Gregg Behr & Ryan Rydzewski | When You Wonder; The Enduring Lessons of Mister Rogers | K&C 20

In this episode, Gordon has a conversation with Gregg Behr and Ryan Rydzewski about their book, “When You Wonder You’re Learning: Mr. Rogers Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, curious, caring Kids”. They discuss unconventional wisdom of Fred Rogers and what he taught in his PBS program for children (and adults),  “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”.   They discuss the importance of teaching children emotional intelligence and how to live into more kindness and compassion.

Meet Gregg Behr & Ryan Rydzewski

Author, Gregg Behr

Gregg Behr, executive director of The Grable Foundation, is a father and children’s advocate whose work is inspired by his hero, Fred Rogers. For more than a decade, he has helped lead Remake Learning—a network of educators, scientists, artists, and makers he founded in 2007—to international renown. Formed in Rogers’ real-life neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Remake Learning has turned heads everywhere from Forbes to the World Economic Forum for its efforts to ignite children’s curiosity, encourage creativity, and foster justice and belonging in schools, libraries, museums, and more. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and also Duke University, Gregg holds honorary degrees from Carlow University and Saint Vincent College. He’s an advisor to the Brookings Institution and the Fred Rogers Center, and has been cited by Barack Obama and the Disruptor Foundation as an innovator and thought leader.  Visit his website:

Author, Ryan Rydzewski

Ryan Rydzewski is award-winning author, reporter, and speechwriter whose science and education stories span everything from schools to space travel to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he taught elementary school in south Louisiana before earning an MFA in nonfiction writing from Chatham University.

In addition to his work for nonprofits — reports, speeches, op-eds, and the like he writes feature stories and creative pieces that have appeared in Pittsburgh Magazine, Hippocampus, and elsewhere.

Ryan was born and grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania.  For almost a decade, he has been living in Pittsburgh, where you can find him writing, running, or lounging in the yard with his wife, Jacqueline, and their (very) old-soul beagle, Walter. Visit his website at

The Real Mr. Rogers

If you grew up watching “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” you may remember Fred Rogers as the kind, gentle man who sang songs and told stories about his beloved puppets. But what you may not know is that Mr. Rogers was also a learning scientist who had a deep understanding of how children learn and grow.

When You Wonder, You’re Learning

In their new book, “When You Wonder You’re Learning: Mr. Rogers Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, curious, caring Kids,” authors Ryan Rydzewski and Greg Behr delve into the lessons that Mr. Rogers left behind and explore why they are still relevant today.

(Being transparent; the link to the book above is an affiliate link. This just means we receive a small commission with no extra cost to you if you use the link. Thanks for using the link!)

As educators and parents themselves, Ryan and Greg understand the importance of fostering a love of learning in children. In a world where there is so much emphasis on testing and standardized measures of success, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that learning is a process of exploration and discovery. Mr. Rogers’ message of love and compassion is just as important today as it was when he first appeared on our television screens, and his blueprints for learning can help us raise children who are creative, curious, and caring.

Creating a Safe and Welcoming Space

Fred Rogers, the host of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” was known for his slow, deliberate approach to teaching and learning, which he believed created an atmosphere conducive to learning and exploration. This included creating a safe, welcoming space where questions could be asked and answered and where children felt like they belonged. In their book, “When You Wonder Your Learning: Mr. Rogers Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, curious, caring Kids,” authors Ryan Rydzewski and Greg Behr explore the importance of this approach to learning, particularly in an era where there is so much focus on testing and standardization. They also discuss the concept of deep listening and loving speech, which is essential for creating an atmosphere of acceptance and growth.


If you’re a fan of Mr. Rogers or are simply looking for ways to support your children’s learning and growth, this book is must-read. Ryan and Greg’s insights and insights from learning scientists around the world offer a fresh perspective on how to approach education and parenting in the 21st century. It’s a great place to start in teaching our kids the importance of kindness and compassion in an increasingly polarized world.


Gordon Brewer: Well, hello everyone and welcome again to the podcast and I'm really happy for you all to get to know today, Ryan Zeki and Greg Bayer, uh, who have a book that I think you really are gonna wanna learn about and that book. And their book is When You Wonder, you're learning. Mr. Rogers enduring lessons for raising creative and Curious and Caring Kid. So welcome Ryan and Greg.
Ryan Rydzewski: Thank you so much for having us. We're happy to be here.
Gordon Brewer: Yes. Um, so as I start with most everyone, tell folks a little bit about yourself and how you've landed where you've landed.
Ryan Rydzewski: Sure. So, uh, this is Ryan. Um, my name is Ryan Zeki. I am a, uh, science and education writer, and I'm also a former elementary school teacher. So how did I end up here working on a book with Greg? Uh, well, . I taught fourth and fifth grade down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And I eventually made my way back home to Pittsburgh, which is of course the real life home of, of Fred Rogers.
Uh, and that's where Greg and I started working, um, together on some pieces about the science of learning. So in the pr in the work that we're privileged to do for the Grayville Foundation, which Greg is the head of, um, a lot of our work has to do with figuring out what are we learning about learning itself.
and we talk to scientists, we talk to expert educators. We read academic articles from places right here in Pittsburgh, like Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, but also further afield from universities all over the country and the world. And what we realized over time in doing that was that when you talk to.
Learning scientists and when you talk to educators and you talk to parents, they're not talking about learning so scientifically, right? I think we expected lots of charts and graphs and numbers and and technical terminology, but instead they're asking questions like, how do we make sure kids feel safe?
How do we make sure kids feel that they belong to a community that cares about them? Uh, how do we make them feel? As Fred Rogers used to say that they are loved and capable of loving. And we like to say that, you know, in listening to these lectures and meeting these scientists and reading these papers, they started to sound to us like Scripps from Mr.
Rogers neighborhood. And that's really, uh, where this whole process, uh, began with that. Aha. .
Gordon Brewer: Mm-hmm. .
Greg Behr: Yeah. And hi everyone. I'm Greg Bear. I'm the co-author with Ryan of this book entitled When You Wonder, you're Learning. I'm a Western Pennsylvania kid, as is Ryan, which is maybe all that you really ultimately need to know about us
Um, because like Fred Rogers we're, um, products of these western Pennsylvania Hills. I've been working in the field of education for two decades now. And also like Ryan, I'm a. . And so we bring sensibilities to this book as educators, as parents, and as Ryan said, have a chance in this book to represent Fred Rogers.
Not just as that loving, caring individual that so many of us got to experience on the other side of our television set, but as a remarkable learning scientist who was decades ahead of his time and who left for us some blueprints for learning that matter more to us, maybe more than they did during Fred's time.
Uh, and certainly 20 years after his passing maybe mean more to us in this moment right now than ever before.
Gordon Brewer: Yes. Yes. It, it's, it's interesting because as I was putting this podcast together, when I started it previously this year, I remember as I was getting the copy together for the website, I was going back and reading, um, a little book that I've.
Called The Wisdom of Mr. Rogers. I think, uh, I don't know if you've run across that book. It's on my shelf back here somewhere. I can't remember the, the, um, who, who edited that, but it's just quotes from Fred Rogers. And so I, I, I, I pulled from that and then, Then the movie came out, I can't remember when the movie came out.
I guess it was year before last, something like
Greg Behr: that. Yeah. Now which movie? Because there's Morgan Neville's amazing documentary and then there's the biopic starring Tom
Gordon Brewer: Hanks. Yes. I was thinking about the, the one with Tom Hanks and Yeah. And so I was just enthralled by it and um, yeah, so. It's, it's interesting how it, it brings, brings you guys into my life and just thinking about all of this and just so I know there's a lot of different places we could start with this, but what have you guys learned so far and what was the inspiration behind the book?
A little more about that. Yeah, I, I.
Ryan Rydzewski: Are what we really have come to see Fred in almost a new light. So Greg mentioned, you know, we grew up here in Western Pennsylvania. We grew up watching the neighborhood on television. We have that emotional connection to Fred that almost anybody who ever watched him shares right.
and I think, you know, you mentioned the movies with, with Tom Hanks, we tend to think of Fred as this nice guy in a sweater. Mm-hmm. , which he absolutely was. But what we try to do with this book is figure out, well, how did Fred do what he did? How did Fred make so many people feel that way? So many people from so many different walks of life, from so many different generations for so many decades in a row.
Is there a method to what Fred. , and if so, what do those blueprints look like and how can we, you know, 20 years after Fred himself passed away? Apply those lessons and follow Fred's blueprints in our schools and at home and in museums and libraries and all the places where we, uh, and where our young people learn.
So we really have come to see Fred, um, as a scientist, because he really was a scientist. As Greg will tell you, he studied with some of the top minds of his generation, and he put those lessons to work in Mr. Rogers. .
Greg Behr: Right. Well, and that's the thing, Gordon, we've, we have the privilege now with adult eyes and adult minds to look back at what it is that Fred did because so many of us met him with our little kid eyes, right?
Mm-hmm. and developed that emotional attachment often si oftentimes sit sitting alongside siblings or parents or others and as adults to look back at what it is that Fred did is an incredible. There are many interesting parts about Fred's story before the neighborhood even hits the air. One of the most amazing parts is this, Fred was studying at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
and it was during his time at the seminary that he decided he wanted to use that newfangled technology of television to minister to kids. Right. He saw what was attractive to kids and said, what if we made this good and constructive in a way that was helpful in their lives? Mm-hmm. , and it was his teachers at the seminary that said, well, Fred, if you're gonna do.
you better learn something about child development theory and practice, which ideally is something that any teacher, any youth worker, any librarian, anyone who's in the caring professions for kids hears at some point. Mm-hmm. , and this is where Fred ended up in a place called the Arsenal Family in Children's Center here in Pittsburgh.
It was a chance for him to sort of learn in an environment. And this environment, it turns out, was stack. with a 20th century Mount Rushmore of child development, psychologists, psychiatrists, and pediatricians. There was a remarkable happenstance of the people who happened to be here in Pittsburgh, the 1950s and sixties.
So there are folks like Benjamin Spock, the doctor whose book Baby and Child, child Care, one of the bestselling books of all time in American Publishing history. Probably everyone listening here either has a copy in their home. Their aunt or uncle or grandparents have a copy in their house. You can still walk into bookstores today and find that book on the shelves.
There are folks like Eric Erickson, pediatricians like Brazelton coming through, and most importantly as, uh, we've come to appreciate was the work of Margaret McFarland, who's a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh, who became Fred's lifelong mentor and dear friend. So we mentioned this experience about being an arsenal because their Fred was among a world-class.
Of experts around what we were learning at the time about learning and about child development theory and practice, and he absorbed all of that. Fred was like a sponge, and you see he took what he absorbed in that setting. and he applied it to puppetry, to lyrics, to a wardrobe, to a physical set, to everything that he did.
It was deliberate and intentional and in so many ways, Fred was a scientist. And today, in, in the language of, of contemporary times, we would describe him as a learning scientist. A scientist who was studying how we learn. , but we didn't use that phrase 40 and 50 years ago. But that's exactly what Fred was and that's what today we can see as adults, looking back at the work that he did over the many decades mm-hmm.
that we saw his program on, that television set, and Gordon, he made it so easy, so seamless. Mm-hmm. that we didn't recognize it, but now we can go back and unpack it. And that's what Ryan and I try and do in this.
Gordon Brewer: Yeah. Yeah. I, I've got to, um, got to delve into that because I, I, you know, one of the things, um, as a therapist, I remember some of the courses I enjoyed the most were the human development courses and early Childhood Development courses.
Although as a therapist, I don't really work with kids, I, uh, as my daughter used to say when she was little, I sucked at playing Barbies. So , I didn't . Yeah, I didn't really, uh, I didn't really. Don't make the connection like Fred Rogers did. But, you know, one of the things that I remember about him, um, and I, I remember watching him, you know, as a little kid and you know, kind of growing up with him is that he slowed things down a lot.
Mm-hmm. . And that, that to me is something that we can really learn from. And that hit the, the whole pace of his, his programming and just the. Just the y you know, really during the time period, really some radical stuff. I mean, the, there's the whole, um, the whole scene with the, uh, I forget the actor's name who was played, the, uh, policeman who was black.
Brad Flock. Yeah. And, um, they, um, You know him, they're putting their feet in the pool together. Mm-hmm. was huge. Huge. It's
Ryan Rydzewski: so, it's sort of amazing, you know, when we went back to look at the neighborhood as adults, you know, we watched, I don't know how many episodes to put this book together, how much quiet space there is, uh, for not only for a television show, but for a children's television show.
You know, I used to be a teacher and I would, I hated to have blank space or unaccounted board time in my classroom. Cause I was worried about what was going to. Fred really trusted kids to stick with him, and in fact, we, there's a short, uh, aside in the book, uh, sort of analyzing the way Fred put his program together, and Fred only allowed two cuts per minute of footage on his program.
So that's roughly a cut every 30 seconds. in modern television, modern children's television, you see cuts every three to five seconds. So it was radically slower. There's a lot of quiet time. There are scenes in Mr. Rogers neighborhood of Fred literally sitting there and watching paint dry. He loved to give kids time to think.
He loved to give kids time to wonder. Um, he would give them something to think about and then he wouldn't press them for an answer right away. He would just let them sort of sit and marinate and wonder. and, um, I think that we're, to a certain degree missing that and, and media, both for children and adults today.
Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , uh, it's hyper fast. Um, I think that's also a reflection of social media as well. Fred trusted us. He knew that it was in those quiet moments that we would come to know ourselves, know our neighbors, and ultimately become, you know, the best of, of whoever we are. Right, right. And I think it's
Greg Behr: important for us to notice that Fred wasn't slow for the sake of being.
For him in so many ways. It was a tactical approach to building as he described it, atmosphere for learning. Mm-hmm. . And it wasn't just about creating that space where you could wonder, maybe even struggle and certainly notice things, but it was also about creating a space where you felt like you were safe, where your questions might be heard and respected, where you felt like you might belong.
There were a whole set of ingredients. , essentially Fred approached to developing that atmosphere for learning on his program and that pacing is just one of them.
Gordon Brewer: Yeah. So one, one of the things I was thinking about as you were saying that Greg is, um, the, not only the slowing, the slowing down of things, but also the, um, the curiosity that he used with everything.
And one of the things that in doing this podcast and just in working with people in therapy, and particularly I do a lot of work with couples, is when you c when a person can move from being critical of the other to mo moving, to being curious of the other, everything changes. and that that, that, that is in my mind where kindness and compassion lips is where we can and, and I think, um, yeah.
Do you wanna say more about that? I mean, that was just kind of a thought that came to me as you were talking about those
Greg Behr: things. Well, I'll just say briefly and then Ryan, I'll turn to you because it makes me think of one of the chapters in our book, of which they're six and one of 'em focuses on communications.
And we really, uh, attend to what it was that Fred did and meant when he talked about deep listening and loving speech, right? Mm-hmm. . And according to your comments, deep listening and loving speech does not happen. Unless you're in an atmosphere where there is some stillness mm-hmm. , where you actually can hear process struggle with those thoughts.
And it's about, um, creating that atmosphere that allows for, for Ryan that deeper listening and loving speech. Yes. Yes.
Gordon Brewer: Ryan, did you heard a comment about that? Yeah. No, no. Go ahead. . No, I was gonna say, uh, I was just curious about your thoughts about that. I mean, from your perspective as well. Yeah. Um,
Ryan Rydzewski: it, it's interesting, I think Fred, Fred saw acceptance.
Mm-hmm. feeling accepted as sort of a precondition for growth. And, and you've probably seen this in your, in your therapy practice, Gordon, you know, Fred used to say, people don't change very much when all they have is a finger pointed in their face, right? Mm-hmm. people change. People only change in relation to somebody who loves them, and I.
What Fred was trying to do and what we've hoped, hopefully we've elaborated his methods in this book, was help engineer that feeling of acceptance and letting his viewers know that someone, even if it was just Fred, even if it was just one guy on a screen, accepted him exactly as they are right now. Now, that doesn't mean he told viewers that they're perfect or that everything they thought or said or did was was okay.
It only meant that he recognized. . Every human being is worthy of attention and every human being, despite all the flaws and strengths and hopes and fears that that person has, that person is worthy of the neighborhood that we all share. Mm-hmm. , I think Fred understood, and Fred was probably ahead of his time in understanding.
That in order for us to grow, in order for us to learn, in order for us to change, we need to feel that too. And in many ways, you know, Mr. Roger's neighborhood was a 40 year sermon on, on somebody out there accepts us. Somebody out there is telling us that we are okay just the way we are right now. Yes. .
Gordon Brewer: Yes.
Yeah. Um, there's a, I think there's a quote from St. Francis of Assisi is that, um, um, and not to throw too much of my own, I guess religious views into things, but is, um, he, he said, preach the gospel always and when necessary, use the word use words. So I'm paraphrasing the quote, but, uh, and when I think about Fred Wa Rogers and what he lived into with just, yeah, again, his background as a minister, um, really emulated what all of that should be about.
Ryan Rydzewski: That was, that quote was a favorite of Fred's. And you could see it. I mean, you could watch every episode of Mr. Roger's neighborhood and not know necessarily that he was a minister. And it wasn't that he was being deceptive. It wasn't that he was tricking us. I just think that the neighborhood was his distillation of, of what most world religions share, which is that sense that like we are here for one another as human beings.
And our job, you know, of Kurt vni used to say, we're here to help each other through this thing, whatever it is. Mm-hmm. and I, I see that philosophy at work in Mr. Rogers neighborhood as. .
Gordon Brewer: Awesome, awesome. So, I know, um, I, I want to be mindful of our time, but, um, could you all give us a quick kind of, uh, overview of the book?
Just kind of walk, walk us through kind of what's there.
Greg Behr: That's right. Well, right at the opening of the book is a Beautiful Ford by Mrs. Rogers, Fred's wife, Joan. and Joanne was a great champion for this book and a, a real supporter for the two of us, and, um, was instrumental together with colleagues who'd been part of Fred's career for decades in helping us to unpack the work that it is that Fred did.
So it begins with this beautiful forward by Joanne. And then you have six chapters that variously focus on a general theme, the first of which is curiosity, the second of which is creativity and continuous forward. More or less each chapter. , whether you're familiar with Mr. Rogers neighborhood or not, and if you are, it'll emotionally connect you because we ground you in the work that Fred did.
Oftentimes expressing that through an episode and in a a and a vi vignette that's sort of expressive of the concept for that chapter. And then what we try and do. Is connect what Fred did all of those years ago to things that were learning about learning itself. Ryan and I had a chance to review, I don't know if it's an opportunity or a burden, but to review all sorts of journal articles and other research pieces from Carnegie Mellon University, from m i t, from Stanford and beyond.
And then ideally we put that research in plain English in a way that connects what Fred. To what we're learning today about learning itself and the learning sciences demonstrate how Fred did that all of those years ago in incredibly practical ways and in that sense of practicality. in each chapter then are examples in classrooms, in libraries, in museums, in all sorts of learning settings that you could imagine in your community where people are essentially applying what we described as the Fred Method.
You know, taking what Fred did all of those years, years ago, doing it in a way commensurate with what. Learning scientists tell us we ought to be doing for kids and then ending each chapter with things that you and I can do. It's certainly not meant to be parenting or teaching for dummies, but what we have the privilege to do is curate examples from around the world where people are applying the Fred Method in in small little ways that any one of us can do.
and that's essentially what readers will find in the book. It's, it's written for parents, for new parents, for teachers, librarians, anyone who, who is in the care of children to make use of, of, as Joanne described. , the blueprints for learning that this book lays out.
Gordon Brewer: Yes, yes. I I'm really looking forward to delving into the book.
I, I, I, I probably confession here, should have read the book before I interviewed you guys, but, um, yes. Well now we peaked your interest, haven't you? Yes, you have. You have. It's, it's a, it's moved up in. In my reading list now. But, um, you know, the other thing, uh, that, um, that occurs to me as we're thinking about this, I think the most valuable thing that Mr.
Rogers taught was taught kids or, uh, and adults for that matter, the, the importance of emotional intelligence, of being able to know how to self-regulate and, and handle things. on an emotional level, but also an intellectual level at the same time.
Ryan Rydzewski: Yeah. I mean, there's that favorite or famous song of his, what do you do with the mad that you feel, you know?
Yes. Which is really about what you just mentioned. Mm-hmm. , I, I think Fred. , you're right. Fred really did teach kids the importance of self-control, of emotional intelligence. But I think Fred also went one step further, which is a step that we often forget as adults. So I, I think we all like to tell children, you know, that you, you need to keep your hands to yourself.
You need to keep your voice down or whatever it is that it was. But Fred always reminded children that they're big feelings. That they're big feelings that can be so overwhelming when you're at that. we're okay. It's okay to be scared. Mm-hmm. , it's okay to be, um, insecure. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to grieve.
Um, Fred always paired his sort of modeling of, of self-control and emotional intelligence with that reminder that the feelings you're having are humans. The feelings you're having are okay. There are caring adults around you who will help you work through them, and it's how you deal with them. That's what's I.
Yes. Well,
Greg Behr: and Ryan, you use, you just essentially used the word humanity and Ryan, isn't that at the core of Fred Roger's work a deep and profound respect for humanity beginning in the earliest of years, and that all of us from our lifetimes as young children to. Ideally, um, wisened adults, right? That we have layers of social, emotional and academic growth.
And he was way ahead of his time in, in, in respecting and understanding the integration of those in the, in the nuances and layers of every single human being. And he respected childhood to know that that's a profound start in that lifelong. .
Gordon Brewer: Mm-hmm. . Yes. Yes. And I think he, the, the other thing that he, I think he changed, um, was.
Was moving, moving childhood. You said humanity of really just seeing, seeing children as other humans, not just as these things that are over that we. , you know, that, uh, I'm trying to think the words to put to that, but you know, I know there was a shift where children were kind of seen as property or kind of, kind of seen as this something that adults owned and that, um, they were of no value with their insight or whatever they might provide until they reached a certain age.
And, um, . Yeah. And so I think what, what, well,
Greg Behr: and to para, to paraphrase Fred, I won't get this quotation right. Mm-hmm. , I mean, he essentially said he respected childhood and knew and appreciated how distinct it is from other phases of our life. But to your point, Gordon, he, he essentially said, you know, kids aren't just vessels that you open up their head and pour things into it.
Mm-hmm. , they come with those layers of social and emotional and cognitive growth. Mm-hmm. and we grownups do best by tending to those continuously. . Um, and together.
Gordon Brewer: Yes. Yes. Well, this is, this is fascinating stuff and I, I wish we had had more time to, to. Delve into this more. Now I, hopefully I can get you guys back on again so we can talk some more about this because I think this hits at the core of where we can live into more kindness and compassion, particularly through our educational systems and how we, how we, how we communicate with kids, and how we help them help them.
you know, throughout their lifetime. So, um, well tell folks how they can get in touch with you if they want to, and, um, if they wanna learn more from you.
Ryan Rydzewski: Sure. So they can visit our Uh, we post some updates there from time to time. They can also sign up for our newsletter, which, uh, has events and some musings about Fred and some interesting links to Fred, like things mm-hmm.
Um, and you can also reach out to us, to us directly. Uh, we're available at when you wonder. We'd love to hear from readers. We'd love to hear from prospective readers. Mm-hmm. , uh, we'd love to hear from fans of Fred. Probably the most satisfying and and fun part of getting out on the road, whether virtually or in person to talk about this book, is to hear about how much Fred still means to so many people, uh, and what a guiding force he is in so many people's lives, uh, whether they think about him in that way or not.
A lot of times when we, we talk about that book, Come to us and say, Hey, you know, I've been doing this thing in my classroom and I think this is really Fred. Like, and that's right. And we started to curate more and more of those examples, um, which folks can find, uh, when they sign up for our newsletter.
Greg Behr: Awesome. And Gordon, you can find our book, you know, ask at the local library, ask at your local bookstore, wherever it is that you find books, uh, whether that's ordering online or walking down to the neighborhood shop. Um, you can find when you wonder
Gordon Brewer: you. . Awesome. Awesome. And we'll have links here in the show notes and the show summary for folks to, to, to find things easily again, the book is When You Wonder, you're Learning.
Mr. Rogers Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, curious, and Caring Kids. Ryan and and Greg, thank you so much for being with me today.
Ryan Rydzewski: Thanks for having us. It's been a pleasure.
Greg Behr: Ah, thanks and thanks for being such a kind neighbor. Thanks.

