Customs & Traditions… Good? Bad? Necessary? Nonsense?

Customs & Traditions … Are they Good or Bad? … Necessary or Nonsense?

I think first we need to understand WHAT we mean by “customs” & “traditions”.  Here are some definitions I ran across which may give us some understanding:

CUSTOM:  “A traditional and widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place, or time.”

TRADITION:  “A long-established custom or belief that has been passed on in this way.”

First I would have to say that customs & traditions are not only important in our life but necessary as they give us some foundation, routine and stability.  Jesus himself followed “customs” in his life and here are three examples: (1) Luke 2:42: “When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.”  (2) Luke 4:16: “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” AND (3) Luke 22:39: “He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.”

NOW THE SECOND QUESTION – Are customs & traditions GOOD…or BAD?  And … Who defines whether they are good or bad?  It all depends.  Some customs & traditions are good and some are bad.  Typically it is the society who defines what is good or bad for “their” society … what may appear to be good in one culture or society may be looked upon as bad in a different culture or society.

We all have customs or traditions we practice all the way from personal or family activities … to our holiday practices … to our personal religious activities, like how we pray … how we worship … and what we do in our church services.   I think the most important thing of all is that we need to ask ourselves – what is the “value”, “meaning”, “purpose” or “truth” behind the custom or tradition we practice?  Do we understand what we do, why we do it and what it represents?

You are probably familiar with the story of the Easter Ham … and the “tradition” which surrounds that story:

As a little girl watches her mom prepare the Easter ham, she wonders why her mother cuts off both ends of the ham before putting it in the pot. So, she asks why, and her mom realizes that she doesn’t know. That’s the way her mother prepared the Easter ham.

So they call grandmother and pose the question about cutting off the ends of the Easter ham. Grandmother admits to not knowing either. She just prepared the ham the way her mom did it.

Their next call is to great-grandmother. When they ask her about her method of preparing the Easter ham, she laughs. Then she says, “It was the only way I could get the Easter ham to fit the small pot I had!” —

Many times we are quick to criticize the customs or traditions of other churches or people which differ from us because … they are different … and therefore … must be wrong.

Before we criticize others we need to ask ourselves what is “beneath” their custom or tradition?  Does it represent something very real … very personal … something of value or truth?  AND … we need to ask ourselves do we fully understand our own customs and traditions … what they mean … their purpose … their Value?

As a charismatic Christian I have attended churches where we raise our hands (palms up) during worship or prayer … do we understand that custom or tradition and its meaning behind it? … or do we “just do it”?  It is easy to criticize other religious practices which differ from ours because we don’t understand their purpose or meaning.  Before we become critical … we need to look at our own customs & traditions and ask if we really know why we do what we do?

I think if there is anything we can take away from this discussion of customs and traditions I think it is this:

  1. Take a careful look at the things we do in life … the customs and traditions … DON’T quickly disregard them … but understand the value and meaning behind them … so you can better appreciate why you carry them out.
  2. AND be slow to condemn others customs or traditions just because they are different or because we don’t understand what they mean.

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Are YOU a “Human Event”?

human event2

I have been a very successful counselor over the past several years helping individuals with anger, life controlling issues, and self-worth.  I am currently making a “shift” in my practice to “Life Coaching” so to help these who have been healed to move forward in their life journey.

The other day a friend gave me some great advice in helping me to further promote my new practice by saying … “To be a coach there must be a human event.”   I swear I must be dyslexic because when I read his comment I thought he said: “To be a coach YOU must be a human event.”

That statement (which I misread) touched me deeply and I thanked him for his profound insight.  Then I realized that I had misread his statement and at first felt quite foolish … THEN … as I thought about it for a moment … I realized that maybe my dyslexia had helped me to realize a powerful truth.

“Human Event” … what do those words mean?   As I began my research immediately found that “Human Events “  was a weekly conservative publication which former U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan‘s said was his favorite reading for years … But that is not what I am referring to here.   Then I ran across these words written by Thomas Jefferson on July 4th 1776: “When in the Course of human events …. “   which we all know are the first five words of the “Declaration of independence”.

BUT just what is a “Human Event” … or even a better question … “Am I a Human Event?”  THAT is a powerful question and a profound thought.   What does it mean to BE a “Human Event”?

YAHOO defines Human Events as “things that happen in human life and human societies. e.g. wars, treaties, establishments of governments, taxation, etc.–any events that involve humans” (    BUT I wanted to get much more specific as to just what a Human Event meant to me.  In order to do that I first must define the word “event”.  One definition I found of the word of “event” was: “A significant occurrence or happening”.   (    So … I can safely assume that a “Human Event” would be a “significant occurrence or happening” caused by a “Human” … such asyou or I.

