Several years ago I attended a seminar called “Self-discipline and Emotional Control” by Tom Miller. I learned some valuable lessons in that seminar, and they were repeated when I sought treatment for depression. If you already know this stuff, please excuse my explanation. It’s not my intent to be condescending.
I learned that often my emotional response is determined by how I interpret events. When we react emotionally, it happens very fast and seems immediate. Actually, the sequence is like this:
4. Behavioral response
For example, a man gives a woman flowers. That is the event. How does she react? It depends on how she interprets the event.
Event: He gave me flowers.
Interpretation: He loves me.
Response: Gives him a kiss.
Event: He gave me flowers.
Interpretation: He must be feeling guilty about something.
Response: Throws the flowers away.
Event: He gave me flowers.
Interpretation: He’s trying to get in my pants.
Feeling: Depends on whether you want this guy in your pants or not.
Response: Buy lingerie or stock up on red pepper spray.
I learned in therapy that my interpretations were often based on false assumptions. I learned to be very careful about my interpretations, check them, ask questions, and try to be very rational about them because my interpretations determine my feelings, which, in turn, determine my behavior.
We can’t directly control what we feel. We do have a measure of control over the thinking and interpretations that produce our feelings. Once I understood what causes behavior, I also understood that it is very dangerous for me to try to judge the behavior of anyone else. I feel that it is unjust to judge behavior alone without considering intent. I cannot read minds and cannot know what evidence and experience others use to form an interpretation of an event.
This is why I usually remain quiet when there are personal disputes on the board. Only the two parties involved in a dispute know their history together, how they’ve interpreted those events, how they feel, and their motivation and intent in responding.
I feel it is presumptuous of me to judge the behavior of anyone but myself. At the same time, rarely in life do we ever have 100% of the information we need to decide conclusively about anything, and we do form opinions of people based on what we’ve observed of their behavior.
Your opinion of Amazing may be valid. You’ve judged as you see fit, and I accept that. I do question some of the premises for your judgment.
However, it was Amazing and NO ONE ELSE who turned this into a personal battle. Amnesian presented her collective rebuttal. Amazing tossed out a few allegations and promised a comprehensive reply soon.
Does 100% of the blame fall on Amazing? When I read Amazing’s initial response to Amnesian in “To: Borgfree / Elder Culpability,” I see no personal insults. http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/forum/thread.asp?id=17880&site=3
I admire Amnesian’s reply in the same thread. She is very firm, expresses her ideas forcefully, yet makes allowances for what she does not know: “my experience . . . suggests.” When Amazing reacts to her strong language and gives her words an interpretation she did not intend, she explains her intended meaning.
When she speaks of elders who “swell your chest, muster your full height, mount that platform, take hold of that authoritative podium---which none but an elder or one in training can do---and dictate to us God’s orders as issued from the mouths of the Brooklyn crime bosses,” she acknowledges that Amazing may be an exception, as was her own husband. In Amnesian’s experience, ½ or better of the elders she knew violated their consciences to retain their privileges as elders. Who can argue with Amnesian’s experience? She lived it, saw the events, and interpreted them. My only question is whether she interpreted what she saw fairly. How does Amnesian know why ½ or better of the elders she knew chose to remain elders? How does she know their intent and motivation?
Her post is great, but she does insult Amazing when she interprets his behavior. She says:
I was a JW. Thank God, at least, never an elder, but I am still both culpable and guilty. And personally responsible.
But, unlike you, I do not hide this truth from myself or offer excuses and justifications.
Only Amazing knows his intentions in this discussion. Was he trying to offer excuses and justifications or explain the issues as best he understood them given his own experience and level of understanding? As best I can tell, Amazing had made no comments about Amnesian’s intent or motivation up to this point. None of the other threads had yet been created. If this turned into a personal battle, Amnesian threw the first punch.
As you may have noticed everything we've had from him since has been about everything but the issue of elder culpability. We have read again and again how long and cumbersome Amensian's post is to reply to, we have seen some of the most inflammatory, not to mention absurd, terms applied to his perceived treatment at Amensian's hands etc. Everything but the reply he promised.
Each of us may form our own conclusions about Amazing’s subsequent behavior. I see a man who reacted emotionally to what he perceived as an attack. I think it possible that Amazing also reacted emotionally to the strong language and volatile issues in Amnesian’s replies and may have overlooked the qualifiers on many of her statements.
He has acted cowardly and wallowed in self pity this entire time. Makes me wonder how so many here think he is so worthy of admiration. You'd think the guy would try to set a better example to all those who hold him in the high esteem he craves and has worked so hard to establish.