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L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person.  He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook .  And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.


Jay Mills | A Story of Transformation and Finding Peace | K&C 18


In this episode Gordon talks with The Rev. Jay Mills about his life journey of transformation and how he has changed his mind and values over the years. Jay shares how his life changed through his involvement in a 12-step program and his reconciliation with his past.  Gordon has known Jay for close to 20 years. Jay was originally one of Gordon’s priests. Gordon is currently a clergy person in the Episcopal church and Jay is retired. As Jay tells his story you will find his life is an example of kindness and compassion.

Jay Mills Early Years

The Rev. Jay Mills was raised in a middle-class home with parents that were reasonably good parents. And I ended up getting sexually assaulted when I was 12 years old, and my life very quickly unraveled. Jay started doing drugs and alcohol heavily. He ended up being addicted very young. He was also a really angry kid with a lot of violence. He lived that way until he was about 21, where he went through a conversion through the ministries of Campus Crusade for Christ. While he does not agree with their theology now, he says “I owe them my life cause as I’ve often said, if I waited for the Episcopal Church to evangelize me, I’ve died in a drug house.

He was a camp counselor not long after that. He had an experience that where he oversaw several kids. They were in the back of his car, and they flipped off a local guy. And the guy followed him into Burger King. He wanted to fight. “I just looked at him and I said, “I can fight you. I’m a Christian.” Jay says at that moment he understood exactly what Jesus was talking about. Bless your enemies. Jesus was calling me to be a person of peace.

Gun Culture in America

Understanding the virtues of humility, love, and joy, and humility have been transformative in his life. for me. In my later years was the American gun culture. He went through a lent where he didn’t carry and found it really freeing. Through that experience he ended up selling all his guns. Getting rid of them was very freeing. “There’s just too much killing going on in the United States … and Jesus really did call me to be a person of peace…”

Jay’s Process of Change

“If the Jesus movement in which I was converted, had a dark side, it evolved very quickly into conservative politics.” He assumed that he had to partake in that “dark side”, and it didn’t fit. Jay describes himself as “a campus radical wannabe in the sixties and early seventies.” He never fit that very well and has slowly grown out of it. One of the biggest changes he made was in gay and lesbian people. Jay was reported to the head of the Integrity chapter, which was the gay and lesbian group in the Episcopal church at the time about 15 years ago now. Jay had an interchange with a parishioner who was gay. The head of the group and Jay met. At the time, Jay believed homosexuality was a sin. And despite our differences, we became friends. I was challenged during our meeting to do my research.

In seminary, Jay learned to read Hebrew and Greek. So, he did his research. And to his surprise, it changed his mind. He came to believe that we’ve been wrong about homosexuality. Those passages that report being anti-gay are not necessarily that way when read in the original Greek or when read in context or in when read with their culture in mind.

As Jay explains, the story of Sodom and Gamora is not about gay love. It’s about rape. And the lack of hospitality of the people of Sodom and Gamora. And that hospitality to this day is one of the cardinal virtues of the Middle East. And the condemnation in Romans has more to do with the worship of the god’s sibling than homosexuality. Jay had promised his friend, “If I ever changed my mind I would go to bat for them.” And he did and for several years. At the Dawson Conventions, every year he would end up speaking in favor of changing our mind about it.

The Process of Making Peace

Gordon asked Jay a Question about the process of making peace with yourself. Jay said “It’s interesting. I am. A member of a 12-step group having to do with alcohol and drugs. I was working with a sponsor and I always had a lot of anger and rage and it came through spiritually and emotionally in my ministry, unfortunately, from time to time, and he and I were working on the steps.”

Jay continues “If you don’t know the steps, the four steps you write down all the things you’ve done. Basically, the resentments you have, the things you’ve done. Eventually, you get to the people you’ve hurt in the fifth and sixth steps. And he had a dog that he’d rescued from the fights, a pit bull, and she wanted nothing to do for me.”

Jay notes “She could read all that anger and rage that I carried around in me. And at the very end of working the fourth and fifth and sixth steps, we knelt down to pray. And that dog came up and leaned up against me because unbeknownst to me, God had lifted all that rage and anger out of me. Cuz I, I, when I was a young man, I would beat people till they quit moving.”

After working through those steps and the prayer Jay expressed “And it just, it’s never been there since. It’s, God simply took it.”

Jay said he thinks the first thing to recognize is that it almost always it comes out of trauma in childhood. In that case, he usually refers them to a therapist who can really help them work with it. Another option is a 12-step group if they have an alcohol or drug addiction problem. 12-step groups are a great place, to work on all that because the steps really strip you down and make you face yourself. And you don’t carry that garbage around with you anymore. There are solutions and “you don’t have to go around mad at the world.”

Wrestling with Fears

“I still wrestle with the fears.” Jay was reading Richard Ross commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. The first five chapters are the historical background to the Ministry of Jesus. He said he’s got a list of things he affirms. One of those is that God is on your side. One of the later ones is that everything is heading somewhere good. Ross makes the comment that the world is a safe place. Jay said “And I semi-believe that. I also believe that it could be a very dangerous place. And that’s where the promises of the call of Jesus to love those who persecute you to love your enemies. Where the rubber really meets the. I don’t want to have someone slap me on the face and have to turn the other cheek.”

