Jenn Fredette | Showing Kindness & Compassion When We Don’t Understand | K&C 8

In this episode Gordon talks with Jenn Fredette, LPC, MA, MDiv, about being vulnerable, being human and coping with people we just don’t agree with.  Jenn shares her experience of having come from a very conservative religious background (“cult”) and the ways in which she has grown and healed since then.  Jenn and Gordon also talk about how being present with and for people is an act of kindness and compassion.

Meet Jenn Fredette

Jenn Fredette, LPC, MA, MDiv

Jenn’s journey with others is to develop a deep understanding of themselves and the world around them.  She is passionate about connecting the curious and brave with therapeutic guides who can lead the way into the wild adventure of self-knowledge.

As a former minister, practicing psychotherapist, adjunct graduate professor, and host of “A Thinker’s Guide to…Podcast”, Jenn brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in translating the profound into everyday language. Learn more at therapyforthinkers.com or follow her on Instagram at @athinkersguide.

Growing Up With Limits

Jenn shares some of her experience in growing up in what she refers to as a religious cult.  She talks about how she was taught in very subtle ways how to think.  In particular, that the outside world was evil and that her community was the only conclave of “the good ones”.

Also in growing up, Jenn was taught that showing “kindness” was in convincing  others to see things the way that her community did. “If you will just come and agree with me, then your life will be better”.  In other words, converting them.  It was a viewpoint of getting people to think in a certain way without allowing them to have their own viewpoint.

Seeing Things From the Other’s Perspective

In many ways it is tough to be able to see things from another’s perspective, especially if we don’t agree with them.  Jenn shares some of her experience when she was working in community mental health and was a new counselor.  Her supervisor at the time said, “Jenn always treat people with kindness and compassion, and at the same time, don’t take anyone’s ‘shit’”.  In other words, it is important to set clear and healthy boundaries with people.

Jenn and Gordon reflect on the current war happening in Ukraine and how difficult it is to understand why Putin and Russia are doing what they are doing.  Jenn reminds us that even though we need to stand up to the abuse and bad behavior of others, we need to be mindful of the opposition’s humanity. We don’t need to demonize the other.

Our Internal Struggles

Jenn also calls into question some of her own internal struggle with how we show compassion for people that are much different from ourselves.  She is very honest about the fact that it is easy for her to show compassion for the refugees from Ukraine since they look so much like her.  And at the same time she struggles with the fact that when similar things were happening in Syria, a few years back, the level of compassion was not quite as intense. And this was because it was a different culture with different looking people.  She finds this internal struggle troubling. The important thing though is to simply acknowledge this internal struggle and continue to work on it.

Jenn brings up the metaphor of David and Goliath story and how we want to identify with the David of the story; the underdog.  But what is sometimes difficult is to recognize when we are actually in the role of Goliath.  When we are in fact the giant that is oppressing those that are less powerful, we need to be aware.  In order to live into kindness and compassion we need to be mindful of these times and situations.

Story of Kindness

Jenn shares a story that happened recently for her, when her husband got sick and had to go to the hospital. Jenn was stuck at home with their newborn baby and was feeling very much isolated and concerned.  Even though they had recently moved to a new home and new community, she found out that she did have some support.

A friend offered to come and stay with the baby while she went to the hospital.  And what was so kind for Jenn was the fact that the friend recognized Jenn’s nervousness about leaving her baby with a new person.  The friend called on the way to her house to find out what she needed to know about their baby, so that Jenn could leave for the hospital right away.  And even though this was a small thing, Jenn experienced it as incredibly kind.  Her friend anticipates what it might have been like for Jenn.

Getting Curious With Others

Ultimately, one of the best ways to show kindness and compassion with others is to simply get curious about how others see the world and what their lens of the world is like.  It is also important to try and anticipate the needs of others and respond based on those needs.

Being Present With People

Gordon tells the story of what it means to simply be present with people.  It was a story about a college professor who was visiting at the death of a friend and going to the funeral home.  The professor talked about simply sitting with the widow of the person who had died without really saying anything. Then when he left, he simply said, “When you need me you know where I am”.  The widow said that of all that was said during her husband’s funeral, that was the most helpful.

Again, simply being with and present with others is one of the best ways to show kindness and compassion.

Conclusion

Throughout the ups and downs of life we will all encounter people and situations that we find difficult to understand or agree with.  The key though to overcoming and dealing with these times is to do our best to put ourselves in the other’s shoes.  And at the same time, it is okay to set boundaries and limits to bad behavior; “not take any shit”.  We can still always show kindness do our best to be present with others.

Gordon (00:17):
Well, hello folks, and welcome again to the kindness and compassion podcast. And I'm so thrilled for you all to get to know Jen Fredette and Jen is somebody I've known for a little while now, and she connected with me through my other podcast, uh, the practice of therapy podcast, which is geared more towards clinicians, but welcome Jen.
Jenn (00:38):
Thanks Gordon. I'm so delighted to feedback sitting here with you.
Gordon (00:42):
Yes. And, and when I was said, when I was conceptualizing this, this podcast, the kindness and compassion podcast, Jen was exactly the kind of person I had in mind as having a guest, uh, for this podcast. Jen is, um, is a wonderful, wonderful storyteller. And, um, she has a podcast asked a thinker's guide too. That's the name of her podcast and I, I, I've probably benched to listen to it twice now, Jen.
Jenn (01:14):
Oh, good. Thank you.
Gordon (01:16):
So it's just, yeah, so it's just so, um, so vulnerable and just really, uh, I love what she did with that, but Jen is a star with everyone. Why don't you tell folks a little bit more about yourself and how you kinda landed where you've landed in life?
Jenn (01:32):
That's such a complicated question, Gordon. Um, so I think at least where I live now in the DC Metro area. So often we identify ourselves by what we do, like pre COVID. You can go to a party, people like, so what do you do? What do you do? What do you do? Um, and so I'm a psychotherapist and in some ways it's what I do, but in a lot of ways, it's who I am too, that I love having this job and this life that allows me to be very curious to ask the questions that are in polite in most settings, and to really try to get down deeper to what it means to be human. What does it mean to be alive? And, and what does it just mean to like, go about to this world that has gotten, I don't know if it's actually gotten more chaotic or we're just more conscious of how chaotic it is to be alive? Um, yeah, it's kind of a rambling question, but I think I got here cuz I'm curious.
Gordon (02:34):
Yeah. Yeah. That's uh, that's good. So yeah. Um, what, one of the things I know that Jen and I were talking about, um, uh, before we started recording and just, you know, know which I do with most folks is just think about, okay, what do we want to talk about on the podcast today? And Jen, you hit on just to think a topic that is so important for all of us is how, how do you show kindness and compassion to people that you just do not agree with? And so love to hear your thoughts on that.
Jenn (03:09):
Yeah. So, so interesting. You asked me this question, like where do I come from? It's like, oh, okay. Like, this is a good leadway to add to my answer are there. So I grew up very, very, very conservatively, um, in what I think really does meet the criteria for religious cult. As I often joke, maybe defend, like it wasn't a cool, sexy cult. Like there was no Kool-Aid there weren't like lots of, um, weird outfits to where, but it certainly was really focused on in subtle and non subtle ways, controlling what you thought about the world and really pictured the world as enemy and us as sort of like an enclave of like the good ones. And so when I think about, oh, what does it mean to, um, show kindness to others in a lot of ways growing up, what was modeled for me is you show kindness for those of you.
Jenn (04:09):
Listen, I'm like doing quotation marks. You show kindness by trying to convince people to think the way that you think that there's a sense, like if we would just agree and if you just come and realize that I'm right, therefore like that's a way for me to like, educate you, enlighten you and what I, I don't live in that very conservative mindset anymore. But what has been interesting to me as I've gone through life is that comes up again. And again, like there is a sense of I'm being, if I help you think just the way I'm thinking, as opposed to, Hey, let me share my viewpoint and we can disagree. And actually there can be something really lovely about that. And also perhaps you might find ways I might find ways to try to live in your shoes and I'll never feel it as deeply as maybe you do. And can I, can I try it out? I don't, it's kind of a rambling answer. Does that make sense?
Gordon (05:09):
Yeah, it does. And I think, um, you know, I know in other episodes of this podcast, we've talked about being able to take the time to be able to see, see things from another's perspective. And, and that's hard to do a lot of times, um, you know, we were talking about, um, you know, as we're recording this episode where in the throws of this war going on in the Ukraine and just thinking about Putin and how he's treating this and that sort of thing, it's very hard to see it the way he sees it. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And so those are, those are tough, tough things that I think we have to, to deal with internally. And how do we treat that with kindness and compassion?
Jenn (06:02):
Yeah. Well, and it's good. And I don't know if we swear on this podcast, so I'll modify a little
Gordon (06:09):
Bit, you use, use, use whatever language is appropriate for you. Okay.
Jenn (06:14):
Um, so what I word community mental health. Um, I had an amazing supervisor Elise in one of my very first supervision. She said, Jen, here is the goal. You don't have to do this perfectly. You're still new. You're still learning. This is like the core thing I want you to focus on. I want you to treat everyone kindly, but take no one to shit. I was like, oh, OK. Like I don't like, how do I do that? And watching like this piece play out with Ukraine and the way Putin and his government, like, I don't know if it's all of the Russian people really, but how Putin's playing this out, that there is a sense of treating somebody with kindness, um, trying to step into where they might be coming from doesn't mean that you allow them, uh, in this case to commit war crimes against you, but to, to be abusive, to be malicious, to be violent, to be, um, inhumane.
Jenn (07:20):
Like that's not, I think what being kind, at least to me means being kind is perhaps reminding yourself of their humanity, even in the midst of all of this. And it can be very easy to demonize the other. Um, and the fact is Putin is a human, um, he's making decisions that are really hard for me to comprehend. And one of the things I was sharing with you before we started recording that, one of the things that I keep noticing within myself is my own visceral compassion, pain heartbreak, as I watch what is happening with the refugees from the Ukraine and something I've been asking myself a lot is like, okay, like, yes, of course this is an appropriate thing to have compassion and kindness for. And do I feel this way? Have I felt this way, watching the Syrian refugees look for a place to live, uh, what happens with Palestine and Israel, uh, with Palestine particularly, and how Israel is, um, often an aggressor, like, do I pay attention to this and show up with kindness and compassion when people don't look like me when I can't not necessarily have that same, um, instinctual, like, but those are my people.
Jenn (08:47):
Um, and that's also, what's hard about Putin a little bit is Putin also in some ways, looks like a lot of people, uh, who, who I can, I don't know that I can identify with, but, um, feel familiar when we talk about like American politics and sort of the elite. Yeah. Is that this is a very like geopolitical, but yeah.
Gordon (09:11):
Yeah. Well, I think it's a, it it's um,
Gordon (09:16):
Yeah, I think you're exactly right, is that, and, and I'm reminded of being, and as you, as you are learning, being a parent now, um, particularly as our kids grow up, there are times when you have to absolutely be firm inside a boundary and, and hold accountable, um, their actions. And as you said, not take any shit over over stuff. Um, but it can be done with kindness and compassion. Um, you know, um, and that's a, I think a hard, I think maybe a dichotomy, um, that is hard to maybe get our, our heads around sometimes.
Jenn (10:01):
Yeah. Yeah. It's hard because I think it's easier, at least for me, it's easier to go to the black and white of like, this is clearly the bad guy. These are clearly, um, the good guys and in a lot of cases, the David and Goliath, um, I think what I've been trying to pay attention to in myself is like, all right. Yeah. I'm rooting for the David in this story right now, but what about the times when I might more clearly identify with the Goliath and do I still find space in myself to root for the David and to, I mean, a lot of, I think what I'm talking about I think is, oh, like where's my own racism showing up. Yeah. Like where are those places that my unconscious biases sometimes conscious biases prevent me from really being able to feel into what the other is feeling. Yeah. And on top of that also, that is not always the healthiest thing to do to be consistently feeling and like having such a permeable, um, kind of take in other people's stuff. Like then where's that line too.
Gordon (11:15):
Right. Right. Yeah. And that's, uh, that, that's where the whole practice of mindfulness comes in and being able to be, um, learning how to self-regulate if you, if you will. So, so Jen with, I know that you're a very good storyteller and I'm gonna put you on the spot a little bit. Can you tell us a story of this and compassion?
Jenn (11:42):
Oh, you know, I can, um, I was telling you before we got on, um, that we've done a podcast before and I'm normally more prepared and try to plan for things and it just didn't get to do that in part, because the stomach flu has like raged through our household. Um, and so the baby got the stomach flu first, um, and was like shocked and like, didn't understand what was going on. And I had the experience of getting and vomited on and like, so it's not minding, like, it was not like, I, I don't necessarily wanna repeat it anytime soon. Uh, but that was just an interesting, like, oh, this is what parents mean when they're like, yeah. When it's your kid, it's just not as gross. So the baby got it. And we're like, okay, like, that's scary. We took her to the pediatrician.
Jenn (12:31):
Pediatrician was really like kind and, um, comforting. But two days later, my husband got very, very, very ill like ill enough that he ended up going to the hospital. Cause we weren't sure if it was a really bad case of food poisoning. And we live in an area where we don't have family nearby. We actually moved to our current house like six months before the, a pandemic. So we haven't like established a lot of like close, like neighborly connections. Um, cuz we've all been afraid of giving each other a deadly virus. And so my husband was in the hospital. I was so like, I don't know what I'm gonna do. I have this young child, who's not vaccinated, but I wanna go see him. But the hospital, probably not the place to be bringing a young child and potentially exposed to all of this stuff.
Jenn (13:20):
And I realized, I was like, oh, but we actually do kind of have the community. And so I was able to call on some of my husband's work colleagues. Some of my friends and people really showed up and like we was able to hand off the baby and, and just go to the hospital so I could sit and be with my husband. And so all of that, like maybe sounds like that's kindness and it certainly is. But the kindest thing that happened in the midst of all of that was our friend Trudy came over and she called me 15 minutes before she got to the house. She said, Jen, I know that you're probably gonna wanna leave right when I get there. So tell me what I need to know about the baby. Tell me what, like where all the things I want you to be able, just to leave as soon as I get there.
Jenn (14:13):
Wow. And her being able to hold to that in mind and to think, and actually put herself in my place. Not just that she was showing up and doing an extremely nice, like, um, like thing that I really needed and like meant a lot. But that call in the midst of it was like, oh, okay. Like, yeah, I really can just leave. This is, is putting herself in my shoes. Yeah. Um, and she arrived, she handed me a Le Croix. I handed her the baby. I was able to leave in just a few minutes and having that little bit of extra space was so meaningful.
Gordon (14:53):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And that's, uh, yeah, that, and I think you, you hit on kind of a theme here that I think is, is worth it's worth worthwhile for us to kind of bullet point it or draw a circle around it or put a star next to it. And that is the importance of being able to think about others through the lens that they might see the world, you know, the words being able to just be able to, okay. I wonder how they see things or just getting curious, uh, um, with folks is, um, I think I, one of the, one of the best ways to show kindness and compassion, I mean yeah. As you, as you experienced, I mean, she really had thought about, okay, what's it like for Jen and what does she, what would she need at this point? Yeah. Yeah.
Jenn (15:51):
And like tried it out and I might have been like, no, it's fine. Like when you come, like I'll go over it. And I think that would've been fine for her. Um, but it, I think that's where sometimes people get tripped up, especially like in moments of crisis. Like people want to show up and do the thing, but they don't NEC like, what do you do? Like, what do you say? Um, I hear this a lot. Actually, when I sit with clients who have someone in their life, who's going through some sort of loss, a job loss, the loss of somebody close to them, who's actively dying. Things like that. Like, well, what am I supposed to do? It's like, well, there's probably some concrete things you can do, but let's think about what you imagine the other person might need. And are there ways for you to meet some of that need?
Jenn (16:39):
And sometimes where people go is like, well, they need for their husband not to be dying or they need to have a brand new job or they need to have like the solution. And that's often actually not what I think people need, people need somebody who can show up and, and really see what's happening and be present like that. I think almost always matters at least on an individual level. And when you have that community, who's gonna show up and see where you are and be present some of those other bigger piece of like, how do you find a new job? Or how do you grieve the loss of somebody you deeply love like that unfolds over time.
Gordon (17:22):
Yes. Um, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I'm reminded of, uh, uh, a story that I heard when I was an undergraduate at Mars hill. Um, and I had a psychology, uh, professor that also happened to be a clergy person. Um, he was, uh, he was a Baptist minister, but he had a, his PhD in psychology and he told, and I was taking a, a, an introduction to counseling course. Hmm. Uh, as an undergraduate. And I remember a story that he told about that, um, about having a, a parishioner or church member who had had a husband to die. And it was, it was a, it was an unexpected death. And he was talking about going to the funeral home to visit with the family and getting to the funeral home and everybody saying all the usual stuff. And he just went over and he said, I just sat down next to the widow.
Gordon (18:23):
And I just put my arm around her and just sat there with her, didn't say anything. And then, and just got up when it was time for me to leave. And I just said, you know, where I am when you, when you need me, you know, where I am and then left. And he, he came back later and said, you know, she mentioned to him that, of all the things that people said and did during that moment, that was the one that meant the most to her. He was just simply present with her and, and didn't necessarily try to fix anything or try to tell, say the exact right words or any of that sort of thing, but just be present. Yeah. You know? Yeah.
Jenn (19:03):
That's hard. I think we often feel better when we can do. And, and I, I think that is a component. Like it's not just always presence, but I think most people tend to, um, fall more heavily on like, let me do all of the things for you, as opposed to let me slow down. I'll just come and sit. And also what's beautiful in that story is like, he sat with her for a time. But when it was time to give space, he was like, I'm here. Like when you need me, like, I'm here for you. Yeah. There was a, almost like a continuing presence even when he left.
Gordon (19:47):
Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah. So I know we've got probably tons of stories we could tell. And, uh, I really, um, folks that, that are listening really encourage you to go over and, and listen to Jen's podcast. I was telling her before we started, um, I, I've probably B listened to it at least twice. Now, just as you can tell, just listening to Jen, she's just a very calming soul. And so Jen, I tell folks how they can get in touch with you and if they wanna somehow or another connect.
Jenn (20:22):
Yeah. So if you're interested in the podcast, I'd suggest you go over to my private practice website therapy for thinkers. You can tell, I get out there. I think it's linked there and it's on like apple podcasts and all of that. Um, you can also check me out on Instagram. Um, most of my Instagram is focusing on helping psychotherapists market, their practice with depth, with compassion. Um, so some of you might be interested in that some of you may not be. Yeah. Um, but my handle is outta thinker guide, um, on Instagram.
Gordon (20:56):
Yes. Yes. She's got some great stuff. So, well, Jen, uh, ho hopefully we'll have you back on this podcast and, and, uh, uh, I in, she's a great person to get to know. So thanks Jen for being here.
Jenn (21:10):
Thanks for having me.