NOW the BIG question …  Are YOU a significant occurrence or happening?  THAT, my friend, is an important question which this writing will not allow me time to expound upon … other than to simply challenge your thinking as to how this may personally apply to your life.

I just know that … due to my Dyslexia in misreading a friend’s comment … I am challenged today to ask myself “Am I a Human Event” who is making a difference in other’s lives?   To change my world … and to help change others … I myself must first be

changed or in the process of changing.   I must be a “Human Event”!

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MANILA! … She is referred to as “The Pearl of the Orient”.   There are 22.5 million people in the “Greater Manila Area” … that’s more than the New York Area.   Manila ranks as the 5th largest metropolis in the world ( ) .

This is a wonderful city which I grow to love more and more every day.  One of the amazing things here is the transportation.  There are no speed limits – no (or very few) traffic lights … no stop signs.  People seem to stay, for the most part, on the right side of the road.  They do drive very close to each other (literally inches) & there are a lot of horns honking … which is not out of anger but rather a form of communication & everyone seems to remain quite calm.  The interesting thing is that in the year that I lived there, traveling throughout the city at least 3-4 days a week, I did not witness one accident.   In the city I came from in the United States (population of 800 thousand) there was rarely a day went by that I wouldn’t witness at least one accident.

One day I asked my driver about this phenomenon and he simply replied “It’s called Give & Take”.   “Give and Take” … I have heard that term many times in America but I think we have forgotten what that means.

The dictionary defines “Give & Take” and “The practice of making mutual concessions”.   WOW … what an awesome practice which, I think, somewhere in our culture we have forgotten.   Whether its traffic … work … relationships … or life in general … I think we have lost that art of “Give & Take”

In America, the greatest nation in the world, we have traffic lights, stop signs, speed limits, and many other “laws” in an attempt to regulate our behavior … AND YET … we have accident after accident.  I’m curious … is it because we have forgotten how to “Give & Take”?   We are all about “Taking” … “MY Rights” … “What do I deserve” …  My “Entitlements” … and, as a result,  our lives … our families … our society has become one big wreck.

GIVE & TAKE … it’s a simple principle!  I wonder what would happen if we all started doing that?  It begins with ME!  Am I willing to start the practice of making mutual concessions?  Learning to Give & Take … along with “communicating our needs” (honking our horn) … AND … remaining calm as the process runs its course could result in rewarding changes in our lives.

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anger apple pie

“ANGER SEEN AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE”? … Am I reading those headlines in the Florida Times Union Newspaper correctly?  WOW … what a statement!   Momma … Baseball/football … Apple Pie … Anger … ALL IN THE SAME MIX?   Strange … BUT true!

While anger has been an issue as old as time itself … I do think it is more prevalent today … and not just in our American culture.   I am not sure of everything that contributes to the increase in anger BUT I think is has been slow at building up over the years … and yet … seems to be here to stay.

Personally I think it is a byproduct of the “Hippie” era … and though I was a “hippie” myself … we laid the foundation for much of the negative consequences we are experiencing today.  True … there needed to be “change” in the 60’s … which is why we challenged the “establishment” and … we saw some good changes … BUT …  I think we took it the extreme and sowed the seeds for an “entitlement driven” mentality which we are experiencing today.  One of our main beliefs we pursued was …  “If it feels good than you have a right to pursue it” and “Don’t  worry about the consequences of your choices”.

In my counseling, when I try to help my clients understand human behavior, I have often referred to an “iceberg”.  The tip of the ice berg, which represents only a small part of our life, is our “behavior” (good or bad).  While we feel it is our “behavior” which is the problem and therefore we work hard focusing on how to change my behavior … the “tip of the iceberg” is never the real problem.   BELOW the “waterline” in our lives are thoughts and emotions which are responsible for driving our behavior … AND … even deeper than that is a core “belief system” which we have developed over the years that governs our thoughts and emotions and therefore our behavior.

Over fifty years ago the “revolutionary changes” of the 60’s instilled some core beliefs in our minds which today are challenging our thinking.  We are indeed a pleasure seeking /entitlement driven people and because of that we have set ourselves up for serious anger issues when we don’t get what we want.

Is there a solution to this dilemma we find ourselves in today?   I believe there is … BUT it will not come easy and it will only take place with some sacrifice, hard work, and personal discipline … which are all foreign qualities to us today.

SO … I would have to agree … It looks like ANGER is here to stay … at least for a while.  AND … YES … it HAS BECOME A NORMAL PART OF OUR AMERICAN CULTURE … as much a part as softball/football … momma … and apple pie.