Jay continues, “I fear it. But I, but that’s what I’m called to. And ultimately I’ve found whatever traumatic things happen to me, God uses them as gifts for serving other people in the end. So, I can face the fears with a certain amount of hope that God will do something good.”

In the AA and NA and other 12-step groups, the premise is that if you’re going to get sobriety, you’re going to have to give it away and help other people and help other people in other ways besides just. Self-centered fears are at the core of all the stuff that drives us. Jay says he was one of the “baddest guys on the block” as a young adolescent and early 20-year-old and was scared all the time. “Nobody knew it and I couldn’t afford to help other people. I can now, I can learn to go beyond myself, and my self-centered fears, and reach out.”
Ways to live with more compassion and Kindness

Jay wants us to practice kindness towards ourselves. The kind of kindness that God practices. Jay thinks an awful lot of American religion sees God as an ogre waiting to swat them down. “I just don’t believe that God is revealed except in a few places in the Bible that I just don’t pay attention to.” Actually, there’s a saying in the 12-step programs, “Fake it till you make it.” Act compassionate until you feel compassionate. There are actions that drive our feelings, not the other way around. When we’re stuck in fear-based stuff, our feelings drive our actions. But to learn to act first and let the feelings follow, which Jay says is vital.

Another way to live with compassion and kindness is to avoid isolation. Because our minds can conjure up all kinds of fears and self-doubt that have no connection to reality whatsoever. And then we can get stuck in ourselves and lose the compassion and mercy that we are called to live.

“Where religion is important, where Christianity and all of that is that there’s an, there’s a different way of living into it, of understanding.
And anytime you see the words “belief in, I believe or belief in” in the New Testament, read the word “trust” and it’ll completely revolutionize how you read the New Testament.

Although officially “retired” Jay is currently serving as an Associate Rector at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Waxhaw, NC.  Jay helps with pastoral care and still enjoys teaching, Biblical research, and occasional fly fishing.  He and his wife Karen have two adult children,  and 5 grandchildren.

[00:00:00] Jay Mills: Okay. Hi, I'm Jay Mills. I'm happy to be on the Kindness and Compassion broadcast with Gordon Brewer and talk about some things that have happened in my life.
[00:00:18] Gordon Brewer: Well, hello everyone and welcome again to the podcast and I'm so glad and really very thankful that my good dear friend, the Reverend j Mills is with me here today. Welcome, Jay. Thank you. Glad to be here. Yes. And so Jay and I have probably known each other probably close to 20 years. Is that, would that be our Yeah, 94.
Yeah. So we've known each other a long time and been through a lot together. Just, uh, when Jay was, uh, Jay was, uh, originally one of my priests in the past. And, um, as I've shared on other shows, I'm, I'm a clergy person in the Episcopal church and Jay is retired. We're going back to working, but, um, I'm gonna let Jay kind of tell his story because I think one of the things that I know about Jay is, is that his story very much lives into this whole concept of kindness and compassion.
So, Jay, tell folks a little bit more about yourself and how you've landed where you've landed. How
[00:01:22] Jay Mills: far, far back you
[00:01:23] Gordon Brewer: want me to go? Yeah. . So you start where you feel like you wanna
[00:01:27] Jay Mills: start. Okay. Well, I, I, um, was raised in a middle class home, uh, with parents that were re reasonable good parents. Um, And I ended up getting sexually assaulted when I was 12 years old, and my life very quickly unraveled.
I started doing drugs heavily and alcohol, and ended up being addicted very, very young and was also a really angry kid with a lot of violence. And, um, was that way until, until I was about 21, where I went through a conversion through the ministries of Campus Crusade for Christ, which is a very fundamentalist campus organization.
Uh, I don't agree with her theology at all now, but I owe them my life. Cause as I've often said, if I waited for the Episcopal Church to evangelize me, I've died in a drug house. , um, sadly. Mm-hmm. . It was, it was the real deal. I, I, uh, one of the stories I tell about the change that happened in me, I was a camp counselor not long after that, and I was in charge of several kids who were in the back of my car and they flipped off a local guy, uh, in this camp, conference center town called Romney.
And the guy followed me into a, into a. Burger King, I think, and, uh, wanted to fight. I just looked at him and I said, I can fight you. I'm a c. Um, and, and I understood exactly what Jesus was talking about in, in the lessons for this coming, uh, all Saint Sunday. Bless your enemies. A player for those who persecute you.
Um, uh, he, he was calling me to be a person of of peace. Umhmm . And, um, I've, I've had good days in that. I've had bad days in that. Um, and, um, I've undergone a pretty significant change in the last year, um, primarily, uh, through the auspices of the Anglican or Episcopal Society in St. Francis. Uh, I'm affiliating as a third order Franciscan, which is a lay order of Franciscan's, and they, they stress the three.
Virtues of, of, um, uh, humility, love, and joy, uh, which are humility. Part I, I've got pretty well, the love part, I've got less well and the joy part I have to really struggle with. Mm-hmm. . Um, but it's, it's been transformative for me. Um, I was one, one of the things I drifted back into, In my later years was, was the gun culture at America.
And, um, went through a lent where I, where I didn't carry, um, and found it really freeing and ended up selling all my guns and, and tickled to death to be done with them. There's just too much killing going on in the United States and I don't wanna be. Uh, and, and Jesus really did call me to be a person of peace, and that doesn't include that mm-hmm.
So that, that, that was a, that's, that's been a big change in the last year. Yeah.
[00:04:50] Gordon Brewer: Yeah. That's about it. Yeah. Well, it's a, And knowing, and as I mentioned at the beginning, and knowing you, Jay, for as long as I've known you, I've kinda seen your transformation, um, from when you first came where Jay was. Had lived here in the same town that I live in Kingsport, Tennessee.
And, um, our area is a fairly conservative, uh, pretty right wing area here. Oh, yeah. And, and I know that you went through some other transformations and just kind of changing your mind about some of those conservative views and. Ways of seeing things. Um, do you mind sharing just kind of what that process was like for you and some of the things that kinda led to that change of mind?
[00:05:37] Jay Mills: Well, if the, if the, the Jesus movement in which I was converted. Had a dark side. It, it evolved very quickly into conservative, uh, conservative politics rather. Uh, and I made the assumption that I had to partake in that mm-hmm. and it didn't fit. I was, uh, campus radical wannabe in, in the sixties and early seventies.
Uh, and I never fit that very well and, I've slowly grown out of it and been willing to grow out of it. Um, and the, the, one of the biggest changes I made was in the area of gay and lesbian people. Um, I, I was reported to the head of the Integrity chapter, which was the gay and lesbian group in the Episcopal church at the time, Oh, about 15 years ago now.
A, as I had had an interchange with a parishioner who was gay. And, um, the head of the group and I met and we became, in spite of our differences, I, I thought homosexuality was a sin. And, uh, in spite of our differences, we became friends. And she challenged me during ent. ENT seems to be always the time when I do all this big changing.
Mm-hmm. challenged me during lent to do the research. Again, I was for. In seminary, I got to learn to read Hebrew and Greek, um, and did the research. Left wing research, right wing research, exo Jesus of the passages. And to my surprise, changed my mind. Um, and came to believe that we've been wrong about homosexuality and that those passages that report to be, um, Anti-gay are not necessarily that way when red in the original Greek or when red in context.
Culturally. Um, for example, the story of Sodom and Gamora is not about gay love. It's about rape. Um, and, and, and the lack of hospitality of the people of, of Sodom and Gamora. And, and that's hospitality to this day is the, one of the cardinal virtues of the Middle East. Um, And the, the, the condemnation in Romans, in the beginning of Romans, uh, I, I think that has more to do with the worship of the god's sibling than the, than than homosexuality.
Mm-hmm. . Um, and I promised my friend our very first conversation, If I ever changed my mind, I, I would go to bat for them. And I did and, uh, for, for several years was on the other side of it than my bishop. And at Dawson Conventions, every year would end up speaking in favor of changing our mind about it and mm-hmm.
and he would not relent and we managed to remain friends because I'm, I, by then, I'd learn to not be so aggressive and, and. And spiritually, emotionally violent when I said and did things. Um, but it was a, it was a huge transformation.
[00:08:47] Gordon Brewer: Yes.
[00:08:47] Jay Mills: Yes. So it was funny. I'd always been blessed with gay friends.
Mm-hmm. . Um, but I didn't know the barrier that that had put up. I, I made amends to all my gay friends and, and it, it changed the relationships enormously with a couple of them.
[00:09:03] Gordon Brewer: Right. Yeah. So that's kind of the Ulta. How did, um, I don't, I don't know. You, you might have kind of answered this question, but when I think about kindness and compassion, I guess the word peace comes to to mind.
But what, how did you, what was the, the process of making peace with yourself about kind of those past things plus how you handle 'em now?
[00:09:30] Jay Mills: Well, it's interesting. I, I am. Uh, a member of a 12 step group having to do with alcohol and drugs, and I was working with a sponsor and I always had a lot of anger and rage and it, and it came through, uh, spiritually and emotionally in my ministry, unfortunately, from time to time, and he and I were working on the steps.
If you don't know the steps, the four steps, you, you write down all the, all the things you've done. Basically the, the resentments you have, the things you've done, um, the, eventually you get to the people you've hurt in, in the fifth and sixth step. Um, and he had a dog that. He'd rescued from the fights, a pit bull, and she wanted nothing to do for me.
She could read all that anger and rage that I carried around in me. And, um, at the very end of working the fourth and fifth and sixth step, we knelt down to pray. And that dog came up and leaned up against me because unbeknownst to me, God had lifted all that rage and anger out of me. Cuz I, I, when I was a young man, I would beat people till they quit moving.
Mm. Um, and it just, it's never been there since. It, it's, God simply took it.
[00:10:48] Gordon Brewer: Yeah. Yeah. I, I love hearing that story. I, I know that that's, uh, quite a transformation for you Oh, as you've, Yeah. Yeah. And, and so in your work with people as a, as a pastor and as, um, as a priest, if, if a person is maybe struggling with some of the same things, what sort of, how do you, how do you kind of work with them in, in kind of reconciling a lot of this?
[00:11:18] Jay Mills: Um,
I think the first thing to recognize that almost always it comes outta trauma in childhood. Mm-hmm. , in my opinion. Um, and to begin to, to, I, I, I usually refer them to a therapist who can really help them work with it. Mm-hmm. . Or to 12 step groups if they've got an alcohol or drug addiction problem. Uh, 12 step groups are a great place to, to work on all that cuz the steps really strip you down and make you face yourself.
Mm-hmm. and you don't carry
[00:11:55] Gordon Brewer: that garbage around with you anymore. Mm-hmm. .
[00:11:58] Jay Mills: Um, but, but I also tell 'em that, that there are solutions mm-hmm. , um, that you don't have to go around mad at the world.
[00:12:08] Gordon Brewer: Yeah. It's a, Yeah, it's a, and I think a lot of times people will, um, there's a lot of fear involved and in terms of well, it's the baseline for it.
Yeah, Yeah, yeah. And so it, what was, what were some of the things that help you, I mean, obviously prayer and 12 step programs and that sort of thing kind of help you do that, but what are some of the, the other things that helped you kind of overcome some of the fears?
[00:12:38] Jay Mills: Oh, I still wrestle with the fears. Uh, I was reading, uh, Richard Ros, um, commentary on the, uh, Sermon on the Mount, which is really good.
The first five chapters are, are historical background to the Ministry of Jesus, and he's just now getting to the Sermon on the Mount, but he said, said he's got a list of, of things he affirms. One of those is that, that God is on your side, which I. , uh, one of the later ones is that everything is heading somewhere good, which I believe, but he makes the comment that the world is a safe place.
And, um, I semi believe that. I also believe that it's could be a very dangerous place. Mm-hmm. . And that's where, that's where the promises of, of the call of Jesus to love those who persecute you, uh, to love your enemies. Where the rubber really meets the. Um, I, I, I don't want to have someone slap me on the face and have to turn the other cheek.
Mm-hmm. , I fear it. Um, but I, but that's what I'm called to. Yeah. Um, and, and ultimately I've found whatever, whatever traumatic things happen to me, God uses them, uh, as griffs for serving other people in the end. Mm-hmm. so I can face the fears with, with a certain amount of hope that God will do something good.
Yeah. I
[00:14:07] Gordon Brewer: don't know if that made any sense, but Yeah. What, Well, what I, what I was thinking of as you were saying this, is that, um, you know, in, in my work as a, the, as a therapist, A lot of the, a lot of the struggles that people have, um, they are very inwardly focused when they're having those struggles. Oh yeah.
Yeah. They're just wrapped up with the things that are going on in their mind and in their soul and all of that sort of thing. And I think when you can begin to turn that outward and really kinda show concern for others and focus on. Just being sojourners with other people that are struggling, that's when things begin to change for people.
[00:14:49] Jay Mills: Oh, I agree with that completely. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. The, the, the AA and, and NA and other 12 step groups, the premise is that if you're gonna get sobriety, you're gonna have to give it away mm-hmm. and help other people and, and help other people in, in other ways besides just. The, the self-centered fears are at the core of, of all, all the stuff that drives us.
Yeah. I was, I was one of the baddest guys on the block as, as a young adolescent and early 20 year old and was scared all the time. Mm-hmm. , but nobody knew it. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , Uh, and I couldn't afford to, to help other people. Uh, I can now, I can, I can learn to go beyond myself, my self-centered fears and reach out.
[00:15:40] Gordon Brewer: Right, Right. Yeah. Yeah. So,
[00:15:44] Jay Mills: and, and need to when I'm in my fears.
[00:15:47] Gordon Brewer: Yeah. Yeah. So if, if people are thinking about how, maybe ways in which they can live more into kindness and compassion, what have you found are the ways that you do that? Um.
[00:16:08] Jay Mills: Practice kindness towards yourself that, that God practices mm-hmm. , um, I think an awful lot of American religion sees God as an ogre waiting to swat them down, and I just don't believe that that's the God is revealed except in a few places in the Bible that I just don't pay attention to.
[00:16:26] Gordon Brewer: Mm-hmm. , um,
[00:16:33] Jay Mills: Actually, there's a, there's a saying in the 12 step programs, Fake it till you make it. Mm-hmm. to act compassionate until you feel compassionate. Mm-hmm. , there are actions drive our feelings, not the other way around. When we're, when we're stuck in fear-based stuff, our feelings drive our actions. Mm-hmm.
but to learn to act first and let the feelings follow, and I, I think that's vitally
[00:16:58] Gordon Brewer: important. Yeah. Yeah. I, I would totally agree with that. Is that, um, you know, if we , if we, if we wait around to feel the right way to do things, we probably wouldn't get anything done. It'll never happen. No. Yeah. Yeah. I agree.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's, Yeah. And I, I have to,
[00:17:18] Jay Mills: I have to, uh, avoid isolation. Mm. Because my mind can conjure up all kinds of fears and, and self doubt that that has no,
[00:17:29] Gordon Brewer: no connection to reality whatsoever. Mm-hmm. , mm-hmm. ,
[00:17:32] Jay Mills: and then I, then I get stuck in, in, in self and lose the, that compassion and that mercy that I'm called by
[00:17:41] Gordon Brewer: God to, to embody.
Mm. Yes. Yes. So, uh, there might be folks that are listening that are maybe hearing a little bit different way of thinking about Christianity. So what, um, if you could kinda summarize maybe how you see your life as a follower of Christ now as opposed to how he used to do things. Um, um, Okay. Go ahead. Yeah.
Yeah. Well,
[00:18:16] Jay Mills: I was an absolute literalist when I was first converted in 1975 because the people who converted me were, uh, and the first, and they were, they were big into the second coming. They were, they were convinced if it didn't happen today, it was gonna happen yesterday. Mm-hmm. . And one of the things I began to notice is that none of them agreed on what any given scripture passage predicting the second coming, if indeed it did predict the second coming, which many of them.
Um, none of 'em agreed on it, and I began to smell a rat. Mm-hmm. . Um, and I went, went to theological, uh, school, uh, Virginia Seminary in Alexander, Virginia, and was taken under the wing of a really prominent, fairly, um, oh. Skeptical New Testament professor. Who taught me to think mm-hmm. , and I still see scripture as God's word, but, but I don't believe it's inherent.
Mm-hmm. , I don't believe that every word of it, uh, represents truth. I don't believe in an eight day creation. Um, I, I know that, that John paints a very different picture than Matthew, Mark and Luke of Jesus. Mm-hmm. and, and each one of 'em is a reflection of the Jesus they've encountered. Um, uh, I. I know that in John's gospel, Jesus cleanses the temple early in his ministry.
And Matthew Martin. Luke, it's late in the ministry. And I can go on and on and on and on about the, the, the differences. And yet when I read scripture, uh, with an open heart, I hear God speak. Mm-hmm. . Um, but there are many who would not consider me Christian anymore.
[00:20:01] Gordon Brewer: Interesting. Yeah. Well I think it's a, you know, one of the things that I hope through this podcast is that people can begin to, um, particularly those of us that are.
Where religion is important, where Christianity and all of that is that there's an, there's a different way of living into it, of understanding. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And I, uh, I hope that people can, maybe, they maybe pay attention to that. Um, I've, uh, as I've shared with you Jay, I put, I, I put less and less stock in belief and more stock into.
Christianity being a way of life. Um, you know what I believe or don't believe, Yeah, it's important to some degree, but that's not where we're gonna find peace.
[00:20:57] Jay Mills: Um, well, I, I think Jesus himself talked a lot about that and, and a lot had a lot to do. She's had a lot to do with the inner motives behind why we do what we.
Not our belief systems necessarily. He, he didn't, he didn't, um, deny the belief system to the Judaism he lived within, but he broke all the rules. Mm-hmm. . Um, and, and in a similar, in a similar way, although diff different, um, the word, uh, belief in the New Testament is Pisas and Greek, and it ought to be translated trust.
Instead of belief. Cause belief is an intellectual thing. Mm-hmm. . Um, and anytime you see belief in, I believe or or belief in the New Testament, read the word trust and it'll completely revolutionize how you read the New Testament. Right,
[00:21:50] Gordon Brewer: right. Yeah. Uh, this is great stuff. So I wanna be respectful of your time, Jay, and I'm so glad we connected on this and I'm sure, yeah, I'm probably.
Hopefully get you back on the podcast before too long. Okay. Just to talk about these kind of philosophical and just kind of meaningful conversations, which, uh, I'm, I'm glad for the listeners to listen in on this. So thanks again. Well, thank you.