That is your interpretation, Julie. Only Amazing knows for sure what his motivations are for posting. I’ve seen a lot of people say good-bye on this board. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that they’re cowardly, self-pitying drama queens. They may be, but I don’t think it’s fair to accuse anyone of this unless I have certain proof. In my opinion, judging from a person’s behavior as seen on this board is only circumstantial evidence.
You end your own post by saying, “Julie, who is now so sick of explaining repeatedly the whole scenario I am out on this.” Maybe Amazing is sick and tired, too. Maybe he’s reacting emotionally to material he interpreted as a personal attack. Maybe he feels as though he offered what he could to try to help people and had it thrown back in his face. Maybe he feels that he has been humiliated in front of his family and friends and that others are taking delight in his hurt.
Yes, we have strayed very far from the discussion of elder culpability. If you are looking for the reason for this stray, you need look no further than Amazing himself. . . . Amazing has only himself to blame for how things have gone. I don't take great joy in it but am glad to see some true colors shining through, the colors I knew to be in there somewhere long ago.
The principles are the same, whether we are talking about elder culpability or Amazing’s personal culpability in this episode. Does Amazing shoulder the entire burden of blame for the discussion becoming a personal thing? And how do you know what are Amazing’s “true colors”? Can you read his mind and heart?
There may be folks reading this board who hold you in high esteem because of your previous posts. They may look to you to set a good example. They may accept your opinion of Amazing without question. Each of us has a measure of influence. I think it’s very important to use that power wisely and be very cautious about judging others, especially publicly. Yes, I believe in exposing dishonesty, inconsistency, and hypocrisy. I try to let behavior speak for itself, and let readers decide for themselves how to interpret the behavior.
The area between judging, expressing our opinions, stating the truth, and calling names is hazy sometimes. We each have to examine our own motivations when we post.
I agree that Amazing must accept the consequences of his own behavior. He chose to come to this discussion board and to post his opinions, knowing that everyone might not agree and that he might be insulted. He has stated his reasons for leaving, and each person here is free to interpret his remarks and comment on his behavior. My own choice is to give Amazing the benefit of the doubt and to believe that he was sincerely trying to help others, even if at times he was dogmatic and reacted emotionally.
I think it unfair to place all the blame on Amazing. Every person who participated in the threads influenced the discussion towards a focus on issues or personal motives. Amazing chose to react to Amnesian’s rebuttal by accusing her of “sexism, sarcasm, and misrepresentations.” Since Amazing accused Amnesian, the burden of proof lies with him. Tina countered by discussing some of the issues Amazing mentioned, but also judged that his motives were to deny, defend, and excuse his behavior. Since Tina accused Amazing, the burden of proof lies with her. Instead of asking Tina for her proof, Amazing reacted by calling Tina a liar and offered proof to refute her accusation. Tina responded with more accusations and called Amazing a liar. This is very human behavior, and no one person is completely to blame.
I appreciate Larc’s comments in this thread. If our intention in a discussion is to influence another person to change what we view as shoddy behavior, accusations usually only enforce a wall of denial. When people are confronted, evidence is usually more effective than accusations alone. If you want to influence with integrity, without coercion and shame, I think it best to try to influence how a person thinks about issues, showing them where their thinking becomes twisted or tangled. This is why therapy is so helpful. We confess our behavior, and the therapist reflects it back to us, compassionately shedding light on the irrational interpretations that cause our feelings and behavior.
The most dangerous lies are the lies we tell ourselves. It’s not always pleasant to look in the mirror. For me, being a friend means that I try to be a truthful mirror. My interpretations and vision may not always be correct, but I will tell you honestly what I see.
I don’t like it when others impute bad motives to me. Given your response to Kismet, evidently you don’t like it either. I trust that anyone who cares about me and my behavior and questions my motivations will ask me directly, “What was your intent?” or will say, “I don’t understand," as Kismet said to you.
I don't like criticizing your behavior and Tina's publicly. At the same time, if you dish it out, I think you should be willing to take it. I'm no saint, and I hope both of you will do the same for me when the situation warrants.
Other people have phrased all this better and more succinctly than I can:
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. –-Carl Jung
Perhaps love is the process of my leading you gently back to yourself. --Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
P.S. It has taken me a lot of time to think about what bothered me in this situation, weigh the issues, and write this one post. I feel my priorities are rather skewed lately, and I’m spending too much time on the board. I plan to reply to Teejay also, but not today. If I’m slow to respond, I hope you all will understand.