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White Shoe Therapy

white shoes

When my son passed away a few years ago I held up well until right after his memorial service.  I was there with him in the hospital during those final days … and even at his bedside when he went.  I spoke at his memorial service … and maintained my composure.  BUT, the day after his memorial, it all sank in as to what had just happened.  A dark cloud settled over me that day that I just couldn’t to get rid of.

I knew from my own experience in counseling that I cannot isolate myself but needed to maintain a routine in life and try to get back to some normality.  I got busy immediately with my counseling seeing clients daily, but with everything I did I just couldn’t seem to get out from under that cloud.  Though no one could tell … I felt like I was smothering and the sadness was overwhelming.  I even asked some counselor friends of mine if I should see a psychiatrist for some depression medication but they encouraged me to give it a couple more weeks as I was just going through some serious grief with the loss I was experiencing in my life.

It was now three weeks after my son’s service and, though I was functioning “outwardly” alright, inwardly I was overwhelmed by this deep sadness that I had never experienced before in my entire life.  I knew I had to do something.

I remember that Saturday morning while I was out shopping I saw these white shoes that I really liked.  I have never owned a pair of white shoes.  When I was 9 years old Pat Boone made “white bucks” a popular fashion and I remember my brother having a pair … but when I became a teenager they were out of style.  Ever since that day, whenever I suggested buying a pair of white shoes, someone would remind me of how stupid or ugly they were and I would always take their advice to refrain.  BUT … on this beautiful sunny Saturday morning I purchased my first pair of white shoes.  Later that afternoon I said to myself, “I want to go dancing tonight and I want to wear my white shoes” … so I went dancing.

Something happened that Saturday because the next day that suffocating black cloud lifted and I felt like I could breathe again.  Oh the sadness of losing my son continued and I still had to work through the grieving process, but I seemed to find a renewed hope and purpose which gave me the ability to move forward.  I’m not sure exactly what happened that night … but that experience helped be break free.  I call it my “White Shoe Therapy”.

I think we all have had those “Dark night of the soul” experiences sometime in our life.  Even the writer of the Psalms talked about a time when all of his friends had left him and in his despair he proclaimed: “Darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:18).  These are those moments when it feels like we’re  just not going to make it through … BUT … There is ALWAYS hope and something or someone there to pull us through … even if it is just a pair of “White Shoes” or a good friend who supports and encourages you to “go ahead … just do it!”.  If you are experiencing a “dark moment” in your life I encourage you to pursue a “White Shoe” experience … whatever that may be for you!

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I have lived in the same home for over ten years.   During that decade I had a mail man who has delivered my mail regularly every day between 12:00PM and 12:20PM.   He is regular, consistent and reliable.  I cannot remember one time that my mail was late or not delivered properly.

What he did NOT do is bring the mail to my door, ring the doorbell, and when I answer tell me: “Bill, you have a letter here from one of your family members.  I need you to open this letter immediately and read it.  I must make sure you have read your mail, understand what you have read, and that you agree with this message before I can deliver any more mail down the street.”  If he were to do that, he would never finish his route, I would resent his pushiness, and I would not appreciate any mail that he delivered to me.

When we have messages to deliver to someone, I think we need to remember my mail man.  My job is to deliver those messages in a timely, non-threatening, deliberate manner and leave it up to the individual as to what they do with their mail.

When my mailman delivered my mail and I pick it up (in my timeframe) I do several things with my mail: (1) Some of it I wish he had never left therefore I drop it in the trash can on the way back into the house. (2) Some of this mail may be important but I don’t feel like reading it right now so I lay on the kitchen counter to open another time.  (3) Then there is that mail I just can’t wait to open so tear it open before I even get back to the house.   Some of my mail I like, some of it I am indifferent to, and then there is that mail I don’t want at all …  BUT … it is MY mail to open when I choose to open it … and to do with as I choose.   My mail man does not dictate what I do with my mail … he just delivers it and does an excellent job at that.

When you have those messages you need to deliver make sure that you deliver them appropriately and timely.  They need to be to the point, non-judgmental and once they are delivered, give the other person the respect to do what they want with their mail.   They may throw the mail right back at you, they may walk away and  lay it down to read another time, or they may immediately read the mail and respond favorably … but … that is their choice not yours.

Are you delivering your mail properly and then leaving it up to the receiver to do with it as they choose?