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About Gordon

L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person.  He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook .  And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

Wendy Posillico | Unleash Your Talents By Transforming Your Mindset | K&C 17

Wendy Posillico Unleashing Your Talents

In this episode Wendy Posillico joins Gordon in a conversation about how it is important to sometimes challenge our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. Our mindset has everything to do with how well we can tap into our talents and unique gifts as people. Hear Wendy’s story of transformation and how she changed her mindset about herself and the direction she was going in her life. Also learn the questions you should ask yourself to begin your own transformation.

Meet Wendy Posillico

Wendy PosillicoWendy is a former golf professional. She played as a touring professional and a teaching tour, touring pro. She is now a high performance mindset coach. She is the owner and founder of Live Your June. Her goal is helping people become aware that they have a unique gift. She wants to create the space to allow you to 1t. She works with all types of clients from athletes to entrepreneurs, to moms that have left the working world. She is passionate about helping people find their uniqueness and taking that uniqueness to explore who they are. And in their own unique way they can make their impact in the world and for future generations.

Her Passion to Help Comes from her Past

Wendy grew up in New York. She is one of 6 in a big Italian family. She’s a middle child. At the age of 10 she knew she had athletic ability and she could go somewhere. She remembers telling her mom she wanted to be a tennis pro. But her mom’s plate was full with 6 kids. At that time her athletic dream ended. After that, Wendy said she really struggled in school. She says she was in “survival mode” She remembers not having any passion or guidance. “I didn’t have anybody who believed in me and or asked me questions to make me explore.” After her master’s degree she knew there was something deep inside of her that was missing. She knew she had to explore what that missing piece was, even though she did not have all the answers. She remembers having a good teaching job but then thinking “Is this as good as it’s going to get?” At this time Wendy did not feel alive.

An Opportunity to Make A Change

Along came some feedback that started to change her beliefs. She was 28. While she was on spring break she went to play golf with her mom and dad. As she was hitting the ball she remembers another golfer watching her. He shared with her dad, “She’s really good.” They continued playing and somebody else mentioned that she really had talent. Something inside Wendy clicked. She thought maybe this is her second chance. She began to question if this was her opportunity.

Sometimes You have To Listen

Wendy had no idea how to take advantage of this opportunity. She says that sometimes you have to listen to the Instinct that is speaking to you, even though you have no clue where it is taking you. Even if the calling seems crazy. Sometimes you have to just walk towards it. Wendy started walking towards her opportunity and that’s when her mindset started to change. She began to wake up and become more courageous about taking a risk. Over the next seven years she learned life lessons that gave her confidence and courage. These lessons were learned after her first steps.

Train Your Mindset

Wendy says people are not trained in fueling and developing their mindset. People train their bodies to be their best. People trained their brains to learn a vocation in schools. But the important skill of training your mindset is not taught. Learning about mindset is all about how it aligns with who we are. Sometimes we don’t even realize what we have been thinking. Thoughts are coming from every direction and it’s difficult to unwind the thinking and make sense of it.

Seven Questions to Help you Discover Your Mindset

When he believes everyone has a backstory. There are reasons for the current mindset you possess. In order to build positive mindsets like courage and confidence she believes you have to understand and explore people’s stories.

Here are seven questions to help people discover their mindset:

      1. What made you strong?
      2. What made you stand for something?
      3. What are your stories of success?
      4. What are your stories of failure?
      5. What or who influences you?
      6. What makes you want to draw to that person?
      7. What is in the character of people you want to be around? Why?

Learn More

You can learn More about Wendy and her Performance Coaching at Live your June.
Instagram: @liveyourjune

