3 simple words that could save your life – part 3 of 3

BLOG_IneedHelpBanner3.001

A Youth Worker a Nun and a drunk are seated on a plane together… I know, it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke but the story I shared in the short clip above is 100% true. I (the youth worker, just to be clear) found myself in a near impossible situation stuck in the middle of two people with whom I was unable to connect with or escape. To the left of me, a person who was about to share the inside of their stomach, to the right of me a person that represented all things good and wonderful and holy. And then there’s me, completely and utterly stuck in the middle.

Everyone feels stuck from time to time. Life has a way of sometimes taking us to some very tough places. We look one way and we see challenges and struggles, it feels as though the proverbial bile of the universe is moments away from dropping into our lap. We look in the other direction and we see all things good, beautiful and wonderful, we desperately want to find our way there but it seems as though there is no conceivable pathway to get there.

Stuck.

155726099584693022o8cmFJIgc

Stuck somewhere between the fear that our challenges will never ease and the hope that maybe one-day we will somehow come through the other side. You know the feeling?

Like when we crave the restoration of a relationship gone wrong.

As we deal with the rejection of a lost a job whilst trying to find another.

Like when we face the bully who won’t go away.

Like living in a period of ill-health without a foreseeable improvement.

Or just feeling ‘blah’ for no apparent reason. All of these can leave us feeling totally and completely STUCK with no way out.

Situations like these might take us to the end of our tether, but they do not need to be the end of the story. There’s more to be written. A new script. A new day. A new story. Full redemption is possible and it begins with a conversation.

It’s exactly at this point that we need to call on the most valuable of all our assets. We pull out the big guns, the high-end ammunition and attack it with the full arsenal of weapons at our disposal –

W E  A S K  F O R  H E L P

So I’m sitting on a plane, stuck between fear and hope. My anxiety was paralyzing and my feelings of panic were off the chart. What did I do (aside form panic) you might ask? Well I did the only thing I could do. I reached out and hit the button. I called out for HELP. The flight attendant came to my aid, ushered the spanish speaking Nun from her seat. I was able to get out, the vomitus vixen to my right was able to get to the bathroom and do whatever she needed to do. Shortly after we all resumed our seat and continued on the journey. Problem addressed. Sometimes all we can do is call out I NEED HELP and sometimes that is enough. But how will we ever know unless we speak up?

I have felt really stuck many times, and many times I have had to ask for help. On one occasion it saved my life. I suspect that you might be surprised at just how many people there are who are also willing to help you. But in order to unlock this support it’s possible you need to speak up. Talk to a friend, your family, your parents, your doctor. Or if you prefer contact one of the many HELP lines available (I’ve listed some below).

help

The bottom line is you’ve got to seek some HELP and now is the time to do it. Coincidentally today is R U OK? day, so consider yourself asked! Should you need to I hope you can answer with these three simple words:

I  N E E D  H E L P

Say them, repeat them, type them, write them, send them to someone, SCREAM them if you have to.

I  N E E D  H E L P

Oh… and if someone trusts you enough to share these words, please respond well. Sometimes it is as simple as just listening as they talk about what is troubling them, but this simple act can indeed save a life. (You might like to check out the R U OK site for some excellent tips and resources for both helpers and those seeking help.)

Saying ‘I need help’ reminds us of our worth.

Saying ‘I need help’ moves us toward others and an experience of connection and belonging.

Saying ‘I need help’ is an important step toward hope, change and becoming un-stuck.

So remember these three simple words. They could very well save your life.

This is the last of the three post series on the topic. Thanks for hanging in there with me, I know it’s been pretty heavy. As always, I’m keen to know your thoughts. Where have you found help? What or who gives you hope? When have you said ‘I Need Help’?. Lets keep this important conversation alive.

BK

If you’re in need of immediate support or medical assistance call 000, or contact:

Lifeline    |    Beyond Blue    |    Man Therapy    |    Kids Help Line    |    Headspace


3 simple words that could save your life – part 2 of 3

BLOG_IneedHelpBanner2.001

As the adage goes ‘no man is an island…’ and don’t we know it to be true! Whilst every human being is unique and valuable it is also true that we are not able to exist entirely on our own.