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Are you on “Life Support”?

life-supportI had just finished a counseling session with one of my clients over Skype when I decided to go on Facebook to converse with a friend.  While we conversed I took that opportunity to check my emailLinkedin, and Twitter accounts.   After we had finished talking I needed to go on my blog to place a new post, check for any messages on my YouTube account and do a few things on my new web site.   At that point I was ready to run a few errands so I grabbed my cell phone and plugged my Bluetooth into my ear and headed to my car.  As I got into my car it dawned upon me … this feels like I’m on “Life Support” with all these gadgets which I need to connect to life.  Skype … Facebook … video chat …  email … Linkedin … Twitter … blog … YouTube … web site … cell phone … Bluetooth ….. and these are just a few of the things we feel we need in order to connect with life.

I can remember when we got our first TV …. That was almost 60 years ago.  It had a round picture tube and the images where in black and white.  We were able to get maybe half a dozen channels, if the antenna on the house was turned in the right direction and these TV stations would all “sign off” the air at night.  The only other devices in our home were a radio and this big black telephone which we shared the line with six of our neighbors.  This was before internet … cell phones … personal computers … video games … iPods … iPads … i_whatevers …. and dozens of other gadgets.  In only half a century we have come to depend on hundreds of technological items to keep us connected to life … this almost sounds like “Life Support” doesn’t it?

I have often wondered what would happen if we were disconnected from all of our “life Support” items?  Could we survive?  Would we be like that terminal patient in the hospital when he is taken off his “life Support”?  They say our “quality of Life” has improved with all the new technology … has it really?  Have these “Social Networks” really connected us as humans?  I appreciate and even use much of this technology myself … BUT … I want to keep it all in perspective.  I never want to lose genuine human contact nor appreciation for the simple things of life.  While I will continue to use these modern devices in my life … I refuse to allow them to be “Life Support” for me.  I can live without them very easily … and sometimes I find that I long for the simpler days.

Are you living on “life support”?  Could you make it if your “Life Support” was removed?  Do you know how to connect … I mean REALLY CONNECT … with those important people in your life.  I’m not saying get rid of it all … just suggesting that we keep it all in perspective.  Real life and relationships are much more than all these gadgets.

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Moving Beyond & Becoming …. .. .   get busy livingWhat a powerful statement!   To MOVE BEYOND means to leave behind what you chose to leave behind … and BECOMING implies the process or journey of moving into something new.

That is what a NEW YEAR is about….an opportunity to MOVE BEYOND and BECOME something new … BUT … we should be doing that every day.  The PAST (good or bad) is NOT where we should stay … there is much more for us in our lives IF we chose to LET GO and MOVE FORWARD.   What are uou needing to MOVE BEYOND in your life … And what are you chosing to BECOME?   THESE are the most important questions you must answer EVERY DAY of your life … if you do not … then you will REMAIN STUCK in your past.

In the classic movie “Shawshank Redemption”,  Andy Dufresne said to his closest friend (Red) the day before his amazing escape …  “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

IF we cannot make that choice of MOVING BEYOND and BECOMING  … than we are chosing to STAY STUCK .  What do you need to MOVE BEYOND – Emotionally – Physically – Mentally  in your life today?   It’s a journey … begin that journey TODAY … and CONTINUE ON IT … You will be glad you did!

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JOY on the JOB


“Joy on the Job”? … HHmmmm … sounds like a contradiction.  One survey conducted in 2012 showed that “Only 19% said they were satisfied with their jobs. Another 16% said they were “somewhat satisfied.” But the rest, nearly two-thirds of respondents, said they were not happy at work”*.

To be honest, from what I hear by “word-of-mouth”, I’m surprised the survey showed that high of a number of people satisfied with their work.  Nonetheless … the majority of people are not happy with their job.

SO … having said that … is “Joy on the Job” even possible?  I am 65 now and, like many Americans, still working.  I have worked a number of jobs over the years and I will admit … the majority of them I did not like.  Somehow though, I have always found “Joy on the Job” which helped me to not “hate my job” … and actually made it possible for me to enjoy going to work every day.   How was that possible?   Well … here are a THREE SIMPLE THINGS I did which changed my glass from being “half empty” to “half full”:

  1. Life is a journey … as is your employment.  It is constantly evolving and changing.  No job is “forever” … even the ones which you enjoy.  SO … when I had a job I did not like very well, I reminded myself that this is only “temporary” and that there is something better around the corner (either with this job or a new one) … so just hold on … it will get better.
  2. This job, as with any job, is meeting the needs that are important in my life.  Needs of my family … my personal life … my recreational needs … the things that really matter to me.  At times it seems like there isn’t enough money … BUT … if I adjusted my lifestyle to what I NEED and not what I WANT … AND … If I keep a proper perspective of what is really important and what I really value in life … I will be much happier and I will find joy in life and joy in the job that allows that to happen.
  3. Find something “pleasurable” about your job.  It can be a variety of things from something “specific” about your job you find pleasure in … even if it is just the satisfaction that you are doing your best.  OR … It can be something not necessarily related to your work … like quiet time to think of meditate … to finding new friends … to learning new things in life … or just developing new character traits which this employment is developing in your life.

