Zero Tolerance Policies Lack Judgment – The story behind

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Zero Tolerance is Not Something to be Proud of

Each time I hear an official speak proudly of how they support Zero Tolerance Policies I cringe. Something in me knows that behind the self-important posturing they are dropping the ball. What can we do to stop the madness, the unintended consequences that are committed under that banner? They otta be ashamed…

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Here is an excerpt from my book, Naked Visionary. Such official policies are totally at odds with non-conformists or visionary thinking. But they are also intolerant of common sense.

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Zero Tolerance Equals Zero Sense

I have an intense aversion to a type of thinking that is quite popular these days—Zero Tolerance Policies. Proponents treat them as so objective, so fair and reasonable, so unbiased and evenhanded. They are none of those things! Such policies should be called “Zero Judgment Policies or “Cover Your Ass and Avoid the Hard Choices Policies.”

There is no proportionality in their enforcement, and any hair-trigger event could bring down the full force of retribution without warning. Rather than “one size fits all,” it gives us “one size fits nobody.” Not only is the punishment unlikely to fit the offense, it can easily deliver a penalty without there being an actual offense. Authorities wedded to such policies are not showing leadership, but an abuse of their authority, along with an abdication of judgment or responsibility.

How else could anyone account for the absurd consequences such policies deliver? They lead to “consequences” that almost never suit the circumstances. In what universe does it make sense to arrest a preschooler as a sexual predator because he kissed a classmate? In my opinion, anyone in a position of power who endorses, or hides behind, Zero Tolerance Policies deserves to be tarred and feathered.

Besides, these inflexible approaches do not work. They produce too many negative results and unintended consequences. The American Psychological Association reviewed the data about the impact of zero tolerance policies in education. Quoting from the final report of the task force:

Concern has been raised in the literature that zero tolerance policies may create, enhance, or accelerate negative mental health outcomes for youth by creating increases in student alienation, anxiety, rejection, and breaking of healthy adult bonds.… The overwhelming majority of findings from the available research on zero tolerance and exclusionary discipline tend to contradict the assumptions of that philosophy.[1]

Some confusion about the value of unbending objectives arises because virtues themselves are absolutes. Ideals like Truth, Honesty, and Integrity are non-relative. They transcend the everyday world. However, for the world we live in, everything is relative. And it is our responsibility to do the best job we can to make our behavior and ideals correspond.

Human judgment is the tool that makes discernment and adjustment possible. It permits us to respond appropriately to each specific circumstance. Nothing good can come from official policies that insist our best judgment has no place.

end of excerpt from Naked Visionary, Off the Page Press, © 2012

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Let’s Point the Finger

Stand up to those who hide behind this misguided policy. I’d like to think some clear-sighted individuals will be able to turn this official stance into “the emperor has no clothes” moments. Then others will be emboldened to say “Zero Tolerance Policies are not a good thing.”

But even for those not prepared to object too loudly, let’s at least stop applauding. Let’s insist on finding solutions (or even punishments) that really do fit the circumstances. Let’s hold out for insightful and workable solutions, rather than “tolerate” such pig-headed ones.
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[1] American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force, “Are Zero Tolerance Policies Effective in the Schools?” American Psychologist, December, 2008.

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Sacred cows graze in your comfort zone – The story behind

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Down with Sacred Cows

This T-shirt comes from my book, How to Survive a Spiritual Hangover © 2007, Off the Page Press.

Each of us needs to become aware of the number of Sacred Cows that wander around without inhibition in our comfort zones. They are a primary reason why growth and change are so difficult to achieve.

First you have to recognize their presence, then take note of how you defer to them (worship them). Only then will you be prepared to restrain them. The shock of seeing the extent to which they hold you back should be the motivation you need to get free of them at last.

Warning: They keep wandering back if you are not vigilant. And don’t go replacing your familiar Sacred Cows with newer ones.