In part one of this three-part-post we explored the concept of I. We discussed questions of identity, personal value and life purpose (if you haven’t already, you can read part one here). In this post I want to look at the second of my three life saving words to further explore a simple yet profound truth about what you and I really NEED. But, before we begin let me remind you of the journey we are all on and reiterate why I’m writing these posts in the first place:

“If you are ever conflicted about your existence, especially to the point of thinking that it’s not worth living I want you to remember these three words – I  N E E D  H E L P . Say them out loud, to others and to yourself. Say them louder, again and again especially if you think that others have not seen you, heard you or understood you. And keep saying them for as long as your life depends on it. These three words might just save your life. – I   N E E D   H E L P !” 

So let’s continue the conversation – NEED.

I  W A N T  T O  D I S A P P E A R

I love going out to listen to bands. Something special occurs when people get together to feel the raw emotion of live music and engage in a couple of hours of hero-adulation. The musicians, the crowd, the venue and the music all intertwine to create something of a spiritual experience for me. It’s more than a ‘gig’. There’s a connection that occurs, or at least that’s what I think is going on.

I recently got to see one of my favourite Australian artists, and as I stood there and listened to her music with about a thousand other admirers I began to think about how great her life must be. I mean she gets to experience this feeling, this connection, as part of her every day working life!

She began to share something of her story and how it informed the next song she was about to perform. I listened as she completely dismantled my perception of her life. She talked about loneliness, disconnect and feeling ‘invisible’ a lot of the time. She then performed a song inspired by her celebrity musician existence that tells the tale of having many admirers, but few real friends – long flights, always away from home, she lamented

‘If one more person looks through me I could disappear… It could be sweet release, but I don’t want to cry, not here…’ – Kate Miller-Heidke, Nightflight

I looked around the room and people nodded with solace as if to identify with every word she said.

It seems my favourite celebrity muso is not that different to the everyday regular person. People today are more connected than ever. With the click of a button we can discover personal information about pretty much anyone. There are over a billion active FB users worldwide, hundreds of millions active Twitter users, over three billion hits a day on YouTube… LinkedIn, Google Plus, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr… the list goes on (and some people still use MySpace!?). But for all this connection and ability to engage with the world around us it seems we are not much better off. Some of the biggest challenges facing people in the 21st century stem from issues related to loneliness and isolation. It would seem that despite of our over connected technologically obsessed society, many within it feel completely… and utterly… INVISIBLE. Just like my favourite artist, we are surrounded by crowds of people and the more that others look through us, the more we feel like we are disappearing.

connected and lonelyI  S E E  Y O U

So when did we shift from being a culture that esteemed the worth of people and become a society where people are consumed, accumulated and ignored? And more importantly how can we recover from this? Maybe we could learn a thing or two from cultures that seem to do this better. Perhaps the best way to ensure that people don’t feel invisible is to truly ‘see them’.

I love how Zulu people exchange these words upon greeting. One says Sawubona, (I see you) the other says Ngikhona (I am here). Some things are lost in a literal translate of this conversation, because what is actually being said in the midst of this exchange is,

until you saw me I did not exist.

Seeing people is more than just looking at them. To really see someone is to recognise that what stands before us more than just flesh, and blood and bones. Seeing people requires an intentional and honest look into the life and being of another human. It’s more than a passing glance, its pausing long enough to be present to those who are before us, to acknowledge their value simply because they ‘are’. Here’s the thing, when we truly see another person, we give them permission to see us and then begin to connect in quite a profound way. Perhaps that’s how it’s supposed to be?

W O L F  P A C K

We humans are highly social beings, pack-animals if you like, and I don’t believe it was ever intended that we live in isolation. A large portion of personal meaning is discovered in belonging, so it comes as no surprise that without positive interpersonal connection we’re bound to struggle. It has been well documented that loneliness is one of the most significant issues in our day and time. More people, young and old report as feeling isolated and lonely than in any other point in history.

