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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Freedom Isn't Free

Gentlemen, a Good Passover.

I realize I've been posting a bit more on my original site, New Day A-Dawning, but I haven't forgotten you!

Today is the first day of Passover -- the celebration of freedom from slavery!  I already touched on this theme in my last post, when I exhorted my readers not to allow themselves to become slaves.  But that's not the end of the story.

One of my close relatives is a major American history buff.  She likes to remind us all that July 4th is an important holiday because it was the day the United States declared its independence from Britain, but that September 17th is an even more important holiday.  For those of us not aware, that was the date in 1787 that the United States Constitution was ratified.

However, it's just a lot easier to rest on past laurels and focus on the fact that freedom was achieved, than it is to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and start writing new laws for ourselves.  That's the major obstacle the freed ex-slaves had to contend with before they finally got to Sinai.  Because they had been slaves so long, they had gotten used to not thinking for themselves, not making decisions, and not asking questions.  The only thing they were used to doing was complaining about how bad things were.  They may have expected a care-free, work-free life once they crossed the Red Sea, and when that was not made available to them, they just pointed fingers as they'd always done before.

Don't get me wrong, this blog is specifically devoted to helping men and boys with low self-esteem get better and live happier lives.  I'm not trying to be another taskmaster.  However, one good way to grow self-esteem, besides eliminating those who don't care about you and don't wish you well, is to work at becoming your own person.  That means you think, you ask, you build, you create, you act, and you move.  Will this suck sometimes?  No doubt.  Anyone who says work is comfortable mistakenly thinks he's working when he's really not!  But this kind of work is not slavery because it's your own work.  It's the work you need to do, and should want to do if you really want to be somebody!  Complaining about the fact that it needs to be done will just hold you back like all those ex-slaves who complained about Moses' lack of leadership skills instead of developing their own!

And guess who's learned that the hard way?  Yours truly.  For most of my childhood and adolescence, I was held back by the same passive, lazy, complaining thoughts as many of the ex-slaves.  Much of my brain matter was wasted on hating, despising, envying, and yes, complaining about those who made my life difficult.  If it wasn't some authority figure giving me a lecture, it was some misbehaving peer who once again, did me wrong and got away with it.  All I did was get angry, lose control, and demand why it was that they weren't suffering the punishments or consequences that I felt I was facing.

I knew I didn't want to just "let it go," and allow these forces to get away with the wrongs they were committing, but I had NO EARTHLY CLUE how to fix any of it myself!  I didn't know that I could have dealt with the annoying teacher/parent/lunch lady talking down to me by (a) just accepting what the rules were; (b) not holding grudges; and (c) trying to find ways to avoid them or outsmart them (they weren't omnipotent by any means, it could have been done).  I also didn't know that if I had kept my cool and held it together when the mini-gangsters of yore were present, I could have either (a) found ways to tell them off to their faces, knowing full well that nothing they could do to me would have killed me; (b) made them look stupid (which also could have been done); or (c) had them turned over to the proper authorities without looking like a (sn)itch.  Unfortunately, my reactions did not allow me to stay calm and focused, and I paid heavy prices for that.

If I wanted to take the easy way out, I could have argued that nobody taught me how to do this, as another complaining slave.  Not only would that have been a cop-out, it would not have even been true!  The proper authorities may not have taught me how to do this on a blackboard in a classroom, but there actually were a few friends who did try to teach me this by example.  Instead of learning from them, I blew them off, simply because they were not the proper authorities.  I think this is one out of several reasons why I either (a) never spoke to them again, or (b) let several decades pass before reconnecting with them.

That's my past, and it can't be changed.  But for some of you ex-slaves out there, time still remains.  Free yourself from complaints.  Don't just relish the fact that tyranny can be overthrown, be your own ruler afterwards!  Build your own Tabernacle, pick your own friends, earn your own money, buy your own clothes, live where you like (without breaking the bank), and be your own man . . .  please!