Gordon (00:59):
Awesome. Well, hello folks, and welcome again to the kindness and compassion podcast, and I'm happy for you to get to know today. Uh, Wendy Silco and Wendy. Thanks for being here.
Wendy (01:15):
I am so happy to be on the podcast with you. I mean, kindness and compassion podcast. It has such a great message.
Gordon (01:22):
Oh, well, thanks. Thanks. And, um, as I was getting to know Wendy before, um, we started recording, I think you're gonna really enjoy kind of hearing her thoughts and just really how, how she's landed on this whole topic. But Wendy, as I start with everyone, why don't you tell folks a little bit about who you are and how you've landed, where you've landed?
Wendy (01:45):
Gosh, how I've landed, isn't it a journey, right?
Gordon (01:48):
Wendy (01:49):
So, um, so as I mentioned, I am a, um, mindset coach. Um, I work with all types from athletes to entrepreneurs, to moms that have left the working world. Um, CEOs, I just, I really am passionate about, um, helping people find their uniqueness and making, taking that uniqueness, taking any influencers that help them to explore who they are so they can make their impact in the world and for future generations. And really how I got here is I was really lost in my, um, I was a super athlete, but I was very shy and I played division one lacrosse, but once sports was done, I was lost in my twenties and I didn't really have direction. I did what I was supposed to do. Um, you know, it looked good on paper. I had my master's, I was teaching in Harlem, but, um, something inside of me I knew was missing and through the journey of taking up golf at the age of 29 to become a professional and going that route of where I had to explore myself through a sport, um, I really discovered more about myself than ever before. Mm-hmm um, so, and then I also had a child at the age of 40 on my own through IVF. So both those it's really no different mindset. It's really similar mindsets to go after the thing you want. Um, and that's what I, I really first teach people who they are and then what they want and how to get after it.
Gordon (03:28):
Right, right. Yeah. So what, um, what you, you had mentioned that you really kinda grew up with maybe a different mindset. And so what were some of the things that happened for you that caused you to kinda begin to change your mindset or begin to look at at life a little differently?
Wendy (03:51):
Yeah. I mean, I, first of all, I grew up in New York. I'm one of six in a big Italian family. I'm in smack in the middle mm-hmm . And I just, I mean, I knew at the age of 10, I, I had athletic ability that could go somewhere. And I remember telling my mom, like, I wanna be, you know, a, a tennis. I wanted to be a tennis pro. I remember Chris Everett and I, and, and all my mom was, I think we explored it for a year, one less than a week with a really good tennis pro. But I think my mom was her plate was full with six kids. And then I just, I didn't really have a dream, like, because as a woman after college sports, you kind of lose that. Um, so I did, and I also wasn't great in academics.
Wendy (04:38):
So I really struggled in, in school. Um, so I was just in survival mode in school. I really didn't have a, like any passion. And so my twenties, I just, I, I was trying to put a finger on where to go and I didn't have any guidance. I didn't have anybody who believed in me or asked me questions to make me explore that. And it was after my master's, I think this is what you're asking. Like, where did it shift? It was like, there was something deep inside of me that I knew was missing. And I knew I had to explore it, even though I didn't have the answers. I had no clue what it was, but there I was in Harlem with my masters, had a great job, but I remember my head going is this is, is this as good as it's gonna get?
Wendy (05:23):
And there's nothing wrong with being a teacher. It's just in my soul. I didn't feel alive. Mm-hmm . And, um, it was an opportunity basically what happened was on a spring break. Um, my dad and mom played golf and I was, my dad asked me to play golf. And one day that when we went to play, I was hitting balls. And I remember this guy looking at my dad and being like, God, she's, I was 28. Oh, she's good, Joe. She can hit it better than you. And again, the same day we were on the course. And, um, another guy was like, Joe, she's got talent. And I think my dad underneath that night was like, you know, maybe you should try this game because he knew I was teaching in Harlem mm-hmm and something clicked inside of me was like, is this my second chance?
Wendy (06:09):
Like, is this my opportunity? I had no idea how to get there. Like, I, I didn't, I, when I think back of making that decision, I'm like, what? But sometimes we have to listen to our instinct that that's speaking to us, even though we have no clue, or it seems crazy mm-hmm and walk towards that. And I think that's where my mindset, I started to wake up and be a little more courageous to take risk, to take, um, to take steps that I never maybe knew the answers, but something was pulling me in that direction. And that is really when you say kindness and compassion, like it, could you take it all different ways, but to me, it's like allowing someone to take that risk, even though it seems bizarre. And having the compassion to support that human, even though it doesn't make sense, right.
Wendy (07:01):
Because you could fail. Like I never made it to the LPGA after seven years, but the lessons I've learned about myself has given me confidence, courage. Um, it's, I've met amazing people on the road. So, you know, when you, I, I mean, just your listeners, whether it's you that have this instinct, that's coming up for you listening to this, or you hear someone else, um, say something that seems bizarre, like why would they wanna go be an artist that's such a hard road mm-hmm , um, maybe actually find more compassion and get more curious about that person that's yearning to do something that's outside the box of the norm.
Gordon (07:42):
Right. Right. Well, I think there's a, you know, that several things, as you were saying, all of that Wendy kind of came up for me is that I think a lot of times we kind get kind of blinders and we kind of get locked in just to certain way of, of seeing things. And sometimes it takes the kindness of others to point out things that we might be missing along the way mm-hmm . And so I think being able to take that, uh, that courageous step of just kind of putting yourself out there and then treating not only others with kindness and compassion, but treating yourself with kindness and compassion around those things. Because I think, um, so many times people get kind of into, uh, this kind of way of thinking, or, you know, I know as you mentioned doing the mindset work, I think that is, that is key to making changes in our life, um, is really a shift in her mindset
Wendy (08:46):
A hundred percent. And I, I, first of all, you're when it resonates with me because we all can get so we can be, so sometimes we're so kind to everybody and we forget to be kind to ourselves. Mm-hmm , especially when we're taking a harder road or when we're standing for something we believe in, you know, mm-hmm, inside, it looks like we're okay, but inside we can beat ourselves up. And so really taking a little, like pause and say, how can I be a little kinder and believe that whatever you're believing in or trying to go after that, it's O you're, you're, you're doing the best you can mm-hmm and, and you're, and even if you make a mistake, like, I, I, I make mistakes all the time. Whether I say something poorly or, you know, like it's okay, we all, we are human mm-hmm and we're just trying to do our best.
Wendy (09:36):
Everybody's trying to do their best. I really believe that from my heart. Right. Um, but I will say like the, the, the one thing about mindset is we're not taught that we're trained to teach like craft in schools and we're trained to teach, to train our body, whether it's fueling our body or working out or staying in shape, but we're never trained our mindset. I mean, very, we're just crossing the edge of this, of getting more mindful and learning about how we think, but learning mindset is all about how we think and how does it align with who we are. Right. Um, so, you know, I, I think this is a, it's, it's a really important skill to have, and everyone needs to find someone to help them explore. Cuz sometimes we, we don't realize what we're even thinking. Mm-hmm , you know, our thoughts are so coming in every direction and until we do the hard work and give it space to unwind the thinking, can we actually make sense of it?
Gordon (10:42):
Right, right. Yeah. So somebody that's listening to this is thinking, uh, hopefully it's cutting their, their wheels turning, as I like to say, uh, uh, of thinking about how they think about things, where in your work with people, where do you start with them to get them to kind of maybe,
Wendy (11:00):
Yeah. Look at that, uh, such important thing. Uh, cuz I think in mindset we can get caught up with like, okay, how do you build confidence? How do you build this? How do you build this? Um, I believe you have to start with the individual and who they are, their essence. So I, I really go into going back into your stories. What made you strong? What made you stand for something? Because something makes you do certain things or say certain things and really revisiting stories of success and failure. Um, so you can learn, I go into also getting people to go. Why do you gravitate to that person? What, who influences you? What, what makes you want draw to that person? What is in their character? How do they walk? How do they talk? So getting a little clearer of like why you get attracted to certain people and also the strengths that have made you, who you are today.
Wendy (11:58):
Mm-hmm um, and then getting really clear on their own personal life philosophy. Right? So it gets you a lot. Like it gets you really clear for instance, it's taken me a long time to get to mine, but it, it it's always evolving. We're evolving. Um, but mine is disrupt your norm and instigate your soul for me mm-hmm so I become my best self so I can inspire others to do the same mm-hmm so, but when I say it, I feel it. And I know when I do something today or tomorrow and I'm off that. Okay, well, how do I, and then I gotta reassess like me, I'm not really testing myself here or I kind of just went with the flow here or I said yes to a party that I really don't wanna go to. You know? So when you get clear on your personal philosophy, you start to realize the thoughts that don't align with who you wanna be. Mm-hmm you start to realize the actions that don't align with who you wanna be. So I think that's a, the foundation of my, uh, work that I do, cuz it always goes back to your essence of who you are, your your
Gordon (13:02):
Right. Yeah. And that's a, the, the, the whole importance of getting, knowing yourself well is, is really in my mind that kind of the key to mindfulness and my being able to change your mindset of really, you know, like you said, getting at the essence of who you are and you know, why you think about the world, the way that you think about it.
Wendy (13:26):
Yeah. Yeah. And, and especially like, you know, I went after being a athlete for seven years, busting my tail, missing things sacrificing. But like when I know who I am and if I fail, I'm still okay with it. Like I think there's so many people, whether it's a job or a marriage and then when something doesn't go the way you expected and you don't know who you are, you can crumble fast mm-hmm mm-hmm . So the work of mindset is really about allowing you in life to go through the ebb and flows of the ups and downs with embracing who you are. So we're, it's not to say struggle doesn't happen. It's just how you handle those moments is more clarity to align with who you are.
Gordon (14:10):
Yeah, yeah. I, to, I totally agree. You know, the other, other thing that I thought about as you were, as you were talking was, um, just the, you know, most of us don't I think sometimes go about the task of changing something kind of kicking and screaming. We get, we get locked into a comfort zone that we will, we will clinging onto, but yet at the same time, we it's a, it's a crazy phenomenon is that people will be miserable in their comfort zone and not really want to get out of it. And so, you know, always, always tell folks that, you know, my work as a therapist, always tell folks, you know, you know, if you want your life to change, you have to change something. And so being able to have the courage to make changes, um, is, is, is really kind of the key to, to it all to some degree,
Wendy (15:12):
A hundred percent. And it's, it gives you power. Mm-hmm even if, if you change something and it's not the right direction. I mean, I think most people get paralyzed because they don't know where to go. They feel this thing. They're not sure of how to get out of it. So they just stay because it's scary to make whether you're in a marriage or a job. Like the, the, the, I, when I ask someone that's miserable in a job, why aren't you like looking to explore mm-hmm what other options and the, their head, they can't even fathom another option. Like they, they can't go there. And, and that's the fear like of the unknown mm-hmm, , that's really what it is. It's the fear of the unknown. And I, and I say to my clients, when they get in that state of fear is, is it, I'm not asking you to change it right now.
Wendy (16:04):
Like, just go explore. That's why I say it's to get your soul, to disrupt your norm. Doesn't mean disrupt it, like, like a tomorrow I'm gonna quit everything and start, you know, like it take those things, little steps and inside you'll know what the direction, the right direction mm-hmm is if you take a little step, right. If you make a little change yeah. If you explore. Yeah. And I I'm big into exploring because then it's less like the ch like a big change is too big for someone who's never done got outside their comfort zone. Mm-hmm . But if you just take a little step and even go call, make a one phone call, or, you know, take a step and do something different with somebody else, or, you know, like, I don't know anybody's scenario, but I just really believe in the word exploration. Yes. Because that's what gives the answers they're looking for that they don't know yet.
Gordon (16:58):
Yeah. Yeah. And I would add to that curiosity as well. Yep. Yes. Yes. Getting curious about things and really, uh, I love the word explore as well. Just really kinda looking at those, those things. You know, the other thing that you mentioned, uh, Wendy, um, is just with change, you know, none of us grows unless we get outside our comfort zone. And I I'm, uh, you know, one, one metaphor that I like is if it, for those of us that can maybe remember when we first learned to ride a bicycle, um, how scary that felt. Uh, but you, in order to learn to ride a bicycle, you had to get outside your comfort zone. You had to kinda, kinda push yourself through the uneasiness of, uh, feeling like you're gonna fall. And that the truth of the matter is, is once you kind of get it, you figure out, oh, the faster I go, the easier it is to control this thing. Yeah. And so, yeah,
Wendy (18:00):
I mean, it's funny, uh, that you mentioned this, I think learning from kids is so important to just like, look back, watch them mm-hmm , some of them will freeze, but if you watch, most of we were just at, um, a pool lap pool, and there were kids that are pretty good divers there. And my daughter yesterday was watching, one of the divers were on top and she was, she was freezing. She was trying to do something new, but she kept, and everybody waited and she kept wiping off the water on her legs with her little towel. And then she'd go back to the edge of the, the diving board, then go back again and back again. But she finally did it. And then I, I said to my daughter, like the next time she does that, she now will do it at a different pace.
Wendy (18:43):
So we all, like, we all go into that scary moment. I'm not a fan of going on, live on, you know, videos, but I know the more I do it, the more I learn. Right. Um, you know, so it's just it's as adults. We, I feel like we weren't trained to learn to teach that muscle mm-hmm and, and when you, if you can help the young ones realize, like what they're doing, mm-hmm I always tell my daughter going on stage now, she was freezing to go on stage at five and now she's done it again and again, and now it's like, this is like normal to her and she loves it. Yeah. So I think, especially to me, what you're saying is like, if something's pulling at you to do it and you have a, either a passion or you're curious, you have to get uncomfortable. Mm-hmm you have to take that step
Gordon (19:33):
That's right. So it is the only way that we only way that we grow the, the other, the other thing too, is, is that, um, to kind of connected to this is, is vulnerability. Um, mm-hmm and I'm reminded of Brene Brown's, uh, talk, if, if anybody has not seen it, I would recommend it. I think it's still available on Netflix, but Brene Brown's talk on the call to courage and just talking about how we can, the, the only, only way that anybody can demonstrate courage is that they have to be vulnerable first. Yeah. And so it takes, it takes both kinda working together in order to, to cause us to grow and to, to get ahead.
Wendy (20:18):
Yeah. And I also, I also think, I believe that we, as, as leaders, the more vulnerable I am, then it opens up my clients to, if I share something mm-hmm , mm-hmm , you know, it, it allows them to go, oh, wow. She experienced something that's or like, she can handle this moment of, of embarrassment or, or failure or whatever. Hey, I happen to go through something similar. It opens a can of worms, the more we share our vulnerability, um, and our experiences, it allows for growth in that aspect. Um, as you know, right. Um, but, uh, I, I think that's the one thing I love about group coaching, actually. Like I have a group I've had for four over four years, and they're mostly moms that were entrepreneurs, but that's the one thing they say is like, it's first of all, number one, they're they have space every day that they can come, not every week that they can come to us and we're vulnerable, like, right. You know, we're raw, you know, cuz we don't have time to express every motion that we have during the weeks. But if you can create space to have the moment to be vulnerable and let and let unfold what you couldn't do during the week in front of like all the todo lists and, and functioning survival mode, right. Then you have this space to just like, let go, you know, it's so important.
Gordon (21:45):
Yeah. And that's a, and, and too, as people have maybe heard in previous episodes of this podcast to, to me, the sign of a healthy relationship with anyone is their ability to be vulnerable with each other. And that be a safe space in doing that because when two people can be vulnerable with each other, that's what builds connection. And that's what brings us together.
Wendy (22:13):
Yeah. I mean, and it goes from your work as your clients and mm-hmm and me as a coach or, or even like, I see a lot of, um, leaders in the sports arena that it's like, I'm gonna dictate and there's no trust, especially with these young kids, there's so much pressure mm-hmm . So if we could just, you know, if you're a coach or a teacher, like if you let those kids feel your vulnerability and that you share something, there's, there's a rapport that you, that will magically happen and create whether it's in work or whatever, as a leader, um, that's necessary for growth. Right. You know, safe space, the safe space. It's so true.
Gordon (22:57):
Yeah. That's absolutely true. And, and that brings us full circle around to kindness and compassion. I think in that when we can create a safe space for other people, that's what is going to heal the world really in the long run is to be not. Yeah,
Wendy (23:14):
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I, I agree. And, and a safe space to, for everyone to have their, I just listened to a thing from Kobe Bryant last night. Mm-hmm and it was, we all have our box. Like everybody has their own unique way of being, can they all be in a safe space to be that where we give compassion kindness. So how you operate is different than I operate. And it doesn't, it doesn't mean we can't have the compassion and kindness to support that. Right. Um, right. So I, I really believe in your work and I thank you for having me on here.
Gordon (23:51):
Oh, awesome. I love it. Awesome. Well, Wendy, and I know what, uh, we could probably spend a whole day talking about this stuff, but I wanna be respectful of your time. Tell folks that want to learn more from you and maybe some of the coaching that you do. How can, how can they get in touch with you?
Wendy (24:10):
Right. Um, well, um, my, my business is called live your June. Um, I didn't really give you the backstory mm-hmm , there's a reason. Um, mm-hmm and, uh, it's really about living your uniqueness, your independent, uh, the essence of who you're meant to be, to make your imprint for future generations. Mm-hmm cause I believe we all leave our mark and it's ha it's our responsibility to live into that. Mm-hmm um, and so it's live your Uh, Wendy live your June. You can email me if you have any questions or you're curious, or you wanna share something like I am, I'm all open. Um, I also am on Instagram, live your June. Um, and I think I'm on LinkedIn as well. Um, okay. And uh, yeah, we're building, I'm almost done with my first online product, but like, I, I wanna actually hold the space. Well, someone does my work, so, um, but it's really come out really good. And I think it allows people to explore that whole thing that we're talking about their ethos and the essence of who they are. Um, so it gives them a tool. So some of it's it's worth looking into, if you have any questions, definitely reach out.
Gordon (25:26):
Awesome. Awesome. And we'll have links here in the show notes and the show summaries, so people can find it easily. So well, Wendy, it was so good to have you on the podcast and hopefully we'll have some future conversations.
Wendy (25:39):
I would love it. Thank you so much for having me.

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L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person.  He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook .  And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.


Daniel Fava | Simple Acts Of Kindness & Compassion In Everyday Life | K&C 16

Where am I being kind and compassionate in my everyday life? Daniel Fava, a web-designer and online marketing strategist, is confronted by this very relatable question as he joins Gordon for the next conversation on the podcast. In this episode, Daniel explores with Gordon what he learned about kindness and compassion 13 years ago on a trip to India and how he is still applying it today. Listen in for an encouraging reminder that a small act, when done with love, can be the most powerful act of all.

Meet Daniel Fava

Daniel Fava was born and raised on Long Island, NY and is currently one of just five hockey fans in Atlanta where he currently lives with his wife. After using his skills as a web designer to help his wife launch a private therapy practice in 2011, Daniel decided he want to share those same skills with others. Thus, in 2016 he began a blog called Create My Therapist Website to help therapists learn how to use effective website design and online marketing strategies to launch and grow their private practice. Later he started a podcast to emphasize the importance of going beyond websites and employing online marketing and other strategies for private practice growth.

Coming in solidly as an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs personality inventory, Daniel brews his own beer. Meanwhile, bourbon is his love language—alongside a good hot dog, a good slice of pizza, and a good burger. He’s traveled to 12 countries, including a hike with his wife to the Mt. Everest Base Camp, and he also plays guitar, piano, drums, and bass.

On a Mission

Beginning with his first short-term mission trip to Ukraine in 2008, missions work has been a huge part of Daniel’s life, shaping both who he is as well as the shared vision he and his wife hold for their lives. When he steps outside his daily life and heads abroad on mission, he’s asking the questions: What is God doing in a different location? How can I serve? Share love? Do some tangible work, or help meet needs?

The Ultimate Act of Kindness

In 2009 during a mission trip to India, Daniel spent two days in Calcutta visiting one of the homes founded by Mother Teresa for those suffering with a long-term illness or disability who have no one else to care for them. That’s where he learned about what Gordon describes as “the ultimate act of kindness”—the ministry of presence. Like many of us, Daniel is often task-oriented. He’s used to waiting for directions and looking for someone else to lead the way. However, on his first day in the home, confronted by extreme poverty and human suffering, there was no one to tell him what to do. Self-conscious and out of his element, Daniel jumped in to cross-barriers of language, culture, class, and life-experience to connect with a man through physical contact and simply being present. With his own inner barriers broken, Daniel felt lighter on his second day in the home. He was better able to jump in and be present, even while helping out with a simple task or two—without being focused on himself and his performance.

Refueling our Capacity for Kindness and Compassion

As an introvert, Daniel was on sensory overload during his trip to India. There was no personal space. During this time, he relied on a few key practices that helped keep his inner reservoir of kindness and compassion full. This included getting up early before the rest of his team to journal and find time to be alone with himself and God. As he was faithful to these disciplines, kindness and compassion could continue flowing from his own reservoir to those around him.

Making Sense of Injustice & Learning through Diverse Abilities

Coming face-to-face with extreme poverty and suffering can force us to confront just how much the circumstances of our birth shapes our lives. Daniel wrestled with questions about social justice while he was in India, and while he didn’t find any clear answers, he believes that love and grace can make a difference.

Meanwhile, Gordon shared about powerful lessons he learned during Lent while listening to Henri Nouwen’s book Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life. In the book, Henri shares about his experiences in a L’ARCHE community. L’ARCHE communities worldwide exist to form a network of relationships between members both with and without intellectual disabilities.


Give yourself the gift of perspective. Taking time out to connect with people whose struggles are different than our own—or perhaps more similar than we might think—can be life-changing. Daniel says we won’t regret making the time to step away and volunteer or spend time on mission overseas. He assures us that there’s a gift to unwrap through these experiences that we can’t receive any other way than taking our eyes off of ourselves and being present in the reality of another.