Whilst food, water and oxygen might keep our heart beating and our physical well-being in tact, it would be fair to say that these essential elements on their own are simply not enough to sustain us. We NEED meaningful contact with others, friends, relatives, even contact with strangers is important.

Developing meaningful connections can be a complicated business and this is all the more reason to ensure that we are intentional with our efforts. In a recent visit to Australia Dr. Daniel Sweeney (George Fox University, USA) was asked what do people need in order to connect meaningfully and belong. His response,

Everyone needs to know that someone is  H E R E  (present to them in body and mind).

That someone is  L I S T E N I N G  (fully attentive to them).

That someone  U N D E R S T A N D S  them (identifies with them and their circumstances).

And that someone  C A R E S  (demonstrates like or love of them in some way by their response).

In other words what we really need to know from our interactions with others is

“I see you. I hear you. I understand you. I care for you.” We all NEED this.

need

A strong relational connection to an individual or community is crucial to everyone’s health and well-being. You might be ok as far as a roof over your head, food for your belly, stuff in your garage, but if you are struggling with thoughts of suicide and self-harm it’s definitely time to revisit your relationships and broader community connections. We all NEED to belong, especially when we’re struggling. And when we’re not struggling we NEED to see, hear, understand and extend care toward others. It’s confronting to think that we might be just what someone else needs to survive their current circumstances, but I suspect it is true more often than we realise.

In my final post in this series I will look at what it means to offer and receive HELP, but for now it’s over to you. Where do you find positive connection and belonging? How is this NEED met for you and how do you meet that need for others? I’m always interested in your thoughts!

BK

If you’re in need of immediate support or medical assistance call 000, or contact:

Lifeline    |    Beyond Blue    |    Man Therapy    |    Kids Help Line    |    Headspace


White Noise – four steps toward peace

Ok… so it’s been a little while since my last post. Thanks to those who have waited patiently. And thanks more to those that even noticed that I was absent from the blogosphere. One could say that I have been a little too busy for my own good, or as this post suggests, maybe even a little distracted from what I initially set out to do this year.

It seems ironic that I sit with the intention of writing an article on the subject of distraction and within the first hour I am interrupted six times, and every interruption via modern technology. Phone calls, SMS, emails, social media… relentless! Indeed it could be said that our culture’s convenient modes of communication have become the grand platform for distraction and indeed I count myself one of the worst offenders.

Of course the constant contact isn’t limited to personal communication devices. For some time now, advertising analysts estimate that we are exposed to approximately ten thousand advertisements every week. Through digital media, magazines, billboards, product placement (the list goes on) we are bombarded with constant messages demanding of us a choice. The implication is, whether realized or not, we literally make thousands of decisions every week.  It’s exhausting! It is any wonder we are distracted, fatigued, and disconnected.

step7b_white_noiseThis constant clamoring for prime real estate in our minds and lives is having a significant negative effect on individuals and therefore shaping the culture they form. Indeed decision fatigue and personal distraction has become the norm for those living in western civilization. Australian’s are avid tech lovers and BIG smart phone users, but the bad news is that the constant stimulation generated by smart-phones is possibly hurting our brains in ways we don’t really understand.

A study from the University of California in San Francisco has linked lower productivity and lower learning outcomes to lot’s of use of smart phones.

“People think that they’re refreshing themselves, but they’re fatiguing themselves” says Marc Berman, a University of Michigan Neuroscientist.

It’s a simple hypothesis – downtime lets our brain process and apply learning to our experiences, and when the brain is in constant stimulation it is unable to process the information, therefore we learn less! It seems the constant contact and knowledge accumulation offers little to no personal benefit. Smart phones are not making us any smarter, if anything the distraction they offer is stunting our growth. The constant phone fiddling, usually intended as personal recreation and refreshment, is leaving users more distracted and more fatigued than ever before.

Add to this the personal pressures from our working worlds, the emotional demands of relationships, and rarely are we free to sit with the luxury of one thought at a time. The implications for family, friends or those we love most are also significant. I recently noticed that my daughter started repeating my name three times every time she wanted to talk to me – ‘Dad, Dad, DAD!!!’ Such was her effort to get my attention away from the distractions in my mind and become present to her needs. I had forgotten what it meant to fully offer myself – thoughts and all – to those who matter most.

