Welcome back, friends.
I’ve receive many messages recently from readers confessing their feelings of anger and jealousy, and their guilt that these feelings are “un-Monkee like.” I’d like to talk about that today.
If these relentless feelings of anger, jealousy, and fear are Un-Monkee like, then I’m no Monkee. Because I experience those feelings every single day. I have tried to avoid them for years with absolutely no effect, and based on your emails it seems that many of you are in the same boat. My guess is that we will always have these yucky feelings …because Monkees are human, which is a funny thing to say.
Here’s the hopeful news. I don’t think a Monkee is a Monkee because she doesn’t have jerky, self righteous feelings. I think a Monkee is a Monkee because she examines those feelings and herself before acting on them. A Monkee is a Monkee because she takes some time to think and breathe before adding more messiness to the world.
The difference between jerkiness and unjerkiness for me is time. When I feel self righteous and I react immediately, I always, always, hurt others or myself. But when I wait, when I give God some time to work on my heart before responding, something magical happens in that space. I become a better version of myself. And then I can respond confidently and kindly. Better, more neatly, truer. With less mess to clean up later.
I learned two of my favorite prayers, “help” and “thank you,” from Anne Lamotte. My third favorite prayer is the one I pull out of my pocket when I’m stuck in an angry, resentful, self righteous place. It’s the one I pray when I feel my heart tighten and my eyes narrow and my mind close…the one I pray when I catch myself villianizing another human being…or plotting to make like Scooby Doo and publicly expose someone for the dirty scoundrel I’ve decided she is. That prayer is this: “Fine. Come in.” I usually say this to God through clenched teeth while making fists, furrowing my eyebrows and stomping. But He accepts the half-hearted invitation into my icky- clenchy place. He comes in and rearranges things and unclenches me a little and eventually I am able to breathe again and see other people and myself more clearly.
I started learning about this time and space phenomena from my wise friend Amy, the co-author of my teaching book. She and I worked together, closely and tiredly, for years on that book. We survived marathon writing sessions and deadlines and differences in visions and opinions and never once had a conflict that wasn’t resolved swiftly, maturely and completely. Here’s why. Every time I did or said something annoying or offensive or aggressive, Amy would cock her head and say gently, “You know, I’m going to take some time to process through that, and I’ll get back to you.” And then the conversation would be over. Amy would NOT fight with me. This confused me greatly. I used to think…GOOD LORD Just say what you think, say what you feel! What the heck is there to process? Eventually, of course, I realized that Amy was a genius.
Jesus used Amy’s strategy, too, you know. He was human, so he experienced all of the same yucky emotions we do. When I read the gospels I notice how many times Jesus leaves his friends and goes off by himself to pray. I imagine that before walking away, Jesus said to some annoying disciple, “You know…I’m going to take some time to process through that, and I’ll get back to you.” Then he walked into the forest with his fists clenched muttering “Fine. Come in.“ Jesus didn’t have a problem with righteous anger. But he certainly didn’t have a lot of patience for the self- righteous kind. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. (Not really, but that’s what I tell myself when I’m feeling self righteous.) The good news is that time helps me distinguish between the two. My self righteous anger tends to fade with time and prayer and perspective, but the righteous kind strengthens. For example, when I’m mad at my friend for a perceived slight and I wait, it usually fades. But when I’m mad at the world for allowing children to die of malnutrition, there’s no fading. Sometimes it’s important not to be bothered about the wrong things so we have the time and energy to be bothered about the right things.
Monkees have the same feelings, the same internal responses, as everyone else…Monkees just know that the time it takes to slide on a pair of Perspectacles is usually time well spent. Monkees know that sometimes we have to sacrifice what we want now, which is war, to get what we ultimately want, which is peace. We Monkees give ourselves the time and space we need to create a wise response. Because our knee jerk reactions are not the real Us. The real Us is a bit wiser. And wisdom is slow. Which is why the only advice I ever, ever give a friend when she’s in conflict with another human being is: “Do what you need to do, and I’ll support you. Just consider waiting 24 hours before doing it.” Because everybody’s got God in ’em, which means people generally know what to do. They just need time to know.
There is always a right way to say what we need to say and a wrong way to say it. There is a way that will invite more light and reconciliation and a way that will invite more darkness and polarization.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “A hero is no braver than the average person, but he is brave five minutes longer.” I would suggest that a Monkee is no kinder or wiser than the average person, but she is quiet five minutes longer.
Have a great day Sweet Monkees.