Links & Resources Mentioned

Private Practice Elevation –
Daniel Fava on Instagram –
Youth With A Mission (YWAM) –
Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Show summary written by Anne Milligan

Gordon (00:00):
Well, hello folks, and welcome again to the kindness and compassion podcast. And I'm, I'm looking forward to you meeting a friend of mine, Daniel fava, who I've, uh, I've known for some time now. And Daniel is, um, somebody that I've done some work with not only professionally, but just we're in the same space as far as consulting with people around private practices and the therapy, uh, realm and, uh, Daniel. Welcome.
Daniel (00:28):
Thanks so much for having me Gordon. I'm super excited to, uh, to hang out with you and, uh, and chat.
Gordon (00:33):
Yes. And, and Daniel and I were just kinda reminiscing before we started recording. We had, uh, both got to be at a conference together this first time I had met Daniel in person and it was, uh, it was the, the conference was called the faith and practice conference. So it was really geared towards therapists that, um, kinda liked to incorporate faith based kinds of things with their practices. And one of the things that I'll let Daniel tell more about himself here, but, uh, Daniel's wife is a therapist as well. And so Daniel, um, tell folks a little bit about yourself.
Daniel (01:11):
Yeah. So as you said, my wife is a therapist and she's a, she's a huge part of my story and really my career, uh, because it started helping her get her private practice online, back in 2012. So, uh, I have a website design and development background, and so got her business online with an online presence and a, and a nice website and helped her get some of those first clients, uh, into her practice. And then in 2016, decided to launch my own. Um, I mean, basically I was a freelancer back then, so I figured, oh, I can make some more websites for therapists and I can start a blog and all that stuff. And, um, so over the last, uh, six years or so, it's kind of morphed into, uh, more of a website design agency and SEO agency. And we, we live in Atlanta right now. We've been here since we've been married in 2010, so about 12 years and it's home, I'm, uh, born and raised in New York, long island. Uh, the New York Rangers are in the Stanley cup playoffs right now. So I'm super excited and that always pulls me back home and I love watching them play and listen to the chance at Madison square garden. So, yeah.
Gordon (02:16):
Awesome. Awesome. Yeah, it's a, yeah, as I've gotten to know Daniel, one of the things that I knew his background is part of his story, which is a big part of what I'm looking forward to him, kinda sharing with you, all that are listening is his work, uh, doing some mission work in India and the impact that made on his life and just really how he really changed his mind, maybe about some things. And I don't wanna put words in your mouth, mouth, Daniel around that. Um, but tell, tell folks a little bit about your story with that and just what a difference it made for you.
Daniel (02:57):
Yeah, so yeah, so missions work is a huge, it's really a huge part of my life and who I am and who, you know, myself and my wife are in our relationship. Um, and so first of all, I mean, before even getting into the story, Gordon, I just wanna say thank you for, for this project that you're doing with this podcast, for giving, giving people a space to kind of dig into compassion and kindness. Like when you invited me to be on here, it really, I, I had to reflect, you know, a little bit about, okay, where, where has kindness and compassion played a big role in my life? Uh, where does it play now? I can be, I can sometimes get so pretty hard on myself. Cause my first thought was like, well, where am I being kind and compassionate, you know, in my everyday life.
Daniel (03:42):
And so for my story and my life, uh, since about oh 2008 or so, um, have been doing, I went on my first mission trip to Ukraine and I loved the, the sort of the aspect of taking time out of life and, you know, career and job and all that stuff to just focus on others, you know, to focus on, you know, for me it's what is God doing in a different location? How can I serve and really just share love or share tangible, um, you know, work, maybe that's building something or just, you know, helping meet needs in other countries. So in 2009, I, I joined up with a youth with a mission, which is a, an organization that they have a basis around the world and they basically, um, teach people how to, how to really be disciples of Jesus. And so I did a three month discipleship training school in Montana.
Daniel (04:45):
Um, prior to this, I had lost my job and I had also called off a wedding. I was engaged to somebody that wasn't wasn't the right fit. And so my life was kind of completely wide open. So I took a break from my life and said, okay, God, what are you saying? What are you doing? I have no idea what to do next, let me go to Montana for three months and, you know, go through this, this training and just focus on, you know, what, what did God wanna do in my life? And so part of that was there for three months. So, I mean, that was almost like a mission trip in itself being away for three months in Montana. But then at the end of that, we do an outreach to India and Thailand was where I was scheduled to go. And so I went to, I went to Calcutta India and that was our first stop.
Daniel (05:32):
And, um, one of the places that we got to, we did a bunch of stuff there, but one of the places that we went to was, and I believe it was only for two days was one of the mother Teresa Holmes, uh, in Calcutta. And that was just amazing in, in and of itself just to be in a place where, I mean, we've all likely heard stories about mother Teresa and all that she's done. Um, but there's, there's either two or three. Uh, I forget exactly two or three mother Teresa Holmes is what they call them. And one is for people who are just terminally ill. And so what she saw when she was in calcu was that because of the cast system and just how things work over there, there was, you know, a large group of people who, when they were terminally ill and dying, they would just be basically left for dad.
Daniel (06:24):
And so she wanted to give them a place where they could die with dignity, being surrounded by, you know, people who love and, and care for them. And other home that she started, which was the one that I found myself in was for people with long term illness. So it might not be that they're terminally ill. It could be that they've got a serious injury or they've just got an illness, um, you know, long term. And so what I remember from that experience, and I actually, I was a ferocious journaler back then. And so I had to revisit my journal. So it was, it was kind of cool just having this podcast on the calendar to like, oh, let me go back to this journal from this, you know, pivotal point in my life. And, uh, it took me right back, you know, to that first day there.
Daniel (07:08):
And so try to imagine you're surrounded by all these other volunteers, you know, and people, people also want to go and experience and kind of give them them give of themselves. So you've got people from all over the world, um, who are just there to volunteer. They could be traveling through Calcutta and they've heard about, you know, the mother Teresa Holmes and they wanna experience it. And so basically it's like, you, you show up, you sign in the day starts and nobody tells you what to do. And you're just, you're in this place. And there's there's rooms, it's almost kind of, some of the rooms feel like a hospital, you know, there's just beds of, um, of people just laying there. Um, and, you know, as a, as a male, I was in the, the section where, where the men were, um, and there's nobody telling you what to do.
Daniel (07:55):
And so I remember just these waves of self-consciousness coming over me because I'm like, oh, I'm, I'm here to serve. What can I do? And there's nobody telling you exactly what to do. And it's just like, you just gotta jump in and do it. And, you know, my heart was, I feel like my heart was in a good place because I was like, I want to serve, I wanna, you know, help out. But there was this sort of aspect of my upbringing was like, it's, it's all about the task. You know, like, mm-hmm, , what should I do? Gimme direction, tell me what to do. Um, I'm not always so quick to jump in. It's like, I'm, I'm looking for somebody to lead. Um, and so I remember just kind of wandering around feeling just useless, you know, and that was like, and then I start to get sort of very self-conscious and start like, oh, you're, you're not able to jump in.
Daniel (08:43):
You're an introvert, like all this sort, like that's holding you back, all that sort of stuff. And so I, I finally got very frustrated and was just like, I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna do it. I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna jump in. And, you know, one of the, another volunteer I ran into said, well, the, the men, like when you just, you just massage them or just talk to them and sit with them. So I found myself next to this man's bed and he was just lying there. Obviously we couldn't speak each other's language, so I just, you know, smiled and, um, and just kind of motioned him like massage massage. And he just kind of, he's just slowly nodded to me. And so I found myself massaging this man's legs who were like, no joke, his legs up above his knee. Wasn't really thicker than my wrist, you know?
Daniel (09:26):
And so I'm having this experience of just like praying for this man as I'm massaging him or, um, you know, praying in my head or praying out loud as I'm massaging him being. So, you know, number one, thankful for my health and my life, and also just being so confronted with, um, just extreme poverty that like this, this man, I don't know, his life story, you know, likely he's, he's in this situation because of where he's lived, where he lives and the family he's born into. And that's really it, you know? And so I'm having this time of like, you know, giving, giving this man a massage, sitting with him, just one on one. And I'm also having this sort of spiritual experience where I'm praying at the same time and just thinking through all these things, you know? And so while I was so focused on the tasks or like, you know, what can I do to help out? I found myself just, you know, one on one with someone and just realizing that that was really what it was, you know, all about.
Gordon (10:34):
Right. Wow, wow. What a beautiful story. And that, um, it, to me, it just kind of speaks to what I, what I like to refer to as just the ministry of, of presence. And, um, mm-hmm, just being, being there with, with folks. Um, not that you could fix anything for that man or right. That sort of thing, other than just to provide comfort and, and be with him is yeah. To, to me the ultimate act act of kindness. Really.
Daniel (11:06):
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And cuz I was so hung up on like somebody tell me what to do and put me to work and that sort of thing. And so, you know, I came, I think it was like, um, I forget maybe it was about four hours. We were there in the morning for, and then sort of came away from that. We had some free time, the rest of the day. I remember, you know, just really like reflecting on my motives, you know, what mm-hmm why, why was I feeling? So self-conscious when I was there to like, you know, truly I wanted to serve and if truly I wanted to serve, it's not really about me. It's about the people that are there. It's not about proving anything. It's about the people that you're there to serve, not about the serving in and of itself.
Daniel (11:47):
So I felt like, I felt like God was really just challenging me to, to, you know, kind of let go of all those, those sorts of things. Mm-hmm um, and so I remember, you know, the next day, like I said, we were there for just two days the next day I remember feeling like I had sort of come to terms with why I was there and what I can do and it's okay. It's okay if I'm just standing around. It's okay. If I jump in it's it's just like there was this lightness. I remember just having a lot of actual, like fun the next day, just being there, being present and knowing that I could sit with someone one on one or, um, it's a big place. So they had like lots of cleaning to do, which was mm-hmm actually a lot of fun because they've, they've got basically just like holes in the wall and they just dump, they just dump buckets and buckets of water and then sweep all of the water through these holes in the wall.
Daniel (12:40):
So I found myself doing that the next day. And so it was kind of like, it was a more lighter and fun experience because I had let go of, I need to do this. I need to do that. Whereas I could just be, I could be present. And when I'm not so focused on myself and kind of how I'm thinking and feeling or have to perform, I could jump into whatever, you know, like I said, it could have been one on one with somebody who was there and sick or it could be helping, um, you know, the, the nuns out with cleaning and, and washing dishes and serving food, you know, whatever it was. It was just, I was much more present that second day.
Gordon (13:14):
Yeah. Yeah. It's a, it's amazing how transformative those, those experiences are when you're yeah. When you're confronted, you know, there's a, I think for, uh, I think for a lot of us that have had the experience of going on mission trips, I've I think I shared in the previous episode of this podcast, that one of the things that I was involved in for several years, uh, was going on mission trips to the country of Honduras and yeah, again, uh, you know, at that, at that time, next to Haiti, Honduras was the poorest poorest country in the, in the Western hemisphere. And, um, just being, being confronted with what I, uh, what I think of is just abject poverty and then interacting with people even through a language barrier, because I, I know just a tiny bit of Spanish , uh, but not being able to speak the language, but you make that connection and, and you realize that there's, there's something deeper and something greater that, that tugs at you through that.
Daniel (14:19):
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. That's one thing I just, I love about missions and I've been to been to Thailand, India, Guatemala, Cameroon, um, uh, what else, Mexico? We go to Mexico, a decent amount through our church still mm-hmm um, and it's just, there's, there's just that commonality of humanity and we all have the basic, uh, you know, need of, um, of just love and presence, you know, from one another. Right. And so it's, it's really, for me, I, my wife and I don't really feel called to like live in another country long term, but we do have dreams to take sabbaticals and serve mm-hmm like maybe in the summers when our kids are outta school, mm-hmm , um, but even with the short term trips and we still take them, uh, my wife and I, we help with our, uh, with the missions committee at our church. And there's still something about taking a week off to get out of your business, to get out of, um, mm-hmm, the, the routine of, of parenting and schedules and all that to just serve and sit with somebody mm-hmm and meet a need, you know?
Gordon (15:28):
Right, right. Yeah. I'm, I'm reminded, and we were chatting about this a little bit before we, before we started recording, um, back during lent of this year. Um, I, I took on the task of, uh, what the, I, I don't know if that's a task, but just kind of a discipline of, of reading. Um, well actually listening to on audible Henry Allen's book on discernment. And, um, he reflects in there several times about his work in the LAR community, which LAR is a community, uh, for profoundly disabled people. And what they do is then the kid, they actually live in community where they're paired up with a caregiver. And so they go go through their whole, you know, they, they just live intentionally that way. And wow, just, um, it's, it's quite, it's quite a calling, but it's just, um, really thinking about being able to find God or some people like to might, might put it at a higher power or finding something greater than your, than ourselves in doing just those very simple things of taking care of someone else. Yeah. You know, the bathing and the, like you mentioned, doing the massage, those kinds of things are just are to totally trans transformative, I think for people.
Daniel (16:51):
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And, and, you know, that kind of just, that brings me just back to mother Teresa, you know, what, and what she did. And, you know, through this experience, I just began to learn a little bit more, uh, about her. And you could see, you know, in, in Calcutta and India, which is, you know, predominantly, uh, Hindu, there was still, when you're, you're walking down the street, you're seeing in gift shops in other places you're seeing pictures of mother Teresa, you know, they had such respect and honor for this woman when basically she lives to meet those simple needs of, you know, the one person, you know, one at a time. And that really impacted a culture and, you know, a nation or, you know, really the world, obviously, you know, mm-hmm cause she's impacted me, you know? Yeah. So, and, um, there's this great quote that she has and I needed to look it up, so I wouldn't botch it, but it's, uh, not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love. Yes. And it's like, that brings us back to that simple, you know, just yeah. Massaging someone's leg and not even being able to talk to them. It's so simple. But when it's done, when it's done with great love can really just impact a life.
Gordon (18:06):
Right. Yeah. So what, what did, uh, going to a place like Cal kata do for your, I guess maybe your worldview or how you think about your life now and that sort of thing?
Daniel (18:21):
Um, I , that's funny. I actually, I learned a lot about my introversion, uh, through that mm-hmm, through that trip. Uh Calta is just, um, I don't know how many people live there, but it's India, you know, so it's, I remember just being, you know, from the moment you wake up also, you know, being on a trip. So I was part of a team, you know, so I had my team there when I woke up mm-hmm and we'd go out into the city and you're on buses where you're super, extremely hot crammed in, and there's just, there's no personal space at all. I think India was, for me, it was just, uh, it was sensory overload mm-hmm . And so I, I learned a lot about my own sort of practices of, uh, journaling and quiet time getting up before the team was up.
Daniel (19:04):
So I could go outside and be alone, uh, with my thoughts and be alone with God and think, and pray and worship and listen to music mm-hmm , you know, and just kind of find time to recharge, you know, that sort of thing. And that was sort of like the, the, the first, um, uh, being immersed in that sort of culture really. I needed that. Otherwise I wasn't going to be able to do small things, but great love because I would just be anxious and right. Just, uh, exhausted all the time. So, I mean, that was sort of a, kind of a practical thing of just learning about my own personality. Right. Um, I think for, you know, like you said before, just being confronted with poverty, that was a, that was a big, that was kind of just crazy to say. And just to think that just it's crazy that, you know, I'm just because I grew up, uh, in New York or my, the family I grew up in, I am, I've got so many more opportunities than just because the, these other people are, are born a certain place or into a certain family.
Daniel (20:04):
Um, so there's, you know, there's a lot of just like, you're confronted with that justice question and I really don't have, you know, a great answer for it other than, you know, that's, it's, we live in a, in a, in a, in a world that's, that's pretty broken at times, but there's also just through, you know, love and grace and being with, you know, a person we can, we can make a difference. And so, I mean, that was kind of, that was a big thing to kind of wrestle with was just the, the poverty aspect and coming home. I was away, you know, in Montana for three months and then India and Thailand for, uh, about two months or so. And just kind of, there's a, a re-entry culture shock from a trip that long mm-hmm , mm-hmm, where you're just like, you're like, I don't, I don't need a car.
Daniel (20:44):
I don't need these things. Why do I have to find a job job? You know, like Uhhuh, Jesus, Jesus didn't have a job. He didn't have a place to stay. And, you know, he was, he just got, you know, he, he, he did his thing and he impacted the world. Like, why can't I do that? You know? So it is just, it's a, it was a lot to, a lot to wrestle with, but sure. Um, but when I was in Thailand, so kind of, we can kind wrap up the story here when I was in Thailand was where I met my wife. And so when I was in, when I was in India, I had this sense and this feeling, and, uh, just felt like I was gonna meet somebody who was going to be a lifelong best friend of mine. And I had no idea that that person was going to be, uh, my wife, who was, who was there doing mission work and our paths crossed. And so I kind of, I came home and she, she helped me walk through all of that sort of stuff. And she had her own reentry mm-hmm , uh, things to, to go through too. So at least I had somebody to, um, to walk through with that. And she, she was she's a therapist. So that was helpful.
Gordon (21:37):
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It's, uh, you know, it's, uh, as I think back at you were reminding me of kind of some of my trips to Honduras, and I can remember the first time that I came back from having gone down there. I remember somebody , somebody asked me I was working at the time, uh, for a funny thing. I was working for an agency at the time, and we actually worked with a lot of, a lot of poor families, um, in the United States, but it's a totally different kind of poverty when you go to a third world country like that. But I remember somebody asking me, well, how, how was your mission trip? And I just, just remember breaking down in tears just because it was such, it made such a huge impact. And, and just, just really, like you said, sensory overload at times.
Gordon (22:29):
And, um, yeah, but I think it also, you know, to kind of bring us full circle around to the whole kindness and compassion thing. I think everyone should give themselves the opportunity, the gift of doing some kind of work like that, where you're working with people. Yeah. Um, even if it's just, you know, even, even locally at doing like a habitat for humanity build or any of that sort of thing. Yeah. Where, where you're working with people that are struggling with things in their life, um, it is life changing to be able to just be alongside them through that journey.
Daniel (23:04):
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that's, I mean, this conversation is kind of challenging me all over again. Um, you know, the last few years I've really been focused on, on my business and also my mm-hmm , I got a five year old and a one year old, you know, so life is, is crazy. And, um, it's often hard to find ways to volunteer, but it's, it's so it's so important because we can get so focused on mm-hmm on life. And, you know, there's, there's nothing wrong with being focused on life, but there's a really, um, there's a gift that you receive that you just, you can't experience, uh, other than, than putting yourself out there. And mm-hmm, serving and just getting your eyes off yourself for just a little bit.
Gordon (23:45):
Right. Right. Well, Daniel, I, this has been a great conversation and, uh, I hopefully we'll be able to continue it again. I mean, this, uh, this is, I think the, the, exactly the kinda stuff that I, I wanna share with people on this podcast, tell folks how they can get in touch with you if they'd like to connect with you in some way.
Daniel (24:05):
Yeah, sure. You can find me, uh, at private practice, and you can also just find me on Instagram, um, at Daniel fava, just do a search, uh, for my name and I would be happy to connect there as well.
Gordon (24:18):
Yes. Yes. And, and Daniel's got a wonderful, uh, for, for those out of you out there that are baby therapists, just a quick plug for Daniel, he's got a wonderful, uh, business and he's done, he did a lot to help us with our website and our own prac practice. And so that's his expertise and he knows what he's doing and he's got the heart for you.
Daniel (24:40):
thanks, Gordon. I appreciate that.
Gordon (24:41):
All right. Take care, Daniel.
Daniel (24:43):
Gordon (24:58):
Well, I just love having conversations like the one I had with Daniel. I, and, you know, I would really encourage you if you haven't really explored it is to look at how you can do maybe some volunteer or mission work or whatever you want to call that and helping people that are less fortunate, because I think one of the things that it does is it truly changes can truly change your life. I know for me, in my own story, when I went to Honduras, um, and it was really just after hearing someone speak at my church, uh, about their trips. And I went down in the context of going on a habitat for humanity, uh, trip, but it truly was life changing and really changed the trajectory of my life at that particular time. And really helped me explore what I was being called to do.
Gordon (25:49):
And just working with people that are, were struggling and it eventually led into my work as a therapist and all of that sort of thing. So, you know, I don't want to go into the whole long story there, but I would encourage you to, to maybe seek out opportunities to do work like that. Um, and I'm really appreciative to Daniel and I appreciate my relationship with him and the fact that he was willing to be vulnerable and talk about how his work in India really truly changed his life. So, um, yeah. So if you've got a story like this, you'd like to cha uh, to share love, to hear from you. And again, you can go over to kindness and and, uh, go up to the contact us form and, um, O into the contact us page. I, and there is a form there that you can fill out to be a guest on the podcast and love to hear from you.
Gordon (26:47):
So, and also if you would like to support us in this work, consider becoming a patron. And if you become a patron, one thing, little perk there is that you could get some bling as I like to call it. There's, uh, there's a coffee mug, there's stickers. There's, t-shirts that sort of thing that you can get by becoming a patron. So take care folks, and look forward to being with you again in future episodes of the kindness and compassion podcast, Owen, and do take time to follow us wherever you might be listening to this and leave us a review and leave us a rating. Uh, that'll just help us get boosted up so other people can find this particular podcast. So take care folks and have a great rest of your week or weekend. Whenever you might be listening to this.