Those who like this, please keep reading.  And don't be afraid to comment either -- I know people are reading this blog in the US, Canada, Russia, France, Japan, and other countries, maybe I've written something that got your attention?  Say something -- you might be surprised how I respond!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

No Slaves!

Those of us of the Jewish persuasion will be celebrating Passover next weekend.  It celebrates the Jews' freedom from slavery in Egypt, and departure from Egypt to Israel.

What does that mean for us?  Perhaps we may have felt "enslaved" by something in our own lives.  Maybe we've allowed somebody, without right or authority, to erase our individuality, and invalidate who we are as men.  Maybe we've abdicated whatever authority we once had to allow someone else to be our "taskmasters," and to use us for their sole benefit.

Moses started out using respectful diplomacy to free the slaves.  When that didn't work, he had to resort to the old stick/snake routine -- also ignored by Pharaoh.  Even when G-D had his back, and employed Ten Plauges to systematically destroy a mighty empire's agriculture and economy, and then massacred the entire next generation of primogeniture, this ruler was even more stubborn that his most recent successor.  It was only when Pharoah realized that most of his labor force was escaping that he acted, and it resulted in a massacre of his best soldiers. 

Many of us can't rely on the Supreme Being to take that kind of action against our taskmasters -- He's far more subtle now.  But that's probably because He expects us to take action for ourselves.  Back in those days, He was not universally accepted as the one true G-D, and had to compete with the likes of Isis and Osiris to get the Egyptians' attention.  That's why He resorted to drastic measures to make His will known.  Now that everybody knows who He is, in one form or another, He does not center major disasters against one individual ruler -- better to just let NATO do that!

Here's what we can do though:

(1)  Set BOUNDARIES.  The Egyptian taskmasters didn't have boundaries when exhorting the slaves to tote that barge, lift that bale, and shine that shoe -- when Pharoah said, build that pyramid, he meant it!  In real life, however, unless someone is paying your salary, it's actually OK to say "no."  It's OK to say, "I can't do that right now."  Or "I'm sorry, but I really don't have time."  Come to think of it, even if someone is paying your salary, if you can respectfully explain to your superior that there will be more difficulties in completing a task than may have been originally thought, please do so.  It's far better to let them know what obstacles there may be than allow them to infer that there are none.

(2)  Set LIMITS.  It's OK to be flexible, and somewhat selfless.  Some may find it admirable.  But that doesn't mean you give away the farm!  You still have to keep your dignity and self-respect.  Being generous and respectful is fine, but being a sychophantic, subhuman, co-dependent, soul-less, loser who can't think or speak unless someone else says you can is NOT!!!!! 

(3)  Don't be AFRAID when there's no reason to be.  Maybe you're the type of guy who doesn't like conflict, and will make concessions simply to avoid it.  Let's face fact, one big reason why you're doing this is fear of the taskmaster's reaction.  Maybe they'll yell at you?  Maybe they'll bully you more?  Maybe they'll take something away from you that you need?

Step back and ask yourself -- how did this person get this much POWER over me to begin with?  And what can I do to get it BACK?  It's a lot harder to get the power back once they have it, but it can be done.  Just stop kowtowing to them, and they'll get the idea that they can't rule you anymore.  Many of these people won't give up the fight right away, because they think that bullying others is normal behavior, but they're not stupid.  If they don't have your life or your career in their hands, you're not stuck with taking this nonsense from them.  If they're going to withhold money or a gift from you if you don't suck up to them, then let them keep it.  Why should your self-respect be bought and sold? 

In other words, if the consequences are far less severe than these taskmasters make them seem, there's nothing to fear.  When you start getting afraid, however, you immobilize yourself.  You give them a green light to walk all over you, because you're not giving them a reason to stop.  There should be a real and valid reason to have that kind of fear of someone -- quite often, these fears are completely unfounded.  Recognize this, and lose the fear!

Just take a few steps like the above, and you'll be celebrating your own freedom from slavery.  Next Year In Jerusalem!