Why Being Too Nice is Unspiritual, Deceptive, and a Hindrance to Others

When most people come into any particular religion or spiritual discipline, they tend to have a mental image and perception of what it means to be “spiritual.” For example, what comes to mind when you hear the term “spiritual?” What do you think of?

If you’re like most people, you picture a thin person wearing flowy clothes and a dreamy smile, perhaps sitting still in meditation or walking around saying “Namaste” and reeking of patchouli. They probably have long, messy hair, or locs, or a bald head, wear no make-up, and speak softly in quiet, measured tones. They utter long, confusing sentences filled with New Age jargon. And they never, ever – ever – get angry.

This is a fictitious character. A stereotype. Like any stereotype, there is some truth to it. You will find “spiritual” people who fit this image. But it’s dangerous to purposely adopt this stereotype in an attempt to be “holy.” Why?

Because spirituality does not have a uniform. And there is nothing noble about being “nice.” When I use the term nice here, I am NOT referring to being a good and decent human being. You don’t even have to be “spiritual” to be a good and decent human being. What I’m referring to is the stereotype of “nice” that many “spiritual” people aspire to.

There is also nothing good about never getting angry. If injustice doesn’t make you angry, you are not spiritual. By angry, I do not mean screaming, cursing, or hitting. That is an undisciplined, out-of-control fear-response to the emotion of anger. Anger is a visceral response to something we don’t want to be happening. The anger itself is neither good nor bad. Like any emotion, it is just information. The anger is informing us that something is wrong, according to our own value system.

For example, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was angry about racism, bigotry, and segregation. He saw the grave injustice of racism, and he knew it was wrong. Everyone knew it was wrong, but the power structure benefited from this unjust system.  King did not look upon racism and simply tell people they should “think positively.”  He did not say things like “Racism isn’t a part of my reality. I live in love.” No, he saw an injustice and, while LIVING in love, he absolutely used his anger to motivate himself and thousands of others to DO something about it. The Bible does NOT say “Anger is a sin.” It says “Be angry and sin NOT.”

When so-called spiritual people adopt the stereotype, and pretend to feel nothing other than love and joy, they do themselves and others a grave disservice. Not only do they practice deception (and, more importantly, self-deception), they render themselves unfit to help people who may genuinely be suffering. People who are suffering need authenticity from the people trying to help them. I can’t count how many times I’ve either experienced or seen someone try to share something painful in their lives, only to be turned away and rejected by some spiritual person who can’t sully their pristine ears with anything “negative.” The uncomfortable expression on their “spiritual” face, along with their quick exit, informs the hurting person that they cannot be helped, and that no one really cares.

The result is fake people with fake smiles, hiding their true feelings from one another. It leads to inauthentic communication, lying, secret or double-lives, and self-deception. It causes people to downplay their real problems because they don’t want to be rejected by all the “positive” people around them.  Instead of being of real service to hurting people who need spiritual help, the “spiritual, too-nice” person can only spout pious platitudes, and hide from any reality that bums them out.

This inauthentic behavior often backfires, leaving the “too nice” person vulnerable to abuse by unscrupulous people who understand the deceptive game they are playing, but know how to play the game better.

Narcissists, sociopaths, con-artists, etc. prey on the “too nice” folks. These predators understand that the Too Nicers are just fearful people who care more about what other people think than about their own authentic experience. The predators understand that the Too Nicers get an ego boost from their “spiritual” personas. The Too Nicers talk a good game, but their lives, attitudes, emotions, and behavior do not reflect a deep knowledge of spiritual principles. The predators can then use a fake spiritual message to lure them in.

This is how many people get sucked into cults, predatory religions, and even abusive personal relationships. The “spiritual” victim falls for the superficial words of the con artist – because both of them are playing a similar deceptive game! The predator makes the “too nice” victim feel “more spiritual,” by appealing to their ego, making them feel elevated and special, separate from the rest of the negative world. Two fake facades interact, but only the predator is aware of what’s really going on. The Too Nicer ends up being exploited, abused and discarded. Sadly, in abusive relationships, some Too Nicers even conclude that God Himself WANTS them to suffer!  It’s their “cross to bear.” Suffering, then, gets elevated to the status of spiritual practice, rather than the red flag that it really is.