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About

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.

 

Jody & Gracie Davis | Growing Kindness & Compassion Through Shared Camp Experiences | K&C 7

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

In this episode Gordon talks with Jody and Gracie Davis about the influence of camp experiences for children and youth along with meeting challenging situations in life. Summer camp experiences have, and continue to be, extremely important to helping young people form meaningful relationships. These camp experiences model what it means to live in community and gives space for vulnerability. And when young people get outside their comfort zone and are treated with kindness and compassion, it is truly a life changing experience.

Meet Jody and Gracie

Gracie and Jody Davis met while working at summer camp in college. Their love for the outdoors and the camp community inspired their work together. After working for the Episcopal church in varying capacities, Gracie and Jody were honored to accept the job of Directors at Duncan Park, Colorado. Now, they spread the spirit of kindness and compassion through hospitality, adventure and community. Gracie and Jody split their time between the Texas Hill Country at Camp Capers, and the Colorado Rockies at Duncan Park. They love road trips, diner food, hiking, and their two dogs Lincoln and Moose.

Lincoln
Moose

Visit Duncan Park on Facebook

How Camp Impacts Young People’s Lives

For anyone that has had a positive summer camp experience, needless to say it is life changing. There have been numerous developmental studies around camp experiences for children and youth. The research is clear that camp experiences have the ability to increase self-esteem, autonomy, social skills, and positive spiritual values in children and youth with the right camp experience.

Getting Outside The Comfort Zone

The impact of camp experiences comes through vulnerability. When youth are put in situations where they experience activities and interactions that they would not normally have, it creates a great opportunity for growth. The supportive atmosphere of camp allows them experience new things they would have never even dreamed of doing before.

Jody tells of an experience with a camper that had never been backpacking and the impact it made for him. He talks about the encouragement and challenge that this camper from the inner city had and the courage he had to show in doing something totally new and different.

Gracie talks about taking some of the campers rock climbing and how intimidating it is for many of them. And it is through this experience that they are given the opportunity to demonstrate courage which is totally life changing for most of them.

Building Relationships

Although camp experiences teach young people a lot about courage and self-confidence, the biggest impact comes through building relationships with the other campers and with the camp staff. There is something transformative that occurs for people when met with encouragement and unconditional positive regard. Camp experiences provide this. When young people spend a week or two with people that simply love them and give them a way to try new things without any fear of rejection, it makes an impact.

Getting Outside Their Comfort Zone in Africa

Jody and Gracie tell about the trips they have both made to Tanzania at different times. Jody said they were not there to help or change the people in any way. The whole purpose of the trips was to build relationships. It was about interacting with people that were of a totally different in their life experiences and culture.

Through this experience they not only learned so very much about other people and another culture, but also learned so very much about themselves. Being in a foreign country and away from the normal comforts of home made a big impact on both Jody and Gracie. They gained a greater appreciation and gratitude for the life they have.

Conclusion

As we grow and develop in life (and yes it’s a lifelong pursuit), it requires getting outside our comfort zones. As Jody and Gracie have learned in their work with young people, the most life changing and transformational experiences come out of a place of kindness and compassion. Particularly when there is support given for new experiences and challenges, people can develop self-confidence and feel a sense of pride in themselves.