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L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person.  He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook .  And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.


How To Have Healthy Relationships with Kindness & Compassion | K&C 15

Sometimes the people we are in close relationships with are the hardest to show kindness and compassion to. In this episode Gordon shares some of the research and science behind relationships.  It turns out that the key to healthy relationships is tied to recognizing interaction patterns, self-regulation, and curiosity. We can learn how to heal broken relationships and be more kind and compassionate in our key relationships. Listen in as Gordon draws from research and his years of experience in working with hundreds of couples as licensed marriage and family therapist. 

Why we hurt the ones we love

“Love hurts” is a common theme… A lot of songs about that! There are several hypothesis around why we tend to hurt those closest to us.  These include, but are not limited to:

      • We see in others similar faults to our own.
      • Out of a sense of control or retribution (“getting even”)
      • To gain attention or to engage the other person
      • As a form of self-sabotage or guilt; taking out our frustrations on others
      • No consequences for doing so; we get by with it
      • Being triggered by past emotional trauma.

What defines a healthy relationship

Although every relationship is unique, there are some characteristics of what healthy and lasting relationships look like. The research from Dr. John and Julie Gottman from the Gottman Institute reveal these characteristics of health relationships:

      • Over-all trust and commitment
      • An ability to manage and repair from conflicts
      • General sense of affection and admiration
      • Similar values and life dreams
      • Accepting the other’s influence
      • Knowing and understanding the other’s internal world; “what makes them tick”
      • Treating the internal world of the other with kindness and compassion

Patterns of Interactions

In my work with couples over the years, I often tell them, “I could really care less about what you are arguing about. But what I am interested in is HOW you argue.”  What I mean by that is the patterns of interactions and how people handle arguments is key to having a healthy relationship. 

After all, it is unrealistic to think that significant relationships will be conflict free. Every relationship has conflicts. The key to a healthy relationship is in developing healthy interaction patterns when there is conflict.

A good pattern of conflict management involves:

      • An ability of each person to self-regulate their own emotions. In other words, not letting the “anger thermometer” get too high.
      • Knowing when to table hot topics for both people to get a better perspective
      • A willingness to listen and truly hear out the other person
      • Getting curious about the other person’s internal world and experience
      • A willingness to accept the other person’s influence and do things their way
      • An ability to repair things when there has been something that hurts the other person
      • And finally, a willingness to forgive and let go. Saying “I’m sorry I hurt you” goes a long way in healing things that have hurt.


Criticism and Defensiveness 

According to the Gottman’s’, one of the most common negative patterns couples can get into is a pattern of criticism and defensiveness. And if not corrected or changed, over time, it leads to “stone-walling” (avoiding the other person) and/or contempt in the relationship.  

The Gottman’s refer to these things as the “Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse” (Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling, and Contempt).  And also according to the Gottman’s’ research, if these patterns are not corrected or changed, the relationship is doomed to end. Especially if there is a level of contempt in the relationship.


A big part of having healthy relationships is having people that are emotionally healthy themselves.  In other words when both people are able to manage their own emotions well, they can then handle the emotions of their partner better.  

Another way to think about it is, what is your part in it? In other words, being aware of how your own actions are contributing to the problems that are happening.

This is often referred to as emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is something that is learned as we grow up but can also be learned later in life.  It doesn’t mean that emotionally intelligent people never get angry or hurt, but they are able to self-regulate and keep themselves grounded and under control when it happens.


As mentioned above, another key component of healthy relationships is a couple’s ability to repair things once there has been a conflict.  The Gottman’s refer to this as “turning toward each other” after a conflict.  This in and of itself is the opposite of stone-walling.  

Simply put, it is a willingness of both people to “kiss and make up” after there is a conflict or feelings are hurt. This requires both people to be vulnerable with each other and know that the other will treat that vulnerability with kindness and compassion.

Play Nice

And finally, as simple as it sounds, having a healthy relationship involves both people having some affection and positive regard for each other.  They are simply nice and caring to each other.  In other words, show some kindness and compassion in your relationships.  It is the stuff of love and vulnerability. 


Healthy relationships are built on kindness and compassion.  After all, if you think about it, most of the problems and conflicts we have in life involve other people.  Knowing how to self-regulate and repair when there are conflicts goes a long way in helping people have healthy relationships. Also a willingness to trust and stay committed to the relationship.  After all, the #1 predictor of relationships succeeding, is a willingness of both people to stick it out with each other. And finally, the sign of a healthy relationship is when two people know the other’s internal world well and treating it with kindness and compassion.