If you find yourself feeling superior to others because you are just “sooo nice” and other people are not, it’s time to rethink that. Whenever you can be nice and authentic at the same time, you are doing great! Wonderful! But there will always be times when, to do the right thing, you must stand your ground and oppose what someone wants to do – or what they want YOU to do.  They might not “like” you when you refuse. But, to say “yes” in that moment would be a violation of your own standards and boundaries, an act of self-abandonment and low self-worth. If you discover that someone is using or abusing you, and you go along with it just to “be nice,” you are co-responsible for the abuse. You are not to blame, but you are responsible.

The world does not need any more “nice” people. The world needs principled, strong, moral, disciplined, and courageous people who are willing to hold the world to a higher standard. Spirituality is reflected in the overall progress of our own lives. It is not a fictitious character that we play on Sunday.

In order to become spiritual, you do NOT have to:

  • Shave your head (or grow locs)
  • Wear flowing robes
  • Speak in a soft, affected voice
  • Allow people to abuse you
  • Get people to like you
  • Go along with what others want you to do
  • Eat any special diet
  • Avoid wearing shoes
  • Stop wearing make-up
  • Or pretend you don’t have the normal range of human emotions

And, it is PERFECTLY OKAY to:

  • Get angry
  • Cry
  • Feel bored sometimes
  • Not smile 24/7
  • Have occasional financial trouble
  • End a toxic or unfulfilling relationship
  • Not be skinny
  • Not do yoga
  • Laugh loudly
  • Be friends with those who are not “spiritual”

As long as you have a daily spiritual practice, and are seeing genuine progress in your own life from month to month and year to year, you are spiritual. Don’t pretend that you have no problems. Find safe people to talk to – people who will actually listen to you – people who will not slap you down with pithy sayings, or tell you to “stop being negative.”

If you get angry about something, that’s okay. Figure out why you’re feeling angry. Is it really just a bruised ego, or are you noticing a true injustice? If the anger is justified, learn to transmute the anger into effective action. Go ahead and sit in meditation, but then get up, and see if you can do something to help the situation.

All of our emotions – positive and negative – are valuable. They provide information. They allow us to participate in the full human experience. Our struggles teach us valuable lessons and make us stronger. If you try to share the burden on your heart with someone, and they blow you off with a condemning “Oh, wow, how did you manage to manifest THAT??” Ignore that person. There are many reasons why you may be experiencing a particular problem. Maybe you did “manifest” it through a series of negative thoughts and habits. Or maybe not. Maybe that experience is a blessing and a gift, which you will only understand in hindsight.

Real spirituality is not for the simple-minded. It is not a dress-up game or something to impress others. It is challenging, life-altering work, and it requires our full, honest, authentic participation. Being too nice is a way of hiding from that. It’s a coping mechanism that may have protected you from abusive adults as a child, or gotten you friends in school. But, now that you are an adult, you can choose to let go of coping mechanisms and step into a more authentic expression of YOU.

Peace and love,

Raven

Advertisements

Why Revenge is a Dish Best Served Never

In this video I talk about why I don’t recommend revenge – whether it’s a revenge spell or actually taking revenge.

Leave revenge to the expert – Spirit!

Peace and love,

Raven

Helping Others Versus Self Preservation

Creating characters in fiction is a fun process. It involves part recall and part imagination. Most characters are based in part on real people, or composites of real people, that the author either knows or has heard of.

In real life, our own personal character develops in a more complex way. Some people believe in karmic destiny, in which we choose or attract the circumstances we are born into based upon actions performed in past lives.

I don’t believe in that exactly. I believe that, like everything else, we attract and are attracted to people and situations that reflect our attitudes, emotions, goals, fears, desires, past experiences, and future hopes. I believe that our parents’ state of mind at the time of conception has a lot to do with what type of child they bring into the world at that time.

This happy (or sad) accident of nature and fate determines a lot about who we will become and what we will experience in life. It’s rarely all good or all bad. Usually it is a generous mix of both.

My mother told me that, at the time of my conception, she had been earnestly praying for a child. Welcomed into the world in a prayerful state, I have always had a religious/spiritual bent. She ate little meat during her pregnancy as well. Perhaps, as a result, I have always had a complicated relationship with meat, giving it up for years at a time at various stages in my life.