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Excerpt

Sacred Cows Graze in Your Comfort Zone

In India sacred cows wander unimpeded through the streets. They serve as a reminder to respect the holiness of all living creatures. In Western culture, we too have our sacred cows. But they are not acknowledged or public. Ours are more private and personal. But they still roam unimpeded through our lives.

At some time in the past you’ve had sacred experiences, where you knew the divine had touched you personally and profoundly. There’s nothing finer! Such a transcendent flash temporarily removes you from your everyday mindset and reminds you that your spiritual awareness is intact. Those experiences deserve to be cherished and remembered fondly. But they don’t deserve to be worshipped.

While it occurred, you experienced a Now moment—out of linear time and normal limitations. That was an integral part of its impact on you. But you’re no longer in that altered state. It has been consigned to memory—a memory that gets special treatment. Remembering the awe of it resembles a trophy that’s proudly displayed on the mantle. You fondle it during moments of despair and meditation.

There’s a temptation to build a monument to authentic encounters with the divine. And like any symbolic structure, it’s no longer free to change and grow. You cast it in concrete (or marble). Your infinite God experience is now reduced to bronzed baby shoes, rather than the bona fide event.

Those symbols become your personal “sacred cows.” They tie you to the past (which is locked in time), as you try to sustain something that has already passed. Being too attached to such authentic-at-the-time experiences prevents a person from growing beyond them—as though they could be desecrated by anything that could happen later.

“Sacred cows” are mere symbols of an authentic experience. It’s a false idol posing as “your best stuff.” You’re not being unfaithful to the original experience by stepping back from it. Many more divine experiences (Now moments) are to be had all the time. Look around for more and stay open to them.

Resistance you feel about big T truth might indicate the presence of a “sacred cow.” The “sacred cow” might indeed be true, but it’s a lesser truth which keeps you from recognizing a greater one.

Once you name some of your “sacred cows,” you remove an inhibiting attachment to the past. That creates a vacuum wherein your awareness is permitted to grow.

Truth and God are already bigger than humans can grasp. To discover the truly profound and unfathomable, you must be ready to release the ways whereby you’ve held them captive.

[end of section]

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Put Civil Back into Civilization – The story behind

Put CIVIL back into civilization
Put CIVIL back into civilization
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Putting Civil Back into Civilization

A BonBon

It started with a riddle. Someone I greatly respect was given this conundrum by her spiritual teacher many years ago. And she would bring it up for discussion from time to time.

Like a Zen koan, it does not have a simple answer. The question is designed to be pondered until the intellect throws up its hands and steps aside. That capitulation could yield an aha! moment.

Why did Jesus go to the lowest?

There are lots of answers, and you can surely add your own:
• Compassion
• To teach by example
• To show charity toward the unfortunate
• To prove he was a good person
• He saw their need and was moved to take action
• They were willing to believe in him
• To save their souls
• It was the loving thing to do

But to me the real and paradoxical reason Jesus went to them was, he did not see them as any different than himself. He recognized those less fortunate as one with him—the child of the same God. Instead of noting their differences, he focused on their sameness to him.

Jesus didn’t treat people according to their status or economic condition. Their needs and desires were (and are) no different from everyone else’s. And they’re no less deserving of love and kindness. He acknowledged them sharing a common humanity.

Jesus refused to accept society’s view that certain people, or groups, or beliefs, were lesser or flawed for some reason. By going to them, he ignored sanctions against socializing with them. Doubtless, Jesus knew that seeking out social rejects would provoke puzzlement or antagonism about himself. But he didn’t explain his motives.

Jesus spoke often about being motivated by love—it’s the essence of the Christian message. Love cherishes what each of us has in common, no matter what form it takes—and the rest doesn’t matter as much. Seeking out those whom others dismissed as not good enough demonstrated his love of them.

Why don’t we give it a try? That would put civil back into civilization—certainly it’s a step in the right direction.

