dr. Hunter shares examples of formulated prayers, both in general and those more personally-related, that include the aims and goals of each of the Twelve Steps.  Thus, the reader is both provided with the groundwork for using the prayers, given general models to begin practicing, and later, encouraged to more personally and intimately relate the prayers to his or her own needs and reflections. 

Of significance and addressed in his book, Dr. Hunter recognizes that we, as people, are human and have fallibilities.  He also recognizes that those strengths and weaknesses make us who we are.  In those individuals who are recovering addicts, Dr. Hunter addresses how he believes people should recognize their weakness and continue onward toward recovery should they experience a relapse.  It is important, therefore, for people to recognize that there is fallibility in our humanity – that’s what makes us human.  Not to recognize it is a danger, as is being too harsh or critical on ourselves for our mistakes, faults, and errors.  

To quote Dr. Hunter regarding relapse in his book, he states:”I have always thought there ought to be a word to describe a relapse that leads to improved recovery.  A word that indicates something valuable has been learned that makes future relapse less likely.  However, far too many people don’t learn from their relapse; either they don’t take the slip seriously and continue on as they had before, changing nothing, somehow expecting that another relapse won’t happen, or they take it far too seriously and are so hard on themselves for having relapsed that their guilt and shame drives them into a binge” (p. 81). 

Of further importance throughout the next two pages of his book, Dr. Hunter describes the manner by which people may grow and develop in their humanity, character, and spirituality, becoming better and more compassionate individuals.  He writes that through our weakness, grief, injury, and/or pain, we have opportunities to grow into people who are stronger and more caring and compassionate toward ourselves and others.  Dr. Hunter also identifies within those pages the needs that we have of God, as well as the hopes, feelings, and actions that we offer to God.  

As an individual who has taken inventory of my own character flaws and about what I would like to change and improve, pages 82-83 of Dr. Hunter’s book are those that most “spoke” to me, personally.  Throughout our lives, everyone experiences good, mediocre, bad, and even tragic situations.  Each of those situations is an opportunity for us to increase our spirituality, become better people, reach out to God and others for guidance and assistance, provide leadership and confidence, and be open to God’s will in our lives.  

In my own life, Dr. Hunter’s book pertains directly to me because I can relate and utilize his writings and developed prayers toward my own faults, including the desire for too much materialism, too little healthy eating and exercise, wanting my own way, being too independent, not being open enough to or trusting of others (but this is also exercised with caution), negative thinking and worrying, having unrealistic expectations, and other flaws.  Dr. Hunter’s book, Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer, thus, has personal and spiritual meaning to me because I can insert my own fallibilities, needs, and shortcomings into the prayers provided.  

Dr. Hunter’s book has given me a much-needed spiritual jolt in my general daily prayers, previous to which I had often given up due to their lack of meaning and eventual belief that little or no good was accomplished from them.  Though I do believe that prayer is helpful, over the years, it had just lost so much personal significance for me, causing me to give up hope that such meaning would ever be re-introduced.  

Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer is another of Dr. Hunter’s books that I will keep closely at hand, referring to it regularly in the redevelopment and enhancement of my own spiritual life and personal daily prayers.  Thus again, Dr. Hunter’s book has provided me with needed rejuvenation and revitalization in my own faith, prayers, and spiritual life.  More importantly for me, by sharing about his own humanity, Dr. Hunter has again renewed my faith in others, showing me that there are those in our world who truly care about the needs, feelings, and lives of others. 

Whether you are a person who is recovering from an addiction, or an individual who is seeking to re-energize your spirituality, Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer is another of Dr. Hunter’s must-reads!  Dr. Hunter has proven, yet again, that truly being “in-touch” with one’s inner self is the key to being in conscious contact with God, themself, and others.   

Source 

Hunter, M. (2012).  Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer.  Charleston, South Carolina: Mic Hunter.