But the children we get, and the parents we get, also show up to teach us something. Sometimes these lessons are hard and painful. Sometimes early experiences damage us for a lifetime. But if we observe ourselves carefully, we can figure out what our gift is to the world. If we know what rejection, harsh criticism, and neglect feel like, for example, we can become that much more sensitive to how we treat others. We can gain special insights from less than positive experiences and share those insights with people who may feel stuck in negativity.

But, sadly, there are those who never do learn from their poor upbringings. Rather, they become permanently unable to cope with the rigors of life. They may push away anyone and everyone who tries to help. They may blame others, live in a fantasy world, and fail to ever grow. It’s a sad thing to see a beautiful human being spend an entire lifetime trapped in his or her own negative thoughts, perceptions, and actions, but it does happen.

Helping these people without becoming overwhelmed by negativity is a balancing act. You want to help without enabling. You want to hold them up, but not allow them to sabotage the good in your own life. I have found that using my mind to “think up” the right way to help doesn’t work.

Rather, I have to use mindfulness to feel into the right balance between helping others and practicing healthy self-preservation. In other words, I don’t automatically shun “negative” people and their problems. But, at the same time, I am mindful that a panicked drowning person can inadvertently pull you under for good.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is love certain people from a distance, and cheerfully encourage whatever progress they make. This doesn’t make us cruel. It makes us wise.

May you choose your companions carefully this weekend and have a blessed time.

Peace and love,

Raven

The Importance of Journaling

Thursdays are normally my clean-up days. I wake up, straighten up for an hour or so, then go into meditation. This week, however, I stumbled across an old journal of mine. I’m generally not interested in the past at all, but I thought it would be fun to scan through what I had written.

I found an entry about an old boyfriend from years ago who wasn’t very nice to me. One of those things where you break up and the next thing you know he’s posting about introducing some woman to his parents. “Hi, I’m getting engaged!” “But, wait, didn’t we break up a couple of seconds ago?”

I care nothing about this now, but it was a bummer then. However, when I read what I had written about him, I realized that it wasn’t even a bummer then. In my mind, I had glossed over the negative because so much time had passed. When I actually went back and read my journal entries, it was obvious that we were in no way right for each other. If his new boo is the right one, I’m happy for him. Truly. Time heals all wounds (if you let it).

But time is also a liar. Had I not stumbled across that journal entry, I might have told myself a story about that situation which was patently untrue. The truth was written in black and white: Our break up had been inevitable. Only the clarity of hindsight made that crystal clear.

As a writer, the truth of any situation is what is most important to me. Memories are unreliable. How we remember something often has nothing to do with what actually occurred. Only by recording things as they happen, can we capture how we really feel in the moment – before time has a chance to come in with its airbrush and make it all pretty.

Our characters are the same way. What they remember in our stories will not be accurate. Show how that happens. And if you’re ever struggling with writer’s block, it can help to have your characters write a few journal entries. It helps us get inside their minds when we allow them to write about their problems freely, from their own perspective. Just open up a new Word doc and call it “So and so’s diary.” You may be amazed at what you come up with.

And if your characters are unhappy, that’s a great thing for drama! Have them write about it and get some juicy details flowing.

Happy writing!

Peace and love,

Raven

Resistance – The Monster Under the Bed

Halloween – my favorite holiday – is coming! Monsters and scary stuff are on my mind. But beyond the make-believe goblins and ghouls, there are real monsters out there. They will steal everything and leave you by the side of the road if you don’t fight them. Resistance is one of these monsters.

Resistance is something that often comes up when talking about writer’s block, but it applies to every aspect of life. Resistance, as I’m using it, is above and beyond the casual use of this word. We normally think of resistance like “sales resistance,” which is good – not giving in to every salesperson who wants to empty your wallet. But the Resistance that seems to crapify people’s lives is that which stands like a bodyguard in front of every great thing you want to do in your life.