Gordon (00:20):
Well, hello folks. And what welcome again to the kindness and compassion podcast. And I'm so excited to have these two people, husband and wife team Jody and Gracie Dover, who I have known a long time. Um, and I was so excited that they agreed to be on the podcast. So welcome Jody and Gracie.
Jody (00:42):
Thank you.
Gracie (00:43):
Thank you so much.
Gordon (00:44):
Yes, it's uh, they are two of my, I'll have to, uh, little disclaimer here. They are two of my daughter's best friends and so they probably know more about my daughter than I do so, um, and, and, and they're sworn to secrecy, but that's okay. That's okay. That I can and treat that with kindness. So, uh, Jody Gracie, why don't you tell folks a little bit about yourself and where you are and how you've landed, where you've landed?
Jody (01:15):
Sure. We'd love to. Um, so right now, we're we service as the directors at Duncan park, uh, which is an Episcopal can and conference center, um, just outside of Boulder, Colorado, uh, but it is owned and operated by the diocese of west Texas, which is a very, very interesting concept. The di of the west Texas has three very unique camping sites under one camping ministry. Um, so they have camp capers in the hill country of, of Texas just outside of Santa Antonio, Mustang island down on the coast. Um, and, and then our site Duncan park up, up in the mountains. Um,
Gracie (01:51):
Yeah, so Jody serves as the director of Duncan park and I'm the food service director. And I also kind of am responsible for general hospitality retreat kind of stuff. So we kind of tag team the camp and retreat side of things. Um, we split our time evenly between San Antonio and Colorado. So right now we're right outside of San Antonio and wearing Texas. Um, and we just travel a lot and head back and forth. Um, we spend summer and fall in Colorado and winter spring here in Texas.
Gordon (02:24):
Yes, yes. Live in the dream. I, in my, in my, in my opinion, so, I mean, it's awesome. But one, one of the things I know that we wanted to talk about today on the podcast is, um, just about the influence of kind of camp experiences and that sort of thing for, for kids growing up. I know for you all, and also my daughter, Rebecca she's probably will be on here at some point if I can talk her into it. But one of the things I know is that being part of just camp life in general has been a huge influence in just kinda shaping who you are and, and just kind of your whole world view. And I know that it's a, it's a world view that is very much tied to kindness and combat, particularly for the, for the kids you serve and that sort of thing. So, yeah. So talk about that. I think that that's just really what I'm interested in hearing about, and I know the audience would be interested in hearing about that too.
Gracie (03:32):
Oh, for sure. Um, so we met working at grace point in east Tennessee, which is the Episcopal camp of the ISIS of east Tennessee. And we were on summer stock there for like four summers. And after we left camp, we continued to work for the diocese of east Tennessee and just kind of kept in that vein. Um, but really, you know, the thing that stuck out to us the most is when we got married, it was like everyone that was at the wedding was somehow connected to us through camp. And you know, that community just always lifted up our relationship and supported us, um, and you know, really encouraged us to communicate with one another and really grow alongside one another. And so there's this, like, I guess this facet of working at camp where you're like hyper aware of relationships and how you can deepen them and how to like meet people where they are. Um, so it makes for, you know, lifelong friendships like us with Rebecca and obviously, you know, we ended up getting married. So that was really helpful and the development of our relationship and yeah, it's just a place where you can really meet people where they are based on the fact that everyone has kind of let their guard down.
Gordon (04:47):
Mm. Yeah.
Jody (04:49):
And for me, um, everything that Gracie said, it rings true for me as well. But, uh, for our young people that we serve something that's, that's kind of our main consistent, um, is it really gives young people, especially in the Christian community, their first example of what it looks like to be part of the wider body of Christ. Um, they, they they've been a part of their parish. They've been a part of maybe their youth group and that small community that they're very, very comfortable with. Um, but, but for a lot of the kids that we serve, this is their first experience with that larger community and, and, and learning how to live intentionally, um, in, in a way where we model how, what it means to love each other, what it means to lift each other up and encourage one another. Um, and that, that's something that is, that rang true for me as a, as a young person, as a camper. But it's something that, that I think so special. Um, we can do all the activities and have all the fun we want, but really when it boils down to, to what it means to, to truly live in to camp ministry, um, it it's the bond that, that is formed between the campers within a, a, a four or five day period. It's an incredible thing to watch.
Gordon (06:03):
Right. Right. Well, one, one of the things that I know, I, you know, kind of a little bit of my history with that is that one of the things that I did, uh, few summers was to serve as kind of a two Caplan for the camp. And one, one of the things that I noticed is, is that it gave by, you know, taking, taking gig young people, people, and putting 'em in a situation that was totally kind of new to a lot of 'em. They had never really, I, I remember one of the camps that we had, it was really kinda some of the inner city kids that had never really been outside their neighborhoods or where they lived and, and bringing them into a situation where it was totally foreign. And they had to be totally vulnerable to the situation. And when it was met with kindness and compassion, and really just acknowledging the uncomfortableness of it, of it all, um, it really changed the way that they saw themselves and ch saw each other, um, in that they, it, it was a safe place for people for kids to be,
Gracie (07:15):
Oh, for sure. And we deal with a lot of that kind stuff at Duncan park, because we're primarily an outdoor adventure camp. So we get kids from, you know, all walks of life that are coming out and sleeping in a tent for the first time and going on a hike for the first time and putting these, putting themselves in these very vulnerable positions. But, you know, with the support of the camp community, they end up really enjoying it and like really coming out of their box. And they have a great time, man, who wouldn't we're in Colorado, but like, yeah, yeah. It, it's really interesting to see that transformation happen throughout the course of the week. They just totally let their guard down and, you know, feel comfortable with us and the staff and their fellow.
Gordon (08:00):
Yes. Yes. So, um, to put you on the spot a little bit, um, can either of you maybe think of a story of a particular kid or whatever that was just that you saw being totally changed by their camp experience? I mean, just an, a big, the pack that it made for them.
Gracie (08:22):
You do more with the campers one.
Jody (08:24):
Yeah, yeah, sure. Um, there's one, I mean, honestly, there are, there are lots of, of, of examples of that, um, working in camp history for, for a long time, or even a short time, you see it, uh, weekend and week out, but there's one example in particular, um, from this past summer, we, we were hosting a, a group that was specifically a backpacking group and they, they came up to, to Duncan park and we, we host a, a lot of sessions that have, have a variety of activities, but this in particular, we were going to be on trail for four nights, uh, or four days, three nights. Um, and, and so it was an intensive, uh, back country trip. And it was a, it was a group of 12. Uh, and, and when they arrived, we, we provide all of their gear. We provide everything for them.
Jody (09:12):
Um, so we were pull out the gear, getting everything ready to go. And I hand one of the youth a backpack, and he says, what's this, what's this, this, this is a backpack. This is what we'll use. Uh, as we work through our week, this week, he said, where are we going? We're not staying here. Um, he had no idea. He had no idea that he was going on a back country trip. He was told that he was going on a trip to Colorado. Um, and that, that he, and he didn't realize that, that, that it entailed, uh, actually going into the woods and living in the woods. Um, and, and there was, he, he took it somewhat well, but, but you could tell that there was this sense of, of panic, this sense of, of unknown. Um, and, and he didn't really, he, he wasn't used to anything like that.
Jody (10:04):
Um, and, and it was very interesting because the first couple of days, it, it wasn't that he didn't wanna be there, but you could tell that he was unsure. You could tell that he wasn't comfortable. Um, and, and as we continued on the up, uh, the staff and the campers alike, uh, J just kept trying to support him and kept trying to encourage him, um, to, to live into it. We're, we're here. Uh, let's be present, let's be together. Let let's really make this, make this the best situation that it can be. And he came out of that week, um, really enjoying and, and, and really he pushed himself way, way out of what he ever imagined his comfort zone be. Um, and, and, and when I talked to him at the end of the week, he not only let me know that he, he was so happy to make friends, but he, that he was so joyful that he was able to have that experience.
Jody (10:57):
Um, and, and that, that it was something that he'd remember through us, his life. Um, wow. And, and I may never see that camper again, I may see him year after year. Um, but, but for him in particular, it was this, it was this moment of realization that he was able to do something that he never even thought that could accomplish. Um, he did it well. So that, just that, that sense of transformation of, of not only being able to physically do something that you didn't think you could do, but also spiritually and emotionally, um, being able to, to put yourself out there to make new friends, uh, people that you, you, you've never really spent time with, you get on a plane and travel a thousand miles and then go into the back country with them. Um, that that's an intimidating thing. Yeah. Um, especially for our young. And so just, just to be able to kind of take it by the horns and, and, and really make it the best trip that he possibly could of. I was, I was just so proud of him, uh, to, to do that.
Gordon (12:01):
Yes, yes.
Gracie (12:03):
Sorry, what were you saying, Gordon?
Gordon (12:04):
No, I said I was, uh, I was just thinking, uh, as you were telling that Jody, I was reminded of, uh, of Bernie NA brown, who you guys might be familiar with. Who's done a lot of writing on courage and on vulnerability and that sort of thing. And one of the things about that is that I think that, um, she, she says essentially that you cannot have courage without vulnerable. In other words, you, you courage doesn't even occur without vulnerability. And I think when we can create the space for people to be vulnerable, they experience courage for the first time. And the, and, and when we do that, it's it's life changing.
Gracie (12:54):
Oh yeah. And prime example of that at Duncan park is like, so we do a different activity each day. And the last full day of camp Thursday is rock climbing day. And we'll go rock climbing in Boulder canyon, which is, you know, very popular rock climbing spot. And it's always like, everyone is terrified on the outset because it looks like this very big, crazy daunting thing. Um, but you know, our guys are awesome. They work with them. They're very honest with them. And it's always the kids that are the most afraid they wait until like the last probably 30 or 45 minutes. And they're like, okay, I'm gonna get up on the wall. I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna do it. And then they're the ones that get all the way up to the top. So it's like what? And given the opportunity to be really courageous, they're like, all right, going in, I'm doing this. Yes. And it's so cool. Watch that happen. They just totally, yeah. Take it by the horns and like go with it. It's great.
Gordon (13:48):
Yes. Yes. I love it. I love it. So, yeah. So to, to change gears a little bit, um, um, I know one of the things I know about, um, Gracie and Jody is, is that they had a pretty life changing event a few years ago when they went to Africa. So you wanna say some, something about that and just, uh, what, what impact that made for you in your lives and how that, how that changed you?
Jody (14:20):
Absolutely. Um, so the first time that I went with the diocese east, Tennessee, um, I was 19 years old. And, uh, it was, it was an experience that on the front end, I thought, well, I didn't know, know what to think. First of all, um, I'd been out of the country, but obviously Africa is, is a totally different animal. And, um, I, I kind of blindly trusted, uh, some people that, that I really, um, really respected, um, and, and, and really looked up to, and they said, I, I really think that this is something that, that would be beneficial to you. Um, and so I went and not knowing what to expect, not knowing what we were going to do. Um, and, and what I realized was that we were just there to build relationships. We were there to trust one another. We were there to listen to the people, um, and, and we weren't there to change anything.
Jody (15:19):
We were, we weren't there to, to be any kind of savior. We weren't there to, to really do any, any tangible, physical work. Um, but, but the work that we did, um, what was more letting, letting us know that we have brothers and sisters in, in Christ all across the world, um, letting, letting our, our friends in Tanzania know that, that they have brothers and sisters and friends all across the world and, and being able to be a part of, um, a part of something even bigger than anything that I could do myself, uh, was huge. It, it, it really kind of resembled part of the camp community, but on a much bigger level, um, it, it's still an intentional community and it's still, uh, kind of what I mentioned earlier. It, it exemplified what it means part of the wider body of Christ, not just your home community, um, and, and camp kind of gives you a taste of that, but going to Tanzania and, and being a part of the Anglican communion there really solidified that this is, this is much bigger than me. Um, and, and, and I'm so happy to be a part of it. It, um, but there is good work being done all over the globe. Um, it's, we're, we're just a small piece
Gracie (16:40):
For sure. And, well, my experience in Tanzania was more, cuz we both went separately. Jodi went twice and then I went once by myself and, um, my experience was more about letting go and not, cause I love to be in charge. I love a plan. I love to know what's going on. Um, and that is the opposite of the experience that you have in Sannia. So for me, it's like, I guess the best way to describe it is every day you get in this Rover and everyone's just kind of piled in there and then you drive on these roads for like hours, these roads that are like, obviously not super well maintained cuz you're in the middle of Africa and you know, you're just kind of like bouncing along things are bumpy and the guides Pascal and Steven will be like, Hey, listen, you know, just don't fight it.
Gracie (17:27):
Like let your body just kind of move with the Rover. And like you won't have a sore back at the end of the day. And so I think that's the best way to describe it is if you just kind of, you know, roll with it and exp let it, let the experience happen, you know, you're gonna get the most out of it. Um, but the second you try to control and try to micromanage that's where you're gonna run into problems. So that was the biggest takeaway for me was just like, you know, listen, like you can just ride in the Rover, you don't have to be driving like it's okay. You don't have to know what's going on at all times.
Gordon (18:00):
Right, right. Oh, I love that. I love, I love that story because I think that just has so many implications just across, you know, just thinking about mindfulness and thinking about, uh, being able to, um, to let go of things, forgive all of that kind of stuff. Ties, ties into that. And I think the thing that, um, I think for, for one thing that I would guess that you both got out of going place like Tanzania is that you really did have to kinda let your guard down and, and you also, it, it takes away a lot of judgment that people tend to have about other cultures and other way people's, people's way of living or, and, and that sort of thing that when you understand the backstory of someone, um, it, it gives you room to have more compassion for what they're going through and what their, what their life is about. So I love that and I love that. I love that metaphor. It, that just a writing in the, in the, the land Rover and trying to fight all the bumps and all of that sort of thing and just going with it. I love that.
Gracie (19:16):
Oh yeah. And I mean, thinking back on it, I think going to Tanzania really prepared us for our experience at Duncan park because, you know, there's a lot of just like going with it, making and do, um, figuring things out as you go again, meeting people where they are understanding people for who they are as people and not for like you have, and, you know, at Duncan park, it's so similar because you know, you're up in the wilderness, you're like an hour from any kind of like definitive care. You're just kind of like isolated and you know, so many things happen and people have to trust you like that. And being able to be on the receiving end of that helps you be the agent for that so much more, I think.
Gordon (19:59):
Awesome. For sure. Yeah. Yeah. Well, uh, guys, I know we could probably talk all day and I wish we were in person because I'd love to give you both a hug, but I just, uh, we're in two different places, but, um, tell folks how they can get in touch with you all, if they want to find out more about Duncan park and also maybe connect with you guys.
Jody (20:23):
Sure. Yeah. So, um, like I said, Duncan park is, is owned and operated by the diocese of west Texas. Um, so, uh, if, if anybody's interested in Duncan park or any of the other camps here, uh, D wtx.org is, is where you would find us. Um, and like ay said earlier, you know, this is something that, that we truly have a passion for that, that we love to do. Um, so if anybody ever has any questions, that's not necessarily Duncan park related, but just camp related. Um, it it's something that, that we, we love to talk about. Um, so if anybody's thinking about pursuing something like that, or even just youth ministry in general, um, we'd love to talk about it.
Gracie (21:03):
Yeah. You can reach out to us via email Duncan dot park. That's D U N C a N dot park D wtx.org. Um, Duncan park is also on Instagram at Duncan. Um, so you can see kind of, you know, the natural surroundings that we're in and all that kind of stuff. Um, but yeah, if you're interested in youth ministry or camp ministry, or like just, you wanna have a deep combo about whatever, shoot us an email and we'll chat with you, we love that kind of stuff.
Gordon (21:31):
Awesome. Awesome. And we'll have, we'll have links in the show notes and the show summary for people to access that easily. So well, Jody and Gracie, I'm so glad to see your faces and, um, um, good to see you. Yes. Um, for, for, I was listening to the podcast, we do this by zoom, so that's what I meant. So, um, anyway, I hope to be able to get out there. I was close to coming out there last October, but I think you guys have probably already left, but I didn't get to Colorado after all, but anyway, gonna hopefully get out there and get to hang out with you guys.
Gracie (22:07):
Oh, please do. Yeah, we would love to have you we'd love visitors. We'll show you around. Take you hiking, all that good
Gordon (22:12):
Stuff. I'd love to go on that three night backpacking trip. That sounds like my thing.
Gracie (22:18):
Oh yeah. It's awesome.
Gordon (22:20):
Awesome. All right guys, take care.
Jody (22:23):
Thank you.
Gracie (22:23):
Thank you, Gordon. Say Hey to Sister and the Kitties for us.
Gordon (22:26):
Okay. You sure? Thanks.