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Opportunity Knocks – The story behind

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Opportunity Knocks

A BonBon

Opportunity knocks—but not the way you expect. It doesn’t come up to your door like a well-bred guest, asking for admittance. Opportunity knocks you down. As you lie there, feeling beaten, you have several choices:

  • Fume and grumble—maybe even get angry
  • Move on as quickly as possible and dismiss the whole thing
  • Feel really bad about how this could have happened to you
  • Try to figure out if it might be an opportunity being offered (actually, shoved at you)

When ambushed by adversity and disappointment, you are forced to see yourself and everything around you a little bit differently than usual. You get a chance to make a fresh start, set off in a new direction—coupled with the motivation to try it.

By knocking you down, something is trying very hard to get your attention. And the harder the whack, the more urgent is the message. Pay attention! You’ve been stopped, derailed, disconnected from your familiar routine.

So pause a moment before moving on again. Take a good look at the people involved, the less-than-welcome situation, and the way it all relates to you. Notice intensely, giving attention to all the pieces. It just might be opportunity knocking.

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Let the Cherishing Begin – The story behind

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Let the cherishing begin

This one changed my life

Back in the early 1940’s, my mother purchased a homestead in Homer, Alaska from the original homesteaders. Although we lived in Anchorage, that rural community and primitive cabin evoke a timelessness which is the essence of the frontier for me.

That is where I feel the most at home, the most expansive and inspired, the most connected to nature, the most at peace, and the most in touch with my core self.

In January, 2002 I was diagnosed with cancer and only mention it here because getting back “home to Homer” was so important to my recovery. It took me five years dealing with the illness, chemotherapy, and their aftermath. The physical trauma was brutal, leaving me a shadow of the person I was before.

While recuperating, an urge to live in the homestead cabin grew stronger and stronger in me. I dreamed about being close to nature, back to my roots, and living simply by “chopping wood and drawing water.”

Despite its charm, I knew such a back-to-nature lifestyle, without the basic comforts of civilization, would be physically demanding. I resolved to become healthy enough to live alone in that log cabin, without plumbing or electricity. Becoming hardy enough to live there (summer only; wintering over would be way too difficult) was the carrot that kept me pushing myself to get stronger.

I got home to Alaska in July, 2006. Not for a minute did I doubt the symbolic importance of returning to where I came from. Since I had just changed my name the prior week, it was a new me, a new sense of myself coming back. [from Lynella Faith Grant to Faith Lynella]

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The day I returned to the cabin, I hung up three signs:

  • Welcome home, Faith Lynella —since I decided to change my name only the week before
  • A picture of a salmon swimming upstream—me getting back despite long odds and great difficulties
  • Let the Cherishing Begin—a motto that gives me chills every time I say it. It feels like my slogan for the rest of my life

The clarity and joy from that combination of messages marks the transition to the next phase of my life. I feel I was reborn and energized in a way that permits me to finally write about matters of spirit.

In the cabin that summer the words that had been held back so long flowed. I completed the manuscript for How to Survive a Spiritual Hangover. While it has not all been smooth sailing since then, something has unblocked, allowing me to sing the song I’m alive to sing.

NOTE – This story is from my autobiography, 50 Years to Build the Butterfly Net, which will be published in the fall of 2017.

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Be the Kind Kind – The story behind

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Be the Kind Kind

 A BonBon

Life need not be complicated:

   When in doubt—Be kind.

   When not in doubt—Be kind.

When difficulties abound like a swarm of gnats, taking your frustration out on those around you won’t make your situation better. Only worse—less caring.

When life seems like a mucky muddle—devoid of purpose—there’s no good that comes from blaming or complaining. From dropping the ball.

All the philosophies and religious principles in the world are mere lip service if they don’t make us more caring people. Just because it’s tough to do… or rejected… or misunderstood… or seems to be futile…

That’s no excuse. No excuse at all! It’s still what needs doing—all the more so.

Kindness rebuilds the whole, indifferent world—one thoughtful gesture at a time. Challenge by challenge. Person by person. Moment by moment. Isn’t that enough?!

Stick with it—Or you’ll be AWOL  –   Absent Without Love.

– From BonBons and Treats © 2016 by Faith Lynella

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