It was 21 years ago the spring of 1998 and my wife Liz was six months pregnant but looked eight or nine months pregnant because she was carrying our twins. We were sitting in a large conference room full of people I didn’t know in southern Mississippi, and a grizzled older man who looked like a farmer in his overalls and a white t-shirt was angrily accusing Liz of teaching black magic and witchcraft to kindergartners. No really, I’m not kidding, this really happened. We were in the Bible belt in the Deep South of the Deep South, and as I looked over at Liz, I suddenly realized she was looking extra beautiful in her midnight black maternity dress, and I thought, “OH MY GOD, WHY THE BLACK DRESS TODAY?”
Before that moment, I didn’t fully realize what this meeting was for. Even though the superintendent had told me that some parents had a problem with the social skills curriculum Liz had been using to teach kindergarteners about communication and emotional intelligence in their school system, I had no idea they were worried about witchcraft and black magic. The curriculum was called ‘Free the Horses,’ and it had been developed by a nationally respected company called Active Parenting Publishers to teach social skills and cognitive development to young children. This video-based program used a story about a magician who took over a kingdom and captured all the horses. Children had to problem-solve and learn about emotional intelligence to free the horses which were trapped by the wizard. All this was a metaphor for freeing your mind from fear and raising your self-esteem.
As I realized what this meeting was really all about I thought, “Are you kidding me? This has got to be a joke!” Well, it was no joke and this guy was really pissed. As I looked around the room full of worried and scared faces of the parents of the kindergartners I started to get angry. The guy was talking about the children using their minds to change the weather using black magic and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I suddenly stood up and said loudly in a heated tone of voice, “Happy thoughts make sunshine and sad thoughts make rain, IT’S A METAPHOR FOR EMOTIONS AND SELF ESTEEM!” I saw the whole room look at me, then look at the man, and then look at my very pregnant wife in her very black dress and the whole room got really quiet for an awkward moment. The man got quiet too, and then the superintendent suddenly stepped in and started talking in a placating tone of voice to everyone and the meeting eventually came to an end. Needless to say, Liz stopped teaching self-esteem to their kids after that semester.
What other people think about you is not your business. Liz was clearly not teaching black magic and witchcraft to little children. That had nothing to do with reality. The fear of Black magic only existed in the minds of scared parents in the Bible belt of rural Mississippi. Their fears about Liz teaching witchcraft to their children indicated more about their belief system and their perceptual framework than it did about Liz or what was happening in that social skills class in their elementary school. Their fears and their projections had nothing to do with Liz and had everything to do with their own thoughts and beliefs which lead us back to the point:
WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK ABOUT YOU IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS!
Everyone deals with this same problem every day with friends, family, business and community. We all have conflict with people in our lives where we judge each other and project our anger, hurt and unresolved issues onto each other. This happens in marriages, families, businesses and churches, as well as with the stranger who cuts you off in traffic. We all have to deal with others unfairly judging us, but if we are honest with ourselves, we may even be the people judging others as well. What goes around comes around back to you as the law of Karma states. When you judge others, they will judge you in return. This is the cycle of conflict in our lives and is part of the human condition.
Don’t let your fears run your life. You will actually handle the problems of life much more effectively when you don’t let your fears hijack your decision making process. If you want to Free the Horses of your own self-esteem, learn to not take other people’s opinions about you personally. Instead of getting defensive and criticizing others or compulsively reacting to other people’s dysfunction, learn to hold your center in situations of conflict and internally become non-reactive to the emotionally charges issues that get triggered in you in the face of the conflict around you. Once you recognize your fears and shift your focus away from your fear-based thinking to the core truth of the love that is your human nature, then you will become more aware of the dynamics and issues around you and you will become more responsive to the needs of the situation rather than simply reacting to the ghosts of your past. Learn to recognize your own patterns of dysfunction and unplug from your internal dialogue of fear and shame. If you want to learn more about how to do this, check out this link on the skill of self-reflection:
You are a good person, and when you learn to look past the dysfunction and the fears in yourself and in those around you what you will see is the infinite love of the universe shining from within you and reflected back to you from everyone around you. That old farmer in the meeting was just scared and simply wanted to protect his children who he loved dearly. He didn’t understand what Liz was trying to teach, but that didn’t make him a bad person. He loved his family and friends just as much as I loved my family and friends. He was a good person too, and from this point of view, Heaven is all around you here and now if you want to open your mind to the reality of love that is within you and is in everyone around you, and your life can be a reflection of that love if you want it to be so. You can do this.
Bye the way, my twins will be 21 years old in a few days. Also, after many years of teaching Montessori education to preschoolers and directing a school, Liz is now joining me at Center Point as a counselor and trainer. She might even start teaching social skills and self-esteem to little kids and adults as well. Imagine that.