These are the THREE THINGS which I did over the years … and still do … which brought “Joy on the Job” … and they work … IF YOU WORK THEM.


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The “MASK” is defined as: “a covering for all or part of the face, worn to conceal one’s identity”.   We wear them at Halloween, or other events and celebrations to disguise ourselves or to pretend we are something or someone else.  Much of it is done in fun and is an enjoyable experience.

The sad truth is that many of us have worn a different type of “mask” in life … one that hides who we perceive or fear we are.  We all at some time or another have been “mask wearers” … and some of us still are.

Someone once said: “The mask we wear disguises much more than the face underneath it, but it hides who we truly are inside and protects our soul from being tainted and torn in shreds by the harsh judgment of others.”*

There may be a number of reasons we find ourselves wearing a mask:
1. TO HIDE: We wear the mask which we have created to “hide” what we don’t want others to see in our lives … Something embarrassing which we may be ashamed of.
2. TO PRETEND: Sometimes we are not what we would hope to be … so we have designed this mask to give us a new identity … The new person which we long to be.
3. A NEED FOR APPROVAL: Those of us who have been taught that “love” and “acceptance” are based upon “performance” have learned in life how to wear the masks which people hand to us so that we may win their love or acceptance.
4. A DEEP SHAME: Maybe there is something in our lives … or … something about us that we find shameful or disgusting so we create this mask to give us a whole new identity … The person which we long to be or wish that we were.
5. GAIN RECOGNITION: Like to “class clown” in school, some of us long so desperately to be seen or recognized so we wear this mask to create attention, cause laughter or demand fear and respect … all in a desperate attempt to be seen by others.
6. FOR PROTECTION: Maybe somewhere is life we were deeply hurt and the wound is still so real that we have created this mask to protect us from any future harm … thus putting up a wall of protection which hinders transparency in our relationships … BUT … seems to keep us “safe”.
7. MANIPULATION: Finally there are those who feel a tremendous need to control or manipulate other people. Usually due to deep insecurities this “mask” becomes their tool or weapon for survival giving them a sense of power and authority over others.

WHATEVER the reason for wearing the “mask” … this marvelous “cover” which seems to have brought us such pleasure … now has become the monster which controls out lives.

At first, like in the movie with Jim Carrey, the “mask” seems to accomplish what we deeply long for: acceptance … recognition … popularity … power … freedom. … and … much more.  BUT we soon come to realize that we DEPEND UPON the mask to maintain what we have acquired.  Now we are DRIVEN BY FEAR that our mask may “slip” or “crack” and people will see what lies beneath our mask.  Now “mask wearing” becomes a “WORK OF LABOR” and CONTROLS our lives by REDEFINING who we are … which results in losing our true identity.

The sad reality is that while we work so hard wearing this mask to accomplish what we set out to do (hide – pretend – approval – etc.) IT IS STILL ALL ABOUT THE MASK … and … DEEP INSIDE those needs still go unmet. WHAT IS EVEN MORE TRAGIC is that many times we don’t even realize that this in happening.

It has been said: “Sometimes, we wear our mask for too long, forgetting that we even had it on. One day we will look at a mirror and realize that we don’t know the person who is staring back. We will learn that the mask we have worn for so long became our true face, and the one underneath that has been too afraid to be shown to the world has become our true disguise. That it was hidden for so long that we have even forgotten the person we once truly were, and we’ll be afraid to know who we once were ourselves.” *

A few years back I decided that IM DONE with “Mask Wearing”.  I have chosen to walk in authenticity and genuineness of “who I am” and to be “ok” with that.  Since then, I have experienced such a freedom and joy that cannot be explained.  Oh there those each day who keep trying to hand me a mask to wear … and at times I am tempted to put it on. But I am quickly reminded of the “bondage” and “slavery” that comes with mask wearing and I quickly proclaim “NO … I do NOT need to wear that … for THAT is NOT who I am!”

David was a perfect example of one who was told how to act and what to wear when Saul gave him his armor to face the Giant of Goliath.  Though tempted at first to wear that “mask”, David quickly proclaimed “No … this is not who I am”.

I trust that you have discovered the freedom and joy of walking in authenticity and true identity and are not in bondage to “mask wearing”.


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