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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.

 

Brian Cole | The Work of Reconciliation | Episode 6


In this episode, Gordon talks with The Right Rev. Brian Cole, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee, about reconciliation and how we can mend broken relationships. We explore what it takes to be able to use the act of reconciliation to create greater kindness and compassion through our interactions with each other in our world.

What is reconciliation?

Reconciliation is the ability to take a deep breath and recognize that we have differences and that we might not always see things in the same way. There is an acknowledgement of our differences and at the same time a willingness to be able to make things right with each other.

Meet Brian Cole

A southeast Missouri native, The Right Rev. Brian Cole graduated from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1989. In 1992, he earned a Master of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with additional studies in Anglican Church History at The University of the South School of Theology, Sewanee, in 2001. He also pursued studies in Art and Prayer at General Theological Seminary (GTS), New York City, in 2006, and studied liturgics In Asheville, N.C., from 2002 to 2005.

Brian was ordained and consecrated fifth bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee on December 2, 2017. He is married to Susan Weatherford, a poet, musician, avid gardener, and graduate of Berea College and University of Kentucky. They have one son, Jess. Brian and Susan live in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Ordained a priest in 2002, Brian served as vicar at Church of the Advocate, a worshiping community of the Diocese of Western North Carolina for homeless in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. From 2005 to 2012, Cole was sub-dean at The Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville. He served as rector at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Lexington, Kentucky, from 2012 until his election as bishop of East Tennessee.

Brian has also served as an instructor in Appalachian Religion, Faith and Practices, and Appalachian Religion and Culture, at Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa. N.C.; Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. Prior to his ordination as a priest, he served for seven years on the staff of the Appalachian Ministries Education Resource Center (AMERC) in Berea, Kentucky. Much of his work then involved teaching seminarians, listening to Appalachian leaders, both in and out of the Church, and learning how to read and appreciate the culture of the region.

Brian has five times been a featured preacher on the Day 1 weekly radio broadcast/podcast. His articles, sermons and other writings have appeared in The Gospel and Our Culture; Natural Saints: How People of Faith are Working to Save God’s Earth; Sacred Acts: How Churches are Working to Protect Earth’s Climate; Green Pulpit Journal; Appalachian Heritage; Heartstone; Aging and Spirituality; Lutheran Seminary Review; Iron Mountain Review, and Creation Care. His reflections were included in Lent 2017 Living Compass Series, and an essay was included in Merton and the Protestants.

Find out more and/or contact Brian at the Diocese of East Tennessee, dioet.org

Reconciling vs. Tolerating

In the context of kindness and compassion it is important to draw the distinction between reconciling with someone vs. just tolerating them. After all, there are times when we can show kindness by being tolerant and polite with people. In other words, as Brian put it, “just holding our breath through the interactions”.

The other thing is that reconciliation requires a commitment to a continued relationship with the other person. Whereas, toleration only requires interaction in the moment with no commitment to continue a relationship afterwards. Reconciliation is a commitment to engage and continue deeper conversations.

Reconciliation is Reparative Work

When we engage in reconciliation, it is the work of making amends and making our relationships right. Gordon mentions that in his work with couples, one of the key ingredients of having a healthy relationship involves the ability of a couple to repair things when there has been a hurt. It is about staying engaged and commitment to continue the relationship. It means taking things in a new direction.

Reconciliation Requires Imagination

Brian mentions an article in Harper’s Magazine by Garret Keizer, a writer and Episcopal priest, that describes a situation where we might think or say, “I can’t imagine how you could think that…”. When we think in this way, we are really showing a lack of imagination. Because if we were to fully understand the other person’s life experiences and back-story, then we are able to understand how and why they see things differently. Their point of view becomes abundantly clear.

Brian goes on to say, in this whole practice of “loving your enemies” (Matthew 5:43-44) means trying to fully understand the other person’s story and background. You might not fully agree with their point of view, but you can at least understand why and how they see the world as they see it. This in turn opens the door for the other to begin to understand your point of view and perspective.

Deeper Work of Reconciliation

The work of reconciliation is ultimately a willingness to engage in deeper conversations and understanding other people’s life experiences. Kindness and compassion begins with showing a reverence for other people’s trauma, wounds and life experiences. So many times we do not know what other people are carrying. But by allowing them the space to share that without judgment or disdain, gives room for healing. It is deep work.

This deep work only can happen if people can feel safe and know that they are seen as human beings that are loved despite their flaws. It means being present with people in a non-judgmental way.

The deeper work of reconciliation is also an ongoing process. It is not a “one and done” proposition. It requires ongoing conversations and dealing with our own internal struggles. We also need to know and understand ourselves well.

Reconciliation Means Responding vs. Reacting

Brain tells of a conversation with his son about a disagreement his son was having with a friend. Brain was impressed by his son’s wisdom in being able to “turn down the temperature” of the disagreement. In that he slowed things down enough to respond vs. just react.

In our interactions with others, it is important to learn how to give thoughtful responses to things rather than simply go on the defensive. It requires being curious about the other person rather than simply reacting.

Reconciliation also requires emotional maturity. We need to engage in the work of learning to be in control of our own emotions and inner worlds. It is the ability of a person to know when they are emotionally flooded and then take control of that for themselves. It is the key to emotional intelligence.

Conclusion

As was said, the work of reconciliation is an ongoing process for us as individuals but also in our various communities across the world. It means having a willingness to have deep conversations and listening. Reconciliation is an intentional act of kindness and compassion. At least in my view, it is the path forward in ending all the polarization and dissension in the world. We need to understand at a deeper level the people that we disagree with the most.

 

Brian (00:00):
A part of a part of how we get to a place of deeper reconciliation is to appreciate how it is people are made and shaped over time, either the trauma or the blessing, the nurture, or the neglect, you know, that, that those things together, um, end up making us who we are. And then, then you put us in relationship. Uh, and so we bump up against each other. And I think, you know, the, the saying about kindness and compassionate being kind and compassionate, you know, that so often we don't know what people are going through. You know, while at times that might feel like kind of an old cliche, it is so true.
Gordon (00:42):
Welcome to the kindness and compassion podcast, where we will explore the intersection of psychology science and spirituality. My name is Gordon brewer and I'm a licensed psychotherapist and mental health provider. I have spent my career helping people learn how to better manage their emotions and find more meaning in their lives and connection in their relationships. Join me as we think and talk about the ways we can find happiness and be content in our lives, through the practices of kindness and compassion. We will talk with other experts in the fields of psychology, science and religion. I'm so glad you're with me on this journey as we learn how to be at peace with ourselves and others.