Whilst living in a constant state of distraction leaves us personally ineffective and relationally disadvantaged, it also seems to affect the quality of our decisions.

A recent article in the New York Times reported the decision-making patterns of a parole board. They discovered that approx 80% of cases heard in the morning resulted in parole being granted to the applicants, with only 30% of cases being granted parole through decisions made in the afternoon. It was noted that as the day progressed decision fatigue set in for individuals and an affirmative decision for applicants was less likely, for fear of making a ‘wrong’ decision. In short, the overload of numerous decisions inhibits our ability to focus well and make good decisions. The effects of this phenomenon are far-reaching for a culture that is already preoccupied beyond reason. Consider the implications for personal spending habits, work life balance, relationship priorities not to mention the pursuit of God.

Retailers and marketers are astutely aware of this, and in fact they bank on it. In a regular viewing day the evening prime-time slot is the most expensive airtime advertisers can purchase. Why? It yields the best return for their advertising dollar. More people are watching, people are more fatigued and therefore more vulnerable to be influenced toward foolish purchasing decisions. It would seem that late night store sales, particularly around peak seasonal times are not purely based on consumer convenience either. The consumer enters the retail temple tired, fatigued and distracted, faced with more choices at a time when they will inevitably struggle to choose well. The result, retailers make more money, consumers experience buyers remorse.So how do we counter this? Is it possible to flee from the inescapable state of distraction and fatigue perpetuated throughout our high-tech methods and insatiable appetite for information? How do we jump off the distraction carousel in order to redeem our fatigued lives? In my humble opinion it is possible, especially if we are committed to the pursuit of peace, by learning to become ‘intentionally present’. Scripture reminds us that it is good to pursue peace (Psalm 34:14) and as we are active in this pursuit we are more likely to notice the alternative and reject it.

To do this well takes a considerable effort and long-term commitment. But we need to start. Here’s a couple of things that I find help me to remain present and pursue peace…

1)    Switch off – I do something that marks my decision to be attentive to myself and others. A physical marker can be really helpful with this. For example, I touch an imaginary switch, turn off my phone, shut down the laptop (don’t just close it)… basically anything out of the ordinary that communicates ‘I am now switching off the white noise and becoming present to the moment.’

2)    Become mindful of my current environment – PAUSE… BREATHE… PRAY… I take time to notice the detail in my surroundings and really look at it. People, places, objects, everything. I feel my heart beat, I thank God for my life, I take it all in and enjoy it!

3)    Give people and circumstances my full attention – I look people in the eye and treat them as if they are the only thing that matters THEN and THERE… I look for the ‘light and life’ within those I’m with. When I notice something of this I try to tell them. Occasionally I am tempted to think about what it is I need to do next. But If my mind wanders, I resist this by admitting it to the person I’m with, apologising, and refocusing my attention to them. Interestingly, I’ve discovered that the future can wait, as can my face-book friends.

4)    Do this regularly – It takes commitment and discipline to turn this into a natural habit, but after a while the benefits follow. This should come as no surprise when we consider that people of faith have followed the ancient discipline of Sabbath keeping for centuries. This regular practice is not only an obedient response to God’s command, it is just plain good for us and an excellent way to develop the behaviour as a priority.

Our culture perpetuates busyness beyond reason, distraction as a default position, and constant fatigue as a result. I am choosing to live differently this year, call it a purging of the soul if you like. That said I could do with some help. This is why I find comfort in the words of Jesus,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives…” – John 14:27 (TNIV)

Are you fatigued? Distracted? Then you are possibly living out of that which ‘the world gives’. May you switch off. May you become present. May you know peace.

Over to you… how is ‘distraction’ an issue for you? How do you feel the effects of ‘fatigue’? How do you become ‘intentionally present’ and find ‘peace’ amongst white noise?

BK

PS – for more great articles, resources and practical responses to distraction check out this quarters edition of YV.Q (it’s the one wit the blue cover).