Resistance convinces you that meditation is silly or beneath you, even when your life is clearly chaotic and out of control. Resistance stops you from apologizing or being kind to your loved one, even when you want a great relationship. Resistance keeps you from writing or painting or starting a business, even when that’s your heart’s desire. Resistance convinces you to sit on the couch and eat fast food, even though you know your blood pressure is high and your gut is large. Resistance will always keep you running in place, mediocre, and repeating self-destructive habits.

The way out is simple but difficult. You create a set of values for yourself (writing them down is helpful). Then, you behave according to those values – NO MATTER WHAT. Every day, you work towards the things that matter to you, a little bit at a time. In the heat of the moment, when excuse after excuse is marching through your mind like a line of ants, that’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where you will need a strategy to avoid falling back into the same old traps of laziness, apathy, or self-destruction.

To cure writing Resistance, for example, I set up smartphone alarms for myself. Other activities are now long-standing habits, after a period of time spent forcing myself to do them. Meditation and exercise, for example, are two self-care items I can’t live without. They put me in the right frame of mind to live with thoughtfulness and integrity, even when it’s difficult. Because meditation has allowed me to know myself intimately, I’ve created a strong set of core values. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened eventually. I do what I think is right, even when I don’t feel like it, even when I have every reason not to. It never feels good – at first. But, at the end of the day, I can live with myself – and THAT is the foundation of true self-esteem.

Everyone is different, so you may have to play around and figure out how to overcome your own Resistance. The important thing to remember is that Resistance IS a real thing and it will destroy your life if you let it.

 

Peace and love,

Raven

A Woman’s Voice: The Power of Art

I started missing my art.

Because I’m busy trying to launch a business, while continuing to work my day job, I’ve had precious little time left over for Creative Me. I started feeling depressed, but couldn’t figure out why at first.  I felt an intense void.

It went on for more than a day before I realized why. I hadn’t had time to write! I hadn’t even read any poetry, let alone written any. And I certainly hadn’t had time to paint. I’ve discovered I really don’t do well if I’m separated from Creative Me for too long.

I have had time to read, however.  It’s so easy to sneak in little snatches while waiting for something else: standing in line, waiting for someone to get ready, riding the bus, etc.

I’ve been reading Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It’s a science fiction story that is centered around a main character who is a kind of monk/philosopher/agnostic/rebel. The story is set on another planet, in another time. It’s fascinating! The book is 932 pages long, and I’m only on page 382, so I have a ways to go. But this book is my little friend for the next several weeks.

However, I’ve still been craving poetry, so I decided to share a poem that I read today. The poem (below) is called Case in Point. It was written by June Jordan and can be found on page 121 of the anthology Poems from the Women’s Movement, edited by Honor Moore, published by American Poets Project, The Library of America, 2009.

The poem is painful, and comes with a ****TRIGGER WARNING**** as it contains graphic references to rape. But this is an important poem. It elucidates the common experience women have of lacking a voice – and, therefore, power – in many aspects of life, particularly when it comes to control over our own bodies.

Men are bigger than us, louder than us, control almost all of society’s institutions, and sometimes use violence – both physical and verbal – to reinforce their dominance. Every woman has experienced the voicelessness that comes from being shouted down and dismissed by an egocentric male. Most women have also had cause to be afraid of a man at some point.

These events can be frustrating on the light end – and terrifying on the heavy end. Sometimes poetry, art, and music are the only ways to have a voice in a world that cannot always hear us. Interestingly, the speaker in the poem is arguing against the point of another woman – a woman who has apparently bought into society’s view of women. This, too, is common among oppressed groups – the desire to side with the oppressor.

 

Case in Point

by June Jordan

 

A friend of mine who raised six daughters and

who never wrote what she regards as serious

until she

was fifty-three

tells me there is no silence peculiar

to the female

I have decided I have something to say

about female silence: so to speak

these are my 2 cents on the subject:

2 weeks ago I was raped for the second

time in my life the first occasion

being a whiteman and the most

recent situation being a blackman actually head of the local NAACP

 

2

Today is 2 weeks after the fact

of that man straddling

his knees either side of my chest

his hairy arm and powerful left hand

forcing my arms and hands over my head

flat to the pillow while he rammed

what he described as his quote big dick

unquote into my mouth

and shouted out “D’ya want to swallow

my big dick, well, do ya?”

 

He was being rhetorical.

My silence was peculiar

to the female.