Gordon(01:39):
Hello Everyone. I'm Gordon brewer and welcome again to the kindness and compass podcast. And this is episode number six and glad you're joining me glad you're with me on this journey. You know, when I was, uh, first conceptualizing, uh, starting this podcast, uh, which has been couple of years in the making, at least in my mind, or at least in my head, one of the people, but I knew I wanted to have as a guest was the person you're gonna hear from today. And that is Bishop Brian Cole. And Brian is my Bishop, uh, have shared in other, I think in earlier episodes. Part of my, one of the many hats that I wear in addition to being a psychotherapist is that I'm a, a deacon in the EPIs church, which is a, a clergy clergy person. Uh, one of the three orders of clergy in the Episcopal church, Bishop's priests and deacons.
Gordon (02:34):
I'm a deacon and a deacon's role in the Episcopal church has really ministry in the world. So in, in many ways, this podcast has become part of my, a ministry and just trying to reach people and, uh, communicate maybe a new way of thinking about the world and how we interact with each other. So Brian is the Bishop of east Tennessee, and he's gonna tell you a little more about himself, but I, I feel so privileged to have him in my life and it being in relationship with him and my role in the church. And, um, I think when you hear from him, you're gonna really, uh, understand why he is so liked and so loved by so many people in our area and just really what an intelligent and thoughtful person that he is. And, um, he is certainly the kind of person that at least for me, um, really demonstrates a lot of kindness and compassion and in all of my interactions with him, that is how he has approached things.
Gordon (03:37):
So, um, looking forward to you, hearing from, uh, Bishop Brian Cole, um, but before we get to him, one of the things I'd like for you to do is first invite you to check out the website, kindness and compassion.com. And if you haven't done so already sign up for email list, I'm gonna be putting out some emails in just a newsletter type format to give you more resources and ways to think about kindness and compassion. Um, and so invite you to do that by just going to the website, kindness and compassion.com, and you'll see some forms to sign up, to start receiving our newsletter. Um, also I'm putting together a guide called the kindness and practices of kindness, compassion guide. And so when you sign up for the email list, you'll be able to get that PDF of just a way to begin to think about different ways you can practice kindness and compassion in your life.
Gordon (04:34):
Um, the other thing too is if you are enjoying what you're, you're hearing here on the podcast, um, and you would like to support it in some way, we do have a Patreon page set up and you can find out more about that by going to kindness and compassion.com/patreon. And it's just a way for people to support the podcast. And when you become a sponsor or a patron of the cast, you can get some little perks there's, uh, some stickers and coffee mugs and t-shirts, and that kind of thing for the different levels of, of Patreons or patrons for the, for the podcast. So I wanna invite you to check that out. So, um, so, um, having said all that without further ado, here's my conversation with the right Reverend Brian Cole, AKA Bishop Cole, AKA Bishop Brian, Hello, everyone. And welcome again to the podcast. And I'm so glad and been looking forward to you all, getting to hear from a person that's near and dear to my heart and that's Bishop Brian Cole. And as I shared in the other episodes, I'm part of, one of the hats that I wear, not only as a, as a psychotherapist, but I'm also a clergy person in the Episcopal church. And so I belong to Brian. And so, Brian, welcome. I'm glad you're here
Brian (06:14):
Important. It is good to be with you and it's good to, well, I think that we belong to each other. So, uh, it's good to be a part of, uh, your work, uh, knowing both your important work as a psychotherapist and also as a deacon in the Episcopal church.
Gordon (06:28):
Yes, yes. And so Brian, as I start with most everyone, why don't you tell folks a little bit about you and kind of how you've landed, where you've land?
Brian (06:38):
Yeah, so I grew up, uh, in Southeast Missouri and, um, church has always been a big part of my life, but I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition and, um, and it's, it's wild for me to think about that little Baptist kid who now serve as an Episcopal Bishop in east Tennessee. Um, I didn't leave the central time zone until I was 19 years old. So my world was pretty small, uh, geographically, but, um, it's a world where I felt loved by all kinds of folk and, um, and a part of, you know, it would take, uh, several podcasts to get me from, Hey time, Missouri to Knoxville, Tennessee. I think the main thing I would say is just, uh, again, to think about your topic, um, lots of folks have been really compassionate and kind to me as I've kind of continued to make sense of my spiritual journey.
Brian (07:39):
And it's a thread from that boyhood to who I am now, that makes a lot of sense to me. And, uh, so, you know, a part of me being an Episcopal Bishop is not somehow a rejection of those people who loved me in that little Baptist church in Missouri, as much as, um, the story they first told me has continued to unfold in my life and has brought me here. I'm married to Susan Weatherford and we have a son Jess who lives in Birmingham, Alabama, he's in his mid twenties and we have a dog named Jerry Lee. Who's the world's luckiest rescue. Uh, he's a Sue. And, um, he, he brings a lot of delight and love, uh, into our world.
Gordon (08:23):
Yes, yes. The, the canine of the ordinary, which I'll, uh, maybe explain that later, but that's, uh, yeah, that's, that's, that's great. So, uh, you know, the topic we had just kinda landed on, which to me is just very befiting of bro Ryan, because when he became Bishop of the diocese of east Tennessee, this theme came out about reconciling and, and being able to reconcile. And I think for some folks, when they think of the word reconcile, they think, okay, that's something I do to my checkbook, but you wanna, you wanna talk about what that means and maybe how that ties into kindness and compassion?
Brian (09:07):
Yeah. So, um, you know, I had been a parish priest in Asheville, North Carolina, a parish priest in Lexington, Kentucky. And when I was elected Bishop of east Tennessee and was moving to Knoxville, um, I was really mindful that I wanted my ministry as a Bishop, which is sort of an overseer and an encourager of parish, clergy and parish ministry. I wanted to make sure whatever I offered to the diocese is what help us all pull in the same direction. And that as a Bishop, I never sort of offered some idea or program that was a distraction or got people off course. And, um, in the book of common prayer in the catechism, which is sort of a, a place of teaching, uh, there's a question about what is the mission of the church. And the answer given is the mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ, and also in the letters of Paul.
Brian (10:07):
At some point, he talks about this ministry of reconciliation to which we've all been called. I remember thinking reconciliation then is, is to be a core value in the Christian tradition and in the Episcopal church. And, you know, I, I grew up in a, what is now a very red part of America, and I have served in a place like Asheville, North Carolina, which, you know, if a place could be any more, uh, bluer than that, I don't know. Uh, and I am Ken to people across the political divide and theological divide. And, you know, if in Christ, there is no Eastern or west, uh, if in Christ there's no neither Greek nor Jew slave nor free male, nor female, all are one in Christ. You know, somehow the idea that in this place of the Christ, we can all be who we are and somehow all belong to each other, uh, in a time that feels so deeply polarizing and deeply fractured.
Brian (11:10):
Um, I thought if I offer anything, it would be to invite people to say, this is gonna be our work, knowing that at, uh, once you say that people have a whole lot of questions about, well, so how do we do that? Do we do that by simply avoiding any topic that we might disagree on, which is not helpful? Cause I think at some point that becomes a really thin sort of just, we're all gonna be nice to each other, but knowing that, that sort of deep reconciliation work, um, only comes with trust, right? And so part of the work is there's a whole lot of work you have to do before you get to the place of the real breakthrough of some reconciled people, uh, knowing this is a long answer to your good, good question, knowing that for us, you know, that that act of reconciliation is really something God has done, uh, with Jesus on the cross.
Brian (12:03):
If you think about how radical it is for Jesus to forgive his perpetrators while he is being killed, I mean, that sets high bar for what it means to be able to forgive. So really all that we're doing, you know, if you and I have a real falling out with each other Gordon, if you, and I find a way to somehow say, we need to, we need to admit this wrong that we have between each other and what would it take to make it right in order to be reconciled? All, all that we're doing is really in many ways, echo in response to what we've experienced, uh, with Jesus on the cross. So, um, you know, I think, I think you, and I can never say, you know, we could never be reconciled if we have that example of just a radical global and cosmic, uh, work that the Christ did on the cross.
Gordon (12:52):
Right. Right. Yeah. The 1, 1, 1 thought that occurs to me and this maybe is another, another question here, you know, what, what do you, what do you see as maybe the difference between reconciling versus just tolerating? Mm. Um, you know, uh, because I think we all run into, we're all gonna run into people that we don't necessarily see, see things as they see them. And we, we, by virtue of our values and our background and how we're raised and all that sort of thing, we're gonna have different kind of viewpoints of things. But what would you say about that?
Brian (13:34):
That's a great question. Um, when I think of tolerating, I think of holding my breath and you and I are like, okay, we're about to have lunch with this really difficult person. And we know they're gonna say, you know, outlandish things or offensive things, but we're all, we're just gonna tolerate old Joe. So we're just gonna go in there and hold our breath and hold our tongue and know that we can run out the clock and get back in the car and, and say, man, I'm glad that's over. I think true reconciliation is the ability to, to take a deep breath and really say, I, I am you and I are different. You and I have had some hurt in the past, but there's been the real work of trust, building of truth, telling of how do we make this right. And then that covenant to say, now in going forward, there's a place of reconciliation with us.
Brian (14:37):
So I think, I think also toleration is, again, just in the moment I'm gonna hold my breath and get through this with you. True. Reconciliation is both an acknowledgement that you and I have a past where there's been a brokenness. We had some moment in the present where we made, made it right with each other, and then you and I have some future relationship going forward. Right. Where I think toleration is just, let's just get through this. And once we get through it, we'll have nothing else to do with this particular person or issue. Right. So it, it really is a sort of, um, yeah, it's, it's a different, different level of connection in a sense of, can we get through this as opposed to, can we grow deeper together?
Gordon (15:22):
Right. Right. I'm reminded of, you know, in my work as a, as a therapist in working with couples, one of, one of the keys to a healthy relationship is being able to do, um, reparative work in, in previous episode. I know that that was one of the things I talked with our friend and colleague, the Reverend Claire brown, how do we do that? Repair work? Where we not just, okay, we're gonna agree to disagree and just move on, but actually begin to repair things. And I think part of the work of that is really taking the time to get to know people, get to know their backstory of truly understanding who they are and why they are like, they are kinda thing.
Brian (16:15):
Well, cause you know, yeah. I think sometimes, you know, you'll hear someone say about someone else, you know, I can't imagine how you could ever think that. And a friend of mine wrote an article in Harper's, his name is Garrett Kaiser. He's an Episcopal priest in Vermont. And he said, you know, when you say, I, you know, I can't imagine how Gordon brewer could ever possibly believe X or Y or Z. He says, and you say that in some ways you're expressing a real lack of imagination because if you really put yourself in Gordon Brewer's shoes and you maybe had experiences that Gordon brewer had, you would understand why Gordon believes that. And, and so I think a part of loving the enemy or praying for the enemy is at some point, being able to appreciate if I was that person, I might understand why he or she holds this opinion or holds this, uh, um, uh, approach are, uh, has this take on that.
Brian (17:18):
And I would understand that I might not agree with it, but I'd at least I, I understand how Gordon got there, which if, if I can do that, then maybe as I speak my truth, my piece say my history, maybe then Gordon will be able to appreciate eight. Oh yeah. If I was, if I was from there and I'd had these experiences, then I could UN I could also imagine how you got there. And I think for me, when I hear people and it's, it's funny, cuz it's so often meaning Episcopalians, who I think of themselves as being open, open people. But when they say this sort of, I can't imagine how you could ever think that it sort of immediately limits their vision or their imagination. And so I think a part of a part of how we get to a place, a deeper reconciliation is to appreciate how it is people are made and shaped over time, either the trauma or the blessing, the nurture or the neglect, you know, that, that those things together, um, end up making us who we are.
Brian (18:22):
And then, then you put us in relationship. Uh, and so we bump up against each other. And I think, you know, the, the, the saying about kindness and compassionate being kind and compassionate, you know that so often we don't know what people are going through, you know, while at times that might feel like kind of an old cliche, it is so true. Right. So true. I know you probably, you, you obviously have had this experience as a therapist. I've had this experience as Turkey person, you know, people tell us their stories. People give us insights on their stories that we, you know, we can't go around and share. And so it's a, it's a, it's a important Revent thing we hold for them. And what's interesting is then when you see them in the community or see them functioning, realizing yeah. A lot of people don't know what they're caring, but you maybe know as a therapist or I know as a clergy person and, and to, and to watch people sometimes with quiet dignity or quiet confidence, navigate the world where we will, we know, man, there's a burden in them or there's a wound in them.
Brian (19:29):
And yet they're able to somehow out carry on. Yeah. That I think to be able to see people with compassion and kindness, uh, it's only when you create that sort of environment, that's in the deeper work of reconciliation of truth telling of so, so how do we make this right. And, and how much time will that take that only happens if people, I think, feel the safety, um, that they're being seen as, as real genuine people.
Gordon (19:58):
Right, right. Yeah. To, to, to me, one of the things that, um, has, has really been kind of a, kind of a guiding thing for me in my own ministry, as a deacon in, and a therapist and that sort of thing is the importance of just being present with people and being present in a nonjudgmental way of just you, you know, I think about the times in my life when I've gone through struggles and had down times and that sort of thing, what has always meant the most to me is just somebody being present. It wasn't that they had any magic words or anything that it was just that they were there. And, um, yeah. So I think that that is so key, uh, coming around full circle to this whole idea of kindness and compassion is just to be able to, to be present, just be genuine with people and, and do our best, not to judge what's going on with them.
Brian (21:07):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. And yeah. And I think also too, the, the it's I, you said earlier about toleration versus reconciliation, um, I think the awareness of that in so many settings, we do get to choose, right? That, that, um, you know, the invitation to be a truly re saw people that does take work right. And it's not done quickly and it's not done and, and it's not done and then done forever. I mean, it's an ongoing work. And you know, to me, a part of the joy and the, and the grace of being in a, in a community, how of worship and intentional Christian community, part of the joy and the grace of that is also connected to and its work. Right? Cause over time you are gonna, you are gonna fail that person over time. No matter how much you think, no matter how great a person you think I am or how helpful I am to you, if you and I are in real relationship, at some point someone's gonna disappoint someone or there's gonna be some sort of falling out, right.
Brian (22:14):
And, and only then do we get to make the choice of, is this worth continuing to work together? Or is this why I'm gonna now leave that church or leave that community? Or I don't do that anymore. You know, there's the old, the old Joe about they've they find this person he's been stranded on this desert island and he's been there for years and they say, you know, how did you get through, how did you, how did you survive? And, and so they're talking to him about how he did that. And they noticed there's three dwellings that he had built. They said, so tell us about these three dwellings. He said, this first dwelling, this is where I live. He said, and the second dwelling that second dwelling is where I go to church and said, well, what, what about the third dwelling? And he said, well, that's where I used to go to church.
Brian (23:03):
And, um, you know, so even by himself, you know, there's the inner conflict that he faces. And so to me, you know, to be a reconciled, people is not one and done, it's an ongoing work and it, and to me, the gift and the grace and the reason to do it is the belief over time, the more, the more you and I really work out our work together, we ultimately end up going to a deeper place. You talked earlier about working with couples, you know, to me, I have experienced divorce. Um, but I've also experienced remarriage and marriage. And, you know, a part of the gift of that marriage that endures over time is there's just hopefully more that I know about what the person I'm married to, but also more about myself, right? That over time, that kind of ongoing relationship hopefully reflects a deeper maturity, deeper capacity for love and for forgiveness. Uh, and if I, you know, if I end that marriage, you know, I might end some sort of pain or in some sort of hurt, but I'm also gonna end some kind of wisdom that, that hopefully grows in us with that ongoing, true deep, um, vulnerable relationship.
Gordon (24:15):
Right, right. Yeah. This is great stuff. Um, and I know that we could spend hours talking about this 1, 1, 1 final kind of question for you. Brian is, you know, we've been kind of talking about this in the context of just kind of church kinda stuff. What, what do you think we can do outside just in society in general, to be more reconciling with each other?
Brian (24:46):
I learned a lot of good things from my son and Jesse's a wise person and we were together several months ago now where he got a text from a buddy and Jesse read the text to me. And he said, you know, this friend of mine, he's, he's asking me about something that isn't true. I think it was like, Jesse owed him some money on a rent or there, there was something. And Jesse realized there was a misunderstanding in the text and Jesse sort of fought out loud in front of me and he to the young man's text and sort of lowered the temperature. Right. And so he responded, he didn't react. And I said to Jesse, that day, I said, I'm so like, I'm impressed with you because I think a lot of people would've gotten to X like that and would've, you know, flamed them back with some sort of reactive statement, you know, and, and would've, would've increased the temperature and increased the potential conflict and then created some hurt simply because the way in which you re responded and reacted to each other.
Brian (26:08):
And, and it was, it was great to watch Jess sort of experience the misunderstanding and realize there's a way to, to, there's a way to make this right now, as opposed to a, and so I think what I notice in political discourse or discourse in a community or in a neighborhood is how much we react to each other, you know? Yes, you put up, you put up a political sign that I don't like. And instead of thinking, you know what, that's your right to put up that political sign. I don't agree with it, but you know, I'm not gonna lose sleep over it. Um, somehow I take great delight and I'm gonna put up a, a reactive sign that says, you know, I think you're not only wrong, but I think somehow you are, you know, not human or, and so, so how quickly it goes from what might be mature conversation to at best kind of elementary school, if not junior high behavior.
Brian (27:07):
Yes. So I think, I think if people breathed more, I think if we, if we counted to 10 before we responded, um, and, and again, to think about a response, not a reaction, uh, I think there are all kinds of ways we could turn down the tempera, you, in order to say, what does it mean to really belong to each other? Because you said earlier, you know, that you as a deacon, you belong to me. I mean, I think I would say people who wanna live in a civil society at some point we belong to each other. And if I think I belong to you that I'm gonna make decisions, not only do they impact, but also hopefully impact you and, or be aware that my decisions do impact you. And I think when we think, you know what, it's my land, it's my decision. It's my salary. It's my whatever. And I don't care what Gordon thinks. I think when we, when we, when we, when we limit ourselves and limit the impact of what we decide, we begin to be reactive people, not responsive people.
Gordon (28:08):
Yes, yes. Yeah. That, that, that is some truth. That is absolutely some truth. I know that, um, again, not to go too far down the, the therapy trail, but that is one of the things, again, in just working with people in relationship hips, when we can, when we can teach ourselves to be mindful enough, not to go on the defensive with others and oppose to going on the defensive, just become curious about what's going on with them. It like, it does exactly what you say. It turns the volume down, and it's a, it's also a, it's also a, a good practice of emotional intelligence when we do that, of being able to be mindful of, okay, they're doing something I don't agree with, but let me just get curious about that and not react, but just respond. And hopefully we can respond in a, in a kind, in a compassionate way, uh, which is not always easy, but I think that's, that's the start.
Brian (29:13):
Well, yeah. And there's also, you know, there's, there's this new word that people have started using about adulting. I'm gonna do adulting a, a U L T I N G. Yes, we think, oh, that, you know, if I buy a house and I have a mortgage that's adulting, or if I, if I open a retirement account, that's adulting. I think the main thing I would encourage folks to think about is, again, mature behavior, responsive care of each other, deep listening, compassionate kindness for, for, you know, for that to be adulting. Yes. Yes. You know, that, I think a part of a part of what allows us to, to work well together is to all grow up, you know, and to be mature for people and, you know, St. Paul, St. Paul, I think it's in the letter to the Ephesians sort of says, you know, I need y'all to grow up.
Brian (30:08):
You know, don't just keep eating baby food forever at some point, grow up and, and, and allow things to change, allow things to grow, allow your mind to be open your heart, to be open, grow up. And I think, I think a part of what would also help us as a society is if we were a society of grownups and, and some self-discipline and some self-restraint and the compassionate heart and the kind heart and the openness to change, and, you know, all those things that, that are in many ways, um, quite elementary and obvious. But for so many people, you would say it's a, it's a impossible task. And I think the more we can adult, the more we have hope for a, yeah.
Gordon (30:51):
I love that. I love that. I, I immediately think of my daughter, Rebecca, that we both, uh, and that's, that's how I describe her as adulting now she's adulting now, so yeah. That's great. Well, Brian, I wanna be respectful of your time. Um, tell folks how they might get in touch with you if they have more, wanna somehow another connect with you.
Brian (31:14):
Yeah. So our do and website, um, D I O E t.org is where you will find more about me and the work I do, uh, in the Episcopal diocese of east Tennessee. Uh, I tell people, I also like to call it the, the diocese of best Tennessee. Uh, I just love, uh, you know, Susan and I were in Asheville, North Carolina before going to Lexton Kentucky. So living in east Tennessee, we live in the heart of a region that we really care about. So to reach out to me, D I O et.org is our website. And you'll find ways to contact me directly or folks on my staff and learn more about what we do in our work of reconciliation, uh, in east Tennessee.
Gordon (31:55):
That's awesome. And we'll have links in the show notes and show summary, so people can find us. So Bishop Brian, thanks for being on the podcast. And I'm sure, I, I know I'll be seeing you here soon.
Brian (32:08):
Yeah. And Gordon, thank you for your, uh, not just a podcast, but the way you live out, a kind compassionate, uh, ministry and vocation and heart. Thank you. Good to
Gordon (32:18):
See.
Gordon (32:32):
Well, I really love that whole thought of being able to respond rather than to react and, uh, absolutely agree with Brian that it, the more we can learn to be responsive to people rather than to reacting to people. I think that is gonna, as he put it, turn the volume down on kind of the, the discourse that we're in right now around polarization and really being so adverse, sir, with people and, and too is I, I said in that is just being able to get curious with people about what's going on with them, I think is a, is a place to start in in being able to practice kindness and compassion. So again, big, thanks to my good, my dear friend and, uh, Bishop Brian Cole for on the podcast. And you can find out more about him by just going to D D I O E t.org.
Gordon (33:28):
Or you can look here in the show notes and find out more about the diocese of east Tennessee. And, and if you're curious about the Episcopal church, you can just go to Episcopal church.org and, um, L love for you to learn out more about this tradition, this faith tradition that we're in, and, um, find out more about that because it's, it's part of our core values. At least we try to, we try to live into that. So anyway, I'm glad you were with me on the podcast. Do take time to visit us@kindnessandcompassion.com and be sure to follow us or to subscribe to the podcast wherever you might listen to it and leave us a review. I'd love to get some honest feedback and, uh, get a response from you on, on, on things that you might have heard and, uh, be sure and share with your friends. And also if you're interested in supporting the work that we're doing, we set up a Patreon page and you can find out more about that by going to kindness and compassion.com/patreon. And that's a way for you to support us financially if you choose to do so or listen and listening to the podcast. So take care of folks, got lots of great guests, us lined up for future episodes. And we'll talk to you in the next one.
Gordon (34:49):
You have been listening to the kindness and compassion podcast with Gordon brewer, part of the psych craft network of podcast. Please visit us@kindnessandcompassion.com, more information, resources, and tools to help you in your journey. Be sure to follow us wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you haven't done so already be sure to sign up, to get the free kindness and compassion practices guide. Again, you can find that@kindnessandcompassion.com, the information in this podcast is intended to be accurate and authoritative concerning the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the hosts guests or producers are rendering clinical medical, mental health, or legal advice. If you need a professional, you should find the right person for that.