Resources Mentioned

Attachment Theory –

The Gottman Institute-

Sound Relationship House –

“Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” –

Dr. Susan Johnson –

Gordon (00:00):
You know, in my work as a marriage and family therapist, um, I, I enjoy more than anything working with couples. It's, uh, kind of, kind of the niche I've car carved out for myself. I do work with individuals on, you know, various mental health issues, but also do a lot of work with couples. And one of the things, um, that, um, has, has pulled me into working with couples is really a lot of that desire that I have to really help people sort through the conflicts that they have, and really figure out how to have more meaningful relationships. You know, our primary, you know, as adults really most, all of us seek out a partner in life. It's kind of built into our DNA, you know, from the time that we're born, we have this innate desire to connect with others. And one of the things that's interesting is, um, you know, the, the, the divorce rates in the United States kind of hover around 50%.
Gordon (01:02):
So 50% of all first marriages, I think it's getting a little better. I haven't gone back and looked at the statistics lately, but, um, 50% of all first marriages, um, end in divorce. And that's kind of a, a sad prospect. And probably I think for some folks that are cynical, they'd say, well, why even bother if it's that bad of a, that bad of a statistic, but the truth of the matter is we need other people. And like I said, just said, is that it's kind of wired into our DNA. We want to seek out others, you know, from the time we're born, we have to connect. You know, if you think about a little baby and the need that a baby has to be held to be nurtured, to be loved to for the parents, to look into the baby's eyes and, and give that affection, if we don't do that, the baby ends up suffering from that.
Gordon (02:02):
Um, so we really need to have relationships. And the other thing that's an interesting kind of phenomenon is you look at the number of people that are out there that have either gone through, uh, are in their second or third marriages. Uh, and so you, you logic would kind of tell you that, okay, if I had bad experience with relationships, uh, then I, I don't want to try to do that again. I should, you know, just stay on my own, but we, we don't do that. We very quickly seek out others to be in relationship with. So it's a really, really, if you think about it, it's really a primary need we have as human beings is to be in those close intimate relationships. Not only when I say intimacy, uh, not only mean like ULA LA intimacy, but kind of intimacy of, of emotion.
Gordon (03:00):
And that's really the foundation of a healthy relationship. So what I'd like to talk with you about is to think about, um, what makes up a healthy relationship. And it turns out that there's been a lot of research into this, about what, what constitutes a, a healthy relationship and a lot of what I'm gonna talk about in here. I wanna give, uh, credit where credit is due. And this comes from the research of the Gottman's John and Julie Gottman are a husband and wife research team that have done over 40 years of research into marriage and relationships. And, um, I'm gonna have a link here to their Institute. The got Gottman Institute will be here in the show notes, but John and Julie Gottman, what they did is they, they took couples and they wanted to really kind of figure out what makes a relationship last and what makes for successful marriages.
Gordon (03:58):
And so, um, what they did is they took couples and they did this with both heterosexual couples and gay couples. And, um, they, they just put 'em in this, this retreat center called the love lab that they, they created, and they would have graduate students just observe what was going on as couples interacted with each other. And they would have, 'em wired up to look at heart rate and brainwaves and all of that sort of thing. And what they quickly discovered was that there were certain patterns that emerged as they watched couples interact with each other. And some of the patterns that they noticed were, were healthy patterns, and the couples were doing well with each other, but then there were the other couples that were, they noticed very quickly that if, as they watched them interact, that things weren't going well. And, but what they did in their study too, was to follow these couples over several years.
Gordon (04:53):
And the ones that they noticed that had the unhealthy patterns were doomed to fail. And I'm gonna talk a little bit more about those patterns here in a minute, but one of, one of the things I wanted to think about first is why is it that we tend to hurt the ones we love so to speak? And there's a lot of hypothesis around that. And some of the, some of it maybe points to the fact that with those that we're, we're closest to, we can, we tend to be, let our guard down a little bit more. In other words, we not always on our best behavior. And, and part of that is, is that we can get by with it. But also I think it's just, um, has to do with how we attach with other people, um, not to get too far off on this whole, um, psychological lesson, but there are some things that are both, uh, there's this thing called attachment theory, where it looks at how we bond with other people.
Gordon (05:55):
And so there are healthy attachments and unhealthy attachments. There are people that have kind of, of avoidant attachments. There are people that have kind of insecure attachments or anxious attachments. Again, not gonna go too far down that rabbit trail, but I'll try to put some links in the, uh, show notes here. That'll tell you more about that. But the other thing that we have to think about when, why we tend to hurt peop those that we're closest to, I think when we're close to people, we notice in them maybe faults of our own. And so we notice those faults that we own, we have for ourselves, and we kind of take it out on the other person. And I know I've been guilty of that in the past in relationships and will, will, will tend to be critical of somebody else's fault when we really know, uh, for ourselves that we contain that own fault, that, that, that same fault, uh, the other thing too, is, is that when you've got situations where people have gone through trauma, or they've gone through maybe raised in a family where there was a lot of conflict, um, being in conflict with their spouse or their, the person that they're in a committed relationship with, uh, that can be kind of triggering for 'em at times.
Gordon (07:16):
And so all of those kinds of things kinda lead to why we tend to hurt those that are closest to us. Um, the other, the other thing is that, um, we, um, might, you know, again, being human, you know, when somebody makes us mad or gets us riled up about something we might want to try to get even, or make, have some sort of retribution with that. And so that's another reason why maybe sometimes we hurt those that are closest to us, but one of the things I wanna start with is really looking at what defines a healthy relationship and then kinda work backwards from that of, you know, what, what we need to look for in our relationships in order to make them healthy. The thing that really, um, and again, this I'm, I'm borrowing from the Gottman's on this and really some of their research and what they kind of discovered as they observed couples over over the years.
Gordon (08:17):
Number one is just an overall commitment to the relationship is one of the characteristics of a commit of a healthy relationship. And along with that is trust. And the Gottman came up with something called the, the sound relationship house, which is a graphic they created. And again, I'll put some links in here in the show notes. So you can take a look at that, but the two things that you have to have for any healthy relationship is a commitment to stick it out. And again, uh, that's the, the number one predictor of what makes, uh, relationship successful is both parties being willing to just stick it out with each other through good or bad. And, you know, when you think about most of us in our marriage vows, along the way, those of us that are in married or in a committed relationship, when you make those vows, usually there's something in there about, for better or for worse.
Gordon (09:18):
So folks that really buy into that and stick it out with each other, um, you know, will have a lasting relationship. Now that doesn't mean a person needs to go through a relationship that where there's some abuse going on, or there's some really bad things going on in the relationship, but just a willingness to stick it out through the tough times, goes a long way. And then also obviously trust, you know, it's really helpful to be able to trust your spouse and to be able to know that they're gonna be there for you, and that they're not gonna betray you in some way. And this is usually in my work with, with couples, uh, over the years, usually this is the reason that they're coming to see me is that, that in some way, trust has been broken. Um, and it doesn't necessarily mean there's been an affair or any, any sort of infidelity, but maybe there's some sort of emotional trust that's been broken, or maybe there is just a betrayal, either big betrayals with a small B or betrayals with a big B, uh, that go on.
Gordon (10:23):
And that, that might be that they have hurt the other one's feelings in some way, or they have been snubbed in some way, or they've been belittled or criticized in some way, all the way up to kind of the big guns where somebody's maybe had an affair, that sort of thing. So you've gotta have that trust in a relationship. You've got to know that your partner has your back and that the person that's in it with you for the long haul is there for you. The other, the other thing that makes up, uh, makes for a healthy relationship is an ability to handle conflict in the relationship. Um, obviously, you know, there are gonna be conflicts in relationship. I don't know of any, any relationship that doesn't have conflicts, but what makes for a healthy relationship is for the couple or the, to, to be able to manage those conflicts well, and then repair any damage that might be done from that conflict.
Gordon (11:29):
So, um, that that's at a, a very key component. And again, when I see couples usually that are coming to me for therapy, it's usually because they have kind of come to a roadblock block or an impase in their ability to handle conflict with each other. And then some of the things that are just kind of maybe kind of common sense over what makes for a healthy relationship is, um, obviously there, there should be in a healthy relationship, just a general sense of affection and, and love and admiration for their partner. And again, that's kind of common sense there with that one, most couples that have a healthy relationship share very similar values and life dreams with each other. In other words, they're on the same page about around that. That doesn't mean that, you know, I have had seen, um, uh, very healthy couples that might have maybe different religious or political views.
Gordon (12:30):
I've known couples that maybe come from different faith traditions and they respect that in each other and that sort of thing. But so, but they, anyway, there's a mutual respect around all of that. And part, part of it that goes into that, that mutual respect is a couple's ability to accept each other's influence on things. So in other words, to be able to know how to compromise and to be able to not necessarily do it my way all the time, but being able to be, um, take some joy and being able to do it things the way their, their partner wants to do things. The other thing is, um, that really kind of defines a healthy relationship is for both people to know what makes up the other's internal world. In other words, they really understand what makes the other person tick. They understand that internal world, what motivates them, what they're, what they're ashamed of, what they're proud of every, you know, it's kinda like there, there are in, in some ways, a way to put that is that there are really no secrets there.
Gordon (13:39):
They know, uh, both, uh, they, they know their partner well, and they love them wart and all so to speak. And, and really ultimately they treat that internal world with a great deal of kindness and compassion. Uh, and so that's a, at a very important key key component of having a relation, healthy relationship. And so what happens when things go awry, those are kind of the things that make up a healthy relationship. And again, this is based on not only the re research of John and Julie Gottman, but there's some other researchers out there. One in particular is sued Johnson, um, who is also, um, a researcher into marriage and family and marriage and, and, uh, couples and committed relationships. And I'll talk a little bit more about them here in a moment, but anyway, one of the things I tell couples when they come to see me as a therapist is, um, and I say this kind of tongue in cheek, but then again, it's kind of, uh, kind of serious in that I really could care less what they're arguing about.
Gordon (14:48):
In other words, I, you know, the topic doesn't matter to me what it is they're arguing about, but what I'm really interested in is how they argue, or in other words, the patterns of interactions. And that is where we can make a difference in our relationships when we understand how we interact with each other and how it goes down. You know, I mentioned, um, I mentioned, uh, Sue Johnson, uh, and one of the things that she mentions is is that we can, um, couples can get into what she refers to as demon dialogues. In other words, when it starts, it starts and we're on. And so the, the things spiral out of control, uh, once those kinds of things happen. And so when a couple things about repairing things, they need to start with how they interact with each other and understanding the patterns and how things go down.
Gordon (15:50):
And so a good pattern of interaction for couples is an ability, number one, to be able to self regulate. And this is where knowing yourself well comes into play. And also being brutally honest with yourself about how you might be contributing to the conflict in the relationship. Our tendency as human beings is we want to blame the other for our problems, but when we can really begin to look at ourselves after all, if you think about it, and this is a truth, is that the only person we can change is who ourself. And so being aware of that, as you go into thinking about handling conflict with your partner goes a long way. And so, as you think about how you might interact with your partner or that the, the person that you're in a relationship with is being able to really, again, ask that question, what is my part in this?
Gordon (16:51):
And what can I do to change how I am interacting with them? That's gonna help the conflict go better. And, and part of that is, again, um, as I've mentioned in previous episodes is really knowing yourself well and being mindful. Um, it involves some emotional intelligence. And what I mean by that is, is that, you know, yourself, well, you know how to regulate your own emotions. Well, in other words, if you're getting angry or getting upset or getting anxious, you know how to regulate that within yourself, it's referred to a lot of times as an internal locus of control. And so being able to, to hone that skill and hone those skills of being able to regulate yourself well, when you're upset or when you're angry, or when you're feeling anxious, or when you're feeling any of the negative emotions, being able to handle that well is gonna go a long way in helping you navigate things in your relationships.
Gordon (17:56):
Uh, particularly when there's conflict. The other thing about managing conflict and in relationships is learning how to be curious about what's going on with your partner. Um, you know, our, our tendency is to get on the defensive when there's conflict. And I'm gonna talk about in just a moment, just the typical pattern that happens in relationships, around, um, criticism and defensiveness, but being, being able to recognize when you're getting defensive of being able to kind of change the course of things at that point. So being able to say, okay, I need to take a break here, um, because I'm starting to get angry around these things. And I, I love you. And I want to be able to back off from this a little bit, so we can talk, talk about this kinda rationally or more at an even keel, because if I keep getting angry, I'm gonna not listen.
Gordon (18:51):
And that's a, another thing just as a side note here, when we get emotionally flooded with things. In other words, the anger thermometer starts going up. It really debilitates our ability to hear and listen because our amygdala, that part in our brain that is there to protect us, kind of takes over. And we go into fight or flight mode and when a couple starts to escalate and they get into that fight or flight mode, and the amygdala is taking over. There is no dialogue anymore. They are just going at each other and they're not hearing each other. And so that, that's a point at which they do need to back off from things. Now that doesn't mean they need to avoid the, the topic, but be able to self regulate, bring themselves down to a more even keel where they're not angry and then come back and talk about their problems.
Gordon (19:49):
Um, that goes a long way in being able to manage conflict. Well, the other thing about being able to manage conflict well is knowing how to repair things. And, um, that is a key feature in healthy couples. Is, is that when they do have a conflict, they maybe have a row, or they're an argument. They come back to each other and they learn how to turn towards each other, uh, after that conflict to make amends, to repair things, to kiss and make up, as they say, uh, being able to do that is a key component of having a relationship, uh, rather a healthy relationship. So let's, let's dive a little deeper end of how conflicts start and how, um, the patterns that we typically see. And again, this is based, a lot of this is based on the research of the Gottman's, you know, when the Gottman's were observing couples.
Gordon (20:50):
One of the things that they noticed is that if they saw a particular conflict pattern in the relationship, if those things were not corrected and that what they referred to this as is the, the four horsemen of the apocalypse and what those four components of that, if they saw this going on in the relationship, and if it wasn't corrected, the, the relationship was doomed to fail, and they could predict this with 90% accuracy, if a couple was gonna make it or not based on these four components of what they call the four horseman of the apocalyp of the apocalypse. And those four things are criticism, defensiveness. Another one is stonewalling, and then the fourth one is contempt. And so typically how this, how this plays out is that a couple will get into a pattern of criticism and defensiveness. And our, our tendency as human beings is, is that when we feel criticized by someone, particularly if we feel like that criticism is unjust or is not warranted, we go on the defensive.
Gordon (22:01):
And so when couples start into that pattern of criticism and defensiveness, that's when things start to spiral out of control. Um, as I mentioned earlier, Sue Johnson calls these demon dialogues when a couple starts into this, you know, somebody says something that is critical of the other, or is maybe mean-spirited, um, the other person gets defensive and it's on. And so that's when things start to spiral out of control. And so, you know, that it's criticism, if it comes out of your mouth, is you always, are you never, and this is something I point out in couples is to be aware of what you're saying to your partner really matters. It's not what we say. It's how we say it. You know, 80% of communication is nonverbal. So what's not, it's not the words that we say that matter, but it's the tone in which we use.
Gordon (23:02):
And also the body language that we use. So to, to be able to counteract, um, criticism, defensiveness, number one with criticism is a, is learning to phrase things in a way that are, make it, you're making a request of your partner rather than offering criticism. So being able to say things like, you know, when such and such happens, I really would prefer that you do blah, blah, blah. And that sounds like a weird kind of way of communicating, but rather than starting out with, well, you always, or you never, you never picked up your dirty clothes. You always leave your socks on the floor. Uh, being able to say instead, you know, it really bothers me when the socks are left on the floor. Do you mind being more mindful of picking up your socks? Totally different way to start a conversation. And then to counteract defensiveness, as I said earlier, is to approach things with curiosity, when you notice that you're getting defensive is to kind of remind yourself or be mindful of getting curious about what is going on with the other person, what is going on with your, um, with your, with your partner?
Gordon (24:16):
Um, you know, an example would be, you know, you, you kind, you kinda spoke to me kind of harshly there. What's going on that you're, you're talking to me in that way, because it, it really kind of hurt that you, you said it that way. So again, it's kind of, overcommunication in things. The other, the other parts of, of the four horsemen of the apocalypse are stonewalling. And that is when we just avoid our partner or avoid interacting with our partner. And that's, that's what the criticism and defensiveness pattern leads to if it's not corrected. And then after if the stonewalling and the criticism and the defensiveness is not changed, that leads to contempt. It leads to a couple that gets to where they just really don't like each other. They really don't want to be around each other. And the Gottman say that when a couple reaches that point, really the relationship is over at that point. And, um, it takes a lot to repair a couple when things are at the contempt level. So that's, that's something to be aware of. If you notice that you're feeling that way about your partner, I would really encourage you to get into some therapy to begin to deal with that not only individual therapy, but also couples therapy to begin to work on that.
Gordon (25:45):
Well, I know we've covered a lot here in this short episode, but just to kind of quickly recap one of the things, uh, that we need to really focus on when we think about exercising, kindness and compassion in our relationships, is to be able to be aware of the patterns of interaction. You know, couples can get into some bad habits around how they interact with each other, uh, being aware of when you're being critical of your partner and being able to, um, learn how to, when you feel criticized to be aware of not going on the defensive too quickly, because things tend to spiral outta control when, when a, when a couple starts
Gordon (26:29):
Into that
Gordon (26:29):
Pattern of criticism
Gordon (26:30):
And defensiveness.
Gordon (26:32):
And the other thing is, is to be able to allow yourself to be vulnerable with, with your partner. Um, as it mentioned already, vulnerability is the key to having a meaningful relationship, uh, of being able to let your guard down and let each other into your inner world, and then treating that inner world with kindness and compassion. Uh, that's a key, those are key components to having a healthy relationship, one that is built on kindness and compassion. And so the other, the other thing too, that I mentioned as a recap here is the importance of repairing things. When you've, when you've had a conflict, when you've gotten angry with each other or any of that sort of thing, is being able to go back and repair and make amends for the hurt that has happened. And then also, uh, continuing to build those, those lifelong commitments through shared meaning and being able to look at your life dreams and being able to, you know, think ahead in, in terms of that being a positive, uh, kind of experience for, for both people to be able to look at their life, uh, look at what their common bond is and continuing to build on that.
Gordon (27:55):
And, um, and finally, I would say if you, if you find that you're getting stuck with some of these things that I mentioned here in this episode, I would encourage you to seek out, uh, professionals, maybe to get some help with that, um, that, you know, certainly you could find, um, a licensed marriage and family therapist. And I would, I will say this when you, if you seek out therapy, find someone that, um, is trained in working with couples because that's working with couples is different than working with individuals. And I think it's important to have someone that will, uh, knows what they're doing just around, uh, their training and that sort of thing. Um, also I mentioned in this episode, the resources, again, those links will be here in the show notes and the show summary and, um, to the Gottman Institute, and then also some resources from Dr. Sue Johnson that I mentioned in here as well. So hopefully you find this helpful and, um, hope good luck with your relationships and, uh, do treat each other with greater kindness and compassion.

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L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person.  He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook .  And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.



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