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About

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.

 

Kayla Tapia | Gratitude As A Practice For Ending Anxiety | Episode 2

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

In this episode Kayla Tapia joins the podcast, who is a colleague of Gordon’s in the mental health field.  Gordon and Kayla talk about using gratitude as a practice to show kindness and compassion in the world.  They also talk about how there are parts of our brains that have a way of looking for danger. But when we practice gratitude it helps calm those fears and help to use the higher parts of our brains.Kayla also talks about ways she has incorporated gratitude practices in her life to be more grounded and less anxious about the world.

About Kayla

Kayla tapiaKayla Pennington Tapia is a counselor and therapist in private practice in Johnson City, TN.  She is a native of the Appalachian region and is passionate about helping people find new ways to work through their “stuck” places.  

 

 

 

“In my work, I will place an emphasis on emotional exploration, as I believe all emotions serve a purpose – to motivate us, to guide us, and to alert us that something just isn’t right. Rather than fighting or ignoring emotions, we can lean into them and listen to the messages they are trying to send through mindfulness and compassion.

I will offer a space of safety, support, and acceptance, free from any judgment. It takes strength and courage to heal, and I would be honored to stand with you through your journey of self-discovery and transformation”

Kayla is in private practice with The Journey For Healing Arts located in Johnson City, TN.

Habits for The New Year

Most of us have started the New Year by trying to establish some new habits and practices. One in particular is the practice of gratitude. By practicing gratitude it keeps us grounded and staying away from this false belief that we need and want more material things in life. The push to get more and/or be more can create a lot of anxiety for folks.

A simple practice is to begin each day by finding 3 things we are grateful for and sharing that with others. By doing this it keeps us grounded in the present and makes us more aware of what we have rather than what we don’t have.  Finding what is going right rather than what is going wrong.  This helps keep anxiety at bay.

Gratitude Allows Us To Be Kind To Ourselves and Others

When we look at the definition of gratitude one source defines it this way: “To show and return kindness.”  So at the very core of gratitude is this stance of being kind. By showing appreciation of others we engage a different part of our brain.  It is the part of our brain that controls our emotions, the prefrontal cortex.  It is also the part of our brain that is the “thinking” part of our brain.

Our Brains Are Wired To Protect Us

Kayla spoke in the podcast about having a “negativity bias” hardwired into us.  It is in the part of the brain called the amygdala. It is there to protect us and keep us safe.  It is always looking for bad things that could potentially happen to us. Again, it is there to keep us safe.  But if we let this part of our brains dominate it leads to an attitude of negativity and fear.  

Gratitude practices help us to train our prefrontal cortex to be more in control.  It forces us to look for the good in things. An example of this to think about a time when you mighty have gotten a performance review. It could be a wonderful review with a lot of positives. But instead of looking at the 98 good aspects of the review, we hone in on the 1 or 2 negatives. Gratitude helps us look at the bigger picture and focus on the positives.

Connecting Through Gratitude

We also have a propensity to connect with the negative in others. If we are not careful, we can let others’ lack of gratitude hold us back from seeing the positive in things.  We do need to give voice to the negative times. But healing comes from community building and connecting around those positive things and show gratitude for people differences

Kayla and Gordon discussed the impact of the “Black Lives Matter” movement over this past year. Certainly we need to call out at times the wrongs of society and in others.  But healing comes when we can be aware of the needs of others.  In particular, show gratitude for other people’s points of view and the lens for which they see the world.

It is important to recognize and show appreciation of other people’s differences. We need diversity in order to have a healthy society.  We see this in ecosystems.  The more biodiversity an ecosystem has, the stronger and healthier it is.  It is the same for humankind.  And the more we can appreciate people’s differences it’s an act of gratitude and kindness.

Seeking Gratitude Experiences

It is important to seek out experiences that put us outside of our comfort zone with others.  It’s how we can begin to discover gratitude for differences.  We can appreciate other people’s cultural differences, it helps us to feel a connection with them.  It is a way to be actively grateful.

An example of this is a tradition with the Maori people of New Zealand. They have a greeting that for most westerners comes across aggressive and frightening. The Haka is, though, a dance and ceremony originally intended to be a war dance to intimidate opponents. But it has evolved to now have a different meaning. It is a ceremony of respect and honor. 

Here’s and example:  https://youtu.be/MW3BMJFe2pY

Gratitude is a way of learning to let go of fear and getting to know people and why they see the world as they do.  Gratitude for the differences and learning to have compassion for all that is different.

Practices of Gratitude

  • Finding a few things that you are grateful for and reflecting on that everyday. 
  • Focusing on what we have rather than not have
  • Start a gratitude journal
  • Sending thank you notes everyday; writing it out in long-hand
  • Being intentional about expressing gratitude
  • When we have gratitude for others, be intentional about sharing that thought about them.

Other Gratitude Resources:

Mindful.org

Greater Good Science Center

 

Kayla (00:00):
And when we can get really grounded in what we feel grateful for in this moment, at least for me, it helps so much. Um, and so it, it's almost so popular that it's cliche now, but the idea of just every morning, um, finding three things that I'm grateful for. And, um, part of that too, I think has been a lot of times, there are people in my life who are involved in that. And so to also be able to share with them, mm-hmm when they come up to be able to send them a message that just, Hey, you know, I'm really grateful that you're in my life.
Speaker 2 (00:41):
Welcome
Gordon (00:42):
To the kindness and compassion podcast, where we will explore the intersection of psychology science and spirituality. My name is Gordon brewer and I'm a licensed psychotherapist and mental health provider. I have spent my career helping people learn how to better manage their remote and find more meaning in their lives and connection in their relationships. Join me as we think and talk about the ways we can find happiness and be content in our lives, through the practices of kindness and compassion. We will talk with other experts in the fields of psychology side and religion. I'm so glad you're with me on this journey as we learn how to be at peace with ourselves and others.
Gordon (01:39):
Well, hello everyone. And welcome to this second episode of the kindness and compassion podcast. Hello folks, I'm Gordon brewer. Glad you've joined me on this journey and glad you're with me and listening in, uh, hope you're finding this, uh, podcast. That's giving you a lot of food for thought, and that's my hope. You know, when I started this project, this new podcast, uh, in January, I really started working on it in earnest back in November of 2021. Uh, but I had originally planned on having a co-host with me on the podcast and that person is Kayla Tapia. She's another therapist, um, licensed therapist and practice here in our region. In fact, Kayla had worked with me in my practice for a while and I got to know Kayla back, um, when she was doing her internships with us and was in graduate school. And then later joined my practice for a while.
Gordon (02:40):
And now she's moved on to greener pastors with of practice. But Kayla was one of these people that was soon as I got to know her and got to really have a lot of deep conversations with. I knew that she was the kind of person that, um, I had in mind in interviewing for this particular podcast. Kayla is such a gentle soul and she is also extremely smart. And so this, um, this particular episode is our conversation around gratitude and, uh, Kayla, um, had, um, when we, I had a conversation with her about a week ago and she really, uh, kudos to her. She set some good boundaries for herself and that she realized after we got started in working on this, she wasn't gonna be able to devote the time to it that she had hoped to. And so, uh, that's another, uh, good, uh, that's a demonstration of self compassion and self kindness, and being able to set boundaries for yourself.
Gordon (03:44):
But anyway, I still wanted you to hear from Kayla and I'm sure Kayla's gonna be joining me for other episodes because she's exactly the kind of person that I hope to have on this podcast. And just having these meaningful conversations, uh, around the practices of kindness and compassion and why it matters in people's lives. I know in my own life, just as I shared in the first episode, I've had just a lot of ups and downs, which we all potentially do. Not that I'm not, I'm not unique in that way at, um, all of us have trials and just different things in life that can become hard. And I think our way forward, at least as I've learned along the way is through the practices of kindness and compassion, kindness, and compassion to others, not only that, but also kindness and, and for ourself and learning how to take care of ourselves well, but also be able to, to take care of others in the same way. So anyway, looking forward to you, hearing my conversation with Kayla and this particular topic that we're tackling in this episode is on gratitude, and we're why that's important for kindness and compassion.
Gordon (05:18):
Hey, Kayla, how are you? Hey, I'm doing great. How about, yeah, I'm doing okay. Um, we're, we're excited to get this podcast going and in these first episodes, we're just gonna be reflecting on some of our thoughts about some different aspects of kindness and compassion. And so in today's episode, we're gonna be talking about gratitude and how we might practice that in early lives. And just our thoughts about how that makes an impact with our practices of kindness and compassion. So, Kayla, I know that you had mentioned you're started with this, this new year as we're coming out and recording this in 2022, that you'd started a new practice, a gratitude practice.
Kayla (06:04):
I did, I feel like in so many ways last year, I lost touch with that a little bit. Um, and so when I was reflecting on the new year, that was something that felt really important to bring back, um, because it made me think about all the ways that gratitude keeps us grounded. I mean, even just in terms of, of materialism mm-hmm , um, you know, it sort of keeps us on this spiral of wanting more and meeting more and, and when we can get really grounded and what we feel grateful for in this moment, at least for me, it helps so much. Um, and so it, it's almost so popular that it's cliche now, but the idea of just every morning, um, finding three things that I'm grateful for. And, um, part of that too, I think has been a lot of times, there are people in my life who are involved in that. And so to also be able to share with them, mm-hmm, when they come up to be able to send them a message that just, Hey, you know, I'm really grateful that you're in my life and you did X, Y, Z thing. Um, right. So that's been part of what that has been for me.
Gordon (07:18):
Yeah, yeah. Uh, yeah. And as I think about gratitude, I think one of the things that, um, if, for lack of a better, one of the selling points for, for gratitude is, is that I think it does keep us grounded in the present. Um, it keeps us, keeps us aware of, um, what we have rather than what we don't have. Um, I is a big, is a big part of it. And I think one of the things is, is that, um, I know you and I work with a lot of folks that have a lot of, uh, struggle with anxiety. And, and certainly in the times we're living now, particularly during this COVID pandemic and just the world in gen genuine in general, excuse me. Um, there is a lot of anxiety out there. There's a lot of, um, a lot of a sense of what ifs.
Gordon (08:15):
And when I think about gratitude, I always think about finding, finding in our lives, what is going right rather than what is going wrong, um, of really kinda looking at, at it in that way, and also looking for that and others, as opposed to trying to always kind of point out and be critical of others with, with what, what they're doing or how they're, how they're going through life. So I think this, these practices of gratitude, um, go a long way with this, just again, this whole topic of kindness and compassion, because I think gratitude can allow us to be, um, kind to ourselves number one, uh, but also, uh, express that to other people in many ways. Mm-hmm,
Kayla (09:08):
absolutely. And, and, you know, sometimes I feel like there are so many words that we just, you use so commonplace that we almost take for granted what their definition is. We just have this idea in our mind. So sometimes I'll, I'll kind of Google, just the meanings of certain words. And I did that with gratitude actually. And a part of it is, um, readiness to show appreciation for and return kindness. Mm. And fundamentally, I do think that's a huge piece of it is that we are recognizing the way that other people and the world have shown us kindness. And, and, and that allows us the space to, to give it back. Um, and you know, also something that I'm thinking, um, while you were just speaking is, is kind of our, um, hard wiring. We have this negative negativity bias hardwired into us, um, sort of this evolutionary trait that long, long time ago, it kept us really safe if we were always scanning for danger.
Kayla (10:20):
And so the people who could do that better and more effectively, those are the people who lived and passed down those traits. So now we find ourselves just kind of always looking for the bad, which keeps us safe, but I think also can lead to a lot of anxiety, a lot of mental, um, health struggles, um, and a gratitude practice sort of does the opposite. It trains our mind to look for the good instead of the bad, and it sort of rewires those connections. So the at, yeah, I'm seeing the bad still, but, but let me proactively search for the good things, the things that are going right. Which I think is a huge piece of what you were just saying too.
Gordon (11:09):
Right, right. Yeah. Uh, and, and the, um, you know, the science behind it really is makes a lot of sense. I mean, there, as you were, as you were saying this, I was just thinking about, uh, I have in my, in my office in a resource notebook, um, a prick, a picture of the brain, and there's a part of our brain called the, a amygdala that is it's whole it's whole purpose is to keep us alive and keep us safe. It's that part of our, our brain that controls our breathing, our heart rate, all of those kinds of things. Uh, it also controls that fight or flight, uh, instinct that we have that fight or flight mechanism. And a lot of times we can, that part of our brain can at, can hijack the other, the rest of our brain, particularly our prefrontal cortex, which is the thinking part of our brain, but also the emotional part of our brain that allows us to, to, um, feel some of the softer emotions. And so gratitude really engages that prefrontal cortex so that it has the ability to kind of override that part of our brain that is constantly there, you know, the danger danger will Robinson kind of part of our brain, um, is, um, can take over for of people. And so there is, there is some science that, that supports the fact that gratitude practices help us engage that part of, of our brain and, and, and make it, um, make it easier to navigate the world that we're in.
Kayla (12:51):
Mm-hmm . Yeah. And, you know, a part of that GRA, um, negativity bias too. I think we can all connect to it because it is that part of us that really grasps onto and CLS to the bad things. Um, mm-hmm so if you think about, um, I don't know, like a performance review at work or something like that, it's like, you can have 98 positive checks and one, one small thing that somebody has said, okay, you have room for improvement here. And it's like, all the 98 things go out the window and you really hyper focus on that one thing. Right. Um, which is not fun for anyone. And so I think being really connected, um, to, to the bigger picture of that helps
Gordon (13:46):
A lot. Right. Yeah. I think too, just being, you know, um, another thing I'm reminded of is just thinking I've, uh, by both of us have been, um, studiers of people and that we're fascinated by people and human behavior and all of that sort of thing. But we, um, one of the things that I've always found fascinating is, is, and I don't know if it's more of a cultural thing here where we're located in a, in Appalachia, uh, Kayla and I both live in Northeast Tennessee. And, uh, it's very much, uh, very much influenced by an Appalachian culture. Uh, but seeing two people get together and commiserate over the negative things, you know, um, , you know, and, and, uh, so at some level people will connect around the negative parts of things rather than the, the positive parts of life. And I think when we can become aware of that, we can, we can make a choice to, to connect to the positive rather than the, the negative.
Gordon (14:50):
And, uh, there's a, if you think about it, maybe even in your own life, um, when, when we have been in conversations with people over something that was troubling or something we didn't, we felt, you know, um, I I'm reminded of, of this past year in one of the things that was an important awareness for our whole society, but the whole black, black lives matter movement that occurred. Um, one of the phenomenon of that is that there was a lot of focus on what we were getting wrong. So there's, there are times when we need to do that. And I think we, we need to call attention to those things, but the solidarity and the connection over the people that were getting it right and were, were giving voice to those things and being embracing of, of our diversity and of our, our differences, um, and being grateful of the differences that we have as human beings had a whole different feel to it. And there was that there was that air of kindness and compassion that was coming out through that. And so that, that for me instills a lot of hope.
Kayla (16:07):
Mm-hmm when you say that too, I think of community building mm-hmm, the first thing that comes to mind for me is that, um, it, it, when I think we are focusing, um, on both, I think both are important. Like, you know, we can build absolutely and should build community around what's going wrong. Like that's how we come good advocates, but I think too, we can connect so much over what's going. Right. Um, and having that gratitude. Um, I'm not sure if that's making sense the way that
Gordon (16:48):
I'm saying it. It is. And I think the, you know, having gratitude for a sense of diversity, um, again, to get to kinda going down the science track, you know, in, when you look at EC, uh, ecosystems and that sort of thing, the ones that are the healthiest are the ones that are most diverse. And so I think it's the same for us as human beings. And so I think being able to be grateful for another person's difference, another person's, um, different cultural view, views, different ways of seeing the world, all of those kinds of things, very much tie into gratitude practices.
Kayla (17:33):
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And, and it tears down, maybe some of that fear of difference that we have, if we can think of it in that way, um, and sort of start looking for the things that we have in common with other people.
Gordon (17:54):
Right. Um, right. Yeah. And I think, uh, uh, you know, one of the challenges I would give, um, people, uh, that are listening to the podcast would be to, to seek out experiences where you get to experience, um, something that feels maybe a little outside your comfort zone, and then being able to practice some gratitude around that, of what it teaches you and what you can appreciate, um, you know, uh, to not to go too far off on a, on a rabbit trail here. But I, and remember, as a, as a kid, um, I grew up, I grew up in a, my dad was a pastor, and so I grew up going to church and that sort of thing. And there was a certain way in which we did church and, and the, the view at that, at least in my NA naivete, uh, a time was that that's the, that's the correct way to do this and that you must do it this way.
Gordon (18:56):
And then I can remember visiting a black church. Of course, you know, I grew up white, Southern Baptist, um, um, not gonna judge that at this point, but, uh, uh, anyway, going into a black church one time and, and experiencing the difference of that and the excitement of that and all of that, um, you know, probably at the time looking back, I wasn't as appreciative and didn't have as much gratitude for that. But now when I look back at that, man, that's, that was just such a rich experience for me in my life to be able to experience that. And then even now, when I think of going into, uh, different settings where, whether it be, you know, it doesn't necessarily have to be religious, but going into maybe, um, seeing a, a, another one that comes to mind for me came, is watching, um, the Maori people.
Gordon (19:55):
I don't know if you've ever seen New Zealand doing the haw, um, if you've ever seen that well, YouTube it, um, and when you, when you, uh, the thing about it is, is that when you first see it, it feels very, um, very intimidating to watch that sort of ceremony go on. But when you understand the backstory behind that, of when they do that, they do it at funerals now, and they do it in situations where they are showing respect for people and what it was. Uh, it was a thing that was misinterpreted by a lot of people when they would come to New Zealand and, and, and face some of the indigenous people. And we'll probably, I'll try to have a link here in the show notes for a, a, a YouTube video of, of a haka ceremony being, being done. And, um, but once I learned the context and had gratitude for what it meant, it took on a whole new meaning and that now whenever I see one or, or witness that, um, it just fills me with a lot of emotion. And so, um, yeah, so didn't mean to get too much off on a rabbit trail, but I just thought those, that was a story that came to mind for me and just thinking about gratitude.
Kayla (21:17):
Well, I love it. And I think it helps me put into words better what I was trying to say earlier, which is that we are sort of wired to be scared of what's different. Um, you know, there is that sort of innate us, them, uh, mentality that's wired into us and, and it comes from a space of, of fear of the unknown, which none of us like that. Um, but I think when we can let go of that fear a little bit and start to under stand and start to, um, ask questions and, and really get to know people in the context and, and, and see their different perspectives and their different experiences as an opportunity for us to learn and connect. Um, it, it makes our relationship so much more rich and meaningful because I can absolutely think of times in my life where I was just surrounded by people who thought believe, acted, everything exactly as I did.
Kayla (22:23):
And, you know, I think there was an intentional piece to that because it felt safe and comfortable. I was never cha, um, it also, wasn't meaningful though. And now what I find is that every day in my life, um, through the work that I do, and also, I try to be very intentional about cultivating it in my personal life. I see people who are so extraordinarily different and have such different experiences and such different viewpoints. Um, and it, it does help me tap into, um, a strong sense of compassion of really understanding the background and where somebody is coming from. And it just teaches me every day, you know? Yeah. keeps me, it keeps me active and connected and, and it does challenge me in all the places I need to be challenged.
Gordon (23:17):
Right, right. Yeah. So as you think about, um, maybe, you know, one of the things that I hope that we'll be able to do with this particular episode is put into the shows summary in the show notes, some, some resources around practicing gratitude. What are some practices that come to mind for you that people can start maybe doing to, to kind of dip their toe in the water around gratitude?
Kayla (23:45):
Yeah. I mean, the one that I described is so easy, um, to start and, and I think maintain, which is just finding a few things every day, um, to reflect on what you're grateful for. Um, a big piece, I think of, of making any habits stick is having a consistency in when you're doing it and how you're doing it. Mm-hmm . And so, you know, if it's the last thing you do before you go to bed, you, you just know to expect, that's the last thing I'm gonna do. Um, if it's a part of your morning routine, you just know that that's when it's gonna happen. Mm-hmm . And I think that simple change makes it really easy to keep up. Um, um, and another thing I think is, I think you kind of mentioned it earlier, is this idea of, of really trying, um, to be intentional about focusing on what we have instead of what we don't have mm-hmm um, and, um, those are the two really simple things that come to mind for me. Do you have, do you have
Gordon (24:48):
Other stuff? Yeah, there was, um, you know, I know there, there are some folks that, uh, keep God gratitude journal where they, um, actually write down, you know, and, um, every, as you're you were saying things that they're grateful for. And another, another idea that I absolutely love, which I think would be a pretty momentous task, at least from my view, as I heard about someone, sometime that would write a thank you note to somebody every single day, and they would mail it to them. And it was just people that maybe they knew, or maybe people that they didn't know. Um, of course, I've got this image in my mind of Jimmy fouling doing his thank you notes on on, on his program. But, um, um, with James playing the music in the background that came to mind as I was thinking about that, but, you know, I think any of those things that we can do that are intentional, that are our habits that we, um, go out of our way to do.
Gordon (25:53):
And I think the, the other thing too, there there's something to be said for actually writing things out in long hand mm-hmm because our brain processes that information and those things differently, we, we tend to retain it more or if we write it down in long hand, rather than type it out on the screen. Uh, and so I would, I would encourage people to do that. And, uh, again, we'll try to have some links and, and that sort of thing here in the, in the show summary and the show notes to give the point people to other resources around this.
Kayla (26:28):
Yeah. I, I, I just, I wanted to add, um, that I think that's a really important, um, aspect of, of this new practice that I've started. And I really hope that I keep up is that in the past, um, you know, it's not new to me to, to maybe think of three things each day that I'm grateful for, but I think the new thing that feels really especially meaningful to me right now is that if a person comes up in that gratitude BLIS and that gratitude reflection, I let them know mm-hmm , and, and that feels highly connective for me. And it, it really does, I think, allow me, uh, I'm not just keeping it to myself, I'm grateful for them. And I'm, I'm allowing them to hear and feel that appreciation and know how meaningful they are in my life, which, which has added a whole nother layer to it. I think for me,
Gordon (27:21):
Yes, yes, absolutely. Well, Kayla, I'm grateful for you. I'm glad that we're doing this together. And, um, I'm looking forward to our future episodes here. We are at just episode number two, but it's the place that we start. And so I want to invite everybody to, uh, be sure and follow us and subscribe to the podcast wherever you might be listening to us. And also if you'll go to kindness and compassion.com, um, there'll be a place there for you to sign up for our email list. And, and probably by the time you hear this, there'll be some freebies that you can get from us, some PDFs and some guides, and that, that sort of thing. Uh, that's just our gift to you for signing up for that email list. And thank you so much folks for being with us on this journey.
Gordon (28:25):
Well, folks, I hope you enjoyed listing in on my conversation with Kayla, and I'm so grateful for her, uh, as I mentioned in that particular episode and just, um, the thoughts that she's bringing to this and her life experience around gratitude and do, do check out the show notes and the summary we'll have a few links in there to other resources. Uh, one, uh, as I've been doing some research for this podcast, a few, um, things I'll I'll point out to you are just kind of make mention of, there are a few websites that I've discovered. Um, one is the, uh, mindful old.org website, I think is our excellent website on just has a lot of great resources on mindfulness and gratitude and those kinds of practices. And the other one is the, and it's produced by Berkeley it's, uh, Berkeley university, UC Berkeley, and it's the greater good science center.
Gordon (29:27):
And I came across, uh, their website and their resources. They have, um, they have a podcast called the science of happiness, which has been on my regular listen list. And, um, just a great resource to, to point out to folks and we'll have have links here in the show summary and show notes. And also I mentioned the, uh, the video for the Hawke dance, uh, which is a traditional, um, dance that it's a, really a, an honorary kind of dance that the Malory people. And so I invite you to go over, to take, uh, a look at that. And there's a link to some YouTube videos here in the show notes and show summary as well. So, well, take care folks. And, uh, again, thanks for joining me for this podcast and this journey and this new venture of mine, uh, be sure and go over to kindness and compassion com and subscribe to our newsletter.
Gordon (30:23):
And, um, when you do that, you'll be getting a lot of, uh, freebies and resources just around the practices of self care and kindness and compassion, and just, uh, resources that we're putting together. As we kind of, uh, as I like to say, we're building the plane as we at, uh, maybe that's a bad metaphor, but anyway, that's what we're doing here and be sure and, uh, follow us and subscribe to the podcast wherever you might be listening to it. And so looking forward to you being with me and future episodes and be sure, and drop me an email or reach out to me. Um, you, if you might be interested in being part of this, this, uh, project with me, if, if there's content you would be interested in contributing as far as being on the podcast and us having a conversation or other resources that you know, that you think might be interesting to people love to hear about out those.
Gordon (31:23):
And again, if you'll go to kindness and compassion.com and go to the contact page there, you can get information about how to contact me and, uh, also apply to be on the podcast. So take care folks, and, um, looking forward to being with you in the next episode, you have been listening to the kindness and compassion podcast with Gordon brewer, part of the psych craft network of podcast. Please visit us@kindnessandcompassion.com for more information, resources, and tools to help you in your journey. Be sure to follow us wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you haven't done so already be sure to sign up, to get the free kindness and compassion practices guide. Again, you can find that@kindnessandcompassion.com, the information in this podcast is intended to be accurate and authoritative concerning the subject matter cover. It is given what the understanding that neither the hosts guests or producers are rendering clinical medical, mental health, or legal advice. If you need a professional, you should find the right person for that.

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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.

 

The Case for Kindness and Compassion

Listen to the trailer…

So what makes people happy? Advertisers would want us to think that having the right “stuff” is what would make us happy. It’s what fills the airways.  And it goes without saying that, we all know that money can’t buy us happiness, but it can make us more comfortable. In fact, we all know stories of people that are incredibly rich people, money wise, but  are incredibly miserable emotionally and spiritually.  So what really makes us happy as human beings?

Over the years there have been numerous studies into what actually makes people happy.  Most of those studies indicate that true happiness comes from within.  The external stuff can make us more comfortable (more money and things), but that is not what really makes us happy.

In my work as a psychotherapist over the last 20 years, I have seen and worked with a lot of people that were suffering and unhappy.  Those struggling with various mental illnesses and broken relationships. At the core of most of the problems that people have in life comes down to being disconnected.  Being disconnected from themselves and others. It’s an issue of loneliness and fear. The bottom line to what makes us happy in life is when we feel safe and secure along with feeling connected to others at a deeper level.    

Kindness Brings Compassion

How do we “fix” this problem of disconnection?  Needless to say it can be complicated.  Nonetheless, when people begin practicing kindness and compassion in their lives, things seem to get better.  Kindness to themselves and the toxic messages that play in their heads.  Also practicing kindness to others and being able to forgive past hurts.  Through both of these, kindness to self and kindness to others, people can begin to experience compassion.

One way of thinking about kindness and compassion is in this way:

Kindness is an action.  It is also a choice in how we treat others. It means treating others with dignity and respect along with acknowledging their struggles. And we can show kindness to others without necessarily having compassion for them. 

Compassion is a feeling or an emotion. It is somewhat connected to empathy and forgiveness. It is being emotionally moved by other people’s suffering or hardships. And sometimes when we practice or show kindness, compassion follows.

The Pursuit of Meaning

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), the famed neuroscientist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, devoted his life to understanding the importance of “meaning”.  His book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” is a classic in self-help psychology. In it he tells the story of how he survived the Holocaust by finding personal meaning in that experience despite all the extreme suffering and evil he encountered.

Frankl’s research showed a strong relationship between “meaninglessness” and criminal behaviors, depression, anxiety and addictions.  And when people do not have meaning in their lives, they will substitute the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure, materialism, power, hatred, and compulsive behaviors. 

Frankl recommends that we find meaning in our lives through three different actions:  through deeds of kindness or service to others, through the experience of values through some kind of medium (beauty through art, love through a relationship, etc.) or in the meaning that can come out of suffering. Frankl believed that joy came as a byproduct of finding meaning in life.

The Kindness & Compassion podcast is here to help people find ways to practice kindness and compassion in their everyday lives.  And also a way to explore the intersections of science, psychology and spirituality that can bring a deeper meaning in life.

Kindness and Compassion Is A Practice

Kindness and compassion is something we have to develop and practice. And through its practice we can find more meaningful and happy lives.  It is my hope that in this podcast and the content of this website you can find your path to a more meaningful and fulfilling life.  It is the ultimate pursuit of happiness. 

 

L. Gordon Brewer, Jr., LMFT – is a Licensed Therapist,  consultant, podcaster and author.    He is in private practice and owner of Kingsport Counseling Associates, located in Kingsport, TN.  Gordon has worked in the human services fields for over 30 years.  He is a clergy person in the Episcopal Church.  Gordon has devoted himself to helping others find meaning and healing in their lives.

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